Valentines and Date Night (Jesus-Approved)

It is no secret that I think most holidays are contrived by the powers that be to boost the economy through the sale of needless crap that does not actually mean that a person loves you.  There is most likely a Kay Jewelers in every mall in hell.  Gifts do not equal love.

Say that in your head one more time because it is important.  Gifts do not equal love.

Loving behavior equals love.  Lots of loving behaviors.  Over time.  And rocky terrain.  And loving behaviors on sunny days and during the fun stuff and in the middle of all of the excitement too.  Lots and lots of loving behavior equals love.  Gifts do not equal love.

I will, however, make an exception to my rant to allow sarcastic valentines to squeak in.  I can definitely get on board with these.  I might even go so far as to say that these valentines would count as a little bit of love.  May I suggest a few that should be sent from my family?

From Kid E:

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 10.08.46 AMFrom Kid D:

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From Kid C:

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From Kid B:

images-3From Kid A:

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From Sheepdog:

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Now that’s what I call love, folks.  Lots and lots and lots of love.

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A few weeks back I went online and purchased tickets to a predicted train wreck of a movie for Sheepdog and I to see this Valentine’s weekend.  The very popular book series that inspired said film had proven to be a key ingredient to a very memorable vacation for us a few years back in Cabo San Lucas.  Given that we are not going on that trip to Mexico this year, and the fact that Sheepdog tethers himself to the thought of that week as if it were an actual life source, I figured I would throw him a bone(r).  Mr. Grey will see you now.

And then I thought it would be nice to invite my sisters and their husbands to the theater as well.  So I texted them about it.

50 Shades text

Between happily married, consenting adults, that is.

Wish me luck for tomorrow.  Sheepdog’s not going to need any.  He’s got 50 Shades of Lucky coming his way.

Spare Time

Sheepdog has a hard time sitting still.  I feel that he was born with some horrific “can’t relax” gene.  He still complains of being tired all of the time and that he feels run down and exhausted, yet he rarely listens when I wisely advise, “take a nap, dummy.”  Naps are the best part of parenting as far as I’m concerned.  They are the diamonds of Minecraft.  My precious.

But, back to Sheepdog.  The man is unable to just be.  I tease him all the time about his lack of quietude, yet I secretly find his buzz intoxicating.  I don’t want to be him, mind you.  But I am thrilled that he is on my team.  And he’s fun to watch.

This summer, my mom and dad gave Sheepdog a GoPro helmet camera.  I do not think in the history of things created that there could be a more appropriate gift.  Sheepdog is even more excitable than usual because of it.

Snake Creek Gap Sign

He has already begun filling his dance card with mountain and road bike races throughout 2015.  His first mountain bike race was the Snake Creek Gap 34-miler, which he completed last Saturday, January 3, in the cold and pouring rain in just over five hours.  He was so muddy at the end that the ladies who give out chili to the riders afterwards asked him to pose for pictures because they had never seen anyone so filthy and caked in mud.*

And because he can’t sit still, Sheepdog came home from the race and promptly made a movie about it.

I told you he is fun to watch.  How about those thighs, huh?

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

* Reminder to have Sheepdog build an outdoor shower in his spare time

This Is Just Not Funny

Yesterday was the first day of April, or as I would rather call it, March 32nd.  I am not really a big fan of the pranks and jokes and general tomfoolery that accompany this particular calendar day.  I never remember that it is April Fool’s until it is too late and by then I have fallen for a handful of pranks completely, thus becoming a literal fool (archaica person who is duped).  Or, I see right through people’s trickeration and have to pretend.  So, nope.  I’m not really a fan.

But my kids are a whole different story.

A few years ago Kid B contributed to this blog by posting about her favorite pastime… pranking her siblings (Kid B Uses Her Powers For Evil).  Kid C, Kid D, and Kid E seem to have gone the way of Wazaah, so they spent a good part of yesterday afternoon hiding each other’s shoes and pillows.  It was all very annoying, especially at bedtime harmless and funny and made everybody giggle.  Even I couldn’t keep my icy heart from melting each and every time I heard Kid D yell out “APRIL FOOL’S!” followed by a giant guffaw.  He was on a roll by dinnertime.

Sheepdog had ridden his bike to work yesterday, so he came in through the basement workshop and not the kitchen door when he got home last night.  He showered first and then joined us for dinner.  When he came upstairs, he had the remnants of panic smeared across his face.  Then he greeted us with, “Are you TRYING to kill me?”

Apparently, the pranksters got to him too.

This shit is not funny.

