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Sunday, June 25, 2017

On Age

“Oh, how I regret not having worn a bikini for the entire year I was twenty-six. If anyone young is reading this, go, right this minute, put on a bikini, and don't take it off until you're thirty-four.”

That quote is from the late and great Nora Ephron. Unless you're Jennifer Aniston, most women over the age of 40 will relate. Yesterday I celebrated numero 48. It was a fun, celebratory day with lots of good wishes from lots of special people in my life. But it's impossible for me not think FORTY-EIGHT! OH MY GOD. WHEN DID I GET THAT OLD? My own father can't believe he's the dad of an old person. My kids, on the other hand, have always thought I was old. Nevertheless, I will continue to coach myself by saying things like, "Well, I'm not 50 yet." And when that milestone hits in two years, I'll move on and say things like "Well, I'm not 51 yet."

me concerned about age at 47
I used to work with a guy who would tell people he was 50 when he was actually in his thirties. Everyone would be like, "Really? You look so young!" I thought this to be an ingenious strategy. If someone is bound to lie about their age (unless they're under the age of 21), they tend to say they're actually younger than they are, which is kind of dumb really. If I were to tell someone right now I was thirty, they'd look at me and spout out some sort of lie like, "You look so good."  But they'd actually be thinking,"Whoa. That woman hasn't aged well." Best to stick with the truth probably. And why not?

There's much to be said about aging. I could go on about the wisdom you gain as you grow older and yadayadayada. Or, how it's nice to reach an age when you don't have to worry about how to pay your bills. But the truth is that each year brings its own challenges and rewards. Good stuff happens. Bad stuff happens. You figure out how to cope and you try to laugh along the way. Laughing is key as your body starts to take on some strange qualities. (When did my husband and I obtain such bad breath? How does that happen all of the sudden?)

I often find myself reminiscing about the days when our kids were cute toddlers and long to go back to snuggling and reading with them on the couch. Undoubtedly, I loved those moments. But there were the other moments too. The little spats with my husband on dividing up the work. Picking up the zillions of legos on the floor. (I still find them once in a while.) Drying the many tears that come with children. And the continual insecurity that time was going too fast and I wasn't doing everything I needed to be doing.

Then I reached 48. And I'm not so worried anymore. I can go to the grocery store without makeup and not care. My husband and I are as happy as we've ever been. The kids are fine–quite good actually. They can do their own laundry and make grilled cheeses.

Okay sure, my hair needs color every four weeks. There's this squish around my stomach that won't shrink no matter how much I diet. There are things like colonoscopies that lurk in my short future. It's all really okay. I know this because I can put on a bikini (in the privacy of my own home of course) and instead of cry, I laugh–a sure sign of maturity.
me with posse not concerned about age at 48

Monday, June 5, 2017

I Want to Run!

There were plenty of reasons not to go.

  • It was going to be expensive.
  • The boys might've had state soccer that weekend.
  • Cole is playing summer league.
  • Doug would most likely be spraying.
  • It was going to be expensive.

Still. It was U2. The 30-year reunion of The Joshua Tree tour. Quite possibly the best album ever made according to the Stef Kramer book of music opinions. So I bought the tickets and made hotel reservations for the closest venue: Chicago on June 4th. Then I found out my cousin was getting married that weekend. Oh druthers! God didn't want us to go.

I decided we would sell our tickets. When I tried to cancel my hotel reservation, I was told, "No problem!" But I'd still be charged for both nights. What was going on? God was definitely giving us mixed signals. So after some hand wringing and an assurance from my cousin that there'd be no hard feelings, the trip was on. 

I took two days off from work. Doug scrambled to finish spraying before leaving. Cole told his coach he'd be gone. So with a touch of anxiety, we left for the weekend. Within a few hours, I had no regrets. The weekend was in the Top Ten strata. Why you ask?

My and my college pal, Laura.
  • Met up with our busy and elusive daughter, Alex, in Iowa City just as the Arts Festival was going on. What luck! Doug and Cole couldn't have been happier to get their dose of culture.
  • Had lunch with a college friend whom I haven't seen for 20 years. 20 years. It was a three hour lunch. (A three hour lunch!) Tears. Smiles. Memories of two 21 year-olds in 1990 getting 42 pitchers at Dooley's on their day-apart birthdays with hardly enough friends to drink all the booze. Lots of laughter.
  • Talked with my hubby. I mean really talked. Not once did we discuss schedules or daily to-do's. And you know what? I really like hanging out with Doug. He's fun and good and likes to laugh. I'm so glad I married him.

