Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Moments of Grace

“It is the tenderness that breaks our hearts. The loveliness that leaves us stranded on the shore, watching the boats sail away. It is the sweetness that makes us want to reach out and touch the soft skin of another person. And it is the grace that comes to us, undeserving though we may be.”
― Robert Goolrick

I was up this morning before dawn, bustling around in my cozy kitchen, feeding the animals, making coffee and stirring up a batch of fresh chocolate chips cookies so that a little bit of mama love can go into the boys' lunches today.  As I watched the butter and sugar cream together in the Bright Red Kitchen Aid Artisan Stand Mixer, I found myself grinning.  I was just standing there, smiling like a fool, into the beginnings of my batter.   And then I began to pray a small, completely insufficient prayer of thanks while enumerating all the reasons I have to be joyful. And then I thought to myself, "Why not write all these down?  That way, in the inevitable moments of darkness, you can reach back to this list and remember why life is so beautiful."


Reasons to be Joyful
  • Two sleeping boys upstairs are healthy, mostly happy, and, most important to me, safe.  They sleep peacefully every night without ever fearing.  They have lived their lives in love without shouting and violence. 
  • The flowers on my kitchen table that represent the man who loves me in spite of the fact that I am often unlovable.  I am thankful that he can see past my grumpy mood swings, my inability to logically consider almost any question, my insistence on being unreasonably happy about holiday cups at Starbucks and my utter lack of concern over the filthiness of my home or car.   I am grateful that he always remembers and acts on the little things that make me happy.
  • My furry creatures give me far more joy than many people find reasonable. 
  • I am a different woman than I was 10 years ago, 5 years ago, even 6 months ago.  I am so thankful for the ability to change my mind, my thoughts, my life.
  • I can stir chocolate chops into my cookie dough with a beautiful, smooth wooden spoon.  
  • My limbs are all still working.  My knees are creaky and my body aches more than it probably should on a winter morning, but I am healthy.  
  • I have electric lights to illuminate my pre-dawn hours.
  • My heat is working and more than sufficient to keep us warm and safe from the coming winter.
  • I have work that I enjoy and that pays me enough to do the things I need to do for my family and to have a little bit of fun every now and again.
  • I live in an area where it's a little cold in the winter, a little hot in the summer and a whole lot of fabulous in the spring and fall.  
  • I live in a country where I can benefit from education, where I have the freedom to speak my mind,  and where I can rest assured that, even though it will never be perfect, there will always be people striving to change lives for the better.
  • I love, and am loved by, far more people than one person deserves to have.  I am grateful for the many people who weave in and out of my life, creating a bright tapestry of friendship and love to keep me believing that people, at their core, are usually kind, generous and loving.
  • There will always be more reasons to be joyful.
The list went on and on, all the way down to things like really great water pressure, drawers that slide smoothly in and out, and the fruit on the beautiful handmade pottery platter (a little plug for Stephen Dean) on my kitchen table where the cat is currently nestled (I promise I will clean the table before we eat).

I know that your list of joyful things may be different...but I also know you have one.  I hope you can take a few moments today and appreciate those little things that make it all worth it.

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Total Mom Guilt

"Maybe there's more we all could have done, but we just have to let the guilt remind us to do better next time."   -Veronica Roth, Divergent

They have fun, right?
Before I left on this most recent business trip, my youngest said to me (jokingly, I hope), “If you leave baked goods for us, we’ll remember that you love us.”

I left for California early on Sunday morning, a time when many families are having breakfast and preparing for worship together.  My broken-homed kids were at their dad’s house.  The day before, I had spent in a whirlwind.  I cleaned my house, dropped bake sale items off at the high school, ran errands, took my visiting mother to breakfast, attempted to assemble a bookcase, baked two loves of pumpkin bread and Halloween cupcakes (complete with spider and gruesome hand toppers because deep down, I kind of believed what Thing 2 said about the baked goods) and volunteered at the band competition until 9:30 pm.  When I came home, I cleaned a little more, stuffed money into an envelope for my pet-sitter, started packing my bags and crossed a couple of last-minute work items off my list.  When I finally fell into bed, exhausted, at midnight, I set my alarm for 4 a.m. so I could get up and finish my packing before my early flight. 

I then set off across the country, worked in the airport and on the flight (on a Sunday, no less) and tried to remember what I had forgotten to leave for the window contractors who were coming to my house in my absence.   I raced from the airport directly to a trade show.  Then back to my hotel room to finish a presentation my boss needed for Monday morning.   I fell asleep sitting up in my hotel room with my laptop open after what amounted to a 16-hour workday.

I forgot to put money in my kids’ lunch account so I got an abbreviated text from my eldest.  “Put money on my lunch account.”  OK.  Done.  I tried to ignore the guilt for missing picking him up from band practice and my youngest son’s double and stolen home base at the baseball game.  Mondays are MY days, after all.  I should have been there.

It seems as if my life is often a series of  “I should have” or “I have to” or “I’m going to” or “I need to” phrases.  I spend much of my time feeling guilty for not working enough, not paying enough attention to my kids, not cleaning my house well enough, not weeding my garden, not cleaning my car, not taking my dogs on walks, not making the decision to put my poor elderly cat to sleep…the list goes on and on and on.

So I bake.  I clean.  I shuffle.  I run.  I cajole. I volunteer when I can.  I work hard to keep the guilt at bay.  And I do a little bit here and a little bit there but I never do anything really well. I often think that we women REALLY SHOWED THEM when we started working outside the home.  We managed to get the full time jobs outside the house while maintaining a full load in the house.  We juggle marriage (well, not me so much anymore), kids, jobs, household duties and extracurricular activities while lamenting (bragging?) to each other about how busy we are. 

I am overloaded with the stress.  I don’t even do half of what many of my friends do.  And still I am burdened by all the guilt above compounded by the fact that I am not giving my kids what they really need:  me.  Because what they need, when it comes down to it, isn’t baked goods.   What they need, more than anything, is their parents.

