As a writer, a mom, a busy woman juggling a family, a full time job and a couple of side gigs, how can you keep creating when life throws you a big pile of crazy hard stuff?
This past week and a half, my pile of crazy hard stuff has included some seriously intense situations that started as urgent, and progressed rapidly into “Holy effing moly~ this is way worse than I imagined!”
While navigating an emergency surgery for a loved one and dealing with the intensive care units, countless medical people, follow up care and a Pandora's box / can of worms of unknown issues that immediately needed attention, the answer to how I kept creating was this...
I really didn’t.
The whole ordeal was overwhelming and terrifying and I pretty much panicked because I knew that there was so much that needed to happen, and no matter how much I did, it might not be enough.
The stakes were (and still are) high, it’s close to my heart, and in all honesty, it scared the freaking heck out of me.
As of now, things are being taken care of as best as they can, but still….it took a toll.
As a result of all of it, I was nauseous and shaky for over a week. Every muscle in the upper third of my body was tensed to near maximum capacity and all of the nerve endings within ½” of the skin covering those parts were tingling most of the time.
I was even forgetting to eat, which is waaaaaaaay out of the realm of normal and healthy for me.
It was a highly unpleasant 12 or so days to say the least.
I wasn’t taking vitamins or sleeping or going to yoga or really remembering to do any of the things I normally do to take care of myself.
I was stressing about work.
And I wasn’t creating much either.
My journal was blank, my trashion show project had not progressed one bit, my art supplies were untouched and my blog was sitting and patiently waiting.
In hindsight, I wasn't doing any of the things that help me most.
Writing is part of the way that I process life, especially the big stuff, and I started to form and string together the words for this experience...
But, then I realized I might need to pause.
Somewhere, deep down in the logical part of the mind, most of us probably realize that we are likely to outlive our parents.
It’s the natural order of things for parents to cross over the rainbow bridge before their offspring, even if it doesn’t always work out that way.
Still, it’s not something we ever really think about.
At least until something smacks you in the face to remind you that the person you have known longer than anyone else in the world is probably not always going to be there.
My mother is a fierce and independent woman. I was going to say that she’s fiercely independent, which she is, but she’s really just as much of either of those words on their own.
And she’s Independent.
As far back as I can remember, she has never liked to ask for help, and has a hard time accepting it when it’s offered.
She would rather figure out her own way in life, thank you very much.
Everything is just fine (even when it isn’t.)
And Lord help you if you cross her.
Since I was a kid, and to this day, I have known it was smarter to avoid making her mad, but I also knew that she was on my side 100%, and if she thought anyone was messing with me, they would most likely be getting a new orifice of some kind.
So, I wasn’t exactly prepared to sit by my unconscious mother’s bedside while she was connected to I don’t even know how many machines that were controlling and monitoring every aspect of her being alive.
While trying to get her to respond to the instructions of the intensive care staff as they lowered her sedation in hopes that she could breathe on her own, I used the words “Try to stay calm,” about a million times using my best impersonation of a therapist voice.
Anyone who knows me or my mother would know this is ridiculous.
“Calm” is not a word you would use to describe my people.
But we needed her to be calm and still enough so as not to tear out the large incision across the midline of her abdomen. At the same time, we needed her to be alert enough to show she could cough, swallow and whatever other tests help medical staff determine that she was ready to remove the tube down her throat.
She wasn’t. Not that day anyway.
It was another day of trying on and off and a night of rest before she was ready.
I’ve never been under general anesthesia, but watching her coming out from that state was like seeing someone having a bad dream, grimacing and thrashing in their sleep, but they can’t quite wake up.
There were points they needed restraints to keep her from pulling out any of the bazillion remaining tubes she was connected to, and she still managed to rip one out twice.
In her dazed state, she tried convincing both me and my Boy Child to help her escape because “they were trying to kill her.”
I was told that this state wasn't abnormal for this process,
but it was certainly not easy to see.
The following days had bits of small progress, but overall it was painful to witness.
I’m sure though, that it was far more painful for her to endure, although she doesn’t remember.
And I can’t forget.
