Tuesday, February 23, 2016

10 Facts My Children Should Know About Women

A good friend of mine posted a photo tonight, with this as the caption:

10 Facts Every Woman Should Know:

1. Everyone has rolls when they bend over.
2. When someone tells you that you're beautiful, believe them. They aren't lying.
3. Sometimes we all wake up with breath that could kill a goat.
4. For every woman unhappy with her stretch marks is another woman who wishes she had them.
5. You should definitely have more confidence. And if you saw yourself the way others see you, you would.
6. Don't look for a man to save you. Be able to save yourself.
7. It's okay to not love every part of your body....but you should.
8. We all have that one friend who seems to have it all together. That woman with the seemingly perfect life. Well, you might be that woman to someone else.
9. You should be a priority. Not an option, a last resort, or a backup plan.
10. You're a woman. That alone makes you pretty damn remarkable.

Everything on this list is spot on.

She has two daughters, the same ages as our boys. Both daughters are fiercely independent and often times challenge everything she taught them. We became fast friends in 2008 after being introduced by our oldest kids. We spent the evening carting around our kids, and at least fifteen more with the help of another couple. It was an epic night, spent crawling, walking and running (!) around a haunted woods.

I can only imagine what it's like to raise daughters, since my life has been surrounded with jeans wearing, football playing, hole digging and toilet missing boys. I grew up with three brothers and a tom-boy sister. My best friends were guys. I only wore dresses under protest, and my idea of a date night can often be cheap pizza and a movie. When my husband and I decided to have kids, we knew we were going to have boys...at least a pretty good idea we would have boys, since he came from a family whose boy/girl ratio is about 95%/5%. I thanked our lucky stars we had boys. I am confident I would not have made a good mom to girls.

With that being said, I would love to write the 10 facts that every man should know. But, I'm a realist, and I have no idea what a man should know, because even if I write them down, they wouldn't listen. I will, however, give you the 10 Facts My Children Should Know (About Women) as a supplement to the above list:

1. Yes, she might have rolls, but they make her, her. Never, ever, ever mention them. You are not perfect. If you claim to be perfect, have her call me, and I will break out every childhood secret that you thought I've forgotten.
2. Tell her she's beautiful, even when she's wearing your old sweatpants and a t-shirt from the hamper.
3. Truth. Sorry. If it's that bad, yours is probably worse.
4. You won't get this until you decide to have kids. Stretch marks, cesarean scars and saggy boobs are part of the package. If she has them it means she birthed your children. If she doesn't, it doesn't make her less of a woman. Make sure she knows that.
5. Be her biggest fan. Give her a pep talk when you know she needs to deal with a shitty boss or has a huge project due. And make sure you check in on her after you know she's done. It means you care.
6. She really doesn't need you. If dad and I raised you right, she's independent, won't take your shit and still choose you. Give her a reason to need you.
7. Even if she doesn't love every part of her body, you should.
8. If she talks about her seemingly perfect friend, don't agree with her. Cut her friend down even if you think her friend is more put-together than your wife/girlfriend. If you don't, it will end badly for you. I promise you that.
9. She is a priority. Yes, you can go out with your friends, but be certain to never question when she goes out with hers. Trust that no matter where she goes, she will come home to you.
10. She.Is.Remarkable. Period. Make sure she knows that.

I hope my children read this, but if they don't, I will read it to them. They may roll their eyes or pay attention to their cell phone instead. But I know that in my heart they already know this because of how my husband treats me.

Friday, February 19, 2016

The Things That Keep Me Up At Night

Every night it takes me a good two hours to fall asleep once I crawl into bed.    My husband can, and does, fall asleep within minutes of his head hitting the pillow.  I can't fall asleep that fast in bed, but put me in the truck and I'm like a baby snuggled up in her car seat being lulled to sleep by the movement of the drive.

I have been been guilty of taking three hour naps on a Sunday afternoon.  Three.Hours. That's not a nap, that's half a nights sleep!

