Friday, May 29, 2009

On Our Way!

roadmap by Validat1on

Today marks the beginning of our journey to St. Augustine, Florida. For those of you who read my blog post on May 12, you will remember that my two boys and I will set off on a 23 hour car ride to visit my aunt and uncle. It will take us two and a half days to arrive to our beach-y destination. We leave tonight at around 5:30 p.m.

The bags are packed. The car is 98% loaded. The movies are rented and the laptop is charged – and the car adaptor for the laptop is also included! The boys have programmed their iPods. The car is gassed up. The GPS is programmed and the Mapquest directions are tucked neatly into the glove box in case our Magellan Roadmate GPS system (endearingly dubbed “Maggie Magellan”) sends us on an unexpected detour.

As prepared as I am for this trip, I also have to confess that I had never really prepared myself that, at age 41, I would be taking a family vacation with me as the “head of household”. Since I was a girl, I always pictured the perfect familial situation. Mom. Dad. 2.3 kids. Dog. Mini-van.

OK…so it is just me, the two boys…the dog is being boarded with my sister… and my small, yet fuel-efficient car. “Maxine”, the name we gave to the car years ago, and Maggie Magellan will, with any luck, harmoniously interface together in order to guide us safely to our destination.

It is a heartbreaking and agonizing, yet, joyful journey of learning and growing that has brought me to this point. But these days I am happier and braver than I ever thought I could be. If I WAS in that “perfect familial situation”, I might be too afraid to step out of my comfort zone and do things that are a little scary. And I think this is an okay thing to pass along to my kids.

So, as I set off on this journey I relate to a great quote I picked up from one of my favorite shows, “Sex and The City”. Carrie, one of the four main characters in the series, writes:

“Maybe our mistakes are what make our fate. Without them, what would shape our lives? Perhaps if we never veered off course, we wouldn't fall in love, or have babies, or be who we are. After all, seasons change. So do cities. People come into your life and people go. But it's comforting to know the ones you love are always in your heart. And if you're very lucky, a plane ride away.”

We are off to see some of those important people in our lives who are a plane ride away. It may be a roadmap we will be following to Florida….but it is the roadmap of my life that has really brought us to this day where we embark on our journey. I very much look forward to each and every mile.

Until next time, I remain…..1SweetMama

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Ahh....The Joy of Cupcakes and Ice Cream!

This weekend was a busy one. Memorial Day is always a conglomerate of activity carefully choreographed to make it “feel” like a holiday, even though we never really go anywhere. As the official kick-off to summer in “The Ice Cream Capital of the World®”, Memorial Day weekend is usually a mish-mash of high school graduation parties, yard work, grill outs with friends, more yard work, my birthday….the list goes on and on.

Bud, my oldest son, marched in the school band on Monday (he is on the drum line) for the Memorial Day parade. I have also attached a photo of the Memorial Day ceremony that takes place, annually, at out county courthouse where we honor our military veterans. The parade marches up to the courthouse, followed by a flag dedication ceremony. Pretty awe-inspiring.

These activities usually prevent us from actually travelling anywhere significant so we just hung out all weekend and participated in all of the activities mentioned above plus some added fun extra’s. We also took in an IMAX showing of “Night At The Museum 2”…even though we had a two-hour drive in order to go see it…it was totally worth it. We had such a great weekend!!

But, amidst all of the above activity, we managed to squeeze in a little quiet time, too. For my birthday, my oldest son, now dubbed, “The Grillmaster” perfectly prepared steaks on the grill, which we ate for my birthday dinner, followed by cupcakes and ice cream and I gotta tell ya….for about 45 minutes, the world just stopped. What a joy to sit around the table, flanked by my kids, eating birthday cupcakes (aside from chips and salsa, cake and frosting is my favorite good group) and Blue Bunny ice cream. We laughed and chatted and ate more than we should but it was a great time….just the three of us. We ate my favorite flavor du jour, Blue Bunny® Double Cone Crunch ice cream and it was a little scoop – okay, it was a large scoop! – of absolute, total heaven. Have you tried this ice cream yet??? Two words: Yum… me.

I encourage you to carve out a little time in your life this summer to sit down and enjoy some ice cream (um…Blue Bunny…..okay?) with the ones you love. In a summer of never-ending activities and obligations, it might allow you to stop running on the “hamster wheel” for a little while and enjoy some sweet moments of bliss.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, May 22, 2009

What It Means To be Another Year Older

If you read my blog last week, you will know that my birthday is fast approaching. While I kid about the fact that my birthdays stopped at age 39 (my sister’s wedding fell on my 40th birthday last year, so I claim that I never had a 40th birthday and, therefore, I will remain 39 forever)…I am proud to say that I will be 41 years old.

