Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Stress!

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

My life is a little stressful and confusing right now. Everyone’s life is stressful and confusing by the time you hit 45, I think. I have noticed lately that all of my friends, whether happily married or divorced, rich or poor, raising kids or empty nesters, healthy or ill, have stress of some kind going on in their lives, and most of them have multiple problems. Just like me. Just like you, probably.

Recently, when having a complete meltdown because of a setback I wasn’t expecting, a friend told me I should “see my doctor and ask if Zoloft is right for me.” Well, that’s not exactly how she put it, but the idea was that I could handle life better with a “mother’s little helper.” I pointed out that I didn’t like the idea of taking medication and was unwilling to risk the side effects. One must be very cautious before deciding to take medicines that could cause more harm than good. This is serious stuff.

AM I OLD???? Was that the pharmacy queen who used to be the go-to person if you had a headache, sniffles, gas, bee sting, heart attack or the plague? Being born on the edge of the generation that believed in sex, drugs and rock and roll, shouldn’t I be thrilled with the idea of being given happy pills legitimately? I’ve seen those commercials where the bubbles are floating around in their peaceful little world. Don’t I want that? I could get hit with all life’s crap and just smile and float away! Isn’t this a good thing?

Somehow, though, I think that maybe the stressful part of life right now is teaching me some things about myself, and the world, and God. The lessons are hard and I don’t like them. Yes, sometimes they make me cry and sometimes I want to throw things and kick my feet and protest that it’s NOT FAIR!  But growing hurts. Children cry with leg aches when they grow sometimes. Mental pain is different, but the cause is the same. Sometimes growing hurts. I can take the happy pills and avoid the pain. But if it doesn’t hurt, will I learn the lessons? Will I change enough to avoid the mistakes I made in the past? Or will I just float along pretending that my life is fine the way it is?

Quit yelling, I know that some people really need medication to get through stressful times. Some people need it to deal with life every day. If that works for them, I see no problem with it. My decision has to do with whether it works for me. Maybe I would be more effective, maybe my house would be neater, maybe I wouldn’t cry as much. But maybe I wouldn’t learn to make better choices. Maybe I wouldn’t laugh as hard, or rejoice as fully. And maybe in choosing to feel the pain, I have already started to grow.

Passing the Test

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

A few weeks ago, I wrote about going back to school to take Real Estate classes. Now the classes are finished and I’m studying for the state exam, which I have to pass to be licensed. As soon as I’m licensed, I can get right to work, listing and selling houses and making BIG MONEY!

Well, that’s what I thought, anyway. I have known plenty of people over the years who made a living and raised families on what they made selling real estate. Most of them lived pretty well, too. But they must have been making money in some other way, because by the time I finished the classes (when it was too late to get a refund) I had heard from every teacher and half the students that I would be lucky to make enough money to cover my fees in the first year. And there is a good chance I’ll quit before the year is up. And I’m going to get sued. In fact, I think the entire point of taking the classes is so you can’t say, when it happens, that you didn’t know you could get sued. All of the teachers reminded us of that daily!

I’m not all that worried about getting sued. After all, remember, they also said I’m not going to make any money. Can’t lose what I don’t have! I’m more worried about working sixty hours a week to make an average of $36,000 a year. Who would do that on purpose? Oh. Me, I guess. After all, I took the classes. Shouldn’t someone have told me to research this first? Of course, figuring out how much money I might make probably involves math. I’ve looked at the math part of the study guide. I’m not even going there.

Now as an excellent test taker, I have never before in my life worried that I’d actually flunk a test. I have worried that I wouldn’t get an A, or even a B, but flunking was just not a problem. This time, I’m worried. The goofy part is that I can fail this test and it will not mess up my GPA. It won’t even go on my permanent record. If I fail, I can do what high school and college students only dream about—pay to retake the test until I pass! That’s right, as long as I can afford the test fees, I can take the test over and over until I pass…and I WILL pass.

