Back in my bed by myself after a breakfast that was not only made by my offspring, but actually looked AND tasted good, I enjoyed the luxury of thinking in silence.
Change is on the wind.
As I was sipping coffee that wasn't even reheated but still hot and fresh (a miracle of sorts) I pondered the realization that this will likely be the last Mother's Day like this.
The time when I have humans I created under my roof whom I'm responsible for is coming to a close.
At some point soon, the only person I’ll have to provide food and shelter for is myself. (Yes, even when the kids all move, I'll still have 2 dogs, a cat, 6 chickens, 3 fish and my SweetHeart living here, but that’s different. He's a grown arse man and my Partner who pulls his own share, which is a whole different ballgame than kids~ and the rest are not humans, so they can only complain in barks, clucks, meows and the occasional destroyed personal property. Again, nothing like children...)
Our brood will soon be flying the coop and out into the world.
It's a strange place of transition that I'm not quite sure what to make of.
There's this vision I've seen (both in real life and popular media) where mother's at my stage of the game are mourning and lamenting the soon to be empty nest as though somehow all meaning is leaving life with the college bound kids.
The thing is... I'm not really feeling that way.
There are also the parents who are just done and can't wait for their kids to leave~ whether they are 17 and full of hormonal angst or 26 and playing video games in the basement.
I'm definitely not feeling that way either.
This place that I'm at feels a bit more complicated than that.
Thankfully, I still enjoy having them here. And I also know they’re almost ready to go.
I definitely have some nerves along with the occasional doomsday, “I’ll tell you what could possibly go wrong” type of what ifs running through my head (and sometimes out of my mouth.)
There are also the times of nostalgia for days past, when they were smaller and life seemed somehow simpler.
There are times when I panic that I still have so much I want to share with them that I go on a speed-talking caffeinated rant full of helpful tips on adulting until their eyes glaze over and they run into another room to “do math homework” rather than hear any more.
And there are times when I know that some things they’ll just have to figure out on their own, no matter how much I want to help.
But mostly, I feel.... Content.
I’m a little surprised that I’m not feeling like I need to stop the clock or wishing I could go back or even jump ahead.
I don’t know if all the self help, make-yourself-all-zen-like books I’ve read have finally kicked in or what, but for the most part, I’m at peace.
More than that, I’m actually really happy with where we’re all at.
And mostly, I just want to enjoy what’s left.
There’s definitely a jumble of emotions~ but overall, I feel like I did my job of helping them become self reliant adults~
AND the best part is that they turned out to be pretty awesome and extremely competent people who I actually really like hanging around.
They're also people who are ready to go and do their own things in the world, and from what I can see, I feel like their odds of soaring high are really strong.
After spending so many years with my kids~ funschooling, finding opportunities for creativity and expression, to connect with animals and people of all ages, to delve deep into interests, to travel and explore, to be immersed in nature and exposed to all kinds of culures, to make food and grow plants and care for creatures both very young and very old, to witness first hand the circle of life, I feel like they had a great foundation~
At least it was the best one I could give them.
They've been full sized people for some time, but now they're adults in the legal sense as well, and they're on their way to go do their own things.
Some things they want to do sound like great ideas that I can fully understand and enthusiastically support.
Other schemes they come up with make my eyeballs pop out of my head, and are really, really hard not to freak out about (I may actually fail that part…)
But in the end, I know that they're smart and competent.
They won't just be fine~ they'll be awesome.
And my life won't be over or empty when they go.
It will be awesome too.
I'm a little nervous for them and a whole lot excited for all of us.
And I’ll always be amazed that I've made these awesome human beings.
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Have you ever tried doing something that you knew would be challenging, but you felt like you could do it….
And then once you committed and told people publicly and got going, all of a sudden, things went crazy it got waaaaaaaaay harder than you initially expected?
Well, lemme tell ya~ that’s what I happened when I decided to quit drinking alcohol for Lent this year.
I’m sort of surprised that here we are in the beginning of May, and I’m just now realizing that I haven’t mentioned this very important accomplishment….
It may be completely tooting my own horn, but…...
I MADE IT THROUGH LENT!!!!!
LIKE ALL THE WAY THROUGH…..
Not just part of the way.
