Category Archives: summer

Too much happy can make you another kind of S.A.D.

I’ve relapsed. It’s Sunday and I’m sitting on my balcony, drinking my morning coffee, lost inside my own thoughts. I’m still in my pajamas at 11 a.m. and it’s exactly what my “condition” calls for.

summer-should-get-a-speeding-ticket-quote-1Most of you have heard of “Seasonal Affective Disorder” (S.A.D.) which Wikipedia defines as “a mood disorder subset in which people who have normal mental health throughout most of the year exhibit depressive symptoms at the same time each year, most commonly in the winter.” Anyone who lives in Minnesota is well-acquainted with this condition and people who live in the South have at least heard of it.

However, there’s a corresponding condition that’s been afflicting me since the days first started growing longer and that’s Seasonal Affective Disorder’s unruly cousin who settles in during the school break—“Summer Anxiety Dysfunction.”

This is brought on by the acute awareness that there are approximately only 15 weekends of potentially beautiful weather in which to pack a year’s worth of summer socializing. People start looking at their calendars in early May to plot potential gatherings: Which weekend should we have the barbecue? Which weekend should we do the pool party? Which weekend do we invite our friends to the cabin? Which weekend do we go boating?

Next, layer in the family commitments: Graduations, weddings, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day—and in my case Lucky’s, Oskar’s and my birthday. Our wedding anniversary (30 years!), my mother turning 90 and ending the summer with my parents’ 70th wedding anniversary.

As if this isn’t complicated enough, there are other events to be considered. Festivals, for example. In Minnesota, there are one or more town/city festivals every weekend, as well as art fairs, beer tastings, outdoor movies/theater/concerts-in-the-park and farmer’s markets.

And if you’ve got kids at home like KitKat, you can add in scheduling around sports tournaments and summer camps.

While these activities are mostly fun and I enjoy them, as an introvert, I reach a point where all the activity is enough to send me to my “quiet place” with a drink in hand.

At this mid-way point in the summer, I’ve already attended the following:

  • Edina Art Fair
  • Graduation open house
  • Stone Arch Bridge Festival
  • Back-to-the-50s car show
  • Shakespeare in the park
  • Fourth of July pool party with friends
  • Several boating outings
  • Cabin weekend with sister
  • More meals on a restaurant patio than I can count
  • Farmer’s market
  • Biking
  • Paddleboarding

And today, if I can motivate myself, I hope to go to:

  • Wine Meets Art at the St. Croix Vineyards
  • a concert and picnic at Lake Harriet

Then, this coming week, I’m looking at:

  • An anniversary dinner w/Oskar
  • Lumberjack Days in Stillwater
  • Yoga in the park
  • Aquatennial fireworks with KitKat

… and I’m still hoping to squeeze in yet this summer:

  • Getting my Vespa out
  • Lumberjack Days
  • Anniversary trip “up north”
  • Girls outing with my relatives
  • Getting KitKat and her hubby out on our boat
  • Uptown Art Fair
  • More paddleboarding
  • More biking
  • Outdoor worship in the park
  • State Fair
  • Renaissance Festival
IMG_3383

My Sweet Ride… Due to circumstances I can’t quite explain, I’ve only ridden this 3x over the last two summers. 😦

Whew! When you combine my weekend activities with a demanding new “day job” you can see why I’m exhausted…which brings me to my current relapse. Last weekend, we took Lucky up to see Blossom and then headed to my sister’s cabin. The girls came out and spent the day with us and there was much boating, tubing, paddling and sunning… After all that activity, I was spent… I. Was. Spent.

Consequently, while dragging myself through  the work week, I couldn’t conjure up one ounce of energy to plan anything for THIS weekend, even though the forecast was for a beautiful couple of days. Yesterday dawned as the nicest Saturday for boating yet, but we didn’t have anyone lined up to go out with us, so Oskar and I just had a lazy outing on our own—we stopped at my brother’s beach and sat in lawn chairs at the edge of the river and soaked in the sun. It was glorious.

Then we came home, had a drink on the balcony and headed out for yet-another dinner on an outdoor patio. Afterward, we came home and watched a movie. It was just what the doctor ordered.

