52 Weeks and An Invitation

Credit: Google Image Search

One of the gifts I was happiest about giving this holiday season was A Year of Gratitude set. It’s actually quite a simple gift…beautifully boxed, it’s basically 52 blank, folded cards and 52 envelopes. There is a small booklet enclosed with ideas on how to write a good card and another section to keep track of not only the things during the week/months to be grateful for but also to track the cards that have been sent.

The idea is that the recipient of the set writes one card a week to someone they’re grateful for… grateful in general or grateful for a specific action they’ve performed, either presently or at some earlier date.  (i.e. perhaps the card might be used to reconnect with an old acquaintance that affected the writer’s life in a positive way).  At the end of the year, assuming they’ve tracked all the cards they’ve sent and all the reasons they had to be grateful even if a card wasn’t sent for that specific thing, not only will they have a good list of positive experiences but hopefully a new, more grateful attitude that allows them to reach out to others and affect them in an encouraging way as well.

In a world with so much focus on the negative and just coming out of our own upheavals of the past couple years, this seems like something I need to be doing more of myself. Hence, a new focus on my blog is going to be Gratitude, though without the pretty cards and envelopes.

WEEK 1 –

My first gratitude post has to be for my parents – two people that have stuck by me no matter what. Even when I wasn’t the girly girl my mother was, or the most considerate of teenagers at times, and even when I knew everything about everything in my early 20s, they’ve been there every step of the way.

I could give you a million examples and then some of the ways they’ve helped us through things over the years but here are just a few….

  • My dad coming up to work in the rain and mud for days with my husband and older son the year the tree fell on our garage roof.
  • When I went into early labour with Son No. 1 but was medicated and sent home to “wait it out a bit,” to keep me from possibly being on my own without help at the precipitous moment, my mother stayed with us for 2 weeks making an otherwise trying time into memories that still make me laugh 28 years later.   
  • When I fainted while visiting my dad in hospital after his heart attack and he was more concerned trying to reassure me he was okay than worrying about his own immediate plight.
  • My mother rushing to the hospital when my son broke his leg. It wasn’t until we knew he wasn’t going to need surgery that she dared to breathe and looked down to notice that in her haste to get out of the house and to us at the hospital she’d put on shoes that didn’t match.
  • Or, the year we were in Maryland and our house in Pittsburgh flooded and knocked out the heat after a pipe break in the middle of winter. My parents not only discovered it (because they took it upon themselves to drive an hour each way every week or so and check things out for us), but my dad was the one who walked barefoot into that freezing water in the basement to try and stem the flow of the water.

It’s kind of funny actually how nearing the end of my 40s when I thought I was pretty much set to begin taking care of them as they aged, they’ve stepped up and been the rock we needed as my own little family has transitioned these past 2 years, probably even more than I ever knew they were capable of. They’re full of surprises…..creativity, willingness beyond measure, and of course long-term experience.

Instead of declining as I expected as they both moved past 70, they joined right in hefting boxes from place to place, driving trucks/cars full of stuff, making plans, and filling spaces we just couldn’t extend to ourselves in our physical and mental exhaustion – things like keeping our flagging spirits up at the worst of times, visiting often no matter which house we were in, being animated and full of ideas about decorating a new home, giving me a focus with the perfect photography project to get me excited about the new place, and helping to move things from room to room, building beds and desks, etc. till we got it all sorted. It’s made them not only much-loved as they were before, but invaluable tools in the arsenal we needed to allow us to come to our new place.

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Suffice it to say, I’m grateful…I’ve been grateful for a long time, but it isn’t all the time that I say it so now I am. My mother’s constant refrain when I inadequately try and voice all this to her is, “Where else would we be?” I’m grateful and I love them not only for what they bring to us, but for what they allow us to bring to them. I was given a great gift in these two – a gift that is always present and keeps on giving. If I’m half what they are to me to my own children, I’ll have done very well indeed.

