It’s been a busy past couple of weeks .. spring/early summer always seem to be anymore, don’t they? Good busy, but whew .. busy.
So much to do .. projects to get done, events to go to, family and great friends to see and get caught up with, especially now that the windows are open once again and the neighborhood has once again come alive! Sadly, there never seems to be enough time to just let it all soak in and fully enjoy.
But we try.
In an effort to get somewhat caught up on posts without having to write two weeks worth:
First official week of summer. 6th grade here we come! Downtime for my daughter means coming home to concoctions in the refrigerator that are unidentifiable but that she says she wants to eat. Friends high school/college graduation parties. Family graduation parties, too. Family gatherings. Time at the River. Gigs. Practicing guitar. Catching up with old friends. Work. Camps. Catching up on meetings. Taking on new projects. Wrapping up old ones. Watering the garden. Trying to fit in a workout. Time in the backyard with the neighbors. Chasing my dog back home. Time with the Cowboy. Time with his kids. More gigs. Seeing my daughter off to camp (she’s so excited, more to come on that mañana).
Getting back to church. Special projects at work. Golf events in the name of good causes. 90+ degree heat. No air conditioning at home. Father’s Day bbq. Farmers Market. New phone. Not liking new phone. Trying to figure out how to get photos off new phone. Trying to find time to take new phone back and return for another new, different phone. Trying to fit in another workout (longer than the one before because I didn’t leave enough time for a good hearty one that’ll work off the beer I so enjoy having, especially on a hot summer night). Looking for the right wedding dress. Telling family/close friends that I’d prefer hear from me that I’m getting married .. that I’m getting remarried. Still trying to find the right wedding dress in part, because I don’t really want a wedding dress. Just a nice dress that I can wear again that won’t cost me really much at all if anything. In fact, my favorite choice so far is an awesome crocheted piece I got at a resale shop a couple years ago now for $10. I digress .. Tonight, conversations with the Cowboy centered around trying to find just the right bible versus for what will be a very quiet, simple ceremony, while having a glass of chilled white wine. Which means, I need to fit in a workout tomorrow morning before leaving early for work and a day of shoots for the upcoming month of sweeps. That’s my deal with myself. I can have a beer or a glass of wine as long as I get in a run at some point during the day. How’s that for a pact. The pounds, as some of you know when you age, don’t come off as easily as they used to .. so I’d rather not get incredibly far behind. Or I’ll develop a big behind. Not that there’s anything wrong with that ….
The Cowboy’s daughter said to me this weekend as we were all doing cartwheels on the Capital lawn during the Farmer’s Market .. ‘not too bad for a 40 year old!’. “Gee, thanks” I told her, trying to act frustrated but could hardly keep back from laughing.
(last couple weeks cont.) .. oh yeah, few more things to add and then feeling more caught up. Also been consumed with Root beer. Ice cream. Kayaking out on the lake amongst all the weeds. Stand Up Paddleboarding with a woman I absolutely adore. Trying to figure out how to do yoga on a paddle board. Wine after paddle boarding. Finding a bike in the lake while climbing a tree. Larry who’s not really Larry but who was awesome at helping my daughter pull seaweed out of the tires of the bike and clean it off so that we could put it in a friends car (the paddle boarder!). Which reminds me, need to go pick that up. Note to self.
Tying up out of control tomato branches so rest of garden can breathe. Fans in the window again. And again. Sunflowers on the table. Conversations about faith and family and doing what’s best. Or what we believe is best. Making tough decisions. Keeping those close to the vest for now. Talking with a friend who’s mother’s cancer is progressing. Madison Children’s Museum. Making soap. Not going to the Union. Birth father stopping by and getting to better know some of my half siblings (who are just incredible kids). Raspberry pie. And shortly .. will be putting shoes by the door so I can boogie on another quick run in the morning and not spend time trying to figure out where I last left one or both of them. Or do I just get on the road to today’s golf outing. Love that someone came up with the idea to get people to golf to support great causes.
Excited to write about camp tomorrow ..
This is perhaps the first day of downtime I/we’ve really had in a long time ..
And we’re still on the go.
