Family life, Paleo-ish eating and Coping with Chronic Illness

I’ve only got a few minutes to hang out.  I’m sorry.  I am a super important, busy person. You probably wouldn’t understand.

I’m sorta in the middle of binge watching “Friday Night Lights”.  I know.  I know.  It isn’t entirely appropriate.  I’ve got no defense, really.  I just like these people I’m watching, and they’ve become my friends.  I’m a pretty loyal friend, and I don’t think it’s right to ignore people, just because you don’t always agree with them.  So, really, my sticking with these guys is more like a testimony on my part.  It’s ministry.

This show is about a football coach and his family.  The show highlights the crazy that is football in the South.  Stereotypes abound.  Yet, somehow the way these folks talk and act in this show is believable.  In the South, football is king.  If this show is to be believed,  in the South, the high school football coach is held in high regard,  or treated like devil spawn.  Depending on whether or not the football team is having a winning season.

FridayNightLights02

I’m married to a wrestling coach.  I can NOT relate.  We offer trophies to the wrestling fans in our town.  Those four guys deserve to be rewarded for their loyalty.

That’s a cheap lie I made up in an effort to get a laugh.  I want to apologize for the that.

The truth  is, we live in the most awesome small town.  Folks in my town show up for everything kids do.  If you’ve got a teenage accordion choir ready to play a few numbers, you’ve got yourself a full house in my town.  I’m such a fan of the fans in my town.

I didn’t mean to waste your time with the big “Friday Night Lights” recap.  I did just want to say that I like this show. I like watching the coach try to manage his intense desire to win with his solid moral compass.  This internal conflict is poetic to me.  I kinda feel that part of the show.  I might know some guys like this.

The other thing I wanted to do was drum up some sympathy.  I have Jury duty in August.  I know that it is my civic duty.  I’m sorry for complaining. You’re right.  I should consider myself fortunate to serve.

But I don’t WANNNAAA!!!!!

I’m very busy with my career, and frankly, I cannot spare the time.  Plus, what with me being only half way through “Friday Night Lights”, it isn’t like that stuff is going to watch itself.  Right?

I’ve got an idea to make things more simple.  How about if everybody just doesn’t break the law?  For goodness sake.  How do people fit law breaking into their day, anyway? They might want to consider Netflix as a suitable replacement for thievery and murder.  I might suggest this to the criminal’s who’s fate is in my hands.

Yep.  I just decided.  I’m going to ask the Judge if I can share a few words.  I should be able to get the criminal system turned around.  I can’t help it.  I just see a problem, and I have to fix it.

I actually don’t know whether my jury thing will go to trial, or even whether I’ll be approved of as an acceptable juror.  Hope is not lost.  I’ve got ideas. What if I hear voices?

We had a good idea for a vacation this summer.  We thought that after the boys wrestled at Nationals in Fargo, ND, we could finally see Mount Rushmore and the Black Hills.  We’ve talked about taking that trip for years.  Maybe I’ve wanted to see the Black Hills a little too badly.  One time we had to take a detour through a corner of South Dakota, on our way back from Colorado.  On this detour, we passed by a blackish looking hill. I pronounced, “Hey kids.  Those are the Black Hills.”

Usually my family trusts my pronouncements.  My family seemed a little iffy on this one. Eddie asked, “Really?  That’s it?”

I’m like, “We’re in South Dakota. It’s a hill. It’s black.  Those are the Black Hills.  I don’t know what else you want from me, kid.  Now, tell your teachers and your friends that your parents took you to the Black Hills this summer.”

I don’t know why some people have to knit pick the heck out of everything you say.  Can’t they just trust me?

I didn’t realize when we were making all those Black Hills plans this year that Olivia’s missions trip was at the same time as the wrestling tournament. DANG!!!  We just couldn’t see enjoying major sight seeing short a family member.

I hate calendars.  Calendar makers are pessimists.  They like ruining all our fun.The actual plan ended up being Scott and I going to Fargo on our own.  The boys traveled with the team.

Scott and I spent four nights at a hotel, going back and forth to the Fargodome to watch the boys and their Wisconsin teammates.  I really was sad about the family  vacation being messed up, but I’m not gonna lie. Scott and I had some laughs.

I think I told you a while back that Scott and I were a little nervous about how we will survive when our kids don’t need us like they do now.  It’s scary to not be needed.  After our Fargo trip, we feel a little more confident we’ll survive.  We forgot our kids happened because Scott and I like each other.

I think Scott and I had only one difference of opinion on our little vacation.  That problem happened when we were deciding where to eat.  Decision making can cause people like us some problems.   Sometimes you just really need one person in a relationship who can handle the pressure of making a wrong choice…about tacos vs. hamburgers.  Personally, I don’t need the stress.

