Archive | August, 2016

Embracing the Blessings

25 Aug

12049231_10206140076553761_743071400173545284_nSo last week I wrote about feeling inadequate because of my lack of first day school pictures. This past weekend, both my older boys headed back to college, and I have been on a roller coaster of emotions. My middle son moved back to school in stages which made the moving process easier. He’s close to home and we get to see him fairly often, so it isn’t as difficult leaving him. We will even be on campus this week for a local soccer club game and to watch his younger brother perform in a special football game being held at the college on Friday. We might get in a quick visit each night, especially if there is dinner involved, so, there will probably be dinner involved because this mom is not above a food bribe to get a quick visit. Sending the oldest off was a bit trickier because it was the last time. This is his last semester of college. He will probably be working out of town when he graduates. He will be getting married next year and there will be so many lasts. He laughs at me every time I cry and tells me it’s not like he won’t be back and asked me one time why I cry so much, especially over him. My answer is that every new thing that happens for him is an ending for me.

This week several friends and family members are sending their little ones off to preschool and kindergarten for the first time. There is so much nervousness, and I understand. My son was less than six months from starting full time school when Columbine happened. Up until then, we all thought that school was a safe place for our children; now we had doubts. My son was in first grade on 9/11 as I watched the twin towers fall and knew our lives would never be the same, and they aren’t. I thought about homeschooling my children because of those incidents, but I realized that was fear talking, my fear and my erroneous thoughts that I could somehow protect them from the world. Please understand that I know many people homeschool successfully, and I admire them greatly. This just means that my reasons would have been based in fear, and when I realized that, I knew it would be an unhealthy decision for us.

I remember dropping my oldest off for kindergarten like it was yesterday. He was so very excited, and I was so nervous. His classroom had a door directly to the outside, so the teacher met him at the door and told my son to say goodbye to us. He did and disappeared into the building. We had walked to school, and I made it all the way down the block before I burst into tears. My husband laughed at me and said, “You made it through the hard stuff. Why are you crying now?” I laughed and told him to shut up and give me my moment, and that was all it was, a moment. You see, I didn’t have the words for it back then and just saying that I was sad because my little guy was growing up seemed inadequate. I was excited for him because he was excited and ready for school. I was thrilled for him to blossom like I knew he would as he was challenged to learn more and more. I was amazed at how easily he seemed to manage, a trait I have admired in him over and over as he has grown into a very responsible young man. What I couldn’t grasp back then was how I could be so incredibly proud of him, how I could love him so much and how I could hurt so badly at the same time, but I believe now that it was the fear of change and more specifically the fear of the unknown.

When people move onto a new adventure, we can go along for the ride or we can resist what’s happening. When we can see the benefit for ourselves, it’s easier to let go. When seeing the benefit to us is clouded by what we think we are losing, we suffer. For me, the resistance seems to happen with firsts. I didn’t cry when my second and third children went to preschool or kindergarten for the first time because I knew from the first one that we would all be just fine. The same thing happened with my second book. I felt so much less fear because I knew that whatever happened, I would be fine, and I was. Now that I’m writing my third book, it feels like sending my third child off to school. We do the steps to get ready and we launch; easy peasy. So why did sending my oldest child off to college for the last time set me off? Like when he was in kindergarten, I have no idea what to expect next. He’ll be married by this time next year. He won’t be coming home for breaks and spending time with us like he has before. Our lives will change, and I don’t know if I’ll like the new arrangement. I’m afraid I’ll lose him, and there is the biggie. I’m afraid that the little boy who ran headlong into the preschool room and had to be begged for a hug goodbye, the boy who happily disappeared into the kindergarten classroom, and the boy who couldn’t wait to drive, travel to Europe and go away to college might not come back. I’m afraid that this piece of my heart will fly away and never return, and I have no idea how I would deal with that. It’s a feeling I don’t want to think about, but it’s one that I need to make peace with because when I do, the feeling will subside. Once, when this very brave young man was very small, he was afraid of thunderstorms. I asked him what the worst of the storm could be, and he replied that he could die. We practice a Christian faith, and I asked him what would happen if he died, and he said he would go to Heaven. I then reminded him that as Christians that is the ultimate thing we aspire to, so the worst thing that could happen to him was actually the best thing that could happen to him. He thought about that for a moment, and I could see the stress leaving his body and mind as he relaxed at the thought of going to Heaven. Then he looked at me and said very matter of factly, “but I still don’t want to die.” I laughed and told him I didn’t either but that when we make peace with the worst that can happen, we can move through the fear and he’s been doing that ever since.

