One of My Favorite People…

File Mar 05, 1 58 01 PMOne of my favorite people ever is my daughter.

I’ve called her Darling Daughter in this blog for the 5+ years I’ve written it.

Since the day she was born and still to this day, I feel lucky. I love every bit of her personality–wouldn’t trade her for any other little girl in the world. She is Perfect. Just as she is. Not like anybody else;  unique, and unique in her outrageousness, always has been. Never what I’d call an “easy” child, but I LOVE that about her. Her sense of humor, intelligence, drive, guts, compassion, kindness, her softness with little kids and dogs, her generosity with her brother, and her (sometimes) patience with me. And that whole mix of complexity that is Darling Daughter. I especially love the “college” version of her, because she’s matured, grown into her personality, and she’s far more relaxed than she was in high school, her younger years.

Riding in the car…

Riding in the car not too long ago, she was mumbling.

ME: Huh?

DARLING DAUGHTER: I’m praying. For patience.

ME: What prayer?

DARLING DAUGHTER: Not saying a specific prayer. Just talking to The Lord.

ME: Oh.

Driving with me apparently didn’t “feel safe” to her.

Speaking of cars…

We tend to have a lot of cars in the driveway, a lot of the time. Last fall, I got a new Mazda. Only had it a few months when I noticed a large dent in its side. The kids were both home on Winter Break (Christmas vacation).

ME (TO SON): Did you see the dent in the car?

SON: Yeah. Just noticed it. Did you hit something?

ME: Me, too. And no, I didn’t hit anything.

Son and I were at the dining table. Daugther was at the stove, scooping dinner onto a plate.

SON: Maybe it got hit in the school parking lot?

ME: Could be.

DARLING DAUGHTER: Yeah. Let’s go with that…

Son and I turned (at the same time) to look at Daughter. Her back was to us. She was still loading her dinner plate.

DARLING DAUGHTER (Heading over to table): That might have happened.

SON: Did you hit it?

DARLING DAUGHTER: Yeah, but I didn’t know it left a dent–with all the snow on it.

ME: When?

DARLING DAUGHTER: A while ago. I backed into it, when I was trying to get out of the driveway.

This was NOT a small dent. But we laughed, continued with dinner. It was a newer car, but just a car. Nobody was hurt.

photo 2

Also last winter…

We suspected there might be a mouse (can’t even think of their being mice…) in the house. I was freaking out. Not handling it at all well. Was looking for contact information to call Orkin Pest Control.

SON (Deadpan): Just give Lenny a call.

DARLING DAUGHTER: Nick just referenced a piece of classic literature, one still considered important enough for high school student reading–in regular conversation.

Son smiled at her.

DARLING DAUGHTER: Let’s just take a moment…

ME: Huh?

DARLING DAUGHTER: …to thank me for making him take those classes.

She referred to the Honors/Advanced Placement track she worked out for Son before his freshman year of high school. Darling Daughter has always guided him with his class schedules. I generally have no idea what he is taking.

She also spoils her brother…

Son googled sneakers one evening, while doing homework. I rang my daughter.

ME: What are you doing? Nick seems to be looking at shoes…

DARLING DAUGHTER: I’m not looking for any shoes.

ME: Oh?

DARLING DAUGHTER: But if HE finds them, he can have them…

ME: His homework isn’t done. He’s searching for black PF Flyers (from The Sandlot).

DARLING DAUGHTER: Tell him he can have them after his homework is done.

She is a second mother to her brother. Takes him to concerts, buys him things when they go shopping together, helps him with homework, and talks to him about college, life, relationships, just about anything. She is truly a model Big Sister to her brother. She is often his first call when there is big news–both good and bad.

“Darling Daughter” Daisies…

There’s something about daisies that has always made me happy. When I started playing with stones, fashioning a trail of daisies on a pale green canvas, I was thinking of my daughter. She identified strongly with the piece. Said I couldn’t sell it. That was the fall of 2014.

I ended up having prints made in the Spring of 2015, because many people wanted it. Each time I put a print together with a vintage frame, it’s gone. They sell very quickly. Darling Daugther has the print above her bed at college.

Special Offer Prints

Darling Daughter – Shopify Site

Those are the links for anybody interested in seeing the print. The original is sold.

To celebrate my new Shopify site, my Daughters print is on sale all week.

Thoughts on Raising a Gifted Athlete

RegionalsMy son is competing at the state track meet in Pole Vault tomorrow morning.