This shit is just not funny.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

The Hike

I held tight to my daddy’s arm as I walked fifty feet down the satin-lined aisle.  I stood beside an equally nervous Sheepdog and we both swore before God and our witnesses that we would ride it out through the good, the bad, and the ugly, forever and ever until we are parted by death.  Then we had a ginormous party.  It was a record-setting 96 degrees outside, well over 100 if you considered the humidity.  It was our wedding day.  And it was exactly twenty years ago.

This past weekend Sheepdog took me on a semi-surprise anniversary trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, to celebrate our milestone.  I say “semi-surprise” because Sheepdog knows better than to try to take me on a vacation that I knew nothing about because I could not possibly prepare for such a trip.  I needed to know where we were going and what we would be doing and who was wrangling the entropy at home.  You say “control issues” and I say “practical preparedness.”  Whatever.

Now, it may be June according to the calendar, but it is still winterish in Wyoming.  It was cold at night (low 30’s) and barely got up into the 70’s during the day.  It was a little too brrrrr for my liking (my “liking” being anything having to do with the warm beach), but it was indeed perfect weather – and a beautiful location – for hiking.  So, after we took pictures with a moose on the side of the road, had a spectacular couples massage and some hotel room sex, we hiked the crap out of that place.

On the best day of our trip we hiked well over 11 miles, with a good 2,500 feet of vertical climbing.  Sheepdog calculated that for me on Strava… all I knew was that my hamstrings felt like we had hiked all the way back to Georgia.  We were in Grand Teton National Park, so we started off walking all around Phelps Lake, which took about three-and-a-half hours, including lunch.  Next we drove 15 miles north to Jenny Lake, which we first crossed by boat.  Then we hiked up to a spot called Inspiration Point, back down the mountain again, and around the lake back to our car.

When we returned to the hotel, we were exhausted but rejuvenated.  That one day of hiking in the woods together was incredibly meaningful and turned out to be more than just a day to us.  It was actually representative of our first twenty years of marriage in so many ways…

*  A mile on flat land is not too strenuous, but a mile uphill can mess with your head.

*  A turkey sandwich made with love by your husband tastes better than almost anything else you can dream up.

*  Sometimes the road signs will say “Rough Road” or “Frost Heaves.”  The best you can do is be alert and hang on tight for the ride.

*  Every once in a while you may cross paths with a girl who tells you she is going to jump into the lake naked.  It is okay that Sheepdog listens for her splash, as long as he is still walking by your side and holding your hand.

*  Occasionally you may also run into a boy hiking in just his underpants.  Discussing what you think will happen when he runs into the naked girl can provide lots of entertainment and giggles.

*  The weather may be too hot or too cold or somewhere in between.  Pack lots of options, and don’t complain about how heavy the suitcase is.

*  Bringing kids on the trip will change everything.  Sometimes you need to leave them at home with your sister.

*  Nobody likes a whiner, even if you get jammed in the leg by an unyielding tree.  Be tough.

*  Someone has to lead and someone has to follow.  Don’t be greedy about your position.  Share the responsibility.  But always let the man drive.

*  Wear good shoes.

*  Bring a book, but be sure to put it down sometimes so you can talk to each other.

*  If he carries all of the water, she will be able to carry the camera.  Nobody gets thirsty and everything is documented, so everybody wins.

*  You may think that you only like beach vacations, but the mountains just might surprise you.  You’ll never know until you try something new.

*  You forget the pain of the climb when you see the view from the top.  Especially if you are seeing it with someone you love.

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“In the name of God, I take you to be mine, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer and for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, until we are parted by death.  This is my solemn vow.

I give you this ring as a sign of my vow and with all that I am and all that I have I honor you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Those whom God has joined together, let no one put asunder.”

Happy 20th Anniversary to my Sheepdog.  Thanks for sticking it out through all of the good, the bad, and the ugly.  It has been an incredible and inspiring hike.  Let’s keep going.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

The Ski Lift

When I was growing up, my best friend lived right across the street from me.  We did everything together from the time she rolled out of bed at noon until our parents made us come home at sunset.  We had a ton of freedom to do basically whatever we fancied.  We rode bikes all over town and in the woods, played Barbies on the front lawn, and basically hid from all of the other younger kids on our block.  So many of my childhood memories involve her… including the first time I went snow skiing.

Her parents owned a local ski shop and she and her younger brother began skiing when they were babies.  They went skiing all of the time.  I think the first time I went with them I was about nine years old.  I suited up and hit the slopes.  No matter that she took me to a (double?) diamond on my very first run.  Fortunately, I was a kid and made of rubber and I totally dug the speed from racing down a mountain, all tuck-and-go.  In my head-to-toe matching yellow hat, pants, bibs combo, I effortlessly earned the nickname “Runaway Banana.”

