Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Auld Lang Syne 2014

Yes, it's the final day of 2014 and that generally requires some type of personal reflection of "the year that was"; however, I received a Christmas letter from a colleague and friend that really pared down the "review process" of reflection. I am going to attempt to complete my final entry of 2014 using the "thumbs up/thumbs down" process that she used in her Christmas letter. I thought it was genius to make something that can become SO complicated into some SO simple.
So, here are my personal "thumbs up" and "thumbs down" moments of 2014. I'll review the year month by month so as not to group all of the "thumbs up" stuff together and then lump all of the "thumbs down" stuff together because life is always a mixture of both.

01-04-14: Mark & I attended the "Dobbs Family Reunion" which is an annual event that reminds me of my connection to my Native American relatives. Although no one knew it at the time, this was the last reunion my cousin Shorty Dobbs would attend.

01-05-14: The Packers lose to the 49ers 23-20 in a play off game. Hopes of another trip to the Super Bowl are dashed.

01-06-14, 01-07-14, 01-28-14: Public schools are closed due to the significant sub-zero temperatures. This never happened when I was in school. We walked uphill in both directions to make it to school because schools didn't close due to freezing temperatures. We were lucky if recess was held indoors in these types of low temperatures.

01-23-14: My parents celebrate their 43rd wedding anniversary.  That's a long time to spend with another person. Go Rog & Shirl!

02-06-14: I have a phone interview with a sort of "outward bound" camp for at-risk adolescents located in Hawaii.  Unfortunately I would have to add a thumbs-down image because the phone interview never amounted to the in-person interview which would have been held in Hawaii, all expenses paid by the organization.

02-14-14 - 02-16-14: I spent the weekend at my sister's house with her family to facilitate a Pre-Marriage Workshop on 02-15-14 in Eau Claire. I got to spend time with my nieces, my sister and her common-law husband (if Wisconsin recognized such a relationship, which it does not) as well as their puppy Pearl and the "Dynamic Duo" her two cats, Snicks and Doobs.

02-22-14: My parents and I travel to Eau Claire to celebrate my sister's 40th birthday at a local golf clubhouse which had really awesome cupcakes instead of a cake. I bought my sister another charm to add to her bracelet from Tiffany's and her friends were going insane when they saw that "little blue box" on the gift table, expecting it to be an engagement ring from her boyfriend. I guess they would add a thumbs-down because it wasn't an engagement ring, but she seemed happy enough with the charm.
This same weekend Mark flew out to Denver to attend the wedding of his younger brother Bob to a wonderful woman, Irene.

03-03-14: My mom turns 65 (hello Medicare!) and Apollo turns 4!

04-05-14: We celebrated my mom's 65th birthday without her because she wasn't feeling well, but we had a great time!

04-25-14: Dad retires after 37 years at JJ Keller & Associates. He was hired in the summer of 1976 (before Chad was even born) as an Accounting Supervisor and retired as the Vice-President of Finance/CFO. I took my dad out for lunch on his final day of work and just as we sat down at the table, he handed me a dog-eared file folder and said, "I found this when cleaning out my desk today and thought you might want it." The folder contained every college report card, Dean's List acknowledgment, graduation and Dean's List announcements from the Post Crescent, and transcripts from my undergrad and graduate school programs. After paying for our lunch, when I got back to my office, I looked through the folder and began crying because my dad had been keeping track of my academic career since 1991, twenty years of accomplishments which is a gift I never expected to receive - and those are the best gifts to receive.

05-14-14: I celebrate my 43rd birthday and my second cousin Sammy celebrates his 5th birthday. It's so cool to share a birthday with a family member!

05-24-14 - 05-26-14: Memorial Day Weekend which in the Krause family translates to "grave-hopping"! We (my two maternal aunts, my sister, Ben & the girls, my three female maternal cousins, and myself) go to the cemeteries where our much loved ancestors are buried and clean off their graves and place summer flowers near their headstones in tribute to their lives; we truly celebrate them in memory. Once these tasks are completed, we stop at a local bar in Red River and then go out to eat in Shawano. We've been doing this for well over a decade and the group members have changed over the years; my Grandma Krause no longer goes along because all of the walking is too difficult for her; my great-aunt Shirley no longer attends because she's in a long term care facility due to Alzheimer's disease; and my great aunt Kootchie had passed on. The absolute BEST part of the weekend is when Grandma Krause fries eggs in a cast iron skillet in the bacon grease that she cooked up moments earlier. We all call it the "heart attack breakfast" but it's the BEST part of summer and something I look forward to every year.

06-01-14: Brayden's 5th birthday party: Our grandson Brayden turned 5 on 05-24-14 and we all celebrated at a birthday party on June 1st at a local park.

06-08-14 - 06-11-14: I attended a three-day training in Eau Claire and stayed at my sister and her family's house. The training was intense, but spending time with the girls & Pearl (the dog) and the Dynamic Duo (the cats) was awesome! This is me getting some lovin's from Pearl.

06-27-14 - 06-29-14: One of my best friends in the world whom I've known since junior high gets married to a really amazing guy on 06-28-14. The ceremony was beautiful, the dinner was amazing and the reception music totally rocked!

This is a photo of me & Mark at the wedding. I had complete strangers taking my picture because of my fascinator!