Meanwhile, I’m 30,00 feet over Memphis.  For now, the cupcakes will have to do the trick.   I am on my way, boys.  I am on my way.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Lunatic Baker (Or, Why I Woke Up at 2:30 A.M. To Bake a Pound Cake)

“The measuring and mixing always smoothed out her thinking processes - nothing was as calming as creaming butter - and when the kitchen was warm from the oven overheating and the smell of baking chocolate, she took final stock of where she'd been and where she was going. Everything was fine.”
― Jennifer Crusie

I received an unexpected gift yesterday.  It wasn't my birthday.  I hadn't done anything particularly deserving.  But when my Guy had me close my eyes and he opened up the back of his Man Station Wagon (it's a sport model), I had no idea that he had purchased a Bright Red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer.  For me.

The Bright Red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer has always been a dream of mine.  (I know, you're probably reading this thinking, "I've had a stand mixer for years.  Pfft.  No biggie.")  But it IS a biggie.  A VBD (Very Big Deal), if you will.  See, the Bright Red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer represents more than just a mixer for me.  It's my Someday tool.

I love to bake.  It calms me after a stressful day.  I love the way the house smells when I'm crafting up something yummy in the kitchen.  And olfactory memories are strong ones...I want my boys to remember growing up in a house that smells of cookies and cakes and...well...love.  For many, many years (19, to be exact), I have used the hand mixer my mother gave me as a wedding present.  I've loved that hand mixer.  It has seen me through stiff meringues, chunky chocolate chip cookies, thick butter cookies for my new cookie press and the beginning (and end) of my marriage.  It's been a great mixer.  It does the trick.  So much so that spending a Veritable Fortune for a Bright Red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer just never made sense.

So, I told myself this:  "Someday.  Someday you will buy yourself the Bright Red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer as a special present JUST FOR YOU.  Maybe it will be because you do something extraordinary like not forgetting to shut and lock the back door before bed.  Maybe it will be because you finally finished writing that book.  Maybe it will be because you're just SO DAMN AWESOME.  But, someday, you will buy that ridiculously extravagant Bright Red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer.   And you will BAKE."  

Someday hasn't arrived yet. I just have never been able to justify the expense.

But, yesterday, due to...I don't know what it was...maybe the cool fall weather?  I looked especially fetching last week with my runny nose?  Just because?...my Guy purchased the Bright Red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer.

I am going to have to remember to be extra special nice to that Guy because a) he loves me enough to buy me the RIGHT COLOR (red is really the only color that matters to me) b) he knows me enough to know that this gift would send me over the moon and c) he didn't even wait for a holiday.  [Disclaimer:  I get equally excited over the Atomic Fireballs he hands over in church on Sunday mornings, so he knows that he doesn't have to be Ridiculously Extravagant to win any affection from me.]

So, yesterday I rushed home, excited to use my Brand New Bright Red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer.

And life got in the way.  I was busy picking up kids, getting groceries, supervising homework, printing Thing 2's school project that, before I knew it, 10 p.m. had rolled around.  I was EXHAUSTED.  And a little cranky.  And I didn't want my Very First Baking Experience with my lovingly purchased Dream Machine to be rushed or stressful. 

I rested my hand carefully on top of the Bright Red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer and said, "I'm going to take a little nap.  But I'll be back."

So, I set my alarm for 2:30 a.m.  And, at 2:30 a.m., I woke up like I was 6 years old again and Christmas morning had arrived.  I raced downstairs and made a cup of coffee (hello, I still have SOME sanity left...I know what's important).  And then I carefully washed the parts of my new mixer.  And I read the operating instructions.  And I assembled the butter, the sugar, the eggs, the flour.  I juiced some lemons.  I installed the splash shield.  I finally figured out how to install the mixing paddle.

And I mixed.

I oohed and aahed over the blending.  I walked away from it while it creamed butter and sugar.  I listened to the whirring of the motor.

It was everything I dreamed it would be.

I'm sitting here now smelling deliciously baked lemony goodness.  And I know my boys are upstairs in their sleep smelling the good smell of love wafting from the kitchen.  I have my coffee and my dogs.  That Bright Red KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer is a part of the living dream.

Go out there and bake something today.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Backpacking is for Girls

“It had nothing to do with gear or footwear or the backpacking fads or philosophies of any particular era or even with getting from point A to point B.

It had to do with how it felt to be in the wild. With what it was like to walk for miles with no reason other than to witness the accumulation of trees and meadows, mountains and deserts, streams and rocks, rivers and grasses, sunrises and sunsets. The experience was powerful and fundamental. It seemed to me that it had always felt like this to be a human in the wild, and as long as the wild existed it would always feel this way.”
― Cheryl Strayed, Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

On Saturday, we hiked.  My Guy and I strapped all that we would need for 24 hours on our backs and we ventured with Sparky and Mr. McDougal in to the wilderness.

The great majority of my friends do not understand my propensity to head for the trees.  There are no creature comforts out in the woods except for a warm fire, a cozy sleeping bag and a dry tent.  My friends prefer climate control, real mattresses and wine in a glass instead of in an aluminum trail mug. And, overall, I wouldn't want to live that way EVERY DAY but I find that going to the woods every now and again brings me back to my center.

I am fascinated by trail hiking, especially long-distance hikers who wax nostalgically about "finding themselves" over many body-crushing miles on the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail.  They write about mutilated feet, scorching heat, unbearable cold and the kindness of strangers on the trail.  They recite scores of stories about long days hiking with only the thought of how much physical pain they were in.  They remember being scared, lonely, worried, tired, and sick of themselves.  I immerse myself in their stories, walking alongside them in my mind.

How I long to be one of them.

