Hey, they’re still alive, aren’t they?

When the kids were little, I learned it was okay for me to take time for myself. It was necessary to maintaining my sanity – those once-a-month bunco nights, book club, the occasional GNO….When they were older, I started to take weekends – scrapbooking retreats and girls’ getaways. Every time I came home though, I felt I was being punished for having had the nerve to go out/away. The house would be a total disaster – kitchen covered in food and dishes, cups everywhere, everything anyone had worn while I was gone tossed wherever, shoes and blankets all over the floor. I’d cry and yell in frustration. I’d bang things around, making sure everyone was aware I was unhappy with the state of our home. It didn’t make anyone feel any better.

Years passed. I continue to do book club, Girls’ Night Out, weekends away. Sometimes when I come home, they’ve taken the time to clean up, knowing it will ease re-entry for everyone involved.  Sometimes it’s a total disaster. I never really know what I’m going to get, but even if it’s relatively clean, it’s not how I would do it. Counters aren’t wiped down. Blankets aren’t folded on the back of the couch. Shoes aren’t in their baskets. There are likely towels hanging over the chairs in the backyard. The dishwasher isn’t loaded the way I load it (and everyone knows the moms load dishwashers the most effective, efficient way possible to make the most of every inch, right?).  The trash and recycling bins are probably overflowing. Floors likely aren’t swept. I’ve learned to let it go.

Hey, the kids (and pets) are still alive, right? They’ve probably been off-schedule, the boys likely haven’t taken their meds every day. But they’ve been fed. They’ve probably done some fun stuff with dad. They got a break from the way mom does everything. No, it isn’t the way I do things, but everyone is still intact, and the house can be put back to order.

I got home from my weekend in Chicago yesterday. I’d been gone for five days. The house was a DISASTER of the first order. I was so tired, and my luggage had been put on another, much-later plane than mine, so I was dealing with that too. I walked in the door, happy to be home and see my babies. I saw the mess, and sighed. I gave the boys a hug, greeted the fur herd, dropped my bag, and set about putting things in order, my order. But I wasn’t mad. It is what it is. I had an amazing weekend away. My kids had a great time at home (well except for the part both Big Man and the Princess’ phones took a dunking and had to be replaced). And hey, they were still alive, right?

Huddle

We have two more weeks before our kids are on spring break. It seems an eternity since the holidays, so we are all looking forward to a much-needed break. The Herd will be headed out on an RV trip to some National Parks. We had invited a few other families along, but it didn’t work out for either of them to join us, so it will be just us – just the five of us. While I was super bummed our friends couldn’t come along, I’m now grateful for the time we will have as a family.

I’m feeling we need a family huddle – a time to re-group, reconnect, heal some wounds, help recover from some lessons, push a re-set button. It has been yet another haul this school year. We’ve had some really good things happen, but we’ve also each slugged our way through some pretty heavy stuff. I think we could each use some time to lick our wounds, figure out what we can fix, how we can fix it, what we need to move on from, what lessons have been learned, how we can communicate our needs to each other much better than we have been. We can remind each other all the great stuff about us.

Oh, it won’t all be serious stuff over the whole week we’re gone. There will be adventures – lots of hiking and biking. There will be lots of pictures, because that’s what I do. I’m already planning the scrapbook for this trip in my mind (and on Pinterest). There will be music, food, games, books, late nights, blessed mornings. Someone will say something funny and it will become part of the fabric of our family – another story to tell in years to come. We will see amazing things, go amazing places. There will be meltdowns, arguments, frustrations, but those are all part of building memories, right?

I just feel we need this time to figure out who we are as a family once again. I cannot wait to see the places we’re going to see, but more than that, I cannot wait for the time together, away from tv, friends, distractions, training schedules, classes, homework, practices, computers.  We will be contained in one RV – no separate bedrooms to run off to and close everyone else out. I’m sure that may sound like some form of torture for my three teens, but I think they’re looking forward to this as much as I am. The time with them still under our roof is speeding quickly by. I’m grateful to have the chance to be with them, experience something new for all of us.

Does your family take huddle time sometimes?

Treasured

A few days ago, P was gushing about a friend of hers at school, specifically she was gushing about how he treats his girlfriend. She told me he compliments his girlfriend in front of his friends and her friends, lets people know she’s important in his life. I said, “Oh, he makes her feel treasured, cherished, lets her know she matters.” “That’s it,” P said. Yes, my dear girl…those boys are the winners in the end. When you’re looking (years from now, please) for “THE ONE”, find the man who makes you feel treasured.

