A Sweet and Simple Summer

BA0ADD93-A0A8-4051-999C-44DD956D0AC8Of course, it has felt like summer for weeks because there’s no such thing as a decent springtime here in Indiana. Officially though, summer started last Saturday, June 20th.

I decided a great way to greet summer head-on would be a river adventure with a few friends. “It will be fun!” they said. My choices: canoe, kayak, or tube. Based on my frequent canoeing as a college girl, I easily decided to rent a canoe for The Precious Pair and myself. “It will be fun!” I said.

Everyone else on the field trip went with a kayak. This is important to note and will become an important detail later in this story. But first, my general thoughts on summertime…

It’s actually my 4th pick of the seasons. I’m not a summer person. Never have been. Never will be. The heat and the sun and I do not get along. Bugs like me far too well. And I’m not a big fan of the water – pools, lakes, boats included. So why in the hell would I go canoeing?

Cabin Fever. That’s why. I’ve been working remotely since St. Patty’s Day. And my situation will likely not change until around Valentine’s Day 2021.

If you just did the math, you’ll know that’s almost one full year. I’ve always enjoyed working at home here and there. But I’m learning I’m not meant to be a full-time home-based professional. The walls tend to cave in on me while the constant video meetings exhaust me. So, I’m seeking good reasons to get out of my home-office when I can, away from that computer staring me in the face for hours on end.

The latest opportunity came when my friend Lynne mentioned the river trip. It instantly reminded me of my college days when we would go “Brewin’ & Canoein'” every spring. It was always the big last hurrah of the school year – and it was an epic event for my friends and me. We’d grab a guy, a cooler, and a canoe, and the rest became history! There were no cell phones to worry about getting waterlogged, and we certainly had no responsibilities whatsoever in those days. The main objectives were “Drink your Busch Light. Don’t tip your canoe.” – simple enough, right?

Well, you would think so. Until your date ended up as clumsy as you are, and you both capsized and suddenly watched all your stuff floating down the river. If I remember correctly, it happened that way for me every year. That’s why it’s so puzzling that I picked “canoe” for the excursion last week, 25-ish years after those sorority days. For whatever reason, I remembered myself to be an “experienced canoer.”

My experience did not prevent the capsizing of our canoe the other day, within five minutes of launching from the shore. We didn’t see the huge rock coming. But we did nail it, and that was enough to dump the youngest daughter and me into the river along with our lunch cooler, my friend Julie’s floral tote bag (with daughter’s cell phone inside), and a large beach towel. And the canoe was instantly wedged, not budging and quickly filling with water. Luckily, the river came only to our knees, so there was never any true threat of drowning. Well, until the current grabbed me and took me down and underwater. That’s why they want you to wear the handy orange life jacket.

You know the vintage song “That’s What Friends Are For”? That explains the rest of my day. Lynne & Julie dumped the water out of the canoe (after recording the humorous tipping incident on cell phone video for posterity!) Then I was re-assigned to a kayak for the day, first a tandem; then a single. Who knew a kayak was EASIER to operate than a canoe? Certainly not me until now. My youngest stayed put in the canoe all day, but with assistance from our friends who took turns guiding her safely down the river while my teen daughter skillfully handled her own kayak. We all made it to shore in one piece. 

The only sacrifice was my shoe. Yeah, that happened. They were my cute black glittery “jellies” I ordered last summer from Amazon. They seemed like a good shoe selection that morning – waterproof, covered a good portion of my foot, and “summery fun” – also easy to slip off and float away. Oopsie.

(It’s tough to maneuver jagged river rocks wearing only one flimsy shoe.)

This is the story of how our sweet and simple summer has begun. Why do I describe it this way? Because we’re embracing the basics, of course! Swimming. Board Games. Porch Time. Grilled Dinners. Cold Drinks. Berry Picking. Pie Making. Walking to Town Square. Hand-Dipped Ice Cream. And some days, just soaking up the glorious A/C inside with a nice Netflix binge. (We just finished 76 episodes of “Riverdale” – highly recommend!) 

No big events or parties. No baseball. No concerts. No vacations on our calendar, aside from a few days we’ll stay with grandparents in a woodsy cabin only 90 minutes away. 

Before we know it, August will here too soon, and a new and very different kind of school year will start. One where The Precious Pair will become a high school sophomore and a 6th grader in middle school. Already.

And that’s exactly why the sweetness and simplicity of this summer are so important to me. Because in this strange year, I’ve both appreciated and resented the status of life. Can you relate? Can you decide? Which is it – a good thing or a bad thing that we were stuck in our houses and sent home from work and school and banned from dining and most shopping and socializing? If I was a betting woman (and I am, but only on the Kentucky Derby!), I’d say that most of you discovered good things about yourself and your time and your family during Quarantine. I don’t want to lose sight of those good things, including the value of the extra time I’ve had with my girls throughout 2020 so far, coupled with the joy of now getting to see some of the family and friends whom I’ve not seen as much as I would like this year.

My day on the river allowed me to enjoy both together – family & friends. And it gave me new experience as a kayaker. My canoeing days might be over, but never forgotten. And there’s a jelly shoe out there to prove I left the river having lost something, but I left with much more gained: memories made, adventure discovered, and laughter still lingering.

After the unusual and challenging first half of this year, I wish for more of the sweet and simple things during Summer 2020, not only for myself, but for all of you out there. Someone just reminded me that the first official day of summer is also the longest day in any given calendar year. That means with each passing day of summertime, we’re losing minutes of sunlight. So don’t let them float away without a trace. Yep, like my shoe. 😉

Enjoy your simple summer!

Meesh

 

 

 

Who Has the Key to Room #32?

69B098B3-2E67-4CC9-A114-1DF56F445D69Show & Tell. Everyone knows what this means and remembers it from childhood. Typically though, it’s not an activity for grown professional adults. But that was before the new remote work lifestyle of 2020 turned normalcy on its head…

So the other day I participated in Show & Tell to kick off a video meeting with my coworkers. It was Jake’s idea. He’s the fun one. He encourages us to play a little in between a lot of work. Hopefully all of you out there have a Jake at work.

The challenge to everyone was to bring something we own with an interesting backstory. This is when I realized I don’t possess many things that fit this criteria. But the meeting was about to start, and I hadn’t settled on an item, so I grabbed a key from the hooks on my kitchen wall. But it was no run-of-the-mill key.

When my turn came, the story went like this:

My dad gave me the key a year-and-a-half ago when I visited my home state of Nebraska for his 80th birthday. We were in his big basement full of books and stamps and historic Omaha postcards – all the things he would bring for Show & Tell. He was sifting through some items when he came across the unique key. It looked like something from Hogwarts, and it came with a yellowed hotel receipt that detailed its background. From the Hotel Stadion in Vienna, Austria, dated November 10, 1969 – a full three years before my birth.

