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Thanks A Lot

(Meant to post this last week. What a shocker: my blog is late…)

In November I do “the Thankful Project.” That means that every day of the month I post on Facebook something I am thankful for. Some days it’s easy to come up with something that makes me genuinely grateful. Other days, its a struggle. But I think that’s the point of the exercise: no matter what is going on in your life, you need to know that there is good in your life.

Here’s a day to day account of this month’s project!

Thankful project day 1: HWSNBN is home from his European trip, and so tonight: we date!

Thankful project day 2: spending the day with my friend Anna learning travel secrets at the Thrifty Traveler University. My head is reeling with all the info, but I can’t wait to put it to use!

Thankful project day 3: In a few hours I will see my girlie!!! Been more than 2 months since I’ve seen Singer Girl!

Thankful project day 4: the amazing volunteers at Secondhand Hounds. Every week it seems I have a puppy party staffing crisis. But somehow, all the dogs, drivers and wranglers come together in the end. And I can breathe, even when a time Zone away!(I was visiting Singer Girl at school in Ann Arbor)

Thankful project day 6: that Singer Girl discovered this fascinating big school in such a cute little town! @uofmichigan #goblue #college #annarbor #thankfulproject @University of Michigan

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Thankful project day 7: Kate at Peak Life Clinic! Who knew getting voluntarily suck with dozens of little needles would make me feel so good? Headache? What headache?http://peaklifeclinic.com/?fbclid=IwAR1YVaK83QYe5YDXO60UBos4vDClXTXjQpYoFS2fP1f1mzysPjhf3CC9D4A

Thankful project day 8: that I am able to spend fun days with my mom! Thanks for planning our outing! (we went to a huge craft fair/Christmas boutique event at US Bank Stadium, home of the Minnesota Vikings) 74365739_10220359545409009_362196215569317888_n

Thankful project day 9: tears and heartache. Today I said goodbye to the last of the sub pups. Stickball Special was my favorite from day one, and I’d be lying if I wasn’t a tiny bit grateful every time the vet said he needed more time before he could go to his forever home. So today I cried. And my heart hurts. But when I see the smile on his adopter’s face, I know it’s okay. Lots of highs fostering this group (like having folks call them fat when I know how hard we worked to feed them) and lows (I still miss sweet Phyllis). My heart hurts, but I am grateful for the opportunity to help them survive and thrive. @shhfostersmn #StickballSpecial #Styx #neonatal #givetothemaxday #adopted #yellowlab @ Lake Minnetonka 73224770_10220370101952916_7802760665390645248_o

Thankful project day 10: that I live in a place that has so much character and variety and fun (and that I have cool friends who want to explore it with me!). Today’s calories brought to you from @kegandcasemn , @truckparkusa, #cosettasstpaul #sundayfunday #thankfulproject #food #stpaul #minnevangelist @ Saint Paul, Minnesota 74915057_10220383104917982_5047409986750119936_o

Thankful project day 11: my dad, my son, my nephew, my father in law, my uncle, my brother in law, my grandfathers, and all my ancestors who have served in all the wars of this country. Thank you for your service. (Veterans’ Day post) 318417_2564603604658_1340499554_n

Thankful project day 12 (yesterday!): that I have found the Skipper salute community, where we hold each other’s hands while we hand over kleenex and pour the wine. This weekend I get to help make holiday care packages for military men and women deployed all over the globe through the valiant efforts of Semper Fi Flo. If you want to help, she is still accepting donations!

Thankful project day 13: I am FINALLY getting around to getting the Spooktacular pics published! (this referenced my Halloween Party blog post)

Thankful project day 14: thanks to everyone who has donated today to their favorite charities! Give to the Max Day is THE BIGGEST day of the year for many. It certainly is for Secondhand Hounds! What happens today determines the course of the next year — who we can save. We have a benefactor who has pledged to match your donations, so please contribute something. ANYTHING will help! Donate before midnight tonight!

Thankful project day 15: yesterday I kinda chilled, as the day before had been pretty darn crazy! Two puppy parties, and lots of online stalking watching the G2theMax numbers changing.  At the end, we did it. Actually, YOU did it! Secondhand Hounds brought in $400,000 in donations! That. Is Amazing. Every dollar will count — whether it’s $10 to microchip a dog, or $5000 to save a sick litter of puppies with parvo or distemper (we have THREE such litters right now, two with parvo, one with distemper. So far we have lost about six puppies, but we are working hard to save the rest. Vaccinate your pets, people!!!). Thank you to all!

