Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tidings of Comfort and Joy


As I get into the swing of this holiday season, I realize it is not like any other year.  This holiday season is filled with moments of grief and sadness mixed in with joy and excitement.  It's not simple this year.

Though I am not religious, this time of year I enjoy singing along to all kinds of holiday music, including "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen."  The line...Tidings of Comfort and Joy...ring true this year more than ever.

My niece Maggie, who passed away in October, had the middle name, "Joy."  I feel the best way for me and my family to honor her this holiday season is to spread joy-to RT, to family, to everyone.  Sometimes it is hard to spread the joy, or even to feel joy myself.  That is when the comfort part of the song comes to mind.  When I find myself crying missing my niece, I take comfort in my family and in the fact that I knew Maggie, that I loved her.

When I find myself caught up in the shopping and planning of the season, I have been taking pauses to remind myself that holidays should be about loved ones.  I find my comfort and my joy in the life I have now.

I miss Maggie; I will miss her most on Christmas Eve.  She is a great planner and a wonderful cook and fun to be around.  Her absence will be missed by all of us.  But, hopefully we will find some comfort in each other and in keeping with traditions and that we will experience joy in the season and the celebration.

This holiday season, I wish you all Comfort and Joy.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Struggling Along...

It's been slightly over a month since my niece died in a car accident.  She was only 31; she would have turned 32 next week.  Her three wonderful children have been collectively hugged not only by family and friends, but the Minnesota Vikings as well.  I have new respect for the team; I may even cheer for them sometimes.

The past month has been extremely hard for all of us.  My niece's husband, kids, parents, godparents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and so many friends struggle to understand and deal with the pain and the immediacy of it all.  My heart aches for my loss; my niece, my favorite hairdresser, my go-to Mom for advice, and my friend.  My heart breaks for my sister-in-law and my other niece and nephew and my great nieces and great nephew.  I don't know how they go on day-to-day; I really don't.  I admire the strength that people find to keep working and keep living.

Maybe that's the key, to keep on living.  I had it rough for a couple weeks.  I lost my focus.  I could barely spend 20 minutes doing one task.  I cried at everything; I cried at nothing.  I felt I was losing myself to the grief.

I have a history of depression, which has been quite severe at times.  I felt myself starting to fall into that abyss, or as someone I love said, into that prison in my head.  I wanted to stay home, wrapped up in my son and my sofa.

I can't pinpoint the exact time I started to feel better, more like myself.  It wasn't as if a switch was turned and I was or am now happy.  I still cry easily.  I still miss her so very much.  I still ache.  But, I continue to live.  To be the good mom for RT and a good wife for Roger.  And a shoulder for Elise and Cassie and whomever.  It isn't great, but it is life for right now.

As the weather turns colder and winter and the holidays are knocking on the door, I know this will not be an easy time.  I give myself permission to have bad days and take care of myself.  And, I also give myself permission to enjoy life when I can.  It might be the little things or the big things, but I'll keep going, the best I can, struggling along.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Ending of Summer

The past two nights have been cool and crisp; not very summerlike.  I sit outside in my office working and feel cool when not in the sun.  The green grass is starting to brown a little.  The daylillies have all bloomed and died.  It feels like summer is slipping away.

I have never been the biggest fan of summer.  I never liked being hot.  As a teenager and into my early adulthood, I spent summer in cool spaces watching reruns.  I still do that some.  But, as a parent, I have found myself spending much of my summers outdoors.  In Fargo, we took RT to the park and to festivals and just outside.  In Boston, we hit the Swan Boats, the Carousel, parks, splash pads, festivals and we ate outside as often as possible.  This summer has been the busiest and the most outdoors for us.  The deck has helped.  We have spent hours out here; RT playing in the yard and Roger and I, and anyone else hanging around, would just sit and watch and enjoy.  We've been all over the Twin Cities and even outside embracing summer, embracing our new home.  I have been able to watch my son and my grandkids together at the park, splashing through sprinklers and screeching and sliding down the playground slides.  And I have been happy. 

Perhaps the sadness of hearing of Robin Williams' death or the letter from the school in the mail brings about this feeling of impending loss of summer.  I don't want it to end.  I know there are several weeks of outdoor time left.  But, there is school shopping and bus riding for RT coming up so soon.  I will miss this summer, as I have missed the past few summers. 

As for the fall, good things are coming.  I'll finally see Diana Krall in concert in Milwaukee.  I have wanted to see her for years.  I am taking a pottery class with a good friend from years ago.  I'll freeze my ass off at an outdoor Vikings/Jets game with another close friend.  And there will be Sunday dinners and so many more family events.  It is all good.

I see the pumpkin recipes more and more on Pinterest.  I see the Halloween (and yes even Christmas) stuff at the craft store.  I know fall is coming...and soon.

