24 Things I have Learned…

I’ve been feeling somewhat reflective this week.

Maybe because one of the Extras heads off to college tomorrow. Maybe because the other children are getting older and heading back to school next week. Maybe because I’ve been through an awful lot in the past several years and am full of gratitude because the children and I have landed in a good place.

In no particular order…

  1. It is possible to dig around a minivan and find enough spare change (mostly pennies…) to put a gallon of gas in a vehicle. If you pray really, really hard—that gallon will get one home, then to work the next day (payday) despite a 25 minute commute via freeway. You can roll into the nearest gas station at noon on fumes…
  2.  Pancakes are not just for breakfast. They work for dinner when trying to stretch the food budget.
  3. Ask for help when help is needed. But only after digging for a solution on you own. People grow tired of ‘the boy who cried wolf’ person who needs perpetual help. But I’ve found that there is always somebody willing to help, when I’ve needed it most.
  4. It is possible to avoid getting mowed over by a treadmill, when your daughter throws one down the stairs at you. (I know Katie—I told you to PUSH when it was stuck…and you Nick, standing there watching with a juice box and popcorn??) Thankfully, I have ‘catlike’ reflexes and managed to shuffle backwards down a few steps quickly, bounced off a wall and hung onto the damn treadmill. It was cheap entertainment for my son.
  5. It is possible to walk away from a life…a home, marriage, financial security…and move toward God knows what?? And for it to be an adventure. To enjoy the journey, laugh and have fun amidst the struggles and sadness.
  6. No matter how dire the situation, there is always a rainbow if you wait a while, look hard enough and are willing to seeit.

    Our UNPLANNED Puppy. We rescued Grace last summer. She just turned ONE. She has been a wonderful addition to our family...

  7. Entire root systems will grow in gutters. (Sorry Teresa). My son cleaned (weeded?) the gutters yesterday. But all is well now…
  8. Kids will re-arrange a family room when you least expect it. We had been talking about changing it around all summer, but lacked the time, energy—or both. Exhausted, after not sleeping the previous two nights (thunderstorms kept Rocky dog up. He in turn, kept me up…) I staggered into my room to lay down for a bit. When I wandered out, my son, Godchild and Godchild’s boyfriend were all relaxing and watching a movie on our huge sectional couch. AFTER moving the furniture around exactly in the way I had wanted it!! They were like church mice–I never heard a thing. And my house is small…Love those children! They are the BEST.
  9. A twelve-year-old Honda Accord will make it from Ohio to Hilton Head, South Carolina and back home again. It isn’t quite as luxurious as traveling in a newer mini van with a ton of space and DVD player with cordless headsets. On the other hand, without the electronics, there was conversation and bonding. Which I know my children loved.
  10. Financial restrictions can make a person more creative than they’ve ever been; re-finishing old furniture, finding needed items for free, sharing a lawnmower with a neighbor and more.
  11. If a parent is happy and at peace, the children who live under that parents’ roof are happy and at peace.
  12. Children crave time and attention from happy adults far more than they need or want material possessions, money or ‘stuff.’
  13. Sadness goes away in time.
  14. Hurts heal.

    The Coolest Christmas Tree Ever? An almost 25 ft.  ‘deciduous’ tree created with branches from outdoors. Of all the Perfectly Pretty trees we slaved over…I know a handful of children who might remember this one best!!

