One Track Heart

I love my father, but man is that Old Man stubborn. In his mind he is a young man and his body should be able to do what he wants it to do. But he is getting older and he really shouldn’t be doing a lot of the things he wants to keep doing by himself. He owns two homes and maintains two properties, cutting the grass every week at his house and at the lake house, bagging leaves at two houses in the fall, and caring for all of the other little things that come up. His motto is don’t pay someone else to do something you can do yourself. The problem is, he thinks he can do everything. A few weeks ago we took the boat out of the water and his brother helped, which was great. The problem is when you get these two brothers together, somehow the process of everything we are doing becomes twice as long. It’s like the two of them together creates a space time contingency where everything slows down.

We would normally have taken the dock apart and gotten the boat lift out of the water on the same day, but my mother-in-law was in town and we didn’t want to keep her waiting. Ironically, as soon as my husband and I walked into the house our daughter was mad that we returned so early because she wanted to play with Grandma alone. The weather was warm and it was a great day to be outside, so they spent the day playing in the yard.

The following weekend was not so nice. It was cold and windy, so naturally that was the best time to get the dock out of the water. My dad has three sets of waders just for this job. Two pair are more rubber and less fitted and one is like a scuba suit. I immediately grabbed the scuba suit and headed for the water. I’m no fool. My husband and dad were left with the rubber pants. I had worn these same rubber pants in the spring when we put the dock in the water, so I knew they were great for keeping you dry, but not very good at keeping you warm. Since my husband had only ever worn the scuba suit, he walked out barefoot in his bathing suit only to find the rubber booted waders waiting for him. Instead of putting his jeans and shoes back on, he threw the waders on and headed for the water where my dad was already trying to dismantle the dock by himself since he’s clearly a young, strong man who needs no help. 

We spent the next three hours hauling the dock and boat lift out of the water, where anything that could have gone wrong did. My husband was freezing and forming blisters on his feet, my scuba suit feet were flopping around in the water in front of me as I walked because the suit was made for someone at least a foot taller than me, and my dad was bleeding on his forearms after having the dock scrape him. At some point we also disrupted a bee hive between the rocks on the beach so we were being attacked by angry bees as we carried the dock out of the water. My mom was running around trying to bandage up my dad, kill the bees before we walked in with another piece of dock, and make sure that my dad was not over exerting himself. At one point she was even trying to help us pull the boat lift out of the water with the lawn mower, but she was nervous about giving it too much gas and knocking one of us down or pulling the lift into the wave runner lifts which were also lying on the beach. Putting a nervous older woman behind the wheel of anything is never a great idea. It’s an even worse idea when you have three idiots in rubber pants standing behind her yelling.

By the end of the day both my mom and my husband were looking up companies who could come out to take care of all of this work next year. Between the two of them I’ll be surprised if my dad doesn’t wake up one morning in the spring to find his dock and the lifts in the water, having been put there by people who actually know how to do this stuff.

It was a good thing that my mom was occupied on the third weekend we went out to finish up our lake winterization project. She probably would have had a heart attack watching my dad climb around on the boat lift like a monkey removing the canopy. My husband did his best to stay ahead of the old man with the ladders and tools, but peter pan moves pretty quickly and was standing on top of a ladder pulling at bungy chords and pushing the canopy off the side of the frame in no time. I was beginning to see why my mom is on high blood pressure medicine after that day.

My husband added up all the hours that we spent and decided that it was well worth the cost to pay someone else to do this next year. He told me all about it but I wasn’t really listening because I had been preoccupied for the last week and a half trying to get the videos on my phone onto my computer. I’m not great with technology, so things like this take me hours upon hours to resolve. When I was finally frustrated enough to throw my phone out the window, I asked my husband for help with tears in my eyes. He said “no problem Pat Jr. You realize I fix these types of problems at work for people all week right?” Oh crap. Just when I thought my biggest fear was turning into my mother, it’s not. It’s turning into my father and I already have.

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The Collectors

There is a house at the end of our street that is slowly decorating the outside with it’s insides. There are rocking chairs on the front porch and chairs with cushions on the back deck. Last year I noticed several new planter boxes and a bench in their front yard. A few months ago a painting appeared on their front porch. I am waiting for a couch to appear on their deck. I have to wonder what the inside of their house looks like if they have run out of wall space for paintings. The funniest part about this painting is that it is of an outdoor scene. So whoever hung it apparently thought that the actual flowers and trees in their yard were not nearly enough nature and a painting of nature was necessary to create the proper outdoor vibe.

I know a hoarder when I see one. I come from a family of hoarders. My grandparents had geese on their front porch that my grandma dressed in outfits according to the season. Have you ever seen a goose in a sweater? If so, you may have lived next door to my grandparents at some point. When my grandpa retired he spent a lot of time finding new projects to make. He made bird houses out of license plates and garden figures out of wood. As they made their way to my parents’ house I watched my dad turn them into garbage by accidentally running into them with the lawnmower or dropping them onto rocks. My dad’s fingers were never as buttery as when he was attempting to hang one of my grandpa’s new creations. It wasn’t that my dad didn’t like these decorations, there was just too much stuff in the yard already.