That’s really how Spouse won me over. It took months for me to finally cave, but that’s what did it. He wasn’t a big gesture type of guy (although he has pulled off some big gestures since then, and I love them all the more for being few and far between – they’re always surprising when they happen), but he quietly and persistently let me know I mattered to him. He quietly and persistently let others know I mattered to him, and that meant almost more. He wasn’t one way when we were alone together, and another way entirely when people were around.

We talked, almost every single day. Now remember, this is before cell phones were in everyone’s hands and LONG before texting and social media existed. We actually talked, on the phone, every day, for hours on end. We saw each other nearly every weekend. He made me laugh. He taught me to laugh at me. He gave me the space I demanded, but never gave up, and never left. When I had to have surgery, he drove over an hour to see me and make sure I was okay. When the sun was shining and the weather perfect in  San Francisco, we both ditched work and spent a beautiful Spring day together in the City. When my dad had an aneurysm, he showed up and stayed with me in the waiting room during the long surgery. He was just there, in every way I needed him to be so that I knew I mattered to him.

He could be a little overprotective, and even a little jealous, at times (still is). I chafed against that, often, but then came to realize it’s just because I matter, because he does cherish me, that he does that. When we’re out at a party or social event, I know that he knows where I am in the room. For whatever reason, that still makes me feel a little special. He still gives me my room to be me, my space to have my own section of life, but I know I’m his, I matter to him, I’m treasured. That’s what I want P to find someday.

 

Funny thing, those plans

The Princess had a friend over the other afternoon, and, as this particular plan is a Senior, they were talking about life after high school, college, and life plans. I tried oh so hard to not let the laughter burst forth, but I couldn’t help it. I laughed because I know that life plans are kinda like assumptions.  Funny thing about life plans….Life usually has other plans.

I had a life plan when I was in high school, and again in college, and then again after college. I had to keep changing my plan, because life kept changing and throwing me curve balls. Almost nothing went the way I’d planned. First off, I started school at a private, small, Christian college. I’d planned to finish my undergrad there, and then go to law school. I’d also thought I might meet my Mr. Right there, maybe during my sophomore or junior year, get married a year or two out of college, get my career going, and then have some kids by or during my early 30’s, employing a nanny while I rose to the top in my corporate law career. HAH! My parents split up right after I graduated from high school, and sold our home during my sophomore  year. There was a push to come home as my brother was getting married and my sister was debating college. So, I left my small, private, Christian college and came home to the nearby, not-too-big, state college. I didn’t meet Mr. Right, although I had a few Mr. Right-nows. I didn’t go to law school. I didn’t meet my Mr. Right until I was almost 27 years old, was almost 30 when we got married, and 31, 32, and 34.5 when I had my kids, AFTER going through fertility issues, a miscarriage, a premature birth, two kids 12 months apart, and having one autistic child.  I don’t have a high-flying career. We did have a nanny for two months one summer, but not because  I was out lawyering – I was an AR/HR person making $10 an hour.  I’ve been a SAHM for seven years, and just went back to a part-time, mostly-from-home job a bit over a year ago. Not exactly  how I’d planned my life to go.

I’m not disappointed with my life in the least. I have a happy marriage, amazing babies, treasure friends, a job I love, a nice home, and all the things I need. And it certainly isn’t bad to have a plan for your life. Plans provide goals and direction. My point to the Princess was to go ahead and have a plan, but don’t freak out when life doesn’t go the way you planned. Don’t let that plan keep you from experiencing what life is putting in your path. Don’t let your plan keep you from relationships that could enrich  your life, help you grow. Don’t let devastating curveballs turn you away from living, or completely divert you from your goals and dreams.

Did you have a life plan when you were younger? Did life go anything close to what you planned?

Twenty-One

A girl walked into a bar, a big country bar a la Urban Cowboy. She wasn’t alone. She had brought along two partners in crime, a proverbial Girls’ Night Out. Not long after those girls walked into that bar, a few boys walked by them. One of those boys caught the girl’s eye. The boys kept walking. A few minutes later, the boys walked by again. And then not long after that, the boys walked by again, and one of them approached the girl, gave her some line, bought her a drink, and they started talking. Thus started a new journey that led to here. But it wasn’t all love and roses from the get-go. You see, that girl had been in two disastrous, damaging relationships book-ending two long-term, learning relationships. She was broken, distrustful of love, overly-cautious, not trusting her own instincts, not ready in the least to give her heart to someone new.

