Tuesday, September 28, 2010

License to drive

Today my not-so-little-anymore little brother got his driver’s license. Scary.

Not scary because of his driving abilities. In fact, he’s a far better driver than I was at his age. I still don’t even know how I passed on the first try. But it’s scary because that makes me feel old.

I remember when my mom told me she was pregnant with my brother.  I was 10 years old and we went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. I was so excited to learn I was going to have a brother or sister. I immediately ran outside to call a friend and tell her the exciting news.  

I don’t remember tons from my mom’s pregnancy. I do remember when she was put on bed rest though. It was the end of summer and I was mad that my mom couldn’t do anything. I remember once screaming “I might as well be on bed rest too!” What a selfish drama queen I was.

The day he was born was so exciting. I got to miss school to be at the hospital. When he finally arrived I was downright giddy, but I was too nervous to hold him. A bunch of family came to visit and we went to a restaurant near the hospital for dinner. It wasn’t until we returned and everyone began leaving that I finally took my first turn holding him. And instantly I fell in love!

My brother was almost as much my pride and joy as he was my moms. I made her bring him to school for show and tell. I dressed him up (sometimes like a girl – sorry Charlie!). I took a million pictures. And even though I usually whined every time I had to babysit, I was excited to have a baby to play with whenever I wanted. I even remember a particularly hideous picture of the two of us dressed alike, which at the time was adorable and is now completely embarrassing. (Imagine my excitement when 3 years later I got another sibling – a sister!)

So like any siblings we’ve had moments where we drove each other crazy, but my brother has a heart of gold and I love him for it. It's fun to see how much better we get along now that we're both getting older. Now he towers over me, he's in high school, he can drive a car! Hard to believe it’s been 16 years since that day at United Hospital when I held him for the first time. It may make me feel old but also excited to see the young man that’s growing up before me.

Congrats again and happy (belated) birthday little brother!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Good grief

I know I promised to come back with a more positive attitude after Monday's mini-meltdown. I assure you I am in a much more positive mood. While the post that follows may not seem entirely uplifting, I hope that it does at times. Mostly, it's an honest account of my experiences with grief, my hopes for the grief process, and the lessons one book has been teaching me.

Earlier this week I started reading a book called Father Loss, a book about how sons of all ages cope with the death of their dads.

I wondered before starting it if I’d find it at all helpful or interesting, given that its primary audience includes several things that I am not—a male (and thus, a son) and someone whose lost a father (to death).

But I went into it with an open mind. I’m unfortunately all-too-familiar with losing a loved one (though never someone as close as a parent). And honestly for me, losing Sean’s dad did feel like the loss of a parent. If nothing else, being so close to him and his family through such a devastating loss brought me closer to this grief the book was going to explore.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Hopefully just a case of the Mondays

I can't quite say exactly why (perhaps because it feels as though it's the combination of a million things), but I am in the WORST mood today. I'm not sure whether I want to scream or cry or just throw something.

I can't even recall the last time I've felt this way. I think it's probably a result of a mountain of stressful things on the horizon right now, but I am just aching to go home and let out a good cry. I even contemplated leaving work early - something I never feel like doing only because of my mood. But of course I have so many meetings and so many things to do this afternoon that it's not even an option.

So hopefully I can chalk it up a case of the Mondays and it will be better by tomorrow. And you all know I love a good cry. That might help too.

I promise to come back with a more positive attitude later this week :)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

The grass is always greener

I’m not proud of this, but in the interest of being honest, I have to admit that I can be a jealous person sometimes.

Now, I know that envy is one of the seven deadly sins. To be perfectly clear, envy (by definition) involves having “painful or resentful awareness” of wanting something that someone else already has. Envy is also sometimes characterized as wishing to deprive someone of something you wish you had. For the record, I don’t ever wish to deprive anyone of something that makes them happy—ever. I also don’t resent anyone for having something, whether it’s something I want for myself or not.

My jealous tendencies are more wishful than envious. I wish for things that I want in my own life, and it just so happens that those wishes tend to intensify when I see those things in the hands of other people. It doesn’t mean I’m not happy for those people, and it doesn’t mean that I don’t think that other people deserve that same happiness. Because I am and I do—with my whole heart. I find joy in seeing other people happy.

So does that make me a bad person? I’d like to think that it’s ok sometimes to see in others the dreams you have for your own life, and to stop and reflect for a minute (or longer) on how much you hope to someday achieve that, too. So if you want to call it jealousy, or even envy, then so be it. I like to think it’s just passion, having goals, and feeling deeply about something that’s important to you.