However, just now the sun moved just enough that I am in it and it is warm.  Summer is still here; no last hurrah, yet.  I'll hold on as long as I can...and enjoy!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Summertime...

Is for...

riding bikes
running through sprinklers
splashing in pools
hiking in the park
playing at the playground
evenings on the deck with the twinkle lights
freshly mowed lawns
flowers overflowing in pots
the scents of flowers
sunny days
cool nights
bugs and birds and squirrels and chipmunks and rabbits
late nights
early mornings
afternoon naps
rainy days
flip-flops and sandals
blonde hair
painted toenails
baseball
cook-outs
shorts
tank tops
freckles
sun-kissed cheeks and noses
smiles
happy days
vitamin D--the natural kind
lemonade, iced tea, margaritas and icy cold beer
superheroes
getting dirty
laughter and giggles
family, friends
love...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Map My Run, the Rock n Roll Half Marathon and Becoming a Runner

As you may, or may not, know, I am training for a half marathon in Virginia Beach on August 31st.  I have a long, long training schedule.  It is a run/walk schedule the wonderful women of Run Like a Mother/Train Like a Mother sent me.  I am working very gradually to a point where I will run 12-14 minutes at a time, with only 1-2 minute walk intervals.  It makes sense for me. 

I use Map My Run to track my routes.  I love the app!  I can see the elevations, calories burned (accounting for my weight), the routes I take.  As I train, it tells me at each mile my pace.  It has a lovely box for me to put in comments; I use it like a shorthand running journal.  And, I share it on Facebook.  I do this for myself; it keeps me honest.  I do love the "likes" and supportive comments.  I also understand that not everyone wants to see that four times a week.  I won't apologize for posting it each time, but I will understand if you hide the Map My Run app, or even me.  I won't feel bad.

It has been a long, hard road to becoming a runner.  About five years ago, I went to a Mexican restaurant with a group of Goddess friends for Robin's birthday (she wore a tiara!).  We were there for dinner and karaoke.  One of my newest friends at the time, Brook, came after a brief run (and a shower of course).  She and another friend were discussing running and this book, Running for Mortals by John "The Penguin" Bingham.  I bought it soon after that birthday party.  I read it and loved it.  I knew I wanted to be a runner. 

I signed up with a good friend to run the Wicked 10k in 2009.  I trained some, though not well.  I planned to walk it all.  However, we had a family emergency and had to fly to Minnesota the weekend of the race.  I was a little sad, but knew I'd do it again someday.  I pretty much quit running/training for anything after that.

Thing happened in our life.  We moved to North Dakota and I got pregnant.  As I was reading books about pregnancy, I came across a book called Run Like a Mother by Dimity McDowell and Sarah Bowen Shea.  I picked it up.  Again, I loved it.  I wanted to be a runner!

I walked and tried to train, but it was a lot harder with a baby than I thought it would be.  Again, I signed up for the Wicked 10k in Virginia Beach.  I trained to walk it.  Roger, RT and I flew to Norfolk and stayed with a great friend.  Dawn and I walked the 10k.  It was fun.  I was happy to finish.  I got my medal and earned the right to wear my shirt (which I wear at least once a week now!).  It was good.  I was energized.  I went home to North Dakota and it was winter...ugh!  I quit running/training.

We moved again to Boston.  Boston is home to one of the most prestigious marathon in the world.  I was excited to be there for the event, though I never planned to be anywhere near the route.  Of course, this was the year of the bombing.  As removed as I was from the race itself, I was greatly affected by the bombings and the aftermath.  It hurt me.  I still cannot hear sirens and helicopters without feeling anxious and sick to my stomach.  My work friends and I went to Chinatown for dim sum the Wednesday of marathon week.  We passed dozens of FBI SUVs and talked about the horrors.  Two of those friends and I decided to do a race.  I was in.  I wanted to be a runner...again...  We signed up for a 4 (mile) on the 4th (of July) in Dedham.  It was hot and humid and I had done no running training.  I walked the entire race at a decent pace.  I finished.  I quit training again. 

This time I had some awful shoulder and back injuries and was going to the chiropractor and for PT.  I was on all kinds of crappy meds.  The chiropractor I found helped me work on stretching and we discussed what I could do to NOT repeat this pain.  I had to become more active and lose weight.  I started tracking my walking and adding longer walking episodes.  But, again it was winter and it is hard to start any new training in the winter.  I walked a lot and that was pretty good.  I knew I needed to step it up.

Then we moved to Minnesota.  There are paths near our house.  I still wanted to be a runner.  Then one day, I saw this little quotation picture thing on Facebook.  It had something to do with wanting versus willing.  It clicked in me.  Yes, I wanted to be a runner, but I never thought I could be.  I never thought I could do it. 