I wish I would have written down all the times and reasons I was laughing my head off in Fargo.  I can’t remember why now. Just so many, unimportant funny things can happen on any given day.

I do remember one thing that made me laugh until I felt like I had used up all my laughing for life.  Scott has always said he has camera anxiety. I didn’t know that was real.

Personally, I think Scott is a cute guy.  But, I have to agree with him.  I haven’t seen many pictures that accurately represent the way I think he looks in real life.  Scott says it’s because he gets nervous.  As soon as someone brings out a camera, he starts debating in his head what he should do with his smile, posture, eyes.  It’s a lot like deciding about tacos vs. hamburgers.  There’s so much at stake.

Scott and I had some time to kill between the boys’ matches in the Fargodome.  I felt like I could really help Scott figure out how to take carefree, happy pictures.  We did some selfies.  And, I don’t know.  I just don’t know.  It’s not that Scott looks so bad.  It’s just that he looks unrecognizable as a human.  I’m not actually sure how Scott could really look worse, unless he wore a hideous mask. Wait. Nope.  Still not worse.

The harder he tries, the worse it gets.

1,2,3, cheese…

bad pic 1

Oops. Your eyes were closed.

bad pic 2

Dang it.  You closed them again.

bad pic 3

Wait.  Are you trying to do that?  You have to keep your eyes open.

bad pic 4

Wow!  I can see you went to a lot of effort. Don’t do it again.

bad pic 5

Okay, maybe one of your eyes looks okay in this?

bad pic 6

We should stop.  I’m starting to doubt our relationship.

I thought all it took was persistence. Sometimes I’m wrong.

Another thing we enjoyed doing in Fargo was watching freak athletes from 46 different states wrestle their hearts out.  The wrestlers attend a camp a week prior to this week long tournament to train with their teammates from around their state.  Every day, the kids work out at an intense pace for the better part of their waking hours.  The wrestlers are generally trying to get down to their peak fighting weight too.  There is a lot of expenditure; very few deposits.

On top of the body fuel issues, you’ve got kids away from home, sleeping in hotels and hanging out with their buddies.   It’s easy not to sleep well. We decided that just learning to manage your energy for this thing could be a guy’s secret weapon.

At the end of the week Zeke’s eye was swollen shut, and Eddie was on crutches. He injured his hip.  I might be tempted to doubt whether all the boys’ effort is worth the price.  That would be a selfish thought.

I was trying to give Zeke some sympathy about how little he was eating.  He reminded me that most of us eat WAY more than we really need to on any give day.  It’s quite possible to survive on less, he told me.  Then, I told him he must not understand that I have very little tolerance for hunger.  I bet he never thought of that.  Mr. Sillypants.

I haven’t always been the best at embracing difficulties: physical (especially physical), mental, emotional.  I’m more in favor of things that happen without effort, and require little sacrifice.   I can see what is happening with all these wrestlers though.    I can see these kids are learning how to endure temporary discomfort to achieve long term goals.

Immediate gratification is a part of our wonderful, modern and convenient culture.  It isn’t wrong.  I love the drive up window.   It’s just that I have this suspicion that having what we want, whenever we want it, gets us a little out of practice with self denial.  Sometimes self denial is necessary, often helpful when building something meaningful.

I was also thinking that if a kid learns young that hard work, a bit of self denial and a dash of temporary discomfort can help them achieve something quite worthwhile over time, that kid might be well prepared for handling life.  Life isn’t always like the drive up window.

Anyway, it’s too soon to say for sure if I’m right about all this.  But, it helps a mom to believe.

fargodome 1

Summer.  You beautiful thing.  Wisconsin is really showing up this summer.  Cold mornings, and sunny, warm afternoons.  How you like THAT, all you big show off palm tree states?  We got ya on the ropes now, suckas.

It’s clear to me that I’m getting old.  Scott is too.  I know this because we keep having more and more conversations about important things.  Like the Bluebird I saw on the fence during my walk at lunch.  Or, the Cardinals Scott is enjoying watching as they hover over our flower bed.  I think some people wake up one day, and they’re like, “Gadzooks, I’m old!  When did this happen?  I didn’t see this happening.”

I see it happening.

My parents have a little birdhouse on their porch.  My mom has hoped that a bird family would move into this little bird house for a couple of years now.  Guess what?  I have a new step-bird-sister. A little bird gal moved into that house with her husband (I’m assuming these two aren’t living in sin.  They seem like good people), and they had babies.  These creatures carry  little, tiny pieces of food in their mouths, pop through the little house’s door, and disappear to feed, and spend time with their little bird family.  I could watch this family all day.

See?  Old.

