Friday, November 9, 2012

Live like you were dying

When I was in middle school, I went through a phase when I was a bit obsessed with death and dying. I think it started when my friend Nancy’s brother was hit and killed by a motorist while walking along the freeway. I remember seeing it on the evening news when I was at my friend Shannon’s house (Shannon had Nintendo and a candy dish, it was a very popular place to hang out). When my friends and I realized that it was Nancy's brother, we were shocked. Someone I knew had died? A kid? 
A group of us girls went to the wake—without our parents—and I remember Nancy wearing red heels (we were in middle school, no one wore heels), and I remember her complaining to us that the mortician had parted David’s hair “all wrong.”
After that, I started reading a lot of books about death and dying, and thinking about my own mortality. When would it happen? How would it happen? Would I live long enough to get married? Have kids? Become a grandparent? Retire from work? 
This obsession took on a life of its own. When another classmate died way too young, I went to his in-school memorial service. I didn't even know him. I was a good student; it wasn’t like I was looking for an excuse to get out of class. I just felt, I don’t know, compelled to be there. (I remember sitting near the back, watching as his friends and family huddled in the front rows, hugging and crying. I don’t even remember his name or how he died. Was he sick? In an accident? What happened?)
My mom eventually brought me to the doctor about this unhealthy fascination. The doctor teased, “Are you in medical school?” (Apparently this is a common phase for pre-med students.) Then she asked me in all seriousness, “Has someone close to you died recently?”
Close to me? No. But people were dying every day. I read the obituaries right after I read the comics, scanning for a name I’d recognize. I would look at someone when I was shopping and think, ‘Look at you with all your shopping bags, but you know what? You’re gonna die someday.’ Or ‘What a cute kid. Too bad she’s gonna die some day, too.’
It was very morbid.
I don’t know how long I was in that phase, but eventually I grew out of it. I went from worrying about dying, to focusing on living. I know, as much as anyone knows, that there’s a God and Heaven and an afterlife where people no longer feel pain or sadness. I don’t worry that I’ll miss out on getting married or having kids. I don’t worry that I won’t have a good life. I have a good life. I wake up feeling happy. I have no regrets.
What I do worry about, though, is missing out on Adam and Ben’s lives if something were to happen to me. Selfishly, I want to see them both grow up and find their passion, venture out into the world, live on their own, get married (if they want) and have kids (if they want). I don't want to miss a thing.

Sheesh. I hope I don't sound like Debbie Downer. I guess, with it being the season of thanks, I’ve been thinking about the many reasons I have to be thankful: Family, friends, good health, a decent job, a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, and election results that make my heart happy ... President Obama was re-elected!! The hateful/hurtful anti-marriage amendment was defeated!!! I can only imagine what a hopeful message this sends to anyone who is gay... to wake up and feel accepted and loved by their fellow Minnesotans, rather than like second-class citizens. I am so proud of everyone who helped defeat this awful thing; everyone who made it clear that we don't want discrimination in our state constitution. [The proposed amendment would have limited marriage to one man and one woman.] According to the Examiner, "Over 30 states had already lost the fight on the same amendment, but on Tuesday night Minnesota became the very first state in the nation to kick this amendment to the curb. Although this win doesn't legalize gay marriage, it leaves the idea open for future discussion." 
How wonderful would it be to help Jay and Pete legally celebrate their love at a home-town wedding?  

Oops. I seem to have veered just slightly off-topic. VOTE NO! Ok. Got that out of my system. Let's try this again:

On those days when my kids are pushing my buttons and I feel tired or stressed, when I feel overworked and underpaid, when I wish I had more money or a nicer kitchen or better hair or thinner thighs or a bigger closet or whatever, I have to stop and remind myself that even if life isn’t perfect (and really, who has a perfect life?!), it’s pretty damn good. At least I’m here. At least we’re here together. And sometimes that quiet little revelation is all I need to put everything back into perspective.

 “One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon, instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today.”
- Dale Carnegie 

Madonna concert. AMAZING performer. The girl can ROCK at 54. I can cross this one off my bucket list now.
Belly dancers
Ice cream from the Pumphouse Creamery near Nokomis. Delish!
It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that swing
My favorite captain
Isn't he cute?!
Whee! A boat ride with Grandma and Grandpa! (Ben in his classic Grumpy Old Man pose.)

My brother, my friend 

Reunited with my little Idaho guy, Evan.

My adorable niece Lucy at Grandpa Rick's birthday dinner.

Adam and his cousin Logan - the best of friends.

Daycare bonfire craziness!

10 miles. It was tough, but thanks to Aaron's encouragement - I was mentally stronger than I thought and only walked once through a water stop. My time = 1:49. Pretty good for me, considering I hadn't trained for a run since 2009.

Jazz hands!

"Green eyes, yeah the spotlight shines upon you ..."

Stop the press!! An on-demand smile from Ben?!?!

The kids all love Uncle Jeremy - celebrating his birthday at the Pizza Farm. A magical night!

Road trip to visit my aunt and uncle in Madison, Wis.

 Say cheese!

Monkey business on State Street.

Feelin' blue, Ben?

Annual Halloween party at Grandma Patti's. I sure do love my nieces and nephews: Batman (with green hair!) Logan (4.5) - our godson, Lane the vampire (7.5), Morgan the witch (5), and Lucy the zebra (3 months in this pic). It's fun for the boys to have cousins so close in age. Missing = Kayla, who turns 12 this month.

Batman Ben, ready to save the world.

Adam the Storm Trooper. Be afraid. Be very afraid.
The girls at Remme and Jim's annual Halloween bash. LOVE the creativity! Love this fun group!!!

The guys at the party. Dope Strong, zombie Lance/Jeremy! Drop it like it's hot, Shawn. Steam-punk it out, Russ. (Don't worry. I didn't know what steam-punk was, either. It's Victorian-era science fiction.)

Who invited the Nerds?

Ready to trick-or-treat in Forest Lake. (Ben hated my wig.)

Posing at our magazine's "Best of the Cities" party at Aria, downtown Minneapolis. Fun event!

Shopping with my mom, SIL Trish, and niece April at the Albertville Outlets. We laughed a lot!
(and spent a lot, too.)

My last year as part of the Dirty Thirties. It was a fun ride. (11 years of memories.)
I will be the team's most dedicated fan and cheerleader next summer.

Speed racer at Como Town! I wish I could bottle up moments like this.

Annual visit to the Pine Tree Apple Orchard

Because two heads are better than one!

Camping weekend at Hok-si-la on Lake Pepin! Kickball, volleyball, swimming, ladder golf tourney, campfires, good food, good music, good beer, flip cup, old friends, new friends.
Ahh! Jeremy got me. Punked with a personalized inside joke Zephyr tee.
"Last train leaves ... never."

It was an intense game of flip cup.

 Photobomb courtesy of big brother Shawn.

In Red Wing, on the way back from camping. The longest wait for food EVER.
(But amazingly, everyone is still smiling!)
Hop on, dude. I'll give ya a ride.

This is the good life.

The after-effect of a weekend at Grandma Patti's.
Some of my very best friends and their kiddos celebrating Tonya, Sam, Evan and Travis' visit to Minnesota. Pizza by the Pond. Excellent wood-fired pizza. Excellent company. Interesting outhouse.
Rustic. Very rustic.

The dudes (minus Jeremy).

 Mom and Dad

You can make me stop, but you can't make me smile.

A natural with the kids. One of the many reasons I am so in love with Aaron.

Tonya, Evan, and Travis. Move home, please.