Odds are, I'll never be a thru-hiker.  As it is, we take some pretty short trips because my knees simply can't take the load in their current state.  But I suck up the pain of my arthritis-riddled joints because I cannot bear to not do it.  There is something so satisfying about carrying a heavy load up a mountain, making camp, finding wood to make a fire and sitting by a river or a stream filtering water for drinking.  It's primal.  And soul-repairing.  It doesn't have to be a long journey.  It just has to be...away.  Away from smart phones and tvs and cars and stores and ads and "I want" and "I need" and "Could you?" and lawns to be mowed and every single other item that demands your attention every moment of every day.

Sometimes, it's just good to be away.  Really, truly AWAY.

I sat there on Sunday morning perched on a large flat rock in the middle of a stream.  The temperature was just under 40 degrees Fahrenheit and I could see my breath in the beams of early morning sunlight streaming through the trees.  I yawned and rubbed my eyes before I put the plastic tubing of the water filter into the icy water.  As I slowly pumped the water through the filter into our Nalgene bottle, I became intentional in my appreciation for this planet, this life, my friends and family and for the many things I tend to take for granted every day.  I sat there on that rock in the frigid cold before I ever even had one drop of morning coffee and I thanked God for everything I have, everything I am and everything I have yet to learn.

It was a beautiful time of worship.  And I can't wait to get back there again.  Join me?  You know you want to... 

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Learning to Let Go: A Mother's Story

“The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.”
― Dorothy Parker

This morning, I dropped Thing 1 off at the high school so he could go with his marching band to a competition a few towns over.  He got out of the car, gathered his things, and then looked me in the eye and, with his deep manly voice, said, "OK, then.  I'll see you later."

Thing 1 walks off into the sunrise
I drove away a little teary-eyed.  I'm often not sentimental about traditional milestones that I'm SUPPOSED to be weepy over.  I didn't cry when he went to kindergarten.  It didn't bother me when he went to middle school.  But, now...these days he's needing me less and less.  He's out there doing his own thing.  His world is his own.  And it hits me every so often that my Big Job as a mom is almost done.  He's almost baked.

This morning, he got up before I even thought to go and rouse him.  He came downstairs and proceeded to pack his lunch with nary a reminder from me.  He consulted his list and gathered all the items he needed for the day.  As he stood eye-to-eye with me, we discussed how best to pack and where he could put his spending money so he could have access to it (and not, as I always fear, lose it and have no money to eat!). 

He's growing up.  All those motherly worries come back to me.  Does he have faith?  Can he withstand the storms of life on his own?  What if someone hurts him?  Have we taught him well? What if he fails?

I worry because the child's head is quite often in the clouds.  He missed the bus just a couple of weeks ago not because he was late to the stop, but because he was daydreaming when the bus pulled up.  He stood there, lost in his own world, while the GIANT YELLOW SCHOOL BUS picked up his classmates and moved along.  He's not prepared to go out on his own!  This child NEEDS a mother.

He's been mine from day one.  We learned about life together.  I had no idea how to be a mother and he was new to the world.  I was fortunate to be able to stay home with him as an infant.  I cried when he cried.  I tried to sleep in the few minutes when he would sleep.  We left the house every morning together in pursuit of the day's Great Adventure and I talked and talked and talked.  Knowing who he is now, I must have driven him bat-shit crazy as a child.  I'm almost positive he cried so much because he simply couldn't take so much interaction--touching, holding and talking. 

He's out on his own today.  He's building his own life and dreaming his own dreams.  And I, as I should, am standing on the sidelines cheering him on, quietly.  His life is not mine.  And my role now is to become more and more passive as the years go by until the only role I have is that of quiet cheerleader. 

My best friend's daughter went to college this year.  I thought she handled it very well as a mother.  I know she struggles still...but she's doing better than I thought she would.  I know that, when my time comes and my chickens fly the nest, I'll be fine.  But, until then, I will probably have more of these teary reminders that Thing 1 will be Out On His Own in a blink of an eye.

The days are very, very long.  But the years?  They're so very, very short.

It's good to be back in the Rockin' Chair...if only for a moment.  Ya'll take care.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

I DID Learn a Lot in Kindergarten!

“Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.”
― Robert Fulghum
I begin my days early.  There is always something wonderful and magic about the pre-dawn hours.  I often stroll the streets of my neighborhood with my earbuds in and my Pandora station tuned to something I can sing along to while I walk.  In those hours just before dawn I am new.  I haven't screwed anything up yet and life is always full of possibilities.

It's always then (well, NOW) when ideas strike.  

This morning I didn't take a stroll.  I somehow injured myself on Saturday night when the boys and I went bowling with my Significant Other and his daughter.  Who knew you should stretch before bowling?  HE claims I wrenched my knee during my goofy (public) victory dance after nabbing that spare.  I think that bowling may just be more strenuous than we imagine. But I digress.

This morning, I sat down at my computer to do some work.  And then found myself searching for Robert Fulghum quotes.  

In the moment with Things 1 and 2
For those of you who don't know Robert Fulghum, he was the author of the 1989 besteller, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."  It was probably the first "positive thinking/self-help/let's all feel good" book I ever read.  My copy is dog-earred and worn because I have a tendency to bring it out year after year.  I still cry for many reasons when I read it.  Mostly I cry because he puts into words the hope, the joy and the absolute certainty I have that the world is not made up of hate but of love.  If you haven't read it, you should.  Today.  Here's a link.  And here's a spoiler alert:  the Crayola bomb is my absolute favorite essay.