I’m incredibly behind on writing. I gave myself the gift of not feeling guilty I wasn’t living up to my goal of one post a day .. and instead tried to focus on getting in a workout and simply getting done what I had to get done each day.
On the go today though consists of doing a lot of whatever we feel like doing, which fired up about. The Cowboy and the kiddos are here .. my daughter is with her dad, so they’re a bit bummed about that but once in awhile the split can be a good thing .. as we all continue to adjust to time together, how that works and what that means.
Plan for the day was: Blog. Play guitar with the Cowboy and big sis. Sidewalk chalk with the boys. A little badminton. Change for the bus. Farmers Market. Strawberry picking. Barn. River/pool. Guitar store. Grill out. Hang out. We’ll probably do most of the following but strawberry picking is out apparently.
90% of the crop
Feel bad for the growers .. also sad for any potential pickers because it is such a quintessential summer tradition for so many families. Had hoped to take the kids for their first pick. If you’ve never been ..
Imagine the feeling you get opening up a package of great looking strawberries from the store.
Now multiply that times like 500. Not only is it heartwarming watching kids (young and old alike) discover row after row the beautiful, ripe fruit .. but the sight of the bright red juice running off the side of their face as they pick one .. then eat one .. and repeat until often they can eat no more .. with strawberry stains that most likely won’t come out again on their white shirt that you forgot you probably shouldn’t have sent them in ..
Next season .. for now, off to the Farmer’s Market. We’ll have to settle for donut sprinkle stains.
There is something absolutely majestic about seeing a hot air balloon up close .. or, off in the distance .. the beautiful colors up in the air a stark contrast to the blue skies surrounding it and the rolling green hills below..
Someday I’d like to get to Albuquerque for the International event there .. seems it would be amazing.
But in the meantime, I try and catch a glimpse wherever I can. Sometimes, when there is time, I like to see how close I can drive to where they might be flying to catch a glimpse more up close and personal. The sight never ceases to impress me, like .. I’ve never seen another hot air balloon before.
This past weekend we took the drive over to a festival here in Wisconsin. I had hoped the night glow would amaze my daughter like my first balloon rally event did me but stronger than desired winds and skies, threatening rain, wouldn’t allow for much activity.
So we enjoyed what he participants there that night, were able to do.
Perhaps the highlight of the night (besides the Sno Cone) ..
We ran into friends ..
And each of the girls got a chance to stand in the basket and get their photo taken like they were breathing fire (Thank you!!! They loved it!) ..
While it wasn’t quite the scene I had imagined it might be, having been to at least one rally in the past ..
It was still beautiful. I am always so amazed by the dedication any balloonist has to their sport, and the courage in which they take to the air. Some of us can hardly steer a car with two hands on the wheel and clear markings as to where we are supposed to drive. I can’t imagine the precision it takes to learn to guide such a massive object through the air, especially at some of these events where dozens of other balloons are floating nearby and you’ve got to maneuver around them.
As I was glancing at the Albuquerque page .. I came across this, The Balloonist’s Prayer. Didn’t realize there was such a thing. But how beautiful .. and, prayers are always good.
May all of our travels, whether it is by land, sea or air, always be safe.
May the winds welcome you with softness.
May the sun bless you with its warm hands.
May you fly so high and so well that God
joins you in laughter and sets you gently
back into the loving arms of Mother Earth.
Apartment is cleaned up. Laundry is going. Coffee is on. Running clothes are on too so that I’m motivated to workout after writing this, before I run off to work.
Life’s been hectic lately. A good hectic at times and at other times, exhausting. More emotionally than anything. But finally feeling like I have a moment to sit and write.
I wrote most of last week about the mom’s in my life. And while Mother’s Day has come and gone and this was to be my post on Sunday .. my 100th post .. I’m actually thinking my mom would appreciate that I’ve been trying to take care of some other obligations and things that needed tending to, before taking this break. Plus, she’d appreciate, I believe, the fact I’ve done nothing but think about her and what was important to write about her now for over a week.
There isn’t a day though that goes by, I don’t think of her and wish I could pick up the phone to actually call .. she was and will always be the woman who became not only my mom, but also eventually my best friend.
