Family, Marriage, Work

spring cleaning through the years

I want someone to tell me how to get through the bad days.

  • When the hubs arrived at work he found our motorized gate broken.  Again.  Hours are spent dismantling the motor and eventually removing it.
  • When I drive into our parking lot I watch a woman dump clothes on our public easement.  I yell to her to pick-up her used clothes and she walks away.  I am left to put them in our trash bin.
  • The J-bolts from the platers are mottled and rejected.  It is when we question the quality that we discover they’ve also increased their price with new ownership.

It’s days like this when we feel the burden of small business.

Hours in labor spent maintaining our building and equipment.  Picking up other people’s messes.  Whether it’s used clothes, low quality plating or just unprofessional practices we are left to our own devices.  Most times we eat the cost.

  • At home I stare at the washing machine wondering why it won’t spin.  Again, the hubs spends time dismantling.
  • I walk into bedrooms with overfilled hampers because sons don’t understand to lift the lid to place the dirty clothes, inside the receptacle.  I yell to my sons to pick-up their clothes and they walk away.  “Okay, Mom,” is all I get and so I leave the mess.
  • I look at progress reports with grades that I cannot accept.  I question the quality of time my boys put into their studies since their primary responsibility is to do well in school.

I feel the burden of parenting tweens and teens.

After work I spend time maintaining our house and appliances.  I am cleaning up my family’s messes in the place that is supposed to be my sanctuary.  Whether it’s dirty laundry, dishes or irresponsible sons who make poor choices and don’t have their priorities straight, I feel the mental and emotional cost.

I am spent.  Financially.  Physically.  Mentally.  I tell my husband, I am done as we dejectedly sit across the desk at work.  He is too.

 

This past weekend, my father in-law (FIL)  requested the help of our eldest son with the upkeep of a car.  Eight hours were spent doing various things as the grandfather passed his car knowledge to his grandson. First he was under the hood learning about the parts of the motor.   Later I found myself stepping over my husband and son, under the car, as they discussed what to do with the oil pan while my FIL stood nearby supervising and instructing.  Finally, bemused, I pulled up a chair as I listened to the grandfather explaining to the grandson how to detail a car interior.

I found myself detailing my own car’s interior.  It had been untouched for years and as I scrubbed and emptied the Simple Green spray bottle, my seemingly random, disorganized thoughts formed together.

When you don’t do what you love or love what you do, it makes getting up in the morning that much harder.   It’s not realistic, sometimes, to love life.

There are days when I don’t even like the ones I’m supposed to love.

I wake up each morning wondering, What am I supposed to do?

I want someone to tell me the answers but really, I need to figure this one out for myself.   If someone else tells me what to do, it’s easy to not accept ownership; to blame others.

I scrubbed years of grease from my car’s upholstery and carpets.  I saw the cracks and tears, the mottled colors.  But my vehicle feels new.

I accept the scars and abuse my interior has endured; remembering how they got there.

…the time my youngest son thought my light gray leather interior was a drawing board and chose to write on our dashboard with Sharpie pen.

…the double phone charger at the bottom of the seat pocket, bought in Arizona outside the Grand Canyon, as the older boys constantly fought for the lone rear battery outlet.

…the indentations from the carseats all of my sons formerly sat in.

…the sticky markings on the car ceiling from the soda that exploded as we rose in altitude during a snowy Memorial day camping trip.

It took several hours to detail the inside of my car.   Normally I take care of the exterior, the big things that people see, and sweep things under the rug to deal with another day.   I have spent the least amount of time maintaining the interior.  Thankfully, my hubs handles most things under the hood which allows my car to run.

When I drive my SUV, on a daily basis, I don’t see the outside.  I live and breathe on the inside.  A lot of my time is spent behind the wheel commuting to work, shuttling kids to/from school.   My most meaningful conversations with my family occur within this car’s interior whether it be on short trips or long ones.

I was mistaken in thinking my house was my sanctuary.  The reality is, my happy place is in my car…windows down, music blaring as yellow lines blur in open spaces.  I love my solo commute to work but I also love people driving in my car with me to infinity, and beyond.

While reading the novel, The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney for our monthly book club, the line resonates.

You can make your surroundings as polished and empty as you like.  But it doesn’t really matter if you’re still messed up inside.  And that’s all anyone’s looking for really, isn’t it?  Someone to take care of the mess inside our heads?

I finally took ownership of it.  All of it.  It is time to repair, clean and maintain my mental interior.

In dealing with a sticky situation, in one of the organizations which I serve, I found myself seeking answers once again.  My goal is always transparency but the time has come for me to stand my ground, to stop having others tell me what to do based on past history.  To filter and sort my words.

I know what I need to do.  I trust my gut.  And so my boundaries are becoming defined as I mentally prepare for uncomfortable and awkward moments to do the right thing.  To handle the messy details.  To not sweep things under the rug to help someone save face for appearances’ sake.

I must deal with my mental interior and sift through the clutter and detritus.  To make things simple and wipe away at the years of neglect, accumulated gripes and pent-up frustrations.

I will let go of the idea that I must love what I do and shoulder the things life brings my way; to carry my own weight.

The reality of life is that there are many things we do not like to do, that must be done.  To consistently wake up each and every day with the goal of trying to be the best person that I can be.  And not just for me.

I strive to stop worrying about appearances and embrace the people whose relationships keep my cup full.  The ones who make me get out of bed every morning who need me; and I, them.  There will soon be a day where there will be no mess to pick up after (okay, maybe the hubs but someday, not even him).  There are days when nothing needs to be repaired and all things are pristine.

I gaze over to my grease covered hubs as he labors beneath the machine with our employee.  I don’t have to love what I’m doing every single minute of the day.  I can do without the tenant drama behind our building, the broken gates, the shoddy workmanship from vendors, the not-so-reliable appliances at home and my broken kitchen tile.

The accumulated daily grime, through the years, builds and it’s time to spring clean and make it like new.  Scars, flaws, head clutter and all.

Most days I don’t love what I do.  But I work alongside the hubs, the one I love.

It’s never really been about the money, the candy and roses.  It’s about going through the monotonous daily grind, through the years, with someone who loves me unconditionally and helps me take care of the mess inside my head.

I trust my heart.  I own this.

 

 

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friendships, School, Work

take two, or five

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I hung up the phone with my son after he refused to attend any of his scheduled activities last evening.

He was to be in three places at the same time.  I’ve come to realize that when this son is stressed, he becomes adversarial and shuts down in all things.  There would be no reasoning with this teen as he continued his diatribe on the phone as to why he couldn’t attend any of his events.  He had already been excused from attending a jazz pep band at the high school basketball game due to a conflict with his Confirmation class.  But the high school course information night was sandwiched between these two commitments and he stated he was not required to be there.

It was easy to disconnect the line.  It’s hard to have honest conversations; to not seem disingenuous.

