Tuesday, April 29, 2014

It's all relative

They say when you get married that you marry the family.  Sometimes it comes across as a negative thing.  Hopefully more often, it comes across as a positive thing.

When you marry into a family it expands your horizons.  You learn more about other people and then in time, learn to love them as if they were your own family from birth.  

I came from a relatively (pun intended) small family.  My parents both only had one sibling.  Neither my aunt nor uncle had children, so I never had a cousin.  Our Thanksgivings included our family of five and a set of grandparents.  That was usually it.  

When I married into the Chairman's family, I married into a large one.  Extended aunts/uncles/cousins.  And a lot of them.  Through the near-20 years I've been a part of this family, there have been some losses.

We lost a colorful uncle named "Bruno".  He is hard to describe actually.  He had a twinkle in his eye.  He was never at a lack for words.  He'd shoot from the hip and tell you exactly what he thought of you, your food, your house, you name it.  And he had a heart bigger than inside his chest.  He bestowed upon us our grave spots when our baby died.  He knew how to step in and help when needed.

Then we tragically lost our near 16-year old niece.  Taken too soon in the prime of her life.  But it was His will.  A month later, the Chairman lost his only sibling after a terrific fight with cancer.  Sadness surrounded us, but the sun eventually came out again.  

Now another cousin is near the end.  Alonia is her name.  She has fought melanoma for too many years.  Nearly 17 years ago they gave her just six months left to live.  She kept on through diligent treatments that took her to far away places.  But the cancer spread and now is taking over.  

I really didn't know Alonia much before our wedding day.  I remember feeling near-faint as I stood to vow that I'd be Mrs. Chairman.  What kept me from completely collapsing in my nervousness was the continual sniffling sounds coming from the crowd.  Alonia was crying throughout the ceremony.  I like to think they were tears of joy and not distress.  And the memory makes me smile.

After our baby died, she cried with us.  Once when she was looking at pictures of baby Amara, she told me plainly, 'please don't give up.  You want children.'  These words had weight since she herself, was childless.  

She was a giver.  She'd often bring little gifts for the MYP.  She'd take the time to talk to them on their level.  She would call me every so many months just to visit.  Her conversation would always turn to me and she wanted to know more about how my life was than telling me about her own even though she and her husband liked to travel the globe to glamorous places while my life was consumed with home and hearth and family.  Just this past fall, she brought a beautiful gift box of spices with a card enclosed that simply had the word 'kind' on it.  That describes her.

Last year we hosted the annual Thanksgiving dinner with all the extended family.  Alonia felt she wasn't well enough to come.  She called several times wishing she could be with us and was crying on the phone as she thought it might be too much.  I urged her to come.  It wouldn't be the same without her.  And she did!  We were thrilled to see her and her husband walk in.  They were precious moments together.  

And now she's fading away.  We will miss her deeply.  For her countenance, grace, and beauty that is beyond the surface.  She taught me a lot in the last 20 years.  She wasn't afraid to show her emotions and empathy.  For this, we are thankful for her.  And for a larger family. 

Monday, April 28, 2014

The case of the missing purse

And one final post!  This deserves one all its own so I can remember the details some day down the road.  However, it was so icky, I might not forget anyway.

The first place the ship stopped at was their private island called CocoCay.  It is a beautiful place about a mile or so around.  Plenty of chairs and food and crystal clear water.
We got some chairs reserved and headed out into the water to splash around and try out the snorkeling.  Then we felt the slightest hunger pang and headed to the buffet line.  Daughter #2 had just taken a picture and slipped her phone back into her little purse and slid it under a beach towel.  Daughter #1 was nearby as she wasn't hungry quite yet.  

We return with our plates loaded with goodness.  We munch along.  I decide to run to the restroom before settling down for a relaxing afternoon of sea breeze and sunshine.  On my return I'm met with an alarmed look from daughter #1.  "M's purse is gone!!!"  What?  I rush back.  I see the Chairman.  He looks physically ill.  Daughter #2 is sobbing.  I ask what happened.  