I would go to running stores and be treated like I didn't belong.  It hurt to not get as good of service as the thinner women in the store.  Sadly, a part of me agreed that I didn't belong; that I was not, nor would I ever be good enough to be a runner.  It wasn't fair that the running retail employees treated me poorly, for sure, but I wasn't being fair to myself either. 

The idea that switching the phrase, "I want to be a runner" to "I will be a runner" seemed insignificant at first.  Then I added the running intervals to my walks.  The first day, after my very first run interval in years, three guys "mooooood" at me.  I didn't let it break me.  I pitied them for their need to make me feel bad, and I persevered.  It was not a great first run/walk interval attempt, but I ran.  I ran 6 minutes, 2 minutes at a time.  I just kept telling myself that I will be a runner.

Today I walked 3 minutes and ran 3 minutes for 30 minutes total.  That means I ran 15 minutes (6 of them uphill!).  My first run/walk was May 5; today is May 14.  I am pretty proud of that progress.  And I see myself continuing to run more.  There are challenges; most of them are in my head.  It isn't easy to shake the idea that I'm not a runner, that I'm not good enough, but I work on that every day.

I went to a running store yesterday to buy some socks.  I have a referral from a guy I went to high school with in Eden Prairie, and I will definitely check them out soon.  But, I just needed socks and this store is next to the Target I was already visiting.  I walked in the store and was asked by a very young man in excellent shape.  I said that I needed some socks and that I'd just moved to the area from Boston.  I told the now two men helping me that I am training for a half marathon in Virginia Beach.  One of the guys ran it a few years ago with is brother.  He and I discussed socks for a bit.  I told him that I have a great walk/run training schedule and he said that's great.  I felt like I belonged.  I do belong.

And I cannot wait until I cross that finish line in August!  Cheer me on if you like, hide me on Facebook if you want.  I'll do this.  I will be a runner (soon)!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Minnesota--Home

The three of us (four if you count the happy cat) are finding our place in Minnesota.  We've had to adjust to driving everywhere.  I've had to adjust to working from home.  Overall this transition has been great. 

We live at the top of a hill in some woods.  If I couldn't hear the interstate noise, I'd think we were totally in the middle of nowhere.  We aren't.  We are 10 minutes from 3 Targets--how much more civilized can we be ;)

Cookie is loving all the big windows, though she isn't sure about all the animals that visit our yard.  We've seen deer, squirrels, birds, bunnies and a particularly bold black and white cat.  Cookie watches them all intently; she yowls and hisses at the cat.  The black and white could care less. 

Except for Easter, where we had 37 people for dinner with a beautiful sunny warm day, it has been gray, rainy and gloomy.  I can't wait for the sun to finally shine.

It has been great spending so much time with family, which is why we made the move.  All is well. 

I hope to have pictures hung tomorrow and on a sunny day I can take some pictures.  This house is HUGE!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Thanks Boston (and Cambridge, too)

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We are counting down to the last day in our home, Boston.  It is hard for me to leave this city.  I know it is better for our family and I am not second-guessing the move.  I love Boston and it will always feel like my home.

I’d like to take a few minutes to thank the city I have grown to love.

Thank you for four beautiful seasons.  I have not enjoyed spring and fall anywhere as much as I have enjoyed those two seasons in Boston.  Summer and winter are nice too.   All four seasons seem to be about the right length.  Just I got so sick of this winter, spring arrived!

Thank you for offering such rich history for free (or nearly free).  More than once, I enjoyed visiting Paul Revere’s home and the Old North Church.  I walked past meeting houses and churches older than the United States.  I love, love Faneuil Hall.  Even the sidewalks remind me that this city is old and full of the birth of our nation.

Thank you for Duck Tours, Trolley Tours, Charles River Boat Tours and so much more.  I have enjoyed trekking around town in vehicles that seem to defy the narrow, crowded streets of Boston.

Thank you Cambridge for giving us East End House, a wonderful community center with the BEST childcare center we could have found.  RT will grow with the foundation of love and learning that Roger and I will always remember, even if RT forgets.  We also love The Friendly Toast and the Curious George Shop. 

Thank you Boston sports.  Your hockey team invites the fervor in a vast array of fans, the like I’ve never seen.  The Celtics embrace past teammates like no other.  The Patriots bring teams that I like to the area and continue to lose when it counts.  And the Red Sox; oh, how I love Fenway Park, even in the pouring rain.  You reminded us that Boston is our f***ing city when we needed it.  You welcomed Neil Diamond whose live rendition of a city favorite “Sweet Caroline” brought cheers and joy when it was needed more than ever.  And you went from really worst to unbelievably first.  In an exceptional run with boys wearing beards playing their hearts out, not just for their World Series Rings (nice as they are), but for a city, a beloved city.  I have never seen a city need a championship like I did last October.  And I’ve never seen a city celebrate one like this either—that Duck Boat parade is something I will never forget.