  • After a long day at work I want to ignore the fact that my sons are (on social media/playing video games/general procrastination) not doing what they’re supposed to; namely homework.
  • To tell the employee off when he feels “sick” while doing a task he doesn’t want to do.
  • When your friend/spouse sounds like a broken record; repeating the same issues over and over and not wanting to find resolutions.

Being an effective communicator takes a lot of tact, patience, empathy and practice.  I struggle with all of these things within my own circle of family and friends.    I overthink my words and in doing so; choose to be silent.  To mull them over and over, just so, until the perfect lines emerge.  Since this hardly ever happens, I swallow them and work through my issues on my own.

I am one that can sit silently.  To observe quietly.  To serve humbly.  I do not need a lot of words; a mere tap on the shoulder, a simple smile or hug can relay encouragement or acknowledgement.   I find that when people use too many words; are too effusive with their thank yous or compliments; that they are not sincere.  I know, I’ve caught myself doing this same thing.

With our current political climate dividing our nation I listen and observe as those around me weigh in.  But recently, the hubs called me out.  In choosing to remain passive and quiet, I am choosing not to participate and allowing events to happen so that I do not take ownership of the outcomes.  His words were not just meant for politics; but in all things regarding our home and business.

Ouch.  To this I must plead guilty.

I got quiet when the hubs chastised our sons that things cost money.  February, traditionally, is our slowest month at work.  Anticipating our upcoming property tax bills and income tax filings, the hubs’ worries pervaded our dinner.   Later, the youngest asked about our financials and I found myself explaining economics.  On my high school transcript, my one B was in this course.

How transparent should I be with my boys?  With people?

From work I headed to the high school to glean information.  Ironically, I thought about this while sitting in an economics class as the teacher presented the course to would-be senior students.   As a parent I appreciate the efforts the school administration and staff offer to include parents in our students’ education.  The texts, that very morning, from my girlfriend regarding the confirmation of the new secretary of the Department of Education were etched in my mind.

Education is important and I do not want to sit passively.  I want to be informed.

As I had exited the general meeting, deciphering the location of the sessions my son may decide to take, a figure appeared from the shadows and grabbed my arm.  Shocked, I blindly followed my son through four sessions before he walked to his Confirmation class at our church; which is adjacent to his high school.  He had asked his father to drop him off.  We went to none of the courses I thought he’d be taking.  I’m glad he decided to show up; to take ownership of his education.

It was in the economics class that I could process my thoughts.

I spoke with my sons after remaining quiet for a few weeks about the virtue of honesty.  They have felt my bitter disappointment.

  • I am not fooled by screen savers masking online chats, inappropriate content or video gaming.  Do not deceive.
  • I do not want the carpool mom to sit in a high school parking lot waiting for forty-five minutes for a son who claimed he was “studying” and was walking at the outdoor mall with his “friend.”  Do not be disrespectful.
  • I will not be fooled again when the attendance office tells me a son has unexcused absences in a period to visit, said “friend” in her classroom.  Do not lie.

I recount the details of those who have deceived me in the not-so-recent past.  Of the grade level teachers who said one thing and turned around and did something else.  Of the friend(s), whom I asked a question confidentially, who shared my probing with others.

I realized who were true, who wanted to discuss things with me to work things through and those who never would.  The parachutes that held me down have been cut loose and it has taken me time to forgive; but not necessarily forget.

I cannot be fake; nor disingenuous.  In dealing with disappointments I discovered what was important.  Trust and truth trump all things.  The words I need to speak finally do come.  And it always takes two.

I will speak up.  I do not have control over how my words are received.  I must accept this and remain true to who I am.

The two boys sitting in front of me, in an economics presentation, reminded me of what friendships are.  These high school teens have not mastered the art of deception.  When their fellow friend went through a difficult time with a cry for attention; these boys rallied.  They listened.  They didn’t completely understand.  They didn’t lie, gossip or tell their friend that everything was okay.  They continued on their quests to work things through and trusted that their conversations were confidential.  They are loyal to one another.

I hope that life’s distractions don’t ruin what these boys have, right now.  It may not last.  But each of these guys are accepted for whom they are; not by an outside measure of success like high grades, cool gadgets/ cars or by whom they know.  They don’t need to be popular.  They just need to be their transparent selves.

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Recently in the midst of a boisterous book club group, someone heard the distinctive ring of my cell phone; Dave Brubeck’s tune, “Take Five.”  Our shaken friend had just been involved in an accident, while driving to us, and was alone with police and paramedics with very low cell battery.

My hubs, still at work, was not nearby and so I interrupted the group discussion to inquire if any of their male counterparts were available to go to our friend; to provide support and inspect the vehicle.  Immediately four girls called and texted their spouses.

I had just settled in; a glass of something yummy in-hand.  I knew I would not be of much help but felt the plea of this dear friend; who didn’t need anything additional on her full plate.  As her minivan got towed away, the officer urged her to let it go, to have a good time at book club.

When she walked through the door, the hugs engulfed her, the tequila relaxed her and she was embraced by the room of women discussing a book about hormones.  It was later that I discovered our hostess loaned their extra vehicle so she wouldn’t have to be without a car.  And the other friend, who has always opened her home and heart to this family who has undergone too many hurts and disappointments, deployed her husband to her aid.

I have been empowered by these friendships.  For the moms who look out for my sons; as if they were their own.  For the girlfriends who hear me on repeat and listen; gently redirecting me to other solutions to my issues.  To those who are transparent; even when we do not agree on parenting, religion, politics and everything in-between.  I hope to be able to reciprocate; even when it is not convenient.  Even when I can’t afford it.  Even when time doesn’t allow.

It is in honest, genuine interactions with others that matter.  I can’t let life passively go by.  Silence is lonely, solo and a cop-out.  It takes two (or in my family’s case, five).  Engage.

Family, friendships, Marriage, Work

Note to self…go for broke

2005

Our bookclub recently read the book, What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty.  It is about a thirty-nine year old woman who suffers memory loss, after a fall, and has forgotten the last decade of her life.  During our discussion, amongst the ten of us, we pondered how our lives were ten years ago and how we’ve changed to whom we are now.  Have we changed for better or for worse?  What will we be like ten years into the future and what would you write to your future self?

2006

Ten years ago I’d hear this phrase repeated often.  Enjoy it now because it goes by in a blink.  At the time I lacked sleep and chased three sons under the age of five.  But you know what?   It is so true.  Time is flying.

2007

As  I had looked around the circle, at bookclub,  I realized that I had known this month’s host for over ten years.  Our eldest children were in kindergarten and I had a three month old son (hers was still in utero) when we met in September 2005.  From 2004-2007 the hubs had lived on an aircraft carrier and so our three sons and I lived one hundred miles away where both sides of our family lived.

2008

When his three year sea duty ended and he transferred to shore duty; our young family relocated from our “forever home” to live together for the next three years.  This girlfriend and her family came to visit us when we moved away and three years later, in 2009, we returned.  Soon after she and I formed our current bookclub, which officially began in January 2010.   We’ve both gone through many transitions in these ten years and I found my eyes refocusing on her, to arrive back into the present.