One night, while my sister, Heidi, and I were eating pizza on the deck, we were watching these bird parents feed their children.  This feeding thing seemed like so much work.  You’ve got all the hunting for worms going on, and then all the trips back and forth through the little birdhouse door.

We got feeling kinda sorry for our sister-bird and her husband. Heidi said it seemed like a shame that our sister-bird and her husband were wasting their lives with this non stop work. I agreed.  I told Heidi to roll up her piece of pizza and jam it through the little bird house door.  The bird parents would surely thank us for a night off, maybe even the whole week.  That’s how you solve problems in nature.

I heard that it has been scientifically proven that looking at a tree can help with depression.  I understand that.

My niece, Naomi, told me that the famous poet, Walt Whitman, said something similar to this thing about trees a long time ago.  My niece is smart. She likes poetry.  Scott and I slept in Naomi’s bed over the fourth of July.  We saw that Naomi has a Walt Whitman poem written on her ceiling.  After Scott and I got into bed, we looked up at the ceiling and I read the poem out loud.  When I was done reading, Scott and I were quiet and contemplative for a moment.  We meditated on the words that were just spoken.    I asked, “Did you understand that?”

Scott said, “No.  Not a word.”

What are you supposed to do when the children get smarter than the adults?   You fake it. That’s what.  I told Naomi that the poem was beautiful.  I was moved to tears, really.

That wasn’t a total lie.  It’s not like Scott and I  know NOTHING about Walt Whitman.  We do know he was mentioned in, “Breaking Bad.”  We’re not completely ignorant about literature.

Nature is what we have been enjoying this summer. The other thing we are enjoying is kids.  Our siblings’ kids, especially.  I’m so glad we had our basement finished.  I actually have only sat down there a few times.  But we ARE using it to host family, and that makes me smiley and satisfied.

Both of Scott’s brothers have come with their families from the far away land of Iowa to stay with us this summer.  All three of Scott’s siblings have little kids.  Gosh, kids are the best.

I think almost everything kids have to say is funny.  Scott’s brother Tom, and his wife Haley came to visit us before the fourth of July.  Tom and Haley have two little boys, 3 and 18 months.  One morning, I was making breakfast.  I could hear these little guys talking to each other as they walked up our steps.  Preschool conversations. That’s good stuff.

My nephew’s voices filled my heart with happy nostalgia.  I remember how our little guys wrung me dry by nightfall with their relentless energy.   Somehow, by morning, I couldn’t wait to see them again.   It’s a miracle every day.

haley and tom

I’m consciously focusing on simple, life enhancing things this summer: birds, family, kids.  I’ve been feeling a little over exposed to ideas and information lately; I need simple stuff as an antidote.  I’m not sure what is wrong with me.  I used to very much enjoy learning about other people’s opinions.  I am a pretty curious person.  I didn’t know before that other people’s opinions are like everything else: best in moderation.

In some respects, I am fairly impressionable.  I rarely start a discussion intent on proving a point.  I have a ton of questions about many things. The internet has just ruined me.  I feel like I’m trying to hear everyone, and there is so much noise.  I’m not hearing anyone at all.  Instead, I want to recommend to some folks, a special evening of trying to keep their yaps zipped.  Bless their hearts.  Of course.

I’ve become a bitter, old, bird-watching woman.

I told God what was on my heart about this subject.  I asked Him for a word.  He told me two things:

1. Stop listening to people; listen to me; take time to hear My voice. It takes practice.

2. You’re awfully noisy yourself.  You write a blog.

The second part was a little fuzzy.  He was cutting out; I probably heard Him wrong.  He might have actually said, “You should buy another hog.”

I’ll wait for confirmation on that second part.

morning walk

Cold early morning summer walk in Sheboygan, WI.

I’ve always thought that the 4th of July marked the half-way point for summer.  I guess I was wrong, because the 4th is next week, and there’s no way summer is half way gone. I’ll not be having it, laddy boy.

I’ve been reading historical fiction this summer.  I’ve been hanging out in Scotland.  Do ye know of the book “The Outlanders”?   Dinna mind me new Scottish accent, lasses.  Canna be helped.  Tis a very good book indeed.

Wow.  I’m like a sponge.  I just read books like this and then I know a whole new language.  Crazy how my mind works. It isn’t average.

I feel so freakin’ sentimental lately.  Blahh!  I hate it.  My eyes well up over nothing.  It’s all this time racing past me.  I try to grab hold of some of it, and make it stay in place; I can’t manage it.

Writing helps.  Writing is a way to memorialize simple moments in my life that would otherwise be lived and quickly forgotten.  I like to remember ordinary things.  Ordinary things are my favorite.

