Category Archives: Family & Life

A New Venture

A few months ago I wrote that we have an empty nest.  Having a 16.5 year gap between my oldest and youngest child has resulted in a longer-than-usual child rearing time-frame.  Daughter #2, aka Guzzy, moved out last October, and has not (yet) returned.

So – we did the logical thing, and rented out her room.  We dipped our toes slowly into the AirBnB waters… and now we regularly host a variety of guests who temporarily share our rustic (with A/C and other amenities) log home in the woods.   There is a young couple ‘napping’ (or whatever) in the room even as I write this.

It has been really interesting.  In the few months since we’ve been renting the room, we’ve hosted people from many states and countries of various races and multiple generations.  This experience has turned our home into a mini melting pot.

A few weeks ago we hosted a charming young man and his mom, on her very first visit to the States from China,  to see him graduate from the UW.  She spoke no English, yet her pride was obvious and it was endearing to see the young man dote on his mom.

Early one Saturday morning, we had a young and adorable Asian couple in residence.  After returning from taking Cleo from a walk, I heard a surprised squeal from the bedroom–the cause of which was immediately apparent.  Cleo had interpreted the sightly ajar bedroom door as an invitation to go in and ‘nose’ the young woman awake.  I sheepishly retrieved our overly friendly hound and shut their door firmly behind me.    Most of our guests really enjoy Cleo–but this couple did not appreciate her early wake-up call.

Another interesting couple spent several days with us exploring the area.  They live continents apart from each other;  but they regularly meet up at various locations in the US to explore together.   He was a talker!   We’ve had a model stay with us while she had a photo shoot in town (she was absolutely lovely — her legs came up to my armpits) and a surprising number of people stay with us for a one night stop-over in their travels.

Dan is an amazing host, and is generally more engaging with the guests than I am.  I tend to show them the basics and then retreat into areas of the house that are off limits to our guests, such as our den, which is where I am now.  We try to give our guests space, even as we share a space; and some prefer more conversation than others.  Dan tends to be more gregarious than me, and (unlike myself) he has the amazing ability to stay awake after 9:30 pm;  whereas, I am better suited for early morning conversation and engagement.

The extra cleaning and laundry is a bit of a hassle though.  Last night Guzzy spent the  night – but she had to sleep on the couch, because I had already prepped the room/bed for tonight’s guests. Of course, she is always welcome here — but she just might need to make a reservation ahead of time if she wants to stay in her (former) bedroom.

Weekend Respite

Lately, work has been more of a grind than usual…  the weeks are long and the weekends bring respite: Mother’s Day weekend was particularly soul-replenishing and served as a reminder of how blessed I am — with MUCH to be thankful for.

That Friday afternoon I spoke at an annual professional event (making good on a promise / threat I had made a year ago to do so) – the presentation was well received and followed up by a few drinks with former colleagues.  A very pleasant ending to a rough week.

I was on the tennis court Saturday morning, with a standing group of tennis friends; followed by a quick shower and a brief journey north with Dan to attend a family brunch.  The food was amazing and we caught up with various family members.  On the way home we stopped for a nostalgic stroll at Devil’s Lake State park – where we visited the ‘brick’ commemorating our marriage there five+ years ago.  (Our brick is located 3 bricks down from the one labelled ‘Tinkles’).  The park was jam packed with families out enjoying the much-appreciated warm weather.

That evening, we had date night and went to a movie, which was hilarious.  I highly recommend ‘Snatched’ with Amy Schumer and Goldie Hawn.

The next day was Mother’s Day.  #1 Daughter Kelly had already made a donation to school a third-world girl for a year in my name (awesome!).  Son Ben paid a visit to make us lunch and visit in the sun over lunch.  In the afternoon, I went to a concert with #2 daughter–by a choir she was a member of when she was in school.  My own mother had been a choir director, and her presence was strong as the chorale music filled our souls.

#2 Daughter and I finished the afternoon with a visit to my father, highlighted by watching the end of the Brewers game and an extended search for #2’s phone – which was eventually found in the cushions of a chair.