Apparently, my dad had stayed there for 5 nights, as the receipt showed and as he recalled, and it had been a pleasant experience. After enjoying his time in Vienna, he decided to take what sounded like an impromptu side excursion to Budapest, Hungary – a mere 2 ½ hours by train. He asked the innkeepers if he could leave his luggage behind in a storage closet for a brief time while he traveled, and they gladly obliged.

Upon return to the hotel to pick up his belongings, he paid his bill and discovered an unexpected surcharge for storing them. No one had mentioned a fee to him previously. He felt wronged. He paid the extra, but he wanted to send a message against the grievance, so he snatched his room key, as both a statement and a souvenir.

His gesture caused no one harm, but it likely resulted in an inconvenience. His action was rich with principle, yet caused no true pain. The innkeepers should have been open, honest, and transparent rather than seeking to make an extra Euro-dime from their energetic and friendly young traveler.

What would you have done? Kept a blind eye to the injustice, complied, and turned in the key, according to protocol. Or might you have kept it, too? (Remember, it’s a beautiful Old World key!)

Regardless of how you answered, think about the keys you carry. Not the physical ones in your pocket. Not the lackluster plastic hotel keycards of modern day. I’m talking about the keys of your character.

– Are you using them to open up new, different, and foreign doors?

– Are you exploring rooms and rummaging around, starting conversations, asking tough questions, taking books off the shelves, learning new things?

– Are you passing along your experience, curiosity, and wisdom gained through those doors and from those rooms to others in the form of mentorship, encouragement, and inspiration?

Admittedly, I do not do these things enough. But I am never hesitant to provide a commentary, and I have the blessing of this blog to do so.

So let me publicly thank you, Dad, for keeping the key to Room #32 fifty years ago and giving it to me. I display it proudly on those hooks on my kitchen wall. I should frame the receipt because it’s a precious little piece of art. Your key with the interesting backstory gave me something to “Show & Tell” to my coworkers.

And now – just like life itself – the tale of that key has morphed into something new and different to me in only a matter of days…

Gestures.
Actions.
Principles.
Honesty.
Transparency.
Experience.
Curiosity.
Wisdom.
Encouragement.
Inspiration.
Legacy.
Show.
Tell.
Ask.
Comment.
Change.

These are the keys I want to carry on an obnoxiously oversized keychain that keeps them together and pleads “Love More.”

Ironically, I’m one who is prone to losing my keys. The Precious Pair and I have locked ourselves out of our house and my car on more than one occasion. I need to keep better track of my keys – the actual ones that let me into my own doors and the symbolic ones that will lead me to different doors that don’t belong to me.

I have The Key to Room #32 as a precious reminder – make a statement, even if it causes someone else discomfort or an inconvenience; stand for principles, not pain.

Rattle your keys,
Meesh

 

Facing the Fear on the Wall

john-cameron-l6Mb-CwYoKs-unsplashI grew up afraid of a lot of things. Burglars. Bullies. The Dark. The Boogie Man in The Dark. Thunderstorms/Tornados. For starters. I had plenty of other fears.

That last one still bothers me, but I have good reason. When I was 4, we heard a tornado rip through my hometown in Nebraska. It sounded like a freight train as we huddled in the neighbor’s basement, since our house didn’t have one.

Another thing that has always terrified me — scary movies. And the worst one I’ve ever seen is “Silence of the Lambs” during my senior year of high school in Kentucky. My friends knew I hated horror flicks, so they brilliantly convinced me this one was “a drama.”

As I recently Googled this movie during a conversation about it (with someone who LOVES scary movies), I learned it’s the only “horror film” ever to sweep the top Oscar categories. So, my friends indeed lied to me about the genre to get me to go. And go I did. And sleep that night, I did not. Pretty sure I sat straight up in my bed wide awake all night – thinking about that creepy guy who sent the lotion in that bucket down to that girl he kept in that hole in his basement. Is this movie coming back to you yet?

Needless to say, I was PISSED at my friends for taking me to that movie. Not even my tub of buttered movie popcorn, probably my favorite food on this planet, could make the experience better. (Man, I miss movie theater popcorn these days.)

Fast forward to the summer of that same year, right before I left for college in Indiana…I received my roommate assignment. She lived in Oklahoma. This was long before email and texting and “Insta” so we connected the old-fashioned way a few times – on our teen lines by phone. This reminds me how much I used to talk on the phone. Maybe that’s why I really don’t care for it now.

The roommate-to-be and I bonded on those conversations as we both anticipated what college would be like and what our dorm room would become. She was bringing a mini-fridge and a microwave and all kinds of stuff I didn’t have. And since she was working at a video store, she could score us some fun movie posters for our walls. Cool, right?

(A lot of you already know what happens next…)

The new roommate beat me to college where she was completely unpacked and settled into 75% of the room by the time I got there. I made my way to my 25% of the room in a corner where I found a bed and a desk. I looked nervously around at what was to be my home for the next 9 months. Mind you, I had several friends in high school, but I was definitely a nerd and a bit of a homebody. I was feeling major anxiety about college. This room only intensified my nerves from the get-go. I had a pit in the bottom of my stomach about the vibe that was engulfing me.

Yep, as promised, I found several movie posters hanging on the walls, just as we had agreed upon that summer. At no point though had we discussed actual movie titles or even genres. Then I spotted the poster hanging on the wall directly in front of my bed. To give you better perspective, imagine lying on your pillow at home. When you wake up in the morning, what do you see on that wall straight ahead of you?

Well, at this moment in my life, I could look forward to waking up to one of my worst recent nightmares – THAT movie. “Silence of the Lambs.” Straight ahead of my extra long college dorm room twin bed.

It was an omen. College did not go well for me for the first three months, in large part due to the rocky relationship with my new roommate. Everyone else seemed to become BFFs with theirs, joined at the hip. That was, at least until Greek Rush Week in October, when the dynamic shifted and everyone bonded with people beyond their roommates. I ended up becoming close friends with 4 other girls on my dorm floor, and we did everything together. From that point forward, I was set for the rest of college, and I loved it as much as a girl possibly could.

Needless to say, I didn’t spend much time in that freshman dorm room. I didn’t feel welcome in there. I didn’t feel at home in there. I ended up spending most of my time in the study lounge across the hall with those 4 friends or in one of their rooms, when I wasn’t at class, at the library, or having meals. (My college had great food!)