He is a gifted athlete. And that’s all very well.

But it has nothing to do with me.

At the spring awards banquet last week, he was MVP and complimentary comments were made about his dedication, work ethic, and such. He got an armful plaques and awards. Yet listening to his accomplishments was strange.

I saw my son through the eyes of others.

He started on the varsity football team as a freshman,  made significant contributions as a linebacker, lettered 3 years in a row, was all conference, even all Ohio as a punter by his junior year. The boy went to state in Pole Vault as a freshman; this will be his 3rd trip to outdoor state. (He’s been to indoor state, as well.) He’ll compete in The New Balance Outdoor Nationals in a couple of weeks with the best jumpers in the country. I know these things.

But I don’t see him as others do. To me, he’s just my son. One of the best gifts I have ever been given.

His athletic ability is God-given. Something he was born with. How he channels it, uses it, is up to him.

The child landed a front flip on my bed when he was two, rode a two-wheel bike with no training wheels at two and a half—then headed straight for the nearest ramp. I had to keep him busy. When he was three, I took him for skating lessons; he put on hockey skates for the first time, took a lap, and they said to bring him back later in the week with a helmet and stick. He skipped lessons, went straight to tot hockey.  If I turned my back, he was 15 feet up a tree. He’s played travel hockey, baseball and basketball; football, soccer, and wrestled. Since age five or six, he’s flipped from high dives, low dives, and snow piles and out of trees—back, front, and sideways. On the trampoline, other kids jumped up and down; with him, it was back flip, front flip, back layout, twisting front flip…there was no jumping, just flipping and twisting. At almost 6’3” and 210 pounds, the boy still does standing back flips in the yard, has been known to do tumbling passes, round off, back handspring, and back tuck (self-taught). He’s always hit the heck out of a golf ball, punted footballs a mile, and quickly picked up skiing, snowboarding, skateboarding. Whatever he tried, he could do. And do well.

I gave him opportunities to explore his athleticism, encouraged him, talked with him about safety, and often got him stitched up. But that’s about it.

He’s been successful in sports because he wants to be. There is something inside of him, some drive that pushes him to get better, stronger, and faster.  To “Make it Happen,” as his track coach says.

I couldn’t produce any of his coaches contact information, his training schedule, or his practice schedules, if my life depended on it. He’s always dealt with that, let me know where he needed to be, and at what time.

What’s my role?

  • I pack sandwiches, fruit, snacks, water and Gatorade.
  • I make sure he has Advil and if he needs uniforms dropped off at school, I do that. (Much of the time, he washes his own clothes, and he rarely forgets them.)
  • I keep an eye on him; if he needs something checked out, I make a doctor’s appointment. He wants to compete. Always. But there are times he needs to wait until we get an x-ray or MRI.
  • I sit down to dinner with him each night, make sure he has a comfortable home, that he knows he’s loved, my priority.
  • I sign waivers, fill out the forms he leaves on my desk.
  • I eat funnel cakes at track meets, popcorn at football games.
  • I clap from the bleachers.
  • I tell him to clean his room, feed the dogs and let them outside. And to please bring the stack of cups (crusted with dry Gatorade powder) down from his bedside table.

Things I DON’T do:

  • I don’t weight in, or break down performance; I’m lucky to jump over a puddle. I know squat about Pole Vault. The boy has top-notch coaches to guide him.
  • I don’t spend hours trying to learn how to coach him. I’m just his mom.
  • I don’t ask questions; He comes in after games, practices…and if he wants to talk about something, he will. If he doesn’t, I don’t push. He’ll share when he’s ready.
  • I don’t criticize him.
  • I don’t question his training/preparation: He knows what he wants, where he’s at, what needs done to reach his goals. If he’s off track, he talks with his coaches. I trust him to know what is right for him, and know that he’ll come to me if he needs my council.
  • I don’t set his goals, track his progress, put expectations on him; he does that for himself.
  • I don’t take video, because I’m horrible with it; get footage of the sky and ground, because I’m watching him.
Family Fan Club

Family Fan Club

The state track meet starts tomorrow…

I’ll sit on the sidelines with my family and friends, probably eating a funnel cake. Long ago, Darling Daughter instructed me to sit in the bleachers and be quiet–at both her and her brothers sporting events. Done.

Doesn’t matter if my son is fantastic or terrible. (Though I realize it matters to him.) I’ll clap whether he takes first or last place.

