A pre-Christmas poem

‘Twas the week before Christmas and all through the house,

Susan was crabby and acting like a louse.

She should have been happy, filled with spirit and joy,

But she felt tired and sniffly with feelings of oy!

She decided to stop! and take stock of her days,

Only to realize with wonder the err of her ways.

After all…

Band concerts were finished and cards in the mail,

No letter included? So sorry, oh, well.

Baking kits delivered to 20 deserving families –

Now, that’s the kind of giving that makes Susan’s heart happy.

Tomorrow, a family birthday dinner; Friday night, shopping.

Tonight, a taekwondo test –

Watch out, stupid shoppers! Susan knows knife-hand chopping!

Actually, things are pretty good at this busy time of year

When you keep it in perspective and remember those we hold dear.

The End (…of this poem and my career as a poet.)

iSmart and falling apart

I grew up thinking that, if I routinely took my car in to get the oil changed and tires rotated, my car could last forever. Or if not forever, for a very, very long time without any hassle.

It did not take too many years as a car owner to realize that WHOA! Mayhem and foolishness abound in cars! Factory-installed tires suck after 20,000 miles, check engine lights don’t go off when they’re supposed to, strange noises start, and, sadly, I even had the transmission fail in a legendary, all-hail-the-Subaru before its 5th birthday.

I should’ve known better, especially after catching a few broadcasts of Car Talk on the radio!

I don’t know why, then, I thought about my body in the same way:  get a flu shot, floss your teeth, go for check-ups, follow the doc’s orders (usually), eat (mostly) right (most of the time), and VOILA! My body will keep humming along for decades to come. No muss, no fuss.

Er, not so much. While nothing is seriously wrong, thankfully, I’ve spent the last six weeks juggling appointments for MRIs, X-rays, an overnight sleep study and PT with the rest of life.

Turns out 1) my wonky, wobbly knee issue, which cropped up 6 months ago, is due to “significant arthritic changes,” bone spurs, cartilage and such stuff that I imagined only was of concern to anyone over the age of 60.

And, 2) my home sleep study revealed I have mild, maybe mild to moderate, sleep apnea, which would explain why I don’t feel rested when I do get 7-8 hours of sleep. It isn’t good sleep; it’s bad!

I’m doing physical therapy for my knee, which has taken away the discomfort and is strengthening muscles that have gone kapooey in the last few years. I’m also lining up a CPAP to wear at night. Tres sexy! However, I’m excited – yes, excited – to start using any sleep appliance that may take the years off my face and bloodshot from my eyes.

I’ll stop before delving more into my aches and pains, which is only a step or two from graduating to the “death and dying report” that I get whenever I visit my 80+-year-old mother-in-law. Suffice it to say, I’m striving to be like my vehicles:  a little scratched and dinged on the outside, but generally working ok on the inside.

On a separate note, I graduated to a smartphone in October, months after writing about it. Hard to believe! However, I’ve only downloaded a solitaire and flashlight app. (I know, me so crazy.) What do you recommend for free fun?

 

Take notice, say “thanks.”

 

A neighbor and his daughter knocked on our door last week, asking if they could speak to Joe. She needed to complete a school assignment in preparation of Veterans Day:  find a veteran to ask a few questions about his or her service to our country.

At first they didn’t know who to go to…but then she remembered seeing my husband wearing one of his many Navy t-shirts, jackets and sweatshirts. It was her idea to approach him. Like most vets I’ve met, he isn’t looking for any attention, and is humble about his experiences, but he was happy to oblige.

I’m the type of person who often notices, but doesn’t say anything. A 12-year old made me think twice about that.

To the veterans I know (and those I don’t), Thanks.

“Repurposing” the junk

I recently subscribed to this blog, Funky Junk Interiors, because Joe and I are trying our hand(s) at turning antiques and flea market finds into cool home decor and furniture that we can sell one day (versus into more stuff taking up space in our basement). More on this later.

Anyway, the blog is a great source of creative decorating ideas and projects. What I didn’t expect to read today was this inspiring post. If you could use a pick-me-up, or know someone who could, take a moment to read and share it.