Not even most of the way with a few days off (apparently that’s a thing some people do…)
I made it ALL THE FREAKING WAY.
Yep. All 46 Days~ even when I originally thought I was only signing up for 40.
Did I also mention the mass of insanely stressful events that fell into my lap during that time?
Like a ginormous medical crisis in which my mom almost died and the aftermath that ensued was chock full of SO MUCH HARD STUFF.
But I did it.
Not Drinking is Not Easy!
And I’m while proud, there’s more to why I think it’s important to talk about.
I have people on all sides of my family who’ve struggled with alcohol or other substances. Most of them handle occasional drinking just fine, but for some, it just doesn’t work out.
And no matter how hard they try, it just doesn’t end up well.
And my kids inherit that background from both my side and their dads’.
Besides family, we’ve seen neighbors and friends, people we care about as well as just plenty of people walking down or laying on the streets who clearly have crossed the line between use and abuse.
So, addiction is something that’s always right on the edge of my line of sight. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about, and talking with my kids about it, because if the current scientific theories are accurate, the tendency towards addiction is in our DNA.
Knowing that the line could become fuzzy for any of us is an important thing to realize.
None of us is immune, and some of us might be a bit more prone to problems, especially if we don’t pay attention.
So, I try to pay attention~ to watch myself, that is~ to be aware of not only how much I’m consuming and how often, but also the why behind it.
The thing is, I enjoy almost everything about having a glass of wine or a margarita with friends.
It’s tasty and relaxing and I like it.
But when times are tough, I don’t want to rely on drinking to be the thing I look forward to to help me chill. And I certainly don’t want to need it.
So, I pay attention~
I think about what my motive is, about how I feel if and when I drink and to how I feel if and when I don’t.
It’s not a guarantee, of course, and many people are skilled at deluding themselves into thinking they’re fine when they’re not.
But I’m also of the opinion that paying attention is a lot smarter than just blindly acting like you’re invincible or being so paranoid that you live in fear.
Some days are better than other days of course, and I think it’s good to set some extra limits sometimes, like I did with Lent.
And because the timing turned out to be so freaking difficult, I feel good knowing that I managed some of the hardest stuff of my life without resorting to any sort of self medicating~ not even a glass of wine.
It was important too, because I really needed to be present and aware and making lots of decisions and coming up with plans and taking ridiculous amounts of action on entirely unpleasant things.
It would have been nice to have a margarita, but I didn’t. Not until Easter at least, and then, I enjoyed a glass that I had earned times ten at least.
I think I enjoyed it more knowing that I didn’t need it, but that I chose it.
My Lenten Experiment was good for my peace of mind, and probably my liver too.
And I’m hoping it was good for my kids to see, hear and talk about~ for them to know that if they choose to drink when they come of age, it’s a choice, but it should be an informed one~ that paying attention matters and that knowing your limits is priceless.
My own mom took the approach of removing all traces of alcohol from the home before we became teens, taking the sudden stance that alcohol was BAD.
She warned us that if we tried drinking, we might think we were having fun, but we really weren’t.
This just made my sarcastic teenage self question whether that mattered, because as long as a person thought they were having fun, wasn’t that the point?
She also resorted to hysterically screaming that smoking pot will make you jump off a building. Not that it might, or that it possibly happened one time ever in the history of the world~ but that it WOULD HAPPEN~ as in an undeniable fact.
Well, it didn’t happen~ at least not to anyone I could see in real life.
I know she meant well with these tactics, but they were so extreme I really kind of lost any belief in any of what was being said on the subject. And that didn't really help me.
So, I wanted with my own kids to have dialogue, to point out risks and possibilities, to guide them towards thinking for themselves.
Years ago, I knew a smart young lady who had gone abroad for a year and while away, she found parties and boys and other things that can be both alluring and troublesome. When I asked about her various experiences, she said one of the wisest things I’ve ever heard in regards to the subject of alcohol.
She told me, “You know, the second time I tried drinking, I realized that it’s a lot more fun to catch a buzz that to get sh*#faced and puke.”
Bless her brilliant young heart. At 18, she had figured out what takes many people YEARS if not an entire lifetime to realize.