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We should do it.  Write letters to ourselves ten years from now.  We had all looked at one another expectantly.  One of the girls had written letters to her daughters when she had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer and revised it, recently, when undergoing another health scare.  But what would you write to your future self?  It was an intriguing thought.

2010

Throughout the nine hours it took to obliterate Christmas from our household, I contemplated this.  I wrapped my photo ornaments with care, my prized possessions.  Each year I buy three of them; placing each of my sons’ current school portraits until each one graduates from high school.  I told the hubs that one day I would give each of our sons their ornaments (from birth to age 17) for their own Christmas trees.  He had scoffed.  Who was I kidding?  I probably will keep them for myself.   I found the Christmas card photos from the past ten years.  I remember each and every photo as if it was taken yesterday.

2011

Here it goes, my note to self.

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Dear Ten Years Older Self,

I’d like to imagine that you’ve become wiser, aged gracefully and currently live an active and fulfilling life.

I pray that you are still happily married to the man you met, at age eighteen, in calculus lab and have weathered through any “itches” and mid-life crises “storms” successfully.  My hope is that the hubs and I better communicate our needs with each other; that we’ve mastered the art of compromise.  My ego has, hopefully, lessened with the desire to always be right and I’ve learned grace and forgiveness. Time is the greatest equalizer and after almost thirty years of marriage I trust that we’d have figured all of that out.   The date nights without kids, over the last ten years, were supposed to prepare us for when we became empty-nesters.  Did they work?  If they did, then we have other things to share instead of always talking about work or the kids.

I hope that we’ve grown the business where we’re financially secure, that our home is almost paid off and upgraded with our wish list we had ten years ago.    I expect that we have hobbies and travel with our newfound freedom.  That we’ve  dropped any excess weight from our fourth decade, and continue to aspire for better health and fitness goals.  We are supposed to hike the great outdoors and continue on our quest to hit as many National Parks and “ancient world wonders” as we possibly can.  The hubs better still be alive to do all these things with me!  I dream of growing old together in matching rocking chairs; the hubs with the DVR remote; myself with a book and blanket rocking alongside.

Please tell me that you enjoyed the time with the boys while they still lived under the same roof!  That you stopped and made time to hear them and found your balance, instead of busily doing acts of service for others.  Did they become what you imagined them to be?  Now the boys are in their twenties and, hopefully, the youngest is almost out of college.   I’m optimistic that the older boys have found careers where they do what they love and love what they do.   My wish is that they’ve met true friends, maybe found true love.  I’m not sure if I’d want the boys to have kids just yet; they have their whole lives ahead of them. 

I also hope they’ve made healthy choices and continued in their faith journey.  I desire a strong, close relationship with each of our boys and if, upon reading this, I do not; then it is time to make things right.  Unlike my mother, I won’t require my sons to come at my beck and call.  I want them to explore new opportunities, travel and discover who they are.  I want them to visit or talk to me, not because they have to but because they want to.

I’m hoping the bookclub girls are still reading alongside and that at this point in our lives; we’re attending one another’s children’s weddings and, quite possibly, becoming grandparents. Maybe we now have found the time to take our “field trips” to various places we kept talking about visiting and are doing our own version of the book, Annie’s Freeman’s Fabulous Traveling Funeral by Kris Radish.  I hope that we navigated through life’s milestones, the good, the bad and the ugly, together and built each other up versus tore one another down.

Am I still volunteering time to the organizations that have impacted my life and family?  The Alzheimer’s Association?  The music programs my kids were involved with?  I’ve been blessed to have worked with phenomenal individuals and expect to continue to advocate for these programs so that others may have this same experience.  If I’ve given this up, then now is the time to start; to pay it forward. 

I know that the friends who’ve remained with me, this long, are keepers; our relationships deepening and aging like a fine wine with an aromatic bouquet.  We have so many memories together and I hope for many more to come. But I will always leave room to meet new people and to continue to diversify.  May I have remained open-minded and hospitable.

I’m realizing my letter to myself is getting a bit long; that I have many expectations of what I want to have accomplished.  So ten years from now I wish to have the love and friendship of those who can grow with me and accept the changes and transitions that life is always going to bring.

Love from your former self

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2012

Surprisingly, it took me over two days to actually type the above letter.  The hubs and I walked down grocery aisles as I asked him what he wanted for us in ten years’ time.  We began to think back over the last ten years.  Was it what we had expected? 

2013

For the hubs, he has reaped the rewards of being home with his family.  When he exited the military he had already spent nine years away from our eldest, seven from the middle and three years from our youngest.  He had been gone more than he had been home.  It has been a privilege to see our progeny grow into the men they will become and the financial hit we took was worth the opportunity.  But he had not expected the finances to be so lean, for the recession in the economy to impact the small family business that has existed in his family for over twenty five years.

2014

Life is always give and take.   Already in this new year the tidings have not been good.  The girlfriend who had returned home from the hospital is, once again, back in it.  The dear family friend, whom we just visited over the holidays and diagnosed with lupus, is now on a kidney transplant list.  And the news arrived that the great grandfather to our sons passed away yesterday and, though it was expected, still brings sadness to our entire family.  Life is so precarious and we never know where it will take us.  As we walked to our car, discussing these things, we decided that this is the year we will go for broke.

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We must always give our best in everything because why live life if we don’t? 

What we give to our life is what our life gives us in return.  Go for broke.

Family, joys of jazz, Marriage, Work

the big and little things

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This holiday season took me by surprise.  For some reason I was stuck in the month of October and ignored the Christmas displays in supermarkets.  In fact, I did not frequent brick and mortar establishments unless I absolutely had to.   It was only when I received notice that property taxes were due on December 10th, for both our home and business, that reality set in.

I wept when the checks came in the mail; grateful that one of our biggest business customers actually paid on time.  I don’t need an economics degree to see that we are not out-of-the-woods from a recession in a pre-election year; our vendors taking longer than the thirty days to pay.  Manufacturing is at the bottom of the totem pole to receive payment.   The months of  November and December are always our slowest and the mass marketing frenzy that marks the season was a reminder of how little our bank accounts had.

I lived day-by-day.  When people asked if I was ready for (any date in the future) my answer remained the same.  I was trying to get through today.  There were due dates, scheduled events and the ever present Christmas looming.  I had no gifts for my family and it is our turn to host Christmas eve.  The tree was not up.  Black Friday and Cyber Monday came and went and I crossed off one day of the calendar at a time.   Begrudgingly I asked the hubs to get down our Christmas decor after our kids continued to ask where they were.

Where is our tree? What about the gingerbread house?  Why aren’t you playing ‘White Christmas’ on the piano?  And when are you going to bake, Mom?  