Pictures help too.  I recently read an article about all the things you should do with your family when your child is a senior.  One of the suggestions was taking a family portrait.  I haven’t been good about formal pictures with our family.  We’ve only taken a couple.

Here’s one of our first family pictures.  Scott always teases me about this picture.  We were in my sister and brother-in-law’s wedding. Things sort of came together for me that day; I looked pretty fancy.  It bugs Scott that I don’t have one of the kids on my lap in this picture.  He says he thinks I grabbed Zeke by the ear and pulled him out of the way so the kid wouldn’t block the camera’s view of me.

family pic

Beat it, Zeke!

C’mon, Scott.  You know I’m not like that.  But, let’s be honest.  You think one little kid is gonna stop the camera from capturing all that beauty?

I don’t know where Scott comes up these crazy ideas.

Just to keep me humble, our next family picture captured my real essence.  In that photo, I looked like wet dog with a side of hairball.  That whole picture taking experience was a fiasco.  I won’t bore you with the story now.  But, just in case you think I’m exaggerating, I’ve got proof.  It was misting/raining that day.  My hair was down, all nice and pretty.  By the time we took our picture, the only thing I could do was put all those wet strings plastered to my head into a pony tail.  What I know now is that it really doesn’t matter what I looked like.  I just want to remember what all the other nice people in this photo looked like then:

family pic

5 Years ago. Eddie has his head on my shoulder, AWWW!!!!

This article I read said that now is the time for the family portrait.  Once your senior graduates, the family dynamic will never be the same.  Capture the moment while you can. So, we did.

I called a professional photographer.  I had this discussion with her about scheduling an appointment around wrestling tournaments.  I explained to the photographer that it was likely my boys would have a black eye, or some other facial trauma, if we didn’t pick the right day. She pretended like we were having a normal conversation.

I had to call the photographer the day before our pictures.  I told her the boys did  not have any facial bruising.  Eddie just had a smallish scab on his nose.  Oh, and Eddie was on crutches.  Eddie tore a hip muscle in wrestling practice.  The photographer thought photshopping crutches out of the picture might be a challenge.

We had the pictures taken anyway.  We worked around the crutches. Picture taking can be fun.  I was really well behaved.  I didn’t shove any children out of my spotlight.

Right now, the five people in my family have fewer opportunities than ever to be all in the same place at the same time.  When we are together, I sure enjoy it.  We talk and laugh a wee bit more than y’ may believe.  Oops. There I go again.  Being bilingual is a harder than you think.  I keep having to remind myself to use English.

Eddie hurt his hip three days before our pictures.  We hadn’t talked about his injury much.   Eddie gets a bad wrap sometimes from all the members in our family.  I mean, most of the time he deserves it.  The kid can eat a new bag of chocolate chips in an hour.  But, Eddies’s got some things going for him too.  One thing we all know about Eddie is that he can take a hit.  Eddie does not complain. He doesn’t ask for help.   He doesn’t bring up his troubles in conversation.  He doesn’t do anything other than lay low, and wait for things to get better.  I guess Eddie has had a lot of practice at that.

On the way home from picture taking we were finally finding the time to ask Eddie about his injury.  It happened during wrestling practice.  Eddie felt a pop in his hip.  The guy he was wrestling put Eddie on his back and said, “Fight back, Eddie!”

Eddie said, “I can’t.”  Then, Eddie army crawled over to the wall and waited for practice to end.

Eddie’s wrestling practice is a 45 minute drive from our house.  Eddie said he left practice without being able to put any weight on his leg.  It was night time, and raining pretty hard.  He hopped on one leg out to the van.   He lost balance in the parking lot, and tried putting weight on his injured leg.  He dropped to the ground with the effort, and found himself laying in a large puddle. Eddie was close enough to the van to crawl the rest of the way.  He got to the passenger side door, opened it, and crawled over the passenger seat to the driver’s side.  He drove home using his left foot.

Eddie casually shared this story on our way home from picture taking.  I thought this was a crappy story.  Why didn’t he call us from practice so we could come and get him?  Why didn’t he tell us this story sooner?

We were real sorry to hear about what happened to Eddie, but we were enjoying being together while we heard it.  There’s something good about having teenagers.  With teenagers, there are moments when they are at their best, and you are at your best, and your realize you might have actually created your very best friends for life.  Great idea, God. Thank you!  We had several moments during the evening where we could not stop laughing.

Later in the night, Scott was trying to text a fellow coach using the voice command option on his phone. Scott was just rambling into the phone to test the technology.  He wanted to see how it worked.   At the same time he was doing that, we were laying around asking ourselves if Reggie farted.  I asked Scott if he farted, and so he spoke into his phone and said something like, “They think I farted.  I didn’t.”

I yelled into the phone, “You farted.  You stink.”

Then, Zeke yelled, “Send.”