AN INVITATION:

I’m inviting all of you to join me on this journey for one week or for the next 52 weeks.   If you do decide to join in with a post of your own, link back here so that I can come read your post as well.   Here’s to making a more positive 2016!

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HANGING ON TIGHT

The curse of second children seems to be that they’re not ever the first. Not the child to make parents out of us, not the first to have a birthday party, not the first one you drop at school, not the first to leave home, go to college, or have a girlfriend. To be sure, each child is unique and there are things that you haven’t seen before, but by and large, by the time that second child shows up you’re already seasoned parents and feeling well-equipped to handle all the things that make up a child’s life.

Our second son has had quite a few months over here. If you remember, last spring he was hired for his first summer job which led us to the labyrinth of his lifeguard certification.

He began lifeguarding in June and as his employer was understaffed, this basically meant we didn’t see him for most of the summer. In July, he turned 16 and we couldn’t even find time to do more than have a family dinner with his grandparents because he was working so much and even when he wasn’t most of his friends were lifeguards and they were working.  

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That sort of distance gives you a lot of perspective.

Watching him at his birthday dinner and seeing him express his amazement and gratitude on opening his gifts, I noted that once again we’d taken yet another step toward adulthood. Gone were the toys and ride-on cars he used to covet for birthdays.

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Gone was the boy who couldn’t sit still or needed to be prompted to thank his grandparents. In his place was this mini-adult – a polite teenager who thanked us all more than once, taller than me now and, while still pleased to be the center of attention, didn’t quite know what to do in the glare.

Yep, that’s a money birthday cake!

Sixteen, of course, a big number for a teen boy here as they can finally obtain their learner’s licence. He eschewed the customary paper driver’s manual I picked up for him – his studying was done by app on his phone. In September (after finishing his summer job and starting back to school), I took him for the licencing test and he passed – first try.  After the test, I bravely handed him the keys to my vehicle determined to make this moment even more memorable with a quick trip around the car park of the DMV. His face showed his surprise and joy as we took a quick snap of him sitting in the driver’s seat with his hot-of-the-presses permit.  And then we drove.

Pic of disbelief and joy (and that's behind the camera!)

Pic of disbelief and joy (and that’s behind the camera!)

Even after going through this once with my older son, this experience wasn’t any easier. It’s amazing how quickly you forget that ABSOLUTE TERROR of sitting in the passenger seat (even in a parking lot) with a teenage driver at the wheel totally in control of your fate, the fate of your vehicle, and of everyone else on the road. And that jolt the first time he applies the brakes even only driving 10 miles an hour…in that moment, as it saves you from hurtling through the windscreen, you’re reminded why seatbelts are mandatory. Often during our initial forays, I reminded myself of Steve Martin in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles who, when sitting in the passenger seat, has to peel his fingers out of the dashboard after a near-miss on the freeway.

Credit: Google Image Search

Credit: Google Image Search

Somehow, we got through those first terrifying days to a more comfortable place. He’s been driving about 3 weeks now. He’s learned to ease into the brakes, not to follow others too closely, and how to navigate a turn with a bit of finesse. He also points out my own mistakes when, on the rare occasions, I do get to drive. During these moments, I remind him that he is the statistic…..the male, under-25 driver that insurance companies hate and police know will be the cause of most accidents. Therefore, I tell him, his driving needs to be much better than my own. Hah.

Even though a level of “comfort” has grown on my part (though I still hang on to the overhead strap in the passenger seat most of the time)…..Switching places in the car – him driving, me riding – gives me a new view.

Perspective gives you a lot of distance to notice different things.

Sitting there in my passenger seat looking over at this earnest new driver so determined to do everything right, I’m trying to come to terms with a whole new person…A boy no longer little enough to sit on my lap and pretend drive – turning the steering wheel and making crash noises and vrooming sounds. This young man with a prominent Adam’s apple who shaves, spends more time on his hair than I do, and who takes great pride in having different tastes than mine yet who still looks for my approval on other things. A teen who has adapted to two new schools and moved house three times in under two years – cutting through the stress involved and making a new life for himself joining the swim team, the ski team, and even holding a job. And now, less a person just living in the moment and more a person who looks ahead – trying even to anticipate what others on the road might do in an instant. Perhaps that last one is a gift from the lifeguarding this summer, I don’t know.

