Tuesday, June 6, 2017

I am Not a Vegetarian

I was having lunch in the lounge at school and the conversation was centering around meatless patties. I mentioned that my favorite wraps at Scovie’s in Charlevoix are the Veggie Burger Burrito and the Oriental Chicken Salad Wrap without chicken.
            “Oh, are you a Vegetarian?” my co-worker asked.
            “No. I just don’t eat meat.” I responded.
            “You’re not a vegetarian, but you don’t eat meat?”         
            “I like to keep my options open.”
I’ve been on this ‘to meat or not to meat’ journey for several years now. What began as a digestive issue that demanded an extreme dietary change has evolved into somewhat of a personal choice. I just choose to not eat meat now. As I navigated my way from vegan to vegetarian, to not-a-vegetarian, I found out it’s easier for me to not limit myself with labels. If I’m a vegan or a vegetarian, I can’t eat turkey at Thanksgiving or ham at Christmas. I can’t eat a bowl of someone else’s chili because it’s nearly impossible to get all of the little meat bits out (plus that little pile of meat bits on the napkin are just gross). A bowl of chicken noodle soup isn’t fun if I have to worry about those tiny shreds of chicken and if I accidently ingest one, it’s OK because I’m not a vegetarian, am I? I’m not even going to attempt to pick the ground beef out of my mom’s lasagna. I’m just not. It’s not happening.

            I also found that being a dinner guest was tricky when I had a label. “What can’t you eat?” was a common question. I found my hostess trying to come up with a special menu to accommodate my “dietary restrictions.” I really don’t like it when people make a fuss over me. I have found I can quietly take the salad, the potatoes, the roll, and the bread without anyone noticing that I didn’t take any meat when I’m not a vegetarian. Plus, I’m enjoying the new found freedom that comes with not being a vegetarian. If I want a bite of bacon, I have one. If I want to have a rib or chicken wing that Tom just made (he’s a genius with chicken wings and ribs by the way) I have one. If I want to have a piece of pepperoni pizza with the pepperoni picked off but I accidently missed a bit baked in the cheese, I eat that too. I refer to a friend of mine as “My niece that’s not really my niece” because she’s my sister-in-law’s niece, so close enough, right? So if you have to call me something, call me “a vegetarian that’s not really a vegetarian,” or better yet, just call me Dawn.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Don't Call it a Staycation

“Are you going anywhere for spring break?” That familiar question that I avoid like the plague most years is inevitable. “Please don’t ask,” I’d think to myself. I didn’t want to admit that my boring life would transition into a boring spring break again this year. Usually I get that pang of jealously and envy knowing that just about everyone I know is going to be basking in some sort of sunshine this week. Usually I sit on my laptop and scour Travelocity for great last minute deals because I am so sick of winter. But for some reason this year is different. Oh I’m still sick of winter. As I write this I have the fireplace turned on and the furnace cranked up. But this year I planned things a little bit differently. I scheduled a hair appointment. I saved out some crafts. I set aside a bunch of books that I want to read.  Before I knew it I had enough stuff on my to-do list that I couldn’t imagine going away. I would get my laptop out to look for airfare and then I would think,
            “But when would I be able to do all of this other stuff?” Going away on a vacation started to feel like something more stressful than relaxing. Would I just sit there and think about all of the stuff I could be doing at home? I know I must sound like some weird workaholic or that I’m just in denial. Who in their right mind wouldn’t want to sit in the sand on a beach somewhere and just relax? Usually that is me, but this year I’m content to go without it. We have been working on training our dog and I just can’t rationalize giving up a week after we’ve worked so hard to get her where she is.

            I don’t know when I started feeling so much pressure to go on a fabulous spring break every year. It’s definitely harder, living up here in Northern Michigan. The winters are longer and many spring breaks are cold, drizzly and snowy and this year is no different in that respect. But each year that we choose to stay home while everyone else goes, I learn to appreciate the staying more. I don’t even call it a “staycation.” I let the time go by slowly with my family and my dog and my cats and my chickens.  I do wear sweatpants and hoodies and I don’t wear make-up. I don’t worry that I won’t be one of the tan ones.  Am I going anywhere for spring break? Nope. But thanks for asking.