My family soon got in on the skiing vacations as well.  Actually, it seemed like our whole town did.  And we skied A LOT.  We took tons of day trips to local areas that were fun, but my favorite ski vacations were the ones where we got to ski day after day after day.  They even instituted a week off of school in February, called it “Winter Vacation” and most everybody traveled north.  We went a few times a year to Pico Mountain in Killington, Vermont, to swoosh down Charlie’s Highway, the Lower and Upper Pikes, Bushwacker, Forty-Niner, Upper and Lower Giant Killers, and even A and B slopes when they were occasionally open.

And, again, our parents gave us the freedom to ski wherever we wanted, together as kids.  But instead of meeting back home when the sun went down, we just met them at the Lodge for happy hour after the lifts closed.

Now, Pico Mountain is not a ginormous ski resort.  It was also the 1980’s and kids could still do the unaccompanied roaming thing without much worry.  It also didn’t hurt that most every person on the mountain also came from my hometown, so we all kind of knew each other up there.  Nevertheless, even when we were “on our own,” we would occasionally run into a parent here and there.

I have learned as a parent myself that there are many taboo topics that other parents don’t necessarily tell you all about, mainly because they are so horrible that you just might opt out of the whole parenthood gig if you were forewarned of their atrociousness (things like the unimaginable quantities of poop, puke, lack of sleep, all-consuming fear of total responsibility for the life of another human being… and those are just a few that jump to mind regarding babies).  But there are also upsides to parenthood that you might not necessarily consider either.  One of those is certainly the joy you can get from the embarrassment of your children in public, mostly as payback for crap they did as babies and/ or toddlers, but also for just being kids.  Looking back, my dad was totally in on that secret.

So there I was, racing down Pico Mountain, cutting tight left and right, skis all parallel like I was one of the Mahre twins (at least in my mind I was), and then I would inevitably hear him singing down from above…

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“I love my Staaaaaaaaaa-cy,
Oh, yes I doooooooooo.
When she’s not near to meeeeeeeeee,
I’m sad and bluuuuuuuuuue.
I love her truuuuuuuuuu-ly,
I doooooooooo!
Oh, Staaaaaaaaaa-cy,
I LOVE YOU!”

Yes, I cringed.  Yes, I pretended I didn’t know him.  Yes, I skied away as fast as I could.  But it secretly made me so happy that my dad would put himself out there (he is a horrible, and LOUD singer) to express his love-slash-retribution like that.  To this day, I smile with such joy every time I see a chairlift.

On this Father’s Day, I want to tell my dad just how much I love him right back…

I love you truly,
I do!
Oh, Daddy,
I LOVE YOU!

Happy Father’s Day to all of the embarrassing dads out there.  xo

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Good Grief

Things are slowly getting back to normal around here.  School has been out for over a week now, and we have already settled in to a nice routine of whatever activities we have scheduled (mostly the older kids), a little exercise (mostly me), and sometimes a swim in the neighborhood pool or a run through the sprinkler (Kid E insisted that we get one).  I’ve been moving along, day by day, trying not to let death be the first thing that comes to mind when I open my eyes.  And each day it does get a little better.  But I also don’t want to forget Braden and what he meant to our family.  It really is a fine line.  Right now I am a tightrope walker.

My mom mentioned to me last week when she came down for the memorial service that she was more worried about me than she was about Kid A.  I have struggled with depression since I was a teenager.  But this is different.  I was legitimately depressed when Braden was diagnosed.  Surely there were times when I ate and drank too much during the many months when he was being treated.  But when he died, it was like a switch flipped in me.  I reassured my mom that her fears were unfounded… I was talking about my feelings, I was reading a book about dealing with death, I was writing as my therapy, I was exercising every day, drinking and eating in healthy quantities, and overall managing a very healthy grieving process.  I am very sad, but I am working through the sadness.  But I guess you never stop worrying about your kids, so I get where my mom was coming from.

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Kid A and Kid B did some grief counseling before school let out.  Kid A has a box of memories and mementos that she has been going through.  Kid B has been wearing the soccer jersey that Braden gave her.  We are encouraging everyone in our family to talk about their emotions, and to continue to talk about Braden.  Sheepdog has been more angry than sad, but that has always been his go-to move.  He took out some of that anger on his mountain bike yesterday, with my brother-in-law and one of his employees.  The point is, everyone grieves differently, and on their own schedule.  As long as you work through it, the grief is almost always good.

One day Kid E started crying and said, “I’m really going to miss Brandon!” but we reassured him that Uncle Brandon was just fine (aside from the damage that Sheepdog may have inflicted on him during the very emotional bike ride).  He was obviously still in the first stage of grief… shock and denial (and confusion).

