I Miss Everybody… Even When They Are Here

Too many changes in too short of a time span. Still adjusting. Letting the dust settle.

Last year, after 20-some years of living in Madison, my parents retired and moved 4 hours away. I knew it was coming. I tried to prepare myself, but did a better job of keeping myself in denial. I mean, really. Could my parents really (really) move hours and hours away from me/us? Me? The kids? The city? Me? It didn’t seem possible.

It was. It is. They are happier than ever and remind me of how much they are enjoying themselves.

The hardest part of them being gone would be the face-to-face conversations. Phones don’t capture a conversation for me. Email.. no, but I do like getting emails from my parents. The lost art of writing. But phones (especially cellphones, which we are both using) lag, stick and delete parts of the conversation making it awkward, messy. My parents don’t know how to Facetime, and if they did it would be similar to those cellphone conversations.

I miss them. Not only were my parents close to us (you could hop on the bus three houses down from us, ride it to their part of town and get off of it three houses down from their house – no transfer), but they were close to the kid’s school. Many times I would stop in for coffee or a quick chat while I waited for the boys to be done with wrestling/soccer/whatever. I’ve driven by their house on occasion, those evenings when I would have normally pulled up and walked right in. It makes my heart ache a bit. Truly ache. That’s a real term.

Then I have my college son. That was a whole new adjustment. Still is. There are people that squeal with glee when their kids reach this age – old enough to send off to the dorms. And then there are those who go through (literally) stages of greif, sadness, depression. I… well, I wasn’t squealing. I am happy for him, I am. But I really had to be honest with myself on how I was feeling. My oldest left the house for different reasons. I went through similar feelings then. It got better. This has gotten better.

But it’s still there.

My parents came for a visit this past week. My dad had a meeting close by, and they extended their time here to hang out with family and visit friends. They stayed in a hotel one night and with us the second night. We don’t have a big house. To stay with us, they have to take over a bedroom, and boot a boy out of it. It’s fine, it works, but it might not work for a week’s stay. I wish I had a bigger house. I’ll just put that out there. At any rate, they stayed here, but I didn’t see them too terribly much. Dinner the first night, ships passing in the night the next day. Talks over coffee the morning they departed. It was good to see them. Really good.

I had just learned that my hours might be getting (probably, inevitably) cut drastically in the new year. I tell you every time things look up for us, in comes some slam from the other side that we weren’t expecting. We will never be financially solvent. Will we ever be financially solvent? We will be financially solvent someday. We will. I have to believe that. Sorry, little mid-paragraph pep talk for meself. So, yeah, I was just a little bit shellshocked  about the whole thing, and I was glad -so glad- that my parents were here. That I could tell them some of this stuff face to face and have a real conversation with them. It’s cathartic to be able to speak with someone in the flesh, not through an electronic.

I’m so very tired of speaking with the people I love through electronic devices. (Yes I am thankful for the ability to do so, it just isn’t my preferred way.)

So, we have coffee with my parents on their departure day, then Frank and I go off to run errands, stop at Costco, the library, blablabla. All’s good, right?


I get home, begin to unload the groceries, walk into the garage, hear my dog waiting for me on the other side of the garage door, open it – and there it is. Coffee. The smell of the coffee pot, lingering in the air.

That’s all. That was it. All I needed.

I crumpled. Sobbed. Needed a hug from my husband – something I probably don’t allow myself often enough. Keeping hard, keeping moving, that’s what works sometimes.

Not that day.

I missed my mom and dad. I miss a lot of things. It’s OK to miss them as long as I don’t envelope myself in it, seal it up and stay wrapped in it forever.



I’d love to take a photography class. A few years ago I purchased a Nikon D3000 and a lens, pooling both mine and Frank’s birthday money together. He was OK with it, don’t worry. Though I’m very happy with the pictures I can take, I know I could get better pictures with more consistency if I knew more about my camera’s settings. It is Dante’s senior year of high school and, of course, I’d like to get some decent shots of him in his final high school games. Thankfully when the season started it was light out longer and I’ve been able to get a few pictures. But the shots under the stadium lights are, for the most part, blurry. The only good ones are still shots, like below.