Did I mention we saw U2? In Soldier Field? In all honesty, it wasn't even the highlight. It was the opening act, The Lumineers. Kidding! I won't deny the entire show was a delight. But the best parts of the weekend? Our kids hanging out together while we scooted off to Chicago. Seeing an old friend whom I still adore. Spending alone time with my cool and awesome husband. 

There's always a million reasons not to do something. So next time you agonize over taking that trip, I'd suggest focusing on the one good reason to do it: connecting with the people that matter to you. That's what Bono would do.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Rainbow Moments

I did snap a photo before it disappeared!
The other morning I went for a walk and spotted a rainbow! It was brilliant and fascinating–as rainbows tend to be. My mind drifted to consider the sequence of colors and if I ever colored them correctly as a child. Blue purple red? Or yellow orange green? When I looked up again, it was gone.

Last week my fortune cookie said, "Don't rush through life. Pause and enjoy it." Easier said than done. This would entail ridding myself of incessant worry. Am I making a difference at work? Have I spent enough time with my parents? Did I get that uniform washed? Should I continue to write? Can I pray just once without other thoughts invading my mind? Am I being a good mom? Could I be a better wife? Ha ha. Just kidding on the last one. I could not be a better wife. (That should get me some feedback.)

Living fully in the present. It seems to be a challenge in this world of bazillion obligations. After putting much thought into this topic, I have concluded that observing children can help. Alex used to drive me up the wall when she was little. Wherever we went, she had to touch and study anything that caught her attention. Colorful candy bar wrappers were a favorite. Instead of scolding her, maybe I should've taken her lead and learned to linger. Linger therapy. Maybe I'll market that.

Perhaps the key is to engage in those activities with so much sensory stimulation, the brain doesn't have room to process anything else. These activities can actually come in the sneaky form of responsibility. A mentoring trip to the zoo. A soccer game. A vocal concert. Even stargazing while taking the dog out for his nightly duty. There really are ways one can be fully present....even with a to-do list tapping at your brain.

Tonight I noticed the lilacs on my tree beginning to wilt. Rather than rushing into the house to feed my laundry machine, I sat in my flower bed picking at weeds–and breathed in the fragrance of my lilacs. I did this until I felt the storm rolling in. And you know what? I didn't even feel anxious about my undone chores. Not one bit.

Maybe I'm starting to get this living in the present concept. And it really does seem to be a gift.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Injury. Adversity. Life.

In the past year, Cole has suffered a concussion, a sprained ankle, a sprained shoulder, and a lower back stress fracture.

I don't think I've been a very good parent through these injuries. Obviously I was concerned–especially about the concussion. But for the others, I didn't want to believe he was hurt. There were games to play. Soccer. Football. Basketball. Soccer. Except for the concussion, it took a few doctor visits (and an x-ray or two)  to convince me my son was really injured. Why would I question my kid's pain when I know very well he loves to play sports and absolutely hates to sit out?

Because I'm a crazy parent. Like so many of us who love to watch their kid play or perform. Once our child displays a smattering of talent in anything (sports, music, chess), we begin to think big. Maybe he could play in college! Maybe she will become the next American Idol! If American Idol was still a thing, that is.

While I was a book and music nerd in my youth (unlike now), my husband was an athlete. He loved sports–still does. But he seems to have a healthier outlook about kids and sports. I.e., he's not a crazy dad. He doesn't believe that sports should be a venue for parents to flash their pride or expand their social network–although those are nice aspects. He believes the purpose is to allow our kids to experience the rewards of being on a team. And teach a little discipline along the way. Most of all, it should be fun.

But it isn't always fun. There are injuries. There are times when your kid doesn't get picked. There are times when other kids are jerks. Hmm. Sounds an awful lot like life.

As Cole was weathering these injuries, he became more frustrated than I've ever seen him. He couldn't shake the pain. He couldn't play. He actually told his coach that he wondered if he should stay in sports. My typically happy son was distraught. I wondered what to do. I had always subscribed to a certain philosophy: work hard, keep positive, and good things will happen. But after all of his injuries, I was beginning to wonder if this advice was setting Cole up for disappointment.

