Song Stories

I love how certain songs evoke specific memories, don’t you? Like you turn on the radio and a song comes on that just pulls you in. For me, sometimes I don’t even understand what the connection is that allows a particular song to invade my brain and heart with long forgotten memories. Like the song “Dance With Me” by Orleans, which came out in 1970 something when I was probably 6 years old. When I hear this song, I instantly recall my mom’s friend Bev. She loved me and I loved her. She had two daughters of her own, who were much older than me, in high school actually. My mom has told me that when I was little, I was actually the only baby amongst her group of friends, many of whom had children older than me. So I got a lot of attention back then. Especially from Bev. I remember spending afternoons at her house, just me and her, making craft projects using juicy fruit wrappers. Bev died of cancer when I was about 9. I knew she was sick for a while, and it made me so sad. I remember being in the hallway of the hospital, waiting for my parents and being angry at them because they wouldn’t let me see Bev. Of course, they were trying to protect me from emotional pain. I so wanted to see her again but never got the chance. My best guess is that “Dance with Me” must have been playing on the radio at some point on the way to Bev’s, on the way home, or when I was hanging out with this lovely woman making weird crafts.
Dance with me

And then there’s the song Sister Christian by Night Ranger.
Sister Christian
This one evokes memories of being a newly licensed driver at 16. I relished the independence of driving all by myself in my dad’s dark brown Ford Thunderbird through our small town in Minnesota. This song would come on which would prompt me to crank it up and sing along at the top of my lungs. If it was still on when I got to wherever it was I was headed, I parked and kept the car running so that I could listen/sing until the very end. This activity made me feel cooler than cool (though admittedly, I was by all accounts the opposite of cool at that point in my life).

Nowadays, when I happen to hear Little River Band’s Reminiscing, I feel a sense of light and playfulness. It vividly brings back scenes from a summer when I was probably 10 or 11, and my parents and I went tubing on the Apple River. We were part of a caravan of my parent’s friends, cousins, and their kids, who were mostly older than me. The sun was shining, the water was crisp and cold, and the beer was flowing for the adults as was the pop (Orange Crush and Dad’s Root Beer come to mind) for those of us under the legal drinking age. What a sweet childhood memory!

When Hubs and I got hitched back in 1990, I was adamant that the song “Evergreen”, originally performed by Barbra Streisand, be sung at our wedding. It is a dramatically beautiful and romantic song and I felt it captured the love I felt for my soon to be husband. I remember I had to actually put up a bit of a fight to get the minister’s approval for my cousin’s wife to sing this song. The line “you and I will make each night a first” for some reason apparently offended his Lutheran sensibilities. But in the end the song was sung. And it made me bawl like a baby during the ceremony. I was overcome with emotion and could hardly choke out the words “I do”, largely because of the sheer beauty and lyrics of this song.
Evergreen

Back around the time Hubs and I were engaged, I declared that “Kokomo” was “our song”. Kokomo
It is a sweetly romantic song that created in me a strong desire to whisk ourselves away to a tropical island where we could lay on the beach sipping fruity cocktails all day long. Just Hubs and I. No one else, no distractions. Just me and him and peace and quiet. We had to work hard for many years, but thankfully were able to take a splendid vacation by ourselves to Islamorada in the Florida Keys to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Kokomo was the theme song of course.

What’s your soundtrack, fellow music lovers?

On Marriage

On May 26 of this year, Hubs and I will have been married for 27 years. I think the wisdom we have gained in all that time has resulted in our marriage being stronger now than it ever was. It also doesn’t hurt that we are empty nesters living in Colorado. We have had our ups and downs, as all married couples do. Times when I was so furious with him that I found myself calling him not so nice names and he slammed cupboard doors. Times when disagreements about our kids got very overheated. Times when one of us got a raise or bonus at work, and we went out for dinner and drinks to commemorate the moment. Times when we got out into our boat on the Mississippi River and silently marveled at its beauty together. Times when we were so poor that we couldn’t scrape enough coins from under the tattered couch cushions to afford to rent a movie at the local convenience store for $1.99.

We have essentially grown up together. We have been together for longer than we haven’t. It’s really quite mind blowing when I think of it that way.

The most valuable piece of marital advice we received was given to us by a nurse in the hospital the day after giving birth to our first born, back in 1992. She implored us to keep our marriage the #1 priority. She explained that while we were now a family of 3, we needed to maintain focus on our marriage so that we could become a strong parental unit and set a good example for our kids. This advice stuck with us. We hired babysitters or took the kids to grandma and grandpa’s house as often as we possibly could.