What this means to me is that I join the ranks of other 40-somethings who I believe have reached a pivotal moment in their lives where they, for the first time, feel the bravest, strongest, and wisest as they have ever felt.

I do have to give a special shout out to my girlfriend, Kimmer, and my Aunt who are celebrating their birthdays TODAY. Both of these women are string and fun and more beautiful than ever.

At nearly 41, I am able to view life more clearly than I ever have before. I feel more. I find the joy in more things.

I love more deeply. I don’t hold grudges for too long. I try to sweat less over the small stuff and I like to try to believe that every day is a chance to start over.

And while I work hard to stay in shape and to keep the wrinkles away and try to remain fashionable, I realize that I am of the age where sexiness is not necessarily defined by a waistline but by self-confidence. Wrinkles are earned and I am proud of each one of them.

These days, I appreciate a fine wine on a quiet evening much more than a night out on the town. I appreciate spending time with my children and walking my dog.

I enjoy sunny Saturday mornings when I can sit out on my front steps and watch the world go by….

Boring? Maybe. It has been a long and painful road to get where I am today but I am hoping that my 41st year on this earth will be the best ever. This is the year that I will smell more flowers and appreciate the beauty in more things. Maybe I will even take a cooking class….nah!

I will spend my birthday with my children. I think our plan is to take in a movie, maybe a picnic lunch and a walk in the sunshine. If the weather is good, we might grill out for dinner, enjoy some cake and Blue Bunny ice cream (is there any other kind of ice cream??) and sit outside for as long as the night will allow. I will wrap up my day with a book that was given to me for my birthday when I was in kindergarten by my teacher, Miss Moelling.

My favorite book of all time….it is a Golden Book called “The Daisy Dog Wake Up Book” by Ilse-Margret Vogel. It is about a little beagle who runs around waking up all of her friends early in the morning to invite them to her birthday party “under the apple tree”. Funny thing about Daisy Dog…..she was up so early inviting her friends that she fell asleep in time for the actual party. All of her friends arrived and had to wake up “that silly, sleepy pup” so that they could have chocolate covered meatball pizza and thimbleberry pie. Reading this book has grown to be one of my favorite birthday traditions.

Not sure why I do it….maybe because it reminds me that no matter how old I get, there is still a little “pup” in me who can’t wait to celebrate her birthday with the people she loves the most.

Until next time, I remain...1SweetMama

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What May 19 Means To Me

Photo: popup calendar may june page by lilibee1

It is funny….I had another blog ready to post today when I realized that it was May 19.

For many, May 19 holds no real significance but for me, I remember the EXACT day that I began to form some kind of weird connotation with this particular date. My mother thinks I am weird....I think I would say I was sentimental.

It would have been May 19, 1975. I was in the second grade at Westchester Grade School. I remember that it was a sunny and warm day and I vividly remember my classroom. It is funny, but the older I get, the more clearly I can recall the little details of that room. I do not, however, remember my teacher or any of my classmates but I do remember that the room had windows that looked out on one side to the playground area and I remember that they were open that day.

As a six-year-old-about-to-turn-seven, I remember realizing that the date was May 19 and that I only had 5 “wake-ups” left until my birthday. As many wake-ups as there were fingers on my one hand. From that moment on…..there has always been a real meaning to May 19.

Today as I was preparing my blog entry, I realized that I only have as many wake-ups to wait for my birthday as there are fingers on my one hand.

Today’s weather is very similar to that of May 19, 1975. My house windows are open and the same smells of late spring waft through it as they did through my classroom windows many years ago.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since that day. But it still holds the same meaning and I still look forward, with childlike anticipation, to my birthday in five days.

Until next time, I remain.....1SweetMama

Friday, May 15, 2009

My Brother - The Soldier

Several nations of the world hold an annual Armed Forces Day to recognize, venerate, and honor their military forces. It is similar to Veterans Day or the “Remembrance Day” in many other nations. In the United States, Armed Forces Day is celebrated on the third Saturday in May (that’s tomorrow). The day was created in 1949, and was a result of the consolidation of the military services in the Department of Defense.