Okay, truth, I’m not really all that worried. I know that I could probably pass most standardized tests with no knowledge at all of the subject, so this test will not be that hard. Well I’m not worried about passing the test, I’m not worried about getting sued, and I know that, if the average income of a real estate sales person is $36000, I’ll eventually make more than that, because I am so above average (or so my mother says.) What’s left to stress about? I guess I just feel bad, knowing that I’m going to cause my teachers to be wrong when I pass, don’t quit, and make plenty of money without getting sued!

*Editor’s note: The content of this blog post (okay, probably ALL my blog posts) is fictionalized to make it more interesting than my real life. So I want to point out that my teachers were really great and that, while they scared us to death about how hard the test is, they also assured us that we WILL pass. It is my intention to prove them right, by passing the first time.

Mother Awards, Good Versus Bad

Monday, August 3rd, 2009

Right now, I’m earning the Bad Mother award from my daughter, so I decided to write about it here, where I can be assured of getting the Good Mother award from at least some readers. Because as we all know, if the child thinks I’m a bad mother, I’ve done something right.

My youngest has a new best friend, and her new best friend just happens to be a boy. They worked on a project together and found lots of common interests, and now they talk and text and IM all day and half the night. He is not her boyfriend, she says. He’s just a friend. I’m very fine with that.

Now that their project is finished, they don’t see each other every day, so naturally they want to get together and hang out. She invited him over to watch a movie. That’s great! I love it when my kids bring their friends here! She invited him for Saturday. Oh. I will be gone all day Saturday. Sorry, not this week.

I suppose it’s probably mostly my fault that she’s upset. Her brother’s friends have been in and out of our house almost constantly for as long as she can remember, and I never made them leave just because I was going to the store or taking a walk. So she has been in the house with boys when no adults were present on plenty of occasions. I never thought about it. Trying to explain the difference to her isn’t easy, because it’s really based on faulty reasoning. This boy is okay, that one isn’t, even though he never did anything to disqualify him from “okay.”

Who says that giving birth makes us logical? I know that the child rearing books preach consistency, and I’m sure it’s the best idea. But life isn’t always logical, and if I consistently allow her to be here with boys I know well, and consistently say no to being alone with boys I’ve never met, I think I’m fulfilling the requirement. I’m sure he’s a wonderful kid. But he’s still a boy I don’t know.

And I am the evil mom who is wrecking her friendship. And guarding her reputation.

Back to School (It’s Not About What You Think)

Monday, July 27th, 2009

Three weeks ago, I started back to school. I haven’t been in school in a very, very long time. Frankly, I was terrified. I figured I’d be in a classroom full of young, bright students who would make me feel stupid and slow. I thought I’d never be able to remember anything. I never did learn how to study. It just seemed nuts.

Okay, when I say I started school, that sounds more impressive than it really is. I am actually taking real estate classes. I’m taking three intensive weeks of classes that I thought were going to teach me to sell real estate. Turns out they’re just teaching me to pass the exam so that I can get a license. Then I’m supposed to take all this new knowledge about contracts and lot sizes and fair housing, go out into the world, and just do it. Look out, world!

Maybe I should just stay in school. Turns out that school is FUN! It’s really interesting. There are lots of people my age and older in the class, and plenty of bright young students, too. The teachers move fast, but I was up to speed in no time. I have met great people, enjoyed stimulating conversation, and surprised myself with what I’ve been able to do.

The message here is that you can do more than you think you can. And it’s never too late. It isn’t easy, but the sense of accomplishment is wonderful.

Bugs!

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Today my daughter decided to cook red beans and rice. Talking about the origins of the dish brought up crawfish. Here is a subject that I have a definite opinion about. I know there are people out there who like these things, but frankly, crawfish (or MUDBUGS, as they’re called in some places) are just giant roaches. I expressed this opinion, and my friend (a guy, which, as you will see, is an important distinction,) pointed out that they’re more like mini-lobsters. Well, I totally agree with that. Because lobsters are just really giant roaches. They’re BUGS. They don’t even really swim, they crawl around in the bottom of the ocean or lake or stream. They have long antennas and googly eyes. They have more legs than any creature really needs. They’re BUGS and you’d might as well just have a nice bowl of chocolate covered ants for desert. Shrimp are bugs, too.