Nothing going on, all after the play because the real shots, the ones I wanted and took prior to this one are all blurred.

This is where I kick myself for wanting and wishing and not DOING. I need to be more on the action side of things. Less wanting and wishing, more accomplishing.

It has been a joy watching him play and grow. Starting as a freshmen on varsity with nervous energy and anticipation. Over the years he’s forgotten his jersey, struggled balancing academics and athletics, had to warm the bench a few times for different (tame) reasons, forgotten a brand new pair of $200 cleats at a tournament (that was a fun one – we never saw those cleats again), scored an amazing goal against a team we “just don’t score against,” the list goes on. Now, finishing off as a senior, unsure if he was even going to play soccer this year. Senior year is all about decisions, you know. Too many of them, really.

I can’t believe it has actually been that long, four years, and that we are really at this point, but there it is. I’m thankful that we put our money into that camera. It has followed us on vacations, celebrations, holidays, around the house, and to many sporting events, capturing moments of time for us to remember them a little more clearly as our brains become foggier. With five kids steamrolling through the teenage years, it is easy to “get through each day,” anticipating the squares heavily scheduled on the calendar, wondering how we will manage them. Once we accomplish the day, and it is behind us — onto the next adventure! Those days are like putting pizza in a blender and sucking it through a straw. Everything is blurry, jumbled, and easily forgotten fairly soon after.

Slow it down, carve a memory in the mind. Savor, don’t snarf. Enjoy each bite. Even if everything surrounding that moment is blurry. Clarity amongst the chaos. 

I Need More Days Off

When I was a stay-at-home mom I didn’t feel like I got anything done, and now that I’m working part-time, I realize that I did. I got a lot done around the house. My home was cleaner, dinners were ready, made and planned ahead most of the time (we survived without a microwave – something I don’t think I could do now). But, we needed more money. My resources tapped as far as “what more can we do?” —  Every book I read talked about strategies we were already implementing. Chances are we will never be in the position of having so much money we don’t know what to do with it. Adapt.

Make the best with what you have.

Today is my day off. So far I’ve accomplished taking the kids to school, eating breakfast. Checked emails, checked voicemails. Voicemail-checking is a BIG DEAL, because I’ve gotten very bad at it. I’ve never been good at checking voicemails on my cellphone, but checking them on my home phone? Fuggeddabaddit. The only time I did it with real frequency was when we had a telephone that had a speakerphone on the base. I had our voicemail number with a pause, and then a password programmed on the speed dial. All I had to do was hit speaker, push a button and voila. There it was. Once that went kaput, so did my daily checking of the voicemail on the landline. I’m not quite ready to give up the landline yet, but I did shop around for better options. We recently bundled our landline with our cellphone plan, saving $27/month (and adding the option of long-distance). We’ll see how much we still use that line, and maybe – just maybe – we will get rid of it. Slow moves in that direction. Still, the switching of plans hasn’t helped stimulate my checking of messages.

Back to what I’ve done so far today.

Bathroom. Cleaned it. Not the whole thing, just the toilet and floor. This is a BIG DEAL to me, because of my toilet issues. I broke out the pumice stone, the baking soda, I did it all. I hated every minute of it. I almost cried.

One load of laundry; washed.

Shower – soon.

Dinner? I think we will be having chicken patties (the pre-breaded, frozen kind) on buns. Simple dinner. Noting to self that I still need to get the buns.

Pick out senior picture for Dante? Today. Will do.

Balance checkbook. Hate. Will do. Need to write checks.

Need more days off. I don’t know how women who work full-time manage a home, too. Maybe they make such good money that the time spent clipping coupons and pinching pennies (which can be substantial) is out of the equation. True, if we had a better household income my energy could be spent elsewhere. But there is no use thinking about what could, should, or what I wish to be. It is not my circumstance right now. Right now I will be intentional with the time I have off today, try to get some of the items on my To Do list moved to a Ta-Done status, and be satisfied with that.