Daughter #2 wanted to take another picture and felt under her beach towel where the purse was placed and it was gone.  I can't believe it.  I pick up the towel.  Not there.  I pick up nearby towels.  Not there.  I look under chair.  Not there.  I'm also starting to feel physically ill.  Inside this little purse (a Vera Bradley I might add) is a brand-new smart phone.  Also cash, a few personal items, and the ID card for the ship.  Daughter #2 is inconsolable.  She's crying.  The Chairman rushes off to find security.  Daughter #1 feels she should go alert the people right at the dock near the checkpoint.  I decide to just ask anyone nearby if they've seen or heard anything.  I tell anyone that will listen.  A police officer from Baltimore walks up in his swimming trunks.  Another man from Buffalo NY is an eager-beaver kind of helper guy.  Two older ladies from Great Britain come forth.  They are asking people for help.  I keep going back and forth between places staring at the same sand and chairs and wishing a stolen purse would just show up again.  The trip feels senseless.  I feel a very deep pit in my stomach.  The phone replacement would be at least $300 plus all the other inside.  Not to mention a daughter that is sobbing on her chair.  This goes on for at least a half-hour.

I keep asking and talking and wandering around.  I say to a few people, 'who would steal from a young girl?'.  Other parents stop by with sympathy in their eyes.  They tell stories of lost or missing items that have occurred in their life.  Nice, but I'm wanting this purse back and this situation resolved.  I finally realize it is fruitless.  The perpetrator won.  I start to wander away and then look back.  WHAT???  There on the back of the empty chair is the purse!  For a split-second I think I'm dreaming it.  It is still slightly moving like it was just tossed there but I see no one nearby at all.  I run over and yell to daughter #2.  "IT'S HERE!  It has been returned!'  We look inside and everything was in tact.  The phone, money, incidentals, and ID card.  Without thinking further I say enough for others to hear, 'whoever returned this, Thank You!'.  Soon the Chairman returns with two intimidating security officers.  I tell them it has been mysteriously returned.  They say that maybe the one that took the purse realized that they have to go through security and it will be discovered since they all know it is missing.  

Whatever the case, it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day turned into a blessed day of sunshine and happiness.  Daughter #2 got some intense talking to about safety and responsibility (though she has a very good record in her little life so far) from her father.  

I have a suspicion of who possibly did it that was sitting nearby.  We will never be able to prove it was him, but it is the most logical theory.  Whatever the case, the purse was recovered and she learned a lesson that day that none of us will ever forget.
the crime scene (note:  that guy is not involved in story)

Monday Musings

Back to reality.  I'm back to standing in the kitchen in my fuzzy bathrobe yawning while I make multiple lunches...   I think I'll bullet point some thoughts and observations from the past week.

* Lisi got three vaccinations a day and a half before we left.  She then started to limp and shake and wouldn't walk.  So the night before we left I'm calling an emergency vet and lying on her dog bed feeling very, very sad for her.  Thankfully, she got over it within a day and I will never, ever give her more than one vaccine now (the mandatory one).

* Cruise ships are famous for ample food presented in spectacular fashion.  The MYP had bulging eyes at first and soon their stomachs were.  A couple items I noticed they don't serve on buffets.  Chips of any kind and pickles.  Not sure why.  Just an observation.  Seafood and chicken dishes were very good.  Pasta was so-so.  It's never as good as real Italian that I make and enjoy at the relatives.  Beef?  Nope.  Never liked it much.  We are spoiled here in the Midwest with good beef.  Ample salads were offered.  They were delicious.  Desserts were presented in beautiful fashion.