But above all I appreciate the moments where I can step back from my so-called “jealousy” and look at the life I do have. To give thanks for the multitude of blessings—both big and small—that God has bestowed upon me and my family.

It’s easy to get lost in the yard, thinking about how green the grass is on the other side of the fence. But it’s so much more rewarding to stop and look around at the garden where you stand. To take note of the areas that need some special attention, and the areas that have bloomed so beautifully. It takes maintenance. You have to have dreams of what you want it to look like in the future and recognize the things that are already there that make it so beautiful.

Lately I feel like I’ve been focusing too much on the grass on the other side of the fence, and for some reason today I looked around me and realized how incredible my life really is. I’m surrounded by blessings. There are hard parts of life that will always make each day challenging, but I’m so lucky to have all that I do. So I have to say thank you to everyone who is a part of my beautiful life. And apologize to those who have to put up with me when I tend to focus too much on “wants” and not enough on what is already in front of me. I promise to try and look around me more often.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Two fabulous days at Target Field

For the past two days, my colleagues and I were hunkered down at Target Field for a department retreat (something they hope will become an annual tradition). I was a bit unsure of everything they had in store for us, but it turned out to be a really great experience.

In addition to the content of the retreat being great, it was pretty cool that it was at Target Field. The first day was sunny and cool, so we spent as many of our breaks as possible checking out the view from the stadium seats. We even recognized Justin Morneau running laps of the outfield to keep in shape while the team is in Chicago attempting to increase our lead in the division. Today was rainy and chilly so we didn’t get outside much, but the atmosphere of the stadium was energizing nonetheless.

Today they also surprised us by inviting us to go on a stadium tour. Despite the rain, we got to go on the field and in the dugout, as well as all the indoor greatness like the visitor’s clubhouse, champions club, and various shrines to Twins history.

Just a few of the photos I took on the tour :

Justin Morneau working out on the field:

Visitor's dugout

View of the field from the dugout:

Visitor's clubhouse. They also have a full kitchen (with a personal chef) and all sorts of coolers and shelves full of snacks and beverages.

Calling for relief :)

All in all, it was a great couple of days, and not just because of the venue. I’m genuinely excited to be part of a company like this. Even more, I’m excited to be part of a department and team full of great people!

The next two days will probably be busy with catch-up after two days out of the office, but I can see the weekend just around the corner and that’s all the motivation I need!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A mellow Monday

Not much wit to share with you today. After all, it is Monday. I can give you a brief recap of our weekend, though.

Friday night we went to our friends’ house for a barbecue and to cheer on the Twins. While the game was on, I don’t think I ever actually sat down in front of the TV. Such is life when you’re among good friends, I guess. At one point the boys were giving us pointers on how best to work out, and how to get the most from strength training without ever picking up a weight. What followed may or may not have included me in a on the floor in a plank position attempting to hold up my own weight as long as I possibly could (which, let’s face it, is not very long). Sometimes we tease them that they think they know everything about fitness, but I have to admit I do appreciate their advice.

Saturday I went to the gym early and even tried out some of the new moves the boys had taught me. Then Sean and I went to the first Gopher game of the season. It was a beautiful day, and despite their embarrassing loss, we had fun.

Saturday night Sean went to his high school reunion and I went to a dinner with my mom honoring her and other employees that celebrated their 15th, 20th, 25th, 30th, 35th, or even 40th anniversary with their company. It was actually quite fun. They have a large company so there were easily a couple thousand people there so it was a pretty elaborate affair.

The entertainment for the evening was a group called Human Nature. They sang Motown songs and were absolutely fabulous. I really enjoyed it. Apparently they have a show in Vegas, created in part with Smokey Robinson. If I ever make it there I’ll definitely have to check them out again. I’m already downloading some of their songs! I even won the centerpiece!

Sunday was a typical low-key day. Sean and I did our grocery shopping in the morning (I don’t know why, but the experience is always more enjoyable when we go together). I met with my group for the class I’m in right now, and followed it up with 2 and ½ hours of homework….yuck. This certainly isn’t my favorite class but we’re more than half way done, and when it’s over, I only have one class left! I spent the rest of the afternoon doing laundry and picking up the house and then headed to dinner with Sean’s family.

Today it was back to work and the seemingly long week ahead. We have a department retreat Tuesday and Wednesday, so it will be a good way to break up the routine and hopefully make the week go by quicker. The highlight of my day was coming home to find that Sean had made dinner. A delicious, and light, meal of Tilapia and rice. What a great husband, fiance, boyfriend! Just teasing! :) I really did appreciate it though!

