Saturday, May 29, 2010

What a relaxing 24 hours it was!

This is Eric and I before we headed out for his birthday dinner at Hidden Lake Winery's restaurant.  We rented the "honeymoon" cabin for the night to celebrate our combined birthdays (mine on the 20th, his on the 28th), as well as taking an opportunity to get away, just the two of us, for the first time since we were married almost 2 years ago.  We decided to dress for dinner and had a wonderful al fresco meal on the patio, under the stars, with a lovely bottle of wine, all-you-can-eat crab legs (along with a choice of potato and grilled asparagus), and a decadent dessert of chocolate cake with chocolate fudge drizzled on it over icecream and whipped cream...
This was taken this morning, as Eric and I wandered around the lake, exploring a bit, and enjoying the gorgeous day. We sat on the porch, read, (and I knit too), and relaxed; then we had lunch and another bottle of wine (had two the previous evening, all grown and bottled in-house). Then, we purchased some wine to bring home and savor, and got home about 20 hours after we left.  The house was still standing, the kids were all still alive, and the animals were content, so I guess it was a success all the way around!
This is the cabin we stayed in (I have more pics on facebook, if you go there: Hidden Lake Winery Album). It had a king-sized bed, a small breakfast bar, and a heart-shaped jacuzzi tub. It also had a full bath, an hd tv with satellite programming (we watched the news this morning, lol), and a futon for sitting/lounging on where the window is at the front of the cabin. 
It is a relatively new venture for the winery to have cabin accommodations, and there are still a few kinks--like there were no wine glasses in our room, (and no coffee either this morning! We had to call to get some packets delivered so we could make it), and what was provided for an "en-suite" breakfast was minimal (Sunday Brunch is included with an over night stay Saturday, but they were booked solid for tonight); they do offer a breakfast at the restaurant, but we elected to stay in our room and enjoy some things we brought with instead. The fireplace was lovely (gas) and we turned it on just for the visual, despite having the air conditioner also running (it was really hot the past few days!) and was perfect for being out-of-doors, which is where we spend the bulk of our day. 

Now we are home, and getting ready for company. Tony is up for a promotion with the Army Reserves and he has to head to NJ for 2 weeks of training.  We are gonna have Justin and Alexis here with us, and we will drive them back up to Minneapolis when we go up for the graduation party.  Liisa is also organizing a small baby shower/celebration for Brie while we are there, and it's gonna be so much fun!  I can't wait to have my little ones here with us for two weeks!  We will be going to the pool alot, and I forsee a trip to "Monkey Joe's " as well--an indoor playground made up of inflatable toys/games (like the moonwalk bouncers and so forth).  I figure with the kids out of school I will will have plenty of help managing them, and it will be such fun!

That's it for now.  Gotta go get some beds ready!  They will be pulling in around midnight-1 am, and Tony wants to leave first thing in the morning to drive back--he has to be in an honor guard on Monday for a Memorial Day event...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Time for an update!

I'm so sorry I haven't been around in over a week.  Last week was really busy through the weekend, and then I worked Monday and Tuesday (wow--10 whole hours!).  Now I am off through next week, and work again on Saturday, June 5th.  Oh well, gives me plenty of time to get my projects worked on!

Let's see: I wrote on the 17th, so that was Monday; my birthday was on Thursday, and we had a number of activities on that day, including a friend's retirement luncheon (from the Air Force).  That was a new experience for me, and it was fun.  We also had a meeting with the insurance rep to see about lowering our rates (no dice /pout) on car insurance, and we had a meeting with the lawyer in the late afternoon about some things.  Perhaps more on that another time. Suffice it to say, it went well.  Eric and I went to Red Lobster for dinner, just the two of us, and it was very nice!  Love that place!  We also, over those few days, got the garden established around the tree in front of the house, got a new storm door installed over the front door (we can now have the house door open and a screen the dogs can't reach for light and ventilation!!!!  I love it!); and we spent some quality time together as a family.