Today I, unexpectedly, found myself in front of thirty plus teenage girls.  I am the person that handles student finances in the large booster organization I serve.  Inspired by one of the songs that define me, Sing Your Life by Morrissey, I had been dressed in jeggings and my Doc Marten boots thinking I would not cross paths with many people as I ran last minute errands.  I had only come to receive checks from a fellow parent and found myself standing before these teens listening to an instructor sharing his story.  He had lived in a garage and poverty and shared how he couldn’t afford to participate in a high school trip to Hawaii.  And so he got smart and saved for twelve months to make things different the following year; to follow his passion to perform.  The girls only saw his high-end import car parked at the curb, not the kid who struggled.   He and I stood before these girls to ask for funds to allow them to travel to an out-of-state national competition.

I remembered being on the other side.   My mother was prideful and would remind me to not mention that my father’s medical bills usurped all of our funds; that we relied on Medicaid.  I was eligible for free school lunches but she pinched pennies to hand me a weekly allowance of twenty dollars for gas and lunch.  I was sixteen, having obtained my license on my actual birthday, since my father, diagnosed with colon cancer, no longer could drive.    My high school was fifteen miles away; the closest “city” nine.  I drove my parents for doctors’ appointments and myself to school and extra-curriculars.   My parents never were in the stands during games or performances.  My father was dying and my mother remained in our home to care for him.  Music had been my salve.  In high school I had always longed for the Dr. Martens boots I currently wore.  The irony of my situation struck me; empathizing with these girls.

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As small business owners we realize the foundation can be pulled out from under us at any moment.  Many of our former customers have chosen to go overseas, to buy bulk for cheap.  Small businesses lose to cheap, subsidized imported goods.   But our selling point is always in our relationships with our customers.  We follow-through and deliver.  We provide quality and if there is a problem, we readily fix it.  We are custom all the way and the feedback we receive is that our vendors trust that we will do things right.  I will never have large bank accounts.   Every dime we earn is solely based on what we put out and it has to be quality every time.

In the past week I realized trust, transparency, follow-through and hospitality are the big things that count.  I don’t care if someone can offer me gifts or favors.  Money and material things mean little.  I want the friends who surround me to be the ones whom I can trust not to break confidences, who will tell me what is on their minds without worrying about offending and who will open their homes and hearts to my quirks and imperfections.  I have to trust that they will follow through and reciprocate.  This is HUGE for me.  People can appear to have it together, to have nice things, titles or look like a million bucks.  But it’s what’s on the inside that truly matters.    I am affirmed by those who are true to who they are.

My sons have surprised me this year.  Most Christmases I am the driving force of all merriment as I command my elves to happily comply with my decorating whims.  This year they were the ones urging me.

If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff. ~ Catherine M. Wallace

Eventually the hubs put up the tree.  Normally he is the bah humbug one in our household; the grinch who steals our Christmas joy.  This year he placed the boxes inside and over the course of the week, strung up garlands and lights with the help of our ever growing sons.  I found myself unwrapping a few ornaments and rearranging them on the tree.  The Advent wreath finally was placed on the coffee table and the poinsettias from the fundraiser arrived and were placed on the piano.  Slowly, but surely, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas.  Tree.  Check.

Three years ago I had decided to never do gingerbread houses again.  Because I had been an only child in a quiet household I wanted to create my own traditions with my three sons for the holidays.  When they were toddlers I began purchasing gingerbread house kits imagining hours of Christmas creativity and cheer.  But I had been too worried about the mess, the arguments over the candies and frosting.  In 2012 the boys fought so ferociously that I put the camera down; feeling like a fraud.  I was attempting to capture a picture moment that was forced.  They didn’t want to build gingerbread houses and I didn’t want a mess.  I vowed I would never do this activity again.

So I was shocked at the boys’ insistence, this year, that I purchase a gingerbread kit.  After a week of constant reminders from my sons, the quote above came to mind.  I found myself purchasing a gingerbread village so each one could build their own house without argument.   Three years ago it had been the eldest who ruined our experience.  This year he was the one who kept championing it.  Gingerbread house.  Check.

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I had no words to type, no images to share.  I observed people saying one thing and doing the other.  Longtime friends parting with irreconcilable differences.  People who lacked transparency, broke confidences and lacked hospitality.  The thoughts were stuck circling in my mind and I struggled to find peace with all of it.  I heard my middle son struggle with a jazz riff of ‘Here Comes Santa Claus’ and it was only when he placed the saxophone in my hand, with my mouthpiece, that I realized the unifying theme of 2015.

Music breaks through all economic, social and cultural barriers.

He asked me to help him, to play alongside.  We sat together at the piano bench with our saxes; my chops sore.  Soon my fingers were running over the ivories and the bars of ‘White Christmas’ echoed in fits and starts within the walls of our home.  It took a few more practice runs for my hands to remember the keys from memory.  I am always amazed that I don’t need the sheet music, even after all of these years.  Eventually the songs of the season reached me; bringing me out of my reverie.  White Christmas.  Check.

The hubs and sons grabbed the baking items needed for their favorite cookies: snickerdoodles, peanut butter blossoms and chocolate chip.  Time was starting to get away from me with all of the preparations needed to be done before the 24th.  I laced up my sneakers and forced myself outdoors in the drizzly morning; knowing that my intake of calories would exceed what I would expend.  There was nothing on my schedule and I had everything I needed.  No more procrastination, baking day had arrived.  As the whir of the mixer and smells from the oven filled our home, the younger sons emerged from the den to assist with  unwrapping Hersheys’ kisses.  Some were for cookies, others for their own consumption.

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It was then that I remembered my song and I quickly found it on YouTube as I waited for the timer to chime for my next batch of chocolate chip cookies.

Others sang your life
but now is your chance to shine
and have the pleasure of
saying what you mean
have the pleasure of
meaning what you sing
oh, make no mistake, my friend
all of this will end
so sing it now
all the things you love
all the things you loathe
oh sing your life ~ Morrissey.

I cranked up the volume on my eldest son’s laptop.   He emerged from the den with his portable speaker for better sound quality.  The middle son listened as I sang the words loud and clear.  I began to type furiously on the laptop, the thoughts from the last few weeks finally being able to be put into words.  The youngest grabbed milk from the fridge to happily eat the cookies straight from the oven as I tapped my booted foot to the beat.  Cookie baking.  Check.