My mom decorated the backyard with some interesting pieces. For years an old fashioned sewing machine table stood next to the fence. It was surrounded by river rocks and bushes. The entire perimeter of their backyard consisted of bushes and plants, but in any open space my mom found, some form of a decoration appeared. There were fishing nets and sea shells, terracotta angels and birdhouses. I could understand the nautical decor since they had a pool, but what a sewing machine stand had to do with a relaxing backyard was beyond me. Maybe she had a lot of Quaker friends who would appreciate it, but I didn’t get the concept at all. This item was replaced by an old fashioned pipe radiator at some point which makes a little more sense to me because maybe people need to heat up a little after they get out of the pool. It would make even more sense if my parents’ pool wasn’t heated to a very comfortable bath water degree most of the season.

I think my husband sees the pattern and has that fear that all women eventually turn into their mothers because he secretly throws out things when I am not paying attention. He used to sneak things into the monthly bags of donations on the front porch before he left for work in the morning hoping I wouldn’t go retrieve them before I left the house a few hours later. This came to an end when I quit leaving the house in the morning. I don’t know how he smuggles the stuff out now, but I looked around our garage last week for an hour trying to find my flag that goes up during football season with no luck, so he’s getting it out of here somehow.

I can see where his fear comes from though. While decorating for fall I found that I had not one but four fall themed wreathes in the basement. We have one front door so I’m not sure what will become of the other three. I guess I could always walk them down the street and see if the neighbors need one. Maybe I will drop it off on my way out to buy a new Spartans flag.

I wrote this post while listening to the new Interrupters album

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Kindness Wins Again

My daughter is a very kind child. It’s one of her greatest attributes and I hope she is always able to reach into that place in herself and remain kind as she grows up and learns that others in the world are not often like her. She displayed some of this kindness while we were on a family vacation this weekend, and as always I was impressed with her ability to be compassionate at such a young age.

We go to a Great Wolf Lodge a few times a year for little weekend getaways. It’s a hotel with a water park and other fun stuff for kids to do. My parents love spending time with Riley and they decided since we hadn’t gotten away for a little while as a family, we should all go. So the five of us jumped in the car and took a little three hour trip up north. I have to say, my parents are great sports when it comes to doing things for their grandchild. We stayed in a suite that had a little log cabin in one room with bunk beds. My husband and I slept in there with our daughter the first night and it was like sleeping on a medieval torture device. When she declared she wanted her grandparents to sleep in there the second night they gladly agreed. They had seen the beds and my husband and myself after a night in the beds, but they slept there anyway. They also dragged their elderly butts up 57 steps to the top of a three person raft water slide repeatedly over the course of the weekend just to be able to bounce around and hear their grandchild laugh firsthand. I know it was 57 steps because my mother counted them on her first trip up.

One of the other activities that my daughter likes to do at the hotel is called Magic Quest. It’s basically a bunch of scavenger hunts in the hotel to earn badges. If you complete all of the quests you are named a master magi, a title which is highly revered by seven year olds. My daughter spent many hours in between playing in the water park, pumping half of my dad’s paycheck into arcade games and stuffing all form of sugar in her mouth running around the hotel gathering runes to complete her quests. Her favorite person to do this with was of course her grandpa. We all got to play at some point, but by the end of the trip she was grabbing his hand and sneaking out the door to go adventuring with her favorite playmate.

On our day of departure she had one more quest to complete to become a quest master. She and her grandpa were working diligently to complete the job before we had to leave. With only about fifteen minutes to go they ran across a little boy who was struggling to complete the quest he was working on. They stopped to help and my dad explained to her that if she helped the little boy she would not have time to finish her own quest and become a master. She thought about it for a few moments and said “that’s okay, he needs help. I want to help him.” So she did. She abandoned her own journey to help him finish his quest with no complaints. I came in after loading the car and started to round up the troops when my dad shared this story with me. He said “You created a good one there.” I would have to agree.

We all gathered together and helped our little magi who had to go back to the beginning of her quest and start over because there was a time limit. She ran around the hotel and with a little help from her dad and myself, she was able to find all of the runes and become a master magi. It’s funny the things you learn from your kids. Earlier in the trip my daughter had stopped to pick up a pair of wolf ears that a little girl dropped on the floor. She handed them back to the little girl who was in a panic because at first she thought that my daughter was picking up the ears for herself. The girl turned to her mother and said “Mama, that little girl just gave me back my ears. She picked them up for me!” She was surprised by my daughter’s kindness. I watched lots of other kids pushing and shoving their way through lines, knocking down smaller kids over the weekend. I even watched a dad leave his kid behind on the steps to make it to the front of the line for a raft. I am grateful that my daughter isn’t making her way through life like that. I’m proud of her for stopping to pick up the ears for another kid, and for abandoning her mission to help someone else because it was the right thing to do. We did create a pretty good little human being. I am so grateful that I get to learn from her every day.