For the longest time into my adult life post-college, I kept a floral blue armchair that became my favorite spot to sit during my freshman year. It belonged to my dear friend Luci in her dorm room she shared with the nicest roommate ever named Karen. I always felt welcome in there. That dorm room felt like home to me. Luci let me have that chair after we shared an apartment for that first year after college. I took it with me to another apartment, a condo, and two houses over the course of 20+ years. I would often read in that chair, feed babies or read to them while sitting in it, and place towels for guests on it. I miss that chair, as raggedy and worn as it became.

This summer is my 25th Reunion Year since graduating from college. We were all set to have an incredible time at Reunion Weekend on campus in June. That, too, has been postponed, like a lot of life right now. Luckily and hopefully, my friends and I will get to go to a rescheduled event in Summer ’21. No word on whether or not that roommate will be there, too. (Ugh.)

As a middle-aged adult now, I’m quite selective about many things mentioned in this story, including – 1) the movies I watch; 2) the art I hang on my walls; and 3) the friends I keep. Age leads you to be much more selective and even exclusive about what and who you allow into your brain, your home, and your heart.

But even back then, when I was 18, I didn’t let that poster get under my skin (no pun intended if you’ve seen the movie!) I woke up seeing it all of my freshman year, but I didn’t let it instill fears in me or start my days off badly. I learned to stare Hannibal Lechter in the eye and not think twice about it. (He’s actually not on the poster, but I wanted to mention him!)

There are times, especially the current, when we have to decide how we will let our external environment impact our psyche. There’s so much information swirling around our heads, in front of our faces, and staring us in the eye every morning. And what we do with it and the sense we make of it can feel burdensome and downright exhausting. That’s why I find it helpful to stay in touch and in tune with the outer world right now, yet I’m allowing myself to “hunker down” away from the range of opinions and emotions, especially of the negative variety.

Thank God this pandemic waited until my middle age to hit – a time in my life when I know who I am, what’s most important, who’s most important, and what I think about most things without needing to think too hard. My instincts have kicked in, and I use them daily. My preferences are well-established, and I lean on them hard. My beliefs are solid, and I don’t let others sway them. My gut speaks clearly to me daily, and I listen. Who out there can relate to this glorious stage of life? Who out there is still working on getting there? I suspect there will be a blend of both out there reading, and if so, I say to all of you THIS…

All of us are afraid of something. Embrace whatever that might be. Quit trying to conquer it and rationalize it away, just because you’re an adult and you’re “not supposed to be afraid.” That’s bullshit. Own your fear(s). I’ll always be afraid of bad weather, the type that starts brewing at this time of year. And, just like when I was a kid, I don’t have a basement here in my home. If a tornado comes this way, you’ll find us sheltering in the interior hallway. The place The Precious Pair and I fondly call “The In Between Spot” because it connects many important areas of the home. (It also makes a great place to trap our two dogs when we need a little space and time between us and them.)

I’m still afraid of horror movies, too. No, thank you. I’ve tried many times to watch them. I don’t make it through them. Even with that person I named above who really likes them. It’s fine. He understands. (Luckily, we’re both drawn to “ridiculous comedies” as a genre that’s mutually entertaining.)

A lot of us are afraid right now. We can’t pretend that we are not. Balance your fear with your instincts. Even at age 18, even after the sheer terror of experiencing “Silence of the Lambs” against my will, I knew the chances of me being kidnapped by a serial killer and trapped in a basement hole were slim. Not impossible, yet highly unlikely. That’s why I could wink at that poster on my dorm room wall every morning and say “Nice try, Boogie Man, but you’re not getting to me today!”

Be smart out there. Narrow the odds of landing in a hole. Heed the posters on the wall. Follow the rules that jive with your gut and your preferences. Continue to shelter in place, if that’s what makes you comfortable in a storm. Cover your eyes if the scary movie is too much. But keep them open. You owe it to yourself and everyone you love to keep your eyes open … and your face covered.

Pandemically yours,
Meesh

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

 

 

Counting Stuff During Quarantine

hopscothOne thing we’re getting during this strange time in our history is a whole lot of numbers. I’m not a numbers person. Never have been. I write a blog, after all. Words are what I do.

But lately with all the numbers bouncing around and some time on my hands to read about them, I’ve started thinking about my own data set from this past strange month…

244 – the number of dollars I spent on my Instacart order from Kroger yesterday. I’m confident this is a new record in my entire 47 years. The threat of becoming ill makes everyone feel very snacky.

80 – the age my mother turned on April 1 in Florida. No one made it to her party. She understood.

45 – the number of real school days we will lose this year. e-learning is fine, but not the same…said Captain Obvious.

28 – the number of days typically required to form a new habit. I’ve developed some that are quite good. (better patience, kinda’-sorta’-maybe?) Some that are not much good. (wine!) This is also the number of miles between my home and my office downtown.

25 – the number of days since I’ve been to my office downtown.

23 – the last date I had Starbucks. As in March 23. The struggle is real. Anybody who claims that the coffee they make at home tastes just as good is lying.

18 – the number of days I’ve been trying to make my coffee at home taste just as good as it does from Starbucks. #failing

13 – the number of ways to control feelings of panic that I wrote about for work (on a day when I was panicking).

11 – the age the younger half of The Precious Pair turned earlier this week.

10 – the date I was supposed to fly to Phoenix with my girls to spend Easter Weekend with family. As in April 10. As in today. I ordered a DQ ice cream cake to make me less sad about it. Dessert vs. Desert.

9 – the number of family-friends who surprised my sweet kid mentioned above with a Birthday Parade. They dropped off signs and gifts and a plastic flamingo in the yard. It was the most heartwarming thing I’ve experienced during Quarantine.

8 – I can’t think of any significance for this numeral, but I needed to list it. Otherwise there woulda’ been a hole in the countdown from 10.

7 – the number of days since I’ve seen one of my favorite people. This number will grow for I-don’t-know-how-many-more-days. It’s the right thing to do for our families.

6 – yes, of course, the number of feet we must maintain. Also, the number of people in my department at work, counting my boss. I miss these folks. They bring out the best in me.

5 – the number of cloth facemasks I luckily now own, thanks to the mad sewing skillz of a few people I know– including a talented 13 year-old!

4 – the number of weeks I’ve gone without filling my gas tank.

3 – the number of bottles of red wine from Aldi currently on my kitchen counter. And the same number of nights it will take me to drink them. This is also the age both my little nieces just turned! Photos of their cute mugs make for some great therapy.

2 – the number of dogs in my home who might send me off a cliff before this Quarantine is over. The barking, bickering, and begging never stops. They are the canine equivalents of toddlers, like those cutie nieces of mine who are driving their parents bonkers.

1 – the number of mice I’ve caught in a toaster during Quarantine.

0 – the number of toasters I currently own.