Some of the random things that have popped in my head of late while trying to fall asleep:

Wanting just one more chapter. I'm digging into a good book and I don't want to stop reading.  If I do I know I can't pick it up again until after a full day of work.

Why do the dogs find it necessary to act like ninjas and sneak onto the bed and then lay directly on my ankle bone.

What's it going to be like when we are empty nesters?  How will the grocery bills drop? Will I be able to cook for two instead of four? When will we see the kids?   Will our oldest show our youngest the ropes, or will the youngest because a victim of being duct taped to the wall?  Will our youngest analyze everyone he comes in contact with? Will he call home?

What will it be like on Friday night's in fall when we aren't at football games?  What's it going to be like getting free time back?

Why is it that my mother plays favorites and is ok with not keeping in contact with all five of her children?

Once our kids finish college, how often will we see them?

Why do people only contact you when they need something?  We have had someone reach out that pretty much thinks they are entitled, but haven't talked to us in months.

What's with teenage girls sticking their tongues out in every picture.  (This doesn't keep me up at night, I just want to know why.  You might as well add bathroom selfies and gangster poses to the mix.)

Why is it that no matter how settled I am in bed, inevitably I need to pee?

Is it possible to pick up a dream that you started the night before?

What will it take for me to get my teaching license?

Will anyone ever buy my photographs?  What about my book?

Does my blog even matter?

Will this be a good year?

I need to try putting down the book at night and attempt to go to sleep at a decent hour.  Honey, I promise I will try not to alligator roll and steal all the covers, if you promise to stop falling asleep so fast.  And puppies, stop farting in bed.  It isn't cool.

Life As I Know It Is Changing

Yesterday was an eye opener.  Our oldest texted and said he needed to order his cap and gown for his college commencement.  It seems like just yesterday my husband and I were walking him to his first day of kindergarten.  While commencement is a huge milestone, he will still have a couple of classes to finish, but he wants to walk with his friends. I am so proud that he's taken the initiative to make that happen.  That's a big change from when he graduated from high school...he left for college without saying a word.  

Couple this with knowing our youngest graduates high school in just 113 days and in just six short months will be knee deep in football practice getting ready for his freshman year of college, I'm teetering on the line between sheer panic and utter joy.  I don't doubt that our youngest might leave for college with the same amount of fanfare.  He's ready to get his life started and I think now as a senior is just going through the motions, wanting it to be June.

I've been getting LinkedIn requests from kids that are now graduating college.  Kids that were at our kids birthday parties and those we took to the haunted woods.  Kids that I've seen cry because they dropped their milk in the lunchroom, and kids that I've watched throw game winning touchdowns and those dancing at halftime.  Kids that came to us for advice when they couldn't talk to their own parents.  Now they are graduating and being unleashed into the world.

Where do the years go?  We have friends our age with kids our kids ages and they are in the same boat.  We also friends our age with kids that are toddlers, that have no idea what they are in for.  We have friends whose kids have kids of their own.  That one kind of freaks me out.  So many are barely out of high school and are now responsible for someone other than themselves.

At 18 there was no way I would have been ready for kids.  I was barely ready for college, and had a tough time taking care of myself.  I met my husband at 18 and we married at 22; had one kid at 24 (him) and 23 (me), and one at 28 (both of us).  Here we are 22 and almost 18 years later and the boys are getting ready to take on the world.

There were days I wasn't quite sure on getting married so young.   Were we ready?  Probably not, but we loved each other and that's all that mattered.  When we had kids, I know we weren't ready, but we knew we wanted them and we wanted to be young parents.  

So here I sit, just four months from my 46th birthday, and am thankful that we were/are young enough to enjoy our kids, and if the stars align, we will be able to enjoy our grandkids (boys..that's still years off, right?)  God willing, there will be great-grandchildren in our futures as well.