So, today’s quote pays homage to some special people in my life who have served my country. It is from American poet, essayist, journalist, and humanist, Walt Whitman:

“The moon gives you light, And the bugles and the drums give you music, And my
heart, O my soldiers, my veterans, My heart gives you love.” –Walt Whitman

I am a member of a family who has had at least one member serving our country in every generation, dating back to – at the very least – the Civil War.

Specifically, the ones I have been told about are my Great-Grandpa who served in the Armed Forces in WWI, my Grandpa S (US Air Force) and Grandpa F (US Air Force) served during WWII, my father (US Air Force), an uncle (US Army) served at the end of the Viet Nam era. My cousin (US Army), a graduate of West Point, has completed three tours of duty in Iraq and my kid brother has served in the US Air Force for the past 14 years, being sent overseas three times – this time to Kabul.

So… pride in the US Armed Forces runs thick in my veins. Every man and woman who bravely place their life between me and anyone who wants to compromise my freedoms is certainly worthy of honor. Tomorrow is a day set aside for that.

So, while I pause and reflect on all the things I have and the great cost others have paid in order for me to have them, I will think about my brother.

Three months into his service in Kabul, he misses his wife and two daughters who wait for him back home. He calls us all on a webcam program that allows us to see him and talk about our lives. He is always dressed in his dessert BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform). He always looks tired because it is 5:30 a.m., his time, when we are able to talk.

He thoroughly enjoys his work and he is interacting with so many nationalities of people. His assignment is very interesting and, once back home in the ‘States, he will be able to recognize the wonderful things he is doing and how he is truly making a difference globally.

This one, the brother, who I used to punch when my parents weren’t looking. I always kid him about this, but he, once, chewed the head off of my Luke Skywalker action figure…which, no doubt, unleashed a barrage of sibling beatings. How ironic that these days, he is the ultimate “Action Figure” of my life.

I will always be older than him but he will always be braver than me. I want to thank him and his family for allowing him to serve my country.

Here is to my brother, as well as all my other family members…and all of yours….who have served or are currently serving. May you know that you are truly the heroes of our time.
Until next time, I remain...1SweetMama

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

It's Not The Destination.....

This weekend I began the planning process for a road trip that the boys and I will be taking in a few weeks. We will be visiting my aunt and uncle who have a place in St. Augustine, Florida. This will be an exciting adventure for the three of us.

22 hours of road time. Yikes. It will take us approximately two-and-a-half days to arrive at our destination. The boys and I are very excited about all the things we are planning to do – including lots of beach time – but it is a little scary to pack up and get in the car to drive a half a country away.

We have certainly travelled before but this is the biggest trip we have taken together on our own….with ME as the responsible adult!! It makes me smile and wince all at the same time. But I have never been one to be intimidated by opportunities outside of my comfort zone. I stare ‘em down and give it my battle cry: “Bring it!!”

There is a quote from a book I read a long time ago. It was life altering. The book was called, “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho and I didn’t just read it – I studied it. Page after page presented me with new mantras to steer my life’s course. I couldn’t help but thinking of this one quote, in particular, as I was planning this trip:

“I've discovered things along the way that I never would have seen had I not had
the courage to try things that seemed impossible for a shepherd to achieve.”
(“The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho)

I, the Shepherd, and my little flock will load up the car and take the journey and wait to see what adventures await.

I have plotted the journey. I bought the GPS. My oldest son, armed with iTunes and $20, recorded the road trip soundtrack. And, with the Alchemist quote emblazoned like a road sign in my brain, I will set out on my journey – with my boys – and we will courageously discover the landscape between Le Mars, Iowa, and St. Augustine, Florida, knowing that, while our destination will be a most wonderful time, the fun really lies in the journey.

And while I think about it…..isn’t that what life is really all about anyway?

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama

Friday, May 8, 2009

Being A Mom

Sunday is Mothers’ Day and I have never had a clearer understanding of the magnitude of what motherhood means until this past week.

I came across this quote the other day:

“A mother is a person who seeing there are only four pieces of pie for five people, promptly announces she never did care for pie.” ~Tenneva Jordan

It struck me hard.

I have conversations with Moms who tell me about the different sacrifices they make in order to make life better for their children. They give up weekends to sit in lawn chairs or on bleachers to watch sporting events. They take personal days from work in order to nurse sick children back to health. They spend a king’s ransom to support their daughter’s dancing career. Some moms even confess that they feed the kids first and only eat after they are sure that their children have had their fill.