These are my stats. Until they change. And as I say all the time right now “It’s a day-by-day world, and we’re just lucky to be living in it.” Check back soon, and I’m sure to have an entirely different set of numbers for you. Or better yet, I’ll stick to the words from now on…

Numerically challenged,
Meesh

The Difference Between Space & Distance

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You know all those emails you’re getting? Those communications from your favorite brands reassuring you about what they are doing during these super strange times – I write those.

So I just spent a week of home-based work staying calm and focused so I could channel that vibe into what I’m telling customers. This weekend, I’m so glad to take a break from talking about adjusted business hours, digital banking options, and “stay tuned for updates.” As you all know, the story is changing, not just by the day, but by the hour. It’s exhausting to keep up, isn’t it?

But all this week I’ve had a sidebar of thoughts running through my head – things that “Real Meesh” has been wanting to say versus “Professional Michelle.” Thank God for Saturday so I get this chance to say them…

It’s quite ironic that the last time I wrote for this blog, I preached about the importance of disaster preparedness. That was more than a month ago when my primary concern was a 24-hour boil water alert here in our hometown: I Want to Talk About Water. In this entry, I talked about how I was embarking on a plan to plan ahead. I had a list. I had goals. What I lacked was action. I didn’t follow through with the preparing.

Now here we are, only 6 weeks later, and we’re all living in a state of disaster or something as close to that as most of us have gotten in our lifetime. There was very little time to prepare for life as we know it right now. There is very little time to process what’s happening before the next thing happens. As the older half of The Precious Pair explained the other day through tears, “It doesn’t feel real to me.” Join the club, my dear.

I’m not here to share any hygiene tips. I’m quite confident that’s been well-covered by now. If you don’t know you should be washing your wands while singing the ABCs, well then, you must be living in a deep, dark hole. And, if so, you might want to stay down there – but only if the hole is at least 6-feet deep.

The tips I’d rather share in this Coronavirus blog – that now joins the massive reams of commentary on the subject – are the random thoughts in my head about all of it, probably of no practical use to anyone at all. Yet if my ideas can bring levity or hope or even a crooked half-smile to anyone feeling downtrodden, disappointed, desperate, depressed, or any other not-so-great mood at the moment, then I will have accomplished what I’m setting out to do…

Now, remember, I am NOT your Mom, even though some of this will likely come out sounding quite motherly:

Wait with great anticipation for the things you love — whether it’s baseball season, the Kentucky Derby, or just hanging out with a group of your favorite people on a Saturday night. If you’ve had events postponed, feel glad and grateful for that. That means your good time is coming. I feel the most right now for folks and especially kids who are getting their lives cancelled. The school days. The Prom. The weddings. Potentially, the graduations. That’s the heart-wrenching stuff.

As for me, I have an awesome Porch Party Season lined up for Summer/Fall 2020, and I hope you will join me!

Hug your household. The other day, I made the mistake of saying to my oldest in front of my youngest “If one of us gets it, all 3 of us will.” That sent the soon-to-be 11-year old into a panicked frenzy. Once I talked her off the ledge, she understood. And it helped that I could make the case for hugging – “This is why we can keep hugging each other all we want! There’s no limit.” The younger one is my hugger. But it’s funny how the older one wants a lot more of them these days herself. Don’t have any huggers in your house? Hug yourself. It’s okay. Do it when nobody’s looking.

Breathe like a yogi. I did start yoga this year. It was one of my goals early on, and I was doing it fairly consistently until the studio closed, of course. But I haven’t given up on the practice of intentional deep breathing. Whenever someone in our house is facing a meltdown, I point her straight to her own breath. I remind myself to do the same, all day, every day. Especially if I’m outside. Nothing feels better than getting that outdoor air into your indoor lungs.

Make some homemade soup. Yesterday, on a Zoom meet-up, my friend Julie mentioned some soup she had made. Sausage, veggies, beans. I couldn’t stop thinking about how good that sounded, so I copy-catted her soup and made a huge pot of my own today. Pretty sure I poured my soul into that steaming pot of soup. So I recommend you go make something, too. Soup. Lasagna. Cookies. Whatever sounds good to you, but try to make it from scratch with the extra groceries you’re likely to have on hand. There’s something therapeutic about crafting food slowly and thoughtfully; then sitting down and slurping it up.

Spring is never cancelled. Did you realize the First Day of Spring was March 19? I am taking solace in the hope that Spring always provides. The bulbs pushing up through the soil. The birds chirping cluelessly yet reassuringly. The lucky ladybugs showing up in my kitchen most days. That weird spring smell in the air – a fresh blend of rain and flowers and mud. These are a few of my favorite things right now. Mostly because they are not digital.

My thoughts on social distancing. I believe in it. I’m doing it. I’m guessing most of you are, too. But as the Word Nerd that I am, I wish they had chosen to call it something else…Why?

A few weeks ago, before we all began living this way, I had a conversation with someone I care about very much about the difference between giving someone their space and allowing someone to become distant. They are vastly different scenarios, yet there’s a fine line between the two. From an emotional standpoint and in any type of relationship – romances, families, and friendships — space is a good thing whereas distance is not.

Social spacing would have been the better label for what we’re practicing right now. No one wants to create distance between themselves and their loved ones, especially at a time like this. So, yes, thank goodness for technology – texting, phone calls, FaceTiming, Zoom meetings, Marco Polo video bits, and more. At the same time we’re grateful for it, I sense we’re all equally tired of tech, too. The constant nature of it takes a toll. (I say as I type on my laptop.)

The person I mentioned above has a birthday coming up on Tuesday. What a crappy time to have a birthday. You can’t go out to dinner, people aren’t able to shop much for your gifts, and the grocery might be out of your favorite things. Heck, if there’s suddenly a state or federal lockdown, you might even get stuck at home on your birthday.

In fact, several of my loved ones have birthdays coming up – my mother turns 80 on April Fool’s Day, and my girls and I had to cancel our trip to Florida to celebrate with her. On April 6, the younger half of The Precious Pair turns 11. I had planned to take her out to do several fun things that day. On April 26, my stepmother will celebrate her birthday, and my girls and I had to cancel our trip to Arizona to celebrate Easter with her and my dad.

I stand by what I said above. The things and people we love are worth waiting for. The hardest part is not knowing how long the wait might be. I hope to develop new virtues – maybe even Patience – as positive side effects of this crazy quarantine. What do you hope to get out of it, once we get out of it?

“Stay tuned for updates,”
Meesh

 

I Want to Talk About Water

photo-1548839140-29a749e1cf4d

Water is a rather dry topic, one would think. Yet something happened recently that has led me to become fixated on and fascinated by water, and I feel the need to talk about it.

The event was a simple boil alert in our community. For 24 hours, we could not drink our water from our taps or even from our refrigerator filters. There was a mishap at our nearby treatment facility that prompted these precautions. As a result, they even had to cancel a day of school. (Thank goodness for e-learning so we don’t have to make it up at the end of the year.)