I stopped watching the news a long time ago.  Well, I catch snippets of The Today Show in the morning as I get ready for work. But mostly, I cruise along in blissful ignorance of the "news."  I choose to believe that the REAL news in our lives is more positive.  So, in celebration of the positive, I'm sharing the REAL NEWS this morning:
  1. You're alive.  You made it through the night.  You're still here so you have yet another chance to offer that apology or to find that new job or to clean your dirty kitchen floor.  Today starts NOW and you're still here to enjoy it.  Yes, I know that your boss is a jerk and your spouse is neglectful and your kids are out of control.  But, yet, here you are.  That's good news.
  2. Right now, someone is doing something good.  It could even be happening in your own house!  The truth is this:  at every second on this planet there are many, many wonderful things going on.  Someone is singing a song.  Someone is listening to an elderly parent tell a story (for the thousandth time). Someone is smiling.  Someone is holding a door for a stranger.  Everywhere.  All the time.  Good things are happening. 
  3. This, too, shall pass.  Every moment is fleeting.  Even if you're having the best worst day of your LIFE, it will be over tomorrow.  No matter how you're feeling in this moment, it will pass.  The joy will be gone (but it will come again!), the sorrow will be fleeting, the pain will disappear.  Trust me.  It will pass.  So, why not take this opportunity to be here?  Take a minute to fully appreciate where you are IN THIS MOMENT.  And then move along.  
  4. Life is happening.  I am channeling my inner Dr. Seuss here:  don't get stuck in the waiting place!  Take action, no matter how small.  Even if you're just getting up out of your chair to walk around the block or putting down your cell phone to notice that flowers are blooming or the rain is falling.  Life is happening all around you.  Be a part of it.
Over the past couple of years, I have found my own joy.  I work hard to be fully present in the moment and, by simply focusing on the four things above mixed in with a little prayer and an attitude of thankfulness for the grace in my life, I am more joyful and more mindful than ever before.  Circumstances change but my heart stays the same.

What's your news?

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How to Be a Mother (or, Things I Learned the Hard Way)

"Mothers are all slightly insane." -JD Salinger

Mothers are not born.  Instead, they are carved in flesh from late nights, worries, struggles with discipline, and fretting every. single. day. over whether they are making the right choices.  Being a mother is the toughest thing I've ever done and, while I won't detail all of that here, I've climbed some pretty high mountains.

I didn't want to be a mother.  Fortunately, my Ex Husband was fairly insistent that he carry on the family name and, since I happened to be married to him, he figured I was the one to do the job. WHAT?

OK, fine.

I became a mother.  And I learned how to breastfeed and change diapers and how to try to soothe a fussy (screaming) baby while not losing my own mind.  He was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.  I didn't sleep much and I was scared out of my mind most of the time.

I didn't want to screw up this tiny amazing gift.  I didn't want him to ever feel a moment's pain or fear.  I became INTENTIONAL in my treatment of him...the first time I had ever behaved so with another human being.  When I approached him, I never swooped him up without first saying, gently, "I'm going to pick you up now."  Before he could talk, I talked him through our days together.  "In ten minutes, we'll leave the house and I'll take you to the park." I cherished the idea that he was a tiny human being and only in my care for a short time.  I'm sure I probably appeared nuts to strangers but it was so important to me that I honor his SEPARATENESS from me.

I became a mother again.  And I realized that THIS beautiful tiny amazing gift was completely different from the first.  He slept (I didn't realize babies DO THAT!).  He cried and, more important, STOPPED CRYING when he was attended to.  I was distracted by my busy toddler but I contentedly snuggled up with this one and put the housework aside as I PURPOSEFULLY enjoyed each moment of his growth.

Nurturing doesn't come naturally to me.  I'm selfish and irritable and all the things that mothers aren't supposed to be.  But I work hard at it every day.  Really hard.  And I think women should be real with other women.  We should be more courageous in explaining that mothering is tough and that it's not all sunshine and roses and beatific appreciation.

  1. There are days when you want to quit.  Those days, for me, came early on.  The days of crying, snot and fevers were tough ones for me.  I have never been a baby person.  They're cute and all but I am never one to volunteer to hold them.  There were so many days when I literally had to breathe deep and not run screaming out the door.  Dealing with beings who communicate through sobs, snuffles and grunts was not my specialty.  But even now that they are getting more fun for me all the time, there are days when I have to grit my teeth to get through dinner.  Some days, I truly just want to be left alone.  When you're a mom, "alone" is the toughest thing to come by.  
  2. It's OK to be real in front of your kids.  As moms, we need to show our children our emotions.  If we protect them from the bad stuff we're feeling, then they may be confused about their OWN emotions and question whether or not they're normal if they're mad/sad/confused/hurt.  I intentionally show my children my emotions and then I discuss what I'm going through (not in the "on the therapist's couch" kind of way but in the "I'm having a problem and this is what I'm going to do about it" way).  It's important for kids to watch you work through your own stuff.  I still protect them from some of the nasty, nitty-gritty I've experienced but I let them see the day-to-day struggles and the subsequent strength that comes from them.
  3. Understand that they are not tiny versions of you.  Oh, don't get me wrong; I see a LOT of my flaws in my children.  One or the other has my procrastination, my sloppiness, my temper, my drama, and on and on.  And I realize that I've taught them to eat dessert before dinner (hey, life is SHORT!) and I've encouraged them to be still (lazy?) and enjoy the small things in life.  I know that my parenting impacts them in good and bad ways.  But they each need different things from me.  And they don't need the same things I need.  They are not me. 
  4. It never gets easier.  Oh, they no longer cry.  But now I deal with different things like the lack of attention to homework.  I get calls from the vice principal at school because one of my kids feels like violence is the answer (when, in reality, it NEVER IS...why won't he get that?).  I struggle with whether or not my introvert feels isolated or if my extrovert is happy.  I wonder if I have ruined them because their father and I divorced.  I worry that they will be sitting on my couch eating Cheetos and playing video games when they're forty.  I want to be sure that they feel happy, safe and secure in the knowledge that they are loved.  
  5. Loving them is the best part.  I still look at them in amazement that they came from me.  I would die for them.  I know now what it is to understand beyond a shadow of a doubt that I would take a bullet for someone.  I would..without hesitation.  They're funny, kind and smart young men.  I watch admiringly as they hold doors for people at church.  I was thrilled to come home yesterday and find that they REALLY HAD cleaned the house for me while I was out for a couple of hours.  I adore these kids.  And I'm really glad their dad talked me into having them.  Good call, Ex Husband.  
I am by no means a "wonderful" mother.  Phew, this job is TOUGH.  I read books and magazine articles and I beg other parents to tell me their secrets.  I Google things like "what to do when your kid won't turn in homework." I am rarely patient and I am completely self-absorbed at times.  But I wake up every day vowing to try harder than I did the day before to give these boys what they need to grow to be strong, caring men...the kind of people the world needs more of.   And, so far?  Wonder of wonders, I think it may be working...