Over the years, several people (all male) have tried to convince me that eating giant water bugs would be a great idea, especially dipped in butter or shrimp sauce. Once, a guy did his best to get me to order escargot as an appetizer. Escargot, if you aren’t familiar with it, is land bugs with a French name and a lot of garlic. I secretly believe that instead of trying to impress a date by spending big money on French bugs, the real purpose of urging women to eat these things is so that men can laugh at us behind our backs. “Did you see what she ate? She thought it was food, but it was just BUGS!!” I believe that Adam started this as soon as his boys were old enough to understand the concept of grossing mom out. My proof of this theory is that I’ve never had another woman urge me to eat any of these foods. I know women who eat them, but they were all tricked by men, either their fathers or their dates.

There is a great advantage in not eating giant water bugs. I never have to agonize in a restaurant over whether to spend the extra money for shrimp cocktail. I’m perfectly happy with chips and salsa. I have never had the indignity of being wrapped in a bib as an adult. I don’t have to drag my appetizer out of a slippery mobile home that it never actually occupied in life anyway. If a guy wants to gross me out, he’s going to have to do better than that.

And don’t think the blood running out of your steak is going to do it. I get half.

Reinventing Myself

Monday, July 13th, 2009

At the age of 49, I am starting over, dreaming of a new kind of life.  I thought I knew how my life would unfold, but I was wrong.  Now I am thinking about doing things that I had always considered impossible.

Self image is a funny thing. Our view of ourselves changes over time, and we go forward based on who we are and who we wish to be. As a child, I was the oldest, in charge of the little kids. As a teen, I was a good student, aiming to graduate high in my class. As a young adult, I was a business woman, managing companies in designer suits and chairing civic activities to keep my picture in the paper. Then I got married and had children, and I spent 20 years viewing myself as a wife and mother, to the point that when I finally went back to work five years ago, I was ashamed to admit it. Then one day I woke up to the fact that my marriage was over and my children were nearly grown, and as I looked forward, I realized that I had no self image left. Wife and mother was ending, and  there was nothing on the horizon. I had spent so much time and effort working to raise my children that I had never dreamed about who I would be when they left. I was completely lost.

I wallowed in lost for a while. I throw the best pity parties. I had spent half my life relying on my husband for income, my children for activities, and other parents for friends. I had lost my desire for a career. I had abandoned my civic activities. What kind of work could I get with a giant hole in my resume? I reluctantly began shopping my spotty resume around to local businesses, filling out job applications as if I were 20 and trying to move up from burger flipping, dressing in my one nice outfit while trying to make a chubby middle-aged body and graying hair look like something you’d like to see at a reception desk. It just wasn’t working. My one job offer waiting tables was from a nice kid who thought I’d be a good motherly influence on the younger wait staff. And even that fell through.

Help came from the most unbelievable place. I joined Facebook to check out what my teenagers were doing. What I found instead were friends from high school and from my early twenties, people I had lost touch with over the years. None of them knew mommy-me. They knew me when I had plans to conquer the world, and in their eyes I still had a chance to do it. I began to remember myself as someone more than a wife and mother, and I started thinking that maybe it wasn’t too late to try something new.

And so, slowly but surely, I am reinventing myself, and I guess I’m not quite sure what I will be. My last child will graduate in three years, and if I haven’t found things to take the place of ballgames and rides and fund raising, I could find myself staring at the walls with only cats for company. My dreams for the future have never included becoming a cat lady.

For twenty years now, all of my dreams have been for my children. The first child achieved my goal for him and is headed straight for success. The second has so many goals for herself and sets the bar so high that she has no need of my dreams. The last one is such a free spirit that setting goals for her would be like tethering a bird. She doesn’t know the destination yet, but she was born knowing the flight path. I’m the one now who needs a dream.