Lately, that lesson seems to be coming back to me on a different level. You see, I am very blessed. If you read my blog regularly, you know I also have challenges, but I realized recently that I feel that I have to qualify my blessings with my challenges. It’s like I have this accounting system in my head that needs to balance the good with the bad, so others won’t feel bad about my good. I know I am privileged. I know I am lucky. I am also learning to stop being ashamed of any of that because someone else doesn’t have it. Instead, I intend to use my gifts and my privilege and my luck to make the world a better place in every way that I can because as lucky and privileged as I am, I work hard to make a good life better. I do my best to live with purpose and on purpose. Yes, I understand that not everyone has the ability to do that, but I also understand that many do and choose to blame others rather than take responsibility for their own lives and choices. I know children of World War II survivors whose parents came here with nothing. They taught their families to work hard and save well and now they are very well off financially and people call them lucky and privileged. I know immigrants from Asia that came here with nothing more than a skill to sew or cook and have made a very comfortable life. Many have sponsored others to come here, not expecting repayment, to allow others to live a better life. I know a family who lived in slavery in this country for years until they risked their lives to get free and now live a comfortable life and do what they can to help others. All of them know of others who were not as lucky as they were and are. None of them is ashamed of what they have, but they are grateful, and they inspire me constantly to be a better person. They also remind me that although I may shed a tear or two as my son goes off to college for his final semester, watching him drive away is a privilege, a blessing and a moment to savor. The difference isn’t that he is 22 rather than 3 or 5. The difference is how I choose to look at it, and that is a beautiful thing. I wish you all your very own beautiful things and as always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

An Inadequate Mom

18 Aug

There is nothing like the first day of the school year to make you feel inadequate. I see pictures of everyone’s children as they wait for the bus or car pools or are ready to drive off to their first day, and as much as I love them, they make my heart hurt because I have never been that mom. Not once have I ever been prepared enough to have my boys line up and give me their best smile as they head into a new year. We have had a special breakfast here and there. We’ve occasionally had our lunches pre-packed. We’ve had years when I’ve not been hurrying them out of the house so we can beat the rush of the drop off line, but never have we been so ready that we have taken pictures, and sometimes it makes me feel like an inadequate mom.

The first day of school is also when I realize we didn’t have the summer I hoped for. We didn’t have fun every day. We didn’t engage as much as I would have liked. We didn’t travel together like we love to do, and that makes me sad. On the other hand, my oldest son will finish college after this semester without any college loans and my middle will have finished a year and a half without debt as well. My youngest had his best year so far in school last year, which gives me hope for this year. We’re planning a wedding for my oldest and not only do I love his fiancée, but I also love her family. I also happen to like my other sons’ girlfriends as well, and nothing makes me happier than having them all in my home, laughing and having fun. I wish it would happen more often, but I’ll take what I can get. This week, they all go back to school except my oldest son’s fiancée. She is working full time and is also helping me with my next book about the holidays, which I hope to have published in about 45 days. Will we make it? I don’t know, but I’m giving it my best. I am so proud of these young people, and I feel privileged to be part of their journeys. Do they make me crazy sometimes? Of course they do, but all in all, they are an amazing blessing, and I am incredibly grateful for each and every one of them, and maybe that’s why the first day of school is so difficult; I’m going to miss them so much.