I can't imagine what our friends with toddlers and grade school age children are going through now.  I'm exhausted just thinking about it.  I'm happy we had our kids young, it's not for everyone.  Nor is having them in your mid to late thirties.  In retrospect, those friends probably traveled more than we did in our twenties, and went out with friends who didn't have to get home to relieve the babysitter and those that had adventures.  Our twenties and thirties were filled with diapers, helping with homework and trying to get them out of high school alive.  We are now on the cusp of being able to travel and can now truly enjoy what life has to offer. 

Life is changing.  Every day I get a little older, and perhaps a littler wiser.  I look forward to see what our kids future holds and those futures of our friends and their families.  Life's too short to not enjoy it. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Facebook Friends vs Real Friends: To Delete or Not

For the better part of nine years, I have been active on Facebook.  I joined way back when in an effort to keep an eye on my kids.  The oldest wanted one after a brief stint with MySpace, and my only caveat was that he add me as a friend, and at the time get access to his password.  It was so new that I was like many parents and wanted to keep an eye on what he was posting, and what his friends were posting.  I did the same thing for our youngest.

As time progressed, I stopped checking in, because frankly, my husband and I raised pretty good kids and they didn't post things that would make their grandmothers cringe, nor that would prevent college coaches from recruiting them.

I always thought having 350+ friends was pretty impressive.  Many, many students requested me because of the thousands of pictures I would take a games.  Others requested me because I was friends with their parents, or they were friends with our kids.  Eveyone wanted to see the pictures.

I have spent countless hours online posting pictures Thursday nights, Friday nights and some Saturday's.  I've edited and tagged player after player, parent after parent, grandparent after grandparent.

Once the season ended last fall, I continued to keep people informed.  Much to my dismay, no one really gave a shit.  The season was over and nothing will matter until next season.  Last month, I started deleting.  Kids, parents, grandparents that I have had virtually no interaction with.  At first, I was surprised that I could so easily delete. I've had these people on my friends list for years, but those that have been deleted were never real friends.  They never even questioned why they can't access pictures any more.  Maybe they used me as a resource.  The ones I've kept, say thank you, appreciate dedication, and laugh at my stupid jokes and posts.

The rest of my list has been colleagues that I trust with my info, friends that I've reconnected with from high school, and family.  I'm finding myself unfollowing, but not unfriending, because of the drama that it will cause.  Maybe I'm just projecting and those people won't even notice if I delete them.

What I can't figure out is why some of the people I'm connected with find it necessary to have thousands of friends.  How is that even possible when you are not famous?  Does everyone on your list really care when you go to the grocery store or what you are making for dinner?  Or are they like me and just keep you on their list for the sheer enjoyment of the bullshit that continually comes out of your mouth?  Thus the reason for unfollowing.

Better yet, why do I even care if someone unfollows or unfollows me?  Why do I care if someone has 2,000 friends?  That just sounds unnecessarily exhausting.  I'm not in high school.  I don't need to be liked or need the validation of having 2,000 friends.  Who really cares?  True friends know the real me and actually pick up the phone and call or stop by.  I like to keep up with friends from years past, but have limited that list too.  I love being connected to old colleagues that are still friends.  And parents from the boys school that go through that same things we go through.  So many are real friends.  Those that aren't, have been or will be deleted.

It shouldn't matter if people like my photography, or follow my blog or bought my book.  If you like it, follow the page or buy a picture.  Read the blog.  Get the book.  If you don't, by all means, delete me.  I do it all because I love it.  But you'll have to be a very special person to get me to do something for you because I have been burned too many times.  If I have learned anything in the last six months, I certainly will not do it for free anymore.  If you don't want to know about our kids getting into a great college, or something great I think they've done, please, delete me.

Maybe my husband has it right.  23 friends, and no guilt for not adding relatives.

Consider yourself lucky if you are still getting my posts.  If you don't, I'm ok if you delete me.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Where's the downtime?

Is it too much to ask for a week of downtime where the phone doesn't ring, the emails never come and the mail doesn't show up?  Seven full days where you don't get text messages.  Seven nights where you can eat an apple for dinner or a full cake and there will be no repercussions.