Patrick did NOT walk with his graduating class, and WILL be taking summer school to finish off his needed credit(s) for graduation.  If all goes well he will receive his diploma this summer.  Reimond got confirmed on Sunday, and Eric was able to use a vacation day to be there with us. I was so proud to have him there and be a part of something that has been so important to me. I am so grateful to Eric for making this milestone possible for Reimond--as important as it has always been to me, when I was a single parent in Minneapolis, I was unable to get Rei back and forth to the instructional classes etc.  Being here with Eric has allowed me to meet an important milestone in my son't life that he wouldn't (probably) have done on his own. 

Brie sees the OB on Thursday.  The baby continues to be active and Brie is starting to really "show" now; she gets grief from friends that she doesn't show much, given she is almost 7 months along. She is feeling lots of aches and pains as the baby is discovering her rib cage and some tendons along her abdominal walls to kick at...  As much as I adored being pregnant in the past, there are some things I don't miss at all as I see what she is feeling!  Some of her "nesting" instincts are kicking in and Brie has been helping with making meals and even doing the dishes!  It is such a lovely side effect and one I truly appreciate!

All the high schooler's are busy with finals this week.  They actually have a single two hour class on Tuesday, then are done for the year... We bought the season pass for the pool last week, so that is ready to go when it opens on Friday.  We sure could have used the pool this past weekend as the temps sat in the 90's and humidity was off the charts.  Eric and I are excited for our weekend get-away this coming weekend.  We are only gone Friday through Sunday, unless something comes up here at home and we need to be back sooner.  I cannot wait to have a little time away with just Eric!  We need some uninterrupted "us" time!

I am still not set up with an internship site, but if I am honest, I also haven't been working too hard looking towards it this month--too much else going on.  I have thru July 11th to get it all set up (for a fall term start), but I truly need to get going on that.  I do have a few more leads now than I had, so I have to start diligently looking into them.  It's just been hard to get motivated when things are so constantly in flux around here!  Eric's term ends this week, and he just has one more paper to turn in.  He has been assigned all night classes again next term, so hopefully he can stay on day shifts for another few months. 

Projects-wise (for those who are interested): I have finished the quilt for my niece for her graduation.  It just needs a bath and some threads clipped. That is on the agenda for today. The alpaca shawl still needs blocking as well, but is otherwise done. The new shawl I have started is about 10 rows from starting to bead, and I now need to string about 5,000 beads onto the yarn so I can knit them into the outer half of it.  I am quite pleased with how it is turning out. I also started knitting a baby bonnet for a friend of ours who is expecting a little girl any day now. I am going to do booties as well, and maybe do the sweater too if I have time (or the inclination). I have done more work on my major cross stitch project, and it is making me very happy.  Next major start though is the sun dresses for Alexis so they are ready to take to Minneapolis when we go in two weeks.

Anyhow, that is what is new around here as we head into the end of the month...  I am looking forward to summer!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Monday Musings...

It's yet another grey and gloomy Monday here in Mascoutah.  I have lots on my mind today, and I hope I can figure out a way to post it all...

First an update on life around here:

1. We are still unsure of the status of Patrick and Graduation on Friday as to whether he will walk with the class or not.  He had a "major" English project due last week that turned out to not be weighted as heavily as he had hoped, and we haven't gotten any info from the school, pro or con, as to whether he will be graduating, doing finals and then getting his diploma, or going to summer school.  Waiting patiently is not my strong suit (contrary to public opinion...)

2. We went out as a family (minus Patrick, who went to a friend's birthday party instead) to the Spagetti Factory over in St. Louis for Rei's birthday dinner.  It was a wonderful night, capped by a carriage ride with 7 of us in attendance.  Rei and Aurora sat in the box seat with the driver, and they were allowed to help drive the beautiful percheron horse (Rex), while Ryan, Brie, Dustin, Eric, and I enjoyed the ride around the night club area of the river front.  Rei and Aurora have decided they are going to be carriage drivers for a summer job (we'll see if they get hired first!)

