Saturday, July 27, 2013

Being an aunty...

The sting of not being able to have children of my own is eased considerably by the many nieces and nephews that call me aunty. Well... "Favorite Aunty" if the truth be told. Well... full disclosure is that I've been training them to call me that since the moment each of them was born. It's served me well. It's also served them well as they've all learned how to play the game by kissing up to me or my sisters with the old "My dear favorite aunty, can I... Would you... Please don't tell..." lead in. It's mildly effective and tremendously amusing. 

Since I'm the youngest of five and my brother is almost 10 years older than me, I am just realizing that I've had the pleasure of being an aunty for over thirty years! Yep, I was 13 when the oldest came into the world. We rejoiced by dancing and singing Donna Summer songs around some candles - "Someone left the cake out in the rain..." comes to mind every October 6th on Will's birthday. 

Since becoming a young aunt I've had the pleasure of babysitting, changing diapers, teaching songs, playing tons of silly games, taking each of them on adventures great and small, "parenting" them during extended summer stays, raising some while their parents went through an awful divorce, sharing dating/relationship advice, answering the embarrassing questions too hard to ask their own parents, celebrating sports, music, academic etc achievements, snuggling with kids piled high in my bed (my 29 year old nieces favorite way to spend time together even today), playing "Tooth Fairy" on camping trips, road trips, pond building in the stream, treehouse construction, and much much much more! 

I have the added bonus of some "step" nieces and nephews with whom I've shared some wonderful times through the years as well.  When I say how many I've got, I always claim them too - 18 nieces and nephews and four great-nephews!

My step-son came into my life with little connection to his mother's family and immediately (before we were even married) started calling my nieces and nephews his cousins. That made me very happy!

Today I've got one niece (visiting from TN for two weeks) and one nephew and his girlfriend (visiting from CT for the weekend) and we are about to have a fabulous family day on the beach complete with us, my step-son, the grill, and a bonfire! More adventures to add to the list of aunty time!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Hearing the call...

I envy people that have known what they wanted to do for a career since they were young. A is one of those people. He figured out early that being a police officer would be an enjoyable, fulfilling career for him... And he was right. 20+ years later and he still loves what he does. 

I've never been that type of person. My interests vary too much and my attention span seems to be about two years long for each job I've ever had. The ones I've done longer than that have been because the job was varied and constantly presenting new challenges. That is important to me!

I am 43 years old and I've finally heard what I'm pretty sure is my calling - counseling. I have always really enjoyed that part of all of the jobs that I've had - whether it was on a ropes course, in a dorm, on the trail, with youth, with seniors, with families, or with employees - the consistent part of my jobs that has always brought me deep satisfaction is mentoring/guiding/counseling/advising. And I'm told that I'm good at it.

An area of interest that has been developing for me for the past few years has been in veterans services. I believe that is the direction that I would like to go as it will afford me the opportunity to work with men, women, and families of all ages. The transition from being on active duty in a war zone to civilian life is debilitating for many soldiers. I'd like to help with that. 

So, I am on the brink of applying for graduate school. If I get in to Boston University (my mother's alma mater, no less) it could take me about 2.5 years to get my license. It's a late start but I think it's a degree that I can parlay into a variety of interesting things!

Ready. Set. Go!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Time off...

In a rare moment of perfect alignment of our schedules, A and I had BOTH weekend days off together last weekend. It happens so infrequently (and is in fact the ONLY time all summer that we will have back-to-back days off at the same time aside from our vacation in August) that as soon as I spotted it on the calendar a few months ago, I blocked it off so that neither of us inadvertently scheduled something, invited guests, or accepted a work shift. 

We started planning weeks ago and quickly decided that rather than go off-Cape (thereby spending extra money with our "real vacation" just around the corner) we would do the things we've been missing out on in the destination location we call home. 

Day 1 ended up being a day trip to Nantucket. Despite early showers and a rather convincing fog bank during our ferry crossing, the day cleared off and turned out to be perfect! We spent the first hour or so visiting with an old high school pal that lives there full-time and we hadn't seen each other in 25+ years. So fun! Then he guided us out of town and set us on our way for our bike trip.

We rode about five miles out to the shipwreck museum which is a beautiful building with really interesting displays about the tons of documented shipwrecks around the island and the volunteers that took it upon themselves to try and rescue shipwreck victims. Amazing! The museum sits on a gorgeous inlet marsh and was a great place to rest and snack before continuing to our next destination. 

Brook had told us about a private beach not far past the museum so we made our way there with the intention of spending some time relaxing. Unfortunately by the time we got there, there wasn't much time to rest because we wanted an hour or so in town before catching the ferry back to the mainland. It was a lovely little beach though and one we can easily find again!