No panicked phone calls when you don't answer after the first ring, followed by every phone in your house ringing because you haven't answered the first call.

You know why this doesn't happen?  It's because we are adults.  And we have responsibilities.  We are responsible for ourselves. For our spouse, our kids, our pets.  We have to answer our boss because it's our job and when we don't answer we get questioned.  We have to reply to emails and texts because we are now a society that finds it necessary to respond almost instantaneously.

There is something to be said for living off the grid, and not having 24/7 communication. I'm not saying it would be perfect, because frankly, I need my internet.  I need my cell phone.  I need movies and access to a millions books that I can download.  My kids need their video games and access to their phones.  My husband loves looking through Craigslist and watching ridiculous videos.

The other night, when were on our way to the cottage, my husbands phone rang while he was outside the truck.  I ignored it because I was trying to pull dinner together (fast food...I don't recommend it).  Then my phone rang, but it was on silent.  When get got back in the truck, his phone rang again.  And the panic on the other end was 'where were you??'   Remember the days when your phone rang at home and you had no idea who was on the other line?  It was like Russian roulette... It could be your sister, or your father, or someone looking for your fourth cousin twice removed.  You could travel 200 miles and not have contact with the world.

When you left your parents house, you would hear mom say "call me when I get there, so I know you are safe."  Now, I find myself even saying that to my mom when she would leave our house...or I would call all on my own.

I have our oldest text when he goes from his school to his girlfriends school.  I have our  youngest check in if he is going to be late.

I think about what it was like when we were growing up and we just needed to make sure we were home when the street lights went on...and if you weren't your ass would be grass.  As an adult, we now feel the need to be connected 24/7/365.    We leave our cell phones on and next to our beds in case something happens to an aging parent.  We check on our kids when they aren't home, just to make sure they are ok.  We jump when our boss says jump.  We answer emails right away.

Life's too short to be on command all the time.  You need to take time for yourself.  Even if it means you can't take a seven day vacation where nothing else matters.  Maybe it's as simple just not picking up the phone and forgetting to check your mail.  Maybe it's time to skip being an adult even for an afternoon.  Go outside and make a snow angel.  Play hooky one day on your own and see that movie you've been dying to see.  Don't forget to get that tub of popcorn you won't need to share.  Tell your boss no.  Then when it's all done, and you need to be an adult again, you can do it with a smile on your face, while thinking 'screw you'!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Why weekends away matter

It's Thursday night and I am nestled in bed at our cottage.  We came up for a long weekend of snowmobiling, fires, and relaxation.   I plan on reading, writing and taking some pictures...my own little mini retreat.

We have the luxury of having a place to go, and for the I am forever thankful.  The weather is cold, just 8 degrees at 10:15 pm and tomorrow morning it will be colder.  I am crazy enough to want to bundle up and hop on my sled for a 50 mile ride.  

It's been a stressful few weeks and we as a family need the time away.  We are just three tonight, missing our fourth since he headed to his girlfriend's for the weekend.  I miss the days when all we had to say was cottage and he was standing outside his dorm ready to go two hours before we got there.  I'm happy, though, that he's happy and spending time with the love of his life.  I adore her, and they keep each other grounded.  They both need the weekend to regroup from their busy class schedule.

In six short months we will send off our youngest to college, and these weekends away may be just two of us.  It very surreal thinking you spend 18 years raising them, and then with a blink of an eye they are gone.  Reflecting even further, the oldest is on the cusp of graduating college.  Where the hell did 22 years go?

On the ride up, our youngest got a text from his soon to be college football coach.  The man that wil spend more time with our son than we will.  I know, even though we won't be there for practices, he's in good hands.  Can't wait to see what he accomplishes.

It doesn't matter if you can't hop in the car and go to your very own place for escape.  Sometimes it's good to take a day off and play hooky at home.  Grab your kid out of school on a Friday and hit a movie.   You won't regret it.