Thankful project day 16: Stevie Nicks! Happy gotcha day, Miss Stevie. The Stevester has been with us officially for one year today, and we couldn’t be more grateful. She is still a bit of a hot mess at times (some people have dogs who defend their homes against strangers. Ours pees.). And yet again we find ourselves dog proofing when we leave the house — but not against food, as we did for Penny Torres, but for anything miss neurotic can destroy during her fear we won’t return. Like tissues. Or baking soda. Or scrub brushes. But she is bombproof with puppies, a hilarious goofball, and makes coming home a joy. I recommend everyone feather their empty nest with a touch of fur! 75486070_10220434757809272_3258653513529425920_o

Thankful project day 17: cooking. I am grateful that having food is a given for me and those I love. I am grateful that I get joy from cooking. I am grateful that I have people with whom to share a meal. Tonight’s meal includes wild rice given to me as a gift from the lovely gal who adopted my last foster. Food brings us together! 74188269_10220449173729661_555894013643718656_n

Thankful project day 18: the Power of 100. This amazing group of like-minded women meets quarterly to choose a locally-based charity to support. Each time three people present worthy options and the group votes who to support. After many tries on my part, they picked the neonatal program at Secondhand Hounds.

Some folks have questioned why I kept presenting. Well, every time I got up and spoke, a few people stopped me afterwards. Either to hand me a separate check, or to ask questions. I met wonderful women who were genuinely I trigger about fostering, adoption, rescue, and how they could help. So yes: the meant is amazing. But the chance to bring awareness is invaluable.

If you would like to learn more about the Power of 100, come with me next time! It’s a fun, quick, casual gathering, and the group has donated more than $100,000 to local charities!

 

Thankful project day 19: going clubbing in my 50s. Wine club, meet book club. #thankful #thankfulproject #bookclub #wineclub @pejuwinery #pinotnoir @calmereestatewinery @annpatchett #thedutchhouse #wine

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Thankful project day 20 (yesterday): Etsy! I can shop online and still support small business people!!

Thankful project day 21: the moments I have left with my dad. 75081232_10220484626055947_3101722198876880896_n

 

Thankful project day 22: a quiet night at home. Dinner will likely be popcorn and wine, and I’m okay with that. Busy (but fun) weeks ahead!

Thankful project day 23: new friends who enjoy doing fun things! @mn_arb #lights #holiday #doubledatenight #tistheseason @ Minnesota Landscape Arboretum 76911049_10220512657756722_2248418798249967616_o

Thankful project day 24: that my brother Trevor found Sarah and married her 6 years ago today. She’s a keeper. Him? Jury’s still out. Happy anniversary you crazy kids!

Thankful project day 25: bubble baths, books, and wine! (yeah, I’ve mentioned 2 of the 3 of those before. But I am on my third book since that post, and well, like more than that bottles of wine since then)

Thankful project day 26 (again, a day late): the girl is home! And thank goodness Singer Girl arrived before the storm!

Thankful project day 27: (I posted a link to my blog post, “Merry Thanksvgivmas”)

Thankful project day 28: the Melly-dallys and their infinite hospitality. Thank you, Mike, Erika, Lucy, Joey and Paige for another fun, delicious Thanksgiving. Fat and happy, signing off!

Thankful project day 29: When you are ready to snuggle in for the night before 7pm, and Netflix drops an almost 4 hour movie that you’ve been excited to see. I mean, I know we’ll never finish it in one sitting, but at least we have a fighting chance to get it more than halfway done! (NOTE: we watched “The Irishman.” So good!)

Thankful project day 30: the tree is up, and my girl Is home for one last night. It has been an emotional few days, and I will miss her again when she is gone.

We all need to concentrate on what we have in this life, and not worry so much about what we lack. I am thankful for all of you!

A Journey of a Thousand Backwards Steps

Recently I visited my dad in his memory care facility. Dad has been at his current home for a while. He is getting less and less communicative and even responsive. At this last visit, neither of us got much comfort out of face to face time, so I stood behind him, gently massaging his back and neck. I remembered when my brother and I were little, and giving dad karate chop massages was a regular art of our afer dinner shenanigans. This felt different, of course, but you cling to associations.

Nearby, a man was visiting a woman, his wife, I later learned. I hadn’t seen either of them before, and it quickly became clear that she was a very new resident.  He was worried about her. You could tell he had been her caretaker and felt somewhat adrift.

He had brought her a toy, he told the attendant. He thought she might like it. It was a stuffed animal she’d always had on their bed. The attendant smiled kindly, admired it, and gently advised he put her name on it.

He hadn’t yet learned that objects grow legs in an Alzheimer’s ward, as everything looks both familiar and foreign to the residents.

He mentioned that she needed a bath. He said “I don’t know if she’ll mention it.”

