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.

I Might Finally be Running out of Ideas

The Christmas season has always been a busy time, and this year is no different. Since my birthday falls within this time I always have a little bit of extra reflecting to do. One thing that has been on my mind this year is this column. I began writing it in early 2010. When I took the position of monthly columnist for the PNR I was asked to name my column. I immediately thought of “The Flip Side” because it’s an old term that we said in the 80’s: “Catch ya on the flip side!” and for those who don’t understand why we said that, it refers to records, namely 45’s (single song records) that always had a less known, less popular song on the back, or flip side. Because I was just entering middle age I thought this was appropriate because I was entering the “flip side” of my life (I didn’t want any “over the hill” references of course).  This year marked my 49th birthday and as I barrel head-long into my 50th year, I began wondering if I need to change the “Life After 40” part of the title. I’m still over 40 but it seems as though the column is changing now that I’m entering “life after 50.” My life in my 40’s was full of topics I could write about with ease such as my teenage kids and stories about the endless laundry and the daily gallons of milk they consumed. But as my kids get older and the grandkids haven’t begun arriving, I find myself working harder and harder to come up with ideas for my column. Almost monthly I think to myself “I think this is it. One more and I’m done. My life is too boring to write about now that I’m pushing 50,” and then I run into a total stranger who smiles and says “Do you write for the paper? I love your column!” You have no idea how much those little comments motivate and encourage me. Even after the dog stroller debacle, I had supporters coming out of the woodwork, encouraging me to keep writing. I often wonder how much longer I can keep coming up with new material, but each month I manage because of the kind words (and chapstick!) from my readers. Even the columns that I think are the absolute worst are the ones in which I have people coming up to me saying “I loved your column about…It was hilarious!” As we enter the New Year, I hope I can continue to come up with pieces that entertain, connect to your life somehow, or warm your heart. So as long as you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. Happy New Year and I’ll catch you on the flip side!

Monday, December 12, 2016

Are We Cleaning for Michelle and Barack?

“Let me know when Michelle and Barack arrive” smirked my son as I was frantically cleaning my house for the arrival of my parents one weekend back in October. Maybe it’s just me, but I always tend to see how almost uninhabitable my house looks just before company is due to show up and then I launch into crazy-panic-cleaning-mode. My mom and dad aren’t judgy people by any means but whenever they (or anyone else for that matter) are coming over I always feel compelled to make my house look like, well, we don’t live there. I’m not kidding. A few years ago I insisted we buy new carpet shortly before it was my turn to have the euchre group over to our house. It was one thing to have my family see my filthy carpet, but my friends and co-workers? Absolutely not. On this particular occasion it was Tom’s birthday and it had literally been over a year since we had had any company at all. It doesn’t matter that I have someone who cleans my house twice a month because these visits, whether planned in advance or not, always happen long after the crisp smell of my freshly cleaned house fades. After the dog hair shows up in clumps on the couch. After the socks have reclaimed their resting place on the living room floor. I headed downstairs to grab those plates I use for entertaining that now need to be washed because it’s been so long since I’ve entertained that they’re dirty from just sitting on the shelf, and I noticed those random “spring cleaning” type jobs that I never notice unless company is due to arrive in less than 45 minutes. As one thing after another popped up, I ran around frantically barking orders with a Swiffer in one hand and a dirty sock in the other, and my husband gave the kids that “Mom’s having her usual company’s coming melt down” look while calmly saying to me,
“No, we don’t have time repaint the entire first floor. The house looks fine. Go take a shower.”

I really don’t know why I get so worked up when people are coming over but I do it all the time. The other day a friend had to stop by and drop something off. She wasn’t coming in any further than the foyer but I lit a candle then got the vacuum out and not only vacuumed the living room, but the living room furniture, the upstairs hall, and balcony because I suddenly noticed the dog hair that I don’t usually see. I’m not sure if, after all of that, my house would be clean enough to host the Obamas, but I am sure my parents appreciated the effort and I hope someday, when my kids are visitors, that they will too.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

I Notice You Have a Lot of Shoes

“I notice you have a lot of shoes.” A simple observation by a co-worker that at one time would have been met with an enthusiastic response of “Yes! I love shoes! I think I might possibly be a distant relative of Imelda Marcos!” now casts a dark spot over what was once the subject of a past column. Yes, I do have a lot of shoes. And yes, I still love shoes, but now the simple truth is that shoes don’t love me. I collect all kinds from flats to flip flops to boots. I have shoes in a rainbow of colors so that I can be certain of one thing. I won’t leave home with footwear that doesn’t match my daywear. As I listened to people at work lament about their various foot related issues like plantar fasciitis, I still happily wore my terrible-for-feet-toe-squeezing-no-arch-support but “gee aren’t they cute?” flats. I have these memories of my grandma’s orthopedic shoes, which she had to wear because of fallen arches. They were black with buttons on the side. She wore them with everything. Every outfit. Every color.  That was never going to be me. Until a year or so ago, that is.

I started getting out of bed in the morning and hobbling from foot pain to the bathroom. But I shook it off because by the time I came out of the bathroom my feet were ok. I chose to ignore this little warning sign because I wasn’t willing to give up the vanity of having the cutest of cute shoes to go with my semi-fashionable yet age-appropriate wardrobe. But as the pain followed me into my day, it became clear to me that the cutesy flats would have to be replaced (most of the time) and I would need to buy better, more supportive shoes. It appears as though I have come to the age where my shoes need to be sensible if I don’t want to be in pain. Thank goodness we live in a day and age where we aren’t stuck with my Grandma’s ugly orthopedic shoes. A good friend of mine has pretty much the most impressive collection of Dansko shoes that I have ever seen. It is remarkable to say the least.  When I see her I immediately look at her feet to see what super-cute pair she has on today. When I inquired about them she told me that they are great shoes for people with foot issues, they’re just a little pricy. But best of all, they are stylish! So my updated shoe collection consists of 3 different pair of Birkenstock sandals, (for summer of course) and 3 different pair of Danskos with no plans of stopping there. The good news is that I can have it all. Only now the comment will be “I noticed you have a lot of highly fashionable orthopedic shoes.”