I have friends that are teachers and these days are called mental health days.  I've been more stressed than normal at work, and I'm finding it hard to focus on what needs to be done as I'm pulled in multiple directions by the same person.  Think about having someone give you a project, only to change the scope or contradict themself in the same conversation.  It's frustrating, but I know I can get through it with the help of some incredibly talented co-workers.

I brought a stack of work with me because I do have projects due and need to stay on track.  I look forward though to bundling up, plugging in my music and hopping on my sled.   This weekend will combine two loves...that of the outdoors and photography.  For those of you that follow my photography, you'll see why in a couple of days...your in for a treat.

As an almost empty nester, these weekends need to happen more frequently.  If we could swing it, it would be every weekend.  But that's not happening any time soon, so the times we do get away have to be special.  I want to be surrounded by my kids, and know that isn't always feasible, so instead, to each of you, I love you.  Don't forget that no matter where we are, or when we move, home is where the heart is.  You can always count on that.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Calling All Friends

To the friends I don't talk to everyday:  I think about you often.  I think about your daughters and sons and grandchildren (yikes!).  I think about graduation and baseball and dance and your health, and the divorce you went through and your new love.

I think about you in Texas and Georgia and California and Michigan, and even here in good old Wisconsin.  And I think about the friends I've lost touch with in Colorado and Illinois and even here at home.

Don't ever think a lack of communication means you don't cross my mind, or that I forget the good times we've had.  I remember laughing at the same jokes, strategizing against horrible bosses, and bonding over cafeteria pizza.  I remember working in the bookstore for DECA and watching Mr. Merkel throw a book at a classmate when he fell asleep in class.

I think about having you as a neighbor, before we were friends, and the drama that ended our friendship.  I also remember getting over the drama.

We talk the same talk and deal with stuff the same way.  We are passionate about the same things and wouldn't hesitate to smack each other's kids if they were doing something wrong.

I think how our friendship started because of our kids being together in grade school, middle school, high school and even when they dated, and broke up, only to find the love of their life.

I remember parties in barns, and putting together presentations well after everyone else was drunk.  I remember crawling on our hands and knees through a haunted woods, and watching the first of what seems like a thousand football games.

I think about friends from high school that weren't really friends, more of acquaintances, but now truly are friends.

I remember playing hooky from work so we could see our boys play baseball at 9 am, and I remember countless trips back and forth from field to field while we cheered both our kids on.

I remember thinking you hated me.

I know I may not be the best friend.  Sometimes I forget to call, or text you on the wrong day for your birthday.  Or sometimes when we call just to say hi, I dump the weight of the world on your shoulders, and you listen intently and are ready to go to battle.

I promise I'll always be your friend, and am here to be a sounding board or the one armed with a bat.  Just remember I am not perfect, and I'll do the same.  And don't forget to always tag me in the most ridiculous posts because all too often I need to laugh in middle of a meeting and have my coworkers think I'm nuts.

I will

Too much stress isn't good for the mind, attitude and body.  Life is too short to fight negativity.

Over the last five months, I have seen my share of doctors and physical therapists.  I have spent countless nights in pain which resulted in many sleepless nights.  I have dealt with a shoulder and neck injury, migraines and now chest pain.  I have eaten ibuprofen and Tylenol like they are M&Ms.

Stress can cause an injury to take extra time to heal.  It's time to step up and take care of me.