Lots of family, with doses of sun, nostalgia, tennis and music.  All in all, a most excellent weekend.

Time with the grands

I recently took a break to spend a few days with the just-turned-4 twin grand girls. Usually Grandpa and Auntie Dee Dee accompany me on weekend trips, which translates to a total of five adults doting on the darlin’s during our visits; one of those adults being their momma;  who is (understandably) their favorite go-to person in almost any situation.  This generally means that the girls are wound up over all the extra attention, and it is difficult to carve out some quiet one-on-one (or one-on-two) time with them.

So, for this trip, I strategically left Grandpa Dan and Auntie Dee Dee behind, and babysat the girls for a few days during the work week. We played with play-doh, we sang songs, we went on bike and scooter rides outside, we played on the swing set (going REALLY High), we read books, we played Hi-Ho Cherry-O (remember that one?), we did chalk sidewalk drawings, and so on.  A couple times I turned on a Peppa Pig video when I needed some time to prep for lunch or clean up a mess.  They adore Peppa Pig!

At one point while we were playing outside little X2 said I was a flower and pretend-watered me.  I spread out my arms like I was growing, and she gave me a radiantly beautiful smile.  My heart melted.  Little X1 made dozens of play-doh pasta pieces for me to ‘eat’, chattering and narrating every step of the way in both Spanish and English.

We made cookies; using both chocolate AND butterscotch chips and had great fun dumping in the ingredients, stirring, taste-testing the batter and randomly glopping the cookies on the cookie sheets.  Then… grandma made a mistake.  Grandma forgot that their gas oven burns hotter than most.  Grandma forgot that the extra dose of chips in the cookies means more sugar in the mix – and melted sugar tends to burn.

When the smoke alarms went off – both girls started howling and one wet her pants. I tried to console them, but had no idea how to turn off the smoke detectors.  Luckily, poppa Luis raced up the stairs (he had been working in his lower level office) to open windows and shut off the alarms before helping me console the traumatized girls.   Eventually the girls calmed, and Luis was able to get back to work.

Little X2 went upstairs to her bedroom and was sitting quietly in a corner by herself. It occurred to me that she was still scared and when I asked “do you want to sit in grandma’s lap and have a cookie?”  she quietly nodded and reached up to me.   She was sitting sweetly in my lap, munching a crispy cookie, when she wrinkled her nose, looked up and me and said “This is disgusting!”   We all had a good laugh over that!

The following day after a long walk, X1 climbed in my lap and I read her several books while she nestled into me sleepily, and my heart melted for a final time  before hitting the road back to Wisconsin.  It is just those kind of ‘small’ moments that I came for, and I was not disappointed.

This grandma gig is pretty sweet – even though I won’t be baking cookies again for awhile.

Eating Right

I entered a 14 day challenge where I work out, to adopt 10 healthy habits for 14 days.  This includes drinking water (LOTS of water), no alcohol, no soda, enough sleep, eating 6 servings of veggies a day, exercising, stretching, keeping a gratitude journal, and NO sugar.

Somewhat surprisingly, the toughest item for me has been ‘no sugar’ .  I already exercise and journal regularly;  I’ve gotten used to the water (and peeing all the dang time); and so far, have eliminated soda and alcohol from my diet, while adding more veggies.  I am regularly scoring 8 or 9 out of the 10 point scale.

However, my sweet tooth is a well-deserved legend in our household. There have been a couple days I’ve especially gone overboard with the twisted logic of “You’ve already blown it for today, so go ahead and splurge!”   A more healthy response would be:  That was a yummy muffin; instead of:  “Dang, I blew it already today, so I might as well go ahead and have the jumbo bag of M&Ms too”.

I have concluded that for me the threshold of zero added sugar is counter-productive and unrealistic, and I am done beating myself up over it.

Looking through another lens: as an eating disorder advocate, I am  skeptical of dietary restrictions; even when given with the best of intentions.  The very act of restricting can be triggering for anyone with a history or tendancy towards excessive restricting or binge eating.   My own response is on the ‘binge’ side of the spectrum.