Confession: I Turned On The Central Air

… In 76-degree weather.

I’m not proud of it. Here I sit, scrounging for deals, meal-planning, coupon-cutting… all to turn on the central air on a less than impressively hot day. The thermostat reads 75 degrees inside the house.

This would be a good place to insert one of those mouth-cocked smileys you see all over the internet. :/

But, there is good reason. I am in a mood. A cranky, crankieness that only a drop in humidity and cooler temperature can fix. I think. I couldn’t figure it out yesterday, but it started to dawn on me today. Admittedly, I have a lot going on. Kids off of school, parents retiring and moving this week, old boss leaving and new boss coming this week, sending a kid off to overnight camps (separation anxiety for me – don’t laugh–or puke, packing, thinking, preparing, etc.). I’m at capacity. Add warm and sticky to that list and I’m… well. I’m a monster.

I can’t sleep when I’m warm. I don’t like it when my sheets feel swampy wet. I need sleep.

I can’t clean. I can’t sleep. I can’t think. I can’t cook. I can’t read. I woke a dozen times last night. This morning I got up, mopped down the bathroom floor (the bathroom feels disgusting when it is humid), cleaned the toilet, tried to do some work, became overwhelmed, took a shower, began sweating, began loathing my house, cursing dust, confusion, circle-turning not knowing what to tackle first.

Noticed the discomfort of my own skin. I couldn’t cool down. Distinctly felt like there was something I needed. Something. But what?

Relief. Comfort. The ability to think straight and get some things done to relieve the oppression of an arm-long To Do list.

It is worth it. If my productivity is zilch and I’m a whiny puddle and turning on my central air will help — I need to just bite it and do it.

And I did. My sweat is drying already.


Housecleaning aka Blogcleaning

For the longest time I’ve wanted to change my blog template, update it to use some of the more recent functionality that WordPress has to offer. I searched high and low for a (free) 3-column template. The only ones I found that I really liked were not free. That was a struggle. I didn’t bend, though, and after a year or so of patience, I settled on a different template.

It feels good. The internet has been somewhat of an oppression for me. I have work that I do online (freelance), work that I do online for my job, and fun time. The lines were blurred too much, and what was fun became work. I’d like for it to be fun again. No oppressing.

My life has gone out of control. I have more than I can manage and I need to re-prioritize. Some of the tasks that I’ve taken on I don’t do to my satisfaction because I have too much on my plate. And I’m starting to get a bit selfish. I don’t know if that is good, bad, normal at this stage in my life– I really don’t know. I just want to do a decent job at a few things, and not a patchy job at many. I feel I’m at the latter end, and it doesn’t settle well with me. It is OK; I’m glad I’m able to recognize it. I see some natural shifting of my responsibilities, and that will change my workload. I still need to take a look at where I am spending my time.

I also need to clean my house. Once in a while (a cycle? I don’t know) I will get ornery and mean. Bite a head off if it comes near my teeth, chomp on an arm if it brushes by. Part of that is dissatisfaction, flat out discomfort with my home. If the house feels icky, the world feels icky. To me. If I could take a month off of everything and deep clean my house, I surely would. I’d love to. But it would take that long, really. Not to fix everything. There’s not enough time and money to do that. But to clean it up, toss what I don’t use or need and better organize what is useful, scour, scrub, and patch what I can? Goodness.

I would feel more comfortable in my home then, though. So, really, it is priority to do something about it. Tackle more here and there. Replace time and energy that is being spent on a task less meaningful and channel it to where it would improve my day-to-day.


Bath Bombs

To entertain my inner craftiness, I’ve plunged into making some bath bombs for a family member’s store. It is nice to do something different for a change, other than stare at a computer, organize, email, brainstorm, coordinate, respond to, or use _____(fill in the blank with administrative tasks)_____. It is good for my soul to utilize other parts of my noggin. I truly need more thoughtless, mechanical work in my life.