The situation also caused an emergency water shortage at our local Humane Society, and when they posted about it to social media, they experienced an overwhelming outpouring of support and bottled water. It’s interesting how humans are sometimes more apt to help animals than other humans. I can’t say I blame them. My oldest daughter is one of these people. Humans bring out the anxiety in her, but animals bring her peace. Plus, dogs and cats often represent pure innocence – with the exception of my own pets, The Pug & The Thug, of course. But back to the water…

Upon hearing the news of the embargo, I shared the warning with my two school-aged daughters, The Precious Pair. The 10-year-old kicked into high gear by taping notes to all our sinks and showers.

“Do not drink or brush with this.”
“Do not get this water in your mouth.”
“NO!!!”

These small reminders were not only funny, but also quite helpful for a forgetful middle-aged person like myself. And — because who really has time for boiling anything– we went out for water.

As we pulled into the parking lot of the grocery store, my girls observed the busy-ness of folks rushing into the store and emerging with massive amounts of bottled water.

“There’s definitely a rush on water! I hope they haven’t run out,” one of them said. And for a moment, I panicked at the thought of that.

“Look at all that plastic that will end up in our landfills!” the Earth-loving teen observed, and then she said something else even more profound and observant, “Look at how inconvenienced everyone seems about having to go out and buy water. Imagine if we had to walk 3 miles to get it, with buckets on our heads.”

Wow. What truth from the mouths of these babes of mine. Yes, we do have it easy. Yes, we do take basic needs and First World conveniences such as running water for granted.

How great that one of my favorite local coffee shops in a neighboring community supports clean drinking water in Third World countries. The Well Coffeehouse serves up some of the best coffee in the world. Coming from me, a huge coffee snob, this is a high compliment. But the best part about their product is definitely the cause behind it.

According to their website, “The Well is dedicated to Roasting and Serving Great Coffee. We are 100% about the mission of providing clean water, and 100% about making the best possible cup of coffee!” And thousands of people in countries worldwide have access to safe, clean drinking water because of The Well and its customers. New water supplies have come to areas where drought, disease, and war have made life especially difficult: Togo, Malawi, Kenya, the Congo, Senegal, Chad, Africa; the Central African Republic – 23 wells and counting. I’m sure in the mood for a latte, so it’s a good thing I’m here at The Well right now! (I’ve ordered a concoction called a Resolution.)

As is often the case when a small crisis crops up, my mind starts wandering and wondering and worrying. This happened the night of the boil alert. My creative brain dreamed up many scenarios where a water shortage could occur. The sad part is, these scenarios are not all that far-fetched. Global tensions are rising, and we are facing new uncertainties. While I find the current worldwide state of affairs to be terrifying, I also want to approach what’s happening practically. And that’s what has led me to www.Ready.gov.

This resource is helping me make disaster preparedness a priority in early 2020. The threat of a cyberattack that would lead to a loss of electricity/water/banking access and other modern conveniences is always a possibility, and I think it’s wise to be well-equipped if something were to happen. Of course, this plan applies to natural disasters, as well, which the world’s weather seems to be as unpredictable as our politicians these days. So I’ve done some research recently and have assembled this simple list for the girls and myself. And I want to share it with all of you.

SUPPLIES ⁃ Weather radio/charger/flashlight/SOS signal, all in one ⁃ Emergency water supply, 5 gallon drum ⁃ Canned/nonperishable food items ⁃ Dust masks for face ⁃ Wet wipes ⁃ Whistles ⁃ Extra Batteries, various sizes ⁃ Envelope with at least $100 Cash in small bills ⁃ Full Gas Can in Garage

HABITS ⁃ keep car fuel tank above half-full ⁃ keep cell phone fully-charged as well as a secondary charger ⁃ carry cash at all times

So this is my new list, and I’m going to work with it until I’ve gathered these things and established these habits. My hope, of course, is that I’m overthinking all of this, and I’ll never need our disaster kit. And about that word – “disaster” – I want to confess here that I use it inappropriately all. the. time.

When I’m running late – “What a disaster!”
When the girls are fighting – “This is a disaster!”
When I’m annoyed at work – “This place is a disaster!”

Overexaggerate much? I do. And I shouldn’t in light of all the true disasters happening around the world.

Earthquakes.
Wildfires.
Typhoons.
Bombings – both purposeful and accidental.
Civil Wars.
Forcible displacement of people from their countries.
Stockpiling of nuclear weapons.
Human trafficking.
Inhumane torture.
Outbreaks of disease.
Famine.
And, yes, water scarcity.

I know that’s a heavy list for a light-hearted little blog like mine; yet it’s important to rub the sleep out of our eyes once in a while and get real about the world that’s spinning around all of us.

Instead of debating whether our glasses are half-full or half-empty, let’s be deeply grateful our glasses hold crystal clear, clean, refreshing, disease-free water, most likely with ice. Please take a moment to realize how spoiled we are. (She says as she sips her latte.)

Never thirsty,
Meesh

Home Alone, Single Mom Style

F7558CFE-0970-4EAC-88ED-CC8FC08E15D2Sequels usually suck. Over the holidays, the youngest half of The Precious Pair and I watched Home Alone 2, the one where yet again the family loses Kevin on the way to their holiday vacation. He ends up lost in New York City where oh so conveniently he runs into the same bandits from the original Chicago version. The boy tortures the bandits much like he did in the first one. And throughout that scene of about 15 minutes, my 10-year-old giggled and squealed. Oh what fun it was to watch her watch that movie. I guess that particular sequel doesn’t suck so bad.

Do you ever wonder what people do at home alone? I think about this more these days because I spend considerably more time home alone as a divorced mother. I usually stay fairly busy on my own with work and good friends and social plans, but over this holiday break I’ve had some down time. Occasionally, I’ve gotten a little bored or lonely, but ultimately, I know this time is good for me and especially for my household because I have to face my chores head-on with few valid reasons to ignore them.

For instance, I can’t recall if I’ve written previously here about my relationship with my laundry. I should refer to this as my disdain for my laundry. It is the domestic task that challenges and troubles me most. So much so that I’ll admit I’ve paid people – former in laws and friends and professional launderers – to do it for me more times than I can count on both my hands.

But on a free night over the holiday break, if you were a middle-aged woman with time off from work and two children out of town, maybe you would decide to conquer your 8 loads of laundry once and for all because you’ve decided it’s part of a fresh start for the New Year. Soon you will also pitch the overflowing shoebox of “odd man out socks.” There seems to be little hope in finding them at this point. In fact, instead of locating matches, you keep adding singles to that box, which is really grating on your semi-OCD side. When you do find a rare match, there’s nothing more satisfying. (It’s the small wins in life that keep you going.)