We headed back to town arriving with just over an hour to wander downtown. It was more than enough - too much really. I enjoy wandering quaint shops and finding unique things but what we found were many of the same things in shop after shop and, having seen much of the same merchandise on the mainland at half the price, all were incredibly over-priced. 

Many of the visitors were pretentious and rude with very entitled attitudes. I actually listened to a man and a woman discuss how each of their spray tan techs avoid making the bottom of their feet unnaturally brown for about five minutes while waiting for A outside the bookstore. I walked away and said to A, "These are not 'our people'." He agreed and we decided that the people of Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont are 'our people' and that's why we are drawn there so often for vacation. 

Our legs were also rubbery from our ~12 mile bike ride so walking the uneven cobblestone streets and undulating brick sidewalks was tricky. We decided to have a seat and eat the rest of our lunch while people watching. The outfits were most entertaining... This is NOT Provincetown where you can let your freak flag fly! No, it appears that there is a dress code for vacationing on the island and it includes pale blue shorts with big red lobsters all over them, Polo shirts with popped collars, large sunglasses and huge floppy beach hats for women over perfectly pressed tennis outfits (with no courts in sight), boat shoes, belts with sailboats, lobsters, sailing flags or other nautical themes, and/or khaki shorts with madras shirts tucked in specifically so to look casual (but watching the man adjust the tuck so that it achieved the exact degree of casual/sloppy/preppy/polished was entertaining). 

On the ferry ride home the chilly fog settled back in and we ended up with the aft deck fairly empty - just us and "Atticus" - a big old very sweet black lab. 

We had had a wonderful day and checked that "island to-do" off our list. We have no need to rush back in the summer time. We would go explore the island more in the off-season because it truly is gorgeous there but the crowds and attitudes were not appealing to us at all. I'm not sure how the locals put up with it... At least on the Cape, you might be rubbing your left elbow with the "beautiful people" while rubbing your right elbow with "Mr and Mrs Average Joe". 

On the way home we picked up a lobster for me and burgers for A and had a lovely evening at home. 

Day 2 was supposed to be a long kayak adventure but we were tired from day 1 and the dogs didn't want to be home alone all day again so we adjusted our plans. Instead we relaxed at home in the morning and then took them on a long walk to a new location. Then we went to a garden party at some friends down in Chatham. We meandered our way home along Route 6A and then relaxed on the patio eating fabulous steak and beginning to narrow down the list of things to do on our Alaskan vacation next year. 

We work hard so taking the time to enjoy and relax and spend time together is so important to us. We are both grateful for the opportunity to do it and most grateful that we enjoy these things together!

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Feeling like a grown up...

I'm 43 and today I finally FINALLY f-i-n-a-l-l-y paid off my last student loan! (I didn't actually accrue the debt at the "normal age" so it's not AS bad as it sounds... but it's been a long-ass time I've been paying on that beast!)

We also paid off A's truck! The last few months have been a
concentrated effort to budget tightly, work a lot, and pay off as much as possible. It's exciting! I'm feeling like a grown up having finally put the student loan behind us AND having a paid off free-and-clear vehicle in the yard again! Phew!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dog play...

I wish I had taken my camera with us but after having a horrendous weekend on call with the phone ringing non-stop, the first moment I could ditch all electronics and go relax, I did. 

It was the third or fourth day around 90* and 14,000% humidity and the dogs had been finding places to pant all day so we decided that a nice late afternoon dip in the pond was what we all needed. We packed up the dogs and our new floaty tubes and headed off to Hamblin's Pond just a few minutes down the road from our house. Brody has been there many times before as it's one of few places dogs can go to fresh water during the summer but Glacier hasn't been there before. 

Since we got Glacier late in the summer last year, I only took her swimming once. She spent the whole time sniffing the shoreline and running back and forth ankle deep so I didn't really get a sense of her swimming skills. 

She can swim. It's kind of funny to watch as she's SO lean she has to work hard to stay afloat the whole time but she can swim - something my old girl Jericho pretty much refused to do... unless she saw a child swimming and then she felt she had to go in and haul him/her out by the bathing suit. 

Because there was another couple at the pond (who turned out to be dog lovers and enjoyed the show immensely) we kept both dogs on long leashes the whole time. A and I each flopped into our tubes and pushed off from shore - him with Brody and a water toy and me with Glacier. 

