Monday, December 6, 2010

Just feeling good

I wish I had something inspiring to tell you. I wish I even had some big, splashy news. But all I really have is that right now, just where I'm at in my life, I'm pretty happy.

I'm working at a great job where I feel needed and appreciated. I have a wonderful boyfriend who wants to spend the rest of his life with me. I get to wake up every morning and face a new set of challenges that I feel (mostly) equipped to handle. I get to come home every night secure in the fact that while I may not have landed where I thought I would be at this point in my life, I certainly am right where I need to be.

I am spending my time being a mother to a wonderful and feisty daughter. She tries my patience, makes me smile, and gives me love like no other. I work during the day to please my boss, but find that I'm really pleasing myself at the same time. At night I get to spend time with this wonderful man (boyfriend 2.0) who continues to try and convince me that all is right in the world because we're together. My family is behind me. My friends are there every step of the way. I keep meeting new people who open my world even further.

Truly my life is blossoming. How did I manage to get here? :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Finding a piece of myself

"There is only one path to today."
I stumbled across this sentiment today. I've done some searching and can't find anyone to whom I can attribute it. There is only one path that would have gotten me where I am today. Somedays I lament that fact, and other days I celebrate it.

I think about my journey a lot. There are so many people along the way who have touched me in ways I can't explain. Some of them are still in my life and some are gone. And recently I've found a new someone that has been touching my life.

A while back, when paychecks from my job started bouncing, I began looking for work elsewhere. I figured that if they couldn't even make payroll it was only a matter of time before the whole place went under. For once in my life I got out in time.

I started working at a local restaurant/ice cream shop. Not exactly the most glamorous of positions, but you do what you have to to pay the bills. After working there for about a week, someone walked through the door that would change my life forever.

I didn't notice him at the time. I was seeing someone else. We talked just like any regular co-workers would. As a matter of fact, we had some pretty deep conversations. He told me about his divorce. I told him about my husband dying. He told me he was sure he would never find another woman that would be willing to deal with him already having 4 children. I told him that if she was the right woman it wouldn't be a problem.

Over the next couple of months we continued talking and sharing. For an outsider looking in, I suppose that the way we opened up to each other must have seemed very strange. But something about him made me know that I could share anything with him and be completely safe.

After finding out that the boyfriend I thought I would marry was not the one, this man and I began to date. We've been seeing each other for about 3 months and I can't say I've ever been happier. The hubby was a phenomenal man. I can't help but believe that he had a hand in bringing this man into my life. He always told me that he would want me to find someone else. True to my nature, I had to pick a few losers before settling on one that truly knows me.

Boyfriend 2.0 knows that there is room for both him and my husband in my heart. I can hardly believe it myself. He gives me the freedom to experience my pain and grief and still makes me laugh and smile on a regular basis. September is a hard month for me and he has promised to be there every step of the way. Knowing that I have him in my corner makes my heart feel like there's a reason to keep loving.

I could extol the virtues of this man for pages. Really, all you need to know is that he loves me and doesn't want to change me. He believes me to be the strongest person he's ever met. If he keeps treating me the way he does, I might just come to believe that, too.

To this wonderful man, the other side of myself, thank you for being a part of my path to today.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Not what I signed up for

Yesterday morning was NOT my finest hour.  On Monday my daycare provider was sick, so munchkin girl spent the day traipsing about the nearest large shopping city with my parents.  I was/am totally fine with this.  However, she did not get a nap.  Given the same set of circumstances with me around, the same lack of nap would have occurred.  That night she woke up from a "bad dream".  I should have recognized the portent of things to come. 

The following morning, when she finally woke up, nearly 2 hours later than her usual time, she had ZERO interest in getting ready and leaving the house.  She repeatedly asked if we could stay home and snuggle in the chair.  I can promise you that there's nothing I would have liked better. But, someone has to make the donuts.

At this point I began a process that I had never before had to undertake. I physically hauled my child from the bathroom into the living room to get her dressed.  I held her down, or at least parts of her, while I removed her Pull Up, put on her underwear and shorts, took off her pajama top, put on her tank top, and foolishly attempted to get her shoes on.  A kick from a 4-year-old can be very painful.