The Best Family Nights are on Two Wheels

Several years ago I wrote a column called “The Best Dates are Spent on Two Wheels.” It was about how Tom and I used to take our motorcycle out on dates when the kids were little. Back then the motorcycle was our getaway from hectic mom and dad stuff that we did. It was kind of our ‘taking a break from the kids’ time alone together. We were deep into the midst of 4H soccer, play dates and all of the business that goes with raising kids.  Now our kids are grown up and instead of wanting time away, we desperately cling to any time we can get with them. The rare evening when everyone is home AND in the same room together is pure happiness for us. The kids have their own interests so it was starting to feel like they had left the nest before they even left the nest. Jobs and responsibilities and active social lives mean they’re gone more then they’re home. I find myself longing for the days of sitting in the bleachers all day and of being needed but at the same time get incredibly annoyed when this grown man says “Mom, what’s for dinner?  I’m hungry!” as he flies in the door to drop stuff off and grab something to eat on his way to the next thing. It won’t be long until my boys, now men, will be moved out and gone and I’ve worried that we won’t get together to just do stuff. It doesn’t seem normal but we haven’t really had common interests with our kids. This one likes music, that one likes sports, and Tom and I like motorcycles. We’ve never been a board game family or a family movie night family. We’ve just always kind of gravitated towards different things.  It’s not bad. It’s just us. As I was just starting to accept that that was “just the way it is,” they got motorcycles. Both of them. Suddenly what was once a Tom and I without the kids thing became a Tom and I with the kids thing. It’s Tom and the boys in the garage together tinkering on their bikes. They talk about modifications and motors. They take off together for a ride around the lake. Even I get to be a part of the fun because I have my own bike too. I’m really looking forward to this summer when we can take a ride up 119 together as a family and have dinner at the Leggs Inn. Just me and my favorite guys. I guess the best family nights are spent on two wheels.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Still Feelin' the Pride

Here comes that feeling again. It comes and goes. Not as frequently as it did in the past, but it’s recognizable nonetheless. It’s that feeling I got when my son stood on the podium at a wrestling tournament. Or the feeling I had when I watched my other son performing on stage at Big Ticket, a Christian music festival in Gaylord. I call it Mom Pride. Now that my boys are grown the mom pride is still there, but it comes and goes less frequently as they move into their adult lives. It’s not a touchdown announcement over the loudspeaker in a football stadium; it’s more like someone telling me my son has had an impact on her child’s life. But I’m not even talking about that. The mom pride feeling I’m talking about recently came about because of my dog, Betsy. Betsy is an 18 month old Border Collie/Australian Shepherd mix. To say she has been a challenge would be an extreme understatement. After the first week of sweet, cute puppy, emerged the Tasmanian Devil. She has an exuberant amount on energy that never, ever slows down. This winter I have spent more time outdoors than ever before in my 49 years of life. Betsy plays and plays and plays and plays. So it probably won’t surprise you to know that we have been reluctant to let her stay home, unkenneled during the day. The image of those YouTube videos of guity dogs standing in front of a destroyed couch with the owners saying “Did you do that?” haunted me. But the guilt of having this full-of-energy dog spending her days cooped up in a 4x5 kennel eclipsed the worry of returning home to a “stuffingectomy” of my couch cushions. We started by having her spend nights outside of the kennel. After about a week of no destruction we decided to let her try a few hours on her own, kennel-free. When I arrived home I searched the house, looking for some evidence of destruction, only to simply find a warm spot on the couch where she had spent her time patiently watching for our return. So the next day we jumped. 8 hours. No kennel. I drove home with trepidation, wondering what I would find. A dead cat? Shredded couch cushions? A chewed up coffee table? When I walked in to a wiggly, wagging, mass of black and white fur, there was no destruction to be had, not anywhere. Success! What followed was that old feeling of Mom Pride that rivaled straight A report cards and Christmas Eve service solos. “I am so proud of Betsy right now,” I gushed to Tom. I was proud of my dog? You bet. With hard work comes success and with success comes pride. Mom Pride.

Friday, February 17, 2017

This is 49

49 is on the downward slope of middle age. It's nearing the end of midlife.
It is realization that 50 is right around the corner, as are 60, and 70, and 80. It's not retirement yet. But retirement is near and wanted and unwanted.