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What I do know is that this whole driving thing has been an eye-opening experience with this son in a way it never was the first time. Sometimes, maybe being second is better…..at least on my end this time I’m very well aware of where we’re actually headed.  It’s occurred to me more than once that in handing him the keys to my vehicle, I wasn’t just giving him permission to drive. I wasn’t just stepping into a new experience with him. No, in handing him those keys, I was also giving him license in my mind to continue growing up.

 

NOT QUITE BAYWATCH….

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Credit Google Images

Coolest job of the summer? Lifeguard, of course!

Growing up, I always thought the kids that got to be lifeguards were the ones that applied first or knew someone who gave them the job. As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth.

My son recently applied for his first summer job. He mentioned at his interview that his goal was to be a lifeguard. As he would turn 16 (legal age) halfway through the summer, his future employer was most positive and said, “Well, why don’t you pick up your lifeguard certification now and you can help out the lifeguards and get a feel for things while you’re 15 and at 16, you’ll be set and we’ll use you as a lifeguard.”

Take note of those words up there……….”pick up”….right…”Picking up” your certification isn’t quite that easy we soon found out!

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Credit Google Images

First, despite living in a community that is ON LAKE ERIE with no less than 11 beaches just in the state park area, an indoor waterpark that is open year-round, a summertime amusement park that has a huge waterpark, and a million and one pools and clubs where lifeguards are needed, there are no classes for lifeguarding! We had to do quite a bit of looking on the Internet and calling around to find a YMCA 45 minutes away that offered the American Red Cross Lifeguarding course that would certify him before summer. Son’s swim coach told him he was actually lucky to find this class as kids here sometimes end up driving to Cleveland, Ohio (almost 2 hours away) to get their certifications!

We were also lucky because this YMCA was beginning their class in 2 days. So with visions of Baywatch, a great tan, cool sunglasses, and girls fawning over him in his head, my son paid the $165.00 and signed on.  Yes, that’s right….he paid money so he could earn money.    Not your typical summer job, huh?

Credit Google Images

Credit Google Images

Credit Google Images

Credit Google Images

Classes were held over 2 weekends:

Fridays 6.00p to 10.00p
Saturday 3.00p to 10.00p
and Sundays 12.00p to 7.00p 

In case it’s not immediately clear to you, that’s 36 hours!

‘Tis true, this class had an add-on module included for waterfront lifeguarding that added an extra 5.4 hours to the class, but even without that, normal lifeguarding courses give you over 30 hours of instruction.

Anyway, being signed up, we figured we were good to go. Not the case. In order to even be admitted to the class, you have to pass a swimming pre-test. During that test, my son had to:

• Swim 550 yards continuously, using both breaststroke and front crawl
• Tread water for 3 minutes using only the legs
• Retrieve 3 rings placed 5 yards apart on bottom of pool.

• Complete the following timed event within 1 minute, 40 seconds (no goggles allowed):

—Starting in the water, swim 20 yards
—Surface dive to a depth of 7 to 10 feet to retrieve a 10-pound brick
—Return to the surface and swim on his back with 10-pound brick on his chest (no underwater swimming) and return to the starting point
—Get himself and his 10-pound brick out of the water without using a ladder or
steps

My son made it through. Others, however, did not.   They were eliminated from the class.

Credit Google Images

Credit Google Images

After that, the real fun began…A 300-page manual with online assessments at the end of each chapter that had to be taken at home during the week. (Yes, that’s right! They were expected to study during the week as well!) Once the coursework from the manual was taught during class there were 2 written tests to be taken in class. Both had to be passed.