Then I began the process of getting her in the car.  This involved an action that I can only describe as similar to trying to keep a cat in the bathtub. Eventually I did manage to get her in the car with her screaming bloody murder all the way. She cried and screamed most of the way to daycare. And the screaming began again when we pulled into the driveway.

I got to try to fend off blows while unbuckling her and getting her out of the car. Then I had to pick her up and carry her into the house.

Once I was on my way to work I lost it. I began sobbing and grabbed my phone. While I know it's not a wise idea to even talk on your cell phone while driving, let alone while visually impaired from crying, I needed reinforcements.  I called my parents and begged them to tell me I'd done the right thing. I felt absolutely horrible because the one thing she wanted was within my power to provide. However, this was an opportunity to teach her about obligations.

I assume this was all brought on by lack of sleep and her trying to adjust to me working a 40 hour week after nearly a year of working 11-5.  The poor thing has had a difficult time trying to adjust. 

My parents said all the right things, including, "Pull the car over before you crash." But I swear to you, the one thing I could not do that day was take my mind off the feeling that all she wanted was some time with me and I didn't give it to her.  I want it to be very clear; SINGLE PARENTING IS NOT WHAT I SIGNED UP FOR. Say all you want that I'm strong. That you couldn't do what I do. That you would give up. But the truth of it is, I feel like I did. I feel like I gave up on reasoning with her just so that I could move on with my day. I put her needs aside to deal with my own.  I feel like a bad mother.  I feel like they'll be calling me to take away my mommy card. Part of me really does know that I'm a good mother, but this emotional outburst absolutely broke my heart.  It won't be too long and she won't want to snuggle any more.  I know I did the right thing in teaching her a lesson that she'll someday understand. But how do I tell my heart that?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

I've still got what I need

I try not to use this blog as a sounding board for all my rants. I try to keep things positive and remember that some people reading this are not intimately acquainted with my life. I've always wanted this blog to be a learning experience for me and for others. However, tonight I find myself with much pent up anger and hostility that I have nowhere else to put.

Without giving away too much identifying information, I celebrated a big event at work today. When I went to tell someone who I expected to be supportive, all I got was sarcasm. Granted, this person lives on a steady diet of sarcasm and we've been more or less on the outs for a few days. But still, the response I got shocked me. In the end, I finally told this person to just forget it. I don't know if I'll hear from them again tonight or not. And frankly, I don't know if I care.

The moral of the story is that just because something is important to me does not mean that it's equally important to all the people in my life. Truly, I don't need it to be. But what I do need is support, joy, and congratulations. So, a big "Thank You" to all of you who have, and will continue to be supportive. In the end, I find that I only need myself and my congratulations to celebrate. After all, I only had to prove to myself that I could do it.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

When it saves you

A friend said to me, "I can't believe you kept your faith through all the hell you must have gone through. I admire that." I told him, "You can't be angry at something you don't believe in." (Thanks for that one, Aggie.)

And it's true. I can't very well be mad at God for taking my husband away from me if I don't believe in Him. But as I was thinking about this conversation this morning, I came to an interesting conclusion. I wasn't talking about believing in God. Although I do believe in Him, it would be more appropriate to say that during that conversation I was saying I believe in Love.

For so long after the hubby died I was angry. The kind of anger that sucks what's left of your life out of you and makes you worthless for anything but rage. I was most angry with the hubby. HE was the one that didn't eat right. HE was the one that smoked constantly. HE was the one that didn't exercise. HE was the one that didn't care enough about us to stay. (I never said anger was rational, did I?)

But I loved him. And I know this is true because it would be impossible to be so angry with someone you didn't love. I also know that his love saved me.

The hubby walked into my life at a time when I was living in a loveless, abusive marriage. My self-esteem was at an all-time low and I was certain that nothing I did was right, let alone worthwhile. And this man, this great big bear of a man, walked into my life and gave me the courage to leave that situation. He showed me that despite what my ex-husband was telling me, there were people in this world that would love me for who I am. People who wouldn't put restrictions on that love.