Studies show that dieting for weight loss is unsustainable and unhealthy; leading to yo-yo results and counter-productive metabolic changes.  The truth is, what is a healthy weight for one person, is not necessarily healthy (or sustainable) for the next person.

There have been a several occasions where I’ve encountered so-called experts giving advice on how to reduce calories; with the assumption that ‘everyone’ is interested in losing weight. I try to diplomatically challenge their views — with mixed results.  Many people are completely entrenched in the believe system that ‘everyone’ should be skinny and that skinny = good health.

I recall a conversation with a young woman who was hospitalized several times for being severely underweight.  Even when she was close to dying, she continued to received a barrage of compliments on her figure and attention from men.

It is a very disturbing reflection on our society that a woman who is severely underweight and near death is considered the epitomy of attractiveness.

As an eating disorder advocate, I have heard versions of this story many times.  The pervasive attitude that skinny = healthy is also a barrier to recovery, as sufferers are reluctant to lose that identity.

The notion that we should all be skinny is not realistic or desirable. We should not all aspire to be size twos.  I will never look like Gwyneth Paltrow, no matter how many 14 Day challenges I do.  My short, curvy body is strong and healthy and is just right for ME.  We should focus on our own health and wellness, without comparison to or judgement of others.

It can be good to challenge ourselves to improve our habits; with a goal of being a better version of ourselves.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to walk the dog and then have a yummy spinach salad:  right after I take a pee.


An unusual morning

As usual, the alarm clock woke me up this morning before I was really ready to wake up.

As usual, I stumbled into some shoes and took the dog out for a walk:  it was darker than usual, which I  attributed to the cloudy weather.

As usual, I donned my work-out clothes and loaded my work clothes, laptop and other items that I would need today into the car.

As usual, I headed to the Transformation Center, where I work out three mornings a week before work.  The traffic seemed lighter than usual. Lucky me!

As usual, the parking lot was fairly full and music pumped loudly out the open window of the early morning Bootcamp class.

As usual, I grabbed my stuff and headed up the stairs, into the locker room to stash my items and change my shoes.

As usual, I filled up my water bottle and headed back to the room where my 6:45 Fit Over Fifty class is held.  At the doorway I stopped short, as there was another class underway with an instructor I did not recognize with a group of sweaty participants that I also did not recognize.

The truth came on me in a flash:  It was 5:45 … not 6:45 in the morning. After a few moments of chastising myself and retroactively fitting in the puzzle pieces from other clues in the morning, I concluded that there had been a serious user error when I set my alarm clock the evening before (an error I have since confirmed), resulting in setting the clock ahead by an hour.   In the IT Biz we have an acronym for this type of event:  PICNIC (Problem in Chair not in Computer/Clock).

I spent my bonus hour sitting in Starbucks sipping a plain coffee, writing this blog, choosing to savor my own personal doubling-down on daylight savings time… if only for a day.

We will see whether I am still smiling over my error when I play tennis at 7:15 pm tonight…  perhaps I will need another infusion of coffee at 5:45 pm as well.

Celebrating Life

Last night we celebrated my dad’s 90th birthday.  The extended family of 24 souls ranged from 18 months ‘old’ to 90 years ‘young’.

It was an inter-generational gathering of people with a great deal of shared history.  The grand-children (Most are now in their 20s and 30s) shared memories of childhood fishing trips up north with Grandma and grandpa–simple times ‘away from it all’ that they clearly still treasure.  My son, Ben, shared that grandpa knew the secret to beating him at chess… all he had to do was turn on the TV to distract his grandson.

My siblings and I shared memories of dad teaching us many things: to drive, hunt, play checkers, deal with adversity and more. Incidents from our youth and adolescence were  told from multiple perspectives.   MY memories as a then 10 year-old the morning ‘after’ one of big brother Doug’s escapades was something like this:

  • Why does Doug have a big bandage on his head?
  • Where is the Maverick (its was a car – in our case, a very bright yellow car)?
  • Why is dad so mad?