The funny part about school starting back up is that I’m so much more productive. When I sat down to write this post at 10am, I had finished my housework for the day, decluttered some paperwork, figured out how to fix my fitbit because it wouldn’t talk to my account, and I had taken a shower. It has been months since I’ve been that productive and part of me loves that. That part of me realizes how good routines can be for me and how much easier it will be to finish the book now that everyone is getting back to their school routine, even if I’ll miss them while they’re gone. That part of me feels like a ninja mom for having my dishwasher unloaded, laundry done and home tidied up before 10am. That part of me feels renewed and ready to tackle the day and all of the unfinished projects, especially the book that will make way for bigger and better things. The other part of me that adores my children and is so very aware of the precious little time I have with them as “mine” is mourning the end of this less than perfect summer and the opportunities we may have missed to be together, to travel and to savor every moment. Some days I think I’m going crazy being so happy and so sad at the same time, but as I talk to other parents, especially moms, I know that so many feel the same. I’ve never wished that my children would stop growing because I lost one that will never grow up and gave birth to one that needs medical intervention to grow. I’ve found joy in every age, although I admit age 3 and ages 9-11 with each of my boys was more than I thought I could handle some days. I love who my boys are, most days, and feel honored to be their mom, but that doesn’t mean that all the days are easy. In fact, some days still take every ounce of maturity I have not to have a complete meltdown, and occasionally I fail. I was on my way there this morning when the fitbit wouldn’t work, we forgot to start the dishwasher last night, I didn’t feel prepared this morning, and I felt like I had fallen short as a mom this summer. As I was putting the load of laundry in the washer this morning, I could feel the downward spiral coming; that spiral that would mean nothing would get done and I would spend the day on the couch feeling upset and depressed and like a failure, and I stopped. I closed my eyes. I took a few deep breaths, and I called on the Divine to help me and then chuckled over what I probably looked like, worshipping at the altar of the washer. I walked upstairs and apologized to my husband and admitted I was feeling inadequate as a mother and a human being. He assured me I wasn’t, and the tide began to turn. I helped my youngest get out the door on time. I silently thanked my husband, who was waiting in the car, for driving our son to school so I didn’t have to. I silently prayed that this would be a great year for my son, for me and the rest of our family, and I dove into the day with much more gratitude. I know this year won’t be perfect, but that really isn’t the point. The point is that while I am amazed that some moms are able to get first day pictures of their kids, some do not. Some moms do other things like make a great breakfast, write letters to their kids or maybe just thank the Divine that they got their kids out the door with clothes and shoes on. Some moms are also teachers, and I cannot imagine what the first day is like for them. I’m betting that even those moms with the great first day pictures feel inadequate some days because none of us is on point every day. So, today I tip my hat to those who do the first day of school well and offer a virtual hug to those who find themselves feeling inadequate. We’re all in this together and doing our best, whatever our best may be. Wishing you all a happy school year, rest of the year or whatever kind of happy you need. Thanks for being you and have a great day!

Living Differently Revisited

11 Aug

When your memory on Facebook gives you the perspective you need to move on with your day, you share it.  http://wp.me/p27MVl-7U

Routines, Jealousy and Minding My Own Business

4 Aug

full tableMonday brought a return to routine, sort of. Band camp started for my youngest, so we’re going to bed earlier, getting up earlier and things are beginning to fall into place. While I’m not a fan of 12 hour days for band camp, I am a fan of the good things that are happening in my home. The house looks better than it has in weeks. My weight seems to be heading in the right direction again, for the most part, and the heart of my home is getting clearer and clearer. If you have been reading my blog for very long, you know that the heart of my home is my kitchen table. It is covered with stuff. Some of it is easy to address and some will take more time. There are forms to fill out for school, which I’m finding are causing me more aggravation than I would like to admit. Maybe it’s justified. Maybe I’m a weirdo. Maybe there are people who actually enjoy this activity, but not me. I only have to do this two more times and I will be celebrating when I am finished for life next year.

That is one of the things that I feel like makes me a weirdo. I tend to celebrate endings like this. I know people who cry when their youngest goes to school for the first time. The first time I took my youngest to preschool, they literally had to peel him away from me, and I walked away without a tear. I love that kid more than I can express, but that morning, I was ready to walk away from nine years with a full time child for two and a half hours alone and kid free. I felt the same way when my youngest went to kindergarten but cried when I dropped my oldest off at college. That oldest son will graduate in December, and I have no idea how I will react. I am proud of how hard he has worked in school to get good grades and in jobs, co-ops and internships to help pay his expenses. I know this young man will do well in life, but the fact that he is getting married next year could complicate that emotionally. Life will change for him, for me and for our entire family. I remember this time of life when the world is full of possibilities, and you feel like your time is unlimited. I still believe the world is full of possibilities, but I am much more aware that my time on this earth will have an end, and it changes how I live.