Did you know that if you tell your voice command text to send, it will send?  Scott told us the message sent.  The message to his peer said, “Hey coach, do you know what time practice is and they think I farted.  I didn’t. You farted you stink.”

At first we didn’t believe him that it sent.  Then, he showed us.  Oh my Gosh.  You couldn’t stop us then.  We were gasping for air, we were laughing so hard, and so long.

Scott had the last laugh though.  He told us the message didn’t really send to the coach. Scott is smarter than that.  He was practicing voice texting by sending the message to Zeke’s phone.  We should have known better.  Scott was awfully calm for just having sent an important text to a respected peer about whether or not he farted.

I just have one more important thing to tell you.  I’m giving long skirts a try.  I know I’m a little late to the party. But, I’ve never been accused of being a trend setter.  I’m okay with this.

I just haven’t been on board with the long dress/skirt thing, because I felt like I would look less hip, and more like a member of the Duggar family.

I bought this long black skirt.  I think I like it.  I sort of vacillate between feeling like I’m fashion forward, and thinking I look like I should be offering Holy Communion. No disrespect.  Priests dress totally right for their line of work.

At any rate, I like this long skirt because I think there’s little chance all that fabric could get caught in the waist band without me noticing.  If you read my blogs, you feel me on this.  If not, I won’t be opening that wound.  I’m only just now beginning to heal.

long skirt

Looks pretty good, right?

You know I don’t like to be mean, right? I hate hurt feelings. I avoid hurt feelings almost always.  Except sometimes.  Like now.  I can’t help it.  I just wanted to say this one thing, and then I’m done.  I’m sorry if it hurts feelings, but sometimes there are things begging to be said.

This one thing I wanted to say was about politics and Facebook.  Right, I know.  You’re already annoyed.  Just hold on a sec.  I’ll be quick about it.  I just wanted to gently point out that there a few things on the interwebs that aren’t actually true.  I’m sorry if you didn’t know it.

Be careful, okay?

There’s more.  The thing is this.  Sometimes, I see viral political posts with inflammatory titles.  Sometimes I click on these posts; usually for entertainment.  Once you are somewhat fluent in interweb-speak, you can identify real news from propaganda.  I worry for folks who can’t tell the difference.

The other day, there was this really outrageous political story posted; the poster was very mad about this political thing.  I looked up the website from where the story originated; it is a fake news website, and I don’t mean “The Onion” either.  Most people know “The Onion” is satirical.   I mean a website that was created to make you think it was a real news website. Only, it isn’t  It’s fake news, written by people who are fake reporters who have the job of coming up with fake stories.  Yep. Real job.

For further entertainment, I looked at the comments below the story.  People were really mad about this thing that never happened.  Some people devoted entire paragraphs loaded with misspelled words and grammatical errors, expressing their anger over this thing that never happened.  It made me feel sorry for humans.  We’re so easily manipulated.

I have to admit, some of the angriest posts with the poorest English had me clicking on the author to get a better look.  Outspoken, angry people with poor grammar intrigue me.  Those kind of people should teach classes on how to improve your self esteem.  I mean, good for them.  They’ve never spent a minute of their lives doubting themselves.

I’m done with that subject.

This week Scott and I celebrate 22 years of freakin’ wedded bliss, baby!  Every day is a honeymoon in our house.  Every day I’m surprised with another love sonnet, a bedroom covered in rose petals, or a lovely serenade.  Wait.  That isn’t what your marriage is like?  Gosh.  Sorry about that.   Maybe you should take some marriage classes or something.

Well.  I might be misrepresenting things just a little.  Things might possibly be a bit less romantic than I described.  But, still, pretty good.  I mean, Scott and I texted each other about a half dozen times this week.   All the texts were about our schedules, but, I think that counts.  AND…we both know our anniversary is this week.  That is also something kind of unusual. We usually remember our anniversary AFTER it happens.  That’s kind of dreamy, right?

Did I tell you that Reggie had surgery this week?  He did.  He had surgery, and he also had 4 teeth pulled.  Reggie has to wear the Elizabethan Collar for the next two weeks.  Otherwise known as the dog cone of shame.

cone of shame

One night this week, Scott mentioned how busy we’ve been; he said he might like to talk to me again some time this summer.  I told him I was thinking the same thing.  I miss him.  I feel like we are living parallel lives that rarely intersect.  We are using all of our mental and physical resources to manage our careers, children and home.  We wouldn’t dream of making ourselves, or our relationship a priority. That would be selfish, right?

Scott and I got into bed that night.   I strained my head to look at Scott over Reggie’s cone of shame as Reggie laid in the middle of the bed; I thought, I just don’t know what comes between us.  How does it happen?