Not to say I don’t enjoy the other things I am doing. But they are all the same. At work I administrate/manage, at home I administrate/manage, for the soccer team I manage, for the other soccer team I manage, for youth wrestling I secretary/manage, for freelance work I administrate/manage. I need to freely admit that I’ve exhausted that part of my brain. I need to pair down my volunteerism to only 1 additional same-brain activity. Do more physical volunteering, if necessary. But I’m tapped out. Therefore, I enjoy the creations I can make with using less brains and more hands.

Happy Thanksgiving

Last night I made the mashed potatoes and cranberries. Today comes roasting the turkey, sweet potatoes and heating up the mashed potatoes. Oh, and stuffing. And then we take off out of town to a water resort hotel, the whole family. And, by the way things roll, my Monthly Visitor has come to brighten the day.


Still, I am greatful for the day, blessed by family, health, and warmed in spirit. This is the first “vacation” we’ve taken that I haven’t used our credit card for. I purchased it months ago with cash and am taking cash with. I hope that is a preview of our finances to come – increased responsibility with our money, and the ability to live without being indebted to anyone. It is a big goal, but I don’t feel as if it is unreasonable.

The house is filled with delicious smells, sounds, and the excitement of a change, a ruffle in the regular mechanics of day-to-day life. It is pleasing, and I am filled with gratitude.

Homemaker or Working Woman?

Today’s lunch is brought to you by Marie Callender’s Chicken Pot Pie.

Though I’m not big into pre-packaged or frozen meals, in the past few years I’ve broken down and have added more of them to my shopping cart. The summer days, with the four boys home, always leads to a significant increase in our grocery spending and food consumption. I know that I often break down and will do take-out because I am short on time. But it isn’t like take-out is any more “healthy organic” than frozen.

I wish I had the time and discipline to be a better homemaker, meal-planning, gardening, cooking, cleaning. But with me working, now (out of the home and at home), my time for those things has lessened. And frankly, I didn’t feel I was doing all that well as a homemaker before I started working outside the home (which is why I figured I might as well get a job since I was wasting my time on my butt at home).

I wish I weren’t so confused.

The Second Cast Change

Nine weeks ago Franny was hit by a car while crossing the road after getting dropped off from the school bus. He was fine, save for his broken leg, some fractured foot bones and a bad wound on his foot. Today is he had a check-up.

Initially, he had surgery to clean and repair his injury and started with a fixator for 5 weeks (which was removed an replaced with a blue cast about a month ago). Today the cast was to come off for x-rays and then either a walking boot OR another cast. We’ve been discussing cast color for a couple weeks and the color was green. IF he got a cast. He was hoping for a boot. He was very nervous about the cast removal, but also very interested and excited.

The morning started with a hair washing in the bathroom sink. I meant to do it in the kitchen, but he started wetting his hair in the bathroom.

Getting dressed and ready to go.

I packed the pain meds, just in case, and his brother’s PSP for distraction purposes.

We stopped at McDonald’s (per Franny’s request). He got a McGriddle, while I picked up a chicken biscuit (one for me and one for Frank who was meeting us at the clinic). I was so nervous I couldn’t eat, though. After Franny’s cast wedging experience, and his own anxiety over the saw, I was a wreck. I didn’t want him to know that, though.

We were familiar with the man who removed the cast. He made Franny’s first splint and came to the room once when Franny was in the hospital. Today they were set to have their Child Life Specialist come in and talk to Franny before his cast removal, due to my phone call the day before, but by the time they made it in the room, Franny’s cast was off. The cast guy was aware of Franny’s concerns and reassured him that it would take less than 2 minutes to cut and crack it. Franny had worn headphones and played his game.

Franny loves for me to take pictures. He actually asked the doctor if pictures could be taken during surgery (the 2nd time he had surgery).

The saw is lying across the table. He cut down both sides and is using the tool in his hands to split/separate the cast.