More fun to look forward to this weekend, as soon as we make it through the week. Is it really almost the middle of September already? Where is this month going??

Thursday, September 9, 2010

It's been one of those days....

Yes, indeed, I’ve had one of those days. Thankfully, this was a rather mellow version of “one of those” days but enough to at least be comical (after the fact, or course).

On my way to the bus stop this morning I remembered I had a meeting this afternoon in which we were supposed to work on posters for our upcoming retreat. As the “leader” of one of the posters I realized I should probably come prepared, so I quickly ran to the store and armed myself with construction paper and markers.

I headed back to the bus stop, running a bit late, and park and rush to the stop. As I’m standing there reading my emails, I wonder to myself if I forgot my phone in the car. I look down the road to see how close the bus is and wonder if I have time to run across the street to look for my phone. I begin to cross when I realize it – duh! My phone, yes the one I was checking my email on while having this very thought, was in my hand! I think this should have been my red flag for the day. Needless to say I turned around and successfully boarded the bus in time.

I made it to work just fine and then, during our standard morning meeting, the heel on my shoe broke. The bottom part of it fell right off, while just SITTING there. Of course it does! Lucky for me I keep a generous stash of shoes in my cabinet.

The middle part of my day was mostly cloudy – changes in our department, lots of meetings, and just plain busy.

I headed home around 4:30 and settled in on the bus to decompress with my book. I was zipping right through, barely noticing the traffic we were stuck in and before I know it my regular stop was approaching. I hopped off, turned to cross the street to my car, and it’s nowhere to be found.

I began running through the scenarios in my head. Did I get towed? Did Sean move it as a joke, as he’s often teased he would? And then I remembered...I didn’t park in my usual spot, because I was running late this morning!!!

So I turn to walk the 8 blocks back to where my car was actually parked. Meanwhile my feet begin to hurt and blister because I was wearing a pair of shoes I didn’t plan on wearing, and if I had, I would’ve worn socks!

Hey, at least everything came full circle - the broken shoe, being late this morning - all contributors to this wonderful day!

Thankfully, I made it safely to the deli to pick up dinner and quickly recovered with pajamas and a yummy meal (not the greasy, fatty comfort food I would normally go for after a day like today – thankfully Sean talked me out of that one!). The good news is that tomorrow is Friday and we have fun things to do this weekend. It’s been a long day – a long week – and I’m ready for a break!!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

The secret to fashion - for a 13-year-old

I finally learned the secret to the hairstyle so popular among teenage girls around here. Too bad it's just a few years too late.

In high school, I remember so many girls who would wear their hair in an adorably messy ponytail/bun and I could never, for the life of me, replicate it with my own mane. I had pretty much given up hope.

Fast forward almost 10 years (or more if you count my early high school years) and enter my 13-year-old sister.

We were in the car on our way out to dinner the other night and from the backseat (yes, somehow she got front seat over her sister twice her age) I noticed the all-too-familiar hairstyle.

I immediately demanded she share the secret. Does it take 2 ponytail holders? Bobby pins? I mean, they make it look so effortless!

Clearly this is something I’ve spent too much time fretting about.

Sure enough she pulls her hair down, tells me to follow her lead, and in a matter of seconds her hair is back in the ridiculously cute rats nest (oxymoron?) at the top of her head.

It was like learning to tie my shoe. It took a few tries but I nailed it, and I was so excited! I wanted to wear shoes that tie—err, I mean my hair in a messy ponytail—everyday!

But then I remembered that I’m not a 13-year-old girl. Far from it in fact. And that’s fine, you don’t have to be a teenager to sport this style, but if you’re not one, it’s probably wise to at least do it in moderation. At least not the less sophisticated messy bun version – there’s plenty more polished looks in style these days. And let's face it, unlike girls like my sister, when I'm decked out in my baggy clothes, ugg boots, and messy hair, it's not called stylish, it's called frumpy.

So now I find myself resisting the urge to pull my hair up into this messy delight at work, because while it may be cute, it’s not exactly professional. And even though I don’t always act like it, I am a grown up and I’m pretty sure they expect me to act like it—and look like it—while I’m here.

Monday, September 6, 2010

My summer in pictures

Every year, Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer, probably because of all the years it signaled our return to school after 3 months of glorious freedom.

Summer isn’t much more exciting than any other season now that I’m a “grown up” (except that I get to wear jeans to work whenever I want!), but the warm weather is still a nice treat.

Here are some highlights from this summer:

Before our first game at Target Field for Sean's birthday (and part of our new house in the background!):

Spending the day out on the lake on Kyle's boat (Katie and me):

My cousin had a beautiful baby girl. Welcome Leah!