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Missed Connections

“Death ends a life, not a relationship.”
Mitch Albom

“We often forget our human connectedness. Throughout my life, I have felt the greatest beauty lies in this connection. It has been in the deepest connections with others that I have experienced the greatest degree of learning, healing and transformation. This connection is a powerful thing, with the ability to transform lives, and ultimately transform human experience.”
Kristi Bowman 

Photo courtesy of photostock/freedigitalphotos.net
Last night, I dreamed of an old friend.  She is a friend I haven't seen since I was a teenager.  We have no current connections.  She isn't a "Facebook friend" nor have I searched for her name on Google.  Many, many years ago, we shared a table in a classroom and, while she was an important piece of my world then, she is simply a memory to me now.

But last night, there she was!  She hadn't aged at all.  Her skin was still perfect.  And she was inviting me to a party.  How lovely!  It didn't seem unusual in my dream and, as I eyed the invitation list,  I spied a variety of friends, past and present, and wondered aloud at the connections.

We spend our lives weaving in and out of memories.  We share pieces of our day with veritable strangers who become part of the background noise of our lives.  We wave at neighbors and exchange pleasantries at the grocery store with the parents of our kids' friends whose names we can never quite remember.   We recognize the faces of people we see across the aisles at church.  In and out.  They come and go. 

But what happens when one of them disappears?

Today, I received some terrible news about a colleague I worked with not too long ago.  He died last night after a car accident.  Unforeseen.  Unexplained.  Here yesterday.  Gone today.

I don't have the audacity to say he was my friend, although I liked him very much.  His true friends, I am sure, are missing him terribly already.  He was a handsome guy with a quick, broad smile.  He often had positive things to say even when things around him were gloomy. I saw him almost daily for many years as we drudged through our workdays. 

I liked him.  And now he is gone. 

This news has hit me very hard, even though I wasn't close to him.  He was a part of my world.  And I am sad that I will never get the chance to know him better.  That was my loss.  Because of my faith, I believe that he is now in a wonderful place...but my heart breaks for his wife and for the children he has left behind.

I saw him last Thursday.  He smiled at me and we exchanged hellos but I didn't stop to speak with him.  You see, I was on my way to something else.  I was Busy With Important Things.  There were too many people that day that I didn't pause to speak to.

We go through our days, often hurried and harried.  We complain about our partners, our children, and our jobs.  We bend over our smart phones, inhaling social media without pausing to be a part of our own lives.  We nod and smile and wave.  Or we grimace and frown and avoid.  But we don't connect.

Life is precious.  And it is fragile.  And we are only here for a short time.  We have this one life and this one opportunity to connect.

Jayan, you and your smile will be missed...by everyone you touched.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

An Open Letter to My Sons, Ages 13 and 11

  “Your children are not your children.
They are sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you.
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness.
For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”
Kahlil Gibran

Dear Things 1 and 2,

I've been thinking a lot about my parenting lately and I've come to some tough conclusions.  See, no one gave me a user manual when either of you were born.  And no one told me that Thing 2 would not be simply the updated beta version of Thing 1...but an entirely new being altogether.  One would think that, sharing the same genetic coding, you would be FAIRLY similar but, alas, I have had to adapt as a parent to two completely different personalities.

Here's the deal, kiddos:  my vision of your lives is not reality.  

Let me explain.  See, I thought that maybe you would be like me...except BETTER VERSIONS of me.  I thought you would have my excellent grades with none of my weirdness and personality flaws.  OR, I thought you would be like your dad.  Maybe like who he is NOW.  I thought you would be even-tempered and funny with the smarts to ace tests when you felt like it and charm rooms when you didn't.

Smaller versions of Things 1 and 2
But the thing that I've come to grips with is this:  you are completely different people.  You have your own paths to follow and the paths that you are choosing are probably not going to be the paths I would have chosen for you.  I would have picked straight A's with plenty of wholesome and fun-filled activities.  I would have picked Kookie Kutter Kids of the TV sitcom variety.  The reason I've harped about grades and responsibility and Doing What's Right is because I was expecting you to stand tall on that conveyor belt and make your way through the factory to the end. To the Diploma.  To the College Degree.  To be like Everyone Else.

I have been wrong.  Damnation, it stings to admit it.  But I have been wrong. 

Who both of you are is so much more amazing than I could have ever conjured up.  Man, you're funny.  And kind (most of the time, if not to each other).  You're quick-witted and lively.  Sometimes, you flash a bit of anger.  But you stand up for what's right.  And you don't seem to care about what the crowd is doing...each of you carves your own way.  You're so smart it's scary sometimes.  I don't know if your teachers see it because I don't know that you care to show them.  You regularly miss assignments.  One of you gets suspended more often than I care to think about.  You bump and grind through the machinery.  And somehow...you're getting polished.  You're getting through it.  Not the way I would have liked and not the easy way...but you're getting through it.

I've been scared for you, I'll admit it.  The world is not always kind to people who are different...to people who make their own way.  But you're handling it. As you tell me, Thing 1, you've got this under control.

I'm sorry for "monologuing" as you put it just the other day, Thing 2.  I'll try not to do that anymore.  It must suck to sit there and listen to a parent go through all the reasons why you should be doing something differently.  My excuse would have been that I want what's best for you.  But maybe I don't know what that is. 