It goes against my Type A nature to occasionally let a summer day drift by in that way, but I don’t want to be so busy planning my summer that I miss enjoying it.IMG_3312

And, in compiling the bulleted lists above, it’s clear that I’m pretty blessed and have a lot of fun things to look forward to—should I choose to do them. But I also know that if I call a time-out to regroup, that’s okay, too. Sometimes a little laziness is good for what ails you.

Chasing rainbows

I know what some of you are thinking… “I started reading this blog because Stormy and KitKat promised they are more messed up than me. But now all I’m getting are introspective posts on world politics, brain surgery and death. I want to know how is Stormy handling being 50? What about the move? Is she still crazy?”

So for those of you looking for some shallow reading—the beach blanket chick-lit version of this blog—Stormy is happy to oblige. It’s the middle of summer and I’m exhibiting my usual, “Wait! Slow down!” despair as I contemplate the dwindling number of free weekends in which to schedule my summer must-dos. For example, I’ve had my boat for four summers now, and have yet to get KitKat and family out on it!

popeye-I-am-what-I-amI’m also in a weird mental place right now. There is so much that’s going well in my life, but for some reason I’m feeling aimless and dissatisfied. Do I need a new job? Do I need a new hobby? Do I need to just quit bitchin’ and appreciate my blessings (my money is on the latter). I need to figure out what the next phase of my life looks like.

It turns out that being 50 is okay (well, I’m actually 51 now). I still can’t believe I’m in this decade, but I just try not to think about it (denial is my friend) and keep doing what I’ve always been doing and wearing whatever I like. I believe in being comfortable and true to myself, yet I don’t want to get a lecture from my girls (“Mom, what are you wearing?… Really?”) so I try to temper my need for self-expression with a little common sense. I trust that they’ll tell me if I push the limits too far.

mature?I had an epic revelation the other day: I looked at my husband and said, “Woah. I just realized that I’m as mature as I’ll ever be. I probably am not going to mature any more than I am!” He laughed, but I pointed out the irrefutable truth of the situation: By the time a person turns 51, that’s pretty much it. That individual isn’t going to get a whole lot more mature. For some reason, I found that oddly comforting…knowing I’ve reached an age where I no longer have to worry about trying to be older or more sophisticated or younger or hipper. I am what I am (a favorite saying of both God and Popeye). In other words, this is it, folks. Move along, there’s nothing more to see here.

On a brighter note, Oskar and I are celebrating the anniversary of our move into our downsized digs. This was a monumental effort last year—I still get exhausted just thinking about it. On the other hand. I L-O-V-E LOVE our new home. It’s the perfect size. It’s in a perfect location. I love having a new space to decorate. I also love having very little maintenance work. And although I had a tough transition in seeing my little chickies fly the nest, now that we’re out of their childhood home, I love living the life of an empty nester. It’s sort of like being newlyweds again except now we have more time (we were only married for a little over a year when I got pregnant with my oldest) and more money.

shark5Which brings me to the last update—you’ve already read about my husband’s successful surgery, so the big question on everyone’s mind (well maybe not, but it’s on my mind, at least) is what’s next? I wish I knew. I know myself well enough by now that I realize I always need some type of project to keep me focused and happy, and right now I don’t really have that and I feel like I’m floundering as a result. It’s an uncomfortable feeling, and I’ll keep searching for that “thing” that will make me feel grounded. I’m not sure if it will be work, school, a hobby or volunteer work, but I’ve always lived my life like some species of shark—that is, I need to keep moving or I know I’ll drown—so I’ll keep chasing rainbows until I find that emotional pot of gold. I haven’t figured out the answers yet (another example of “easier said than done”), but as soon as I do, you can be sure I’ll let you know!

A Flash of Summer

I knew that I was a bit behind on my blogging, but was astonished to discover that my last post was in April… A whole summer had passed! A quarter of a year since I last logged in, yet I had thought I was only about a month behind on my writing. Actually, this summer has flown by in all aspects. Where did it all go? Next week my kids return to school. Usually, I am ready to push my kids out the door and back into a routine. Instead, this summer it feels like we were short changed by at least a month. The kids haven’t even yet started their ritual of bugging me, and each other, from too many days with no real structure.