What else does this kind of rare quiet evening look like for you? Snacks for dinner. Yes, Chex Mix. You squeeze in a Ham and Swiss Cheese sandwich for the protein factor, but let’s face it, Chex Mix is the main entrée.

Beverages will be the adult kind. Because, why not? But don’t tell your male coworkers you used the double-oaked barrel bourbon the boss gave us to mix into a blackberry-flavored drink you invented. They will admonish you for not downing it straight. You do like bourbon; however, you LOVE mid-priced gin and, quite honestly, any bottle of wine you can get your hands on, even if it comes from Aldi. And don’t knock those until you try them, please. ​​

You decide to take your first bath in six months, (wait – that could be misunderstood as not bathing at all. You DO take daily showers!) You use a loofah infused with a bourbon scent to match the cocktail you just had. The entire time you try to soak peacefully in the tub, the puppy is barking at you and making muddy paw marks all over the bathroom, including on your freshly-laundered white towel. She can’t understand why you are in the tub and she​ isn’t.

This brings me to the unfortunate truth that you are not actually home alone. You have two canine sidekicks who literally never leave your side unless you barricade them in a space with the cheapest baby gates known to man – the lightweight wooden style that you simply prop against doorways and trip over 20 times a day. The dogs are a bittersweet aspect of your life. They do represent bursts of joy for you, but much like a toddler does. They are cute and occasionally cuddly and sweet, but this comes at the tremendous expense of having to monitor or contain them 24/7 to avoid destruction of your personal property, accidents in the house, or one pup murdering the other at any moment.

You call them The Pug (age 7) and The Thug (9 months) because this is both a funny and accurate way to refer to them. The Thug is a Pembroke Welsh Corgi, the same breed the Queen of England prefers. You’ve considered many times shipping her off to a place like Buckingham Palace or, much closer, the local Humane Society or a nice Hamilton County farm. But the hopeful side of you thinks and prays that things might improve once she is spayed and walked more often in this mild winter weather we’re having, and you also have the option to send her away to doggie camp for $25 per day. Money well spent, much like the $2.25 per pound you sometimes pay to get the laundry washed, dried, and folded.

After the bath you have every intention of starting that photo project you’ve been trying to do since July. It was intended to be a Christmas gift for three of your best friends. But now it will have to be a New Year’s gift. But you never actually start it, so now it’s looking like a nice gift for their birthdays in 2020.

The house is relatively quiet with the exception of a variety of sounds made by the aforementioned canines. There are also tunes humming in the background thanks to DJ Alexa and several of your favorite male performers: Elton John, Billy Joel, John Mayer, Michael Bublé. However, you do play a good dose of Adele, because she is the Queen of Nights Alone.

Your biggest and most exciting plan for the night, in between folding all that laundry, is to watch tonight’s 10 o’clock Christmas movie on the Hallmark Channel. You go to tune in, but the cable isn’t working AGAIN so you decide to land on the couch and play purposelessly on your iPhone even though one of your goals (NOT resolutions) is to do that much less. But it’s not 2020 yet. So, it’s Facebook for you until you doze off on the couch around 11.

These are the typical activities you can find me doing when home alone. Not exactly the material of a classic 80’s holiday movie, yet it’s all quite fulfilling for me. I get things done, I do things my way, I eat my food, I play my music, and I try to unwind and reflect. There are things I love about being home alone, and a few things I don’t like at all. But I do view the time as self-care, because it almost never used to happen and now I am grateful it does.

That said, I don’t need a lot of it. Because my favorite place to be is with my favorite people – whether that’s at my house or theirs or someplace in between. Home is where my people are. And that’s where you will find the true me.  Not buried in piles of laundry nor soaking in the bathtub; not even planted on my couch in front of a Hallmark movie. The best version of me comes from being with the friends or family who love me for everything I am and despite everything I am not. That’s why being home alone is bearable and doable and healthy. Because I know it’s occasional and temporary and leads me to appreciate the company I keep even more. If this includes you, I say Cheers and Thanks, my dears. May this year of precious time ahead of us hold many blessings, loads of laughter, and endless joy and love.

Peace,
Meesh

“Honest” is Not the New “Mean”

tiki

Recently, I had the delightful experience of FaceTiming a good friend who is serving in the Peace Corps in Ukraine. A small group of friends assembled in my kitchen to make the video call across several seas and continents. The 90 minutes we spent talking with her flew by. All of us had a lot more to say, so we will continue the conversation when we do it again next month. But before we made that call, my friend who brought her MacBook was setting up when I noticed something big and orange stuck in her front teeth. I said “Hold on! You’ve got to get that thing out of your teeth before we call her…”

“Well, thank you for telling me,” she said gratefully as she picked it out.

“Yes, of course, I would want someone to tell me!”

And, yes, that’s absolutely the truth. If you’re ever with me and I have food stuck in my teeth, something hanging out of my nose, toilet paper trailing from my shoe, or half my skirt tucked into my tights, please tell me. Or let’s just say I’m behaving like a total asshole — call me on that, too. All these things have happened to me, and they will undoubtedly happen again. We owe one another the courtesy of honesty in simple embarrassing moments and beyond…

I get quite a lot of brutal honesty these days from Part 1 of The Precious Pair who is 15 now. Usually by way of her unsolicited opinions:

“Your hair doesn’t look right.”
“You’re not going to wear that, are you?”
“Those tiki torches in our front yard look trashy. I took them down.”

When she says things like this to me or to her younger sister, our reaction is typically one of resentment. “Why do you have to be so mean?” we will often plead to her.

And she defends herself every time…”But I’m just being honest.”

Why is it that being honest and direct and decisive and confident is often mischaracterized as being downright mean? This is especially true for girls and women. After all, we’re taught early on about sugar and spice and everything sappy. And in my youth and early adulthood even, I was much better at sugar-coating my comments. Now, a couple decades later, I’ve abandoned the art of spin doctoring my opinions, and in recent months, this is no more true than at work. I’ve been thinking lately why I’ve experienced this transition from overly polite to drastically direct. I’ve come up with several logical reasons for the shift.

About 5 years ago, I had a great boss who encouraged the employees under his direction to have what he called “prickly conversations” – in fact, he wanted us to conduct them with one another without hesitation whenever necessary.

I have a great boss now who is ultra-decisive. I love that about him. I want to be more like that. I am becoming more like that.

My company has a female CEO who believes in all the same. She never beats around the bush, and she doesn’t want her people to do it either.

I’ve worked with the same male peer for 15 years. We bicker. We raise our voices. We put one another in place now and then. We are more than prickly; we are downright harsh to each other at times. Guess what? The result is a trusting working relationship.