3. Brie's new boyfriend Dustin is gone for three weeks to California for advanced training with the National Guard unit.  Brie was not allowed to go given her pregnant status. She did drill on Sunday, and will do some sort of "home training".  The unit is getting ready for it's deployment in August overseas.

4. Reimond says thank you and sends lots of love to everyone who sent him birthday/confirmation cards and gifts. He combined them with what we provided and got a laptop (basic model, basic functions) and he couldn't be happier.  It was a nice 16th birthday for him.

5. I have a friend who is struggling mightily with depression and hopelessness right now.  My heart just hurts for her because she is so lost right now.  There is nothing I can really say that will make a difference: platitudes and comfort won't change the statuses in her life right now, and I feel so helpless. I don't know how to help. I listen, but she knows the options as well (if not better) than I do, and she sees only bleakness in her future right now.  I am praying so hard for her, and I hope something comes along that will illuminate a path for her, because I know this has to come from inside her.  I cannot fix it for her.

6. We also heard last night that Eric's sister-in-law's daughter was in a bad motorcycle accident last night.  Her daughter is in rough shape, between broken bones and road burn; the guy she was with is worse off, with head injuries.  Brings me back to the days of working at a trauma hospital in Minneapolis, and all that I saw there.  I am keeping them all in my prayers as well.

That all brings me to my "Monday Musings."  I just finished reading Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol, and prior to that, Anne Perry's The Sheen on the Silk.  Both were completely different premises and genres (with the exception of both being in some way related to murder mysteries), but both had religion and belief systems at the heart of their stories.  Add that with the fact that for the past three weeks I have been attending religious instruction with Reimond at the church, in preparation for his confirmation on Sunday, and I have had a myriad of thoughts circling my brain again.  Dan Brown's book introduced some concepts I was unfamiliar with, including Noetic theory (which essentially looks at using and expanding the power of the mind), along with concepts of apotheosis (man becoming God or God-like); and Anne Perry's book looked at the schism between the Orthodox and Catholic churches (centered in Constantinople and Rome) and the conflicts between belief systems and politics.  (Please understand, these are broad generalizations).  Both books were very rich, very well-researched, and very detailed.  What both, along with the instruction at the church served to do for me these past few weeks, is examine my own belief systems, what I truly believe and hold on to, and what I hold to be self-evident truths, as demonstrated by how I live my life.  Phew...  That is a lot of thinking!

The basis of the Lutheran church rests in the three solas: Grace alone, Faith alone, and The Word alone...  That we cannot, by any works, words or deeds, save or redeem ourselves; that faith is what sustains, nourishes, and allows us atonement (by believing whole-heartedly in Jesus' sacrifice for us), and that Bible is the Word of God given to us for instruction, edification, and nourishment.  What it boils down to for me is that if we live by faith, trusting in God's grace to sustain and provide for us, and we study the scripture, we will show our belief in our actions, in our decisions, in our relationships with others.  Not that we will do it perfectly on any level (hence the need for Grace), but that we share by example who we are and what we believe rather than just mouthing the words.  Brown's books (and I include here also his previous Robert Langdon stories) all focus on the "ancient mysteries" that are shared in all cultures, via their sacred writings and belief systems; and this latest work by Anne Perry suggests that no one belief system holds a monopoly on the faithful, or can fully describe (or proscribe) what it means to believe (have faith) and live life accordingly.  That is again a broad generalization of what these stories said to me...  

I guess ultimately, for me, it confirms that my faith in God, my acceptance and belief in the sacrifice Jesus made for me, and the comfort and knowledge I gain from reading the Bible and having my devotions, and peace of mind I have of KNOWING God's grace is sufficient is part and parcel of the bedrock of who I am as a person.  As I watch my dear friend struggle with hopelessness I recognize that it has always been my faith that has illuminated the path for me so that I never fully gave in to despair. It wasn't that a magic wand got waved and life miraculously changed for me; rather, it allowed me to see the side roads, the options, or the path, I needed to follow, roadblocks, avalanches, and all, that brought me to the other side. Faith is a powerful thing! I don't hold to "preaching" or proselytizing, and I would never force my beliefs on anyone else (however, this is my blog, so I can share here what is in my thoughts). But I do know that faith in God sustained me when everything looked it's bleakest.  I knew there was a reason for all that was happening, whether I could see that reason or not (and some things I will never understand!), but that good has come out of them.  It has refined me, tempered me, made me stronger. 