While I feel an enormous sense of relief knowing that she’s the hands of good medical professionals, and getting access to the care she needs...
I’m still trying to process the reality that out of the blue, my mother almost died.
Last month wasn't just the month of love around here at Fabulosa Farms, although I did write an awful lot about it.
It was also a month of challenges for this Zesty Mom~ although they were self created ones, so it's not like life just threw them at me.
Sometimes people create challenges for themselves that just seem to make unnecessary drama in their lives and leave you wondering what in the heck they are thinking.
I was going more for the kind of challenges that were thought out and meant to be used as intentional tools for growth.
At least that was the goal.
First, there was the month of writing letters challenge, in which people all over the world attempt to write and send one letter on every day the post office delivers mail during the month of February. My version (because I rarely follow directions) was to just write a whole lotta letters.
I think the total for the official challenge would have been 23 letters. (factoring no mail on Sunday or holidays) I came in at having mailed 17. There were spurts of no letters for days, then days I’d write 3 letters in a row.
It got harder the last half of the month when my final challenge started (see below) because I like the ritual of sitting down with a box of stationary and stickers and writing more when there’s a glass of wine to go with it.
In any case, writing all those letters was fun. It got me thinking about people I appreciate them and it gave me a chance to tell them why~ plus there were stickers. And who doesn't love stickers?
I also know it brought smiles to some faces.
I didn’t get in all the letters I planned and still have a few more people I want to write to~ so maybe I’ll get to it this month. Or this year, anyway.
My next challenge was the Treat Yo Self Challenge to do Yoga every day with Adriene, and I actually hit a lotta days. The timing was good because my Boy Child’s basketball playoffs were keeping me from my usual twice a week yoga class, so this gave me a back up.
And my SweetHeart agreed to (mostly) do it with me.
I was a little slackerish when I went on a solo business trip and only actually participated for about ½ the time the videos played. I definitely am better at completion when I have an accountability partner on a mat next to me to give me the stink eye if I leave to go get cookies.
Anyhoo, I got in some sort of yoga almost every day, and I know my body appreciated the movement, especially with how wintery it was outside, and I consider it a success.
My final and most difficult challenge was the start of Lent, in which I decided to give up alcohol for what I thought was the 40 days before Easter. While I’ve never been Catholic, I’ve been doing some version of Lent more years than not for the last 30 or so years~ and this whole time I never added up the days.
Well, last night I was looking at my calendar when I decided to see how many days I had done, and how many I had left~ and it didn’t add up!!!
There are actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday!
I had another freaking 6 days on there that I wasn’t even giving myself credit for!!!!!
Because it was too late to call the friend who introduced me to the concept of Lent when we were kids, I went to the interweb to see if I could figure out what in the heck I had been thinking with this 40 day idea for all these years.
I didn’t have to go far to find all sorts of confusion. It seems some people don’t count the Sundays in that time frame because each of those is considered a “mini Easter.” I’m not sure if that means it’s a cheat day or what?
Perhaps coincidentally, I had almost given myself a cheat day last Sunday when I was tired and had just started my cycle and giving myself comfort items, and I thought, “You know what would make this LaCroix a lot tastier? Some good dark rum and a slice of lime, that’s what….”
I hemmed and hawed about whether it was actually cheating since I was kind of making up how my own rules about how and what it meant to me, but in the end, it got late and I ended up staying rum free.
(I maintain my statement about the LaCroix though)
Anyhoo, while trying to figure out the “real deal” on Lent, I also learned that there’s even discrepancy in regards to what day it ends.
I always kinda went with sundown on the Saturday night before Easter Sun, but some people go as early as the Thursday before Easter (which is called Maundy Supper and commemorates when Jesus ate the Last Supper with his friends)
Apparently, there’s all kinds of wiggle room here, even amongst “official” peeps.
I haven’t decided yet what this means for me, but in any case, I have already gone 3 weeks with all the wine and rum in the house staying in the cabinet and not going into my body.
Maybe my kidneys are happier? I don’t know.