And, of course, each day there was swimming with various drowning/injury scenarios acted out and the appropriate responses gone over both in and out of the water. Backboards were used and each student had a turn at playing both the victim and the rescuer. The worst part sometimes, my son said, was lying soaking wet and shivering with chattering teeth on a board in the cool air for an hour waiting for the “rescuers” to figure out how to get the victim out of the water and onto the “shore.”

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Credit Google Images

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Credit Google Images

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Credit Google Images

At the end of this training, three rescue scenarios were given PER STUDENT and the student had to carry out the appropriate response each time. If he was unable to do this, he would not be certified.

A whole day and then some was spent on getting the students certified in CPR and instructing them in the use of an AED. They had to learn appropriate methods for both adults and children.

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Credit Google Images

And that extra module I mentioned before about waterfront lifeguarding? That not only added time to the class, but also culminated in yet another written test at the end.

Hence, not so much Baywatch and pretty girls, but instead a lot of hard physical training, being taught to try and anticipate every disaster imaginable, tons of cramming through coursework to pass the assessments, followed up with promises of how lifeguards get sued when things go wrong. 1 (6)

Surprisingly, I’m quite pleased with the differences this training has made in my son already. He’s looking ahead and taking initiative. He carries himself differently – It’s given him a veneer of confidence that wasn’t there before and built up his pride in himself and he hasn’t even started his job yet.  Oh, I’m sure there’s still this wishful picture in his head…..

Credit Google Images

Credit Google Images

But our son told us after his first day in class, he’ll never look at a pool in the same way again. He said he never realized how dangerous pools could be! Me? I’ve also found a new respect.  I’ll never again look at a lifeguard and think they’re just the favoured/lucky kids. Lifeguards are really put through their paces to get that coveted position up in the chair. As far as I’m concerned, they earn every single bit of their income before they ever hang that whistle around their neck.

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Credit Google Images

 

THE PROBLEM WITH MEN…(A tale of beauty, much danger, and a teenage superhero!)

1Well, the kitchen refit is done, the drywall dust has cleared, and the final touches made. Hence, we found ourselves with an evening between house projects! I suggested a drive down to Presque Isle State Park to catch the sunset and to see what the beach looked like in winter all covered with snow. Sounds easy right? Lovely way to round off an evening and celebrate the end of the kitchen refit….kick back and relax a little.

Come now…You’ve certainly been following me long enough to know that’s never the case around here! Continue reading

CLIMB EVERY (snow-covered) MOUNTAIN….

1 (1)My bloggy friend, Clare, over at Goat & Kids recently relocated to Edmonton, Canada from the UK. She was going through her relocation about the same time we were going through ours – both of us going from places that have winters to PLACES THAT HAVE WINTERS! It’s actually been quite funny how many experiences we’ve had that have mirrored the other’s and I know I’ve been grateful for her posts just to know I’m not alone in some of the things we’re going through right now in trying to adapt.

Clare’s family seemed to be a bit more up for the whole idea of upending their life than we were. Recently, her family actually created a bucket list of all things Canadian they want to do in the time they’ll be living in Edmonton. One of the things on their bucket list is learning to ski. As soon as I saw that, I knew we’d again be having a parallel experience because one of the things my son has signed on for this year is the SKI TEAM.

Our family has done an annual ski trip since our youngest son was small…

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First ski lesson….how sweet is this?

He’s no stranger to skiing but he’s not an accomplished skier by any means. But when we moved here and he heard ‘SKI TEAM’ he signed right up. Being the overprotective, annoying, loving mother that I am…I was absolutely aghast a bit nervous about having my unexperienced ‘skier’ hop on a bus after school with the rest of the team, spending 6-7 hours once a week at a ski resort on his own without me nearby. Not that I wanted to follow him around, mind you (okay, I’m lying).  I only wanted to be there to scope things out and of course be there just in case. So I voiced these concerns to the chaperone that handles the ski team outings and he invited husband and I to be chaperones with him.  This was actually great.  In addition to supposedly keeping an eye on my boy (which, by the way, turned out to be impossible anyway) it also allows us to become a bit more involved in our new area and meet some new people. So now, we all ride the ski bus to the resort each week.