07-08-14: I had finally grown my hair long enough to donate to Locks of Love. The following photos are the before and after. I donated 13" of hair and my stylist cut off an additional 12" to style it!


08-01-14: Dad participates in an Old Glory Honor Flight as a Vietnam veteran on the final Friday of EAA. It was an amazing experience for him and for me & Mark who were there to greet him when he arrived home and finally got the welcome home he deserved 40+ years ago.
Dad returns from his Honor Flight to Washington D.C.

09-02-14: I begin working at Rawhide two days a week through a contracted position with LSS. In a very short time I realize I love working with the staff and the residents who become my clients.

09-30-14: Mark & I celebrate our 9th wedding anniversary.

11-27-14: Thanksgiving wasn't so great this year as no one came to eat the feast I had prepared. This is the dessert they missed out on!

12-27-14: We celebrate Christmas at Mom & Dad's after I'd been sick with an upper respiratory "thing" from 12-22 through 12-26.

 The Porath family Christmas photo 12-27-14.

So that brings me to today, December 31, 2014. By totaling the thumbs-up and the thumbs-down, it's easy to see that despite the challenges and setbacks of 2014, the majority of events fall into the thumbs-up category. I guess, actually I know, you can't really complain about that!

Happy New Year's to you and yours. May the best of 2014 be the worst of 2015! I say, "BRING IT!" :-)

Friday, December 26, 2014

Gratitude, Christmas, and How it all Fits Together

For me, the last three or four Christmases or so have been "hit or miss", i.e., I didn't always know what I was walking into when we arrived at my parents' house. If memory serves me, last year it was me and my husband who were "on the outs" with my unpredictable mother and we spent very little time with my parents over the Christmas holiday. That meant not spending time with my sister, her long term boyfriend and his two daughters, whom I consider my nieces regardless if Jan and Ben ever get married or not.
The year before it was my sister who was "on the outs" with our mother and they (Jan, Ben and the girls) spent very little time in Appleton over the Christmas holiday.
This year it was somewhat of a toss-up. My sister hasn't really had much communication with our mom since a few weeks before Mother's Day when we were all specifically told via voice mail, "I'm done with you all and I know you're all done with me."
I admit that contact with my parents has significantly decreased since receiving that message loud and clear. When none of us (me and my siblings) went over to their house for Mother's Day (because, remember, a couple of weeks prior we were instructed that our mother was "done with us") she took this as a personal affront and left another series of angry voice messages about how we were ignoring her. This anger held over until Father's Day a month later when I called and spoke with my dad about when we should stop by to give him his Father's Day gift. During that phone call I could hear my mom yelling in the background that if we didn't see her on Mother's Day, we were NOT invited to their home for Father's Day. My very stoic father was in tears as he told me that we'll get together at some other time for Father's Day. Needless to say, this didn't do much to improve how I felt about my mom.
Despite all of this family discord, either my brother or my dad have picked up Apollo on weekdays and dropped him back off at our house so he doesn't spend his days alone while Mark and I are at work. Next to his leash I've left gifts, envelopes of photos, and Thanksgiving left-overs that my mom (my guess) wouldn't come over to receive, but we've received food in Tupperware containers in return and the containers of food we've sent over to them returned washed, cleaned and apparently appreciated, or at least eaten, in return.
This brings me to this Christmas, 2014. I was sick with a very nasty cold (likely picked up by the petri-dish kids I work with) on Monday afternoon, 12-22-14 until today, 12-26-14, when I finally stopped taking Dayquil every 4 hours and a hefty dose of NyQuil before bedtime. I missed celebrating Christmas at my Grandma Krause's house on Christmas Eve because the last thing on earth my grandma needs is any exposure to communicable diseases.
My sister, Ben and the girls arrived at my parents' house sometime today between noon and 1pm. Despite calling and texting, I wasn't given any additional information about "dropping by" today which I had planned on. However, if my sister and her family needed time to repair their relationship with our mother, I say, "Amen, Hallelujah, take all the time you need." Mark, Apollo and I are scheduled to arrive at my parents' tomorrow around 10:30am to "celebrate" Christmas and exchange gifts. As I haven't received any negative reports from Camp-Porath so far, I'm looking forward to going there tomorrow. We'll exchange gifts, take pictures, eat a lot of food and (with A LOT of hope) enjoy our time together. Time will tell.
Gratitude plays into this complicated scenario as a place where I can retreat to, remembering and honoring the true meaning of this season for me. On my Facebook page I posted the portion of the book of Mark from the New Testament that describes the birth of Jesus, which is one of my favorite Biblical passages. It reminds us that the Christ child, laying in a manger, wrapped in swaddling clothes, was born in the most humble of circumstances, despite being the Savior of all Christians. His life would be one of sacrifice and forgiveness: something all of us, especially me, needs to remember at this time of year.
Can I forgive my mother for her unpredictable, "crazy" behavior? What are the benefits for me of doing so? Perhaps it's not my benefits that I should focus on, but rather the forgiveness that Jesus exhibited to all that encountered him, regardless of their "worthiness" of His forgiveness. Because, in the end, if we believe, we are all worthy of His forgiveness. For that, I am extremely grateful this year.