It is acknowledging that the pounds don't shed as easily, that I might need to buy bigger pants, and that the heat I am feeling is not because someone turned up the thermostat.

It is also acknowledging that I am crazy and flawed and sane and human.

49 is grey hairs that won't be covered with hair dye and no matter how many times I pluck them out they will come back. And they will have friends. It is learning to be OK with crepey skin, crows feet, and age spots on my face. It is learning to feel beautiful anyway.

49 is 25 years of marriage. Living year after year with someone who makes me laugh, cry, angrier than my deepest anger and happier than my lightest happiness.
It is date night after date night because I don't know how to cook for 2, nor do I want to. It's being scared to death that I might lose him, to cancer or a heart attack, but knowing if I did, I'd be OK. Eventually.

49 is realizing that my life is more than wrestling matches and praise band concerts. It is the end of sports and youth group and school activities. It is also the end of being included in the conversations of those still there. It is wanting to take control but having to let go, even if the choices aren't what I would make and accepting that they are no longer mine to make.

49 is waiting for grand-babies and loving great-nephews but knowing that when the grand-babies arrive that the great-nephews will take their places as second-string just because that's what happens when great aunts and great uncles have grand-babies of their own.

49 is learning to find me again, my interests that were set aside, my passions that were forgotten, and the truth about the woman I want to be, even if she has tattoos and rides a motorcycle.

49 is peace, anxiety, busyness, quietness, stress, and waiting.  It's finding a new sexy and a new beautiful within the old me. It's finding my voice while keeping my opinions to myself. It's old friends and new friends and alone-time with a book or a skein of yarn. It's nothing at all like I thought it would be.

49 is pretty damn good.

*This piece was inspired by a column titled This is 38. This is Midlife
by Lindsey Mead

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Or Maybe I Haven't

When I was writing my January column, I was lamenting about running out of things to write about in my new life as the mother of adult children. I could no longer write about driving lessons, wrestling tournament bleacher-butt, or youth group camping trips. Turns out I have plenty to write about. All I needed to do was (literally) wait a day. I had been enjoying my first day of Christmas break by lounging in my PJ’s, playing with my phone. I came up with the brilliant idea to change my passcode. The passcode I’ve had since I got the phone. The one that I have no trouble remembering. I thought I should change it to something “easier.” So I did. About 5 minutes later, (I’m not kidding. It was only like, 5 minutes) I typed in my new-and-improved passcode. 123969. Wrong. What? Oh, it must be 123966. Nope. 123963? “You are locked out of your phone. Pease try again in 1 minute.” I got a little bit nervous and I wondered what could have gone wrong. I decided that I probably didn’t change it after all. I must have just thought that the easier number wouldn’t be so easy after all so I’m sure I changed it back. When the minute was over I tried the original passcode. “You are locked out of your phone. Please try again in 5 minutes.” Crap! What the heck did I do? This went on a couple more times:
            “You are locked out of your phone. Please try again in 30 minutes.”
            “You are locked out of your phone. Please try again in 1 hour.”

By this time I was in total freak-out mode. I was thinking that I was going to have to get a new phone, but I just got this one! So I did what any resourceful human being would do. I Googled “What do I do if I forgot my passcode?” This gave me a few different blogs containing a list of steps I could take, which I knew would totally confuse me and probably make the problem worse. Since I had to go into town anyway I put my now completely disabled phone in my purse, messaged my family through my laptop, and headed to the AT&T store in Charlevoix. There I was met by an angel from Heaven who said that she thought she could get my phone working. The funny thing is that I actually prayed, “Please God make this work.” But then I felt guilty clogging up the prayer lines with a shallow request like restoring my phone when there are much more serious prayer requests floating up there. So I stood there thinking to myself “Please work! Please work! Please work!” and then, you know, in case God had a break from more serious prayer requests… Finally, the customer service representative got my phone all restored, complete with my pictures and contacts. “It’s a Christmas Miracle!” I shouted. I thanked her and hugged her and went on my way. So really, I don’t know what I was worried about. I have plenty of material. I just need to give it a day.