  15. The definition of DECIDUOUS; “Trees that have leaves that fall annually.” Or a fancy term for dead tree branches and sticks.
  16. It is a bad idea to blog about losing weight BEFORE going on vacation. It is almost inevitable one will come home having gained a few pounds…and then those who read the blog must be thinking, “what was she talking about?”
  17. Often we are protective of our children and we hurt when they are sad or struggling. Parents never want their children to experience hardship and often want their children to have life ‘easier’ than they did. My new outlook isn’t that my kids have no challenges or struggles; it is that they have the strength, courage and determination to overcome their challenges.
  18. Lead with love. This is a biggie for me. I try very hard to look at my intent and motivation when making decisions. To make sure I am coming from a good place. It is never a good idea to lead with anger, frustration or negative aggression—nothing good comes of it. Positive things come when we lead with love. (I win some and lose some here–but do my best…)
  19. There is always a solution. Sometimes we don’t like the solution. But there always is one.
  20. If you are in a relationship and trying to figure out if the other person is IN or OUT, it is best to proceed as if they are OUT. If a person is confused about being in or out, then they are OUT. We tend to make this complicated. (I know I have in the past). But it really is that simple.
  21. Further, if you don’t know if you are in or out—then you are OUT.
  22. The more uncomfortable I am, the more likely I am on the right path. I am always glad to find the other side, when I push through fear and doubt. I’ve found that nothing is accomplished by staying in my comfort zone.
  23. I have never had regrets when I put my favorite People first—before all else. Even when it seems another decision is the better way to go, or is easier.
  24. Sometimes the best things that ever happen to us come from our biggest failures, or in getting exactly what we DIDN’T want.

There you have it. My half assed list of things learned in recent years. 

Please share your lessons, if you are inclined.

One of My Most Shameful Moments…

A couple of weeks ago, a person I had known fairly well came unglued and it reminded me of my own (far) less than Perfect moment. A true story, this happened a few years back.

Often, we are quick to condemn each other when we find ourselves at the end of our rope. But I couldn’t, because I have been there. We all have…

I am about to share one of my most shameful moments. Something very few people know. Here goes…

I was beyond crazed one evening, because I was expected in court the next morning over a mess that cropped up. My life was quickly becoming a soap opera. One that I had NOT signed on for—yet I had somehow landed a starring role. Divorce seemed imminent. I had never needed (or hired) an attorney and certainly never seen the inside of a courtroom. I was a complete wreck—and badly needed to calm down.

I often find my inner reserve of calm and peace by walking in the woods or driving 30 minutes to a nearby Shrine to light a candle.

On this particular evening, I was short on time—and did the next best thing.

Me (via cell phone): I’ll be at your house in a minute. I need to stop over at the church to say a few prayers because I am a mess over this court date in the morning and I need to calm myself down…

Stella The Wingman: Okay.

Me: I am in your driveway.

Stella The Wingman (Ever the good sport): Okay.

She was out the front door in a heartbeat. And we were off to the church five minutes away—though I think I got us there in about 2 minutes. I hung a sharp right into the parking lot and came in for a landing between two parking spots. Crooked.

Then jumped out of the car, and marched straight to the side door, with Stella trailing behind me by a decent margin. I grabbed hold of the door and pulled…and kept pulling and rattling the door, but it didn’t open.

Stella The Wingman: It’s locked?

Me (Shouting): Who in the FU&% locked the church door?

Stella The Wingman Hello Father…

I turned slowly around thinking that Stella surely was toying with me for dropping an f-bomb nearly inside God’s House. Unfortunately, Father stood before us dressed in black, with the white-collar gleaming against his dark skin. I hadn’t yet met him, as he was newer to the parish.

This was a Catholic Church. My mother went to Catholic School from Kindergarten through college. And if she hadn’t already passed away, my dropping an f-bomb in those circumstances might have done her in. I was Mor-ti-fied—Capital M! Would have turned invisible on the spot, if that was an option.

Father: Here. I have a key…I’ll unlock the church for you.

Me (Rambling): Oh no. That’s okay. We can come back another time. Really. You don’t need to go to any trouble…

Father (HAD to be thinking to himself): If ever there was a person needing to get inside a church in a hurry, I am looking at her.

Father (Headed straight for the door): No. I’ll unlock it. And I can lock it back up when you leave.

So, in we went.

And in Father went.

He sat in the back, while we prayed. Who could blame him? I made the turn into the church on two wheels and could not have appeared in my right mind. I’m sure he thought it a good idea to put an eye on us there in the pretty church.

It was hard to pray for peace and calm, with Father back there. And Stella trying desperately to hold her snickers in, while sitting beside me. And while feeling embarrassed for acting like a complete idiot. I was just completely distracted.

I had humiliated myself so badly, that I was no longer focused on the reason I needed to find my inner peace. Could that be considered an upside?

Stella and I laughed until we couldn’t breathe over my meltdown—when we were far away from the church.

That day was a new low. Thank goodness I didn’t realize that I would be sinking lower in coming months. Ignorance is (sometimes) bliss.

After that, I always wondered if Father remembered me, as I shook his hand on my way out of Sunday mass. He never said a word. And neither did I.

So you see, I have no business judging others…

What is your most shameful moment? Please, by all means do share in the comments section below…

Note to my Facebook Friends: If you want to join in this one, you might want to post in the “Comments” section at the bottom of the blog…It is possible we might have some fun with this.

July 16, 2011

Just a little crumb…

My kids are with ‘the ex’ for a couple of days. I am (trying) to enjoy some much-needed peace and quiet. Also, (trying) to use this opportunity to catch up on work and be social…A few hours ago, the phone rang:

Me: Hello?

The Ex: I’m dropping Nick off in your neighborhood to hang with his friends, okay?

Me (Hearing gravel on the driveway from a car backing out): Sure.

Nick (Banging through the front door as boys will do): Hey Mom!!

Me In My Head: Even if I minded (and I don’t) he is already here. Am I supposed to shove him back out the front door??

The Ex (vague, leaving it hang): I’ll pick him up later…

Me: Okay.

Nick (via text an hour later): Mom, are you making dinner?

Me: No.

Me In My Head: Like, who would I be making dinner for? Nobody was supposed to be here for dinner…

Nick: Okay. Can you take me out to get something? Dad gave me money.

Me: Okay.

I am exhausted by summer “vacation.” All parents should get a vacation when school starts, so that we can recover from our summer “vacation.” Our homes become Grand Central Station–in my case with teenagers coming and going at all hours. Food disappears into thin air, the house is a mess of stinky sneakers, miscellaneous wrappers and empty cups. The dishwasher runs two, sometimes three times a day. And its loud! (From me who isn’t the quietest person…)

Sometimes, I have these thoughts...

Such is my life. And I am not complaining. Not one bit. Because I am going to blink and the kids will be gone.

So I try to savor these moments with the children–all of them. I feel incredibly blessed to have them in my life and am always genuinely happy to see whoever walks in the door.

It’s just that I am also tired

The funny thing? It only takes a few hours of quiet and I miss them!!

Ode to the Doggie Playpen…

The fence of my dreams...

Cheap fencing is available and can be put up by two women in one day. Even if they have to clear overgrowth and vines using rusty old tools. Even in the pouring rain…

Back at the Big House, I had the luxury of Invisible Fence brand fencing. A fantastic product (really, it is), so long as a person can shell out $2000 to keep a couple of dogs in a yard. For this newly single mother with teenagers, underground fencing was out of the question.

Being a city girl, I was familiar with chain link fencing, wood fencing and the ever popular white picket fence. But I had never seen welded wire fencing.

After 2 years of trying to contain my dogs in my little White Ranch House—with little success—I was desperate for a solution. More so after a couple of ‘friendly’ front porch visits with the Dog Warden, citations that resulted in fines that I could ill afford. Like serendipity, I happened upon Livestock Fencing that is simply rolled out and attached to metal poles. Who knew?

For that matter, I had never heard of the Tractor Supply Store where one goes to purchase welded wire fencing. Growing up in cities, I mainly shopped at the mall. Living out toward the country– toward, because we are too close to a city to be truly rural—I have gained an affinity for smaller ‘Mom & Pop’ stores, Nurseries, Farmers Markets, Antique Stores…and now the Tractor Supply Store.

I wasn’t quite prepared for the Tractor Supply, nor the fence building equipment needed for my project. Happily ignorant and with spring in my step, I made my purchases. Thank goodness for the Nice (patient) Guy who helped me load my car.

As I almost always do, I brought the dogs. And a trunk full of eBay items headed for the  post office. Incidentally, I have an old Honda Accord, which has long since been called ‘the Honda pickup.’ Because I use it as one! I was thankful for the fruitful eBay week, but I had to move the boxes to the front seat and they took up the space of an adult person. Not the end of the world that I would be riding home with a “box buddy”…kind of like the blowup ‘passengers’ they used to sell—but in corrugated brown box form. And there was still room (barely) for the dogs in the backseat.

The dogs banged around inside the car—a bundle of whining, tail wagging, barking energy—as the Nice Guy and I loaded (jammed & crammed) my rolls of fencing and T posts into the trunk. He even used twine to secure my purchases (something I know NOTHING about) and finally tied a big red flag to the crap jutting out from my trunk. Apparently, the law requires such a flag for anything that sticks out more than 1 foot. Without it, I risked being stopped and given a ticket. It is shocking that I have NOT been fined for such a thing.

Not even on one of my more flagrant violations of this law when I brought home a patio set hanging halfway out of my van—with a few boys holding onto it to keep it inside the vehicle. Halfway home, it became necessary for the boys to scramble back to their seats and buckle up—which left us with a dangly table that miraculously stayed IN the van. The black and white car that caused the rush to the seats didn’t seem to mind that I was bumping along with a large glass-top table precariously close to concrete. Either that, or he just wasn’t in the mood to take on the situation. I mean, where to start? But I’m getting off track…

My new fence looks nothing like the adorable white picket fences in storybooks and pictures, however it does blend into the landscape and can easily be removed, if need be. It does keep the doggies in my yard and cost less than $200—less than the fines I paid to the County…I think they had something to do with having a Dog at Large.

My reality. Not as pretty or Perfect--but it DOES the trick!

Every time one of my dogs decided to step out for a little jaunt At Large in the neighborhood, they always came right back to my front door when the Warden happened along. The damn dogs could have at least run about and let us find them, so I had some chance of being anonymous. No such luck.

Those days are over now that I have my 48” welded wire fencing. My dogs have what amounts to a Doggie Playpen in the backyard. And they don’t seem to mind at all. They are happy out there.

It isn’t the fence of my dreams. Then again, my life isn’t all that I had dreamed of either. And that’s okay. Somehow, it works.

Special Thanks to Casey Nichols for showing up in the pouring rain to help with such a dreadful task. Most people would not have–I truly appreciated the help and her companionship that day!!!

More New Beginnings

The wonderful thing about Endings is that they lead to New Beginnings. At least, that is what I tell myself when I am faced with the end of something ‘known’ and looking out into the vast ‘unknown.’

June brought a couple of BIG Endings my way and lent (yet again) more uncertainty to my life.

In early June, my employment with Tec Incorporated came to a grinding halt when I was laid off. As I took my seat in the conference room, I felt at peace while receiving my ‘marching’ papers. I couldn’t explain the feeling then and I still can’t, but I do know that the layoff seemed somehow ‘right’ to me and it was the ‘right’ business decision for the company.

Not too many days later, June 14th brought the final hearing for my divorce. It didn’t take but 30 minutes for the magistrate to look over the paperwork, the attorneys’ to conference and for my (almost) ex-husband and I to agree that our 18-year marriage was over. I sailed out of the courtroom and jumped into my borrowed Chevy Tahoe, which was already loaded with luggage, roller blades and the like. Ready for the days ‘next’ adventure.

I swung by my house to pick up my two children, our golden retriever, two more children and we hit the open road. This was my intended vacation (pre-layoff) and I chose to go forward with the plan to visit my Aunt in Virginia. The children and I love to stay at her house for a week in the summer. And it wasn’t like I had anything else to do. Or anyplace I needed to be. How often does that happen? I decided that we all might as well enjoy it.

It seems fitting that after a short hiatus with my new blog, I begin posting again on Independence Day. I certainly am ‘independent’ right now. I am not tied to a job, a marriage, or even a mortgage. I am a single mom, living in a rental home, with little money and no idea what lies ahead. And for some reason I am quite happy. In fact, I jump out of bed each morning eager to see what the new day has in store for me.

Honestly, I have no idea what comes next after my latest series of Endings. But I am certainly excited to find out. Here’s to New Beginnings!