I'll say it again, I did not leave my ex-husband to marry my hubby. It just turned out that way. And that's how his love saved me. It gave me options I didn't know existed. And because he loved me so much I'm able to continue on each day.

His love saves me every moment in the form of a beautiful little girl that we made together. She's laying on the couch right now, playing with her legs, and asking me what I'm doing. And pretty soon, she'll tell me that she loves me. I'm saved all over again. Every night when she hugs my neck and tells me she loves me before going to bed. Every morning when she curls up next to me in bed and nearly suffocates me in her hug. Every time she looks at me and shows me that grin that can only have come from one place: her father. I'm saved all over again.

My parents have been behind me 100% for the last 19 months. They make sure that I have what I need and even the things I don't need but just want. They take this task of parenting seriously. They show me they love me every day. And their love saves me.

I have friends that show me how much they love me and they save me too. You all know who you are. And I hope you also know where I couldn't have gotten without you. You're amazing people and you make all the difference in my life.

Yes, love saves. And it comes when and where you least expect it. It would seem to me, though, that it always comes when it's most needed.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Hold me accountable

The boyfriend has taken his daughter to D.C. for her Spring Break and won't be home until sometime on Saturday. I'm attempting to use this time to kick start myself into some productivity. There are lots of projects I always talk about doing and never manage to get done. I'm hoping that if I share the list here you all will help keep me motivated. Here's the list:
  • Finish an afghan that's 6 feet wide and seven feet long. The afghan is currently half done.
  • Read two books, Body of Evidence by Patricia Cornwell and The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King. I've started both books but am not too far in either of them.
  • Pull everything out of my closet except the clothes. Organize, donate, or throw away all of the junk.
Because reading the books and crocheting the afghan cannot happen concurrently, I think this is a pretty healthy list for 5 days. Other jobs that can be done while crocheting include watching shows on the DVR to clean that off and listening to podcasts clogging up my iPod (and seemingly multiplying while I'm not looking!).

Anyone have any ideas on how I can keep motivated and get this stuff done?

Monday, February 22, 2010

A lasting aftereffect of trouble

Why are scars shiny? Shiny usually connotes something good, something new and exciting. Birthday parties. Little girl's patent leather shoes. Sunlight. In contrast, scars and their stories are often rife with pain. You may hear the story of a scar told with great bravado and excitement. At the time, few people would express such pleasurable opinions about the activity that caused the scar.

Being a widow has taught me a thing or two about scars. Science tells us that scars never completely go away. The scar left by Ron's death has not gone away. In time, I'm sure, I'll continue to see changes in its appearance. I have already noticed a change in the pain. I feel myself and the scar changing. But it will never be gone. There's a part of me forever irreparable because of what happened.

But is my injury, my pain, really a scar? A scar does not form until the would is completely healed. I am not completely healed. I am moving through my grief, but I'm not sure that part of me will ever be healed. I am moving forward and looking to the future. Maybe what I have isn't a scar after all. I'm left with a weakened spot. That weakness allows memories to sneak in and open the wound again. Scars are physical marks that show healing has occurred. My healing is not all in the past. I will have many more moments of healing. But maybe, just maybe, there's some shiny skin peeking through.

Scar tissue is different than the original tissue of the skin. And I am different than I was before I was on my own. That thought no longer scares me. I used to worry that when I got done changing no one would recognize what was left. Underneath it all I'm still me. A lot has changed. Some parts are very different. Look at all I've learned. I am more confident, independent, and willing to take on whatever life tosses my way. My experience would not have been the same without all the pressure applied in the last year and a half. Ron's death prepared me for so much that I never would have felt comfortable with before.

I prefer to think of scar in the etymological sense. The word "scar" is derived from the Greek word schara, meaning place of fire (fireplace). And if that's true, when I'm left with a scar from this experience, I hope there's still fire left in me.