* On board, they work very hard at customer service.  Our wait staff was flawless in both the room and at the restaurants.  We had two that served us nightly.  Nilesh from India and Mina from Serbia.  The Chairman was most interested in Mina's country since he's well-versed in anything historical.  They chatted about the four recent wars and the sorry state their country is in.  Mina is an English teacher but doesn't have enough money to bribe authorities in her homeland.  Sad, but she was just like a dear friend when we left.  Seven months on a cruise ship seems like a floating prison cell to me.
* In normal life, I'm the one serving others.  It was nice being served for nearly a week, but it actually made me feel almost queasy after awhile.  I wanted to jump up and help clear the tables at times.  Yes, I'm weird.

* We paid just a wee bit extra to have a balcony room.  It was worth every penny and more.  A perfect place to read in the morning.  A perfect place to watch the sun rise and set.  A perfect quiet place to visit with my beloved.  A perfect place to watch sea turtles bobbing in the water.  I think you get the point.

* I have heard about bucket lists but I've never really had one.  However, if I did, I would have had snorkeling on my bucket list.  I've only gone once before in Jamaica many years ago.  I wanted to go out near coral and see the deep blue sea and the life beneath the surface.  I was not disappointed.  It was just like swimming in a gigantic fish tank.  I'm snagging a photo off-line since we didn't have underwater cameras.  But this was exactly like what we saw:
* I really like to let my hair down and get crazy on vacation.  Two of the nights I was back in the room by 9:30 reading the itinerary for the next day in the coziness of the bed.  Thankfully, the Chairman was on night watch and made sure our MYP were safely tucked in at a decent hour.

* And after disembarking, we drove home to dairyland.  All 1400 miles of it in a medium-sized car.  It tested the mettle of the family, but we came out unscathed.  The Chairman drove each and every mile even with a bit of nudging on my part to get out of the driver's seat.  As we were going through civil war locations, the Chairman was telling son #1 minuscule details about the war and the mountain we were passing.  This is what I observed from the back seat.  Riveting stuff to him.

* We watched the seasons change before our eyes as we came north.  At one point the temperature dropped 35 degrees in about two hours.  I'm kinda wondering why we live here right now.

* We were stuck in a construction traffic snafu in KY that lasted nearly two hours.  After that, the Chairman drove like we were really, really late for something.  Thankfully, I found the "Waze" ap.  It tells you where the cops are hiding!  Really!

* Seems being on vacation causes people to lose abilities. I found this post-it-note on the kitchen island this morning. 
* There's a 'whitest teeth challenge' going on here at the Chairman and Co between a couple of the MYP.  I'm not sure who will win, but I'm glad to hear the toothbrushes humming away quite often each day.  

* Someone really missed us...

* Well if you are the primary laundry person in your home, you probably know that a family of five can produce a very large amount in a weeks time.  I have piles to fold before I sleep...  piles to fold before I sleep... (apologies to Robert Frost).

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Sunday Summary

A bonus to you peeps!  I will be Musing tomorrow, but think I'll preface it tonight so my Musing doesn't get so long that it becomes not aMusing.

I will keep the summary somewhat brief for a couple major reasons.  1) the people most interested in the vacation were the people actually on the vacation.  The others?  Not so much.  They ask politely how your time was when you were gone, but they want to hear the condensed version of the condensed version.  After that, eyes glass over.  Reason #2) one of my basic principles here on the Chairman and Co. is that I never-ever want anything to come across as bragging.  Ever.  I highly resist sharing certain aspects of our life, because the most interesting topics are not about opportunities or acquisitions.  They are about the the realities of life - harsh and beautiful.  And so having an opportunity to be in a warm place in the midst of a very chilly spring was wonderful.  But that doesn't make me eager to shout from the rooftops about it.

Anyway, I digress.

We flew to Florida a week ago and spent the night.  Then drove a car to Port Canaveral and got on the Enchantment of the Seas (Royal Caribbean) for a M-F cruise to the Bahamas.  It was smooth sailing.  Picture perfect.  Wonderful temperatures.  And a nice family bonding.  The Chairman and I had a room and next door were the MYP.  Except for one fracas one night, they seemed to survive sharing a room together without self-destructing.

