Monday, September 26, 2011

Gone...Never Forgotten.

Tonight we watched "Extreme Makeover:  Home Edition."  It's what we normally oldest daughter likes to make fun of me while I cry through the whole show.

Tonight's show was about a woman who creates a temporary home for women who have served in the armed forces and come home to no home.

Yes.  I cried as I always do.

My son was watching as Michelle Obama gave a flag to the woman who was creating a home for military women who had no home.  

And he said, "Hey Mom!  We have one of those flags!"

Yes.  We do.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Livin' the Dream

This morning I walked to the elementary school to do my volunteering…trying to kill two birds with one stone.   Fall is my favorite time here in Colorado.  The air feels crisp and clean and the sun is still warm enough that a jacket isn’t needed.  And knowing that, if I want to walk to school in about a month I will have to bundle up like the Michelin Man and Lord knows he’s no power walker…I thought I should take advantage while I can. 

My job as the volunteer is to stuff the homework folders.  Last year I volunteered to work with the first graders in my son’s class and, even though I only did it once a month, it was enough to make me just check “clerical volunteer” on the form this year.

It DID, however, give me a new appreciation for all teachers and I do my best to surprise my kids’ teachers with random Starbucks cards every once in a while.  What I’d really like to do is take them out for a stiff drink, but I don’t know how appropriate that would be.

Maybe when we get into high school.

As I’ve been doing the homework folders these last few weeks I’ve been thinking:  Wouldn’t it be interesting to do some sort of study on the state of a child’s homework/homework folder and the state of their family life/home? 
The homework folders that have been ripped to shreds within the first 2 days of school.  The homework folders that have already been lost and the homework that not only looks like “my dog ate my homework,” it also appears that the dog digested and regurgitated it before it was turned in.  

And then the homework that is neat as a pin and looks like it was ironed.  

I was feeling pretty guilty this morning because my daughter was the only one who didn’t even turn in her homework folder and I was faced with an ethical question as the homework monitor:  “Should I just mark her off?”


On my walk home, I was listening to some old songs on my MP3 and taking a stroll down memory lane.   This last year has been such a turning point in my grieving process.  I no longer tear up with every memory…just some.  So I can enjoy thinking about things that we used to do and fun times that we had and feel true joy and appreciation that we had them.

I looked up at the blue, blue Colorado sky and just inhaled deeply and genuinely felt grateful for my life.  Now, this is a hard thing for me to do.  Not that I’m not grateful all of the time…but I don’t think I have enough moments to truly let it sink in.  Do I wish some things could be different?  Of course I do.  Loss or not…who doesn’t?

But I’ve really been trying to enjoy the moments of my life as they come, which is a tall order for me.  I’ve always been a person who lives in the future…who looks forward to what’s ahead and doesn’t focus as much on the now.  And, if there is one thing I wish I could change about myself, that would be it.

As most of us have realized by now…it’s the times that we don’t expect to remember that we look back on and marvel at how great things were.  When my husband and I were first married…we had NO money.  And at the time I couldn’t wait for us to get older, more experienced, and move up in the world.  When in reality…that was one of the best times in our lives.  

And right now…I keep focusing on trying to make theWiddahood a success and dreaming of what will happen in the future…when the truth is…great things are happening RIGHT NOW.  I keep wondering what the kids will be when they grow up when I should be focusing on who they are now.  I look at new cars and wish I could have one, fanaticizing about my dream office in my dream house, and wishing I had less worry and more fun.

But I realized, on my walk, that if I had everything I wanted, right here, right now…I wouldn’t be a happy person.  Because then I would have nothing to look forward to.

This was a lot of thinking for 9 AM.  But I got ‘er done.

I feel pretty good today.  I love my life.  I appreciate what I have, what I had, and what I hope is coming.  And that’s a good place to be.

To quote my 5-year-old daughter who, when I asked her how her day was last week, exclaimed:

“GREAT!  I’m livin’ the dream!”

(And no…I did not mark her homework off on the sheet.  Damn ethics.)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

And Mother of the Year Goes To....

I just got the call.

I lost Mother of the Year.

No, no.  It’s okay.  I probably didn’t deserve it.

I tried.  I really tried.  I ran around all day today, from the gym to picking up tap shoes, home for a shower to ballet class, to the grocery store and then unloading the groceries.  Just in time to pick two out of three kids up from school.

And then back home for the first afternoon/evening we haven’t had anything going on in about a week and a half.

I was so foolishly optimistic.  I had actually picked up the ingredients to one of my favorite dishes that takes about an hour to cook.  I had dreams of a glass of wine, cooking dinner, watching a DVRed Modern Family...but when I picked up my kids from school, they had one question.

“Are we going to the parade?”

For some reason, the local high school had decided to thread their Homecoming parade right through the main artery of my neighborhood.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know who thought of this.  All I can say is that I wish I had been a part of the Happy Hour where someone drunkenly said...

“Hey!  Let’s do the parade through one of the largest neighborhoods in Denver.  Better yet!  Let’s do it at RUSH HOUR!!”

My kids cried, screamed, and were generally pissed when I told them “no.”  I do not want to go to a parade that promises to be a giant freakin’ mess...when I have already been to art classes, rock climbing, Cub Scouts, and ballet while trying to work and make sure that they have an adequate amount of protein and clean socks.

This Mommy was saying NO.  And this had everyone on edge.

When we finally got home, my son pulled out his book, The Boys’ Book:  How to Be the Best at Everything, and told me that he would like to do a project.  Thrilled that he was taking an interest not only in reading, but putting something together, I tried to put my exhaustion on hold so that I could help him out.