Throwing the toy is the best way to get a ride from Brody - I couldn't help but think of my brother in-law Don's stories of harnessing his dog to a sled and then throwing bits of hot dogs in front of him for some fun in the snow. Brody is a stronger swimmer than Glacier - he's got more bulk and experience and seems to be more driven to chase the toy. Glacier enjoyed pulling me toward the mucky areas where things smelled good and the dragonflies were flitting about piquing her curiosity. She would occasionally swim out to me, around me (wrapping the leash underneath me) and back to shore or chase Brody chasing the toy. 

We spent about an hour tossing the toy with us barely getting much further than 15-20' from shore and then Brody signaled that he was done swimming for the toy by prancing around with it in his mouth while trying to woof at and chomp at the lapping water - a feat not easily accomplished with a toy in his mouth. Glacier's resting "game" was to climb halfway into A's lap - front paws up and back paws on the pond bottom - and push him around. Then she decided to use this technique (minus A and the tube) to get to the ducks. That dog was swimming with her front paws and bouncing off the bottom with her back paws while craning her neck gopher-style to keep an eye on the ducks over her own splashing. She was completely vertical!

We laughed so hard at all of their antics and they had a ball just being silly dogs. 

Then it was bath time because the truck ride home smelled like swamp gas. Thank goodness we've got an outdoor shower!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Pleasantly warm...

When I worked at a camp in the Central Valley of California, we were not allowed to talk about the heat. The idea was that talking about it just gave the kids permission to complain about it. We were allowed to say "It's pleasantly warm" but nothing more. 

If you've never been to the Central Valley of California, there is very little that is pleasant about the warmth... Except that it is dry. 

I moved to CA after getting recruited by a co-worker (and boyfriend at the time) to launch and run the camp's brand new ropes course. When we arrived in Fresno at his storage locker for my first real day in a California summer, it was 99*. While he pulled things out of the locker, I stretched out on the concrete in a ribbon of shade with my super Slushie (or whatever frozen concoction I could get my hands on) and began what would soon become an inner monologue about the heat. At one point he stopped what he was doing and said "Wait until it gets hot." What?!?! He'd left this little nugget OUT of his recruiting spiel!

As we moved into the "real summer" of June, I gradually got used to the heat hanging around 100* and was ever so thankful that it was "at least a dry heat". (It's true what they say about it's not the heat, it's the humidity"!) Most days I could make a mental note of the blistering sun and then find strips of shade behind the telephone poles that the ropes course was built from, lounge in my air-conditioned cottage during brief breaks, and drink copious amounts of ice water (Having dealt with a severe bout of dehydration from guzzling Coke for the caffeine while trying to maintain the insane schedule of driving to see my very pregnant sister five hours away as often as I could during my very limited 18 hours off per week and working 16-18 hours per day... Needless to say, I had a gallon cooler filled with ice water clipped to my body at all times that I refilled at least three times per day!) to manage my heat frustration. 

One day, during family camp (a three week block in August when families associated with the University of Southern California flooded camp and kicked us out of our cabins/cottages and into grass huts or the floor of a generous senior manager's cottage (thankfully I was a senior manager and rarely had to suffer the indignity of the grass hut) and made the camp their home away from home. 

It was during family camp that all rules sort of went out the window for everyone but the staff. Booze, late night carousing, and making up schedules of their own took the place of the rigid structure  and schedule we had with the kids during the "regular season". One rebellious camper even snuck a thermometer onto the grounds! Gasp!

One day after lunch I left my little air conditioned sanctuary and headed back toward the ropes course for an afternoon of sun-dodging and whiny-adult-cajoling when I realized that I could barely move. The heat was so oppressive (and I was well-used to the average heat of 100-105* by then) that every step felt like I was slogging through over-heated caramel. 

As I passed what had once been my cottage, one of the camper dads stepped out and said "Hey Poobah (yep, my camp name), where are you going?" When I told him I was headed to the ropes course he said "Hey, I snuck a thermometer in. Did you know it's 117* in the shade?" I stopped and stared too tired to lift my slacked jaw. I looked at the ropes course for a minute and then turned and headed for the camp office. He chuckled and went back into his cottage. 

When I reached the camp office, the Camp Director stared at me and demanded to know why I wasn't on the ropes course. I told her that I thought it would be wise if we closed all of the activities in the sun for the afternoon. She was not interested in doing any such thing. Without giving up my informant I told her that I knew for a fact that it was 117* in the shade. She made a comment about the ropes course and shade and quickly stopped herself when she saw the gob-smacked look on my face. She had almost tried to convince me that the ropes course, set in the middle of a field with no shade except the occasional 12"-wide stripes from the poles, would be fine in that heat. I then beefed up my argument that the poles were treated with tar that by then were surely bubbling hot and the day could end in a lawsuit from one of our many lawyer guests. She wisely decided to close the ropes course and all of the other "sun-only" activities for the afternoon. 