And not that I’m all that concerned, but I had kinda hoped I might have started to shed some of my winter coat of padding. But nope. Perhaps all the chocolate I keep shoving in my face is hindering that.
In any case, this has been enough of challenging myself for awhile. I’m still on Lent (for now) and that is plenty. I’ll still be trying to move my body and connect with people I care about whenever I can, but I’m not setting goals or keeping track~ just enjoying, which really is the whole point.
How about you? Any self imposed challenges you’re up to these days? Let me know how it’s going in the comments below. And wish me luck with the next couple of weeks.
Let’s just start with the fact that I have a long history of being a cynic, especially when it came to things like Love and Romance.
These were usually topics that incited eye rolling in the least, if not actual gagging sounds coming out of me. Not in the way of an 8 year old boy who spotted someone kissing, but more like a person who has seen enough of the ugly side of humanity to have formed some skeptical opinions.
However, life has also shown me some surprises, and one thing I know for sure is that the world needs More Love.
Which is why last week, I had started to share my favorite Love Story~ How I Met My SweetHeart.
As I started to type, I realized the story really started before then, and I got detoured talking about Being Alone.
It was an important detour, I think, because I don’t know that my story would have turned out the way it has if I hadn’t taken it.
But now, I’ll get to the point~ on to My Love Story~
In the year and a half since my husband of 19 years had left, I’d worked hard on my home, my career, my family and myself.
I’d bought myself a car that didn’t have parts held on with duct tape or jewelry wire.
I’d secured several flexible work gigs so I knew that my kids and I would eat, and I could still be around to be involved in their homeschooling and lives.
The kids and I had fixed up and painted our hideously ugly prison grey home and made it a colorful “Luscious Mango Love Shack”
I had settled in my single mama~ness, and had done a whole lotta thinking, learning, growing and figuring out around My Life, My Way. It wasn’t easy flying solo, but I was happy with where we were and where we were going.
Somewhere in that time, I decided to take my kids to a HomeSchool Conference. Of all the places in the world I would have imagined meeting a man who would change my life, that would not have been on the list,
But that is exactly where I met My SweetHeart. Not at a bar, or through an online dating site. But at a HomeSchool Conference.
It’s ridiculous and hilarious because it isn’t a place any rational person would go looking for love.
But that’s the thing. I wasn’t looking.
I was just going someplace that seemed like it would be fun for my kids and me, which is probably why it worked out in the long run.
It was a last minute decision, but my kids wanted to see their friends, and I knew there would be cool people and activities and things that we would all enjoy. We’d been working hard, and we needed fun.
There were issues with logistics~ the hotel was full and the tickets were out of my budget. But, that didn’t stop us.
I believe in finding creative ways to make stuff happen, so we volunteered in exchange for our admission and arranged to stay with a friend who lived a half hour away.
Sadly, not staying onsite meant that there would be no margaritas for me, even though it was still 12 million degrees at 8 PM and I was tired and thirsty and could have used one~ Plus, all my friends were having them and they looked and sounded so yummy.
Later, I would come to appreciate the fact that my mind was completely free of any outside intoxicants to make things look rosier than they really were.
But to be honest, at the time, I was a little bummed and lamenting my inability to indulge.
On the first evening of the conference, my kids were heading to a teen dance when a woman I didn’t know passed me in the hall and said in a low voice, “Underground Mom’s Dance~ room 302”
The ladies in this group are mostly not the denim jumper wearing homeschool moms who speak in hushed tones. They are an eclectic and wild bunch, just like their offspring, which is why we fit in there.
Within a short time, several other people mentioned this “Underground Mom’s Dance”, and it sounded like where all the cool parents would be. So I headed that way and quickly found a friend I already knew.
Even without any margaritas, the 80’s rock blaring from the speakers got the best of me, and I had to hit the dance floor. I remember that while twirling and whirling like a madwoman, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a handsome man in a hat sitting on the sidelines.
I assumed the only reason a dad would be at a homeschool conference was because his wife drug him there, and thought something along the lines of “Aww, How sweet that he comes and hangs out here”
I danced on, margarita free and therefore fully aware of how dorky my dance moves were but not caring in the least. My friend and I had a blast into the wee hours when I drove my kids back to our lodging.