I know I did plenty these past few months. And I actually have about four different blog topics started to document some of the activities that passed during this time. Though, I still have to prove it to Stormy who kept hearing me say, “I have something to write about this week.” Yet, nothing ever fully materialized past my initial jotted notes. I’d get distracted with a game of catch in the front yard, a neighbor beckoning me over for a glass of wine on the porch, or time commitments of baseball games replacing the winter hockey schedule. Then suddenly, with an uncompleted list of planned summer activities and several unfinished blog drafts sitting in my to-do pile, summer is wrapping up.

Is this the start of what my grandma warned me about? How time would speed up and pretty soon I’d be looking back wondering where all the years have gone?

Grandma still is the last one to leave a party!

Grandma still is the last one to leave a party!

This observation came from the same grandma who gave me and my friends lessons on how to best hold your drink and appetizer while still socializing at a party. So she has earned my trust in passing on truly valuable nuggets of wisdom.

I am hoping that it is just a strange happenstance versus getting older that caused the summer time warp. As you may remember from a past birthday blog of mine, I am not taking the whole aging process graciously. I am not quite ready for even more “attributes” of getting older, so time speeding up is exactly what I don’t need.

Whatever the reason, this summer cruised by way too fast. Reflecting back on these past months, I can only remember flashes of memories, rather than a good summer story.

  • It had its simple pleasures – cabin trips, moms-and-kids staycation, family visits, and lots of outdoor time with good friends.
Staycation travel: from GoCarts

Staycation travel: from GoCarts

To limos!

To limos!

  • It has had its downers – breast cancer scares, parent’s health issues, and helping a friend through some intense life decisions and changes.
  • It has had its celebrations – my favorite being Stormy’s joint 50th birthday/moving party (which included drunk dancing in her backyard and a text the next day asking if I had any recollection of how she broke her toe after too many drinks!)
  • It had its lessons learned – wiener dogs do bite, waterslides are fun, and if the pool at the club closes unexpectedly just pull out the baby pool, hose and Prosecco in the backyard.

I guess, overall, the summer has just been filled with living in the present. I took a break from wondering what is next. I have a habit of always trying to peek at the chapter ahead versus engrossing myself in the current story. Maybe creating this new way of living through one of my chapters is what also messed with my time perspective. (Again, trying to deny the aging theory.)

If I was summing up this chapter of my life, I would just say it was a relaxing time, enjoying simple things, and growing up a bit (not growing old!). I did purposely try to make some self improvements such as watching how I acted and reacted, taking deep breaths as needed, and making sure I did the things I thought were best for those I love (whether they realized it or not).

I wasn’t always successful at this new calm, “take-it-as-it-comes” self. Just this past Sunday while back-to-school shopping at Target, I had a random moment where my mind was surprisingly confronted again with how fast time really does go. How quickly life changes. I had to remind myself to breathe–there was a reason I was there at that moment–and to just focus. No regrets. No worrying what was missed. Trust that I am making the most of my time, even in those periods of time that seem to disappear in a blink.

My personality won’t lend itself to taking this mellow approach to life long term. I am already plotting my plans and goals with fall approaching. I am considering taking up playing on a mom’s hockey league. I have some lofty career aspirations I want to hit. Also, I have a personal physical goal that I hope will send some parts of me back in time. As time keeps passing and new life chapters unfold, I want to find the right mix of excitement and challenges while regularly adding in some contentment and just enjoying the present.  If my grandma’s warning is true about looking back and wondering where all the time has passed, I want to make sure I have filled the time with a vast collection of stories to look back on. I already have some wonderful ones to keep my old mind happy and as a good place to revisit.

My next chapter: The kids head back to school and I head to New York (a setting for several favorite memories already). Maybe saying goodbye to summer won’t so bad with an interest in finding out what is ahead.

photo-4

You never know exactly what will be next or what tale will unfold. That should be the fun part, the unknown. It makes the passage of time easier. At least that is what my Grandma told me over a recent  phone call. She also reminded me, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.”

KitKat & Stormy: A fair debate…

Stormy’s Perspective: The Fair

The end of August means two things to a Minnesotan: Back to school and State Fair time! Given my kids are grown and my one college-age daughter doesn’t need help choosing a backpack or new shoes, it’s all about the fair for Stormy. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of people—those who love the fair and those who…inexplicably…don’t. Despite the many commonalities between KitKat and myself, this is one area where we part ways. However, with this season passing at warp speed and many of the items on my summer checklist going unchecked, this was one opportunity I wasn’t going to let pass by.