In the Summer of 2018, I completed a 6-month Leadership Training program. A good amount of the content addressed what they called “courageous conversations.” Again, more professional training that pushed me out of my comfort zone and into this newer phase of my life where I value receiving and delivering honest feedback more than ever before.

Amid these influences, I’ve grown into the style I am today: direct,  decisive, and confident. All the things that my teenager is trying to achieve with her unsolicited opinions. And here I am, calling her “mean.” What am I thinking, trying to stomp that out of her at a nice young age when it took me two decades to learn these things and become them?

Probably if I had learned to be this way much earlier, I could have avoided some of the interpersonal conflicts and turmoil that did consume my life in the recent past. I certainly could have and should have done a better job of communicating my opinions and pain-points (no pun intended) while also establishing healthy boundaries. Shame on me.

But I can do things differently now and for the rest of my life. Not just at work. But out here in the world where things matter the deepest.  I can move forward with an approach that is respectful and empathetic while, at the same time, real and pure and true to who I am and who you are to me. No more faking. No more fear. No more numbing myself to my own feelings so I can merely get by or trudge along on an unpredictable path. I owe this to myself. Most important, I owe this to all of you – my family, my friends, my coworkers, plus even acquaintances and strangers whom I encounter. Me “snowing” you into thinking things are fine and dandy when they are not — that will do you no favors. That will not open your eyes to a new perspective. That will not allow you the choice to change or not to change.

And, as I already said above, you can deal the same back to me.

So, My Dear Teenager, do not lose your gift for honesty. Simply learn to manage it. Control the timing of it and work on your delivery. Keep in mind that what you believe in your veins is not what everyone believes. Your style is not the end-all, be-all. Your opinion isn’t either. Always be respectful of differences. But your perspective and your perceptions are your privileges. You must decide continuously when and how and where it makes good sense to state them aloud. The best time to share your gift for truth is when you’re asked for it. Yet you must also use it to protect and defend yourself at times.

I’ve finally discovered the joy and freedom that honesty brings. And I’m not looking back. I’m not going that way. I’m taking a new path, still unpredictable, yet it’s brighter. Because, yep, it’s lined with tacky tiki torches. And the pathfinder is a braver version of me, one I’m still getting to know, yet I trust her sense of direction fully. I trust her to take me daily, with my loved ones hooked in my arms, to a place called Peace. God willing. This is my honest vision.

Lovingly,
The Real Meesh

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter to the Parents of the Pumpkin Smashers

pumpkins

To Whom It May Concern:

I have a framed poster on my bedroom wall. It says “Think in Magic.” At this time of year, that’s easy to do. The fall season is one of pure magic – everything from the colors to the smells to the crispness in the air that tickles our bones, but doesn’t quite sink in to them the way the cold of winter does. And then after a blissful month full of falling leaves, apple-y treats, and pumpkin spice EVERYTHING, Halloween comes to wrap a big orange bow around all the autumnal magic. What is not to love about this time of year?

Well, sadly I can answer this: Your Children, The Pumpkin Smashers.

You might know if this letter applies to you. Or you might not. I’m not sure which scenario is worse. If you know your child is a pumpkin smasher, I certainly hope you are doing something about that. If you are completely unaware your child is a pumpkin smasher, then you probably have more problems on your hands than you can even imagine. But regardless of whether you know it or not, a group of your teen children, the now infamous Pumpkin Smashers here in our town, did cause my 10 year-old sorrow and tears when I told her they destroyed her four pumpkins a few weeks ago, including the nice big orange one with the perfect stem that she chose from Kroger, brought home, and decorated with a giant googley eye before she displayed it proudly on our front porch. That was just one night before your teens came along and committed their destructive and mean-spirited behavior on that same porch, my personal property.

Some of you have said, “But it’s just a few pumpkins.” That’s exactly why you are raising pumpkin smashers. Let’s think of it as a gateway crime. What’s next? Windshields? Bedroom windows? Will you be as accepting of their behavior even then?

It’s highly likely you’re also the parents of the young people who break the rules of the road while driving and then proceed to flip me off when I tap my horn at them. As I have explained to The Precious Pair, I use my car horn – an official resource provided to me – to alert others when they are doing something they should not, like swinging a U-turn in the middle of the city street I take to drop the younger one off at grade school. The middle finger of one’s hand is not an official resource for the same. In fact, it’s just flipping crass (no pun intended.)

It’s highly likely you are NOT the parents of the young people who work at Chick-fil-A, because let’s hand it to them, they are the Anti-Pumpkin Smashers. Always wearing a smile, bagging up nuggets enthusiastically, and saying it’s their pleasure to serve me, even if I’m a bit grumpy after getting flipped off by a teen driver on my way to Chick-fil-A. Thank you to these dedicated fast foodies who give teens a good name.

I do feel qualified to make this commentary because I am the parent of a teenager myself. While she has mastered a fair amount of sass in recent years, I can confidently state she is not the pumpkin-smashing type. Nor are her friends. They’ve been raised to know vandalism is a big fat no-no. Somehow you missed conveying this key lesson to your children. And what a shame for you. Chances are, since they do not respect the property of others, they do not respect yours either.

It all comes down to this for me: Mean people suck. But, unfortunately, the world has them and always will. Thanks to the parents who are raising them to be that way. All we can do to combat your child-rearing ways is to keep bringing up much nicer humans. Because kindness prevails. I believe in the magic of it. Perhaps you should, too.

Stop the smashing,
Meesh

 

The Octogenarian

0D4D394B-62E0-4898-841E-E6551CB47204.jpegWriting a blog for someone works nicely as a substitute for a birthday card. Have you noticed the price of greeting cards? My jaw drops when I flip one over to find it marked near or even more than five dollars. I can buy myself a pumpkin spice latte with that same amount.  But coffee and my habits and treating myself to things, these are not the points of this installment. My dear old dad is the point. You see, he is The Octogenarian of whom I speak. Robert, usually “Bob.”

He is celebrating his 81st birthday on Monday. So, he has now had a full year of experience in his 80s. Last year when he turned this milestone age, he explained to my oldest daughter (his oldest of three granddaughters) and me (his middle child) that, as a child himself, he never expected to live beyond his 60s. In 1948, when he was ten years old – the current age of my youngest daughter and his middle granddaughter – life expectancy for a man was only 64.6. Today, it’s much closer to 80.

Back in 1996, when my dad was a youthful 58 years old, he had quite the scare with a heart attack. This was deeply concerning to all of us because his own father, also Robert {“Harold”),  had passed away from a heart attack far too young, before any of Bob’s three children had been born.  Fortunately, my dad’s own heart condition did not require major surgery or bypasses, but could be treated with stents that worked quite well for decades. That is, until late this summer, when a new cardiologist discovered one valve 100% blocked again and another near that. And, thank heaven, they could go in and place new stents before a cardiac event took place.

