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Saturday, October 19, 2019

A Twisted, Beautiful Day

I love Saturdays.

But today was weird.

I completely intended to sleep in until at least 7:30 – a nice reprieve from my normal 5:30 alarm. So, when I woke up at 4AM with a splitting headache, I was a tiny bit frustrated. It's normal for me to have a headache, so I follow a strict routine in attempt to cure. I start with a prescription dose of ibuprofen and put together an ice pack for my head. After securing and balancing a Ziploc ice bag on my head, I fell back asleep. When I awoke a few hours later, the ice had melted. So I picked up the bag, carelessly. Then, as it began to split wide open, I literally froze, feeling helpless as the broken bag waterboarded me. There's nothing quite like having a cup of icy cold water pour all over your face. Apparently, I had used a plethora of ice. After waking Doug up with a bloodcurling scream, there was nothing I could do. Except laugh with my hubby. It was kind of funny.

Then, minutes later, after changing out of my soaked t-shirt, I found my son standing at our bedroom door.

"Mom?" he said as I wondered if he was sick. (It was still quite early, mind you.)

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"Yeah," he said. "But Percy puked all over the floor."

Percy didn't just puke all over the floor. He spewed like a volcano, all over the shag carpet. His particular brand of lava was chuckage of cheesy chicken and corn which really bonded nicely with the carpet fabric. All before 7:30.

But it was still Saturday!

Halloween finds. Great price. Great look.
After all was cleaned up, Cole and I decided to make a quick trip to Wal-Mart. Nothing perks me up like a shopping trip of any kind whatsoever. And we needed to pick up important Halloween supplies. We had pretty good luck! Upon checkout, the cashier asked me if I had good eyes. I wasn't sure where she was going with this, and I hesitated to respond. She asked me again. This time a little impatient. So I said, "I think so." (My eyesight isn't that great, but I panicked.) She asked me to read a UPC number on the Batman shirt I was buying because the tag had been cut off. Well, I failed. Twice. The font size was like "1"! And I'm 50 years-old for goodness sake. I sent Cole back for another shirt with a tag as the line behind us began to grow. Cole zipped back for the all important Batman shirt, so I bonded with the cashier and the guy behind me – trying to keep in his good graces. The nice cashier wasn't having a bad day. It was going fast for her! She had already been there an hour! (It was 9:00 AM.) That was good, she said, because often her work days didn't go so fast. She was really looking forward to Wednesday and Thursday – her days off. Anyway, the happy ending to this part of the day? We got the Batman shirt. And I feel like we made some friends.

This afternoon I decided to submit that winter is coming. I began to put away the outdoor furniture, sad as it may be. After making progress on that front, I thought to myself, what the heck. Let's transfer some of my lilies. A grave error on my part. Within minutes, I was covered with black pirate bugs who adored the taste of my skin. After doing the bug-get-off-me dance, I gave up on chores and showered. I was getting ready to make tatortot casserole, when Doug called for a water break. And he had a surprise! He told me he wouldn't be harvesting too late, and we could do something tonight. And I believed him. After nearly 30 years of this harvest dance, I believed him.

So, here I sit, in a really cute new vest, contemplating the events of the day. And I'm smiling. No matter what time the boys get in, it was a good day. Who cares about soaked t-shirts, dog puke and bug bites? My headache disappeared. I got to spend time with my son. I saw both my parents. My daughter texted me. The Hawks won. And I will soon have a beer with my hubby... even if we don't quite make it out tonight. It was a little twisty, but it really was a beautiful day.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Bittersweet Coming of Age

Our daughter has now settled in Denver – a city brimming with art, food, music, craft beer, legal narcotics, and majestic scenery. It's a place conducive to activity: biking, running, hiking, kayaking, walking dogs. She resides in a stylish townhouse with two of her high school pals. Truly, it's a haven for young people. I'm happy for her. Really. But I fear she may never come home again. It takes approximately eight hours and three minutes to get there from here. Doable. Not terribly practical. But doable. I'm guessing she thinks it's the perfect distance from her parents.