After a couple stops at pristine beaches, snorkeling, sitting on the balcony, and eating a bit too much (urp!), we disembarked and hopped into our rental car for the long and arduous journey back to dairyland.  This included one near-two hour delay in the hills of Kentucky due to road construction.  Fourteen-hundred miles we made it safely to the Chairman's Chalet and were greeted by two very happy golden pets that purred simultaneously (yes, Lisi does a weird happy growl-purr thing when she's emotional or wants a treat).  However I might add I think they did not suffer one bit with three exceptional caregivers here for the time we were away.

So tomorrow I might share a few bullet points or a story or two about our time.  As I said, it'll be brief and back to the normal business at hand here at Chairman and Co.  But before I do, here are a few pictures that make me smile.

all aboard!

neat bungee jumping thing (T on left, M on right)

one of the beaches

a couple YP I saw in Nassau

yes, these ships are incredibly large

on our way for a snorkel excursion

ahhh the view in the morning

nearly 20 years and he's still the one

Sunsets are nice too.  I marveled at the color change in water due to the shift in sunlight.  If you want to think about that deeper, you are welcome to.

sleeping beauties on the long trip home

on my lap right now...  he's been so loving it is almost pesty
See ya tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Wednesday Words

I can't help myself.  I have words and it is Wednesday.  If you haven't guessed, I should be busy.  And honestly, I am.  But not too busy to not pen type a line or two.

Getting ready to go somewhere is daunting.  There are laundry baskets that need to be completely emptied so there can be clean duds to go.  I intensely dislike unfinished business at home when I leave.  I like the laundry done.  The dishes clean and the house completely tidy so I can go off and enjoy myself.  I'm a bit OCD like that.  The newspapers and mail must be stopped.  Plants watered.  Bills paid.  

resting on my doggie jammies this morning :-)
For me the biggest deal is leaving furry friends behind.  I was wondering the other night while not sleeping why I fret over leaving these golden-haired animals we live with.  Probably simply because I love them.  And because they are almost always nearby.  I think that's why going away on trips is kind of bizarre.  It's like leaving a kid behind.  Since we have in-house care again this time, I'm completely confident all will be well. 

We've had a major discussion about arrangements that seems to not quite end.  Two adults.  Three young people.  Two rooms.  Two tend to be early risers.  Two males, three females.  How in the world do you split up the sleeping situation?  We want everyone comfortable and a decision made without anyone unhappy.  Hmmmm.

Today one of my sisters is having a birthday.  And you are thinking, 'wait a minute!  She only has one sister!'.  Well this is a sister-in-law that feels like a sister.  She's been the flair to our family.  She was a tender mother to three adorable little baby boys.  She's now a mother of nearly all grown-men that have turned out to be wonderful guys.  She's loved my brother for many years (I still don't know what she sees in him... j/k!).  And she's been my friend and stood by my side when I vowed to be Mrs. Chairman.  Happy birthday to you sweet Jane!

I saw a flock of at least 50 robins on my walk yesterday  I think they want to keep going north but they heard the worms are still buried deep in snow up there.  

Ok.  Time to get down to business and get something accomplished.  I hope the next Monday still has meaning to you without a Musing....  I am completely confident there will be more than one humorous situation to share with you all on our return.  With our family, it's pretty much a guarantee...

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday Musings

Well hello on this blustery Monday morning!  Though we saw a bit of snow this morning, we also see the promise of daffodils popping through the soil and the grass greening.  Happy sigh.

We've had a nice few days.  While some of the family went out doing this:
Daughter #1 and I were doing this:

Well I didn't spend the day with my head on her shoulder that would be weird.  We actually went and did a bit of shopping and had a lot of alone-time which is just wonderful. I could have went and had my keester hit with a paintball, but I try to refrain from such silliness at times.  I always say, 'maybe next year'.

Because I love language and take joy in being a 'grammar police' I enjoyed watching this yesterday.  Or this is another way to link:  http://www.wimp.com/poemenglish.

I saw this:
and this:
I still like funny.  