But there were complications during his recovery, caused by his meds, and he was in and out of the hospital and medical care for two weeks. Stressful.

Fast forward one month, and I’m on a plane to Omaha, my birthplace, my hometown until I was 10, and the city  where my dad and stepmom have lived together for nearly 50 years. There I will see both of them (“Du and Mu”); my brother from Arizona, also Robert (“Rob”), my sister from Arlington, Laura (“Lu”); her husband, Scott (“Scoot”); and my 2 1/2 year-old niece, Julianne (“Jay”), who is the youngest of the three granddaughters.

You may notice I did not mention The Precious Pair on this trip, and this is tough. They are back home. We will miss them. Timing and logistics did not allow me to bring them. Yet they will be with us in spirit while they have a ball celebrating Homecoming Weekend with their friends back in Indiana.

But before I left, I did ask for some input about Papa Du’s Birthday Blog from my girls.

The youngest did not hesitate to suggest a memory from the archives of his 80th Birthday Weekend that all of us attended last September. There were many fun activities we did as a family, but one did stand out: a trip to a medieval-themed indoor putt putt center…

My dad raised us as putt-putters so this outing was a good choice for his birthday. I grew up putt-putting, not only in Omaha, but on some of the most beautiful courses in Colorado, where we took many summer road trips. Yes, mini-golf is a family tradition.

My stepmom “Grandma Mu” had spoken highly of this particular course in the days before we visited it. She told my girls it had a zip line and other unique and interactive elements, all enhanced with castles, knights, and dragons as decor. We were hyped upon arrival and as we began the course.

Sure enough, we encountered the zip line and my girls tried it. Impressively, so did Mu, age 70 at the time. So when we reached Hole #12 with the ballpit feature in between the tee and the hole, she was feeling especially confident and volunteered to fall into the ballpit after she took her first putt.

I’m grateful to this day that my teenager chose to video-record this moment on her iPhone, for posterity. Sadly, the video is not posted here for your entertainment, so I can explain the scene.

Mu fell in slow motion into the pit, with a sort of belly-flop landing onto the soft plastic balls. Immediately, she realized getting out was going to be far more challenging than going in. She doggy-paddled her way from the middle of the pit to the far side, while losing her sandel in the process. At that point, I remember asking if she was okay because she looked a bit panicked. My dad responded for her from the sidelines, “Well, of course she’s not okay.”

My brother extended a helpful hand while my girls and I stood by giggling. (I know that sounds insensitive, all considered, but you had to be there.) My oldest kept recording. The family behind us had gathered in the peanut gallery to watch. They acted concerned.

At one point, Poor Mu muttered “I’ll never get out of here!” but, low and behold, she did after what seemed like five minutes or so. By that time, we elected to skip finishing our play on this hole, and I decided it best not to experience the ballpit myself. Mu took one for the team of adults in our group by being the only one to take the fall into the balls.

This was the most unforgettable aspect of my father’s 80th birthday last year, provided by his adoring and loyal wife of nearly 43 years. It was a memory all of us treasure and none of us shall ever forget.

To continue this tribute to my dad, I’ll continue reminiscing, but I’ll go back even a bit further to speak to a few of my favorite things about him:

Celebrations.
I’m lucky to have endless holiday and birthday memories from my childhood days in Omaha. For many reasons, my visions of December 31st have stood out to me over the years. We never went out for NYE. It was always a fun night in, consisting of a home cooked dinner, board games, cutting up newspaper confetti, watching Dick Clark’s show featuring the ball drop in Times Square, throwing the newspaper confetti, picking up the newspaper confetti and throwing it again and again, and, after the stroke of midnight, my dad belting out a passionate solo of “Happy New Year” a lesser-known track from the popular 70s/80s group ABBA. It is still one of my favorite songs, and ABBA is my favorite band along with The Beatles, by whom my namesake ballad of “Michelle My Belle” was created in 1965.

I’ve attempted to duplicate the family magic of those vintage New Year’s Eves with my own kids in recent years. They, too, are big fans of celebrations of many types.

Passionate Interests.
Bob is a Renaissance Man, with multiple hobbies and collections. You should see his basement – it’s a museum of sorts, housing his stamps, Omaha post cards, and library filled with thousands of books, mostly mystery novels, and many first editions and signed copies. I have a stamp collection of my own that he brought to me this summer to keep. My favorites feature Disney characters and baby animals. I learned many lessons from my early stamp collecting with my dad. The people of Omaha have also learned many lessons from him, based on his deep knowledge of the city’s history. He even co-authored a set of books about it, and that brings me to the next topic…

Word Nerdiness.
Writers can name the writers who inspire them. One of mine is my dad. He has always encouraged me in this area with his own prolific habits of writing essays, skits and plays, limerick poetry, and famous Christmas letters. He has written for this blog once already with plans for his second guest appearance in motion. Not only do we both write, we like to talk about writing: word choice, rhythm, origins of idioms… These are the topics we like to cover and debate. Word nerdiness at its finest. It’s a love we both share, and I’m grateful for having this in common with him.   

Quirky Humor.
When I was in the second grade, my dad visited my classroom on Career Day to talk about his job as a corporate tax accountant at Mutual of Omaha. But instead of explaining his job, he came prepared to charm and entertain my fellow second graders. True to his signature style, he was funny and silly and passed out postcards featuring wild animals from the weekly “Wild Kingdom” animal show his company sponsored on TV. I remember this visit so vividly, and I recall how proud I felt when my friends said to me after his presentation “Your dad is so funny!” His sense of humor has always been a great source of pride and inspiration to me. After all, I ended up being pretty funny myself. The nut doesn’t fall far from the tree. My siblings could give me a run for my money about who is the funniest among us, but I’ll just go ahead and state publicly that it’s definitely me.

John Mayer has a moving song called “Daughters” which is ironic because as a celebrity he’s considered a bit of a man-whore. Never married with no children to speak of. But it’s an incredible ballad, all the same:

“Fathers be good to your daughters. Daughters will love like you do.”

And this is the most important thing. I can thank my dad for: his influence in my ability to form strong bonds with people throughout my life. His huge capacity to love others has served as a beautiful example for all of us in the family. He has always developed and maintained healthy relationships with family members, countless friends, and his team at work, who adored him, too. He is a favorite person to many. He is indeed at the top of my list of All-Time Favorite Persons. And he is – hands down –  my favorite octogenarian. Then again, I don’t know many of them! …ha, ha! 

Happy #81 and Many More, Papa Du, with love,
Mitch
(aka Meesh to most of you)