Don’t leave it all unsaid
somewhere in the wasteland of your head
and make no mistake, my friend
your pointless life will end
but before you go
can you look at the truth?
You have a lovely singing voice
a lovely singing voice
and all of those
who sing on key
they stole the notion
from you and me so sing your life ~ Morrissey
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The hubs had been frantically cleaning our pool after we received the text from my side of the family that they were joining us for Christmas eve.  Traditionally my hubs’ family celebrates on the 24th; the location alternating between his sister and our home.  Then the phone call came from the estranged niece and after communicating our desire to have her join us; the guest count increased by ten.   The hubs worried we wouldn’t have enough food until he looked at our very full refrigerator.
My home is currently in a state of disaster after two days of consecutive gingerbread making and cookie baking. I don’t require gifts, the picture perfect house and the fancy Food Network worthy recipes to ooh and awe.  All that I long for, this Christmas, is for all of my family to unite under the roof of my loud and messy home.  This may be the last Christmas with a grandfather diagnosed with terminal cancer.  There are other days to carry on family feuds.  I tell the niece that Christmas is about the kids, the babies; and this year three will be in our home under 18 months old.
It’s because of a baby that we celebrate this season in the first place.
Like the stable that birthed the newborn that is the reason for this season, my light will be on and my doors always open.  I merrily sing the words to my song, loud and clear, about all the things I loathe and love.   I needed the push from my sons and hubs, their words heard.  I had to follow-through with these little requests and things that add up to something bigger.  I want them to share the big stuff when they are big.  To remember what’s important.
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Have a musically merry Christmas and a rockin’ New Year.  Sing the big and little things of your life.
School, Work

pay it forward by the numbers

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The Jason Derulo song, “Want to Want Me” played on my car stereo and I cranked up the volume; on my commute in to work.

When the truck slowed our traffic lane I wasn’t complaining.  I hit the repeat button on this track and eased off the gas.  Usually I am impatient on my drive in to work, to start my day, but the beat of this song got me pumped.   I didn’t mind the extra time today.

When the older gentleman took his time across the crosswalk, as I waited to make my right turn, I sat watching the cars behind me and moved to the beat.  As he stepped onto the curve he waved in gratitude; smiling as he watched my singing antics in the confines of my car.  I had to smile and wave back.

I’m paying it forward; no pun intended.

These past weeks I have been lost in the quagmire of financial paperwork.   The EDD spokesperson curtly barked instructions and I finally laughed and admitted I had NO IDEA what she was saying.  And with that her voice immediately changed.  The joy of transparency is that people can take me at face value and I called her out; reading the confusing paperwork word-for-word.  No longer do I need to put on airs pretending I know everything about anything.  At the end of the call she thanked me for making her day.

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My sons know to not bother me with their math homework questions; leaving that to my numbers-oriented and logical-minded hubs.   When a booster parent asked me to calculate the percentage to add to her donation amount for PayPal I sat for twenty minutes with an algebraic equation on my desk.  I was off by two cents.  I can do the number crunching if I absolutely have to; it was required for my coursework in high school and college with the science track I had chosen.  It is in calculus that I met my hubs.  I attended every single 8 AM lecture in that course to earn my grade and sat in the very front row.  He attended the lecture three times; for the first day, the midterm and the final, and ended with the same exact grade.    He arrived late and would sit in the back.

The numbers keep landing in my lap and the paperwork that accompanies them.  I handle the finances/payroll for work, I “volunteered” to help at the elementary school as a treasurer and currently, as auditor.  And at the end of last year I stepped in, at the very last minute, to assist my son’s high school organization after no other parent chose to step up.    QuickBooks is my very best friend; my mood dour as I run reports and stats for work and the organizations in which I serve.  Bill collection is the very least of my favorite things.

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When people meet me they are surprised that I am shy.  My preferred environment is a quiet corner in a large library; to sit and read and people-watch.  But over the years I have been forced to deal with my aversion to speaking my words, and to speak them loud and clear.  My parents enrolled me in piano lessons; hoping that would bring me out of my shell.  During recitals I would always have to repeat the first few measures of my piece; the public attention causing me to freeze.   When I enrolled in band, at age nine, I enjoyed being lost in the group of students; the music surrounding me created by those alongside.  In high school I was forced to yell and cheer; upon trying out with my girlfriend to keep her company.  The intention had never been to actually make the songleading squad; relieved to be joining the band on the field during football half-time shows.

In college I worked for the very busy financial aid office at the private institution I attended.  Irate parents would call; demanding answers to all things financial aid and I would timidly search for someone to assist me.  The powerful head of this department finally found me one day and I sat quietly; awaiting her words to fire me and let me go.  The words from her lips had surprised me.   I hadn’t known it was rare for college work-study students to work in this department with the confidential paperwork at my fingertips.  I had been chosen to work in this office based on something I had written in my college essay.  When applying to colleges I had been forced to fill out the financial aid paperwork alone; seeking help from my high school counselor.  It was my job to pay it forward to the frantic parents calling our office; to let them know the student’s point of view and to advocate for their son or daughter to handle this paperwork themselves.  If I could do it; their kids could too.

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Since that very first job her words have followed me when doing the things I least like to do; making the phone calls for bill collection or delivering bad news.  After that first job I worked in the staffing office of a large private hospital.  My job was to fill the staffing slots on the nursing floors and to beg and plead with nurses to come in to work on their days off.  It was in this job that I finally learned how to read people; my mentor who continues to work at this same hospital and is beloved by all; doctors, administrators and staff.   Through the years I have always been placed in positions of dealing with unpleasant conversations about complaints and abuses, death and dying, trusts and bill collection.  I remind myself of this fact as I call another vendor to follow-up on payment status.  And I stare at the list of names I need to call for the booster organization which I serve.  I wish it would just go away.  But life doesn’t work that way.

In hopes that people will pay their financial obligations, I also need to pay forward the lessons I have learned from my boss in financial aid and my dear friend in the staffing office.  Jason Derulo plays on repeat on my work computer.  Time to get to work; the numbers await.

Happy Fall.

friendships, School, Work

lines in the sand

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I have returned to the question that blew up in my face at this time last year; the reasons why I serve.  The past twelve months have given me the opportunity to ponder this and really assess what is important.   I stared at my boys, upon my childhood beach, and found myself sifting the grains of sand through my fingers.  My mother-in-law had been on my mind and her favorite daytime soap opera’s song entered my head,  “Like sands through the hourglass, so are the Days of Our Lives.”   I chuckled out loud and drew a line in the sand.

I have finally defined my boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not.  They are not according to what others expect or want to hear.  In stepping away from busy-work I mentally sifted through the layers that have defined me.  Some were superficial; others buried deep down amidst responsibilities.  I re-organized and shifted my purpose; opened closet doors with skeletons and put them to rest.   My lines are no longer blurry.  Then the tide came and partially washed away my line.

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I’ve talked of staying within the four lines that create my safety box; my comfort zone.  I’ve always assumed my life would be on the straight and narrow; that I would reach my destination in the most efficient way possible.  But those lines are never straight; they go widely off-course, and in the days of my life most times they are wavy and off-center.  But I must always have a baseline; the foundation that I must find my way to return to.  I seek to find my center; the core of my beliefs.  The world pulls me in opposite directions, like magnets, and I must always realign my thoughts and actions to what I find acceptable.  

I say what I mean and mean what I say.