Moving back to the east coast after four years in the California sun, I realized that I had actually come to appreciate the dry heat. Today it's 87* or so and at least 148% humidity! I'll take 100 dry degrees over the heat and humidity any day! But... It's New England. By the end of the week I'll probably be wearing a sweater.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

People baffle me...

Every year, for one reason or another, we host a party at our house. Halloween party with costumes and homemade pizza one year, graduation party for my step-son another year, patio-warming party this year- there's always a reason to get together. Each year, in addition to the few friends we have on the Cape and A's family, we invite all of our neighbors and many of them usually come. 

However, we've lived here for almost six years and have been invited to one party (though "Go tell your parents to come over" during the the party hardly counts as a warm and fuzzy invitation in my book) and one plant swap luncheon our first summer. That's it. We get along with everyone. We stay out of the neighborhood drama. We haven't taken sides in some of the ugliness that has taken place between neighbors. We have some nice one-to-one relationships with various neighbors... But apparently we just aren't invitation-worthy. I don't get it. 

Making friends as an adult is hard enough for me - my closest friends are the people that I've known since college and before - so... Here it is another holiday with A working and me hanging around at home alone with the dogs and neighbors having gatherings. I really don't get it!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Challenge... Accepted!

Last year I challenged A to accomplish a certain fitness goal and promised him a certain financial reward. Today it occurred to us (Well, me actually. I'm selfish like that) that I didn't have any incentive to get fit (you know... Aside from the health benefits yada yada yada). So we decided on something measurable. By next June, if I am able to successfully complete all of the necessary components to the police department physical fitness standards, I get my choice of a few "luxury" excursions while we are in Alaska next July. That's totally worth working out for!

That's the long-term goal. The short-term goal is to successfully complete one month of the squat/plank challenge. This is where you work up from doing a 20 second plank (think of holding a rigid push-up while on your elbows) and 25 squats on the first day to a six minute plank and 300 squats on the last day. So far I'm up to 40 seconds and 70 squats on day 6. It's definitely getting easier every day! I also added in some Pilates moves and a couple of yoga poses to increase my range of motion and strength. It feels good!

When we are done with this challenge, I plan to do the Burpee challenge (think old school military squat thrusts) which incorporates more cardio and requires greater range of motion in my hips... Gotta get them ready!

We just started looking at what we are going to do for fun during our upcoming trip to NH/ME and decided on some hiking in areas we've never been to before. I'm looking forward to it and hope that my hip feels as good through that as it does these days! With a little more strengthening, I think I'll be ready!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Call the lawyer...

When I was a kid, my parents went through a... well... I'll just say contentious divorce. Wrapped into that mayhem was the battle for custody of the three of us younger kids (the two eldest were already off to private school so not part of the custody mix). 

After the dust settled and my next oldest sister and I were living with my mom, she helped us find the humor/reality in the situation. When we were whining about how unfair my mom was being or how terrible my step-dad (who is actually a gem) was or some other such "horrific" happening, my mother started responding with "Call the lawyer".  I'm sure that we were dumb-founded when she first started using this phrase but we soon figured out that it was a not-entirely-subtle way of asking "Is this offense SO awful that you want to go through the misery of a custody battle again?" (Because it WAS misery... for all of us!) It was a quick way to end whatever upheaval was taking place at the time. It's become a bit of a long-running joke (maybe just to me...).

Being married is an adventure. The act of  expecting two adults to share a bedroom, a bathroom, household duties, financial responsibilities, parenting tasks, and the like without wrinkles and struggles is ridiculous. All of those people that get married because they want a fun wedding day and think that the ring they slip on that day will magically erase all problems make me crazy. I've actually been present when a bride (who was marrying someone she'd had nothing but problems with for the past several years) said "My mom says I should just try it and if I don't like it, I can get a divorce." (I didn't attend any of her subsequent three weddings...)

Although I am married to my perfect match, we do occasionally have those moments where the trash has hung around longer than it should or the day's dirty clothes are piled up right in front of the bathroom sink or other such minute annoyances. 

My response? "Call the lawyer." (Or he knows I'm lovingly irritated when I start with "If we ever get divorced, it will be because of the pile of clothes right next to the hamper...") But it all boils down to the principle of "Call the lawyer." In our lives, there isn't anything even remotely serious enough to get divorced over and therefore our "fights" consist of "Can you not..." And "Yup, sorry." Fight over. Well... Except for the few months that I was hepped up on hormones while trying to get pregnant. I was a total lunatic then.... Good thing he didn't call the lawyer!