  • I will continue to be there for my family.  Always.  Family first.
  • I will not stress the small stuff.  Be thankful for what we do have and stop worrying about everything else.
  • I will not worry about things that are out of my control.  Ditto.
  • I will go into the office with a good attitude.  Hard to do, but must be done.  My health is more important than a single person's bullshit.
  • I will continue to blog.  It helps me de-stress.
  • I will try to book at least two photo shoots a week from April through September for senior pictures. It's where my passion really lies...don't miss out on great deals!
  • I will write book number two.  I wonder what it will be?
  • I will take better care of myself, and stop ignoring the signs.  Chest pains are no laughing matter, nor is high blood pressure, constant anxiety and sleepless nights.
  • I will delete all the negativity from my social feeds.  If that includes you, and you find yourself deleted, there is a reason for it.
  • I will stop working on vacation.  This is a tough one, but it needs to be done.  There really are no marketing emergencies.
  • I will try to combat procrastination with smile on my face.  Not mine, others.  Your sense of urgency might be different than mine.  
  • I will not be afraid to stand my ground.  I am 45 years old and must not back down.  There is no reason for it.
  • I will not apologize if things I post upset you.  Chances are, they post isn't about you.  And if it is, I probably deleted you already.
  • I will take as many weekends away as possible.  Long weekends might not be a true vacation, but they are very necessary for mental health.  Mine, my husbands, and our kids.
  • I will laugh.  A lot.
  • I will cry.  When warranted.
  • I will kiss my kids and husband always.  Sorry boys, I'm coming for you.
  • I will let them take pictures of me.  I have thousands of pictures of them.  They should have pictures of me.
  • I will continue to make people smile.  It's good for the soul.

Life's to short to say I won't.  Therefore, I will.

Friday, February 5, 2016

What If?

Yesterday there was a bomb threat at one of the high schools in our town.  It wasn't where my youngest goes to school, but it was the rival school.  It got me thinking.  What would possess someone to call in a bomb threat, given the repercussions that will inevitably happen.  Was it a student that didn't want to take a test?  Was it someone that was just screwing around and thought it would be funny?  Was it someone that was just mad at their girlfriend or boyfriend?  Was it a pissed off spouse?  Was it a neighbor that hates the traffic around the school at 7:45 am?  

What if it was real? What if the threat wasn't called in and instead just happened.  Then what?

The school has 1,500+ students.  Thankfully, it was a false alarm.  

Last year, my son's school had quite a few threats. We have told him time and time again, keep your keys, wallet and phone on you at all times.  That way if something does happen you can get in your truck, grab your friends, and get the hell out of there.

I think back to the stupid shit I did when I was growing up.  I remember egging another students car, which got me a $400 fine.  The fine was bad enough, but I had to tell my parents, and they made me call the other kids and have them cough up money too.  The only reason we got caught is we were in my 1976 baby blue Chevy Cutlass.  Everyone knew it was my car.  And us, being stupid, picked up the eggs at the IGA where I worked.

I remember drinking and driving from parties.  I remember getting pulled over by what I thought was a cop, but instead was a couple of classmates that had access to a red light one of them used for being a volunteer firefighter.

I remember waiting for someone in a neighborhood and having a cop pull up and ask if I had any beer in the car.  No officer, no beer.  I did however have a bottle of vodka under my seat....but you didn't ask for that.

I remember having my car saran wrapped.  I remember having a watermelon dumped on my head at my graduation party.

I remember an EPIC weekend away with friends.

I remember hanging out at the park at midnight and not being told to go home.

I remember cruising.

I don't remember bomb threats.  I don't remember threats of mass shootings.  I don't remember suicides, or students being raped or kids beating the shit out of other kids.  I  remember fire alarms being pulled.  I remember screws being taken out of chairs so teachers would fall on their asses.  Or desk drawers being turned upside down so everything would fall out when you open them.  I remember life being a hell of a lot simpler.

I'm thankful that in just a few short months we'll be done with high school and sending another one off to college.  I'll still worry about bomb threats and mass shootings, but it will be in the back of my head... I won't dwell on it, because there is nothing I can do about someone else's actions.

What if we lived in a world were this shit didn't happen?  If people were just happy with themselves and didn't find a need to disrupt lives by calling in threats or acting out on those threats?

I'm not talking about a world filled with puppies and rainbows and unicorns, as great as that would be.  I'm talking about a world where people just worried about their own shit and took responsibility for themselves instead of blaming the other guy.