Wednesday, August 17, 2016

End of Summer Melancholy

I ride my bike one last time down the road. This time though, I'm keenly aware of everything. I feel the warm, late-summer wind against my bare skin and through my hair, flying behind me. My legs burn as I pedal uphill, then rest easy as I coast along and spy the chestnut mare out in the field, lazily grazing, happy that black fly season is over. In the distance I hear the familiar sound of a chainsaw hard at work, but not before freshly cut pine meets my nose as I deeply inhale. The pine mixes with warm woodsy earth and fresh air to envelop me in my surroundings. A deer darts out in front of me, and after both our heart rates accelerate we slow to inspect one another. She remains in the brush, curiously staring me down, before nodding and continuing to munch on her midday meal. I pedal on. Back toward the lake a loon calls out eerily, it's minor tune matching the one in my heart.
That was last week. It's now August 17th, which means I'm in the throes of a melancholy that will last through the end of the month. It happens every August, and the feelings of sadness multiply year over year. It used to be that I anxiously awaited the advent of fall and winter, and while I still do, I now mourn the end of summer. So for now I memory-bank. I do all I can to identify every moment for what it was - a miraculous moment in God's daily art show - so I can uncork it in the dead of winter when 4:00 sunsets dictate we move things indoors.

June is our favorite, when on the cusp of summer all things promise warmth, lazy days, and good times ahead.
In a weak moment, I agreed to host a small tribe of sixteen year old boys at the cabin for a day.
I jest - they were perfect gentlemen - and actually required less effort than girls of their age. Except when it comes to food. I'm afraid I didn't do so well in feeding such a small army, so I kept pushing watermelon at them.
They also tolerate negative pictures, and could care less about their hair or posing in small groups for photos. One and done, man. I kind of love it.
They didn't come back. Next time I promise to up the food game, boys, and cook seventeen chickens to feed you all.

Mr. Musky's assessment? He wandered downstairs to say hello, then came back up with a profound revelation.

"They stink."

***

Then like a whirlwind, July madness descended upon us. We hosted guests for eighteen days straight, starting with this gem who I met my senior year of high school.
Hollie, her two little kids, and sweet husband Sam came for a visit. We aren't used to littles - Summer is 10, and Peyton is 7. Mr. Musky channelled his inner freak and scared the poop out of those poor kids. He regaled them with stories about our basement below the basement through a scary door next to the bathroom and donned the Chuckie mask while playing bear snorts and wolf howls on the speaker. His efforts resulted in this...
...a Mama Bear who threatened to dismember anyone who scared her kids further.

In the end, he made peace with them, and Summer even cozied up to him, despite her constant reply of "Really?" to every statement he made. The skepticism runs deep in that one.
The Schmidts enjoyed our northerly paradise, happy to escape the oppressive heat of South Florida in the summertime.
We enjoyed having them, despite a little mishap toward the end of their stay.
We may not have hurricane strength winds in the Great White North, but we can certainly give those southerners a run for the money when it comes to downed trees. In the middle of the night a storm ran through, and at one point I grabbed Mr. Musky's hand and held on tight as the entire cabin shook. Unable to sleep, I awoke in the early morning to a minor disaster.

TREE DOWN! Lady Luck swirled around with that storm though. The downed tree rotted from the center out, something we would have never realized. As it fell during the storm, a pine tree diverted its path, saving our dock and boats from disaster. The power was out, so we all channelled our inner pioneer and humped water from the lake in order to flush toilets.

Despite the severity of the storm, we were able to call in the professionals. They arrived the next day and cleaned up the rubble in no time. I have a newfound appreciation for arborists.
And their tree hugging, daredevil ways.

***

Things calmed down a bit after that, with the arrival of Mama and Papa Kahling. They had but one item on their agenda: Relax.
They're overachievers, that pair.
I helped get Dad off the boat and into the water one day, and he summed it up Jack Style with one word.
"Perfect. This is Perfect."
And his bride concurred.

Next up - our dear friends, Rob and Kara, who also took the art of relaxation very seriously.
I had some other "stuff" going on during their stay - icky stuff - that I'm not going to get into here. It was multifaceted and upsetting, leaving me an uncharacteristic wreck. Every good couple out there needs another couple who lifts you up when you're at your worst. Rob and Kara did just that, even if their dog ran off into a bog and they traipsed after him, swearing a bit, vowing to never bring him back.
Poor Murphy. Lucky for me, he has good humans who love me when I'm at my worst, so I know they forgive him for snarking around in a spongy bog.

***

And that about covers it, with the exception of two quick day trips to Ontonagon, Michigan. With a population less than 1500, don't blink or you'll miss this sleepy little town at the top of the Upper Peninsula. We love it for escaping the heat in the Northwoods (which happens maybe twice per summer) and for the pristine beaches on the shores of Lake Superior. If this Great Lake ever beckons you, go.
 The sound of the waves meeting the shoreline mesmerizes me into a near catatonic state.
The impeccable coastline reminds us how a true natural state should appear,
despite its eerily empty ways.
We always leave this spot re-energized, but our selfie game?
It's most certainly off point.

If I were melancholy when I started this post, now I'm depressed. In two weeks we ship our oldest off to college, and while I am mentally ready for that, I still don't want to call it quits on our summertime paradise. But like many things in life, I have no choice.