Becoming a Mom isn’t about getting to wear the fun (and funny) maternity clothes. It isn’t about the baby showers and the Christmas pictures and the God-given right to place the Honor Roll bumper stickers on the back of the family van.

It is sometimes about making the tough choices. It is sometimes about giving up things in life that are important in order to place the happiness and well-being of the children before our own. Careers, relationships, intellectual pursuits, financial independence….even their own physical well being…all lost for the sake of the children.

What it means to be a Mom is to put the children first. Always. No matter how much it hurts.

So why do we do it? Moms give up everything in order to raise their babies to become respectful, healthy, well-adjusted adults who will, one day, love their own children and contribute as leaders within their community. It is all about passing along the love from one generation to the next. It has been a Mom-Tradition dating back to the dawn of time.

Mom Love is bittersweet. We know that no matter how much love we pour into child-rearing, one day those children will leave us. But what we do know is that the degree of love we give is related to how much we will really “lose” those children. The goal is to love them so much that they will never truly leave us – no matter how far away they may live.

We love. We give. We discipline. We nag. We love. Being a Mom means sacrifice…a beautifully painful sacrifice that will both drain us and awe us all at the same time…a little like childbirth, wouldn’t you say?

Happy Mothers’ Day to everyone who “mothers”. Sunday is your day to step back and look at the flowers that are growing in your garden….and I don’t mean the garden in your yard…..I mean the one in your heart.

Until next time, I remain……1SweetMama

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Springtime in the Ice Cream Capital of the World

Photo, courtesy of D. Smetter, May 5, 2009

Warm weather is sometimes a long time a-comin’ when you live in Northwest Iowa. The April Showers that bring the May Flowers often become May Showers that bring the June Flowers.

But, late as it may be, I am always amazed at the beauty and wonder all around us as the deadness of winter springs forth in green lushness once the shower and thunderstorm season arrives.

It also never ceases to amaze me how we are all caught by the moments that Mother Nature brings us. I continually try to remind myself that it is so important to stop and smell the flowers. Take the time to breathe in the little things that life gives us that sometimes go unnoticed. I was so refreshed this morning when I came into work….just moments after the photo at the top of my blog was taken… and opened my Inbox to discover a half dozen emails from co-workers, including my boss who submitted today’s photo, of the double rainbow that appeared at 7:21 a.m. Adults routinely immersed with their usual morning routines suddenly stopped, took notice of the event and (thanks to the miracle of cell phone and digital camera technology) captured it. Photos of every angle and in many settings – farmland, interstate, residential – displaying this simple little thing that presented its loveliness to us today.

And that so many of my friends and co-workers took the time to stop and take in the beauty of this rainbow and wanted to spread it around via email is a wonderful thing. It means that we haven’t stopped appreciating the little things and they aren’t going unnoticed here in the place where I live.

As sweet as an ice cream cone on a warm, sunny day or as wondrous as a double rainbow in the heart of Springtime….thus is life in The Ice Cream Capital of the World®.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What Is Up With Crabby People?

I realize that if you live in “The Ice Cream Capital of the World” and you work for a company that makes Blue Bunny ice cream, your view on life might be a little more sweet than the view of someone who doesn’t. However, there is no real excuse for people to go around with a chip on their shoulder, infecting the rest of society with negativism.

I get so tired of people who feel that it is their mission to make everyone around them feel insignificant and miserable. The only deduction I can make from this kind of behavior is that those people are only truly happy when everyone else around them feels as sour inside as they do. And so the saying goes, “Misery loves company,” and I believe it.

We all have had bad days but there is no reason to take it out on other people. I have a mother who works in a job that handles consumer comments. You would not believe some of the things people say to her. She is not directly responsible for any of the things people call her number to complain about, yet those people use her as a verbal punching bag in order to help them vent their anger. She calmly takes the insults, tries to make it right with them and hangs up.

But what I have also noticed about my mother is that on days when the complaints are heavier, this usually pleasant woman is crabby, too.

Crabbiness is viral. Negativism spreads like a toxic disease and, if infected at an early age, can scar a personality for the rest of that individual’s life.

There are some people who I think would be so much happier if they just ate an ice cream cone every now and then.

The world, for the most part, is good. People, for the most part, are good. Imagine a world where everyone was kind to each other….and ate more ice cream.

Pass the scoop.

Until next time, I remain….1SweetMama