A Quick Trip to Denver...
I'm not gonna lie. I don't wan to interrupt her life, but there are so many things that pop into my head that I need to share with her. She's my girl, for goodness sake! Doug and Cole aren't gonna care about a potential hairstyle. They don't understand critical decisions needing to be made such as: flats or heels? And they most definitely won't care about a Netflix series that explores something as enthralling as feminism.

Cole has just informed us that he will most likely go to University of Iowa (3 hours away) and then eventually live in California (light years away). Now, I'm super excited we might have another Hawkeye alum in the family. But can't our kids at least pretend to be sad about moving away from us? Just a little?

I often hear people over the age of 40 complain about our attachment to cell phones. But I'm quite certain I'd need super dosages of anti-anxiety meds if I couldn't track the kids on Life 360 or send them threatening texts for not responding to me. And I'd be one sad mom if I couldn't Face-time my daughter who seems destined (or determined) to live hundreds of miles away.
There it is. The "Really, Mom?" look.
Okay. I understand the idiocy of my pity party. I know, I know. You raise your kid to be independent. To an extent, I'm happy about that. Proud, for sure. But, there's this gigantic maternal hole that plagues me as I feel the kids slipping away. I've had a couple of ideas on how to fill that hole. Grandkids come to mind. Then I shiver at the thought of our 18-year-old boy becoming a dad. I've even brought up adopting a 10-year-boy. But as Doug so profoundly pointed out, he'd just leave eventually too. Then it came to me this week. An idea so simple and so perfect. Something I've been doing with my own mother forever. A mother-daughter book club.

I've recommended millions of books to my daughter. But as I've pointed out, she's quite independent. I don't think she believed I could suggest a book that would satisfy her intellectual cravings. Nevermind, that I was an English major. (Maybe she too clearly remembered my obsession with the Twilight series.) However, recently I struck gold. Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler is a novel about a 22-year-old writer who moves to New York City and gets her start as a server in a swanky restaurant. How could my journalism major who is getting her start as a server in a swanky restaurant resist? Last week she began texting comments about the book. When we spoke on the phone, our conversation drifted to the story. Then it hit me. We were our own book club! I asked Alex should we formalize it? Set a date to Face-time and answer real book club discussion questions? She was in. And my world shone just a bit brighter.

The other morning Cole mentioned how much he loved the book he was reading right now: Catcher in the Rye. Interestingly, there are a few parallels between that classic and Sweetbitter. Also interestingly, it happens to be one of my ALL TIME FAVORITES. (You just can't beat a good coming-of-age novel.) I told Cole that perhaps he'd make a good English major. He shrugged me off. That's what kids do. That's okay. I got plans for him after he graduates from college and moves to California. A mother-son book club.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019


There's been an ongoing debate in our household about the coolness factor of my car.

An old Buick. This one in tarnished silver.
When I was in high school, my friends and I dreamed of the sporty car we would drive once we made it big. This might've been a direct result of driving, well, junk. (Sorry, parents!) If I was lucky I'd get to drive my mother's Chevy Citation, but that wasn't the norm. The ugliest car I ever drove was my dad's 68 Buick. Gold. Not shiny gold. I'd say it was more like tarnished gold. Not only was that beast an eyesore, but it held a kindly aroma of Dad's cigars. When carpooling to school, Dee Dee and I decided it would be best to park behind the school, away from the main lot to avoid pity stares. Dee Dee had her own car problems. While her sister got to drive a cute little Monza, she was given the indestructible, monstrous, LTD – also in... gold. If we were going out for the night and it was her turn to drive, she'd make me take the wheel. I understood. We all felt the same bit of shame over those junk cars that our fathers insisted had character. And it wasn't always about the appearance of the cars that gave us fits! There was always that fearful element of breaking down. One night we were out driving in Lyn's old Monte Carlo (definitely one of the nicer cars) when we heard a horrible screeching sound. She put the car in park and said, "Hold on a sec." She popped out, and in a few minutes she popped back in with the culprit in hand. "Tailpipe anyone?"

It makes me laugh now. Maybe it was sort of a dad strategy to keep away boys.  Nevertheless, driving an old car was motivating! Nicole always made us drive with the windows down, practicing for the day we owned our convertibles. It was a certainty that we would eventually drive convertible sports cars. I had my heart on the IROC-Z. Any color would do.