The drunken homeless person passed out in the alley probably didn’t start out in life thinking that was gonna be their fate. They probably had goals and dreams and people they loved, but somehow they lost it.
It could happen to anyone and if addiction is in your family tree, it’s even more likely that it could happen to you. No one is invincible.
So, I hope my kids will pay attention too. I hope that as they come of age, the conversations and the observations we’ve been having for years will help them think and be aware, to be careful and as I tell them with pretty much everything, to make good choices.
Lemme know in the comments below how you handle talking about intoxicants with your offspring, and if they’re grown, how it worked out.
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It’s not often that a song from a 90’s hair band is stuck in my head for 36 hours straight...
OK, maybe I occasionally get old metal stuck in my head other times too, much to the dismay of my family and anyone who has to listen to me singing along to music only I can hear... But, this occasion was severe~
and it also has a point
For the last couple of days, the words “Eighteen and life to go...” have been playing over and over in my head.
It's probably because my youngest birth child became an adult yesterday~ well, at least in the eyes of the law~ I mean, he can vote and buy lottery tickets anyway.
If you’re familiar with Skid Row, I should mention that my son doesn’t have life to go in the prison sense that’s implied in their song. No, nowhere near the tragedy and angst of all that.
Rather, my kid has life to go ~ as in figuring out how to adult.
Which is a different kind of life sentence.
He’s sometimes under the impression that he’s been adulting already and has come up with some hilarious lines such as “Yeah, I pretty much pay all my own bills…” said in all seriousness with a cocky head tilt.
I laughed hysterically for 15 minutes in response.
The kid is very responsible, this is true, and I want to give him credit for that. He pays for half of his car insurance and phone as well as his gas. He also bought his shiny red car with money he saved on his own from working.
But, as every actual adult knows, those aren’t even a fraction of ALL the bills a person has to pay to live as an independent. There’s the big ticket things like an actual place to live and then there’s all the miscellaneous things like food, hot water, electricity and internet. All the things we like and make life comfortable.
He pointed out that he buys a lot of his food too, but that’s really only when he goes out with his friends or decides not to take a lunch to work. He still eats here like 6 times a day, and he consumes more than the rest of us combined, but from his perspective, he’s pretty much independent.
Still, I’m proud of all he HAS done and continues to do on his path to responsible adulting.
The Boy spent his entire birthday doing semi adultish things like college classes, basketball practice and working.
There wasn’t time for a huge coming of age party on the actual day that marked his birth, but we had midnight cupcakes when he wandered in the night before and streamers and hugs and late night blueberry pancakes with bacon when he returned home his responsibilities.
It was a quiet day, which is strange because we’re not quiet people. I might feel sad about the reservedness of it all~ except he just got back from his first road trip without adults, and he’s still got 2 more celebratory parties this week.
So, he's fine.
I can’t help but think back to my own 18th birthday though, and how different the dynamic felt.
I got luggage as a gift from my mom~ perhaps not such a subtle hint, although well suited because I was leaving home to go make my way in the world the next day anyway.
I don’t know how my mom felt about it, and I doubt I ever will, but I do know how I felt.
Excited, nervous, and a bit defiant.
My frame of mind at the time was very much “Eff you!” not to any one person, but more to the world in general ~ as if I thought it was somehow against me.
Those weren’t exactly my best years personality wise~
I did learn to find opportunities and make things work, but I also remember feeling like I was going to have to fight for what I wanted.
I had learned to be good at fighting (with words anyway), and while it’s been handy on occasion, I’m still trying to unlearn some of that today.
What I’ve realized in years since is that the world really isn’t out to get me, and that most of the time, I’ve actually had a whole lotta blessings surrounding me.
Sometimes they showed up out of the blue, and sometimes I worked really hard for them, but more often than not, fighting wasn’t really necessary.
I'm glad to know I can do it when I need to, but I'm even happier to know that I mostly don't need to at all.
Contrary to how it sometimes feels when reading comments on social media, most people are actually pretty nice in real life.
And often, it’s easier to just ask for what you want than to attack.
Why it took me so many years to realize these things, I don’t know, but now that I understand that there’s often an easy button, I’m all about finding and pushing it.