Gratuitous song reference: Scars by Papa Roach
I tear my heart open, I sew myself shut

My weakness is that I care too much
And our scars remind us that the past is real
I tear my heart open just to feel

Friday, February 19, 2010

Things that make me laugh, smile, be grateful

  • Mom was getting a perm the other day. Munchkin and I stopped in to see her and share some deliciousness from the bistro next door to the salon. Mom had all kinds of tiny blue rollers in her hair and Munchkin says, "Nana, you have batteries in your hair!"
  • Being asked by my father to create a custom crocheted project. He's participating in a Community Theater production and needed a British Judge's wig. Seems he told the costume department he was pretty sure his daughter could crochet one. Seems he was right.
  • Munchkin singing Figaro. Here's an example of the song. Munchkin's version is MUCH cuter.
  • Modern Family. Love, LOVE, LOVE this show.
  • A truly fantastic tax refund.
  • Shopping at consignment shops and finding LOADS of things for both myself and the munchkin. It's so nice to be able to replenish the basics in my wardrobe thanks to the afore noted tax refund.
  • A certain little girl in her beautiful new glasses. Thanks to that special person that paid for them.
  • Lady Antebellum. I know they've been around for years now, but this is the first time I've heard them and I think they're fantastic. I never buy CDs anymore and I'll be buying this one.
  • The fact that I'm slowly becoming better at keeping my house clean. I'm getting more regular about cleaning things up and also beginning to tackle projects like my closet, sorting through the Munchkin's old clothes, the spare bedroom, and the dreaded lower level.
  • Just living my life and knowing that I'm finally in a position where I feel like the world isn't going to fall in on me.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Leaning toward the light

A friend recently sent me this email:
"Night time is painful. There's the loneliness of being in a dark room. It's very conflicting--hiding under the covers is all I want to do all day, but if I fall asleep, which I always do, there's the threat of a new day. It's a no win situation."
As I responded to her I began to wonder, "What is it that makes us afraid of the dark?"

And I thought about how we began this life in darkness. Genesis 1:1-4 (King James Version) states,
"1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. 2 And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. 3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. 4 And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness."
Verse 4 says that God felt the light was good. From this, are we supposed to believe that the darkness is bad, or at least not as good as the light? Other mentions of darkness in The Bible would lead me to believe darkness is not the desirable state.

Psalm 88:1-6 (KJV) tells us,
"1 O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee: 2 Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; 3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. 4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: 5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. 6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps."
Again we are told that the darkness in verse 6 is not where our salvation lies.

Proverbs 4:19 (KJV) brings up another reason many people fear the dark. This verse declares,
"The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble."
I don't believe that many of us are truly afraid of the dark. Our fear lies in what the dark may hide. We sense a lack of preparation on our part. Suddenly, one of the senses most of us rely on most heavily is gone.

Could we have prepared for the darkness if we had been forewarned?

And I'm not just referring to a spiritual darkness. How many of us live in a self-imposed darkness of ignorance, abuse, doubt, or any other detrimental emotion? What would it take to pull us out of that and begin living a new kind of life?

We are not often warned about impending darkness nor are we given an opportunity to prepare ourselves for it. The only thing we can do is be aware that darkness exists and continue to believe that it does not have to be a permanent state.

Plants automatically grow toward the light. Begin your journey and lean toward it yourself.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Walking with a friend

Recently I've spent a lot of time on the phone and online with a dear friend who has needed some encouragement. She's going through a rough time and is often unsure of herself and her path. Talking with her has taken me back to experiences from my first marriage. Yes, for those of you who don't know, I was married before (to my high school sweetheart) and it did not end well.

But this woman, this wonderful friend of mine, has found so much in such a short time. Where I apparently had an operation to remove my spine while I was married to my disaster, she has found hers. Not that she ever really lost it, but some of the moves I've seen her make in the past few months astonish and inspire me.

She's building a life on her own for her children. She is doing everything within her power to make their lives the safest and most consistent she possibly can. Heck, when I was in her position, I wasn't able to do that and all I had to deal with was myself.