Peace out.

Fifteen Years

Me:  Hey, y’all, I’m back!

You:  [crickets]

Me:  Excuse me, I guess I should have said “yinz”. Yinz, I’m back with a blog post.

The World: [zzzzzz]

Me:  Fine. Be tha tway.

So I’ve broken that cardinal rule of blogging – write frequently enough for your readers (even your mom) to give a hoot – but I’m realizing in middle age that humans are not born to multitask, after all.

Is something outside my window? Squirrel!

Humor me for a moment while I do the obligatory, guilt-ridden blathering about how busy life has been in the last 3 weeks EXCEPT TO BLOG:  getting back to school; celebrating the kids’ birthdays, my birthday, my parents’ anniversary, my work anniversary; restarting taekwondo classes (sijak!); taking a trip out of town; restarting my 2013 resolutions before the year is over, entering yet another stage of self-reflection and hair coloring. Blather. Blather…

Thank you and sorry.

Funny thing is that in the jumble above one milestone sticks out in my mind and connects many of the others to each other:  my work anniversary. Fifteen years at the same company. Quite frankly, I never thought my tenure would go past five.

I’ve written about my midlife “what do I want to do with my life” crisis before. I’ve resolved my feelings about it for now, for the most part. I’ve spent the last 15 years generally doing things I like to do, working with more good people than not and have been given the chance to grow and learn. Not always when I would like, or necessarily in an industry I’d choose again, but I’ve asked for opportunities and given new challenges. Part of that I will take credit for; part of it rests with the people I work for. The thing that has struck me the most about “15,” though, is what has happened in my personal life in that time.

My first husband and I celebrating our first Christmas in our new house.

Our first baby.

Our second baby.

Our divorce.

My townhouse, the first house I purchased on my own.

Lots of painting (and wearing paint on me). Developing a few DIY skills along the way.

New neighbors and friends.

Many dates.

Many misses.

My first blog.

Writing and pitching my novel.

Putting my novel away, proud of what I accomplished but ready to move on.

Discovering who I really am, what I want and what I won’t settle for.

Bringing the rest of my immediate family to this area.

Meeting my husband.

Jumping out of a plane.

Planning a wedding.

Getting married again.

Our Hawaiian honeymoon!

My last pregnancy.

My only miscarriage.

Buying our house.

A new, loving extended family.

Lots more painting and home projects – now at two houses, my in-laws’, and our own.

Learning, learning..

My second blog. (This one!)

More Christmas and Irish/St. Patrick’s Day decorations than I ever thought I would own.

More figuring it out as I go along.

Whether I’m still working here or not down the road, it will be interesting to see what the next 15 years bring.

Thankful Thursday: For surprises up the road from home

Trailin' behind

We’ve been fortunate to be able to vacation away from home most summers. They aren’t necessarily “fancy” trips; this summer we stayed with cousins who have 4 kids under the age of 10. (Can you say, “hello, endless slumber party, noise and rewinds of Disney’s Teen Beach Movie“?) We had a lot of fun, and it was nice to get away, but you don’t always have to travel far.

As my first “thankful Thursday” — because I’m not above themes, memes or gimmicks — I’m going to tell you about a lovely time we had in Franklin, PA, just “up the road” from us.

Did you know the first oil well was in northwest Pennsylvania? Yes!

While parts of the region have clearly suffered — as so many do when companies or whole industries pull out — Franklin and nearby Oil City are filled with stately victorians and a lush landscape of wooded hillsides and rivers. Joe and I have been there before, but Saturday we discovered biking and picnicking along the Samuel Justus trail, which runs along the Allegheny RiverIt was so scenic and peaceful. It was also the first time the kids had done any riding outside of our neighborhood – a perfect introduction! Then, we decided to stop into the DeBence Antique Music World museum:

…It’s the country’s largest museum of its type open to the public with more than 100 antique mechanical musical instruments. A few of them are the “last man standing” of their kind.