My Grandmother used to say “You can catch more flies with honey than vinegar” (Or at least it sounds like something she’d say, even though I’m not 100% sure if she actually ever did.)
In any case, whoever said it was right.
Thankfully, my kids seem to have gotten that understanding at a much younger age than I did. They’re kind and polite, especially to old people, little kids and animals, even if they are not always to each other.
They’re positive thinkers and hard workers, and they sure as heck don’t seem as mad or cynical about the world as I was.
And for that, I’m both grateful and proud.
In fact, looking at my two “Grown-Up-ish” offspring, I don’t think I could be any more proud than I am.
They made it to “adulthood” not just in tact, but Awesome~ inside and out.
I’m way more excited for them than I am nervous because I know that even if they leave their dishes on the couch for 3 days until I start screaming and then say they have homework, they’re really competent and resilient humans who know how to enjoy life.
Getting them to this point of grown-ish has been a really fun journey and we all not only love, but still genuinely LIKE each other.
So, I’m breathing a sigh of relief, saying prayers of gratitude and treating myself to a massage.
I’m also getting the Boy Child a driving experience in a race car so he can go fast in a safe situation~ AND a voter registration pamphlet so he can be a responsible citizen who participates in democracy.
I’m not sure when I’ll stop referring to him as my Boy Child, if ever.
But look out world….here he comes.
When a friend stopped by the other day to say hello, I wanted to have a nice visit, but instead, this stream of negative energy kept bubbling over out of me and infecting everything.
My poor friend stayed, although I wouldn't have blamed her if she ran away from the ugliness.
The overwhelm of overwork and trying to help others with their untended and neglected issues can be like a poison.
I'm realizing how much other people's toxic waste can infect you, and that sometimes you need to don a hazmat suit or some sort of protective barrier to keep you safe and sane while you navigate the situation.
Another wise woman I know recently mentioned that during her own hard times, she had turned to painting. Sometimes you know there are wisdom in words, and this was one of those times.
There is healing in art.
So, I got out a sketch book and started to let the messes and the energy begin to move through and out.
These came in about a half an hour and it felt good to release some of the "blech."
Nothing pretty yet, but just turning my metaphorical compost to let some air in the soil.
More poop built up within a day, so I know I'll need to keep tending my own patch of life so I can get back to blooming.
And I'll keep reminding myself to put on the protective gear when I need it.
I guess this is spring.
How do you release toxicity?
Have you found any healing through art?
I'd love to hear your thoughts on what helps to get the ugly out, because I've seen enough examples to know that pretending it isn't there just doesn't work in the long haul.
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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~
Since it’s the month when we celebrate Love, I want to keep rolling with the theme, and share one of my favorite love stories. Mine.
Sometimes people ask when and how I met my SweetHeart, and I love telling them it was at a Homeschool Conference. It’s absurd, hilarious and ridiculously dorky and mostly, it’s just not where singles would ever go to meet.
But we met, probably because neither of us was looking for it. We were just trying to take our kids someplace positive that would make them happy, but we ended up with a great relationship, and a good story out of the deal as well.
But just as important as how we met and the story of Us is the story of what happened before~
the story of being alone.
For reference, my SweetHeart and I had both been married young, and for most of our adult lives, and we had both had our lives change drastically when our marriages ended. The only story that is mine to tell is my own, so that’s what I’m sharing here.
My ex husband had been gone for nearly a year and a half when a friend casually asked me if I was thinking about meeting someone new.
My reaction was something along the lines of screaming “AAAAAACCCKKKKK! Good God, NOOOOOOOOOOO!” and accompanied by wide eyed panic, full body recoils, hair pulling and gnashing of teeth.
Frankly, the idea of dating after my divorce was one of the most unpleasant and terrifying ideas ever to be proposed to me.
Maybe I’m being a little dramatic, but I had gotten married at 21, and hadn’t “dated” since I was 19 years old.
Ninefriggenteen~ the peak of youngness.
In a word, dating sounded awful.
Dating would involve trying to dress up and look nice and acting as though I was charming.
It would mean being on my best behavior and not spilling food on my shirt and making sure there were no beans in my teeth and…. basically a whole lotta work in an effort to impress people.