Sheepdog and I were talking about it again last week.  We have obvious concern for Braden’s family, but also for each other and for our kids as well.  We wanted to make sure that everyone was getting the counseling that they needed and processing their emotions in healthy, constructive ways.  We spoke at length about how everyone is exhibiting their pain in their own unique way, and none of them is necessarily right or wrong.  We can only continue to watch out for signs and make sure that no one slips through the cracks without properly acknowledging and dealing with their sorrow.

And then Sheepdog pointed out that some people really benefit from grieving naked, and he felt that a little affirmation of life was in order.  I guess we really are going to be okay.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

The Finish Line

Sheepdog has always said, “If you see Stacy running, you had better call the police.  Because someone has got to be chasing her.”

You see, my husband knows me well and he definitely knows that I do not like to run.  I never have.  I’m just not so inclined.  I am more of a cheerleader.

But Sheepdog is a runner.  He is mostly a bike rider, but he is also a runner.  Run, Sheepdog, run.

He has been running throughout most of our marriage.  No, not away from our marriage, silly.  Throughout.  Although, in truth, maybe sometimes he is dreaming of running away.  I know I sometimes do.  Just not while running.  But I digress.

Sheepdog has completed a couple of triathlons, but the swimming part always gets him.  He swims like I would imagine a T-rex swimming… like he weighs in the tons and has disproportionately short arms.  The triathlon I remember best he did in Brigantine, New Jersey, when Kid B was just an itty-bitty thing.  They started off swimming in waves.  Each wave (divided by age and gender) had a different color rubber swim cap, so it made it easier to identify your swimmer when they finished the swim portion through the rough waves of the bay.  I don’t recall exactly, but I do recall that his wave (young, fast men in robin’s egg blue caps) came bobbing to shore first, but not Sheepdog.  Then the young, fast women started to swim in.  Still no sign of Sheepdog.  The older, not-so-fast men, then some kids and even the older women started running out of the cold water.  I think a couple of handicapped people swam to shore, as did a woman who was well over 100-years-old (I might be remembering that part incorrectly, but you get my point).  Finally, Sheepdog wearily dragged himself up the boat ramp and onto his bike.  Satisfied that he did not have to be brought in on a rescue boat, he then took off angrily on his bike as if it were an extension of his own body.  He rode like the wind.

And he ran like the wind, too, all the way to the finish line back on par with many of the fast, young men.  And I stood there with Kid A and Kid B and the diaper bags and the snacks and the double stroller, and I think my parents were there too, and we cheered as loud as our voices would cheer as Sheepdog ran under the marker and clocked his time.  It was a grand celebration at that finish line.

Sheepdog has also competed in marathons.  That same year, he ran in the 39th Atlantic City marathon.  Once again, I stood at the windy finish line with Kid A and Kid B and the diaper bags and the snacks and the double stroller, and we cheered and hollered as he completed twenty-six point two miles of running along the boardwalk and the streets of Atlantic County using only the power of his own mind and body.  And he did it in just under four hours.  And it was again a grand celebration at the finish line, especially because this time he didn’t almost die in some back bay because of his dinosaur flaw.

Sheepdog says, "I was running!"

Sheepdog says, “I was running!”

He went on to run another marathon in Philadelphia after Kid C was born.  He trained so as to not die on the swim portion and he “Tri-ed” again a few more times after we moved to Georgia.  He has ridden in countless bike races, all over these United States.  They are each different but sometimes the races all blur together in my mind.  The end is always a grand celebration at the finish line.  A celebration of athleticism, of willpower of the human mind, of setting and attaining seemingly impossible goals.  And of not drowning.  But mostly the finish line is a celebration of people.

Yes, I have stood and celebrated at many finish lines.  My heart aches for those who were there at the Boston Marathon when the bombs went off.  I watched the news in horror, found hope in the helpers and cheered with America when they captured the suspect.  Boston may be strong, but I fear they are a little bit harder inside after the events that unfolded last week.  I know I wondered if I would ever want to be at any finish line ever again.

But then I decided something…  I decided that I do still wish to be there.  I want to celebrate athleticism and willpower and goals.  Mostly, I want to cheer for the people, because mostly, people are good.  I will continue to send my kids off to school.  I will keep going to the movies.  I will continue to live this life that I have been blessed with to the fullest.  I will try to be one of the helpers.  And I will ALWAYS be cheering as loudly as I can at the finish line.  And I hope to see you all there.

Wish me luck for tomorrow…

Press of Atlantic City article about Sheepdog