I think most of the tricks on how to be successful at this marriage thing came gradually, through trial and error over all these years. I’ll share the ones I feel are most important.

Give each other a break when you can. Practice kindness on a daily basis.

Participate in activities the two of you equally enjoy as often as you can. We especially enjoy the quieter moments, like going out fishing or for a hike. Or to a cool, casual place for dinner or a cocktail.

Communicate often and as clearly as possible. Listen with an open heart. Know when to shut up and just let your partner vent.

Give your spouse lots of hugs.

Don’t let yourself go to bed angry at your spouse. You will not sleep well, if at all. And whatever you were angry about is still going to be there in the morning. Just hash things out as best you can.

Give each other space sometimes. No one is truly going to be happy feeling like their spouse is attached to them at the hip. We all need our alone time.

Acknowledge when your spouse has done something well. Thank them often. Everyone needs to feel appreciated. It’s human nature.

Be a considerate roommate. Don’t leave your dirty dishes or underwear lying around. Offer to do the dishes if your spouse has done the cooking.

Always remember you are a team. Imagine if your life together was a business. Love, mutual respect, and friendship are the foundation. Both partners have a stake in this business and work with each other, day in and day out, in order to achieve mutually desired success. One partner may have skills that you simply don’t possess. Likewise, you may have skills your partner doesn’t. Once you have a good handle on what those skills are, you and your spouse are equipped with the wisdom to successfully solve problems as a unit. This comes in especially handy when parenting your spawn.

Strive to keep things interesting! Go on spontaneous adventures together. Jump in the car in the morning and head out to parts unknown, even if just for the day. Hubs and I have so many great memories of days when our only goals were to see and/or do something new to both of us and to have as much fun as possible.

With a little luck, Hubs and I will be married for another 27 years. There will be more ups and downs, ones that will be expected as part of life and ones that will completely throw us for a loop. That is life. You take the good with the bad. I take much comfort in knowing that I have my best friend, the one who loves and accepts all sides of me, the one who makes me laugh the hardest, who makes me think the deepest, and the one I trust more than anyone in the world, with me through it all.

Dear Moms

Dear moms of children ages 12-22,

It gets better. You don’t have to take my word for it, but you should. I have been in your shoes. I’ve experienced unnecessary dressing room drama, engaged in numerous battles over the refusal to eat lovely and nutritious meals put in front of my children (child really-you know who you are), and hosted multiple obnoxious “friends” for sleep overs.

And I survived it all. Fortunately my two kids came out relatively unscathed as well.

These two children I speak of are not perfect. Neither achieved straight A’s in any grade between 1st through 12th. Neither were gifted athletes (they can thank my genes for this as one who was consistently picked last for team sports in gym class back in the day and cannot safely ride a bike). Neither were hard workers.

Slowly but surely though, between the ages of about 21 and 24, I started to see them shine. My oldest managed to graduate with her Associates degree from technical college at the age of 23, while simultaneously juggling a full time job at a fast food chain and becoming a mother for the first time. My youngest, the artist in the family, bounced around a few places (including a stint in college which lasted a solid two years), before landing in Indianapolis where she is making a (albeit meager)  living on her art. She also learned how to speak Japanese and spent time there during her college years.

These two former knotheads are now hardworking, appreciative, resilient, intelligent and thoughtful young adults. I treasure my relationships with them now and am beyond proud of who they are becoming.

If anyone had been able to foresee the future back in about 2008 in respect to my children, I can’t say for certain I would have believed them. At the time, I figured clown college or digging ditches were more likely in their future than what they have now achieved at ages 23 and 24.

Instead, they went and surpassed my expectations. Kids are full of surprises.

So, hang in there moms. It will get better despite what may or may not be occurring in the present. You’ve got this. SAMSUNG DIGITAL CAMERA

Political Ponderings

I have, much to my dismay, become a political news junkie. Gone are the days when I gorged myself on televised eye candy like The Voice and Dancing with the Stars. This is largely thanks to the man in the White House and the slithering cadre of reprehensible characters in his administration. So for a change of pace today, I’m going to share some random thoughts, questions, and opinions I have regarding the political shit show on our nightly television screens here in 2017 America.