I have been thinking that there are other married people with relatively happy marriages, and busy teenagers, who are like us.  Couples who take their obligations seriously, who are happy to devote their days to serving all the people in their lives. It wouldn’t occur to these couples to schedule their lives around their relationship with their spouse, because they know that is the one relationship that will always be there.  Because all marriages last forever, right?

Maybe some of us need to rethink how we do things?

I don’t know about rose petals, sonnets and serenades, but I’m going to try to turn this ship around.  Here’s my love poem to Scott.  Happy 22nd Anniversary, my love!

I Like You

I like your hair.  I like your eyes.

I like your jokes, and how you’re a cute guy.

I like the way you try your best.

I like the way you rarely rest.

I like knowing you cannot lie.

But when my butt looks big, I’d like you to try.

I like the gentle way you are a Dad.

I like knowing our kids’ pain makes you sad.

I like the way you never brag.

I like when you deny I look like an ol’ hag.

I like the way you like to have fun.

Baseball, ping pong, or going for a run.

I like that you are kind and not angry.

But, mostly, I like that you chose me.

And THAT, my friends, is how you make Emily Dickinson look like an amateur.

scott and miki

I am way ahead of the sun this morning.  I woke up even earlier than usual.  My heart is full.  I have to write.  Not writing this morning would be like waking up with a terrible thirst, and not taking a drink.  Unnatural.

Yesterday was Olivia’s 8th grade promotion.  I had a pretty decent headache yesterday evening.  I think my head hurt,  because my heart couldn’t hold all my feelings.  Some of my feelings landed in my head.  Yesterday was a great day.  A wonderful day.  A tearful day.

I didn’t shed tears because Olivia is going to high school.  I shed tears because of Olivia’s friend, Emily.  Emily and Olivia have been very good friends since 4th grade.  Emily is funny.  She has a quiet voice. When you listen closely, you hear Emily’s witty remarks. Emily loves her dogs. She loves her family, and Emily REALLY loves sports.  I’ve tried talking to Emily during a football game. That’s a one way deal. Emily didn’t hear me. She was completely engrossed in the game. Emily is a loyal friend.   Emily has Noonan Syndrome.

Emily is in 8th grade.  Over the years, Emily has had many serious surgeries.  Last year, Emily had heart surgery.  This year, Emily was experiencing almost constant pain.  The Doctors told Emily that they could help eliminate some of her pain by fusing two parts of her spine.  That’s what they did.

Emily’s surgery was the day before 8th grade promotion.  Olivia and I were feeling some grief about Emily missing this milestone.  I do not know what it’s like to have a daughter with Noonan Syndrome. I can’t.  I do know how it feels to be a parent watching your child’s friends enjoy life, passing through joyous milestones, and feeling like your child is forgotten and left behind.

Eddie spent about 80 percent of his elementary and middle school years at home.  While his friends were on field trips and playing baseball, Eddie was probably at another doctor’s appointment, or curled in the fetal position, waiting for a break from his pain.  I’m not feeling sad about this now.  We have had so much sympathy from kind people over the years.  Really.  More sympathy than anyone deserves.  I know you’re a big softy, but please don’t be tempted to feel sorry for us now.  Eddie is feeling GREAT.

I’m just recalling this memory,  because our experiences have made our family unable to NOT share the grief of another family walking through something similar.  Our own story is why every time I felt love and happiness for all the sweet 8th grade kids promoting to 9th grade yesterday, I simultaneously fought back tears for Emily.  While all those precious soon-to-be-ninth graders were celebrating their success, Emily was attempting to raise her head 60 percent, and  successfully dangle her feet off the side of the hospital bed. Accomplishing this was going to be Emily’s reason to celebrate.

Emily’s Mom, Traci, Olivia and I wanted Emily to participate in 8th grade promotion.  We came up with a good idea:

emily grad 4

Traci told us Emily wasn’t up to watching the video yet, but Traci said watching it brought joy to Traci’s heart.  Oh man, now I’m being a big baby, and crying again. I’m feeling grateful God gave me exactly what I asked him for this time.

After graduation, I was taking Olivia and some of her friends somewhere.  The girls were laughing and being funny.  I liked listening to them talk.  Some of the girls said they cried when they hugged their teachers goodbye.  They were sad to say goodbye to these teacher-friends, and to all their happy memories. I was feeling soft and gushy about Emily, and now this.  My heart was overwhelmed with gratitude.  My daughter actually loved middle school.  I know middle school can go so wrong, and that’s why I’m humbled with the emotion of it all.