Cole's coach suggested a massage therapist. If it didn't work, Cole would probably give up sports. And I would be the parent who would help him find the bright side and carry on. And I would have to accept that my mom pins would languish in a drawer.

just like the pros...ha!
But the story has a happy ending, with the bonus of having a lesson learned. After months of back pain, the massage therapist employed the "cupping" method to heal muscles. And.... now? He's pain free! He feels great. He can enjoy his favorite sport again. And gratitude is flowing. The past year has been challenging, but our family has realized how adversity can give you perspective–trumping any concern about your kid playing sports. Health. A safe home. A loving family. A pantry full of food. Usually. Usually food in the pantry.

I came across the following article. Every parent should read it. While we moms and dads want success and happiness for our kids, we also need to make them understand the journey isn't always filled with cream puffs. And sometimes to get to the cream puffs, you need to eat your vegetables. Sometimes oatmeal.

Sprained ankle? Your dad's got you, Bud.

Sunday, March 26, 2017


When was the last time you felt lonely? If your life is anything like mine, it might have been awhile. But there are very few of us who haven't experienced that feeling one time or another. As an only child, I vividly remember setting up the monopoly board and playing both the thimble and the iron. Sometimes the wheelbarrow. I laugh now at the memory, but admittedly it's not my fondest childhood memory. Being lonely sucks.

A few weekends ago my hubby asked if I wanted to accompany him as he checked cattle. I said no. Obviously! I had things to accomplish on my hectic Saturday morning. Laundry, vacuuming, Pioneer Woman...Then he said something that struck me. "Come on. I'm by myself all week." An aha moment came over me.

I don't want one of my favorite people in the world to feel lonely! So I went. And it was fun and good.

Today CBS Sunday Morning featured a story about a high school in Boca Raton whose students started a program called "We Dine Together." To see kids with this much spirit made my heart soar. And, more importantly, it reminded me how much impact a small gesture can have. So I challenge you! Reach out to a kid at lunch. Say hello to someone sitting alone at a restaurant. Smile at the elderly person in the grocery store. Maybe you already do all of this stuff. That's awesome. But I bet we could all do a little more.

Need some inspiration? Watch this video:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Busy as a...Bitch?

Have you ever counted how many times in a day something is requested of you? It doesn't matter what you have going on, you just–

·         Do it. It’s your kid and someone needs to wash their sheets.
·         Do it. It’s your husband. It will be easier than teaching him how to call the dentist.
·         Do it. It’s your job and they pay you.
·         Do it. It’s a good thing for your community and you want to make it a great place to live.

But there are times you don't do it, even if you want going out with a girlfriend or playing a game with your family. And why not? We're too darn busy. And we need to prove it.
I read an article in the WSJ by Elizabeth Bernstein called You're Not Busy, You're Just Rude. Undoubtedly we’re all buried under a mound of too many obligations–self-imposed for sure. We tend to wear our “busy-ness” like a badge. It never occurred to me how off-putting this can be—to our friends who are also busy and to the people we care about it. Talk of hectic schedules tends to dominate conversation, but what are we trying to communicate?  "I'm so busy I'm not even sure why I'm taking the time to visit with you! Now get outta here."

I'm not saying we need to put a halt to being active. Being busy equates to productivity. But the next time I start rationalizing why I'm saying no, I’m going to try to shift my perspective about my responsibilities. And be honest.

Like when my husband asks me to sit down and watch something with him. I won't let out a huge sigh and tell him I’m too busy. I’ll ask him to help me with laundry so someone can have socks in the morning. And we can interact instead of stare at a screen.

Or like when a friend invites me to have a drink, I won’t say I’m too busy. I’ll say I’m concerned about becoming an alcoholic. And having beer breath at a soccer game. Then I'll ask her to lunch instead.

Or like when my kids want to talk about their days, and my mind begins to create to-do lists for them to ensure they are productive citizens. Really, I need to stop that right now. I will empty my mind and listen to their every word. I'm definitely never too busy for them. No matter how many meetings I boast about attending.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

#momconversation with Joan Gubbels: straight talk on depression

One of the great rewards of being employed for a family-focused organization in a tight-knit community are the friendships developed on the job. I work in the Finance/Operations area of the Shelby County State Bank with Joan Gubbels who happens to be a double cousin of my husband–like I said, a tight-knit community! We work closely together on many projects and it’s sometimes eerily similar to working with my husband–if he would have any affinity for accounting, that is. Needless to say, Joan and I have plenty of laughs together almost on a daily basis. 