I've driven a number of cars since my high school days. The Cutlass Calais which required jumper cables for every start. The Buick Skylark with its fancy digital speedometer that made this Kirkman girl feel like a million bucks. The Grand Am. My first new car out of college. I loved that sporty, red thing with the spoiler. Of course, I almost ruined it by bottoming out on my boyfriend's parents' long, gravel lane that would eventually become our own long, gravel lane. Oh, there's been so many! The metallic green blazer that 2-year-old Alex loved so much she cried when we traded it in. The Dodge Van whose smell of death hardly offset its convenience. And all those small cars we bought when we had the urge to save on gas.

Here's the funny thing? I don't remember ever shopping, or even considering shopping, for a Camaro. Definitely not a convertible.

Convertible Porsche would be fine.
A few weeks ago my parents asked Doug and I to accompany them to a fundraising event that sponsored an auto show. (My dad was asked to bring two of his motorcycles.) We thought it'd be fun. And it was! What we didn't expect? To fall in love! Oh, those classic cars with their vivid salmon and turquoise paint jobs! Some the size of a large whale! Some the size of a broom closet. It was surreal to be in a lot full of cars that weren't all homogenous, white SUVs. Part of me thought... maybe our fathers were on to something in high school.

Doug preferred this one.
Our kids don't really understand the lessons learned from driving old cars. I'm sure they think they have old cars even though both of their rides are less than 10 years. But they've never "rolled" down a window or only listened to an AM radio. And despite the luxury of their Focus and Fusion, I still hear them mention the appeal of Mustangs and Chargers. And, oh yes, Teslas.

Now, I drive a Chevy Traverse.  A white one. Beyond the general family-truckster-ness of its shape, I've glorified it a bit with my Iowa Hawkeye license plate labeled: KRAMFAM. In all truthfulness, it really is my favorite. And it will remain my favorite at least until kid #2 graduates from college and has his own car insurance. Maybe, just maybe, there will be room on our insurance plan for that convertible. In the meantime, I'll be prepare myself by driving the Traverse, windows down.

A Ferrari would be too ostentatious on the farm.

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Last Thread of SoccerMomDom

there she goes
Last week Alex the Eldest took off for Denver to begin her life. Degree in hand, she'll be working at a swanky restaurant and freelancing her way into a journalism career. These are exciting times for her as Doug and I navigate our new parental role. Doug seemed to understand his responsibilities immediately. First things first: Get her off our car insurance. I felt a bit more unclear of my role. Could I still advise her how to dress? (As if she'd listen.) Should we be there to help her assemble her new IKEA furniture? Do we send all of her belongings to the new address? Or should we leave those few remnants of her youth to allow us some tearful nostalgic binges? These are important questions.

This week Cole the Youngest turned 18. In theory, he's an adult. In theory. He continues to live his life according to principles posited from the Marvel Universe. (Not the worst thing... "with great power comes great responsibility...") The only thing that really concerns me about Cole's age is the draft requirement. And getting into college. And sports injuries. And his focus on girls. Okay, so there are a few things that make me as nervous as a cup of coffee. Luckily for Cole, Alex is 600 miles away, so I can really help him through just about any matter in his life that I think he needs help with. Also, luckily for
Making a cupcake/college decision.
I don't dare show the actual video.
Cole, his father won't always let me do that. Damn, my hubby's too wise at times.

Doug and I had our 25th wedding anniversary this week. We didn't have to worry about the kids throwing us a silver-themed party. They hardly remembered to text! That's okay. I clearly remember the self-absorption of a young adult. Trying to understand your place in the world. Blending your skill with your passions. Narrowing down your passions! And of course, getting paid.