  1. Poor Sean Spicer. I know, crazy statement right? But hear me out: what must it be like to be him right now? He most certainly has the Worst. Boss. Ever. He has to interact with this horrible excuse of a human being on a daily basis. In person. And he has a woman (Melissa McCarthy, who to me is pure comic genius playing Spicey) mimicking him on national t.v. weekly. It would suck to be him right now, am I right?
  2. The first thought that came into my head prior to Trump’s decision to approve the  military strike in Syria following the chemical weapon attack which took multiple lives, was “why don’t we send humanitarian aid instead”? I think that is likely what Obama would have done. And I would hope any president would have done in the same circumstances.
  3. Why on earth didn’t Trump focus on gaining support for an infrastructure bill instead of putting all that focus on repealing (and kinda sorta trying a little to replace) the ACA? I realize the obvious answer to this question is two fold: He is a complete moron and clearly not a politician.
  4. Speaking of Trump not being a politician, I am of the opinion that the word “politician” has a bad rap. I think if we actually had a politician (of course, not just any old politician) in the White House, things would be better. A politician would most surely have the smarts to actually put folks in high positions that have at least some measure of political experience and knowledge. They wouldn’t hire the likes of Betsy DeVos to be the head of Education or  Steve Bannon as White House Chief Strategist. And don’t even get me started on Kellyanne Conway. She is so totally full of shit and needs to go back to her bar stool and finish her Moscow Mule.
  5. The next few months are going to be rough. No sugar coating it. There is a history of revolutionary type shit hitting the fan during the dog days of summer. Check Wikipedia on this, trust me. The American people are pissed, and rightly so. Our health care, economic statuses, air and water quality, rights to fair representation, and so on are all being threatened because of who is in charge at the White House. All the tensions are going to bubble to the surface as the temperatures rise. Seems like a perfect storm to me.
  6. The “super heroes” of this time in history from my perspective are the following (in no particular order): political satirists (think SNL, Stephen Colbert, Bill Maher, Seth Meyers), journalists (truth tellers like Chris Matthews and Rachel Maddow), politicians (brave ones like Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and Chuck Schumer), and courageous, normal, everyday Americans who are speaking truth to power by posting videos from interactions with their district’s representatives and senators at town hall meetings and sharing their personal stories of the negative impacts the decisions of this cold hearted, incompetent administration has on their lives and futures. I also believe the FBI as well as the ACLU have the ability to use their super powers to meticulously investigate what is really going on behind the scenes at the White House, from the Trump/Russia fiasco to Trump’s financial entanglements that may have and/or could compromise his ability to make fair decisions for the American people.

Okay, so Polly got political today. And she has no regrets.

Wishes on Mother’s Day

With Mother’s Day just around the bend, I’ve been doing a lot of pondering about my journey as a mom. I’ve been a mom for almost 25 years now, which is hard to fathom as the memories of my children’s births are still fresh in my mind. My kids are in fact no longer “kids” as the oldest is soon to be 25 and the youngest turns 24 this summer. I surely made mistakes along the way but I’ve always tried my best. Looking back, I would hit a ‘do over’ button if one was available in a number of circumstances. I like to think that most mothers out there would say the same thing. Of course, that is a way for me to feel better about how I did as a mom, right? But I don’t intend for this post to be about the past. I want to talk about the future: specifically my wishes for my children’s futures.

Wish #1) That my children to retain as close a relationship to each other as possible. The reality is, they are the only two people on this planet who were parented by me and the Hubs. They have their own stories about us as parents, for better or worse. They were each other’s first friends. They understand what buttons to push and not to push with each other and they have a unique ability to comfort each other in times of trouble.

Wish #2) That my children will always trust their gut instincts. When faced with a choice, no matter how inconsequential it may seem, and there’s a niggling feeling in their literal guts, brains, or hearts, I pray they do not proceed with that choice. I wish for them to appreciate the fact that their body is sending them an important message which they must heed. And if they don’t feel they have the courage to make a different choice or simply say “No”, I hope they will call or text me as I am a pretty good sounding board.

Wish #3) That my children make their physical and mental health their first priority. My children both have big hearts. Hearts I of course wish to protect. They are caring, kind, and generous young people. They both have been known to go out of their way to help others, such as loaning money or a place to crash to friends or even friends of friends. I am proud of them for their kind hearts and actions, believe me. However, I worry that the energy they expend on others leaves them with too little to dedicate to themselves. What I wish for them to understand is that if they choose not to prioritize their self-care by having annual physicals, regular dental appointments, adequate sleep, balanced nutrition, and healthy stress coping mechanisms, they will not only be decreasing their quality of life and happiness, but they will have less energy to give to others.

Wish #4) That my children maintain a sense of humor about themselves. When I was growing up, and probably through much of my 20’s, I took myself waaay too seriously. This was very much tied to feeling self-conscious much of the time and having low self esteem. As I’ve gotten older (and I like to think wiser), I have come to the realization that in actuality, I don’t have to be perfect. I can make a comment to someone, quickly realize it didn’t come out as cleverly as I intended, and laugh it off. Because it turns out the sky doesn’t actually fall in when I’m just being me.