And I watch her do what she feels is floundering. All I can think is, "This woman has incredible grace and class under pressure." She knows what she will and won't accept, and she's going for it.
She seems to think that some of the advice I've given along the way is helpful. We talk on a regular basis, vent about our bad days, and share our triumphs. She pats me on the back and encourages me and tells me what a great job I'm doing. We are there for each other. We both routinely walk to the edge of the insanity cliff and contemplate what it would take to push us over the edge. And when one gets too close to that edge, the other one pulls her back again.

Some friends rely on manicures and spa days together. We rely on the every day. Because every day is all we've got. Each day is its own moment. Each day holds the answer and is the grand mystery as well.

I just hope she realizes that there's no one I'd rather explore those mysteries and answers with.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Let me just tell you...

The week of January 18-24th was a difficult one at my house. Shall we run down the list?

On Tuesday I did some checking. Apparently, I make too much money to adequately care for my child, but yet I don't make enough to adequately care for her. Even if I weren't working right now, because of the money that we receive from Ron's Social Security income, we are over the income limit for Medicaid. For me, this isn't such a tragedy. I can take decent care of myself on my own. But for the munchkin, healthcare would be so welcome. And that's a hard pill to swallow. Once I get bills paid off I'll be able to put aside enough money that if either of us needs to go to the doctor, it won't break us. And I'm also in the process of looking for a job that offers medical benefits. So all is not lost. But, I guess, I was really hoping that we could get some help.

Wednesday we were having rotten weather around here. Bitterly cold, high winds, freezing rain, blowing snow, etc. Because my daycare is out of town I asked my parents to go pick up the munchkin. When I wasn't a single mother the weather didn't seem so much of an issue. But, things are what they are now, and so I deal with it the best way I know how. Maybe I'll move to some warmer climate.

Thursday was my wedding anniversary. The stress of the event was enough for me, but not sleeping well for several days ahead of time made me a basket case. In order to not be alone that evening, I invited all the girls over for Stitch and Bitch. I made some great dips and a chocolate cake. It wouldn't have been a day to remember Ron without chocolate cake.

But Friday was the real kicker. In the last few weeks both my parents and I had noticed that the munchkin was squinting and closing her left eye when looking at things close up. I was of a mind to believe it was just something she "did". However, Mom chose to freak me out by googling the information and finding that it could be lazy eye or any other myriad problems. Did I have the money to take her to the optometrist? HECK NO! Bless Mom and Dad, they made it happen. So, Friday Morning at 8:15 we showed up for an eye appointment for a (nearly) 4-year-old.

First they took us into a side room where they did some measurements and tests to see if she could tell which animal "popped off the page". She did OK, but was much more interested in telling us about the animals than which one looked different. Then, they pulled out the book with pictures designed to test whether or not she was color blind. The woman asked her to trace the numbers, and the munchkin is not overly familiar with the concept of tracing. She shocked us all a bit when I asked her if she could see a number in the picture and she piped right up to say, "Oh, the 7?"

In the end, the optometrist determined that she has a "significant" prescription necessary in both eyes. She wouldn't even cover her good eye with the paddle in order to test the strength of the weak eye. Don't ask me how, but they did get a good look at both eyes and determined that she not only needs glasses but should also do some work at home while wearing a patch in order to strengthen the weak eye.

The optometrist also commented that children will often greatly change their behavior greatly upon beginning to wear glasses. They feel more secure in their world once they can see better. I'm hoping that this will be true in our situation as she can be difficult to deal with at times.

However, the munchkin did love trying on glasses. After all, Mommy and Nana wear glasses all the time anyway. So now she'll be just like us. We chose an extremely cute pair of pink glasses with bright green butterflies on the ear pieces. She's been asking when she can wear her glasses. I'm hoping they'll be in today or tomorrow at the latest.

It was a week certain to make the strongest of people feel a bit overwhelmed. But, now it's over and I feel like I can again take some time to breathe.

The lesson in all of this is that I have to learn to slow down. I need to realize that everything will work out in the end. One way or another, she and I will make it through all of this and be stronger because of it. Currently, I can't say I'm feeling all that strong, but I'll get there.