This economy sucks.  I have a few friends who have been out of work for close to two years, with options for gainful employment in the near future looking bleak.  I see the loneliness it imposes because money is tight and it is hard to get out and "do" things.  Platitudes are cold comfort when you watch the house you designed and built being taken away from you because you can no longer afford to live there...  When all that is left is Faith, and Grace, and the Word... If you don't have that, how truly lost one must feel...  The biggest thing I am thinking though is that one doesn't have to be a Christian to have faith or grace.  Spirituality of any sort can be life sustaining, a life rope to hold on to.  Something that moves one outside of themselves and into the broader community of people.  Volunteering, sharing one's gifts, one's strengths, one's talents...  Stepping outside of yourself in the knowledge and belief that there remains something more.  That attitude that when I have no control over anything else in my life I do have control over how I chose to interpret it... That to me is the difference between those who survive, and those who remain victimized.  I think of the people of Haiti after the earthquake, where they were gathered together and still lifted their voices in prayer, praise, and unity.  It made me shiver! The sense of HOPE remained. 

Anyhow, if you have read any of these books I would love to talk about them with you.  The concepts, the thoughts, the challenges inherent in them are worthy of a dialogue rather than just my meandering musings...

Thanks for listening to me!

P.S.  Happy Birthday Grandpa Leonard!  You would have been 98 today!  I think of you often and treasure my memories of you.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Birthday time of year again...

Those of you who know me well, or have known me for what feels like forever, know that I always get kinda blue and nostalgic around my children's birthdays.  This year is no different for me.  I tried to explain it to Eric, and I am not sure if I made sense with what I was trying to say. It's not that I am so sad they are a year older (Tony just turned 25 last Thursday, and Rei will be 16 tomorrow); it's more that it's another year of letting go, of watching them move forward into new directions without me, of knowing that I cannot keep or protect them from what the future holds.  It's a time of reflection for me on the infants they were, on the children they became, on the challenges of their growing and developing, and of the mistakes I made, as well as the things I did right.  I don't see the changes as dramatically in Tony and Liisa from year to year anymore, given they are both adults, but Reimond's changes this year have been remarkable.  He is as tall (if not taller) than Tony (and Tony is almost 6'3"), although he is still as skinny as a rail; he's settled down some--not a lot, but some, and school is going better for him this year than last year.  His voice has deepened, his maturity level is improving, and he is just a really neat person in and of himself.  He has qualities that are similar to his siblings, or to me and Jim, but he is totally his own person, with interesting thoughts, ideas, and dreams.  I am so very grateful God brought him to me when he did, after I had given up on the idea of having any more babies.  Reimond has made my life so rich, and despite the challenges we had in raising another baby, I am so glad I have him.  He has been my reason for being on more than one occasion (like after my dad died, and after Jim left), and we have been through a lot, me and my kids, always together. 

I am feeling really tearful today, and while there is nothing TO cry over, the emotions are there close to the surface today.  It's been a long while since they have been this close.  I can't say it's homesickness, because I have realized over the past weeks (since getting home from Minneapolis) how much I have become settled here in Mascoutah.  I like the countryside. I like the trees and the open spaces. I like the quieter pace in many regards. I like the weather (for the most part--the tornadoes could go far far away), and I and finding my place down here. I like the space, and I like the peacefulness.  Eric has given me more in these last two years than I had ever imagined having.  The companionship, the love, the comfort of having someone to share things with, and the security of being "taken care of" has meant so very much to me, and I am so very happy within my relationship.  That isn't to say we don't have our ups and downs--all couples do--but we work them through and talk things out.  I feel so very blessed. The future isn't so overwhelming knowing I have Eric beside me.