Last summer Joan experienced a personal crisis. She had a nervous breakdown which shocked everyone who knows the cheery and fun-loving person that she is. Joan has been very open about her struggles with depressions with the intention of helping others. By making more people aware of the affliction, she hopes to erase the stigma of the disease.

Here's Joan.

Quick bio (family, current job, where from):  Wife and mother.  Husband – Joe Kids, Jack – 19 Jace – 12 almost 13.  Cashier at SCSB.  Originally from outside Portsmouth but currently live on an acreage near Harlan.
Favorite family tradition:  Going to the lake to boat, wave run, fish, camp and make TONS of food.  As well as spending time with our lake family in Lake View.
Funniest kid story of late:  When my son was about 5-6 years old, I walked in to his room.  He kept knocking his private thing down.  I asked him what was wrong and he said. ‘IT WON’T STAY DOWN!’  I could hardly keep my laughter in and I said to quit doing that and it would quit standing up.  Then I left his bedroom and laughed a long time.
Most surprising lesson you’ve learned about being a mother:  IT is very hard to understand them and you HAVE to pick your battles about what is REALLY important.
Opinion on work/life Balance:  I really like my job and the people I work with but my family has always come first. Luckily I have a hubby that is understanding and helpful now.  When the kids were little it wasn’t quite that way. 
Guilty pleasure:  Candy Crush – having drinks with friends.
Last book you read that you couldn’t quit thinking about: The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
Best family tradition:  Going to Adventureland with my parents and neighbors.  Going to Lake View with my kids and great family friends.
Favorite or most-used app:  Candy crush or Facebook

Who’s your celebrity obsession?  There are quite a few but two are older like Sam Elliot, Sean Connery in his younger years, Also, Ashton Kutcher, Matthew McConaughey

What’s your go-to movie? Anything drama like Fast and the Furious or and any love story (kind of sappy).
What advice would you give to new parents:  PICK your battles at all times.  Things you might think are important at the time is actually very minor.  Spend time with your kids and GO to their activities but don’t push them into doing them unless they want to.
How do you recharge?  Exercising or playing games on my phone.  It helps clear my mind and NOT think about things that are bothering me.

Jace, Jack, Perriann, Joan and Joe
You have communicated your struggles with depression. What would you like to say to others who also struggle? I’ve been going to counseling for years, on and off, more off than on (dumb).  I was hospitalized in my early 20s for depression and now at 46 had a major breakdown in July and was hospitalized for 2 days.  (There’s kind of a funny story about being it’s funny anyway.)  None of it was fun and I wanted to give up with everything.  I seriously wanted my life to be over, on Monday, July 18th officially, to take the pain AWAY!  Luckily I kept thinking of my awesome kids, hubby, sisters, brothers, friends and awesome co-workers (my work family.)   The reason I am writing this is I want to remind teenagers and adults as well that life is hard!  Please don’t give up though!!  Each year gets better one way or another but then you might hit 46 and it’s all still not perfect, but if you look back at the awesome kids you’ve created with awesome talents, the awesome husband you need to rely on more and love dearly with amazing talents and cares so much, 10 brothers and sisters that would drop anything to help you along with their kids, my nieces and nephews, as well as awesome in and out laws that always make me feel welcome and would love to help too.  I also have a workplace to go every day that feels or actually is your second family.  Some really GREAT friends, which are WAY too numerous to mention.  I am truly blessed.  I also have an amazing future to look forward to such as  daughter in laws, grandkids, etc.  I don’t have a deathly illness and a lot hasn’t gone my way throughout my life BUT I still try to keep looking forward.  My final and most important point is… suicide isn’t the answer… remember what you have and if you don’t have what you want, find it or fight for it. I keep trying every day.  One other point that I have to make is KEEP going to counseling even when you don’t think you need it anymore. If you have depression – you have depression!!!

Thanks Joan for sharing that very personal story. It's so important to recognize the need to get help in counseling and medication. Like Joan said, "life is hard," but it can also great. Taking care of oneself is the first step in creating a purposeful and rewarding existence.