For the longest time, I didn’t even have a direction. I felt like I stood at a crossroads, and I just turned in circles with no clue which path to choose.

How did I decide what to do? I don’t have a clue. One day someone made a suggestion, another friend thought it sounded good, and I said okay. I don’t know if it’s the best choice. I don’t know if it will work out. I just know that, as I slowly move forward, I’m beginning to dream.

Five More Ways To Make Family Visits Fun

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

If you read my blog regularly, you may remember that I wrote about five things that my family enjoys when we get together for holidays or vacation. I wrote about the general things we do that most other families would enjoy. Here, however, is a list of five things my family also does for fun.

  1. Clean out Mom’s freezer. Who enjoys cleaning a freezer?   Doing it alone makes it a chore. Doing it with a group makes it a great guessing game! Why did mom freeze two squished buns? What is the mystery meat? Do you really like frozen okra? GIVE ME THAT COOKIE DOUGH! This game is hard on Mom, but she’s a sport, and in the end she has a clean, organized freezer.
  2. Measure everyone. Yes, we actually did this the last time my sister was home. Why? Who knows. But my brother started off by measuring a couple of the little kids, and before it was over we measured just about everyone in the house. Mom was glad to know she hasn’t lost any height in her “old age.” I got half an inch taller!
  3. Argue about who inherits the good stuff. Frankly, we all love each other too much to hold a grudge about who gets the china and who gets the china cabinet (I do.) But for my whole life, when looking at family heirlooms, we’ve enjoyed a good skirmish over who gets what. Careful negotiations have possibly concluded that if I give up my claim on the antique doll (promised to me by my grandmother, the doll’s original owner,) and allow my mother to leave it to my sister (since our grandmother promised it to her,) my sister will leave it to my daughter, the only girl in her generation old enough to remember my grandmother, who promised her the doll. It makes me feel kinda bad for my cousin, who may not get it, since she was promised the doll by our grandmother when she was little.
  4. Cut down trees. My youngest brother-in-law is talented and insane. During one family reunion when the men got bored, they decided to cut down a couple of trees killed during the previous hard winter. Showing off just a little, my b-i-l put a peg in the ground and declared that the tree would fall right on the peg. But he missed. Okay, by an inch or so, but he still missed! The men swarmed with chainsaws, the kids loaded branches into the truck, and the bonfire lasted all night. We can’t wait to do it again.
  5. SING! Sing hymns. Pop songs. Break into song spontaneously. Declare Opera Day, and everyone has to sing whatever they want to say. Gather around the piano, pick a banjo, hook up Guitar Hero. Watch musicals and sing along. Sing kids’ songs, camp songs, and army songs. Yes, it’s noisy, but at our house there is seldom an hour that goes by without some type of song. There is no need to be a good singer. The Bible says to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. I doesn’t say anything about it being good. The Lord gave you your voice and asked for your praise, so inflict it on Him! The sound of joy is always beautiful.

Yes, this is what really happens when our family gets together. I’ll probably be in trouble for going public, but frankly, we have tons more fun than most families. Time spent together with your family is never wasted, whether you’re making cookies like Martha Stewart or measuring grandpa to see if he’s shrunk. Time is a gift of love.

Five Ways to Make Family Visits Fun

Monday, June 29th, 2009

It’s summer, and time for reunions, visits from family, or Camp Grandma. Some people love these visits, some hate them, and some worry that there will be nothing fun to do. Our family holidays and vacations often include at least 10 or 12 adults and even more children. Mass chaos is the usual order of the day, but we always have a lot of fun. If your family visits leave something to be desired, here are some suggestions for livening things up this summer.