When he handed me the steps to “How to Make a Water Clock”...I knew immediately that I was out of my league.  This took measuring.  This took cardboard.  This took patience.

Where in this book was the “Make the Perfect Grammar” lesson?

I’m afraid I snapped.  Dinner to be made, everyone mad at me, and instructions in a book for 7-year-old boys that I didn’t understand...I just couldn’t take it anymore.

I thought that I might still be a contender for Mother of the Year because I later pulled my son over to the couch and sincerely apologized for my behavior.

“I’m sorry I was so rude,” I said.  “I know that you’re so good at these projects.  But Mommy isn’t.  I try, but I get frustrated.  This is why I’m good at helping you with your spelling, but I can’t help you fix your bike.”

(Insert MISSING DAD here now.)

I was rewarded with a slurpy smooch and what I’m sure is temporary forgiveness for my sub-par “momminess.”

I finally found a pause to “relax” and make dinner.  And boy...was I going to win with this one.  I had already taken a home-grown recipe and made it healthier.  But watch my Mommy Star rise when I step it up a notch and make it with brown rice...instead of white.

It cooked.  And cooked.

Still cooking.

At one point, I wasn’t sure if the rice was going to burn or never cook.  And after 2 hours of telling the kids “no you can’t have a snack...dinner will be ready any minute,” I finally gave up and salvaged what I could.

I know that what I experienced today is what most of us go through on a regular basis.  Stretched to the limit.  No time to breathe, much less raise well-rounded human beings.

But I felt alone.  Utterly alone.  And inadequate.

Who authorized my Mommy License, anyway???

Just so you know...I heard through the grapevine that I lost my Mother of the Year to some a woman who actually took her kids to the parade while making a water clock and feeding her kids fully cooked brown rice as a snack.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Great Widda Read: This is Not the Life I Ordered

I had something happen about two months ago that I am going to call “literary divine intervention.”

I am very fortunate that I live five minutes away from three out of four of my college roommates (we’re still working on the 4th, but the military isn’t cooperating).  We all do our best to see each other, but, as we all happens.  Anyway, despite our close proximity, we started a very bad trend of only getting together about once every 4 months.  And, although we talked about how ridiculous that was, we seemed too busy to make a change.

And then two things happened. 

The first was that one of my roommates lost a neighbor who had become one of her closest friends.  Although this woman was really only an acquaintance of mine, I was still shocked that yet another young life was gone in the blink of an eye.  And as I’m sure many of us have experienced when we see someone grieving a loved one...I worried about my roommate and wanted to make sure I was there when she needed me. 

Which meant that this stupid schedule of only seeing each other a few times a year needed to stop.

The second was that I had randomly picked up a book at an antique store called This Is Not the Life I Ordered:  50 ways to keep your head above water when life keeps dragging you down.  Of course, we can ALL relate to THAT title (who has the life they always thought they would have???), but I mainly picked it up thinking that I could use it more for professional purposes.

I didn't know how it would affect me personally.

Now, I will’s taken me a long time to read this book.  But there is a good reason for that:  It’s SO good, I didn’t want to finish it.  With quotes and personal stories, the authors describe what they’ve been through in their own lives (two of the four authors have been widowed) and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

As I started reading, I discovered that few people could possibly be any busier than these four women.  But they found time to meet with each other at least once a month, forming what they called a Kitchen Table Club.  As they described how just getting together and talking about their lives, offering constructive criticism and advice to each other, and generally just being there, I realized that I'd never thought about just sitting down with a small group of women and discussing life.  Just a regular time each month set aside to talk about what we want, what's bothering us, and what we can do for each other.  No kids, no husbands, no interruptions.  Nothing off limits and we can help each other succeed in whatever we are trying to accomplish.

So now, if you’re looking for me on every 3rd Thursday of the month...I’m occupied.  ‘Cause I’m meeting with my girls.

I know that many of you will say that you don’t have close friends to meet with.  And that’s okay.  This book gives you tools to build your own group.  As one of the suggestions, the books says:

No matter how bad your life might be right now, plan a get-together with women you admire.  They do not need to be famous, rich, or fabulously accomplished.  You do not need to know them well; although they do need to be women you respect and who share similar values and priorities – women with integrity who will be willing to listen, encourage others, and be honest.

Heck yeah.

Even if you don’t have any interest in forming a group, this book is just an overall inspiration...which is another reason why it took me so long to read.  I found myself waiting until I wasn’t feeling great and I needed a little pick-me-up.  Then I would pick up This is Not the Life I Ordered, read a few pages, and feel like I was ready to get out there and live my life again.  I had so many “ah ha” moments...too many to put in a blog.  But one of the ideas that I thought was complete brilliance, came from one of the widows in the book, Jackie Speier (because, as a whole, widows really are brilliant).

She was feeling overwhelmed with the chaos that becoming a widow had created (sound familiar?) and woke up one morning, needing a plan.  She contacted an accountant, lawyer, tax adviser, real estate agent, and banker and invited them all over for breakfast at her home.  Together, they helped her come up with a strategy to deal with that chaos.  She called this group her “Kitchen Cabinet.”

Widowed or not, I don’t really know any woman who wouldn’t benefit from this book.  It’s readable, relatable, and makes you feel ready to move forward with the life you’ve been handed.  Mine is now marked up, highlighted, and has sticky notes all over it.

And I bring it with me every 3rd Thursday of the month.

©Catherine Tidd 2011