Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's All a Matter of Perspective

This past year has been one of the more stressful of my life. Not because I turned fifty, but because life has just been Full (note the capital “F”)! Brian and I sat down recently and looked at the past year and it was astounding to see all that has been happening – no wonder I feel a little overwhelmed. There have been other momentously stressful years in my life: the year we graduated from college, started new jobs, bought our first house and had our first baby; the year my 16-year-old nephew committed suicide and a short six weeks later my dad died of a heart attack; the year my mom became terminally ill and we cared for her at home for several months before she died. Some stressful times are full of good things, some full of bad or sad, but the change in routine; the rising and plummeting emotions all take their toll.

This past year has been full of mostly good times: trips around the country and to Korea and Europe, a houseful of kids and young adults, activities galore. We had an adult niece spend four months with us while she settled in the Portland area. Our oldest son and his fiancĂ© moved from Texas to also settle in the Portland area; they were here for eight months. Our middle son struggled to find his way out of the house and is now settled happily at school in Tacoma. We have an extra “unofficial” son still here who is also finding his way out. We are dealing with an aging parent and volunteer commitments. It has been wonderful to have the extra young people around. We know our niece and future daughter-in-law much better because of sharing a home with them. It’s gratifying to see our middle son and the “unofficial” one finding their paths and developing their own personal responsibility. The travel has been memorable and rewarding. Our younger children, their activities and our own personal goals and desires fill up most days on the calendar, but that’s better than boredom.

Last week we sat down for a family dinner. For the past year, dinner has meant eight, nine, ten or more people around the table on a regular basis. Last week there was my husband, our four youngest children and myself – only six of us. My husband looked around the table and said, “Is this it? Is this everyone?” It felt like such a small, easy-to-manage group. Life is looking simpler. We mentioned this change to an acquaintance and he said, “Six! I can’t imagine how I’d deal with six people in the house.” I realized then that this busy-life thing, this stress is really a matter of perspective. While we had a busy year, we didn’t have the upheaval of a major life change like becoming parents for the first time, no loved one died this year – we were just busy. And now, with all but one of the “extras” out of the house and with some major events behind us, we are looking forward to having our household back to a more normal state. Less stress, more quiet. Did I mention that we’re thinking of remodeling?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

It's Game Day!

I’ve been planning to write this blog since Labor Day weekend. In fact, I even started it that weekend, but somehow life has gotten in the way and my brain has been too scrambled to put words to paper (or screen). There’s a saying that life is what happens while you’re making other plans… but that’s another blog. This one is about fall, fans and football. Not any type of football, but, specifically, college football. Twelve years ago, after a lifetime of declaring that I didn’t like football, I was coerced, at the last minute, into accompanying my husband and oldest son to a University of Oregon Ducks football game. We hadn’t attended a game there during our time at the UofO, but with great reluctance I agreed to go to the game more for the opportunity to spend the day with my husband and son than with any expectation of enjoying the game. Well, my life changed that day! I loved the game; I loved the stadium; I loved the fans! My husband gave me a four-seat package of season tickets for Christmas that year and life hasn’t been the same since. “It’s Game Day!” rings out in our home Saturday mornings in the fall. We’re referring not only to our kids’ soccer games but also to the college football games. We decorate the car with flags and pom-poms. We honk and wave at other similarly decorated cars on the 2-1/2 hour drive down I-5 to Eugene. The smell of fall in the air now evokes not only thoughts of pumpkins, scarecrows and trick-or-treating, but also thoughts of football, the roar of the crowd, the loving rivalries with our friends from other Pac-10 schools.

The day before the season opener this year, my husband and I went on a beautiful nine-mile hike on Mt. Bachelor in Central Oregon. My husband happened to wear a UofO hat on the hike. Several times as we passed other hikers, we heard the casual “Go Ducks!” greeting. Graduating from college makes us part of a group – the alumni of that particular school, but until I discovered college football, I didn’t really have much of a connection to the University of Oregon after our college graduation. Now, I proudly wear shirts that proclaim, “I am a Duck” and “I feel Ducky”. Today I will don my yellow and green, my husband and I will gather up six kids and young adults, park our car on the UofO campus and walk from campus to Autzen Stadium, crossing the footbridge over the Willamette River with thousands of other Duck fans. I’ll send “It’s Game Day!” text messages to a select group of friends and I’ll revel at the sight as I enter through the walkway into Autzen Stadium – the players on the field, the fans milling to the their seats stopping to greet people along the way, the student section already full – a sea of yellow. The air will be clean and crisp (this is Eugene, after all). There will be a buzz of excitement in the air and in my ears.

I read recently that as we grow older it’s good to have passions. Activities that we love help to keep us young and vibrant. I have several passions that I will carry with me as I age and one of them will be Game Day. I do feel Ducky today!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Simple Pleasure

W e are advised by “the experts” to be aware of life’s pleasures; to perk up our days be paying attention to what is happening in the here and now. It’s obvious that it feels good to give attention to a beautiful sunset or to the laughter of a child, but last month I realized another simple pleasure – washing one’s hands. At the Holt campout, I’m able to have a daily shower just as I would at home, but the reality of being outside at a campground all day meant that my hands often felt dusty and dirty. I found it such a comfort to be able to go to the restroom building to wash my hands with soap and warm water. What a wonderful feeling! Clean fresh water and wonderful smelling soap – it didn’t matter whether the soap was floral scented or just plain soap – both have a wonderful smell. Throughout the week at the campout I snuck away several times to wash my hands – a few moments of bliss.

This past Sunday, several of us ran a 10k and afterwards went to a popular local cafĂ© for breakfast. As soon as we were seated I left the table to go to the restroom to wash my hands. I was exhilarated from the run, but sweaty and dusty. I had changed shirts before we entered the restaurant and had taken off my running shoes in favor of flip-flops, but I didn’t feel ready to enjoy breakfast until I’d washed my hands. Again, what a wonderful feeling: a body tired but happy from a good run, the odors of wonderful breakfast foods wafting from the kitchen, people I love waiting for me at the table and clean, fresh-smelling hands!

What simple pleasure can you identify for yourself today?