By this point I was beyond 40. That’s a lotta years where time, childbirth and gravity had done their thing~ not to mention the way life itself squelches youthful optimism and naivete.
It’s not that I was particularly unhappy with my aging self or my life~ but I was (and still am) a bit "Quirky" and can be rough around the edges. I guess I'm an acquired taste, and I really had no interest in being judged or trying to woo anyone into liking me.
I have zero poker face, and I was quite sure that even if I did go on a date, there was no way I could manage a neutral expression, let alone a pleasant one, for the entire time. The freaking out fest in my mind would surely be showing with bug eyes and flared nostrils, which would most likely frighten anyone who wasn’t a complete weirdo.
And then I’d be stuck on a date with a weirdo~ and not even the good kind.
No. Just no. The whole thing made me want to vomit.
I brushed away my friend’s ridiculous idea and went on with my day.
But later, after my initial nausea and flailing wore off, I had some time to ponder the idea. I realized that while it was true that I did not feel in the least bit ready to date then because I was quite happily figuring out life on my own, I also knew that I probably didn’t want to spend the rest of my life alone.
I had my awesome offspring, but they are kids after all. They are meant to grow and live their own lives.
I had some great friends and a wonderful community, but at some point, additional companionship might be nice.
Here’s where I realized what I think was one of the most important concepts of my life~
The timeframe I was in at that moment did not equate the rest of my life.
It was a season of being alone, not a lifetime commitment.
I actually wanted and needed to go through that process Alone and figure out MySelf before I got tangled up in anything or anyone else.
For me, the alone season was both important and awesome.
Life as a single mom was not always easy. Actually, it could be really hard, but I was learning a lot, and I was really happier than I had been in a long, looooooooong time.
I really didn’t feel lacking or like anything was missing. I liked taking care of my own things the way I wanted and being the head of household. I liked getting to know myself better.
I felt stronger and more competent than ever.
Without consciously realizing it, I was learning that I was whole.
All by MySelf.
I think people get afraid of being alone, but it can be a very good place. It certainly was for me at that time.
I can’t emphasize enough how happy I am that I had that time Solo.
Wrangling my own big life changes on was a huge undertaking, but it was also majorly empowering for me and my kids.
I came out of it knowing that all by my Big Girl Self, I could not only be OK, but I could kick arse.
Fast forward to a month or two later, when the same friend asked me again about my thoughts on dating. My initial thought was “Uggghhh….not this again…”
While I still wasn’t ready, I also wasn’t as violently opposed as I had been a couple of months earlier. My body didn’t start heaving violently and I didn’t go into panic mode like I had before.
Being the type who tends to overanalyze and overthink things, I began to ponder about what it really was that I wanted out of life~ as in the big scheme of things.
In the wonderful way that the universe works, right about that time, an email from Jodi Chapman popped into my inbox about a course that she and her partner Dan Teck had created on soulful love.
Now, truth be told, I come from a long line of skeptics and have rolled my eyeballs at romantic stories for as long as I can remember. Even as a young child, I could never stand the dumb girl who needs someone to save the day.
As an adult, I just feel sad for the lonely hearts and empty lives just waiting to be completed by some outside source because they aren’t OK with themselves.
I didn’t believe in or want any of that pathetic Disney nonsense.
So, even though my initial reaction was “Oh Blehhhhck,” the words “Soulful Love” did sound different~ like a spiritual connection that began within.
I knew that if and when I ever got involved again, that was what it should feel like. A connection of Souls.
This led me to all sorts of pondering as to what I thought a good relationship looked like, analyzing the good and bad about my deceased marriage, including my own role in it.
That was actually really helpful to look at my Own Self, not in a bashing way, but just to figure out what might work better and how I could be the kind of partner I wanted to be.
That was new right there~ the concept of being actual partners.
Maybe because I was older and wiser than I used to be, I could analyze all this and not feel bad about it because it wasn’t like I wanted to go back.
I was happier than I had been in a long time, and I knew there was no point in blaming anyone because we were all doing the best we could, and in the end, we were just pointing in very different directions.
I think after a divorce, there’s an easy tendency to just point out all the sucky things your ex did, which might or might not be valid, but it isn’t helpful in creating a better and different future for yourself.
If you’re done with them, let that shizzle go.