I won’t take photos, because nobody wants my photos. They suck.

Here’s what matters to me…

He’s a nice young man, kind, compassionate, well-mannered. He hops on the mower when the grass looks long, without being asked. When I pull up with groceries, he runs out to help me. When his sister lugs her crap downstairs for her trip back to college, he stops her—handles loading her car. Has been known to fuel up her car, get her an oil change, or a new battery before she heads out. If I’m cooking, he fires up the grill and brings everything back inside, cooked. He’s a hard worker, a loyal friend, brother and son. He’s got principles. He’s a leader. He doesn’t leave the car on empty. He’s respectful. He’s funny, has a great sense of humor, is quick to smile, and a joy to be around. These things matter.

If he never played another sport starting now, it matters not to me. When he and every kid on the field of play come off the field in one piece, as they went in—that’s a successful day.

He plays sports, trains, practices because HE wants to. I’m not sure where the inner fire and drive come from, but I know I have nothing to do with it.

When he gets home from the state track meet, I’ll be there to greet him.

I’ll be happy to see him because he’s my son, and I’m always happy to see him.

I’ll probably ask him if he wants a sandwich, or something to eat.

I’ve Lost All Control

Today I’m sharing my secret shame.

I used to refinish furniture and home decor. Since 2012, I’ve created Beach Art on canvas, with what I find while walking on the beach. Somehow, I’ve lost all control of my rocks, sticks, beach glass, beach wire and plastic. But I always turn my finds into something. (Eventually.) I have workspace in my basement, but I never work there. I try hard to contain the mess.

And yet…

We cannot eat at the dining room table much of the time. On a good week, we’ve got use of half of it. We have to be careful to walk around the piles of vintage and antique frames neatly stacked against the dining room wall, in a corner.

Mantle Disaster

The mantle used to be attractive. It’s perpetually a mess now. I set completed pieces up there to make sure I’ve got the right colors and nothing needs added; if something is off, I eventually figure out what’s wrong by walking by it enough times. Also, propping pictures up ensures that my Beach Finds are securely attached to the canvas or canvas board. If they get loose after a few days, I fix them.

mess3

 

Lucky me! Our mantle wraps around a corner, with a bookcase below it, giving me more square footage of mantle to ruin.  We used to have family photos there.

Most people store fancy items in their china cabinets. Mine? Full of sticks, beach glass marbles, artists proofs of prints, and more projects in the works.

My desk has a triangular jug of beach glass and random stones on it most of the time.

Sticks on China Cabinet

I do have a couple of china plates in the cabinet–my mom’s china. It isn’t just beach glass that’s a problem for me. I can’t resist old glass; Carnival Glass, Early American Pattern Glass, and glass vases. I do have a few such items in the china cabinet, but it’s mainly books (I’ll spare you photos of the books stacked all over the house, that’s an “issue” for another day) and the junk I find on the beach.

Notice the branches on top of the china cabinet? Even have to walk under sticks to enter the kitchen.

photo 2 (2) giant tree

We used to have art on the walls. Quite a few of my favorites paintings are packed in bubble, being stored. We have no wall space for them. My Beach Art is on our walls now, because I don’t want anything damaged. Once completed, wired on the back, it’s safer to hang on a wall until it sells. Of course, I have my favorites–that I won’t sell. (Ugh!)

The driftwood and metal tree above the park bench is enormous, about 3 feet wide and 5 feet tall. I could have sold it too many times to count, but I won’t part with it.

The upside? 

My Beach Art sells easily, faster than I can create it. Which is why I started having prints made. Yes, signed, numbered, “fine art” prints–of sticks, rocks, and beach glass.

Almost too shameful to admit…

I keep seeing photos on Facebook of local beach cleanups going on in our area. Good stuff, kids and families getting out there and spiffing up our beaches. But what if they throw away something good? Seriously, that’s what I think when I see the photos.

It’s been suggested I play with Legos. Truth. My kids friends sidestep my mess like it’s no big deal, they’ve gotten used to it. Not too long ago, I was arranging stones, coming up with a new design, when one of my son’s buddies said, “Mrs. Lauria, you should invest in Legos. It’s kinda the same thing, right?”

This hit close to home as Legos were my favorite toy as a kid. My very favorite!  The only thing better was going outside–I rarely came inside unless it was dark out.

A new workspace?