When my kids were in grade school, I heard some terrifying stories about middle school.  Those stories had me seriously contemplate home school.  I remember one woman telling me about her middle school aged granddaughter who was cornered in the hallway by some girls. The girls smeared katsup all over this woman’s granddaughter, because the girls were mad at her.  This woman also told me that another mean bully took a scissors, and cut a chunk of her granddaughter’s hair.  See?  I wasn’t lying.  These stories are actually nightmares happening in real life.

Our boys got to middle school, and things were fine for them.   I would usually drop the boys off first in the morning,  and then take Olivia to the elementary school.  I remember Olivia taking a look at the “big” middle schoolers milling around the front door in the morning, and she said, “I don’t EVER want to be in middle school.  Those kids look scary.”

I worried for Olivia.

Eventually, there was no changing it.  It was Olivia’s turn for middle school.  The whole thing just went down great.  Really, I’m overcome with it.  I was trying to break it all down in my mind.  I want to know what made the middle school experience such a happy one for Olivia.  If I could do that, then maybe I could share that information with some other young ones approaching the middle school gauntlet; they also might survive with great memories and no scars.  I want that for everyone.

I’ll try.

Here is an incomplete list of how to love middle school, based on the opinions of a mom blogger. Take these tips for what they’re worth:

1. Shun popularity.  When Olivia was in grade school, I remember talking with a mom of one of Olivia’s friends.  The Mom innocently talked about the “popular girls” in Olivia’s class.  I so rarely find a reason to disagree with anyone.  So rarely, that I remember the times it has happened.  I (hope) kindly told this mom that I didn’t think using the word “popular” with kids was super healthy.   I told her that I thought even one moment invested in evaluating who was popular and who wasn’t, was one moment too many.

Lucky for me, Olivia feared “popularity”.  What she saw of it on Disney and in her own world looked exhausting to her.  She wasn’t at all interested in managing it.

2. Participate.  Try everything that interests you. Olivia tried, band, choir, student council, track, cross country, basketball, volleyball, dance and piano.  She would have liked to try more, but a girls gotta sleep.

3. Embrace Disappointment.   This is the thing.  This is the thing that makes me want to hug my daughter tightly, and tell her how much I like her.  Olivia ran to be an officer for Student Council. She didn’t make it.  Olivia didn’t make the “A” team in volleyball or basketball in 6th grade, 7th grade or 8th grade.  Olivia tried out for every solo in every choir concert, for 3 years.  She never got one.  Olivia made it as an “alternate” for one concert.  She memorized the song, and practiced it many times.  Just in case.

Olivia made it into the talent show in 6th and 8th grade, but she  didn’t make it in 7th grade. That year, her teacher told her she could be a narrator for the talent show instead.  Olivia said yes to that.  Olivia spent many hours learning her narrator part. We thought she rocked it.

Olivia never won a race in track.  Olivia stayed organized, studied and did her homework. Olivia never got straight “A’s”.

I think Olivia is a talented and smart young girl.  I think perseverance and optimism are two of her finest attributes.  A few middle school kids are going to excel at almost everything they try.  Those kind of kids amaze me.  Most of us aren’t like that.

Middle school kids should walk into middle school understanding that it is the trying that is the point.  It is the trying that makes us stronger, smarter, more resilient and better for the next time.  Not being the best should NEVER be a reason to not try again.I don’t ever remember telling Olivia this before middle school. Some how she learned it on her own. Then she taught me.

4. Be a good friend.  Friendship is key.  Really.  Not just in middle school.  The best way to attract high quality friends, is to be a high quality friend.  High quality friends are good listeners.  They root for you, and build you up. High quality friends admit when they’re wrong.  They aren’t afraid to apologize, and they’re quick to forgive.   High quality friends make you feel comfortable and accepted.  Olivia had high quality friends.

5. Like who you are.  You are precious. Be excited about who you are and what interests you.  You’re not an accident. You’re here for a purpose, and to make a difference. Finding your purpose can be your own fun adventure.

6. Faith helps.  Olivia went to youth group, and attended many fun youth group activies.  At youth group Olivia connected with other kids and adults who were excited about their faith.  These faith-filled people built into Olivia’s life, and encouraged her to embrace her own relationship with Faith. Olivia chose to believe God loves her, and He cares about what’s happening in her day.  Faith helps middle schoolers.

I have more tips in me, but I’ve already kept you too long.  Plus, my attention span is shorter than a middle schooler’s.  I stopped listening to myself  after the video.

I don’t know if these tips will help.  I know sometimes the best laid plans can’t overcome a down trodden school system, mean spirited bullies or addiction.  But we can keep trying, right?  Because sometimes trying IS the point.

Do you like garage sales?  I don’t.  Well. I take that back.  I do like one thing about garage sales.

When they’re over.