The next day, back at the conference, I came across the same friend, and she just so happened to be talking to that cute man in the hat who I learned she had known for some time.
It’s probably a good thing I didn’t realize that he was single yet because he was really cute, after all, and I probably would have been nervous and uncomfortable and acted all awkward and weird.
Or maybe I would have just run away and never talked to them at all. Who knows? It had been a looooooooooooong time since I’d ever even considered such things.
But since I had no idea, I was free to be my goofy arse self, without even any consideration to what he thought of me or my loud voice, or my maniacal witch laugh, or the crumbs on my shirt, or even my crazy dance moves.
And that there is another key thing in why it worked out.
I was able to just be myself.
I went up to say hi to my friend, who introduced me. The man was friendly and kind and funny and we all chit chatted and laughed comfortably.
Over the next few days we kept running into each other and friendly hellos turned into talking.
It turned out that we had several mutual friends, and our kids ran in the same circles. I had been to several campouts in the last year with this homeschool group, and he happened to have been to the ones that I missed.
We both shared a lot of experiences, and eventually we learned that those included the ending of our long term marriages. He had 4 kids (which I always feel the need to follow up with the fact that they’re all from the same woman and marriage~ he’s not just a Baby Daddy)
He knew a lot about birth and educational philosophies that I don’t often hear men talking about. He was an artist and had good taste in food and music.
He had been so easy to talk to, that by the time I realized he was single, he already felt like he was someone who would wind up my friend anyway.
One afternoon, I went to a workshop on East Coast Swing Dancing, but upon arrival, I saw that the female to male ratio was about 12 to 1. I knew there was going to be a shortage of partners when a lone teenaged boy opened the door and was swarmed by a dozen girls.
But, I wanted to dance.
So, I sent a message to the only adult guy I knew on the premises. The cute guy in the hat.
He was there in about 3 seconds, smiling, ready and willing to be my partner. I learned later that he never dances~ like never ever.
But he showed up and danced that day. And he’s shown up and gone along with plenty more of my schemes, dancing and otherwise since.
In the class, he learned that I’m not very good at following, and that I kind of tend to go rogue freestyle. Later, he would learn that this tendency extends beyond the dance floor for me.
I don’t don’t know if it’s because we were really awful at East Coast Swingdancing, or because we were some of the only adults in the room, but the teacher kept using us as an example of what NOT to do. It was both mortifying and slightly annoying to have repeated, although polite, suggestions from an instructor to reign in my Big Moves, but we persevered.
While trying to concentrate on counting steps and following directions and not dying of embarrassment because the teacher kept pointing out our errors, I noticed that my dance partner was making an awful lot of eye contact.
As in He Was Looking Right At Me.
And that’s when I began to catch on to the fact that he was interested in me.
Sure enough, I panicked and turned into a nervous wreck. My eyeballs got big and suddenly looked everywhere in the room except his face. I was twitchy Mc~twitching and tripping over my own feet even though I was completely sober ~ the whole shebang.
At least that’s how I remember it.
But he must not have noticed or not seen it that way. Or maybe he just really liked me because he didn’t run either, even though he was dancing with a woman who had suddenly started moving like she might be using meth.
My Girl Child, who happened to be in the same dance class and may be more observant than me might have noticed the interest of my partner before I did. When I looked over at her, I saw her watching like a hawk, making sure nothing was amiss and ready to pluck the eyeballs out if this guy dancing with her mom if she needed to.
Luckily, she didn’t need to.
Later, we shared pizza with a couple of our kids and I could tell by the way his daughter interacted with him that they had an actual relationship. Teenagers aren’t known for pretending that they like their parents, so I was happy to see that he was authentically connected to his kids.
One evening, he was brave although nervous, and looked me in the eye and told me that he liked me.
For the rest of the conference, I wavered between being smitten and being terrified. But even though I was scared, I was also drawn. I didn’t want to run away from him. I wanted to run with him, despite my fears about the whole concept of opening up to a relationship (I mean running in a metaphorical sense of course. We both hate actual running)
Anyhoo, I’m so glad that the connection I felt was stronger than my fear, and we kept spending time together.