Wish #5) That my children never, ever forget that I am always here for them, come what may. I will always listen to what they have to say to the best of my ability, and refrain from judgement. I will always have their backs. My love for them is infinite.

Wish #6)   That my children maintain their hard work ethics. I wish for them to envision what they truly desire for their futures and know they have my full emotional support with every step they need to take to make their visions become reality.  I wish for them to not stop when faced with obstacles along the way, but forge a new path to achieve their dreams.

Wish #7) That my children be life-long learners.  I sincerely hope they follow their curiosity and see where it leads. To further their educations for personal enhancements or professional growth, or simply for the sheer joy of it. I wish for them to strive each and every day to be the best version of themselves. To live as authentically as possible. They owe this to themselves as well as to the world.

Wish #8) That my children do their best to not sweat the small stuff. I know from personal experience that this is a huge waste of time and energy.  I wish them to remember to ask themselves the following questions when they are feeling stressed out by a situation or circumstance: Will this matter in a month from now?  Or next year? Or in 5 years? Often the answer is going to be simply “no”. In my view, most everything in life is temporary.  As I’ve often told myself in times of extreme stress “This too shall pass”.  This phrase has helped me through a lot.  I suspect my unique, smart, kind, funny, and beautiful children will find it useful as well.

Happy Mother’s Day everyone!

 

Fear

I’m a really good “chicken outer”. The first solid memory I have of allowing fear to control my actions was in about 5th grade. It happened in gym class. This was back in the day when all the kids had to wear, for lack of a better descriptor, a swimming “uniform” along with the dreaded skull cap to keep our hair out of our faces. Despite feeling horribly self conscious with my developing body and naked face, I absolutely loved this section of gym class because I was pretty good at swimming. I really enjoyed it, and still do. But diving into the pool….not so much.

I vividly recall the feeling of utter panic when our gym teacher, a short freckled woman somewhere in her 40’s (at the time she was probably only 30 something, but as a kid every adult seemed as if they were much older than they actually were), sharply ordered me to dive off the diving board into the pool. Standing there, freezing cold and dripping wet at the end of the diving board with my classmates looking on, I felt paralyzed. All I could envision was going in headfirst into the chilly water to my death. I was convinced that my head would hit the bottom of the pool and that would be that. Dead at age 11. So I chickened out. I instead went in feet first, plunging in, falling deeper into the water and frantically kicking my legs to propel my pubescent body to the surface. The sense of relief I felt was all encompassing. But shortly after, as I swam to the other end of the pool and hoisted myself up and out, I felt horribly ashamed and embarrassed about myself. Unfortunately, though I had multiple opportunities to attempt diving again throughout the rest of the swimming section of our gym class, I stuck with the chickening out method of jumping in feet first every single time. I’ve periodically wondered over the years how different my life would have been if I had had the guts to dive into that pool headfirst, for real.

Now, for those who know anything about my upbringing, it would be easy to conclude that as the youngest child (my next oldest sibling is 8 1/2 years older than me), whose father was always overly cautious in all things (true stories: growing up, I was not allowed to mow the lawn or ride my bike beyond the busiest main street of our town as dad deemed these activities to be too dangerous for me),  I was predisposed to chickening out when something scared me. While that may be true, I am now a grown woman of 50 with a husband, two kids and a grandson, so there is no point whatsoever in playing any sort of “blame game” here.  For all I know, my dad preventing me from participating in some activities could have saved me from serious injury or even death. His overly cautious nature was directly linked to the abundance of love he had for me. I totally get it.  However, in a lot of aspects of my life I remain a “chicken outer” (my refusal to drive in big city traffic is one prime example).

As a slightly neurotic, people pleasing overthinker, blogging brings up a boatload of fears for me, such as:

That I will inadvertently share something about someone in my life whom I care about that will cause them emotional harm and negatively impact the way they feel about me.

That I will express an opinion in a post that could be conceived as too controversial by some, causing others to shun me or harshly criticize me.

That I will come across as self-absorbed and share too much of my personal life, thereby embarrassing my family.

That I will simply run out of topics to blog about and fail miserably as a blogger.

I am quite certain I could sit here all day, tapping away on my keyboard as I come up with a million and eight reasons to be afraid of blogging with my authentic voice. But really, what a horrible waste of time that would be.

I’ve heard it said that people on their death beds often do not speak of regrets for those things they had done, but rather for those things in life they hadn’t done. This makes great sense to me. That is why I’m making the decision, right here and right now, to dive head first into blogging. At least I’m guaranteed to not hit my head on the bottom of the pool, right?