Sean and I spent a beautiful weekend in Duluth:

We had the first annual memorial golf tournament for Sean's dad. A wonderful turnout, a beautiful day, and a lot of fun remembering a great man.

And our aforementioned weekend in Crosslake with friends

So just a few memories of a great summer. I wasn't as great about taking photos this summer as I usually am (if you don't already know, you'll learn quickly that I'm a FREAK about photos).

Fall is one of my favorite seasons, except that it means winter is next. I'm looking forward to this fall and all that will come with it. I know one thing I'm looking forward to for sure: finishing graduate school (assuming I can pass these last 2 classes). Other fall fun to look forward to: annual apple orchard trip, Halloween, football games, weddings, and more. Bring it on!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Where were you 5 years ago?

It’s funny to think about what can happen in 5 years: how different your life can be, or even how much can be the same. Whenever someone asks the quintessential question – where do you want to be in 5 years – I think about how short 5 years may feel but how much can happen in that time.

When we took a family vacation with Sean’s family over New Year’s this year, we sat around the living room of our house in Manhattan Beach one afternoon talking about where we’d be in 10 years. Us kids married, with kids of our own, working in our dream jobs. Some very realistic goals, and some lofty ones. It was fun and exciting to try and picture ourselves so far down the road, but also strange to imagine life any differently than it is right now.

Seeing how fast the last 5 years of my life have gone, I can hardly imagine I’ll accomplish all my lofty goals in twice that time, but certainly we can try!

But I digress. I actually started this post for a reason. I was remembering today where I was 5 years ago, and let me tell you, I was not a happy camper.

Five years ago today, Sean left for college, two and a half hours away! It doesn’t seem like much, especially compared to the 6+ hours away his younger brother is now, but at the time, we might as well have been an ocean apart.

We hadn’t even been dating a year, but I spent the entire summer leading up to it physically sick at the thought of him leaving. I remember on several occasions dropping him off at home after a night out with friends and bursting into pathetic sobs because we were another day closer to him leaving. D-R-A-M-A. Might as well be my middle name. (Funny how this is the second post and the second story that involves me crying more than I should.)

I wanted to be there to drop him off, but was worried about driving the two and a half hours home with his family when I knew I’d barely be able to compose myself. I fought for driving on my own, giving me time to say goodbye and cry alone the whole way home, but thankfully his mom insisted I ride with them. Good thing I listened!

We arrived mid-morning and hauled his things up the three flights to the room he was sharing with his high school friend. We unpacked, reorganized, and made the typical first-day-of-college trips—to Target, the bookstore, the family BBQ on campus. I held it together pretty well. By the time we were saying our goodbyes in the parking lot of his dorm, I was overwhelmed. We took some photos and his family said their goodbyes first.

Adorable picture - but his middle brother wasn't there and his youngest brother looks so different now I can hardly stand it. Even Sean looks younger. I will not be sharing the photo of the two of us from that day. All I can think of when I look at it is the quote from Home Alone: "Buzz's girlfriend...woof!" Let's just say better late than never but I've worked very hard in the last year to not look like that anymore!

Anyway, Sean's family was so sweet. They went to the car to allow Sean and I some time to say goodbye. That’s when I lost it. He refuses to admit it, but I remember clearly that he started to tear up and said he wasn’t sure he was ready to be there yet. I cried. Told him I knew he’d be great. He’d have lots of fun. And it helped that he knew quite a few people at UMD. Before our final hug, he told me he loved me for the first time. A complete bittersweet moment, since I was devastated to be leaving him but thrilled to hear him say those words (especially since I had already said them weeks before, hah!).

So we hopped back in the minivan and made our way back to St. Paul. Sean’s mom sat in back with me, both of us sharing a box of tissues and crying quietly. When I got home I went straight to my bed and cried. My mom came in a little later and convinced me to get up and go with her to visit my cousin Andrew, his girlfriend Melissa, and their brand-new baby boy at the hospital. Happy birthday Taylor! He’s part of the reason I’ll always remember the day Sean left for college.

Crazy to think of what has changed, what’s remained the same, and what we’ve gotten through together since that day 5 years ago. If you had asked me on that day where I’d be in 5 years, I don’t know if this – this life – would be my answer. So much of it is unpredictable. We've had a lot of fun, a lot of memories, in these last 5 years. There are plenty of sad times I would change in a heartbeat if I could, but we made it. Here we are 5 years later and we’ve come a long way. And I couldn’t be happier.