We wandered around and talked, listened to live music and ate food. He hung out with me and doodled while I volunteered in the art room and we shared a lot of laughs.
We lived 5 hours apart, so at the end of the conference, we said goodbye for now with a huge hug, because I was still way too freaked out for any kisses.
When I got home, I promptly checked his background on the Megan’s Law website and when he was cleared of being a pedo-creeper, I immediately got a texting plan for my flip phone. (It was 2013 and much of the US already had smartphones at this point, but I didn’t really want or need one until. I had, after all, lived without electricity for 3 years, and didn’t really care about technology. But now, this cute guy was texting me….and I wanted to reply without paying for each individual message)
It turned out that we both had a lot more to say than we wanted to type with our thumbs, and we started writing letters as well.
Actual letters, like the kind you send in the mail.
We asked deep questions about philosophy and beliefs on all sorts of life issues. It was romantic and sweet and thought provoking and awesome.
Since real mail takes days, we also wrote emails in between, checking in daily, pondering and sharing life. In fact, most of our early courtship was through the written word, which was perfect for me.
Our kids would probably also point out that we were on the phone quite often, and I know I lost a lot of sleep to late night talks with him.
While long distance relationships are not easy, I’m really glad that we started that way. It gave us both the time and space to keep working on our individual lives with our kids while we got to know each other better.
The two of us met halfway between our two towns for a few lunch dates, and the chemistry grew.
A few months later, a beach campout came up with our group. Once again, this was perfect. We both had wanted to take our families on this particular trip anyway. We could camp separately, but next to each other so everyone could have space. Our kids would have their own mutual and individual friends there, so it wouldn’t just be an awkward forced hang out for them.
With the ocean, campfires, good food and great people, everyone had a fun time. I even brought my dogs and they liked him. Since I consider dogs to be good judges of character, this was important.
One night at dinner, his youngest daughter, who was 7 and very much attached to her daddy at the time, both metaphorically and literally, out of the blue scooted over her own plate at the table and made a place for me next to her dad. That was huge.
The whole thing went great and I may have had a deluded idea that this merging of people and lives would just always be easy.
Well, it may not be surprising that it wasn’t always that easy (duh, I know~ I can be silly sometimes) but it has been very much worth it.
From there, we spent nearly another 2 years being together, but living 5 hours apart. We had lots of wonderful times both with our kids and just the 2 of us.
We kept growing on our own and supported each other through all sorts of hard life changes~ like changing jobs, moving and unpleasant custody proceedings.
At one point, when cleaning out my desk in prep for a move, I came across a piece of paper that I had absolutely no memory of writing. Since it was in my handwriting, and my words, it must have come from me.
The paper contained scribblings pondering what a True Partnership looked like, and a list of the things I wanted in a partner / partnership in life. It was made up of things like character traits and feelings I wanted to have.
I must have made it in the time shortly before I Met My SweetHeart, when I had started to open my mind and heart to the concept of not just doing life forever alone.
My heart and smile both grew huge as I read through it because the man I met when I wasn’t even looking came straight from the Homeschool Conference with all but two of the items on the list (and both of those have since swung my way)
About two years in, and after already helping me move twice, My SweetHeart relocated to live near and with me. And I’m so glad he did.
I’ve learned more about Love in the past 4 ½ years than I had in my 40+ before then.
And somewhere along the line, I stopped being such a skeptic because now I know that Real, Grown Up Love is a thing~ the kind that requires Communication and results in an Actual Partnership~ and it’s pretty freaking awesome.
So, that’s the long winded story of How I Met My SweetHeart. If you’re still reading, God Bless You! Please leave a comment and tell me what you think.
And it would really make a difference if you share on Facebook, too.
Hope you enjoyed~
Writer, Artist, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, FunSchooling Facilitator / Former Goat-Herding HeadMistress for our Mostly Happy Homeschool, Semi-Crazy Chicken Lady and Mamacita Extraordinaire to a couple of Cage Free Kids.