Besides, chances are, most of us have our own share of “stuff” and you could make more of an impact by looking inward than pointing a finger outward.
I could see that I didn’t want to recreate that scene again, and that the only person I could do anything about was myself.
So, I thought about the kind of person I wanted to be, and while I may not exactly have mastered it, (ok, not even close) at least I became aware. And I started to try.
Somewhere along the timeline of being alone, I started to appreciate myself, my efforts and my abilities.
I began to have compassion for myself and others (generally young children and animals got all my “niceness” and as far as I was concerned, adults could just suck it up and shut up about it.)
I started to let go of a lot of blame and shame and began to open my heart to the concept of Love.
Still not Disney love~ prince charming can go rescue his own sorry self.
But Real Love. Like Velveteen Rabbit kind.
And not just for someone else, like from me to my kids.
But for me.
And not just from someone else either. But to myself, from myself.
And I think that’s when I was ready.
It must be, because that's when I found what I didn't know I had been looking for.
This has been long enough for now, so if you’re still reading Thank You!
Next time, I’ll continue with the story of How I Met My SweetHeart.
If you liked, this, please, please, please go “Like” it on Facebook and share it with a friend.
Until next time, I hope there is all kinds of Love in your life now, starting with You!
I woke up on this Fat Tuesday feeling ironically bloated and overly full in the gut even before I opened my eyes.
This was probably because my SweetHeart had opened the bag full of “Valentine’s Day Week” treats late the night before when I mentioned craving Cheez Its. (I know, I know... they’re not even a real food, and honestly, it’s not something I eat regularly. But for some reason, that salty fake orange cheez with a Z flavor was sounding good.)
The snacks My Love had procured were MUCH better and contained real food ingredients~ basically a bag full of Trader Joe’s Chocolatey Goodness. Not exactly healthy, but tasty and not artificial either.
I immediately lasered in on the Dark Chocolate Roasted Pistachio Toffee and began gorging, “Nom, Nom, Nom” noises and all.
Since it was probably 11 PM when I was stuffing my boca with sweet treats, it’s not exactly a mystery why my belly was feeling so very maxed out beyond its’ designed capacity when I woke.
Willpower is not exactly my specialty, especially when there’s a bag of good, dark, chocolate within reach.
And willpower is sort of what will be needed to get through the next 40 days.
Tomorrow is the start of Lent~ and a season where I give up something as sort of a spiritual growth exercise.
I always feel the need to mention that I’m not Catholic, and not sure what the official rules are surrounding Lent. I only have my version, that I’ve been doing more years than not since high school. It’s a personal thing for me~ sort of a cleansing and connection to my higher power and spirituality.
Some people like to focus on the bleak lack and sacrifice around the sean, but I’m just cleaning up my act.
In the past, I’ve given up tangible things like chocolate, coffee and meat, as well as conceptual things like smack talk and being bitter (which are way harder if you’re wondering)
This year, it will not be chocolate that I’m giving up, so it’s not like there was any actual rush for me to eat all that candy~ except I didn’t want to share with the children. I was just overindulging greedily.
No, this year, I’ll be saying goodbye to alcohol. From Valentine’s Day until Easter, it’s gonna be a dry 40 days for this lady, or at least that’s the plan.
I made a long list of pros and cons of this choice, because overanalyzing is how I roll. To be honest, the pros list of taking a break from drinking was the only long part and it was full of stuff about overall health, body weight and mental presence. On and on it went.
The cons side pretty much had 1 thing: I like it.
I tried to elaborate with “it’s tasty and relaxing” but I knew that I was making stuff up and I should just accept that it was the right choice for this year.
It’s never easy giving up something you like, but that’s kind of the point of the whole thing. Consciously taking a break in the spirit of reverence.
I think my kidneys will thank me, and probably the rest of my body as well. And my wallet, too.
Since I’ll be spending the evening of Fat Tuesday at a Christian Homeschoolers Basketball Game, I don’t think it’s going to exactly be a last night of whooping it up for me before the oncoming drought. My opened bottle of wine will probably get made into sauce or frozen wine cubes for some future post Easter concoction.
Until then, at least I have my bag of sweets to console myself. Wish me luck~ Here’s to better health.
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.