Cole's just really getting his feet wet in this way. He has a year to figure out where he wants to go to college and what he wants to major in. My purpose is clear here.  (Get into U of Iowa and become a doctor! Duh!) But what about my 22-year-old? I'm actually beginning to realize Alex still needs me. I've fielded a few amusing calls. She's a smart girl, but the W4 has her befuddled. And she's already lost her debit card once. And what pharmacy can she use? And her box spring will definitely not fit in the new place. I love it. Sure, the issues seem kind of trivial. But every time I see Alex's name pop up on my phone, I feel a wave of happiness. My time as a soccer mom might be fading, but my time as just a good ole' mom, always here, is as vivid as ever.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Running with Color

Last winter Alex and I decided we would run a 5k together after she graduated college. It was something to keep us motivated to work out. Admittedly, it was a psychological goal for me. When I turned 40, I began to talk myself down from exercising so much. "I'm getting too old to run! It's probably too hard on my joints!" Now, that I've just recently turned 50, I think differently. "I'm not too old to run! I better keep running while I still can!" So, it was on.

I registered us for the Omaha Color Run to be held the last weekend in July. The timing seemed perfect. Alex would need to be moved out of her apartment by then and was hopefully home for a few weeks before she began her real life with a job and all. And as it turned out, everything was unfolding just as planned.

I was off work this last weekend in July. We moved Al home on Wednesday. It gave us a few days to do a little training together before our big weekend! I was excited. While I've been running (on and off) for nearly my entire adult life, I've never run in a race before. It's not something I had the confidence to do. My running friends are probably giggling at this, thinking "how cute... a 5k is hardly a race." And my family is probably thinking "when has she ever lacked confidence?" Well, I have my insecurities just like the rest of us. Especially when it comes to anything halfway athletic. Luckily, running takes very little hand-eye coordination. I've only wiped out a few times in my life.

Back to my Color Run story.

We were all set to go. The night before the run, our family went out to eat with my parents.  It was the perfect way to spend the night before a race: eating carbs and getting home early with mealtime beginning promptly at 6:30 PM.

When we got home, I glanced at the dining room table with a smile. Our gear was laid out: t-shirts, headbands, runner badges, tattoos... We'd need to arise early to get to DT Omaha before the 8:00 AM starting time. But I didn't care! I was ready to run!

Then I get a text from my friend Amy asking what we were doing tonight. I told her we had decided to turn in early because of the race. She asked where we were running since the Omaha Color Run had been that morning.


Here's the thing about being on vacation: calendar days don't really mean much. When I received an email about the Color Run festivities beginning on Friday night (without paying attention to the actual date), I thought, "Wow! Some people make this an event for the whole weekend!"

I re-read Amy's text. She screenshot the information.

We had missed it.

My heart sank to my calloused feet. I was so bummed. My family laughed. I detected a hint of relief from Alex who wasn't thrilled to arise at the break of dawn. But I couldn't laugh. I didn't even care that I had wasted our registration fee. I just wanted to run in it.

So, we watched a dumb movie, and I tried not to pout – coaching myself that it really wasn't a big deal at all. I knew that it wasn't. But I was still kind of sad.

This morning I woke up at 7:30. The day I thought Alex and I would be getting sprayed by paint and laughing it up. I put the vision out of my head. Then I told my husband I was going to run a 5k. Today. Of course, he thought I was nuts, but he supported me anyway.

I put on my Color Run t-shirt. I applied my happy tattoos. (HAPP, actually. My Y didn't stick.) I pulled back my short hair with the cute tie-dyed headband. Doug dropped me off on the flattest highway around. And off I went.

There was no party nor paint. The only music blaring was my playlist of 10,000 Maniacs and One Republic. It was actually... nice.

  • Clouds created a shroud over the sun to prevent me from having heat stroke.
  • I saw my first goldfinch of the summer.
  • The leaves on the trees breezed about, as if to wave me on.
  • I was hardly attacked by red-winged black birds.
  • I saw my favorite purple wildflower. The color is so brilliant and neon-ish, it looks like a cartoon sketch.
  • Two geese glided around the sky without shitting on me, and their companionship reminded me how lucky I am to have my spouse.
  • I met the eyes of a beautiful, young deer who crossed my path, encouraging me to keep up my pace.
Finally, I approached our town with its grand steeple. I received that all important notification from my watch: 3 miles. I ran a little farther. Then I looked again: 3.12 miles. Just a fuzz past a 5k.
                                       I had crossed the finish line! 