The wife sat quietly, perhaps asleep. She clearly would never again remind someone of her hygiene needs. She was limp — except for the pillows the attendant had used to prop her up. Said she seemed to like that.

The attendant said his wife had eaten a good breakfast. That seemed to take one worry line out of his forehead.

Until he realized, and my heart wrenched with his as he quietly said, “The last thing we did together was eat supper.”

Becasue even though she was still alive, their relationship, as he knew it, died the morning he moved her to the memory care unit. I saw this as my mom must have, and remembered the pain in her voice, and even in her posture. The guilt, the certain surety that she had failed him as a wife. I knew he felt this way now.

“I don’t know what to bring for her,” he said.

“Just a little bit at a time,” the attendant softly responded.

“Maybe I’ll put some butterflies up on her wall,” he said, to himself mostly, all the while patting her hair, adjusting her blanket, caressing her hand.

From where I stood, one wheelchair over but trying to give them privac, I saw an older couple, a man bereft and a woman sliding into her own end, one forgotten memory at a time.

But from his vantage point he saw the young woman he had romanced, who had made his home nice, whom he now wanted to repay in kind.

I cried in the parking lot when I left, thinking of my parents. Of me and my husband. Of my daughter’s face as she asks me if she, too, will someday be like Grandpa. I, of course, can’t answer her.

I can only hope she always has someone who wants to put butterflies on her wall.

A Cuppa Me

Every morning, before I let the dog out, I turn on the coffee maker. I do it without thinking (which is good, because I often need that cup to kickstart the synapses). My first decision each day? Which cup do I want to use?

This is important because it can set the tone. Now, up until about 5 months ago, I was a little sad each time I opened that cabinet, as none of the mugs were mine. I mean, I picked out the matchy-matchy Crate and Barrel set, so yeah, that’s mine. But those mugs aren’t ME. They are EVERYONE.

I was jealous, as people were always giving my husband mugs — including me. But I mentioned in passing to my mom once that I no one had ever given me a mug. So at our holiday bunco party, she won this, and gave it to me:

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When I put it away, I realized I did have a few mugs that were mine, but not because of my personality. This first one was for my husband and I, as a holiday gift from the School of Rock, where our kids learned music for 10 years:

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And this one was a “thank you” for volunteering in the school district:IMG_0839

This next one is super special. It’s a gift from my sister in law when our sons joined the armed forces the same year:

I heart that mug. But it wasn’t just for me. It was for HWSNBN as well. Some other mugs of his:

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That one was a gift from Singer Girl. This next one was a gift from our foreign exchange student from Denmark:IMG_0848

I gave him this next one:

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I have no idea what this one is about, but it is clearly NOT mine: IMG_0838

When Sailor Boy was deployed to the Persian Gulf, Singer Girl had one gift request: something from Caribou coffee in Dubai:

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Well then my mom gave me this one, and I adore it:

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Seriously the coolest. I LOVE that she thought of me when she found it.

On a funny note, this is my most recent gift, from my friend Kristy:IMG_0840

So true. I am.

And you may remember this one, that I purchased on my own:

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That mug makes me peaceful and happy and reminds me every time of our whirlwind escape to Amsterdam in December. I pick that one when I am not feeling particularly rushed or overtired or stressed.

I know this post seems pedestrian. But life is made of moments, and frankly, it’s the everyday moments that provide most of life’s crazy quilt. It’s funny how every time I look at that wine-themed mug from bunco, I will think of my mom, and how she listened to me and remembered what I said and it was important to her. She didn’t pay a dime for it, but it’s a treasure to me.

So next time you are bleary-eyed in the morning, running on autopilot, take a sec and think about the mugs in your life. Pause. Breathe. Remember the connections. And if there are no memories in there, maybe you should start some of your own. If there are, I’d love to see your favorite mug in the comments, and what it means to you!

One down, one to go!

Got back last night from Syracuse, NY, where Singer Girl was auditioning.

As you’ll recall from my last post, ’tis been a bit stressful around these parts.  I have been trying to find my inner grown up, and held my tongue and smiled pleasantly a lot over the last few days. We flew in a day early to tour the campus.  I had already decided to spring for the club level at the Sheraton — a brilliant call, if I may say so (and I may.  It’s my blog, after all).  The extra cash got us free breakfast, and snacks and our own bar in the evenings, plus the club room was open 24 hours.

That was the best part.  Singer Girl was wound a little tight.  She has always been angry if anyone was home when she needed to rehearse, often refusing to even do a warm up unless I left the house (so she didn’t warm up.  Until she pays the mortgage, she is not kicking me out of my own home, thankyouverymuch). But because of the club room, she got the hotel room to herself for awhile, and I just took my laptop and hung out with Mr. Wine.  Win-win, wine-wine!