Well I hate to disappoint the masses that check in on the Chairman and Company, but I don't have much to offer today.  And to add insult to injury, I am certain there will be no Monday Musings a week from today.  Why you ask?  Well it is spring and I need a break!  Put that together and you may just well envision our party of five in a place that looks somewhat like this:
Well off to get something done on this Monday...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Warmish Wednesday Words

Ahhhh.  It's a flip-floppy kind of day!  I actually cracked out my favorite black Nike ones for some errands this morning.  My toes were in complete shock to be taken outdoors uncovered.  They looked pale-white in fact.  I often wonder why I buy many short-sleeve shirts?

Today I had a massage.  In fact, it was my last one in a very, very long time.  You see I've had a membership for nearly six years.  With tighter budgets and cutting unnecessary things, this was something that had to go.  Hard to take in that I've had over 60 of them.  That seems so excessive.  And blissful...  Goodbye "Nicole".  I'll miss you!  And so will my knots.

I never knew what a minority I was!  I noticed in the paper that the percentage of stay-at-home-moms has risen!  To... 29%!  I had no idea.  

Speaking of parenting.  Yesterday wasn't the best day in the parenting books to be honest.  And at bedtime one of the MYP was sitting nearby and asked, 'is being a parent fun?'.  I wanted to say quickly 'actually today it kinda stinks and I'd like to throw in the towel'.  But what I did say was that it can be fun, but it also is rewarding and challenging and scary and then there are times when you think the buttons will just pop off your chest in moments of pride and joy.  Sure, throw in the word fun.  Because some days it is. 

I'm so very excited!  A transfer of goods is happening today on my behalf!  Wheat berries!  Glorious, wonderful, free-of-bad-stuff wheat.  Hard and soft red wheat begging to be ground and then shaped and molded into cookies and muffins and bread and soft dinner rolls and pizza crusts.  It must be considered my hobby since it is one of the activities that I do that I can't wait to do again.  I will meet my parents soon to unload the 125 lbs. of goodness.

Mr. Tiger Tom (aka Simba) is celebrating his 2nd birthday on Saturday.  Cans of tuna could be delivered to... oh never mind.  He gets whatever he wants.  Especially mice and voles and other unlucky rodents that cross his path in the dead of night.

Speaking of birthdays... mine is coming up shortly.  My dear family loves to make a fuss over my birthday but I rarely have any suggestions for gifts.  What should I ask for?  I continually ask for well-behaved MYP and I receive back a sigh and an eye-roll.  That must be too hard to find.  

Time to get out and enjoy some of this sunshine!  It always makes everything better!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday Musings

And a good Monday morning to you!  After having some very special and slightly overwhelming days last week, it feels actually nice to have the cat sleeping next to me and the quietness of the house back again.  However, it was so very special.  All of it.  This was one of the 'bonus' visits at my parents.
This was in our own home:
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This one makes my heart melt.  If you know her, you know why.
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Yes, the special day.  Always brings out emotions and a camera.  The MYP don't understand how much I enjoy knowing I'll have a picture from each year.  They aren't perfect photos, but they are our babies growing.  Here is 2001.  Nearly a year of parenting under our belt and they are smiling.  Must be going ok.  I remember trying to have them both side by side on a sofa and son #1 kept pushing daughter #1 away.  He wanted his own gig.
Two years later we have another gift of a child on the special day.  Be still my heart.

And now today.  Well, actually, yesterday.

This just cracks me up.  You see for the very first time, son #1 was MIA.  He was off shooting things at the chicken farm and they brought him to the special day.  However, he had forgotten his shoes, so we at least had that.  Heh heh.  I wonder if he chose to be gone because he didn't want to have another annual picture taken.  Surely not!