Heck, I'm just getting my OWN life figured out...I don't know how I ever thought I could be a parent and be responsible for molding OTHER people.  This is YOUR life.  The mistakes you make are yours.  I can offer guidance...but I cannot shape you to be that vision of the kids I THOUGHT I wanted.  (Besides, those kids would bore me to TEARS!)

I think you're the bees' knees.  You're the bomb diggity.  You are both easily far and away the best thing I've done with my life.  And I am so honored to get to be a part of your lives. Thank you for not allowing me to bend you into people you are not.  Thank you for being strong in the face of parental stupidity.

I'll try to do better.  Now, please...finish your homework.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Mind is a Terrible Thing (Or How I Waste Mine)

"You would run much slower if you were dragging something behind you, like a knapsack or a sheriff." - Lemony Snicket

I get SO CAUGHT UP in stuff sometimes. There was a point in my life (in the, admittedly, not-too-distant past), when I had to stop playing computer Solitaire. It wasn't that I LOVED Solitaire so much that I was addicted to it. It was more that every time I played I got lost in my own world. 
Yes, she is absolutely nuts...

I would create this whole storyline in my head where someone (usually a king or a Jack...but every now and again it would be a queen) would turn against the kingdom and would exact painful torture methods against the other cards. Or sometimes, it would be a war they were plotting (clubs and spades vs. hearts and diamonds). There were villains and heroes. There were innocent bystanders and ne'er-do-wells. The weird part is that I would do it completely unknowingly and would basically "come to" an hour or so later after some emotionally wrenching scene I concocted on the screen and in my head. (I have no idea what's wrong with me...so just don't ask.) 

Anyway, I had to stop playing Solitaire because I would not only lose time but I really started CARING about all those weird little people I was fantasizing about in my head. I figured if I stopped playing Solitaire the creativity in my brain would seep out into my life. No such luck.

No worries, though: I have a NEW OBJECT OF FASCINATION. He doesn't know it. But I think about him ALL THE TIME.

So, about 4 or 5 years ago, this guy started running from my neighborhood. Literally. He ran away from my neighborhood daily.  And this guy is not your typical runner guy. He wears a baseball cap. And camo shorts. And, over the years, his red hair has gotten longer. He is my own personal Forest Gump because, and here's the kicker: I imagine that he runs all the time.

I see him at different stages of his run. Sometimes he's on this road. Sometimes, he's on that road. His speed never seems to vary and his outfit never changes. But his hair grows longer. He wears it in a pony tail now.

So, I pass him. In my car. And I fight (truly, I FIGHT IT) the urge to pull over and start talking to him. 

"Hey, Running Guy," I imagine myself saying. "Why do you wear camo shorts? Are you hiding from the law? What are you running from? What do you think about on all these long miles logged in your Nikes? Running Guy, do you hold the secret to life?"

I have several different life-scenarios for Running Guy. In one, he's lost his entire family in the Plague of 2008 and he runs to escape the pain and to connect with his young son whose only joy had been to run like the wind blows. In another, he's running because if he stops he is sure to pick up the crack pipe again...the addiction that cost him his shot in the FBI...

I could go on, but you get the picture.

Some people have over active bladders. I have an overactive imagination. I don't think Pfizer makes enough drugs to help me. All I can do is sit...and think...and hope that the Running Guy stops running before I become a verified stalker. 

Do you get all caught up in weird things that you (seemingly) have no control over? How do YOU handle yourself? 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Confessions of a Divorced Mom

“Divorce isn't such a tragedy. A tragedy's staying in an unhappy marriage, teaching your children the wrong things about love. Nobody ever died of divorce.”
― Jennifer Weiner

Things 1 and 2 on a Great NYC Adventure...WITH mom
After work today, I headed out into the world to run a few errands.  I perused the fancy dogwear aisle at PetsMart.  (No, I did NOT purchase anything for either hound but I did see someone who HAD to be a stripper with a tiny purse dog with a zebra-print-pink-tulle-fringe tutu.  The dog had the tutu, not the stripper.  Although I could totally visualize the tutu on the stripper.  But I digress.)  Then I hit up Costco and stood there for at LEAST 5 minutes trying to determine if the backpack lounge chair was a Nice or Necessary purchase (I opted for Nice and left without it).

Then I came home to a childless house, said hello to the mongrels and headed upstairs to take a long, hot shower at the end of a long day.

As I sit here, the only sound I hear is the dishwasher running in the kitchen and the sound of paws on the hardwood floor.

I have a secret.  It's a secret that sometimes we divorced parents talk about in giggles and whispers. We know that married (never divorced) parents have NO IDEA about this secret.  We know that those parents often feel really sorry for US.  And we know they feel sorry for our kids.  It's a BIG secret.  And I MAY be kicked out of the Happy Divorced Parents Club for telling it.  But I feel like it's something that should get out:   

sometimes, being a divorced parent is a FABULOUS THING.  

(In fairness, I have to add a caveat:  being a divorced parent can be a truly wonderful thing IF you have an Ex Spouse, as I do, who actively participates in your children's lives.  I do know several [too many] divorced parents who are the ONLY parent.  THAT kind of divorced parenting truly SUCKS. It sucks on a variety of levels...not the least of which is watching the heartbreak in your children on a daily basis.  But, again, I digress.  Let's get back to the FUN of it.)

OK, I realize I can't tell my kids about how awesome it can be to have the house ALL TO MYSELF.  I don't want them to know that sometimes I spend entire Saturdays in my jammies eating guacamole with rice crackers while binging on episodes of The Walking Dead.  I don't think they need to find out that I dance (really dance) in my living room to old Brittany Spears jams (OK, no one needs to know that.  Fortunately, only, like, four people read my blog.  Hi Mom!).

When the kids are with their other Very Involved Parent, I get to just be...me.  I get to be the person that I am when all my guards are down and I don't have to put on a happy face or a serious face or a grown-up face or an "I'm listening" face for anyone.  I can wear my Ho Ho Ho fleece pajamas in March (like I would do that) and I can drink too much wine before bed because I don't have anyone to answer to or anyone to supervise.