A part of all the birthdays in May (and June too), is taking stock.  I have been taking stock of projects that need finishing, of dreams that need accomplishing, of plans for the future, and of things that I have completed. In the last two years so many things have moved to the completed side of the board, far more than I imagined.  There are still many things to do, all new, but the old stuff is moving it's way into the past.  It's such a good feeling. I have so much to be thankful for.  Maybe that is what the tearfulness is about: tears of joy and gratitude.  My heart is so full, the feelings are leaking out my eyes... 

I won't say I am completely satisfied with myself.  There are still many things I wish I were better at or more on top of. But on the whole, life is good, and there are things to strive towards.  I guess that is my goal for "MY" new upcoming year: to be content and yet move forward.  Sounds like a good plan!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Happy Mother's Day!

  Interesting...  My photos are having a mind of their own today!  I wanted to share the rose blossoms I have so far.  The yellow rose bush actually has two more large buds on them, while the pink one only has the one bloom.  And the pansies are actually still in their pots from the garden center, sitting in my bird bath, because Eric still needs to help me get the ring around the tree in front done up to suit us (we bought one more round of cedar shakes to make it a bit wider). 

Any how, my gardens are coming along nicely, and we got the lilac bushes planted in the back yard.  I am very pleased with how things are developing around here.  It is colorful, warm, and welcoming!  I know Eric has a lot of homework he needs to work on this coming week (his "short" week at work) but I have a few things on deck for him to help me tackle when he has time. 
I have had a very quiet mother's day.  The kids and Eric gave me my gift a few weeks ago, and I continue to be thrilled with it--the Nook from Barnes and Nobles.  I have put a number of books on it to read, all bought on "sale" (meaning less than $5), and I have "bookmarked" some I want to get (new releases) so I don't lose them in the mix, for when I am ready to order them.  I made a quilted sack to put it in for when I take it places (to protect the screen and pad it a little in my purse or bag), and I even personalized it, so everyone knows it's mine.  I am quite content. Rei and I went out for breakfast, just the two of us, because Patrick had to work at 7 a.m., Aurora has been with her mom for the weekend, and Brie is off with her new friend.  She (Brie) is actually meeting up with her Mom and Aurora to bring Aurora the rest of the way home as their mom is not feeling well.  I was supposed to work today, but got called off a little after 1:30 p.m.  Not a big deal.  I am going to spend the afternoon stitching I think.  Eric has been totally apologetic that I am on my own with only Rei for the second mother's day in a row, but I really don't mind.  As my mom says, every day should be mother's day, not just once a year.  And for me, it generally is!

I am not sure what is up with the formatting today--I cannot get it to align left...  I got my laptop back from the repair shop on Thursday. They replaced the dvd drive, the hard drive, and the ac/dc port; they also cleaned it out real well.  But, they told me my battery and/or my ac adapter cord were bad (probably the cord being bad ended up wrecking the battery).  Fortunately, they are going to again warranty out the pieces (I had replaced both back in July 2009).  I have "borrowed" Brie's AC adapter so I can use my laptop, and I have to admit, as happy as I am to have it working again as it should, I am really bummed that all of my bookmarks and favorite are gone.  Trying to remember web addresses is driving me nuts!  On Monday I will print off the shipping labels and run to the UPS store to send them both out. Then, hopefully before the end of 10 days I will have the new cord and battery...  So glad I have my paper done, and that I saved it and all my research (along with my pictures etc.) onto my external hard drive.  At least I have not lost those!

I have lit a candle in my room, I have the window open just enough for a breeze (it's rather chilly out today!), and I am going to get my silk threads and beads out and work on my cross stitching for awhile.  I am not sure when everyone else will start filtering back in home (and Reimond is napping on the couch). Might as well take advantage of the peace and quiet though! 

