Archive for July, 2009

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.