Last month sucked. My youngest had surgery. I put on five pounds, and our dog passed. In the grand scheme of life, these are not huge things. My son’s surgery went fine. I know what to do to reverse the weight gain. Our dog passed peacefully, and it was her time to go, but I let those things throw me off a bit. I seem to have that problem every July, and I finally figured out why. I’ve been too long without routines. Understand, I have a love-hate relationship with routines. If I feel like they are controlling and keep me from living my best life, it will be a struggle. If I feel they are life enhancing, I’ve learned to embrace them. It took me years to come to peace with my routines, but once I did, life got better. When I learned how to infuse some fun into them, the progress got even better still. It’s not just the routines, though. The bigger part of the success is because of minding my own business. Isn’t it interesting how that phrase has developed such a negative tone? Telling someone to mind their own business is nearly akin to telling them to go to hell. Ironically, it’s precisely when we stop minding our own business that we often end up in a hell of our own making.

This week I read a post on social media that made me very jealous. This person was about to accomplish something I desperately want to accomplish. To protect their privacy, I won’t even reveal what the accomplishment was, but let’s just say it brought out the green eyed monster in me. Understand that I didn’t want to take away their accomplishment, I just wanted to have it too, but I’ve made different choices in my life which has led me in a different direction, at least temporarily. Fortunately for me, someone also posted a video by Chelsea Handler about jealousy this week, and it was beautiful. Chelsea isn’t known for her sage eloquence. She is known for her quick and sometimes cutting wit, but this video was fantastic in a different way. She tells a story about another female comedian getting something she wanted and how she felt jealous. She called her sister and confessed her jealousy, and rather than condemning her, Chelsea’s sister said that her jealousy was understandable. She also said, however, that acting upon that jealousy would be wrong, and that, to me, is the power of the video. We all have negative feelings. We get angry and jealous and offended. Unfortunately, we have become a society that thinks when we feel these feelings, it’s ok to lash out at who we think caused them rather than ask why we feel that way in the first place.

Everyone has a go to negative emotion. Some people get sad, which can lead to depression. Some people get angry, which can lead to aggression. Some people get jealous, which can lead to retaliation. Some people get offended, which can lead to isolation. We all do it. Confession? My go to negative emotion is anger. When I’m out of balance, I am quick to anger. My fuse has gotten longer as I’ve gotten older because perspective is a beautiful thing, but it still happens. What my family has come to learn is that my anger is usually short lived. I forgive when someone has made me angry, and I apologize for things I say that might be hurtful. I’ve also worked on not saying things that hurt others. I still do it on occasion, now without intention, but I do what I can to make amends. I’m far from perfect, but we all need things to keep us growing, right? If you have the chance, please take a moment to google Chelsea Handler and jealousy. I hope it helps you as much as it did me.

So, now that I expressed my jealousy, and I did, to my husband, poor man, I am ready to mind my own business again. I spent hours going through and following through on paperwork yesterday, and I made progress. Today I will again spend hours doing the same. I don’t know if I’ll finish today or not, and from the picture, I’m sure some of you wonder what the heck is taking me so long, but it is. Instead of moving the piles, I’m addressing them, and as I do, I feel better and better. I feel like I’m in control of my home again, and I feel like I can move forward with more ease. I begin to see my blessings as I pay bills, make donations and finish the school forms ahead of schedule. I can concentrate on my creative endeavors and let go of the guilt that the piles have caused. I can let go of the jealousy of someone else’s success because I am focused on my own, and I feel freer and am having more fun than I have in a long time, just because I’ve returned to routines. For a girl who used to hate routines, I find great humor in that, but I am also incredibly grateful because I can pay it forward and share it with you. As always, thanks for being you and have a great day.

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