Those of you who are a daughter or who have one now .. can imagine it wasn’t always that way.
“I don’t have to listen to you! You’re not my real mother ..” I remember saying to her more than once when I was growing up.
I’m not sure what she ever said or expected of me that warranted that response.
But I remember saying it. And regretting it then and now with everything I have. How often we say things, especially as children, we wish we could take back. Thankfully I had the chance to make amends for that and any other trouble I may have caused her in her far too short a life .. over and over again. I did my best anyway.
And even though my mom isn’t here to walk me through how she might handle some of the parenting issues I am now blessed and challenged with .. I believe I have some wonderful insight, hindsight and foresight .. as my daughter tries to get away with some of the same.
Back to my mom.
I may be looking at this through rose colored glasses .. but I don’t think so. And even if I am, I don’t care.
Here’s what I remember of my mother:
She went by A. Eileen because she hated her first name. And she never wanted anyone to know it was Agnes. But I kind of like it. Family name. She was born in Maryland but raised in Madison. Her own father, Paul died while she was very young of tuberculosis. She ended up with TB because of it. Scarring her lungs as a very young child. She was lucky to have survived, herself. But it would eventually make her more vulnerable apparently, to the cancer that took her life. She grew up in both a single parent home and when my grandmother remarried at one point, from everything I understand, in an abusive environment. She attended Business College. Met my father in a soda shop on Madison’s east side. Married and moved to the small town of Poynette where she .. and they would live and work and raise our family, most of the rest of her life.
Our first home was tiny, but from what little I remember of it, she made it a home. Totally 70’s decor. Sweet flower beds around the house. Lilies of the Valley out the front window I still remember the smell of them as they would bloom each spring. A play set in the backyard. She was always very proud of how things looked, including herself. She wasn’t a workout queen. But she was slender, always kept.
And despite the fact she wore little other makeup, there was always bright pink or red lipstick that went on.
She was simple. Didn’t need much. Her closet was minimal. I stood looking at mine the other day and even now, mine is half the size it was a couple years ago (in part because I keep most of my work clothes now at work because I have no closet space in my old school apartment) .. thinking about how I would like to get down to a wardrobe the size of the one she had. Life. More Simple. I love the thought. And I am going through my own things little by little doing what I can right now to minimize. (How and when did we as a society ever go from something four-feet wide being enough to closets the size of an efficiency apartment being the norm?)
She was a wonderful woman with an infectious smile .. and a laugh that seemed to be heard around every corner. When she was happy. When she was stressed. When she would hear us say things we shouldn’t .. knowing the consequence was coming.
She was stern, yet vulnerable. Beautiful. Outspoken yet often quiet, introspective and kept to herself. She was helpful. Had great penmanship. I love how she wrote her name. Is that silly? Whatever. She was hard working. Always wanting to pitch in to help wherever it was needed but knowing when it was time to rest and ‘just be’, as well. She was all about family. And community where she could. Volunteering. Getting involved. But she was equally good at hiding out and tending to her own well being .. and that of our family.
She preferred my dad do the cooking, she’d do the dishes or get us to do them. She and my dad both worked hard. And in turn, expectations of what we could do and how we could pitch in as a team were high.
Especially as we got older. Older .. interestingly enough, meaning probably my dear daughter, about the age you are now.
During the summer and on weekends especially, mom wanted a clean house. With or without company coming. We were expected to keep our rooms clean, have the laundry done and folded, vacuuming done, floors scrubbed with a rag – not a mop, have the lawn mowed, weeds pulled, the garage swept out, toys put away and whatever our other jobs were, done. We were expected (ahem .. encouraged strongly if we ever wanted money of our own, ever) to work on top of any of that. We mowed neighbors lawns. Had paper routes. De-tassled corn. Babysat. My first ‘real job’ I’m pretty sure was at the flower shop/convenience store in town, where my mom would go everyday for her Pepsi and Hershey’s candy bar for a break from work. It was right across the street from her office.
Work. Then play.
Which we were given a lot of room to do as well.