Strength isn't something that you either have or don't. Certainly some people are emotionally stronger than others. Am I one? All I know is what I've told many of my friends. I'm only a woman playing the hand she's been dealt. I have no other choice. Sure, I want to throw my hands in the air and just go back to bed. But that doesn't accomplish anything. And it's not what Ron would have wanted for us either. He taught me a lot. And now, I have to teach the munchkin those same lessons.

Monday, January 18, 2010

What I keep

If you were to walk through my house you would begin to think that I'm either completely mental (which is a definite possibility) or have a strange sense of that which is sentimental.

There are so many things hiding in different spots around the house that would have meaning only to me.

In the refrigerator is one, lonely Miller Light. Ron drank Miller Light and this is the last can of the beer that was bought by my brother after the funeral. Ron made sure to drink all that he had in the house before leaving for his surgical appointment because he knew he wouldn't be allowed to drink afterwards. So this one can hangs out in my fridge. I won't drink it (although I really don't mind Miller Light), won't let anyone else drink it, and, if I needed a beer for some culinary experience, would go out and buy a new six-pack. He never touched it. But somehow, it means something to me.

In the basket by the bed is the shirt he wore to the hospital the day of his first surgery. I have not washed it. The rest of his clothes I washed and put away when I did the laundry for the first time after he died. Like he was coming back. When I switched his stuff into the spare bedroom closet I couldn't deal with giving away any of his "hanging" clothes. Anything that was in his dresser drawers I dealt with. But anything that had been hanging in the closet is still hanging there, untouched. Most of these clothes I never saw him wear. But I can't get rid of them. At least not yet.

On the fridge is a whiteboard type perpetual calendar. You fill in the dates. I've left it just as he last did. It shows an appointment with the surgeon before the actual date was set for the surgery, an appointment with my attorney to deal with car accident issues, and nothing else of any consequence. But I can't erase it. Please don't do me any favors and erase and update it. I need it there.

I've also left his pill case with the medicine in it stuck on the fridge. He'll never need it, but I can't seem to put that away.

Every day leaving and coming home I'm confronted with much that is Ron. Hanging on the wall downstairs we have a set of longhorn horns that span at least 5 feet. Those will never be given away even though they don't suit me in the slightest.

On the coffee table in the living room sits his copy of American Soldier. I'm sure I'll never read it, but it was the only actual book I ever saw him read. That's where he left it, and you can believe it's going to stay there. I just don't know for how long.

In a bathroom that I completely redid to make "my own" and removed his lighthouse stuff in the process, there are two reminders. There's a lighthouse windchime hanging from the ceiling vent. I don't know why I don't take it down. It just seems to belong there. There's also a lighthouse picture hanging on the wall. Over a year ago I purchased a picture to replace it. For whatever reason I can't hang it.

Down in the garage, if you knew what you were looking for, you'd find the box of his ashes. They're in the garage because that was his domain. That's where he found peace. You might wonder why they're in a box. Ron would have thought it silly and pretentious to buy ANYTHING to put his ashes in. So, I just leave them in their box. I haven't opened it. Can't make myself do it.

And lastly, and quite possibly the most bizarre memento, in the glove compartment of my car you will find a partial pack of his cigarettes, a pack of the gum he liked, and a lighter. I always hated that he smoked. I chewed the rest of every other pack of gum he had around. And I don't use lighters. But they're still there 16 months later.

Someday, maybe, I'll be able to get rid of these things. Maybe not. For now, they just hang around reminding me what a special part of my life he was. All of these things aren't Ron. They're just reminders of his presence. He was an amazing man that brought love back into my life and showed me what I had the capability of being. Giving these things up feels like I'm giving him up. And so I hang on to them. Am I hanging on to him as well? I suppose I am. None of these things are part of a shrine. None of them represent a daily fixation without which I would stop functioning.

I wonder what people would keep around to represent me if I were suddenly no longer around. What do I leave this world? You know what? I don't think it really matters to me, because 50 years from now when my family has to decide what to keep and what to give away, the meaning will be for them to find. Right now, I'll just keep putting bits of myself out there and hoping that someday there will be so many fond memories that they'll have a hard time choosing items to give away.