Onward!

Cheers,
Jen



Monday, June 13, 2016

Prom, 2016

Let me start by acknowledging that yes, these pictures are long overdue. With sister-in-law's baby shower, followed by prom, then by graduation and the party, then by a little Indy 500 get together, we threw four parties in one month.

I don't think we hosted a single party in the last year, so Mr. Musky is gnashing his teeth. And me?

I just enjoyed a week filled with solitude and no work. Yep - I took an entire week off of writing, photography, cooking, cocktailing, and even moming. I just sat, all by myself, and let be. One day last week I took the art of slugging out to a whole new level, only moving from the couch to eat something or visit the bathroom. I highly recommend this version of sloth for a little soul restoration. Take a day off work, tell your people to fend for themselves, and do nothing. Hell, eat a bon bon. Your body and mind will thank you.

In the midst of all the Mayhem in May, we hosted prom pictures. Which isn't that big of a deal, considering the kids all show up for about an hour and a half and then they leave. BUT - it was Kentucky Derby day, so some of the adults hung around for a bit.

First I must introduce some new friends: Kahley's boyfriend Nick, and his parents Jackie and Ray.
They are some of the best people we've met. We hit it off immediately, and saw them socially at least three more times in May. They're the type of people you know for certain are genuine - my favorite kind.

On Prom Day? My model, er, daughter, looked gorgeous.
So super grown up, with hair and makeup to die for.
But mothers of younger daughters, beware. The beauty never comes without drama. Her makeup appointment began 45 minutes late, causing undue stress about not showing up on time for her own party. Her friends could have cared less. They just congregated in the backyard and started snapping pictures on their own. Mr. Musky tended bar for the adults. I put out food for the teenagers, and all was right with the world. 
Her dress was killer, but again, not without angst. At the checkout at Peaches in Chicago, with the dress rang up and the earrings picked out, we were told that someone else attending her prom already bought the dress, and they couldn't sell it to us. Apparently our sales person forgot to check the system before bringing the dress out for Kahley to try on. She felt horrible and it was an honest mistake, but certainly didn't help the anxiety level of dress shopping.
So we broke the rules and bought it online. Kahley never did see the matching dress at her prom given that over 1000 students attended, so problem solved. 

Now is probably a good time to state the obvious.
I love my girl to no end, but man. I sure am glad my next go-around with prom-going involves a male. I've asked around, and it has its own set of challenges with the picking up of the tux the day before the event, but my son will be mysteriously sick during lunch the Friday before prom next year to avoid chaos.
Bottom line - lesson for moms of daughters - start dress shopping in January. I'm not joking or exaggerating in the slightest. Then in February, schedule a hair appointment for the day of prom at 10:00 am. Allot for two hours, if your girl has a thick mane like mine.
Then, if she's having her makeup done, plan on another two hours for that. Schedule that appointment in February as well, and count on things to run behind.
You need another hour (at least!) for her to arrive home, get dressed, and hopefully eat a little something.
And then...
At least an hour or more for pictures. For those who are counting, you need to leave the house by 9:30 in order for your princess to be ready for the paparazzi by 3:30. That's six hours. SIX HOURS! And we aren't even the Kardashians.
By the time she finally linked up with her boyfriend,
all was right with the world and her heart rate returned to normal.
One thing I have to say about Plainfield East High School...
...they DO IT UP RIGHT for Prom.
Last year a chartered Metra Train rolled them into Union Station for dinner and dancing.
This year, chartered busses departed the school at 5:45 pm for Navy Pier.
I love that the transportation to the venue is non negotiable (people who miss the bus, miss the prom),

and that dinner is included at such awesome locations for a memorable night. 
These two sadly parted ways last week, as Kahley returned to Chippewa Ranch Camp to run the riding program and continue working as camp counselor for the summer. They are attending separate schools in the fall, and are going to try the long distance thing for awhile.
One of my favorite things about prom pictures is the girlfriend shots, and reminiscing about how much these lovely ladies have grown over the years.
I know some of these gals more than others, but they all have one thing in common: 
respect.
Every one of them made it a point to say hello, thanked us for hosting, and impressed me with their overall maturity.
Not to mention their taste in fashion. Oh my - the dresses!
I will miss so many of these gems who lifted Kahley up when she needed it over the past four years.
This gal and her mama...wow. 
Kahley picked a gem for a best friend. I adore her mom and love hanging out with them both. Their extended family is fairly hilarious, too. 
The rest of the photo session pulled small groups of kids together while the parents stood back and snapped away.
I won't lie - I started peeking at the time,
ready to move on and go sip an apéritif with the adults. We had horse bets to make and sangria to drink!

Kudos to Kris, the other mama above with me, who came up with the idea for the kids to hold up their college logo. There's a whole lotta girl power going on here!
Go forth and rule the world!
The gents aren't too bad either.
Phew. Time for that adult beverage.
Enough of prom ad nauseam. If you're still reading this, you are either:

a. My mom. Hi Mom! Love you!
b. One of the individuals in the above photos. Good luck to you all this fall. Make good choices!
c. Nick's mom. Hi Jackie!
d. A female of any age, sticking with me because you love looking at all the dresses.
e. A creeper. Which is a little weird, but hey - thanks anyway for reading.

XOXO,
Jen