1.    Play a simple card or dice game. After dinner, we clear the table and my sister-in-law declares game time. Sometimes it’s a board game, but usually we play Farkle with dice, or Golf with cards. Five to eight players might start the game. Others stand behind them and give advice or talk trash. Someone gets irritated by bad cards and quits in the middle of the game. Someone else sits down in their seat and takes over. It’s a fluid kind of game. Often it gets pretty loud. The little kids play wrong, the old people forget the moves, the middles are distracted and have to be reminded when it’s their turn. Everyone accuses everyone else of cheating. Everyone cheats.

2.    Look at photo albums. Not the recent ones, get out the really old ones, where everyone has funny hairstyles and ugly clothes. Laugh at the cat-eye glasses, fins on cars, and crying kids. After a while, you begin to notice the backgrounds, remembering furniture in Grandma’s house, your dad’s vegetable garden, the neighbor’s bushes where you played hide and seek. Show them to the kids and you have the basis for passing on family stories to the next generation.

3.    Make Cookies! Come on, surely one person in your family knows how to make cookies. We tend to make two or three varieties at once, with one adult in charge of peanut butter, one in charge of oatmeal, one in charge of chocolate chip. Children are allowed to help more or less, depending on the patience of the supervisor. Dough is stolen, fingers are smacked, flour is spread, and mouths are burned. There are no cookies left for the next day.

4.    Watch a movie. I don’t recommend watching a movie you’ve been dying to see. You’re going to miss half of it. With all the seats full of adults holding children on their laps while teens cover the floor, heads will be blocking the view, crying babies will interrupt the dialogue. We like to watch movies we know well, so that we can quote along with the actors. Or watch home videos. My daughter’s Spanish project had the entire family rolling! Comments are welcome. Silence is not.

5.    Sit on the porch and talk. After doing activities 1-4, everyone is relaxed and talkative. Now memories are bubbling up and talk flows freely. Give the kids some plastic peanut butter jars and send them out to catch fireflies while the grownups rehash juicy stories, then let them cuddle on laps and fall asleep as quiet reminiscence ends a satisfying evening.

These are activities our family enjoys. Sure, we get irritated, criticize each other, yell at kids, and make a mess. We could get mad, hold a grudge and quit talking to each other. Instead, we choose to forgive each other when feelings are hurt, and to cherish our time together even when things are rocky. The ONE thing you need for a great family visit is lots of love.

Storm

Wednesday, May 27th, 2009

Today I’m praying for a friend. A few months ago, an unthinkable thing happened. Her beautiful, talented 18 year old son died in a stupid accident, one that no one would have anticipated. He was a child of rare faith, planning a future in ministry. He carried light within him. The world dimmed when he left it.

He was a friend to my daughters. One of them called me at work to tell me the news and ask if it was true. In her heartbreak on the phone she begged me to tell her it couldn’t be true, and I begged God to not let it be as I called my brother to get information. But it was true. Unbelievable and true. And in that instant life changed. Suddenly none of our children were safe anymore.

I don’t know how long it will be until my friend wakes up in the morning and thinks of something else first. I don’t know what it will take to dim the pain she feels and make life more bearable. I just know that I still hurt when I think of him, and that my feelings are tiny compared to hers. So I hold her up in prayer, which is all any of us can really do. I lift her up into the light and ask God to give her strength for the journey. And I pray for the rest of us, that we will never know this particular pain.

You can read more about Storm in the Summer issue of Wings of Hope Magazine. Go to www.wohmag.com for more information.

A Crocus Blooms

Thursday, April 23rd, 2009

Sometimes God’s planning just amazes me. Sometimes when it seems that winter will last an eternity, a crocus blooms.

 God knows that we need crocus. In life as in nature, there are times that are dark and cold, and when they go on too long we are in danger of despair. Just as we can’t change the weather, we sometimes can’t change the cold and gray days in our lives. Wishing the winter over doesn’t make it go away.

 But now and then, God sends flowers to remind us that better weather is on the way. A phone call from a friend, a song, a funny e-mail. God says He has plans to give us a future and a hope. At just the right time, a crocus blooms, and we are reminded that spring will come, sooner than we think.