I adore my kids.  I do.  I love them with every breath in my body and would lay down my life for them in a burning pit of flaming lizards every day if I had to.  But, I have to tell you, I don't always love being a parent.  It's a welcome respite to not have to play referee, understanding listener, stern disciplinarian, knowledgeable teacher or to just hear the word, "Mom."  Sometimes, I cringe when I hear that word.  I really do.  And I know that I am blessed in this life to have these amazing kids.  And I know that sometimes people don't get this chance.  I know all that. 

But, good golly, sometimes I truly do love the break.  Is it selfish?  Wildly.  Do I care?  Not so much right this moment.  I am not, by any stretch, a nurturing person.  Being a parent takes a lot of focus, extraordinary effort and a willingness to devour parenting books and articles by the truckload.  I'm not a natural.  And I get tired.  And my kids are EASY, for the most part.

Sometimes, not ALWAYS, but SOMETIMES...it's just nice to be left alone.  To be alone.  It's just...nice.  (Don't ever tell my kids I said that...I'll tell them you are LYING.)

My life is good.  I realized tonight when I was putting away the groceries that I have made it.  I am living in the NOW.  I am happy.  I am...complete.  I don't know how I got here but I know the road was long. Happy to be back in the rockin' chair...if only for a moment.  I hope you're well and happy and emotionally adjusted in your own right.

Now, where is that wine??

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Call Me Mrs. Mom

The older I grow, the more I distrust the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom.”
― H.L. Mencken

I am officially the old lady with the years of experience under her belt.  In my new office, I think I am actually a couple years older than the owners.  (I don't know for SURE how old they are, but I know that they are around my age...but probably a couple three or four years younger.)  The other employees in the office include 1) a young woman who is completing her last two classes in college and 2) a 23-year-old young man who is our web/developer/designer.

He calls me "Mrs. Mom." 


Maybe it's because I tell him that he should get more rest.  Maybe it's because I use his full name instead of his shortened nickname as is my habit.  Maybe it's because I am actually old enough to BE his mom.  Maybe I remind him of his mom because I'm still trying to figure out the ins and outs of Macbooks.  Whatever it is, I understand that it means I have moved into a whole new checkbox of life.

I will be 43 next Sunday.  I do realize that this puts me on the "back nine" of life.  God willing, I have a similar number of years LEFT as I have already lived.  Don't get me wrong:  I am not afraid of aging.  I fully embrace it and look forward to what the coming years will bring.  Well, I look forward to the GOOD stuff the coming years will bring.   But it just feels WEIRD to me to be this age when I still crank up the stereo and basically dance my way through life. 

So let's review some myths we have about people  (or you can just substitute "Kelly" for the word "people") as they get older:

  1. They're wise.  OK, if you've ever read this blog EVER you know that I am figuring stuff out just the same way these young twentysomethings are.  And my brain hurts from the effort.  Even if I am wiser, I am almost certainly DUMBER than I was 20 years ago.  Maybe that's the exchange.  People realize that they're losing brain cells at an accelerated pace so they just start spouting off platitudes in the hopes it will make them appear wise which is then equated to intelligence.  I am not wise.  I am exhausted from the effort of remembering the names of my children.
  2. They're cultured.  I do not sitting around discussing politics or world events.  As a matter of fact, I am far less informed NOW than I was in my younger days because I simply refuse to participate in the "news" of the world. I prefer the old Def Leppard music to opera.  I read a LOT but, quite honestly, it's not like I'm reading Dickens.  I much prefer picking up a Jennifer Weiner book or the blogs of Jenny Lawson over anything of real substance.  I want to LAUGH and I do so often.  And loudly.  Cultured people don't laugh.  And they certainly don't giggle.  They probably aren't huge fans of the corny joke.  And I go to McDonald's for a cheeseburger on occasion.  Believe me when I tell you that there are CERTAINLY no cultured people at McDonald's.  
  3. They always eat their vegetables.  I WILL admit that I do now enjoy vegetables.  Immensely.  Especially when they're fresh from my garden.  But (and this sounds terrible) there are days when I go an ENTIRE DAY without eating a single fresh vegetable.  Mostly because I'm a fan of carbs.  And sugar.  (I KNOW...it's not very grown-up of me.)  And it's why I consistently hover about 20-30 pounds heavier than I should be.  I like Cheerios in the morning, chicken sandwiches for lunch and pasta for dinner.  Sprinkled in with some M&Ms and coffee.  And wine.  Granted, I don't do that EVERY DAY.  But there ARE at least one or two days a week when it happens.  I admit it. 
So, yeah.  I'm getting older.  But I hope these kids I'm working with aren't looking to me for anything other than project direction.  I'm flailing around just like I did when I was 23.  With kids.  (Not 23 when I HAD the kids...but still flailing around with kids.) Yeah, please go ahead and feel sorry for Things 1 and 2.  'Cause they're the victims here.  Maybe I should try harder to be a Real Grown-Up.  Or just settle into the role of Mrs. Mom.

I think I'll just roll with it.  Whatever "it" is that comes my way.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Coddling Hurts Everyone (Or, How I Realized I Coddle My Sons and the Steps I'm Taking to Fight It)

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren't trying to teach us. We are formed by little scraps of wisdom.”
― Umberto Eco

Last night, after dinner, I did something I have never done before:  I left Thing 1 and Thing 2 in the kitchen to clean up while I retired to the living room to read.

I know, I know.  The above doesn't sound like something that should be shocking.  Things 1 and 2 are 13 and 11, respectively, and have been cleaning up (somewhat) after themselves for years.  But I have NEVER EVER left them in the kitchen to clean up BY THEMSELVES after dinner.  I have HELPED them.  I have COACHED them.  I have lingered on, watching while they rinsed each dish and I have showed them how to load the dishwasher.  I have offered to clean the pots and pans and I have gently offered helpful household tips while they have cleaned.  But I have never EVER never ever NEVER left them alone in the kitchen to clean up after dinner.