Doug’s memories of that incident were reminiscent of a time when the local police force was more tolerant of underage drinking.

The young and energetic great-grands were wound up with excitement and sugar, careening around the private party room with abandon–contributing greatly to the general merriment. At one point, we were grateful to have a couple nurses in our midst… let’s just say that blood is thicker than water.

We all felt mom’s presence as we looked at old photos and reminisced over our childhoods; prompted by many pre-digital, dog-eared photos, many of which look absolutely ancient to the grandkids–primarily due to the styles of the day (some of us REALLY got into the big hair and glasses of the 70s and 80s)!

We hope dad has many years with us– after a rough couple years, he is doing well physically, and remains mentally sharp.  Last night was a reminder to all of us of how lucky all are to have him, and each other, in our lives.


Single motherhood and empathy

Dan has been traveling for work for the last few weeks, which means I have been a single mom to our critters; a very independent and low-maintenance kitty and a ridiculously needy doggie.  My regular weekly schedule for working-out, working and playing tennis has been tough to sustain while tending to the needs of our attention hound.

The last few weeks have brought back memories of the years when I was a single working mother (to human children).  Then (as now) I was fortunate to have access to good day care and had family in the area to provide an occasional helping hand.  Even so– I remember the near-continuous sense of being pulled in multiple directions at once–there simply wasn’t enough of me to go around.

I recall the evening when son Ben announced at bed time that he needed 5 pounds of salt-clay for school…. tomorrow;  and mediating disputes by phone at work, because ‘Ben is such a butt-brain’. I honestly miss those days.

I recall the  married co-worker with one child, who had returned to work part-time.  She told me how hard it was to cope with all the demands on her time.  I stared at her in wonder and (it must be said) some jealousy, and retorted that if she subtracted the husband, added a child, and added another 24 or so hours to her work week, then she could commiserate with me.

In other words, I was a complete jerk.   Misery isn’t a contest… There is no prize for the person who has the most difficult life circumstances—-except for (maybe) a split-second of nasty smugness.  More importantly, we never truly know what a person is going through, even if we are familiar with their life circumstances.  Fast forward another 5 years and this same co-worker was a divorced, unemployed alcoholic.  Dang.

One of my personal mantras when I start feeling  sorry for myself is “You can visit Pity City, but you can’t live there”.  This mantra has served me well,  but for those suffering from debilitating mental illness, depression, addiction or other affliction, there is a deeper sense of despair that does not have a quick fix and cannot be remedied by a pep talk.

Guzzy’s eating disorder and recovery taught me a great deal about not judging others, being empathetic, and being grateful for small things.

Today – I am grateful that Dan is home for the weekend, and that no one needs any salt clay in the morning.





Rockin the Mall of America

It’s Eating Disorder Awareness Week, and what better place to kick it off than the Mall of America?   The mall was rocking with over 1,000 walkers joining the fight against eating disorders.  The stage area was jam-packed and the intensity was high.
There were some Disney characters in attendance (although I highly doubt they were Disney-sanctioned; since several of them looked a bit frayed around the edges). In addition to several princesses, there was a very tall lanky version of Jack Sparrow, the efemminate pirate;  Guzzy and several other young ladies took selfies with the Johnny Depp look-alike.
I had a quick flash-back to the first time I attended a Twin Cities NEDA walk.  It was 3 days after my daughter, Guzzy, had been discharged from the Minneapolils Children’s hospital for life-saving treatment of her eating disorder.  This was in September 2013, before the walk moved to February, to coincide with the start of Eating Disorder Awareness week.   There were probably 150 of us huddled around a small stage for that walk, listening to a very technical (and exceptionally boring) speech by Guzzy’s psychiatrist.   The registration was unorganized and the ‘walk’ consisted of wandering around the inside amusement park.
From humble beginnings, great things can (and do) emerge.  I’m sure the organizers of that first walk had no idea that the Twin Cities walk would grow into the mega-event of last Sunday.
Standing in the Mall Sunday we found ourselves surrounded by an incredibly diverse crowd, many of whom were there to support a loved one:  a child, a parent, a sister, a brother, a friend, a lover, a spouse; we all came together in a demonstration of support and caring.
One of the speakers, Matt, shared his experience of going on a ‘field trip’ with other teens from his residential treatment program who were  wheel-chair bound.  On the bus to the destination, a few of the teens were comparing notes about what they would tell people if/when asked why they were in wheelchairs.  The plan was to tell people they had a heart condition– to avoid the stigma attached to having an eating disorder.   Matt had an ephiphany; why SHOULD they lie about their disease?  How can we begin to fight or destigmatize something if we cannot name it?
I admire Matt, Guzzy, Monica Seles, and the many others who are brave enough to NAME their illness and tell their stories; in hopes that others who may be suffering in the shadows, will find courage and hope in their words.
The 2017 Madison NEDA Walk  will be on Saturday, September 16th.  We haven’t set the program yet, but, maybe I can see if any of the Disney Princesses are available on that day.