I don’t regret our beginning. I’m glad for the way we started out. We lived an hour away from each other. And I made him work for it. We talked every day on the phone – imagine that, talking on the phone, back when I still liked talking on the phone – and saw each other almost every weekend. But I would not commit. I was terrified and gun-shy after the previous five years’ experiences. I wouldn’t give of myself, wouldn’t open up to him. I gave very little, but he hung in there and fought for me, for us. I’m so grateful he did. I can’t imagine what my life would be had he not stuck it out, not battled hard for our relationship.

I threw everything at him in those six months….all my crazy, all my brokenness, all my insecurities and issues, even my crazy family. He didn’t run away. He stayed right there. That enabled me to build my trust in him. I needed to be able to trust him that much before I handed him my heart. I  needed to know he was going to stay, and he did.

We’ve not really ever talked about what that was like for him. He had to have reached some level of frustration. Six months in, he drew the battle lines, told me he’d had enough, had invested his limit if I wasn’t going to meet him halfway, make a commitment. I needed that ultimatum at that point to open my eyes to where we were, who I was. It allowed me to think about life without him, and I suddenly realized that was the last thing I wanted.

I’d love to say we lived happily ever after after that. We didn’t. We had more drama to go through. We’d been together just over a year when the long-distance just became too much. We broke up, for all of 36 hours. It was an awful 36 hours for both of us. Again, it made me reevaluate my life, my goals, my wants. I put in for a transfer at work, and four months later, moved to his city. Five months later, we were engaged, and thirteen months after that, we got married.

We still haven’t lived happily ever after….marriage is work. We’ve had our share of battles and struggles. We’ve faced tragedy, sickness, health, loss, huge moves, and disappointments, but we’re still here. I’d like to think that initial six months set us up for success. It taught us both how to fight for what matters, to keep our eyes open to who matters. It gave us time to really learn each other, because we talked every single day for at least an hour. Because we took our time to know each other, we established a base before we committed to each other. We were friends before anything else, which is something I still appreciate.

Twenty-one years later, he still makes me laugh, still makes me feel treasured and cherished, still makes me feel chosen. He also frustrates the hell out of me, drives me insane, drives me over the edge at times. But I love him, and am so thankful he fought for us when I wasn’t ready to yet. I chose him, and continue to choose him every single day.

Before you find him

My dear P –

You are just making your first forays into the land of boys. Tuck it in, sister, you’re in for a ride.  You  have (hopefully) a long way between now and when you find HIM (capitals intended).  You’ll likely have many crushes, many attractions, break some hearts, and have yours busted/cracked/shattered at least once.  Here’s what you might go through before you find HIM:

  1. The Unrequited Crush – This is that one boy you crush hard for, for a long time. He may be a bestie or good friend, or you may just have some classes together and nothing more than that.  He sets up some ideals for the rest of your life. It’ll be so completely bittersweet…exciting and heartbreaking at the same time…exciting because every day brings the chance he’ll notice you, heartbreaking because that’s what unrequited crushes are.  He may or may not know how you feel.
  2. The Reverse Unrequited Crush – Some boy is going to crush hard for you, but you won’t like him, or won’t like him that way at least. Be kind. Be gentle. Be respectful, but don’t give encouragement that anything more is possible. That’ll just make it worse for both of you. Never play with someone’s feelings. That just sucks.
  3. The One That Got Away –  Ohhhh…..sometimes, timing is everything. Right boy, right girl, wrong time. You’re not ready, or  he’s not ready. You both know you like each other, but for some reason, it just doesn’t happen all the way. He moves away, you leave for college, one of you graduates, life pulls you in different directions. For a long time, you’ll wonder, “What if?”. Eventually, that fades, but he will likely always be in the corner of your heart as the one that got away.
  4. The Boy Who Wants You….Someday…But For Now, He Just Wants to Make Sure No One Else Has You – Oh yeah, that. One guy told me, and I kid you not, that I was the girl he would marry, but he wasn’t ready for that, and he wanted to put me on a shelf until he was ready so no one else could have me in the meantime. Seriously. It was flattering in one way, and completely pissed me off in every other way.
  5. The One Who Makes You Question Everything About Yourself –  Ugh. I hope you miss out on this one. This is the boy who makes you feel less, who treats you horribly, who maybe cheats on you or abuses you in any way. Be strong, dear girl. Knowing who you are, your worth, your value, will help keep this boy away, will keep you from falling for his charming words.
  6. The One You Break – This is almost as bad as being the one getting broken. Realize when you are the one treating the other person in the relationship badly.  Walk away before you do much damage. Recognize when you’re in a bad place, and stay away from dating anyone until you’ve reached a better place. It’s difficult to treat anyone well when you don’t like yourself much.
  7. The One Who Breaks You – This is one that you really care for, but he walks away. You will feel like you can literally feel your heart breaking in your chest. This is the one you will cry for  months over, the one you will never forget, and will take a long time to forgive. This is the one you will write so many letters, sing so many sad songs over. It sounds awful, and this one has every chance of breaking your courage, self-esteem, confidence, trust. It’s so humbling (and somewhat humiliating) for someone to love you, take your heart, and then tell you he doesn’t want you anymore.