The Great Minnesota Get-Together has been located in St. Paul since 1885. It’s where Teddy Roosevelt introduced his foreign policy to “Speak softly and carry a big stick.” It’s where 85 lbs of butter are carved into the likeness of a dairy princess. It’s an event memorialized by F. Scott Fitzgerald in “A Night at the Fair.” It’s a place where half a million corn dogs are consumed each year. It’s an institution. It’s nirvana.

The Food

statefair_reubenbites

We made short work of the Reuben Bites (aka: deep-fried spheres of goodness)

People might tell you that they go to the State Fair for the exhibits, for the entertainment, for the animals—and there’s some truth to that—but make no mistake: They really go for the food. While many Minnesotans are pretty conservative in their dining habits, that’s all tossed out the window at fair time when deep fried pickles, cheese curds, alligator on a stick, beer gelato, deep fried Twinkies, deep fried Snickers (really, anything deep fried or on-a-stick), is the order of the day. In our six hours at the fair last weekend, Blossom and I had Reuben bites, an apple dumpling with ice cream, a beer (just me), walleye mac ‘n’ cheese, candied almonds, a prime rib taco, Sweet Martha’s chocolate chip cookies, all-you-can-drink milk (Blossom), a wine slushie (me again), and a roast turkey sandwich. (After too much indulgence, I always crave a turkey sandwich. I guess it’s supposed to signal my tummy that the smorgasbord is over and it’s time to return to sensible eating.)

The Entertainment

Enjoying a little Chinese culture at the International Bazaar

Enjoying a little Chinese culture at the International Bazaar

The fair has lots of free acts and whenever you need to sit down and take a break, there’s sure to be a performance to watch. We watched the CAAM Chinese Dance Theater perform, which reminded me of the performance given to us by the children at Blossom’s orphanage when we adopted her. Later on, we caught the “dock dog” competition of the lumberjack show. Walking by the grandstand, we noticed throngs of teenage girls whipped into a frenzy over a teen duo, “Jack and Jack.” You’d think it was the Beatles, In Sync or New Kids on the Block appearing during their peaks. I hadn’t heard of them, but (surprisingly) neither had Blossom—more evidence that she’ll be exiting her teen years in a couple of month’s time. But the vast array of performers begs the question: Where else can you see Chinese dance, leaping dogs and boy bands in the span of an afternoon?

The Activities

Admit it. This scarecrow is some downright frightening!

Admit it. This scarecrow isn’t just scary, it’s downright terrifying!

There’s plenty to see if you embrace the randomness of it all. We saw homemade scarecrows (one of them entered by my kids’ former teacher), some amazing crop art (what some people can do with seeds!) and a whole gallery of really good “amateur” art. Usually the animal barns are another highlight, but for some sad reason, when we visited this year most of the barns were closed for cleaning or some other bogus reason. We were able to see the horses, but had to pass on the cows, bunnies and the World’s Largest Pig. The midway is another prime attraction for those who like to live dangerously, although my favorite ride—the double Ferris wheel—was missing this year, so we skipped the rides. But everyone would agree that the best activity at the fair has got to be people-watching. You can see politicians, local newscasters and other minor celebrities, but the regular folk provide the real entertainment. Much like Vegas, they shed their inhibitions and exhibit behavior they would eschew in their more respectable daily lives—standing in long-lines for yardsticks, donning silly paper hats, eating foot-long hot dogs at 6:00 a.m.

A Minnesota fashionista wardrobe must include at least one papier chapeau.

A Minnesota fashionista wardrobe must include at least one papier chapeau.

The Shopping

Even if you’re a seasoned shopper, you’ll find something unique at the fair. This year, I bought a cool Indian-motif tank top and Blossom bought a handmade necklace. It’s also the motherlode for items you never knew existed, but soon learn you can’t live without. Case in point: My d’marie Frappe Vino frozen cocktail fusion. This purchase alone will have KitKat rethinking her State Fair ban. Take one box of mix, a bottle of cheap wine, a gallon Ziploc freezer bag and 3-5 hours later: Voila! A delicious wine slushie. (Purchase three boxes and they throw in a free slushy—guess how many boxes I bought?)