The nice thing about being chaperones is that you ski for free. My husband has been enjoying that perk immensely. Me, on the other hand, even when we went on our annual ski trips, I didn’t ski. I’ve always opted out knowing I’d need a lot more than one weekend a year before I could get myself to the point of being able to hold my own out there on the slopes after two kids and the toll they took on my body. So, I sat on the sidelines and enjoyed taking photographs and joined in during the evening swims or snow tubing once the day’s skiing was done. Hence, on these weekly outings now, (at my ripe old age of 47 and even less agile than when we used to go on our annual jaunts) I’ve been basically prowling the grounds taking photos for the hour I have before the sun goes down and then sitting in the lodge reading my Nook and waiting to catch a glimpse of either of my men to reassure my mind.

But you knew it had to happen. Surrounded by beautiful scenery like this….

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And sitting for 6 hours in a ski lodge full of dozens of busloads of obnoxious excited school kids on a weekend night can only be done for so long before you figure out that injury and age be darned…..you’re a lot better off outside than in! 

It actually looks quite empty and calm in this shot, but trust me, it’s actually a teenage madhouse – VERY noisy, VERY chaotic, and VERY COLD!

And so…..I put on the boots, I put on the skis, and out I went!

I even sort of took my first selfie!

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Yes, jeans. I wasn’t exactly prepared with ski gear….it was an impromptu happening…..Luckily, it was not a freezing cold day that day!

And a selfie with my best friend! (Husband who stood at the bottom of the monstrous slight grade and caught me when I actually went down something of a teeny, tiny slope!)

Married with skis!

I never made it out of the beginning area where it’s almost totally flat and they give people lessons. I’ve not even made a complete stop on my own yet, but I am getting something back in the way of turning, I can get back up a slight grade without help while wearing skis, and I am able to slow down to, if not a stop, at least to the I’M-NOT-GOING-TO-DIE-BY-HITTING-A-TREE point.

So Clare, I wanted to say you’re behind now but I know you’re still laid up with that broken wrist from your own recapturing-youth experience, so perhaps by the time you get to your ski lessons I’ll be able to say I’m able to stop by myself or even just getting anywhere at all. But don’t worry that I’ll be too far ahead…… there’s always the issue of ski lifts (since I’m deathly afraid of heights)!

Credit to Google Image Search

Credit to Google Image Search

HAPPY PLACES

9Chelsi over at catching crawfish “prompted” me with the HAPPY PLACES exchange. Chelsi has an amazing blog filled with lots of fun and chaos. She chronicles life with her husband and three little crawfish (a.k.a. sons) as she tries to keep traditional family values at the core in a very modern world as the only female in the house! One of her posts talked about starting her own family traditions, another post (which really shouldn’t be missed) was her Grinchy-Mom’s Week Before Christmas, and the post that “prompted” me on board to this “tour” talked about her own HAPPY PLACES.

My HAPPY PLACES aren’t usually concrete places, but more abstract “places” in my mind where I take comfort and find joy.

PROGRESS. Seeing progress in my world is the thing that really spurs me on. Having a new house right now and painting everything in sight, the daily progress is easy to chart. But progress comes in many forms….one of my HAPPY PLACEs would be the times my husband and I look back over the past 30 years at the path we’ve traveled and seeing how far we’ve come.

Another “progress” HAPPY PLACE would be when I can see my sons’ growth as human beings. It’s been an amazing journey from the babies they were to the young men they are now. Seeing my older son falling in love was definitely a HAPPY PLACE and was all the happier after the wedding when I got a “free” daughter out of the deal….no weight gain, no morning sickness – yep, that’s definitely a great way to get a new “kid”!