Right on cue, my hubby pulled on to the corner of the Highway 191 in my support vehicle – with a water for me in tow. (Isn't he the best?) We rode back on the mule with the wind drying off my sweat as I showed Doug the awful pics I took on my jog. He asked if I was still disappointed about missing the event. I really wasn't. Adrenaline erases negativity. And I'm certain my scenery was more beautiful than DT Omaha. 

As it turned out, it was the best color run I ever missed.

Now that's color.
Look closely. A deer. A steeple.

Monday, July 22, 2019

For Pet's Sake: A Story of Percy and Quinn

This weekend we took off for the Iowa Games to catch our boy play just a little more soccer. No, we really don't get tired of it. You might hear my husband sigh and complain about going, but don't believe it for one second. That's all pretend. We both love it. Watching talented youth with all of their energy is uplifting as heck. And, there's beer to be had after those games.

Whenever we leave for a short weekend away, we need to decide what to do with our pets. I'm usually all for boarding. Doug, the true-blue farm kid, doesn't believe in this philosophy. He's of the camp that animals can stay at home and be checked by the neighbor. I usually fret over this decision. On one hand, the animals like staying at home. On the other hand, what if a storm comes up? On one hand, there's less hair in the car when we don't transport them. On the other hand, Quinn might get eaten by a coyote. It usually comes down to whether there's rain in the forecast and how long we decide to stay away. Since we were only going to be gone one night and the weather appeared amenable, we decided to let them stay home and sleep under the stars... on their honor. We made implicit instructions: no parties while we're gone. Grandpa Ron will be checking on you!

Well. As usual, we left in a flurry – running in and out of the house seventeen times to ensure we had everything. Sunscreen. Allergy pills. Beer. Water. Snacks. Beer. And, oh yes, soccer gear. Finally, we were off to Ames. I always have this bit of anxiety when we leave for trips. I'm certain we've forgotten something. And that something is so unique that it could never, ever be purchased at a Target store. #irrational #neurotic_mom

Waiting for an ear-scratching.
By the time evening came, we had our first pet report:

Percy is good. Can't find cat. 

A good report! Our cat only appears when its hungry or needs its belly scratched. It's the dog I mostly worry about. On top of his over-domestication (guilty!), you see, our dog was just recently diagnosed with diabetes. It seemed overnight, our chubby terrier gained new nicknames: Slimdawg and Skeletor. The poor thing receives insulin shots twice a day and can no longer partake in ice cream. Thus, the worry over our dog rivals the worry over our kids. Just kidding. Sort of.

The next day as we were getting ready for the games, we received a call from Grandpa Ron. No Percy. No Quinn. He called out to them and looked everywhere. We told him not to worry. He was probably under the deck. His hearing was failing too, after all. But after I hung up with my father, I had a pit in my stomach. Maybe his time had come. And I hadn't really said a proper good-bye to him... all those stupid trips in and out of the house!

But we had some games to watch. I said a prayer that our animals were not suffering and flipped to soccer mom mode. But it wasn't far from my mind.When the weather switched and the clouds grew dark during the last game, I began to internally berate myself. Even if our pets were safe and sound, now they'd be caught in a storm. I should've boarded them.

The last game was finally called due to lightning. Our boys got second place. (They should've gotten first, but that's a story for another time.) I was ready to get on the road. We took off in the rain. I buried my head in a book and tried to push back the dread that perhaps we had lost our beloved little barker.

Two and a half hours later, we pulled into our driveway. The rain had stopped by then. But there was no one to greet us. My heart was sinking just as Cole said, "There he is!"

Our little Percy came prancing out, bright-eyed and muddy as hell. Hallelujah! The pang zipped out of my heart. I hopped out of the truck to hug the rain-soaked dog, not caring about the stink he was gifting my hands. I glanced around for the cat whose usual ploy was to lurk on the ledge. But there was no Quinn. I began a futile call for the cat who doesn't like to be commanded to come. And then the most amazing thing happened. Doug opened the door to the house. And the cat rushed outside. Quinn had decided to stay at the Hotel Kramer for the night. I had to laugh. I couldn't even be upset. Our cat and dog were alive! That's all that mattered... for the next couple of minutes, at least. Then I realized something. The cat most certainly had a party in our house. We'd have mess. Kitty mess.