That used to not be true in recent times.  I filtered my words to keep the peace.  But when I am not at peace within; why would I try to pretend to make things right for anyone else?  At the end of the days of my life, at the pearly gates, I am accountable for myself, “…to make straight the path to the Lord.” John 1:23.  I cannot lead by example if I cannot stand for what I believe in.

A good leader is not defined by strengths; but in intimately knowing weaknesses.

I sit in the cold conference room finally saying the words I’ve needed to say.  I no longer serve a certain population because I have lost respect for the leaders who represent it.  The ones who say what they want and do not follow through.  The ones who smile to your face and turn their back behind closed doors.  Whether it is the workplace, a civil/volunteer organization or a social group I’ve realized the reasons why I serve aren’t solely for the mission statement.

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In recent weeks it has dawned clear how I operate and why.  It matters; the people I serve with and serve for.  The leader who is fair and balanced; not showing favoritism.  The people who are giving and hospitable; without conditions.  The workers who do what needs to be done, without excess fanfare or introduction.   Just as with our  business, our customers choose to stay with us because they have a relationship with us.  Most companies’ goals are to produce quality products and customer service.  But when the problems arise, and they always do, our company works with our vendors to make things right.   Those who speak their mind, sometimes loudly, but speak their truth still garner my respect.  I am a person that will own up to my mistakes.  Those who smile and create drama and never seek resolution do not deserve respect.  The ones who think they are doing you a favor by keeping quiet to keep the peace and pretend nothing is wrong.  They are in a class all of their own.

My line is drawn and remains steadfast; one I now choose not to step over, even when blurred.

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I serve with people and organizations who are fair; who do great things for others because they want to.  It is not for their children or hidden agendas.  They understand my need for transparency and when problems arise, they talk them through.  They stand true to who they are and aim for authenticity; even if we choose not to agree.   Those who stop questioning and just do what needs to be done.   It is what I seek in all my endeavors, both professional and personal.  I am my father’s daughter and it is my strength.  It is the details that are my weaknesses.  My love language is in service.  I am a work in continual process; pushing my line out towards infinity.  Infinitely expanding and growing…

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Work

customer service

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Recently we surveyed our customers and asked why they chose to purchase from us.  Some of them have stayed with our family business for its span of twenty-six years while others have only been with us for over a decade.  Was it cost?  Location?  Product quality?  Customer service?  As a small business our niche is in custom manufacturing; yet we compete with an international economy where cheap mass production prices us out.

The Made in the USA didn’t matter so much.  A few of our customers had left us to overseas competitors but they have since returned.  Our product is able to ship faster, orders can be smaller quantities but most importantly; our fasteners always make the grade.  Our customers get more bang for their buck overseas but receive an inferior product. But the answer that mattered the most, that was worth paying the higher price for, was our customer service.  It is the relationship our customers have with our company that keep them loyal.

We shouldn’t have been surprised, but we were.

It is a familial joke when we consider my mother-in-law’s customer service voice.  We always know when a telemarketer is on her phone or at her door; the flinty hard edge in her tone giving it away.   But these usually are with personal matters and this side is rarely seen at the business she has ran for the past two-and-a-half decades.  Now that she is retired she can use her customer service voice whenever it is warranted.  My father-in-law is known for his no nonsense manner and, at times, the work relationship with his son is reminiscent of an episode of Discovery Channel’s American Chopper.  Sometimes this rubbed customers the wrong way but my father-in-law was good at what he did; his reputation in the business stellar.  He was always true to who he was and never sugarcoated or pulled the wool over any customer’s eyes.

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I listened as my girlfriend recounted the aggressive stance a mutual friend took with a school administrator.  There is a time and a place for belligerent, demanding behavior and the end result would have been the same whether someone was respectful versus rude.  Intimidation makes no friends; only fear and resentment.  As parents we should be partnering with our schools and staff; not pointing fingers or creating division.  Our purpose is one and the same: creating safe environments for our children to grow and learn with respect.  We must model the behavior we expect in return; the lesson I hope my sons will eventually learn.  We, as parents, are their first teachers.  We must embody customer service.

During my years in college I worked in a hospital staffing office to provide nursing for each department’s needs.  I admired the woman who still holds this job, a well-liked Italian who could persuade even the grumpiest of nurses to come in and work on their days off.  She begged and pleaded, shared stories of her three children and listened intently to all the little details others would share. She would take the angry words from disgruntled staff and, though she would bristle at times, never allowed it to show in her voice.  When people were lost she would walk them to their destination; taking time away from her break or work to provide customer service.  When angry families came through it would be she, who would calm them, hugging them as they grieved or vented.  This was not in her job description and I could not perform any of these duties.  It was her years of experience of being around people; that made her who she was.

As I looked over the survey results I began to sharpen my pencil; realizing that all my conversations, emails and communications contribute to our bottom line.  The daily chit-chat can actually sway a sale and, though, I am no saleswoman, I can use my extroverted personality to build relations.  When people call looking for something we cannot produce, I now make it a point to give them alternative solutions and phone numbers to call.  I easily could hang up the phone and say We don’t do that here.  But I then think of my former co-worker as she walked families to ICU or ER.  A little can go a long way.

I am developing this skill of customer service in all areas of my life.  We don’t really think the little things that we do and say in our lives matter.  But in reality, it is these little details that embody who we really are.

I am learning to, once again, trust my intuition and observation skills as I sit amongst a large group of people.  I had lost the ability to “read the room” in my busyness and self-centered life; choosing isolation and the safety of my four walls.  I’ve quickly realized that my growth is dependent on inserting myself with others outside of my comfort zone.  It is easy to isolate and remain safe; harder to stay true and put yourself out there.  I can only be authentic when I stop and consider what I stand for; things like respect, truth, faith, health, family.  Sometimes in life we get busy and forget who we are: mother, daughter, sister, co-worker, friend, wife; that our customer service skills of basic communication are lost. There are a few bridges in my life that I would much rather burn; but I know that I must mend the planks and leave the options open.  You never know where life’s path will take you.

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I, too, remain loyal to those companies and individuals who are transparent in their actions, works and words.  Who stand by what they believe in, produce quality work and are interested in building relations versus tearing them down.  I fasten my attention on this skill of customer service to build quality relationships.   To grow.

Work

springing forward, strategizing and Newton

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Instead of sitting at my work desk I decide to roll my chair outdoors for a change of scenery.  I am looking forward to spring and continue with my mental decluttering.  The guys, in the shop, are moving major pieces of equipment on the tow motor and are doing some spring cleaning of their own.

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I spring forward to embrace change.

It has been comfortable to say I am in transition but it is quite another to actually do something about it. I am strategizing for the future.  Goal #1.  Being consistent.

“Consistent.  adj. : always acting or behaving in the same way  : of the same quality  : continuing to happen or develop in the same way.” Main Def. Merriam Webster Online, Merriam Webster, n.d. Web. 4 Mar. 2015.