Don’t let fear of what the future may or may not hold, your fear of getting hurt, your fear of hurting someone else stop you from experiencing life. We aren’t promised tomorrow, much less next month, next year. So jump in….crush, like, love, hurt. It’s all part of life, of learning.

I’ve told you before, kiss a lot of boys (that doesn’t have to be literal). Learn from each friendship, relationship, love.  Take those lessons into your heart.  Learn who you are, and learn to love yourself, learn to be okay with being alone and on your own. You can’t Love anyone fully,  nor be fully loved until you love and accept yourself. HE will not complete you, he will just complement who you are.Don’t rely upon any guy for happiness. Be happy yourself.

I will tell you something my mom told me (I think she got it from some advice column or something, but I did it, and it really did work) – from every boy you like/date/love/are friends with, write down the one trait/characteristic you like the most about him. When you find HIM, if it’s the right him, he will have all of those traits/characteristics, or at least most of them. You’ll have a good idea he’s HIM if he measures up to those standards.

 

First and Last

Do you remember your first love? Do you remember how much you had invested in that relationship? Do you remember what it was like to have a crush on someone in high school? The “Oh my god, what if he doesn’t notice I’m alive? Oh my god, what if he Does? Oh my god, what if he doesn’t talk to me? OH MY GOD,WHAT IF HE DOES? What will I do if he asks me to dance? What will I do if he actually asks me out. OH MY GOD HE’S WALKING THIS WAY!” Yeah, that. Lucky thing school came relatively easy to me because I spent an inordinate amount of time dissecting my days, dissecting my friends’ days with my friends….who talked to whom, who didn’t talk to whom, who said he said he liked who, who passed on what rumor, and so on….Do you remember your heart pounding and your stomach fluttering when you knew you would pass him in the hallway between classes? Do you remember your stuttered, clumsy talking when you sat next to him in class?

I remember all of those things so well. But here I am on my  last love…..a love I’ve been with for nearly 21 years. I’m with my last love, watching our teens going through all the drama of all those firsts….how every little event is so HUGE for them. We have the experience. We have the wisdom. We have the longevity.  We have the memories. It’s so interesting to be on this side. We see the bigger picture, because, well, we’ve lived it. Every minute, every minute happening doesn’t mean everything to us. But we have been there.

Truly, my heart aches for the heartaches they will endure, and endure them they must. That’s just part of life….the unrequited crushes, the beginnings and ends, the breakups, the broken dreams, the fears, the insecurities. But I’m also excited for their excitement, for their new experiences, for them realizing that someone who doesn’t have to will love them.

There are times I would they could skip all that – just go on being and have their first be their last, years and years from now.  I remember how all those endings felt – how I literally felt my heart would fall out of my chest, broken and bruised, how hard it was just to breath much less go on with life as if nothing momentous had happened, how the mere sight of him hundreds of yards away would throw me right back to my room and my already-soaked pillow, how unworthy I felt, how hard a hit my self-confidence took each time. I remember hating myself for causing pain to anyone when I was the one to end things.

I knew my last love was waiting for me. I knew each of those other loves was preparing me for this love.  My hope is my children learn that lesson, have that outlook.  My hope is that each first brings them closer to their last.