When she texted me the all clear, she was starving.  Room service was an obvious choice, as we were travel worn and not willing to put shoes, or bras, back on and go out in public.  But I pulled a teaching moment: if she wanted a steak brought to her under a silver platter, SHE needed to place the order.  She was horrified. She refused.  “I can’t! I don’t know how!” I shrugged, and said I didn’t need to eat. She, however, was ravenous.  She stared at the phone, terrified, absolutely flummoxed on how to start (kids these days.)  I showed her the little button on the phone that said room service, and she dipped her toe into the shallow waters of independence.  A hurdle had been crossed.  A woman dependent on over-priced mashed potatoes and tiny salt and pepper shakers was born.

Next day was the tour, which was cool.  Very pretty campus, Syracuse.  People were friendly, weather wasn’t anything we weren’t used to, school seems to have what she needs.  The rest of the day we were hotel bound; she did homework and texted Drummer Boy, I worked on planning parties for puppies and high school seniors. That evening she needed more practice time, and so I was sent to “my room,” where I met my new best friend.  The lovely gal working the bar greeted me with a warning: “I pour big.”

Come to mama!

My already-oversized glass brimming with Merlot, I sat down and worked some more.  A little later the Wine Fairy brought over a second glass — on the house — also perilously close to overflowing. Damn, gurl. I’m not sure what work I got done, or which emails I sent, but if you got some sloppy declaration of love, I apologize. And I hope I didn’t volunteer for something new… My Bartender Angel announced she had to close up — would I like anotherhouse? Um, I had barely finished half the second one — but she insisted on topping it off.

Needless to say: if Singer Girl ends up at Syracuse, I know where I will stay for parents weekend.

The next morning was the audition.  I tiptoed around the room, giving her her space.  I watched surreptitiously as she pulled out her wardrobe choices.  We had yet to discuss clothing options, as I was fiercely rebuffed on the subject last week.  It’s a delicate dance, when asked “do you think I should wear this or this?” when neither are what you would’ve picked, but her only choices are what’s in the suitcase and it’s not about you anyway.  Several changes later, she was ready, looking very cute, even if not wearing what I had read she should wear.

But she was right, and I was wrong.

Yes, she was the only girl not in a skirt or dress. Yes, her bra straps showed. Yes, she wore bright yellow doc martens instead of the more modest dark colored boots and heels of the other musicians.  But she was herself, and the others in the room sort of regarded her as a threat for being so unique.  The judges in the audition told her they just loved her boots.  She bonded with one over their shared love of Led Zeppelin.  She came out of that audition beaming, lighter than I’d seen her in months.  I don’t know if she got in, but she was glad it was done.

Next week we fly to Miami for her second and last audition.  I learned this week that most of the musicians were doing auditions numbering in the double digits — made me nervous we were putting her eggs in too few baskets.  That thought re-occurred when I learned that at Syracuse they were only accepting 40 students in the music school for 2018 — and only 10 in her program.  Gulp.  But she will be good. I have faith in her — those boots were made for singing.

I don’t know what she will wear for the audition in Miami — but I know it can’t be the same outfit.  We did have one crisis moment: she had left the waiting room to go warm up, then came back a few minutes late, loudly whispering,  “Hey mom! I need your help!”

WWWWWHHHHAAATTTT?

I rushed out, eager to see what she needed.  Was it a word of encouragement? A hug?

Nope. Her zipper broke — did I have any safety pins? I did not. But this was my moment.  My MOMent.  Why I was there.  I rushed about, asking total strangers for safety pins.  It was looking dire.  I finally found a woman in an office who dredged some out of her junk drawer, plus requisitioned some cute “Go Syracuse!” buttons that were to go on jacket lapels.  It wasn’t pretty, but her pants stayed up. And I helped.  We’ll never forget that moment — even as she had one foot out the door, on her way to the future, she had to turn back to mom one last time.

No matter what happens in Miami, we will always have Syracuse.

(Oh yeah: I finally got my new car! She’s a 2018 Mazda Cx9, and I luff her.  Actually bought her last weekend, but we decided to add a few things — roof rack, remote engine starter and some rust protection coating stuff, as car warranties against rust are null and void in Minnesota, the land of road salt. They’d have had her ready mid week, but we were going to be gone, so we waited until today.  Went to get my new wheels — and we couldn’t register the remote starter as the computer insists that it already belongs to someone else.  The baffled staff had never seen that before — so they need to bring her back in to get that fixed.  Of course. Two steps forward, one step back!)

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