Nothing galls me more than people with inconsistent behavior.  One minute they hug you like long lost friends, the next they pass you, unseeing, in the hallway.  Whenever I encountered these people I assessed their body language or made sure to avert my eyes or my path; to avoid the awkward moment of guessing how to deal with them.  They acknowledged you when it was convenient, for them.  The relationship was one-sided where actions were calculated and must be equally returned.  Sometimes, in the giving, the reciprocity was insincere and the joy of giving; just because; was lost.

These thoughts re-surface while reading my business marketing plan.

wpid-img_20150304_135510.jpgAfter several years of “talk” 2015 is finally the year we choose to “walk-the-walk.”  The family business, established with my in-laws’ blood, sweat and tears for twenty-seven years; has officially become ours.  Two years ago they happily handed the keys and we begrudgingly accepted them; inheriting the good and the bad.  It is our goal to streamline the inconsistent things and to not reinvent the wheel.  To formulate a market plan.

And so we assessed our environment.  A recessed economy.  Our personal lives paralleled our business and we had to determine what was important.

We learned the fundamentals of marketing.  The hubs and I, both with majors from the sciences, were good at maintaining status quo but ill-equipped to grow a business.

The loyal customers who have remained with us, the “low hanging fruit” taught us what we were good at and where we were not.  The friends who accepted me for who I am, could answer these same questions; when prompted or asked.

In growth I utilized the market research and conversations; obtaining the quick sale and the affirmation of the ties that bind.    Currently I formulate my plan of action in all things I’m involved in.  To be consistent.

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The aroma of coffee fills the office and I sniff appreciatively.  I am a morning person and the time change to spring forward one hour, this weekend, will be welcome.

I shared my views of strategizing with the group of ten as we considered options for webpages and organizational growth.  It hadn’t occurred to me that I was doing the same thing, simultaneously, with the other aspects of my life.  I do not know any of these people and was caught “off guard” by my spoken words.  I had to acknowledge the white elephant in the room.  Who is going to be accountable for all of these things?   This organization is also transitioning; hoping to progress forward.

Because that’s really the answer I seek for all my musings and questions.  Ultimately, I am accountable for my life and I must accept culpability and responsibility;  the good and the unsavory.  I cannot control other people’s reactions to my own and have learned to let reciprocity go.   I consider Sir Isaac Newton’s three laws of motion; particularly the third law.

1. An object remains at rest or moves at a constant velocity; unless acted upon by an external force.

2. Force = mass X acceleration:  F=ma

3. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

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I am moving in forward motion with external forces accelerating me in the same direction.  I am seeing the master plan, at long last, and strategize towards the actions I will take.  And I am now grateful for the negative actions and forces that brought me to this place of assessment; to push me in the opposite direction.  I purposely stride forward; no longer averting my path, my words, my eyes; to what lies before me.  I strive to be consistent.

Family, Work

the boring every day

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The unspoken word comes up more often than I’d like.  It’s insidiuous.

Boredom.

I feel its presence as I stare at to-do lists written on the squares in my calendar; the box to check, empty.  Close behind comes procrastination as I ponder all of the other things I could or should be doing.  My daydreaming state activates; my eyes glaze over and time passes in a blink.  At the end of the day the guilt sets in; the to-do list undone.  What happened?

What is surprising is that this boredom is resurfacing during the season that keeps me the busiest; the holidays.  In clearing my schedule I am finding myself twiddling my thumbs.  Past distractions included absorption with my PC or phone and the apps that accompany them: Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest.   Orchestrating gatherings and parties; spur-of-the-moment.   Heading projects and committees.  Expanding an idea from the simple original one into something grand; involving a lot of time and effort.  Projects and lists.  Shopping and gifts.

In tamping down on these tendencies and saying the word, “no,” to meaningless dross,  my mind lays idle.  The boredom presents itself because my brain needs to become focused on doing something.  Something of VALUE.

  • Reconciling books, paying bills.  Boring.
  • Cooking dinners, washing clothes, grocery shopping and cleaning house.  Boring.
  • Chauffeuring children here, there and everywhere.  Boring.
  • Attending seminars, meetings or social gatherings.  Boring.
  • Being with my family.  Boring.

All of the above are the ins and outs of daily living.  Real life.  I ponder if I am checking out or depressed.  The twinkling lights usually spur me into an activity frenzy.   When the middle son casually mentioned to the hubs that I seemed disinterested in working with him on his saxophone; the hubs gave me a nudge.  To which my response was.  I’m busy.

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And I was.  Busy doing the things I had to do.  Waking unwilling kids each morning, making school lunches, dropping same unwilling offspring, to schools and practices.  Washing clothes, cleaning bathrooms, cooking dinners.  Running bank errands, typing emails and providing customer service.  I sat in my home as my the other members of my family, headphones plugged into computers; played online.  The hubs sat at the DVR watching recorded episodes of Doctor Who or The Walking Dead.  The Kindle, filled with four books to read on my device, lay open; the words unseen on the paper white page.

I felt like one of those zombies.  The boredom had settled into the recesses of my mind.  It is easy; to be bored.

It is much harder to mentally change my mindset.  To align my focus on what is valuable and to define what valuable means.   I called to the son to practice his saxophone.  Soon the silver Xeno emerged from its case; the eldest sitting alongside.  With the tree lights switched on and two musical pieces simultaneously echoing within the walls of my home I, unwittingly, slid the lid of my piano open to join in the cacophony of noise.

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And became amazed.  Amazed that my fingers could still play the music to “White Christmas,” memorized at age twelve (this middle son’s age).  Soon my mind began to engage and when I got stuck with the musical passage; I dug out the sheet music.   I had to work to be able to replicate the notes upon the staff lines; missing the flats on occasion.  And though my fingers were stiff I willed myself to relax; the finger motor placement memory returning .  It is only once a year that the desire to play this music arises.

The wiring of our brain is such a wonderful, miraculous thing. 

My eyes were unfocused; only glancing at the music as needed.  The memories of Christmases past flooded through me reminding me of my purpose once again.

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The repetitiveness of life has a way of beating us down; obliterating our vision; our mission.    I hadn’t realized I had turned the volume of my car stereo down; my Christmas CD silently repeating in my vehicle.   I had effectively muted my life; silently miming my existence.

I heard the alto sax’s rendition of Sleigh Ride and the trumpet’s harmony in a Christmas medley.  I began to jazz up the White Christmas piece on the piano; syncopating my rhythm as the boys and I took turns.  The youngest joined in; humming along.

I became present once again.

It is eerie how quickly that switch can flip.  I had just been writing about being present in my life as time quickly passes.  I am reminded that I must not let my mind be idle; that life takes effort in all areas.  As a wife.  As a mother.  As a Catholic.  As a member of society.  As a friend.  That I am continually a work in progress and that there are many plateaus.  Complacency is the vice I must continually be watchful for.

Moments do not create themselves.  We must always be present; watchful for their coming.  To recognize their value; their purpose.