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The Graduate

Graduation parties are always fun because they bring together groups of people who wouldn’t normally be at the same party. You have the graduate and his friends, family, friends of the parents of the graduate as well as co-workers, neighbors and anyone else the graduate may have come into contact with over the course of their seventeen years on the planet. So you often times have people from all walks of life in the same space for a few hours. It’s kind of like being at the post office, but with cake. I attended a graduation party this summer for my cousin’s son – also known as my daughter’s favorite cousin. He has three sisters so he puts up with a lot of abuse, and he is the sweetest guy, probably because of it.

Walking in to the party there was a group of people coming up that I didn’t know. It’s not that unusual that I would run into people at my cousin’s house who I didn’t know, but one of them in particular was someone I didn’t expect to see in my life. She was a larger African American woman who could have been in the cast of “Orange is the New Black”. It took me a little bit of time in wandering around the party and catching bits and pieces of conversations to put two and two together that she was in fact an ex-convict that was one of the women that my cousin met at his previous job. He worked at a women’s correctional facility as an electrician and they had a program that taught the inmates job skills for when they were released.

I spent a lot of the time at the party shadowing my daughter as she followed the older kids around playing. Most of her cousins are older than she is so she chases them around trying to keep up for awhile. Then she finally gives up and plays with her younger male cousin who is always up for jumping on the trampoline or running around the house. I chatted with some of my cousins and walked around grazing on food.

At some point my cousin and some of his work friends came in to start doing shots in the kitchen. This is normally about the time I leave parties. I don’t drink and I don’t spend a lot of time around people who are drinking a lot unless I am at concerts, and even then, I don’t really interact with people who are drinking heavily. As I was getting my daughter prepared to leave, Crazy Eyes came walking over with my cousin in tow asking “Who is this lady? I’ve been seeing her all day and I really need to meet her.” She said this all swaying a little and smiling at me like she was the big bad wolf getting ready to devour me. My cousin introduced me and she went on to tell me how my cousin saved her life, that she would probably be out on the street if it weren’t for his help. It warmed my heart to hear that my cousin was able to help someone in this way. I had heard many of the crazy stories about the inmates and what went on behind bars. But here was a woman who he helped to guide in the right direction just by helping provide her a skill that would keep her on the straight and narrow once she was back on her own.

I was also very aware that she had been holding onto my hand the entire time she told this story and had stepped in a little closer. A little bit of liquid lubricant and a heart warming story had turned my cousin’s kitchen into a lesbian bar on 8 mile. I told her it was lovely to meet her, wished her the best of luck in her endeavors and headed for the door. It took us another twenty minutes to actually leave since my daughter had found the guest of honor and had to go sign his graduation guest book stuffed dog. They said their goodbyes as we headed out to the car. I just love graduation parties. It is truly the only place I ever get hit on by ex-convict lesbians anymore. I really am getting rather old and dull.

I wrote this piece while listening to the ” target=”_blank” rel=”noopener”>Dropkick Murphys

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Mother of the Year Part Eleven Million and One

My daughter attends the same school that I went to as a kid. It’s a small Catholic school with many long standing traditions. At the end of school masses and functions everyone in attendance sings the school song, gouter is shared daily and there are service days and conge. Another long standing tradition is the 1:15 dismissal on Wednesdays. Growing up, Wednesday was my favorite day because my dad would pick me up from school and we would go eat french onion soup and hang out. When the weather was nice, he would pick me up on his motorcycle. Some of my fondest memories as a child occurred on Wednesdays.

My daughter has been picked up from school at 1:15 by her grandparents for the last four years. They drove to the school yesterday just like every other previous Wednesday only to find a bunch of younger children waiting to get picked up, but not their grandchild. My daughter is now in second grade which is lower school and lower school does not have early dismissal on any day. I would have known this if I had looked at things like the website, school forms or after school sign ups, but I didn’t. My memory of Wednesday afternoons with my dad was so strong that it never even occurred to me that things may have changed in the thirty years since I ran through those doors to jump on the back of his motorcycle. So everyone in my family was under the impression that my kiddo would get to spend Wednesday afternoons with her grandparents the same way I spent them with my dad, but this is not the case.

Needless to say, my parents were pretty disappointed to not be able to spend that time with their favorite person on the planet, my daughter was sad that she didn’t get to see her grandparents and I’m pretty much where I always am, screwing things up somehow. I did at least get to laugh with the faculty when I picked up my daughter at her normal dismissal time. I told them I would see them at 1:15 next week.

I wrote this while listening to The Chats.

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