It. Was. Fabulous.

Did they do it as I would have done it?  No, not really.  Did they do a great job?  Yes.  And no.  Did they complain?  Not once.

The whole affair was entirely shocking.  And, unbeknownst to them, has completely changed the way we do business around the Manor.

In many respects, I am actually a terrible parent.  I sometimes encourage dessert before dinner; I very often choose that we read over chores; instead of shuttling them to lessons or other useful pursuits, I tend to suggest that we have Great Adventures or Laze The Day Away.  And, in so doing, I have coddled them and, I fear, probably ruined them for good.

But, no more!!  The coddling ended last night when I realized that, seemingly overnight, they have become fully capable human beings.  I have to admit that I take the whole Divorced Parent thing a bit too far at times.  Because I am Divorced, I am the only Functional Adult in the household.  And, because it's not THEIR fault that I am Divorced, I tend to DO more things for them than I think I would in a Real Family environment.  (The capitals are all mine and always included in my thoughts.  Welcome to my head.)  I pick up their glasses and plates from the living room.  I do all the cooking and most of the cleaning.  I mow the lawn and pick up the animal feces from the backyard.  I do all the dusting and most of the vacuuming and sweeping.  I do the laundry.  I used to fold it AND put it away but in the last year I've been putting it on their beds for them to put away.

I just feel like since I ruined their lives by getting a divorce, the very LEAST I can do is be their servant for life.

And that's the crux of it.  I do too much because I'm trying to make up for interrupting what MIGHT have been an idyllic childhood by thrusting Divorce into their lives.  Because they have to shuttle back and forth between Mom's house and Dad's house, I try to somehow make up for that pain and inconvenience by letting them skate by with very little effort.

But that's not going to make them very good human beings, is it?

I don't know that I'll EVER be guilt-free about being Divorced.  I don't know that I'll ever truly forgive myself for inflicting that pain on my kids.  At some point, when they're older, I hope they'll understand that being Divorced actually helped their mom Get Healthy.  And I hope they can forgive me.

But, until that day, I think they'll be doing a lot more dishes.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

New Year's Resolutions and Other Fairy Tales

“So what do we do? Anything. Something. So long as we just don't sit there. If we screw it up, start over. Try something else. If we wait until we've satisfied all the uncertainties, it may be too late. "
- Lee Iacocca

Photo by Ned Stark (www.good-wallpapers.com)
2014.  It's a brand new year! You'll have to forgive me for being somewhat self-congratulatory this morning because a) I did NOT overindulge last night in the adult beverages (which makes me feel ever so much more adult and b) I am pretty darn proud of the changes I made last year.  One of my dearest family members put the year into perspective for me a couple of days ago:  "You hung in there and did all the right things--including facing your own demons and slaying them."  So step off, demons.  I will cut you.

So now it's time to up the ante.  It's the New Year.  But here's the thing about resolutions:  I HATE THEM.  They're kinda like lists for me.  I just don't participate.  I have this wishy washy feeling that change is organic and should come from your gut and not from this thing that society tells you to change.

Let's address typical resolutions one by one:
  1.  I will lose weight in the new year.  This is the granddaddy of 'em all.  Ever been to the gym in January? It's tough to find a treadmill.  Everyone there is decked out in their new fancy schmancy workout gear and they're sweating and puffing.  For about two weeks.  And then life gets in the way.  And they head back to the couch.  This resolution is worthless.  I make the same one every weekend: "I am going to get SERIOUS about eating healthy and getting fitter."  And then Monday comes.  And I don't get serious.  If I was serious about it, I wouldn't talk.  I would do.  I know this because I've done it.  And I didn't talk about it while I was doing it.  I just did it.  How can we make this a reality?  Don't make it a resolution.  Make it a life.  It's not about losing weight at all:  it's about getting healthy and making good choices for your body.  You in? I'm in...on Monday.  
  2. I will be a better person (insert: kinder, more honest, loving...whatever your adjective of choice is).  Here's another one that I fail at continually.  I am a sin-filled ridiculous human being.  I am selfish, mean, lazy, and highly distracted.  If you tell yourself that you're going to be a better person then you are probably going to fail.  (I'm sorry....is that too honest?)  But maybe you should approach it a different way.  Let's all decide to take each day as it comes.  Maybe we'll start small:  I won't say that mean thought OUT LOUD.  I will do one nice thing for one person today.  I will eat dinner before I eat dessert.  Whatever it is...make it small.  Incremental change is so much easier to stomach and more likely to stick.  Don't be resolute.  Just be different.
  3. I will change my money habits in the new year.  Having been there and done that, I can say that, like the losing weight thing, this isn't a resolution.  This is a life.  This is making the choice to be responsible.  A very good friend taught me this rule:  Is it nice or is it necessary?  Sadly, MOST of the things I want in life are niceties...NOT necessities.  Food for my kids?  Necessary.  Filet mignon?  Nice.  Most of my clothing was getting frayed and/or picked with holes this last year.  (I am not a shoe girl or a clothes horse.  I am PRACTICAL when it comes to clothing.)  I actually had to buy clothes for work as a NECESSITY.  But I know a lot of people who buy clothes every week.  Nice?  Or necessary?  It's not a resolution...it's a decision to be different.
One could argue that resolutions ARE life choices or decisions to be different.  I say we need a different term.  Everyone mocks resolutions even as we make them ourselves.  "Oh, let's see how long THIS one sticks...hahahahaaha!"  But if you're serious about making changes...you'll change your mind and then you'll change your life.

Been there.  Done that.  Still making changes.  I wonder if I'll be PERFECT by the end??  Like Mary Poppins I'll be "Perfectly perfect in every way."   If that's the case, I hope I get that cool carpetbag that holds everything.  TOTALLY.  NECESSARY.

Happy New Year! What changes will you make this year?

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive.