Thank God it’s Monday…

nowOnce known for my catlike reflexes, I stumbled into this past weekend on crutches, clanking and clattering—dropping F-bombs. Or so Darling Daughter claimed.

My first meniscus surgery was 5 years ago. My second was last Thursday. Same knee. A little more banged up than the last time, but it went well.  My knee swelled like a balloon on Friday, and there was no getting comfortable, but I figured I’d relax over the weekend.  Not sure what I was thinking.

This isn’t a quiet place, especially on weekends.

Ever the optimist, I went to bed early on Saturday night; heard my Son come in, quietly turn on the oven for his late night snack and let the dogs out. Son and Darling Daughter chatted in hushed tones and I drifted back to sleep.

BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP.

As the smoke detector in the kitchen sounded, Grace (my mutt), dove under the blankets near my head. I patted her, blocked it out.

Son mumbled something to his sister about pepperoni dropped in the oven. He opened windows, cranked the ceiling fans, ventilated the downstairs. We live in a Cape Cod home and my master bedroom is (unfortunately) downstairs; the other bedrooms are upstairs. Ugh! The kitchen, bathroom and back door are just outside of my bedroom.

BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. Smoke alarm started up again…

The Red Dog (Rocky) desperately wanted in bed. Surrounded by 150 pounds of trembling, terrified dogs, I was officially awake. Son peeked into my room.

SON: Can I put the ceiling fan on?

ME: Why not?

SON: Want me to crack a window in here? It’s really smoky…

ME:  How cold is it out?

SON: Cold.

He cracked a window and I burrowed under the blankets.

BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP.

The smoke alarm just over my bed joined the party. Darling Daughter was not happy. Son (laughing by then) tried to get a handle on the situation…

The Red Dog was in panic mode. He stood up, swung himself around—and knocked Grace off the bed. It was hysterical. He burrowed under my pillow. Grace quickly scrambled back into bed.  And I shook—with laughter.

I grabbed my metal crutches, headed out of the bedroom. Our tiniest dog, Little Lola, was hiding under the bed. Busy protecting my injured knee as the bigger dogs danced around the bed, I hadn’t noticed.

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The Dachshund was undeterred.

He stayed in the kitchen, kept an eye on the oven, waited for the French bread pizza to emerge. He held firm in a plume of smoke, in position to grab crumbs–or maybe he was short enough to not notice?  The animal has focus. Knows his priorities.  Which is probably why Dash is a sturdy little wiener dog.

I rounded the corner to the living room, smacking things with my crutches and there was Darling Daughter, burrowed into the couch under a heap of blankets. With the ceiling fans on full speed, front dogs couchdoor and windows open, it was cold. Her sweatshirt hood was over her head, drawstring pulled tight so that her face was hidden.

And I got it. She couldn’t breathe in the haze of smoke. It was like an indoor bonfire—with no fire, just smoke from the pepperoni sizzling at the bottom of the oven.

The dogs, kids and I gathered in the living room and talked while the house aired out. Son ate his snack.  Darling Daughter and I went to bed at around 2:30 am.

Sleeping in isn’t an option anymore.

Not since last spring when the neighbors got 12 chickens. The rooster did his thing on Sunday morning and the hens started laying eggs shortly afterwards. I had no idea hens were so vocal when laying eggs. But they seem like good chickens, right on schedule every day at the crack of dawn.

Not wanting to get out of bed, I settled in for a Flea Market Flip marathon—until Darling Daughter got under the covers. Son rolled the computer chair over, rested his legs on my bed, wound the dogs up, switched the channel, and turned the TV on and off. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I sent him off with my debit card to get breakfast.

As we gathered around the dining room table, he played with his sisters’ tea paraphernalia; popped open lids, tasted tea leaves, took the top off of her fancy, brand new $200 cast iron teapot. He’s the only person who could get away with that. When they’re together, they delight in winding me up. A college student on an engineering co-op, she’s home on weekends this semester–meaning they tease and torture me every weekend.

No idea why I expected to nurse my knee over a weekend.

ME (to Son): Please stop talking.

SON: I haven’t stopped talking.

DARLING DAUGHTER (to her brother): I’m so entertained.  This makes me very happy. I miss you.

The conversation continued, as Darling Daughter and Son looked over his Common App for college; he had asked her to review it.

DARLING DAUGHTER: When was your divorce final? Month and Year?

ME: No idea. I can look it up…

SON: Yes, when was our family destroyed? (And they were off, laughing, utterly amused…)

DARLING DAUGHTER: What’s your occupation?

SON: I always struggle with that question…

DARLING DAUGHTER: Should we put mom as a semi-skilled worker?

DARLING DAUGHTER (to me): Let’s not oversell you.

They continued on, mostly like I wasn’t there—having a great time.

By then I was desperate to leave. Decided to run errands. Loaded up my crutches and got the hell out…

And on this beautiful Monday, I’m enjoying peace and quiet. Finally.

Of course, it all ends between 5:30 and 6:00 pm each day–but I’ll take what I can get.

And truly, I’ve learned to love Monday.


Click here for my latest “She in the CLE” blog post. 

What is She in the CLE?

“A blogger collective dedicated to driving conversations with purpose by women in the Cleveland area. We provide a channel for women to engage and discuss topics at all levels from climbing the corporate ladder to sampling the best eats in the city to raising a family! Our mission isn’t about defining the conversations or topics – it’s all about creating a vibrant, virtual space that allows for networking, continual learning and storytelling.”

Haven’t checked it out? I encourage you to do so…

1st Day of School Pictures …

THROWBACK POST: Originally posted in August of 2012. These are my favorite back to school pictures. Love them! Love these children. 

In many cities it’s the first day of school…

There are smiling faces all over Facebook this morning. Children in new clothes. With backpacks. And sports bags. Ready to go.

This year both of my children are in high school. One starting as a Freshman. One finishing up as a Senior. And today was their first day.

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What is wrong with this picture? And these children?

They weren’t in the mood to do 1st Day of School pictures. The ones I take on the front steps every year.

I tried to get them to coöperate. Asked them to turn around. So they did.

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But with their eyes closed.

And it wasn’t planned. They both sort of turned their backs to me when I pulled out the camera. Then I asked them to turn around. So they did. But with their eyes shut.

Classic Daughter & Son move. Also classic that they worked together, without words…

So all the other parent’s have ‘nice’ pictures of their kids heading of to school.

And I’ve got these beauties for the family photo album…

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…

My Life by the Numbers

I rarely posted to my blog in 2013. Sort of wimped out–I never stopped writing my thoughts, just stopped posting themnumbers.

Why?

There was too much upheaval, change and transition…

By the numbers:

ONE child graduated from high school and packed off to college. Big milestones for both parents, children and family. There’s final games, final concerts, the college decision, graduation festivities, parties and finally shopping/packing for college.

ONE child finished his freshman year in high school and started his sophomore year. He adapted to being the only child at home.  Also eventful, this child played three sports, earned a varsity letter as a freshmen starter in football and was a state qualifier in pole vault. He got his driver’s license in June, 2013. Exciting stuff!

TWO houses. We started 2013 in the white ranch house that I rented just after filing for divorce in 2009. Me moved to The School House in the summer of 2013. The move was traumatic because the kids and I created many happy memories in the white ranch house. Plus moving is a whole lot of work!! But it was time to move on. And The School House has already begun to have its own memories.

THREE jobs. Sigh. ..yes, I was employed by three different companies last year. I begun 2013 a marketing manager, then wrote obits for our local newspaper and finally landed my current position. Job change is stressful. It means new people, new routines, new computer systems, processes and going back to the beginning in some ways.

FOUR dogs. We had two dogs; Grace the mutt and Rocky the golden retriever. With the move came two more dogs. The School House’s owners are out of the country on a work assignment, so we kept their dogs. We now have a long-haired dappled dachshund and a tiny sprite named Lola.

ZERO marriages. I remain a single parent. (I haven’t remarried.) Which means its all on me to maintain a home, raise the children, mow the yard, pay the bills, etc.

ZERO vacations. I could really, really use a few days off work. The kids and I are looking forward to that happening in July, 2014. We’ll spend a week in Hilton Head, S.C.

I’D RATHER NOT COUNT trips made back and forth to daughters college, how few walks I took during the fall and winter, pounds gained from stress and lack of exercise,  time spent packing and unpacking and the number of dog hairs vacuumed.

The constant chaos kept me too busy to put my thoughts out there. Often, I had no idea what (if anything) I was thinking!

However, I miss posting to this blog, miss connecting with others—because I’ve formed some wonderful friendships through writing this blog. I plan to post regularly again.  

And I’m changing it up for 2014. After five years as a single parent, I’m ready to tackle issues I’ve steered away from in the past. Playing with Perfect  has always been light, relaxed, playful and positive. It still will be, because that’s my nature—who I am.

But I’ll also be writing about deeper issues that I’ve gotten increasingly passionate about in the past five years.

Examples:

  • The realities of divorce, single parenting, its impact on children and families.
  • The working poor, the difficulties of going from homemaker into the workplace, the shortage of jobs and the challenges of establishing a job/career that can support a family.
  • Medical insurance, navigating Marketplace and Healthcare.gov and other options for getting health insurance. It’s common for employers to use part-time staff and not offer insurance. I’ll soon be without health insurance and I’ve been weighing my options.

Millions are dealing with similar challenges; it isn’t just me. I’ve noticed that many people don’t speak of them, are embarrassed, plagued by fear and/or a profound sense of failure at how off track their lives have gotten. And yet, talking about it eases the burden.

My writing style is my writing style. I tend to tackle the heavy stuff with humor. And please (continue to) excuse my incomplete thoughts, occasional grammatical errors and other imperfections. I’d love to be more Perfect–but in reality, that isn’t going to happen!

For now, I’m going to post at the beginning of each week.

I’d like to post more–but will begin with a manageable goal.

Welcome 2014!!

Off to College …

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pink hydrangeaSome parents sail through sending their children off to college, while others have a terribly difficult time letting go. I’ve been trying to figure this out…

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

Is it (perhaps) a bit easier for single parents?  I’m a single parent. And it has crossed my mind that divorce separates the family unit, long before a child leaves for college. Maybe the earlier loss of the marriage and family, and that grieving process makes sending a child to college easier. Meaning in-tact families haven’t yet been separated, so when they send a child to college, they feel they are missing something for the first time.

Another angle: As a single parent, the load gets heavy at times. Working, creating income stream(s) to support the children, nurturing them, driving them around, attending sporting events, plays, performances, cooking, cleaning and providing a comfortable home for them—it’s a LOT of work. There’s a reason children have two parents!! I’ve enjoyed (almost) every minute of raising Daughter. But sending her to college does take away some tasks. Lightens the load some…

Or maybe it has something to do with control. For some, it’s frightening that their children no longer need permission; they have freedom to do what they want to do, when they want to do it.

But it might go a little deeper than that. When we send our children to college, we never really know if they’re coming back. We have to trust that we have built a strong, solid relationship with our children; that they will want to continue to have a relationship with us after leaving home. But if they choose not to, we can’t make them. Plenty of kids go off to college, and end up spending their breaks with friends, girlfriends/boyfriends—anyplace but back home.

I believe that we don’t truly know what our children think of us, our decisions, how we did in raising them until they are out on their own. During their time under our roof, they’re too close to have perspective. The perspective comes with time and reflection. In other words, our report card comes later, sometimes years after our children leave home. We might think we did just fine—only to find out we didn’t do nearly as well as we thought. And that’s scary!!

Maybe its personality? I tend to be a happy person, to see the bright side of situations. So I’m excited for my daughter. I think having a child who is ready to go to college, who WANTS to go, is a great problem to have. I’m lucky to be in this situation. It’s a little quieter these days, but I’m finding ways to embrace and enjoy this time.

Maybe those with ‘glass is half empty’ personalities struggle more in adapting the their children leaving home? Tend to see the negatives, instead of the positives?

Regrets? Perhaps a child leaving home feels final, because coulda, woulda, shouldas creep in. In my case, I know I gave parenting Daughter my all. I made mistakes—and plenty of them. But I have no regrets. Maybe that makes letting go easier?  I’m not sure. But I do know that Daughter was ready to fly the nest—and that I was ready to let her go…

Would I feel that way if I left things unsaid or had regrets? I don’t know.

Recently posted online by a friend:

This may be quite politically incorrect, but tough; there is Nothing in this world more important than raising your children. Give them God to rely on, your time, your energy, your unconditional love, teach them right from wrong and follow through. Be strong enough to admit when you’re wrong and insistent when you’re right. Give them a bedtime, feed them well, and be there so they trust that they are a priority. Hug them all the time and put your phone away when they’re around. Your daily input ends too quickly but your daily teachings stay for a lifetime.

                                                                                          ~Diane Lauffenburger Schober

Pretty much sums up what parenting is about.

Anybody have ideas? Agree with me? Think I’m way off the mark?

Sending a child to college is new territory for me. I welcome your comments…