Thank you Boston for simultaneously grieving with raw emotion and showing strength and resolve.  The Marathon Bombings shook this city in real way.  Thank you police, all forms, for resolving to catch the bombers whatever it took.  Thank you Governor Patrick (my new political crush/hero) for asking us to “shelter in place” for our safety; and thanks Boston for sheltering without complaint!  I have never felt as safe as I did those days last April.
Thank you for a mass transit system that worked for us.  It isn’t perfect, but we got where we needed to go.

Thank you for awesome places to eat.  And for Dunkin Donuts.

Thank you for wonderful parks and playgrounds for a growing toddler to explore and enjoy. 

Thank you for top-notch healthcare and wonderful caring doctors.

Thank you for Northeastern and CPS for a great job and a flexible view on how education should be administered.

Thank you work friends, some of whom I will miss terribly.  It is always great to work with great people!

Boston, a city where “Life is Good” the clothing store was started has truly shown me that life is good.

There are so many more places and people that I would like to thank, but in the end, Boston, thank you for welcoming me home.  I will miss you…so very much.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Ah, Reading...

I read an entire book this weekend.  If you've known me very long, that probably doesn't really surprise you.  I used to be an avid reader.  I remember many nights staying up too late reading just a little bit more.  I skipped a class to finish the Harry Potter series.  I've ready Literature and indulgent trash.  I have always thought of myself as a reader.

Last year, I read 10 books that weren't work or class related.  10!!  I was so disappointed.  I turned to my Goodreads account and looked at my "To Read" list an decided to make a commitment (again) to read again.  I started well.  I used my Nook, which allowed me to pick up any number of tablet devices and read.  I finished a book about finances in a day or so.  I was in the groove.  I started reading The Book Thief and I really liked it.  But, then the battery to my Nook died, or I'd start to read and RT would take away my device to play with it. 

The other day, I went to Barnes and Noble, dangerously located across the street from my work, to get a book and a puzzle for RT.  I saw a thick beachy paperback.  I bought it for myself.  I read it over the weekend.  I feel energized.  I started another book last night.  I want to pick it up anytime I have a few minutes.  It hit me yesterday--I love reading, yes, but I love reading BOOKS!  As much as I want to love e-readers, I don't.

So, after we move, I'll find the closest library and get my first library card, not counting school cards, in years and years.  I have a long list of books to read.  I have my parents to supply me with second hand books.  I'll have the space to store them all.  Books, books, books...yes, please!  I am so happy with this revelation.

Tonight, I'll take a couple minutes to read Barbara Kingsolver's book on food.  And, I will enjoy every minute of it!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

On the Move...Again

We three Skophammers are moving yet again.  As much as I love Boston, I miss having family nearby.  It has been a struggle the past couple of years balancing trips to the Northern Plains with the desire to go somewhere else.  We have been a couple times to Maine and New Hampshire, but we just couldn't justify time away unless it was with family.  We've had a few visitors, but it is hard to bring large families across the country without breaking spending plans. 

So, Roger changed jobs at the beginning of the year and works from home.  He loves his position and his work.  And, he adores his time with RT!

I am able to keep my job and work virtually.  I am excited because I love this job and Northeastern and CPS. 

We found a house.  It is in Apple Valley.  It is at least three times bigger than where we currently live.  It will likely be pretty empty for awhile.  That's okay.  It leaves room for our home offices.

We lost our Tessa kitty a few weeks ago.  We saved her from a terrible life and gave her four years as the queen of our house.  She was spoiled!  We miss her, though Cookie seems to be settling into the role of the BOSS...she shares that title with RT.

RT will be leaving our beloved East End House Childcare Center.  I'm not sure he'll ever remember being there, but they have done such good work with him, they will always be a part of the boy RT becomes.  I will miss them terribly; he coordinator has become a good friend.

We will enjoy our last month in Boston.  My sister, Nikki, is coming for a visit at the end of the month.  We'll see some new places and try some delicious food.  And a couple weeks later, mid-April, we will say farewell to Jamaica Plain and Boston.  No doubt I will cry a few tears. 

But, I'll be back...and these years in Boston will always be a part of me.  Life is Good!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Parenting Alone

I admire single parents.  I do not know how they do it.  I have spent the past four days solo parenting and am exhausted.  I am ready for Roger to return, which he does this afternoon.

Parenting in general is hard work.  When Roger and I decided to try to have a child together, I knew it wouldn't be easy.  I had no idea.  The challenge of balancing my own identity with being Mom has confounded me.  I am  mom and wife and what else?  I work full time and am the IRB Coordinator, but even there, I am not me.  I am not even sure who "me" is anymore.  I realize the need to find out. 

But how do I do that?  I am not sure.  Once Roger is home again, I must try.