KitKats Rebuttal

Unlike Stormy, I am still in the stage of back-to-school preparations. And as tedious as it is searching for the exact supplies listed for each of my children’s classes, I would choose that over a trip to the State Fair. Every year when the State Fair arrives I listen to co-workers, friends and even strangers in stores and restaurants mapping out their plans for their fair visit. Often these plans include not just one but multiple days, which means it isn’t just an obligation, they have to do for their kids or as a Minnesota “thing.” I have sucked it up a few times to give my kids the State Fair experience I hear they deserve, but for the past few years I have turned over the chore to my husband. I have experienced no guilt at all about missed family time. I am content, actually thrilled, to know I have relinquished all responsibility to attend the fair.

Stormy does sell a good story, and I will pay the wrath of the fairgoers, but let me provide you the fair experience from my perspective.

The Food

It doesn't have to even sound good to be on Fair goers menu for the day.

It doesn’t have to even sound good to be on fairgoers menu for the day.

Granted, there are always interesting items and I love to learn about each year’s newest food vendors. The Business Journal’s article on fair food had me wanting to try a beer gelato and cringing at the walleye mac & cheese. (Yes, mac & cheese is another item on which I differ from the majority of the population by my dislike for it. There is NO way to make it taste good.) But I do enjoy exploring the odd menu options from the comfort of an iPad on the couch. For actually eating any good food available (like the Cajun lobster rolls or prime rib tacos), I want to be able to sit and enjoy it in a cool atmosphere. As for the historical walking fair food, often on a stick, I am not a fan. For example, the popular cheese curds that taste like greasy rubber bands. Or all-you-can-drink milk, by a barn and in the heat: Yuck. I am not above greasy fries or warm chocolate chip cookies but I much prefer to abuse my calorie intake while not standing in line, being bumped and pushed by crowds, and paying triple for the so-called experience.

The Entertainment

This may be the one area where I will give kudos to the fair. I did see both Def Leppard and B.B King there. Not often does my weird, eclectic taste get catered to. Though it would be a hard sell to get me to any concert playing there now, knowing the price (and I don’t mean monetary) that I pay for that entertainment. I also don’t mind the skate park. I actually enjoyed some of the stunts (for a few minutes) and as my son was entertained for a long period of time, I escaped for 20 minutes of walking and enjoying a beer—my one moment of fair bliss.

Pour Some Sugar On Me can make anyplace tolerable.

Pour Some Sugar On Me can make any place tolerable.

The Activities

Last year's Fair winnings that I missed carrying around.

Last year’s Fair winnings that I missed carrying around.

My first memory of a fair activity is being convinced that the haunted house was fun and not to be missed. I knew I didn’t enjoy being intentionally scared in any setting. But, I caved to peer pressure and went in. A few minutes into the haunt, I refused to take a step further and had to be walked out a side door so the crowd of fairgoers could continue the haunted tour. Returning in later years as a mom, our activities revolved around the animal barn and The Midway. I would walk through the animal barns feeling sorry for the animals and me. Growing up with summer visits to an actual farm, I knew we all were happier in that environment. As for The Midway, it simply consists of carnival rides and games. The insane ticket prices cover a shorter time on the same rides that can be found at our community carnivals. The games consist of me helping lug an assortment of prizes (won by my son’s uncanny ability to win the basketball shooting games) through a crowded fair. Again, I would prefer the small community carnival that does the same job with less people to maneuver through with a giant stuffed dog in my arms.

The Shopping

Actually, my first experience of the fair, at least that I remember, was working  my uncle’s dollar booth. (My mom obviously shared my fair dislike.) I worked in the Merchandise Mart selling all kinds of trinkets for a dollar. On breaks, I would wander to discover more junk. I was the only sibling who worked for only one season. The next summer I got a job in a small clothing boutique at Southdale Mall.

The Merchandise Mart at the Fair - My first job, first Fair and first time realizing I did not like either.

The Merchandise Mart at the Fair – My first job, first fair and first time realizing I did not like either.

So again this year, I will pass on the fair. Happy to wave my family off for their Minnesotan obligation as I watch The Notebook again without being made fun of. Though, I will ask them to grab me one of the wine slushie things Stormy mentioned.