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The music has given me a renewed sense of purpose.  I found myself happily shopping.  But this year it is different.  I am not shopping just to buy.  I have a purpose in mind.   When the boys suggested a gift card for the teen boy I chose from our church’s “Angel Tree” I happily complied.  It was satisfying to hand the card over to the parish office; to be donated to a teen similar in age to my sons.  The boys were happy to choose this gift for someone else.  Its monetary worth did not matter.

My boys, who are accustomed to receiving, have not learned to give.  To really give; from their hearts.

There are many people who wish to donate and give time during the holidays.  But what about the every day?  How do you instill this value of giving, just because and to expect nothing in return?  It has been this question that has kept me in the doldrums, this holiday.

16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. ~John 3:16 NIV.

The giving.  In November we gave thanks.  In December we give it away.  Life isn’t about the things we have; it is about what we can offer to others.  Love.  Friendship.  Relationship.

I need to believe that I have something to offer; the thing I have been searching for all this time.  In my twenties and thirties I thought my mission in life was in having things, creating a family, building a home.  I’ve since discovered otherwise.  To expect things in return breeds disappointment.  Burn-out.  You base your worth on things given to you.  External factors should not define who you are; what I am.

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There will always be the hard days where the present moments leave nothing to be desired.  The youngest enjoyed his short-lived time in a wheelchair as he nursed a sprained foot.  The x-rays revealed no hairline fractures or broken bones.   He was adamant that he would push himself from radiology to the cast room.  It was all I could do to not grab the handles and rush to our next destination.

But my schedule cleared.  I had all the time in the world with no excuses.  My older sons were in carpools.  I willed myself to be present in the long and sterile hospital corridor.  The orthopedics department was in a completely different building and finally, this son tired of the novelty of the wheelchair.

When the high school marching season ended I missed the daily busy thrum of the quads; the chromatic peals of the bells.   No longer could their music carry me.   I have to compose my own movements within life’s symphony.  To find inspiration in the every day; boring as they may seem.  I begin to see my mundane days in a different, multi-colored LED Christmas light.

  •  I pay the property taxes, grateful I have a home to pay for.
  • I make nightly dinners, replenish empty refrigerators and empty full trash cans; physical proof that a family of five gathers together and lives here.
  • I drive loops around my community; happy to have places to go and people to see.
  • I mentally push myself out of my comfort zone to explore business learning opportunities.
  • I belong to a family; the only child with deceased parents.  It is my very own.

The words.  They finally come.  My fingers fly, once again, across my keyboard; fighting their way onto the page no longer unwritten.  I can finally recognize them, taste them on my tongue and DO something with them.

I turn the volume up to my favorite Christmas song by Mariah Carey on the car stereo; singing loud and clear.  I’ve found my rhythm once again.

Family, Work

my hat progress

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I had expected to hear the front door slam; waiting for it to reverberate throughout my house this morning.  Instead, it was  a quiet click.  The son ran late, once again, and yelled at everyone and thing in his path; finding fault in all things besides himself.

Progress.

The work computer continues to freeze and I am unable to send PDF attachments.  Another tile broke on my kitchen floor.  Something, which appears like mold, is on my garage door entry wall after being inundated with rain for the past few days.  The dog refused to be found to be put outside.  My mood at 7:39 am was sour, indeed.  The bills are waiting to be paid.   The property taxes deadline for our home and business sit in my inbox looming.    There is always something. 

I feel the bile in my throat rising; the dull ache in my head starting to pound.  I decide I need to breathe.  Deeply.  I reach for my coffee hoping the caffeine will kick in.

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I breathe deeply.  Slowly.  In.  Out.  Inhale.  Exhale.

I am discovering that organizing brings simplicity.  This seems like an oxymoron since a lot of my time is invested in organizing.  Usually I am on the go-go-go, distracted and shopping, buying, orchestrating.  I had not realized that I had declared the month of December as a calendar free zone until today.  My subconscious mind has been influencing me; fighting my natural tendencies.  It is slowly winning.

Progress.

I silently made a promise to myself, this year, to make this December as stress free and simple as possible.  To honor my family; to give them their time due.  In all my hustle and bustle thinking I was doing all of my activities for them; they were the ones who suffered They got the least time with me; with no quality.  Wifemom was busy with her various hats: the work one, the school one, the friend one, the Santa.  The wifemom hat hung in the corner, waiting….

This December my wish is to truly be me.    To be present to love and see.  For holidays to be stress-free.  To be an actively involved member of my own family.  Simplicity.

My December calendar is filled with various school activities, meetings, work projects and deadlines.  But I can now choose what to do with the white spaces; to de-clutter my life and to forfeit things to give me time.    I stare, daily, at my growing sons remembering the thoughts and impressions I had at their ages.  These same values and perceptions reside in me, even now.  For years some of them were lost; forgotten or hidden away to deal with another day.  But it is in these years, that my boys currently reside, where my values were formulated.  It is these years that I weather the storms and winds that blow off my wifemom hat.  I must fight to keep it on.

The vacant spaces on my calendar are moments I am free to be with my family.

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As I mentally work through my issues, organizing is helping me find my way.  The impulsive buyer, within, is becoming thoughtful.  With the 11% plummet in black Friday sales projections it appears many consumers in this country are on my same trajectory.  Business analysts ponder if consumers have less money to spend or are more discerning in where they put it.  Our economy is slow to emerge from the depths of the great recession.  I, too, now watch where my dollars are spent.  I creatively consider ways to show appreciation to vendors and customers without buying meaningless things.

But after wracking my brain, the master-of-the-obvious hubs stated the logical.  Why not just ask them what they like?  This goes against my grain; but since these gifts are to show appreciation I finally did call to ask.  And surprisingly, our customers were forthcoming and grateful for the question.  People do not appreciate receiving junk or things that have no value to them.  The best gift given is with thought and consideration.  Creativity.  Simplicity.

And with renewed purpose I can enjoy my search for things people truly enjoy.  The joy of the season of giving has slowly returned.  To give thanks.  To remember traditions new and old.  To honor my religion.  To remember my family who have come and gone.  To renew my values; passing them along to the next generation.    And most importantly, to expect nothing in return.

At night the hubs quietly sits.  He listens.  Patiently.  I am blessed that my extrovert tendencies are balanced by his introvert ones.  What he cannot help me process ends up typewritten here.   I think I have truly lost my mind.  But in losing it; I’ve gained a new one.  A fresh perspective.

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I am not obligated to host either side of our families for Christmas, nor the eve, this year.  I have moved dates earlier in December or to next year to be able to sit still and gaze at my fully decorated home’s twinkling lights.   The boys have requested a designated day to bake cookies.  Although my mind conjures up excess pounds, I will remind myself of moderation.   I am finally listening to what my family and heart whispers.  See us.  Be with us.  With the coming, this Advent season, my mind can finally settle down as the nights grow long.    It is hard for me to sit still.

I am a work in progress.  I hold the wifemom hat in my hands; anticipation building.   I can simply enjoy the holidays this year.