I’ve started pinning barns on Pinterest. I’ll need to do something soon! My house is overrun…

barn

 

I dream of having a workspace outside of my home; a barn, an outbuilding, anything with a bit of wall space to hang a gallery of finished work, my stash of vintage frames. Perhaps with shelving to hold supplies. I typically use pretty clear vintage and antique glass jars/vases to hold my stones, beach glass, metal and such. Makes it easy to sort by size and see what I have. I also use ball jars for storage, and even to mix paint in.

My “mess” wouldn’t look like a mess in a workshop. It would look attractive, possibly even stunning.

For now I have a home. And my mess is anything but pretty. It’s destroying the vibe…

Interested in checking out my projects? Head over to my website.

Workspace ideas? Comment below or Contact me. In the meantime, I’ll keep pinning to my “Dream Girl Cave” page on Pinterest.

What I know about LOVE at 44 …

Aunt Kate & Uncle Joe with their granddaughter

Aunt Kate & Uncle Joe with their Granddaughter

Love happens.

My Aunt Kate once said about love, “When you get it right, it’s a slice of heaven.” She has been happily married to my uncle for 40 years, one of the best examples of a successful marriage I’ve seen.

I met and fell in love with my husband when we were both in high school. We dated through college, married in our early twenties, and quickly had two children. We settled into our first home in a family neighborhood, where I stayed home to raise our daughter and son.  I expected to always love him, to be married forever.

Love goes away.

My husband and separated when I was 38; then divorced.

He is now my ex-husband. Yet it is still a love story to me, because my children have been one of the greatest joys of my life. My ex and I both love the children, if not each other.

Many years ago, my mother passed away after battling cancer. Divorce and breakups aren’t the only romance enders, partners can pass away.

Love can have many chapters.

After my mother passed away, my father met his second wife. We are profoundly grateful they found each other, his wife has been a gift to our family.

A friend was toasted with, “to the most optimistic woman I know,” at her wedding, when she married her third husband. Nobody expects to be married two, three, four times. But it happens. Perhaps there are more challenges and baggage, but it can work. I admire those with the courage to dive in, embrace another chapter, and love again.

Love comes back.

We all know couples who separated, then reunited; or married, divorced, and then married each other again. Long married couples often say they stayed that way because they never wanted to divorce at the same time.

Couples often struggle during transitions, such as retirement or children flying the nest.  Sometimes they lose each other, and then find their way back together again.

My Wedding (1992)

My Wedding (1992)

Love is squirrely.

Can’t chase it, and catch it. Can’t manufacture it, or force it to be there. Can’t will it away, if that’s what the heart feels. It’s isn’t easily explained.

When things got rocky in my marriage years ago, my then husband and I did a brief stint of marriage counseling.  I remember saying to him, “I think you want to be in love me.”

To which he responded, “Isn’t that a start?” (Meaning a start at repairing the marriage.) No. It really wasn’t. We separated soon after.

Divorce, loss of love, isn’t as simple as pointing a finger.

Was the divorce his fault? Mine? Both of our faults? Yes. It was.

During divorce, many want to blame somebody, or something. It gets complicated. Many thought I should have been more angry or bitter than I was. Here’s what they didn’t understand.

The divorce forced me out of my comfort zone, freed me in some ways. I’ve met new people, grown and developed, pursued my interests, worked to build a career, raised two children as a single parent, and learned to stand on my own two feet.  It’s been hard, challenged me relentlessly, but it has also been good for me, empowering in ways I couldn’t have imagined.

People don’t fall in and out of love at the same time.

Often during love relationships, one person stops feeling the love, while the other is still in love. After the breakup, one person feels guilty, while the other devastated. Many times we don’t fall out of love at the same pace, or at the same time. It is doing somebody a kindness to let them go, when it isn’t working.  It frees them to grieve, and then find the love they deserve.

It isn’t a picnic to be the one who lags behind, who is dumped while still invested in a relationship. Neither is it fun to call off a relationship, hurt somebody.

It isn’t wrong to be either person.

People often botch the ending.

Instead of facing the end of a relationship with honesty, many have affairs, drink, avoid home, pick fights to justify their actions, work incessantly, and all manner of things that make the ending more confusing, messier than it might have been.

Adultery is particularly challenging; it creates shrapnel that children and families pluck out for years, perhaps even lifetimes.

Teaching teenagers about love is hard.

As a single, divorced mom, it’s tough to speak to something that I neither succeeded nor failed at.