Then we were invited to spend time with a very full house of Italian relation eating spaghetti and homemade ravioli.  This little sweetie pie was there.  This is one of the few babies I would just love to bring home with me.  He's kinda like the 'golden retriever' of babies.  Every day seems to be the best one yet.  And he's Adorable with a capital "A".
Then there is this picture that was taken in the morning by daughter #1 with my phone.
I asked her to do it since our last decent picture of us two was nearly a year ago.  Since I'm not into false advertising, I decided to update my FB profile shot.  I need to be sure everyone knows that my golden locks are graying by the day, a new wrinkle has appeared, and quite possibly the start of an extra chin.  But I hesitated to do it.  Why?  Because if you update your picture it kinda appears like you want people to look at you.  You are begging for comments and 'likes'.  I'm not.  But when I woke up this morning after posting it last night I had (as I type this) 62 'likes' and 14 comments.  Sweet and appreciated, but so very unnecessary.

I read recently that the most successful marriages are not 'on-line'.  I tend to agree.  I very infrequently say much about the Chairman because, well, I don't think I need to.  But I will just say this today because of the picture.  I'm incredibly thankful for nearly 20 years of being Mrs. Chairman.  And that's all I need to say.  

Happy Monday to you and yours!  

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Thriving Thursday Thoughts

Thriving.  Such a nice word.  Flourishing!  Prosperous!  I hope I'm that way in a deeper sense.  This week is one of those 'special' weeks that many of you know about.  Not only do we get our own privilege, but I have been included on two other visits.  Apparently the word is out that I need extra-special help.  And that's ok by me!  I'm so glad to be around people that cause me to want to be better than I am.

Well in a very normal-living way, I've been busy at least!  By 9:15 this morning I have five loaves of fresh bread out of the oven and a batch of granola made.  Also made a couple school lunches and homemade whole wheat pancakes for breakfast.  Whew.  I should go take a nap.

Speaking of lunches and morning.  Daughter #1 was adamant that I didn't need to get up to see her off this morning.  "Please mom, don't bother.  I like being alone anyway."  I think I'm on to something.  She's just plain sick of turkey sandwiches.  Because somehow her lunch didn't make it to school this morning.  

Saw a personalized license plate yesterday on a car that raced past me at break-neck speed.  It said:  "SINNER".  Well yes, especially if you speed like that too.

I got all the bushes trimmed and cleaned up the flower beds the other day.  I may or may not have chosen that day because the forecast was for gale-force winds and I knew that my trimmings would be somewhere near Lake Michigan by the time the wind stopped.  I was happy to see this in the garden.  So will Simba.  His catnip is the first thing I spot coming up! He deserves it as he's become the mighty night hunter and is offering up various rodents once again each morning.
Well there are several more items to make in the kitchen before I head out for some more provisions.  Then four volleyball matches between two children and two schools will make for a busy afternoon.  Happy rest of the week.  I know mine will be very special...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Lessons in falling

One of the best gifts we can teach our children is humility.  It will take them a long ways in life.  And sometimes it is hard to know just how to teach them that - other than the obvious way of showing them by our living.  So I tried to do just that yesterday.

The girls and I decided to do a quick bit of shopping after school last night.  We pulled into a parking lot right near the front door.  In fact, the van was right next to an elevated landscaped area.  I grab my purse, open the door and hop out.  I wait to hear that all the doors are closed so I can hit the lock button on my fob.

As I turn around to make sure all is well I feel my ankle about to give way to soft thawing ground underneath  Mind you, this is the same ankle that has let me down repeatedly.  Somehow, my body said 'don't let the ankle twist again' and instead of that I just lost all balance and plopped down on my can in the parking lot right near the front doors.

My daughters come running, 'MOM!  Are you alright?'  Followed immediately by, 'mom, get up you are embarrassing us'.  Fortunately for them and me, there were not many people around.

I hop up and survey the damage.  Nothing but a scraped up pinky finger and a scuffed boot.  And today?  An achy, middle-aged body that wonders why certain muscles are aching in weird places.

So.  Teaching humility.  Sometimes we just don't know how and when we can be teachers.  Maybe it will catch you off guard and happen when you least expect it!