Pong Time!

We moved into our current home a little over a year ago.  It has been my experience  that the ‘stuff’ that doesn’t find a place in a new home within the first month or two will most likely languish in the obscurity of a basement for a long time; with a high probability of being tossed into the trash versus getting promoted to living quarters once ‘rediscovered’.

In our case, one of the items languishing in our cellar was a folded up ping pong table. The only option for setting it upright in our new home is the unfinished basement; but a significant portion of the necessary square footage was, until very recently, completely obscured by random crap.

Shortly after our move, I counted no fewer than 12 tool boxes lined up against the basement wall with even more tools and man-toys hibernating in its various nooks and crannies.  We also own an extensive collection of lighting equipment. Dan is a light junkie –  constantly tinkering with different kinds of bulbs, dimmer switches and fixtures in his on-going mission to improve the lighting in our home.  This requires an extensive inventory to be at the ready for any possible lighting-related emergency.

We also have the normal ‘stuff’ that one stores in a basement: Christmas decorations, extra blankets, photos and memorabilia, cables that don’t fit anything, crutches, bowling balls, 30 year old crochet needles, and so on.  Last week, Dan finally got tired of my griping and spent several days re-organizing the basement and set up the table!

We are looking forward to playing – just as soon as we can find the damn paddles.



An Acquired Taste

Tonight I sent a very bizarre text to my husband.  Allow me to set the stage.

Our canine companion, Cleo was acquired almost exactly a year ago after a brief, yet intense, campaign on my part to convince Dan that we really needed a dog to complete our new lifestyle in our log cabin in the woods.  Although initially resistant, Dan is a very smart man with lots of first-hand experience with my tenacity.  Enter Cleo–a husky / beagle mix.

Readers of this blog are familiar with my affection for Cleo.  However, she has one particularly annoying and puzzling habit.  Shortly after her arrival in our home we discovered 6 pairs of Guzzy’s expensive lacy thong panties torn to shreds.  Prior to the mauling, the innocent undies were residing in the bottom of a basket of clean laundry waiting to be put away, requiring a concerted canine effort to root them out into the open.  Unfortunately, this was not an isolated incident.

As the primary dog advocate and owner, I would replace the mauled items.  I felt super creepy browsing Victoria Secret’s website searching out the lacy, sexy (and seemingly incredibly uncomfortable) styles that Guzzy seems to prefer.  Even as a mom, there was a certain ‘ew’ factor.

After Guzzy moved out, Cleo had to find another source for her undie fix, and turned her attentions to my decidedly more substantial (and more comfortable) under garments.

Cleo has proven to be a bit of a savant at sniffing out and destroying panties.  If she applied those advanced olfactory skills to sniffing out missing persons or detecting drugs; she could really make a difference and contribute to society.  Alas, the only benefactor of her current hobby is Victoria Secret.

Now that I am keeping my own unmentionables under lock and key, Cleo is forced to lower her standards further in order to satisfy her cravings.  Dan had bought some new clothes for our recent trip to Belize.  Thus, the text I sent him tonight: “Your Jungle undies have been decrotched”. 

At the risk of losing my PG rating, I won’t share his reply.