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Seeing my now teenage son in the midst of puberty and taking pride in his developing muscles, his clothes, and his world is definitely becoming more and more of a HAPPY PLACE for me.

1 (4)1HELPING OTHER PEOPLE. One of my greatest joys and a truly HAPPY PLACE in my mind is one I actually have a skill or knowledge to contribute to someone else for their own journey. It’s always a lift to feel needed.

NATURE. New HAPPY PLACEs in my new world here include the times when I can just stand on the beach and take in the magnificence of a sunset.7

And currently, as winter has arrived, I’m enjoying just standing outside and experiencing the quietness of snow falling. 56Both of these remind me of how small I am in the scope of things and also remind me how simple life’s pleasures can actually be.

PHOTOS. Just snapping a pic that captures a mood or a moment. This fills me with a sense of accomplishment and is most definitely a HAPPY PLACE.5 (2)5 (1)

WRITING. Generally, this blog of mine is a very HAPPY PLACE for me. I haven’t had much time of late to be on here doing my own writing, but it has been missed. There is something almost therapeutic about writing down my stories. However, even just keeping up with everyone else’s posts and the interactions that come from that makes here one of my very best HAPPY PLACES.

I do have a couple “concrete” places that I consider HAPPY PLACES.

First would be simply HOME. Four letters that mean so much. I probably never knew just how much until I lived the last year of my life but for me home is a very important HAPPY PLACE. Home is the base that begins my family and where we bring everything to at the end of the day. It’s been a long, long road to get back to “home.”

And inside HOME, is this…4

My place to curl up with a good book. Definitely one of my happy places for a little ME time. What could be better?

Lastly….like probably everyone else in the world, the one place I’m always guaranteed to consider a HAPPY PLACE is Disney World. You can never go wrong with Disney World!5 (3)

Part of taking up this challenge/tour/experience, I guess, is to pass it on to see that it continues.   I actually do have a few people I’d love to hear from on this if they have the time and inclination to contribute!   I pass this tour onto Dorreen at Mother Hen Diaries, Juls over at the Indecisive Eejit, and our Gluestick Mum.   If any of these people have time to participate, I think we’re all in for a treat!

The Arrival of GODZILLA

The boy that I married only had eyes for me-
I really don’t know how this now could come to be.

I just never thought that this could happen –
I always thought I was his passion.

But now he is a man with a man’s cravings –
And perhaps he was sick of all my ravings.

After looking high and low, he began to conspire-
A young and attractive model did he desire.

To make you his own, there was no stone left unturned-
Eventually, it took us to a point of no return.

He took the time to learn all about you, each of your talents and prides-
And now recites them grandly to all – those near and far and wide.

Whereas I’ve gradually declined and let him take on more-
You’re there each day helping him wage war.

Filled with purrs and with hums that enticed him right away-
You’re so smart to show such zest for his tasks of the day.

Sleek curves and sharp looks-
Those quickly had him hooked.

Your insatiable appetite and never-changing waistline-
They beat me by far.

I’m afraid, looking back-
That I’ve gotten much too slack.

Each day I can see his affection has grown-
He even rented a truck just to bring you home.

He eagerly asked for pictures beside you-
A most willing partner in this new pas de deux.

And though I’m not so sure I’d relish it myself-
He calls you Godzilla, a name he chose himself.

I know you’re counting on winter to propel this affair-
And so far, I admit, it has done so with flair.

Not a complaint can I make when in mornings he runs to you first thing-
And of course loyally you greet him making his heart sing.

Home from work he comes and again to you he goes-
This happens each and every single time it snows.

A long winter this is supposed to be –
I sit here and wonder if he’ll ever come back to me.

However, I know in the thaw of spring-
To the shed you will go and new hope this will bring.

Perhaps then he’ll remember-
This whole marriage thing!

I was only going to post a picture, but in this case, I think this little video clip from his first night with “her” gives the full effect of the romance going on……wait for the enamoured smile toward the end.