As I told Eric on the phone, I am so totally happy and content recently.  My material wants are satisfied and then some (and I don't think that I am so terribly materialistic); I am on track with my education, at least as on track as I can be right now while I am in limbo; and we are doing well as a couple and as a family.  I am really looking forward to Memorial Weekend when Eric and I take a little "mini Honeymoon" Friday through Sunday (we are spending Friday night at Hidden Lake Winery in their "honeymoon cabin", then perhaps going to Paducah, KY-about 3 hours away-for Saturday to Sunday, to browse the shops, and just "get away" for a couple of days).  I am so looking forward to that.  Eric and I really have not had a concentrated "just us" weekend since we got married!  We've both missed it and are looking forward to rectifying this situation. 

Anyhow, that is the update from around here.

Monday, May 3, 2010

What a beautiful May morning!

It is a gorgeous day today after a weekend of rain and threatening storms (including a tornado cloud/rotation that passed overhead on Friday night!).  The weekend was filled with activities for the kids--awards at bowling on Saturday morning (Aurora got a scholarship, Patrick got a trophy for their team winning something, and all got medals for participation).  I worked all weekend (again!) and Patrick went to Prom Saturday night.  Sunday Patrick worked the morning/all day shift, Eric had a bowling tournament to go to (roll off for first place with his tuesday league), and Brie too was at drill all weekend.  Everyone had something on the agenda, whether it was entertainment or scheduled activities!  I am glad I have this week off to recouperate!  This is, of course, Eric's hell week again (works Mon-Tues, Fri, Sat, Sun., with classes Mon, Tues, and Fri nights...) so it's a good thing I am off all week during the weekdays. 

The sun is shining today though, I woke up energized and ready for the day at 6:45, and I am enjoying the sunshine, blue skies, and fresh air.  Have lots I want to accomplish today!  Really, I don't have a lot I want to write about.  Nothing is really bugging me to vent over, I have accomplished some things I wanted to finish up (my two-at-a-time socks are knitted, and turned out well, and I finished the shawl out of baby alpaca wool; pics will follow in the next few days); I am plugging away at finishing up some projects that I have had in progress for varying degrees of time (I think my cross stitch of Lady of Shallott is the longest running one, at about 6 years or so), as well as the quilt I want to finish, and a pair of socks I started in a class I was teaching (one is almost done, then I need to make the second one).  As long as I have the time to do it, I want to get them done!

Eric and I put in a new water softening system on Friday.  We had registered for a free drawing for a new (deluxe) washer and dryer, and as a part of that, Home Depot contacted us about having a free water testing done and we had that Thursday night.  I really hadn't planned on buying anything, but we were impressed with some of what we saw, enough so that Eric decided we needed to do it (not that I disagreed--I just worry about money).  They installed it friday, and now that the pipes and hot water tank have cleared of the "old water", we do see/feel a difference in how things work.  The biggest change is getting used to the silky feeling of lotiony skin after bathing/showering because the impurities have been removed.  The water tastes a bit different too.  It is supposedly cleaner, and I honestly have to say it tastes different from how it tasted before.  I agree it tasted better in a side by side taste test with our old water, but it will take some getting used to.  As a part of our package we got a 6 year subscription to a soap/cleaning products service where we get free products that are "greener" than what we buy in the store.  They are concentrated/just add water things, and we will try them out.  So far I am pretty impressed, although we are committed to using up what we have on hand before fully switching over.  They brought us a one year supply of products when they put in the system, and then we can order more things online as we need them (with a goal of using up all our credits by the time 6 years run out...  We may have cleaning supplies in concentrated form for the next 25 years once the kids move out!) 

Brie is taking off shortly to go meet up with a friend who lives about an hour away.  I have to admit, I am looking forward to having the house to myself for a few hours, at least til the other kids get home!  As much as I love being a part of an active, boisterous family, there are times I miss being alone and just "doing my thing".  As my mother says frequently, I got to be very independent in my single life, and I miss that sometimes.  So, I guess it is time to move on to phase three of my day: cleaning the litter box, vaccuuming my upstairs, and finishing up Brie's laundry so I can work out my own!