(I had written a bunch about that, but thinking I’ll save that for a post all its own. The importance of play. And another .. about having a job when you’re young. Both are so important, I believe.)
In having many expectations of us, we were also given a lot of freedom to mess up. Figure things out on our own. And reap the rewards of being good and doing well, earning trust. Or suffering the consequences of not making wise choices. And grounded. For like .. most of my high school years. All were gifts that helped us both grow into the people we’ve become. Like us or not.
Mom loved to travel. But hated to drive (flying wasn’t an option back then on a budget). And she was terrible about reading maps. One of my fondest memories though is of her, wherever we would be, in the passenger seat with the map.
My dad would say to her, ‘Where next? Where do we turn next?’
“Well, I think .. here,” she would say. And she would almost instantly start laughing.
“You think there?!” my dad would say getting frustrated.
We ended up in places we should not have been traveling on more than one occasion because she would break down in a fit of laughter and tears and not be able to even read the map. Ultimately ending up in the drivers seat while our dad tried to navigate us out of a mess.
I hear her laughter everyday ..
.. as I glance at the photo I took of her on one of the last road trips we would ever take together.
We were in Montana. And while at this particular moment we weren’t lost, we were laughing.
The photo reminds me each day of her simple nature, her appreciation for life and finding beauty in the everyday little things, for exploring .. but also in coming home again. And in being with family.
Love and miss you.
“Let there be more joy and laughter in your living” – Eileen Caddy
(A quote not my mom, but apparently another wise Eileen.)
I was assigned a story my first summer working as a reporter in Missoula, Montana:
Head to an area about 3 1/2 hours southeast of town, called the Big Hole Valley and catch up with a group of riders on that particular year’s leg of the Chief Joseph trail ride.
http://www.westyellowstonenews.com/news/article_2a8c9da8-cc3b-11e0-8016-001cc4c002e0.html (Photo above courtesy: West Yellowstone News)
And since I was going that far away, yet it was still in our viewing area, I was to come up with a couple additional stories to film while there.
“I’m looking for Sheila,” I called and asked for the woman I had been reading about was a famous hatter from that area.
“Hang on just a minute,” I remember a woman’s voice on the other end of the line. I heard the woman call for her.
“This is Sheila,” I’ll never forget the deep, slow and deliberate, sweet yet strong voice that answered a few moments later.
“Sheila, my name is .. ” and I went on to explain who I was and that I was coming to her area to film another series of stories. I knew she had made the Cowgirl Hall of Fame for her cowboy hat making. Would she allow me to film a piece on her? She happily obliged. We agreed on a time and day to meet. And I believe from the moment I walked in the door to the hat shop that day, we have been friends.
Well, actually it was probably more over beer later that night and some dancing at the Antler Saloon..
And then it somehow, quickly become more than that. She and her husband at the time, and her daughters took me in, as family. Not uncommon for Sheila. The woman has wrapped her arms around many besides her own children, and made them feel like one of her own. We have visited as often as possible, since. Spending a lot of weeks and weekends together, a few holidays, moves, weddings, deaths, a graduation, nights around the fire, new babies, a divorce, another wedding ..
You know what I mean, just life.
A lot of life.
And while I’m not sure what Sheila has ever gleaned from me .. I have at times, besides just enjoying every single moment I’m able to spend with her, leaned on her hard. Even lately. She has always been there for me, usually giving me the straight shoot, calling me out on anything necessary, helping me set upright again and always move forward with a better perspective for having spent any time with her. Teaching me new things. And some old things I need to be reminded of, like, sometimes it’s important to slow down and appreciate this life. I tell her, usually in-between laughs, I try and appreciate it too much, which is why I’m always so busy.
She also let’s me know when she thinks I’m doing a few things right. And she’s been telling me since meeting him last fall when we were in town for a visit and the 4H Rodeo ..
.. that the Cowboy in our lives is one of those things. And, she mentioned she’s been saving up for a trip she hopes (and now knows), is coming soon.
Even when my own mother was still alive, I was so incredibly grateful for Sheila in our lives… but over the years, I have grown to appreciate the woman she is, the examples she sets and the time and love extended us all the more.
It was a day of cleaning up and assessing the damage after last nights violent storms ..