You can see a little blood/drainage. Does it ook you out? We’ve seen way worse (like the day of the accident), so it didn’t shock us. When the rods were removed from his leg, they blue cast was put right on, so any blood or drainage was going to be inside the cast. Don’t worry, I won’t show you the inside pictures.

His leg, to us, looked great. Last we had seen it, there were 4 rods, dozens of gooky, pussy stitches, swelling and an ugly blister. Most of the scabs from where the  stitches were was gone, blister was removed in surgery. The holes from the rods were closed. His leg was not really visibly much different from his “good” leg, size-wise. It was a beautiful thing to be able to feel and touch his leg, his foot.

As he sat in the waiting room for x-rays, he wanted me to touch his leg. After the x-rays, while we waited, he just stared at his leg, at my hand moving across his skin, his shin,  foot, his ankle. The things we simply take for granted… I miss the simple act of washing his foot while I did his pin care. It was as if it was a sacred moment for us. Just as it was sitting in the examination room, quietly running my fingers over his scars, his healing bones, his traumatized foot. Priceless.

The news of having to have another cast put on was disappointing. Franny was SO much hoping for a walking boot, and he told the doctor just that. “But Francesco. You can walk with this cast. You’ll get a cast boot so you can. We want you to walk on it now, as much as possible and without crutches. This will help your bone heal and grow.”

This changed his perspective. He went over his color choices again, deciding on orange with some green striping thrown in for good measure.

As the cast technician prepared his leg, Franny asked a million and one questions. What are you doing? When will you put the color on? Do you like doing this? Do you get paid good? You DO?! How much do you get paid to do this? (pause) I might want to do this… cast tech. might be my job. I don’t know, but I know I want to work in a hospital. After an assault of questions that came too fast to answer, the technician smiled and asked him to be patient and just watch. And watch he did.

Watch, and ask more questions.

He’s slowly getting accustomed to putting a bit of weight on his foot. Two crutches, one crutch… standing with no crutches. It will take a bit of time for him to be comfortable with the boot and simply walking. As disappointed as he was with getting a cast, it was a good experience for him go through the process of having a cast being put on. Last time he was in surgery, going to sleep with a fixator and waking up with a cast. This time he got to witness everything from start to finish, and since he’s interested in orthopedics, he’s got a front row seat. I think everyone in our family has been learning and growing through the struggles of the past couple months. It is good to see Franny take something traumatic and make good of it, as much as he is able.

External Fixator Off, Cast On

Today Franny got the external fixator removed and a cast put on. There was actually a foot-holder with a strapped harness that hooked around the top rod, but this picture was taken while it was off. You can see him playing his brother’s handheld game. He usually played a game or watched television as I did the pin care and wrapped things up.

Franny started out very shy, not wanting to even look at the fixator. I’d have to cover it up with an ace bandage because he couldn’t stand looking at the rods and didn’t want other people to see them. For days. Weeks. And then one day he was liberated, I think, by Dante’s soccer team friends. The boys gathered around to ask questions and say “hello” and some of them would freak out at the sight of the rods. Franny would pull the covering back to show more, boldly. They told him he was a tough kid, saying words that empowered him. He’ll even bend his knee up to touch his ear with it, which makes his dad’s stomach sick.

Casts are pretty common, but the fixators you don’t see every day, and sometimes people will hold their gaze longer, or the kids (and moms especially) will be uncomfortable looking at it.  I told him, hey, smile and keep on going. And he did. Sometimes he’d even wave.

Even though going from a fixator to a cast is progress, there is some… comfort in routine. There are also pluses with the fixator, like being able to wash and massage his toes. He likes that. But he was very eager to get a cast, regardless, as casts are more “normal” in the realm of broken legs.

He wanted his hardware.

As creepy as they might be, I’m rather thankful to them for holding my son’s leg back together.

A blue cast was requested, and granted. He also got this toy. Blue was the day’s theme.

Back to elevating the leg above the heart again for a few days. We’ve got that down pat, now, though.