 

Summer Checklist

Well if you had any clue from my lack of recent blogs, summer so far hasn’t been as relaxing as I imagined. My fantasies of taking advantage of the long, sunny days … or at least nights after work … were quickly ended by what it really means to have kids running “free range.” School activities, hockey, and homework were swapped for random camp times, baseball, and kid swaps in my work parking lot for play dates. Add in random sitter issues (saved one week by Stormy’s daughter, Blossom), and summer has turned out to be more chaotic than the school year.

Granted, I could have signed my kids up for a full-time day camp catering to working parents. But, my working mom guilt often gets the best of me. Why shouldn’t they enjoy these summer months of freedom? I sure miss having a summer break!

So what my kids would describe as a fun summer filled with sleepovers and

photo 2

sleeping in, has been mass chaos for me. No routine and every week requires a new battle strategy of who to get where and when. My tipping point was last week. A situation where I knew (standing in the bushes in my heels), that I needed some summer enjoyment too.

How did I end up in the bushes? It was my week as a camp driver. We only signed up for “specialty camps,” which means camps kids like but which have no convenience or scheduling around a working parent’s needs. (I will need to do another blog on why everyone else gets what they want, yet I seem to starve myself from all my needs. Even the eyelashes are gone!) Anyway, this week of specialty camp I worked from home in the morning and then took a group of kids to tennis before heading into the office at noon. (I have no idea how parents manage it without a flexible work schedule). One morning I had a conference call for an important pitch. I told the kids that I would be giving hand signals when it was time to be sprayed with sunscreen, grab their racquets and bags, and head to the car. I was proud of myself for organizing it all, including having lunches packed and backpacks lined up in front of the door before the call. The first ten minutes went great. The kids were quiet … which should have been my first warning of upcoming disaster. As I was talking, I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see my daughter mouthing “sorry” and pointing at the window. Somehow she had knocked out the boards bracing our window air conditioner unit. I was looking at a gap in the window and the air conditioner rocking on the ledge. Throwing the phone on mute, I ran outside. The rest of my call was done on speaker and muted unless I was forced to speak. I stood in the bushes holding up the air conditioner with my phone resting on the window ledge and my other hand trying to jimmy rig the boards to hold the unit in place till we could do a permanent fix after work.

That night, I realized I have been so busy juggling a full-time job and kids running loose that I basically missed the first half of summer. Our “no routine” had us crazier than our over-scheduled winter. It was time to make up for the lost summer. Which meant another list! Yes, my kids groaned as I asked them to make lists of what they wanted to do before summer ended. I was determined to do at least one thing on each list this weekend. KitKat determination took hold. No matter what it took or what hurdles needed to be jumped, I would do some summer activities. I do realize that I work best in chaos and a crunch, even when the task is finding time to relax.

photo 1Number one on my son’s list was to catch fish. So we drove up to the cabin Saturday morning and spent the day fishing. The fish even complied with our list, and we had a great day. One item done and I actually relaxed. Hard not to, with a pole in one hand and wine in the other, plus a son who would bait my hook and take off any catches.

I had decided to drive back that night with my daughter, so we could check an item off her list on Sunday. We left father and son at the cabin for a full fishing weekend.

I skipped past number one on her list, Chuck E. Cheese, and chose one further down—which was shopping at the farmers’ market. We had a slumber party in my room Saturday night and in the morning I surprised her with money for the excursion. She made sure to spend every penny. She loves nothing better than to pull out cash and pay for a frivolous item. After a summer of giving up things or putting them on the back burner (well, trying), I had just as much fun buying whatever suited me at the moment.

photo 3

All in all, it was a jam-packed SUMMER weekend. I ended it sitting outside and watching my daughter and neighbor kids on the Slip & Slide as I looked up things to do in Duluth for a moms and sons trip planned at the end of August (another check off the list). I still had cleaning to do and hadn’t finished my list of dinners for the week but was determined to take a moment to do nothing but enjoy the weather (another item on my list), which I plan to make time for at least once a week.

“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under the trees on a summer day, listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the blue sky, is by no means waste of time.” – Sir John Lubbock

After fully enjoying my summer weekend, I think I am ready to battle another summer workweek. Including managing the text I just received that my sitter has two days she can’t cover.