Messes. Schmesses. My joy over our pets made up for any poop or pee left to clean. Besides, we have Cole for that duty. Good boy, Cole.

It's always naptime for these ole dogs.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

50 Awesome Things About Turning 50

If you would've asked me at the age of 20 how I pictured myself at age 50, I probably would've said, "Who cares? I'll be old by then."

So, I didn't really make a list of 50 awesome things. I'm sorry. I tried, but then realized most of my ideas centered around the ability to afford things. It seemed a little shallow – as shallow as a 20-year-old! So, I shifted my thoughts and decided to make a list of blessings. But that just seemed like boasting about how perfect and great and talented and smart and beautiful our kids are. No one wants to hear that. So, I decided to nix the list and jot a few observations over this past weekend as I pondered this milestone that I share with Woodstock and Man on the Moon and The Gap.

Look at that train.

  • The shock of turning 50 can be softened by preparing for it early – like the day you turn 46. I distinctly remember saying "I'm almost 50" back then. It seemed to lessen the blow of actually turning fifty, until, of course, the smart ass in the room points out that I'm now half a century.
  • At this age, nothing can be too boring. Boring is actually preferred. Doug and I visited Kenefick Park this weekend. It's a park which features two old Union Pacific locomotives. Yes, we did this upon our own volition. For years, I've been wanting Doug to throw me a surprise party. Somewhere along the line, this wish dissolved. I'd take our visit to the museum any day over a drinking binge. Almost any day.
  • No matter their age, our kids have the ability to lift my heart with just the tiniest of efforts. Like a passing comment:"At least you're not turning sixty, Mom. That would really suck." Or, a text that says your long lost daughter can meet you for lunch after all. Or a heartfelt embrace between the kids showing their love for each other. They do like each other! (Those moments really made my heart sing.)
  • My mother makes the best potato salad ever. We invited my parents over for steaks this weekend. I knew they'd bring me my birthday gift, but I was most excited about her potato salad. It's that good. It's a little sour, a little sweet and has the perfect texture – not one bit mushy nor overly mustardy like most potato salads I endure. Every mother has that specialty item – the thing they make better than anyone else and their kids will never forget it. Every mother, that is, except for me. I asked my kids what I make that they absolutely love. Nothing came to mind. This, I realize, is something I should work on.
  • I will never, ever, ever grow tired of The Cheesecake Factory. Doug and I ate fantastic Indian food this weekend. (He hardly broke out into a sweat after eating a chili pepper!) But with the delicious naan and dashing company (Doug), it wasn't the same as sitting down at a Cheesecake Factory and breaking bread together as a family– as we have many times and happily repeated the ritual on my birthday. By the time we order cheesecake, it isn't so much about wanting dessert. It's about extending our time together as we catch up on each others' lives. Okay, that's not entirely true. It's very much about wanting dessert. And catching up on each others' lives.

My younger self might be surprised to learn that I still have goals and dreams at the ripe, old age of fifty. They're just different than those of the 20-year-old. Instead of dreaming about having a big house, a fancy convertible, and taking posh vacations, I dream about helping my family, writing inspiring books, and taking posh vacations. And by posh, I'm talking really fancy railroad museums. 

My husband worked especially hard to spoil me to the point of guilt this weekend. He watched the RBG documentary and talked feminism with me. He took me any place I wanted including a "SheRocks" concert which reminded me of my long ago dream of becoming a rock star. (Now, that's an actual recurring nightmare I have.) He bought me that gas fire pit I've been wanting. (Thank goodness, because Cole has plans for this.) Best of all, he drove me to Des Moines so our family could spend the day together – and eat Cheesecake Factory. But after receiving so much attention from my husband, my parents, the kids, my coworkers and friends, I've realized something. I'd much rather give attention than receive it. I never would've believed that as a 20-year-old. Perhaps that sentiment is the truest gift age can bring.

Pure love.