What’s wonderful about the DeBence Museum is that (1) they give guided tours and (2) you get to hear almost everything you see. These old instruments – one dates back to 1850 — still make music…

This personal collection-turned museum is full of music boxes, phonographs, organs, player pianos, orchestrions (a la the 1915 Wurlitzer band organ playing at the Kennywood Carousel – cover your ears, they’re LOUD!), jukeboxes, radios and other antiques. If you like music, you’ll love this place. If you’re mechanically minded (or like me, can appreciate the mechanics with no understanding of them!), you’ll love it even more.

If you don’t live near Franklin or Oil City, don’t worry. My guess is there’s a surprise right near you — if you’re willing to look.

 PS. A shout out to my wedding photographer and fellow blogger Irene Smith, who lives up there. She’s excellent at what she does and a real pleasure to work with!

PPS. I’m also thankful this Thursday that I didn’t crack my car windows even more than I did ‘cuz it’s raining y’all. A lot. Whoops. What about you?

7 things I learned this summer

It’s been almost a month since returning from our family vacation to New England – and less than two weeks before school starts. Yikes! That rascally, slippery summertime — those months teasing me with sun, relaxation and overly ambitious plans — is quickly disappearing. Here are 7 things I’ve learned this summer:

1.  On vacation I learned that my son, who has somehow made it through many years of school, had no idea that Connecticut is a state. He thought Connecticut was a city…or a mysterious, magical place; he couldn’t really say. Those laminated placemats of the United States I purchased when the kids were little weren’t as educational as I thought.

2.  T-Rex and Drama Girl are really good car travelers, but they don’t seem to grasp the concepts of time or distance. I couldn’t get why they kept asking us if we were still in [Name of State] when we had driven right by the “Welcome to [Name of Other State]” sign minutes before!

3.  This introduced our family to the catch-phrase “Straight-A Stupid,” compliments of T-Rex. I’m fortunate the kids both enjoy and do well in school, but Common Sense 101 is clearly missing from their curriculum!

4.  Boston continues to be one of my favorite cities to visit, although I have yet to make my way out of the main tourist areas. I recommend taking a Boston Duck tour if you’re visiting for the first time or if you have young children. (BTW, if you or your family members are claustrophobic or crowd-phobic or high-price phobic, do NOT go to Quincy Market!) Newport, RI is also simply lovely and only 2 hours from Boston. It would have been better without the rain, but lovely nonetheless. Bonus: We enjoyed one of our best beach experiences ever…in New Hampshire. What a nice surprise!

5.  New England highway drivers really know how to use a passing lane. How I wish I could bottle up that knowledge and force every Pennsylvania and Ohio driver to drink it! New York and New Jersey drivers? Not so much — they make up their own rules of the road as they go. I lived in northern New Jersey for some time growing up and forgot just how nutty it can be to drive through the state (not a city like Connecticut). I flashed back to the first time my driving instructor said, “Now you’re going to merge onto Route 17.” Route 17, one of the most chaotic, neurotic roads leading to and through the shopping mecca (or hell, depending on your viewpoint) known as Paramus, NJ. Just like that! If you know the area, you know what I’m saying. Flashbacks.

6.  Each summer “getting back into shape” starts off with a bang, but by this point my motivation is limping along rather than running full speed. (In fact, last summer I was literally limping along –my quest to get back in shape by jogging aggravated, or outright caused, a stress fracture in my toe. There’s motivation for you!) Joe and I try to get out and bike once in a while (like tonight) and we walk as much as we can, but ice cream and the occasional cold beer tempt us every step of the way. We’re weak, what can I say. Nothing new here; I just happened to realize that this is a pattern each summer, which brings me to…

7.  No matter how much I love summer and want it to be all chillaxy, life’s stressors don’t go away. They don’t take a neatly planned vacation, which is unfortunate. We cause a lot of our stress ourselves, and acting like responsible grown-ups year-round is sometimes hard to swallow. (I know. Wah!) I guess if I can’t get rid of stress entirely I might as well embrace it with a little umbrella, beachy drink. 

What have you learned this summer? Are you ready to get back to routine?