I told you that we were planning to have a garage sale, right?  We had 10 years worth of stuff we lifted and carried into the garage when we refinished the basement.  All winter that pile of stuff has been harassing me.  I knew dealing with this stuff would claim whole days of my life.  It did.

Setting up for a garage sale is like having to study for a huge test in a subject that doesn’t interest you.  You can always think of something more important to do.  But, then, one day you realize the test is in the morning.  There isn’t time to procrastinate any more.  It’s scary.

Have I told you that I don’t know how to burn the midnight oil?  I don’t. I can’t.  It isn’t possible for me.  I’m not one of those “type A” women who can’t fall asleep until all the shoes are in order by the front door.  If things aren’t done by 8 pm, they’ll stay undone. I CAN, however, get up pretty darn early the next day, and do my best to sort things out then.

I came home from work the night before the garage sale; I knew there was only so much I could get done after a full day’s work.  I did my best, but it was hardly enough.  I slept hard that night, and I woke at 4 the next morning.  Waking up early is so much less painful for me than staying up late.

I started arranging items and putting price tags on things.  It was still dark.  I started to feel like there was no way I was going to be done with the work by the time the garage sale was set to begin. Then, I started thinking about my favorite person I married.  The one who doesn’t like to throw things away. The one who had the great idea to have a garage sale. The one who was still sleeping, all nice and cozy in his bed.  I started thinking some things that weren’t so kind about my favorite person sleeping in his cozy little bed.

After a while, Scott came out to join me. That poor guy,  he never saw it coming.  I hit him with a crap storm of my panic.  No need to share all the sordid details.  Let’s just say some cuss words might have happened, and some garage sale inventory may have been kicked. Across the garage.  Yep.  Really, it was a pretty  impressive display.  I wish the cameras would have been rolling.  That kind of fury comes around only so often.

Scott didn’t take it too personally.  He did some metaphoric and literal heavy lifting for me for a while, and I realized that’s all I needed to calm down.  I just needed some help.  Once I got that, I became me again.  I told Scott I was sorry.  He kinda laughed.  When I apologized, Scott just said, “You took the bait.”

I asked, “What do you mean?”

He said, “You were angry, and you took the bait.”

We didn’t have time to talk about it more.  I thought about it though.  I have all sorts of problems.  I do.  I can honestly tell you that anger issues are not at the top of the list.  Anger is sort of a once-in-a-blue-moon deal for me.  I never thought of anger as a temptation. But, I guess it’s possible.

Anger tempts you to act like a crazy person.  To yell, to swear at your husband, and to kick your daughter’s build-a-bear across the garage.  Some people know how to be angry, to take a deep breath and resist the urge to act foolish.  That is hard.

The actual garage sale itself was painless.  The weather was fine, and I like  chatting with people.  There were a steady stream of characters to chat with for two days.  I think we made about 8 cents an hour.  So, in the end, a perfectly good use of our time.  Can’t wait to do it again.  When I’m dead.

92-year-old, Luke, wins for garage sale customer of the weekend.  Luke took short little steps, and he used his cane.  He was sharp.  He knows the garage sale business, boy.   It took him just a short time to zone in on the items that actually did hold the most value.  He surprised me.

I didn’t know how he was going to get that stuff in his little car.  We managed together.  Luke gave me some tips on pricing things.  He told me which things we had held the highest value, and how to price those items accordingly.   Luke came back the next day too.   It might have been just to talk though.  I think we’re friends now.  He makes an impression.

I don’t plan to have another garage sale in the next 100 years or so.  That’s a shame, because I learned a couple of things, and I won’t be able to use what I learned.  Can I share them with you?  Maybe you like having garage sales, and this information will help you.  Always looking out for you.

On Friday, you get a lot of folks who are strolling through garage sales, because that’s what they do.  It’s sort of a hobby. A lot of those folks are retired, and garage sales are just something to do. Sometimes they find something.   More often, they don’t.  It’s nice chatting with those folks, but don’t expect them to buy all your junk.

Saturday is a different deal all together.  Saturday garage sale shoppers mean business.  By Saturday of our garage sale, I was super tired. I  thought we might open up for a couple, three hours, and be done.  That wasn’t what happened.  I think on Saturday, you’ve got a lot of people out who work hard all week.  They have some money, but they don’t have a lot of time.  They garage sale like they mean it.  They come in and grab what they want, throw their money down, and they’re on their way.  Saturdays are great garage sale days.  I mean, that’s just anecdotal, but that’s how it happened for us.

Another good outcome of our garage sale was getting to work with Scott.  Waiting on people together, and watching him check folks out and bag their items was something I enjoyed.   He has some solid customer service skills.  I even thought about giving him a raise, to 10 cents an hour.  He’s that good.

scott bagging

dad cashier

This guy was the cashier on Friday. I know. He looks shady.

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