For the adults, anyway.
The kids …
… found a day full of fun and laughter and using their imaginations in a few piles of gravel, dirt and a half flooded field.
It was wet. Muddy. And cold. But no one seemed to mind. And it was so beautiful just watching the four of them, the cowboys kiddos and my little girl, have so much fun .. be so carefree ..
And for us to have seemingly all the time in the world to be outside and just be together (and laundry soap necessary to deal with the aftermath), even though we needed to get back home to Wisconsin.
“No matter how old you get, hug and kiss your mother whenever you greet her.”
– from Highlighted in Yellow.
April 30th has come and gone and I’m playing catch up ..
But I want to go back to that day here for a moment .. as it will always be a very special day to me. To many, actually. Because it would have been my mother’s birthday.
As I reflect each day on the mother I am or am working to be ..
There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t think about my mom and the kind of parent she was to us .. the kind of wife she was to our father .. and the person she was to the rest of the world.
I learned so much from her .. in life.
Perhaps even more, sadly .. in her death.
She would have 69 this week .. and was taken from us so young.
I’ll write more about her and some of the other women that have absolutely meant the world to me in life as we get closer to Mother’s Day as I want my daughter to understand the impact each of these women had on our lives.
But it was fun going back the other day looking for photos .. (something I was going to do anyway but also an assignment I’ve been given for work.)
Seeing her handwriting again on the back of the pictures ..
Thinking about how she spent her time here on this earth, where she felt she had made an impact ..
But also pondering where she decided to make changes, scale back, focus on the little things …
And the big thing. Like time with family. And why she hadn’t done more of it sooner.
It is a core value I contemplate often, work on always and believe any of us realize the importance of .. more and more as we age.
Happy Birthday to one of the most wonderful, generous, understated, most likely underappreciated, sincerely beautiful women inside and out that I will ever know.
What I wouldn’t give for more time ..
And I will say now what I say always to family and friends who have the gift of their mother still with them .. always hug her and tell her you love her.
I’m tired tonight .. it might be that I’m coming off a sugar buzz. Or the dramamine I took earlier today so that I could ride in the passenger seat and not feel like I wanted to hurl. I’m not sure yet. But forgive me for being lazy right now. I’m wiped out for some reason .. so I’m going to go with that whole feeling, actually go to bed at what some would consider a decent hour this evening and in the meantime, rely on a lot of photos to help me get through this post.
I believe I had my first taste of frozen custard years ago .. it was in the form of a Concrete which we grabbed from this hot little joint in St. Louis, with my Aunt and Uncle.
(Now, if you looked at that photo at all closely .. you’ll see the pic isn’t at all at a custard stand. It is all of us at Grant’s Farm, http://www.grantsfarm.com/ part of the Anheuser Busch complex and these are beer cups and not ice cream cups .. but who’s fact checking. It was the same time and close to the same place.)
I have been hooked. On frozen custard. Don’t get me wrong, plain ice cream will forever be pretty good in my books, and there’s little left to call plain about most ice cream anymore. It’s good and the choices are astounding. Popsicles have their place, too.
But frozen custard. There is just nothing quite like it.
I went through a banana strawberry malt phase when I discovered the likes of the old Cleary’s Frozen Custard years ago in Madison.
Cleary’s has since come and gone. The empires of places like Michael’s Frozen Custard and Culver’s have built themselves up since .. making millions (one would think – have you seen the price for a sundae lately???) both here in the great dairy state and beyond .. on our weak souls and lack of willpower to grab, say an apple when we are searching for a snack each night.
Night after night .. especially during the summer, we stand in line seeking a taste of the good life.
And it is delivered. Handed to us through a cute little window and received with a smile on nights .. like tonight.
I’m not so sure that works.
But on nights like tonight.. when my daughter and the fine young boy next door who just got done watching a couple of our animals while we were away on vacation begged to go tonight for custard yet again .. because I said at some point I would take them (note, some point)
I decided I was worth continuing to try and figure it out.
And I picked up a schedule of the ‘Flavors of the Day’ for the month to be sure we’d know when we might like to get back in line again.