I’m not providing an example for my children to learn from, or follow. Could be worse, I could be providing a poor example; serial dating, dragging drama into our family home, and doing more damage to my children. I rely on family and friends to model examples of solid relationships these days.

What can I tell my children about love?

If you fall in love, be honest. If you fall out of love, be honest. Don’t muddy the waters with bad behavior, cheating,and lying. Respect the love you once felt with an honorable ending.

Evaluate the failed (or ended) relationship, yourself and your part in it, your patterns, before moving to the next relationship. (i.e. “clean up your mess”)  Without time, reflection and cleanup, your next relationship is doomed to failure.

When you find somebody you don’t want to live without and they feel the same for you—something clicks. Value it.  Respect and cherish it. It doesn’t come along every day. Hang onto it.

Wisdom to add? Something you’ve learned about love? 

Please share your thoughts by commenting below…

Anybody Want to be Tagged In?

100_3082There are days I want to TAG somebody else IN.

Like in wrestling, when one person gets tired, they tag their partner in to keep going. Then hop out of the ring, rest, and regroup.

I want to hop out of the ring from time to time.

But as a single parent, that really isn’t an option. Some days are hard. Wearing.

There is no balance.

There are days when my house is clean, laundry is caught up, groceries are shopped for and dinner is on the table on time.  From the outside, the lawn is mowed and the yard looks pretty. The bills are paid, budget organized.

There are days when I’m an excellent parent. When I have meaningful conversations with the children about their future goals, college plans, and their dreams. Where I read and perhaps help edit an assignment. When I’m everything a parent should be.

There are days when I’m a super working woman. When I have a great meeting, am part of putting together a spectacular event, or of submitting an exceptional grant proposal. Where I feel I’ve accomplished something in my role as Communications Director for a local nonprofit. Or when I’ve gained a new skill, or landed a freelance project.

But…

None of those days happen together. 

Many years ago, I expected to succeed in all areas of my life. On a daily basis. (Hah!)

I have no such illusions seven years into being a single parent.

When my house is organized and looking great, I’m barely hanging on with the kids. When I’m having a stellar work day, attending an evening meeting or banging out a ten-hour day, I’m returning home to chaos. Dinner will NOT be on the table, my son will have long since run out for takeout or fast food. I won’t have the juice to edit a paper, or string together a sentence. Forget about meaningful conversations.

As a married woman, I could to TAG somebody else IN. These days, there is an ex husband living about 30 minutes away in a nearby suburb. In theory, this might offer a break. But it rarely works out that way.

Kids tend to lean on one parent after a divorce. Being that I’m the Mom, and I was a homemaker for almost 15 years, my kids are used to coming to me when they need something, when they are sick, but also to celebrate the good stuff. The dynamic was set many years ago, long before the divorce, when the children were young.

They’re used to having me provide them a home, a soft place to land. And I love doing it. It’s a big part of who I am. Over the years,  I’ve logged many shining moments of parenting excellence.

Then there are the other times…

katie mom gradDarling Daughter and her very long-term boyfriend broke up a couple of weeks into summer, just after her freshman year of college. She and the young man began dating during eighth grade, dated for almost six years.  Though Daughter felt it was the right decision for both, she was devastated. Would quietly go up to her bedroom to sob in private.  The timing was terrible for me. I was beyond busy at work, the house was falling apart.

I would love to say I was supportive, loving, all that a mother should be.

That would be a lie.

Three days into her routine, I’d had enough. I marched upstairs, busted into her bedroom and told her crying was fine, but could she please “cry and move the laundry, vacuüm and cry, empty the dishwasher and cry? Could it be a productive crying?”

I’ll never live that down.

A good mother would have hugged her, comforted her, baked her some cookies, made her a cup of tea, listened patiently, asked her if she needed anything, or taken her to lunch. Anything would have been better than my handling of the situation.

“Three days. That’s all I got,” Darling Daughter still says, “I stopped the crying. I was terrified Mom was going to come slamming into my bedroom, yelling again.”

My children are two of the greatest joys of my life. And yet, there are times it would be great to TAG somebody else IN. Anybody would be more effective than me, sometimes.

I’ve learned that I’m not usually spectacular in every area of my life. There are glimmers in different areas, on different days. But I cannot do it all, every single day.

The best I can hope for is that someday, there will be a partner; somebody to TAG IN when I’m spent.  Who might show up with dinner, take the car for an oil change, and have meaningful conversation with the children when they’re tired of what I have to say.

Until then, I suppose I’ll muddle through…