Friday, September 30, 2011

Heartfire

I once thought that if I did the ‘right’ things and made what I deemed to be the best choices – that life would be rosy and joyful. I would be loved and live peacefully with others having nary a care in the world except how to best exude the proper way to live as clearly evidenced from my esteemed pedestal. Yes, pride has been one of my besetting sins and God has given me ample opportunities to be humbled. Early, I learned that isn’t exactly the way things worked. I adjusted my perspective and a bit of the sheen from my life dream dimmed a bit. My glow waned even more when people I loved disappointed me. It almost disappeared when my efforts didn’t produce results that I desired.

I feel like that glow is now just a fragile, flickering candle that is easily squashed. As a single mother, I have many opportunities to pour out, but there is little that is being poured into me. The truth is, I often feel empty and then falter in being the best for those who depend on me. I need to learn how to let our Lord fill my tank, to take good care of myself and not look for others to do it.

Being tired and just a bit discouraged is part of this life sometimes. One of the most helpful things someone has said to me is that I won’t feel the way I do now forever. I’m working on that now. Soon my little light will ignite into a more steady flame. I look forward to the days of burning brightly once again!

Update: After a fantastic night with fun friends, my cup is fuller.  Coparenting is challenging, but it also gives me a bit of time to do things that make me happy.  I'm feeling full of joy and looking forward to when my children arrive back home!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Work Around the Little House

My home is relatively modern, just 13 years old, but recently there seem to be lots of things which need repair. There was storm damage with roof, siding and gutter repair. The pesky front door has had trouble latching since we moved in seven years ago, but it’s getting worse. The back sliding screen door sticks terribly, the outside could use a good cleaning and so could the inside, for that matter. There is a chronic leak under the kitchen sink and one of my children with fastidious personal hygiene repeatedly clogs the commode. The water line to our ice maker began leaking almost a year ago and despite many attempts, I’ve been unable to seal the leak.


It gets so frustrating when basic things we take for granted are not functioning properly. It irritates me every time, yet I can’t just call a handyman and fix whatever needs fixing. I have to be savvy, resourceful and learn to work with the hang-ups. Today, when something breaks, my first instinct is to try fixing it myself instead of asking for help. I’ve installed curtains, fixed a garbage disposal, repaired dry-wall and worked with electronic connections that I never imagined I would need to hook up myself. I had to oversee the contract work for the roof, siding and gutter repairs and I’ve had to learn a whole set of skills I had never used before.

I look forward to the day when I have enough in the bank to call in reinforcements, but till then, I do find satisfaction when I accomplish something new. Have you stepped up to make a repair or take care of something formerly out of your realm?  Share your handy-woman tricks, please!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Injury Eraser

source: http://pinterest.com/pin/187712581/
After a tumble on his bike, we applied a bandaid, loved away the minor pains and hopped back on the bike to enjoy more afternoon fun.  Randomly, my son said, "Mommy, wouldn't it be cool if there was an eraser to erase all the boo boos?" 

Source: http://pinterest.com/pin/186629133/

"Oh yes, I do.  That would be wonderful," was my reply.  He quickly moved on to other priority topics like legos, Star Wars and which swing is the best on the playground.  My mind remained on the simplistic thought of an injury eraser. 

The visual image was enticing: a wound vanishing along with the woundedness that accompanies it.  I don't want to be one of the walking wounded in this life.  My desire is to be whole, healthy fully complete. 

I feel like I'm giving my injuries time to heal, but I can't help the nagging feeling that I'm supposed to be doing something.  I'm an 'action-steps' sort girl and I wish there was a plan of action that automatically resulted in the things I desire: financial freedom, fulfilling parenting and career path, social events to attend but enough solituee interspersed for my melancholy nature to muse a bit.  Am I asking too much?  This single adult life still feels a bit akward and I wish for a tangile role model or mentor.

How do you heal in the midst of real life?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Not Perfect, Better!


source
One of the struggles of a recovering perfectionist (like myself) is that it feels like failure unless you get it perfect the first time.  Oh, yes, sometimes I fail to even try because I know it won’t work exactly the way I see the perfect vision in my mind.  Anyone else with this neurosis?  Please share.  Sometimes it can be very debilitating and I sabbotage myself by never starting, not trying or avoiding areas that could benefit from focus.
  • If I can’t fold every load of laundry, I don’t start one.
  • When I don’t have time to walk the complete path, I don’t walk at all.
  • I won’t have time to cut all the coupons, so I toss the whole lot.
  • My children won’t sit still for an entire chapter, so I don’t even start.

Do you see the faulty logic that leads to no results?  The end  is that the very things which need the most attention wind up being avoided and the problems compound.  There were two loads of laundry, now five (it adds up so fast doesn’t it?).  Weeks go by without exercise.  I miss out on saving some because I can’t save all I want.  Too many days slip by without reading aloud to the children.  These are just examples, but they can be applied to almost every situation.
  • Late for church?  Maybe I’ll just skip it this week.
  • No time to get in a full workout?  I’ll watch tv instead.
  • Can’t get a hold of the friend I wanted to talk with?  Don’t call another, just feed the loneliness with ice cream. 
  • Unable to give a large gift?  Don’t give anything, or worse yet - avoid the party all together.

No more.  The exact thing which you and I feel we cannot perfect is the very thing that will benefit from doing something.  The key is to start, to move the situation from bad to better … maybe not perfect, but better!  Things will not be perfect, life isn’t mean to be.  But certainly we can make progress.  The action of nothing actually creates decline so do what you can and let that be enough. 
Do you see how perfectionism hurts you and me?  I’m going to step right out and decide that the very things on my eternal ‘to-do’ list will get at least one step taken right now.  Soon these to do’s will be done!  Tonight it starts with a long walk and work on a birthday scrapbook.  Oh, and there are two loads of laundry ready to fold, I’ll at least get started!  What can you do right now to make something better, not necessarily perfect?
The paralyzing standard of perfection will halt any of my dreams.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Blast From the Past

Recently I got together with a friend that I haven’t seen since my college days. She knew me best in the fun and carefree college days and watched as M and I dated became engaged then broke up. Then I transferred schools, she got married and we lost touch until the Face Book days when it became easy to find friends from our history. It worked out that she was in our area and I got to meet up with her and her family for lunch. It was totally fun to remember all our shenanigans of early college life. We were so trustingly na├»ve and even our ‘trouble’ was quite innocent.
source: Pinterest

I was reminded of the carefree days when I was pretty hopelessly romantic. While I can’t take back the choices of my youth, I have learned from them. I’m more clear with what I need and have learned that it is okay to have expectations in a relationship. I was so unwise to look past the rather blatant (in hindsight) flaws of character and basic incompatibilities. I believe I’m wise and strong enough to expect more in the future.

My friend reminded me of so much more from that fun season. She has always been such an authentic person and it was so refreshing to see that had not changed a bit. She is as real and easy to read as ever and I admire her all the more for it! While my past holds many things I would choose not to repeat, I did make some amazing friends along the way.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Relationship Status

When our divorce was final almost a year ago, I decided I would not consider dating for a complete year.  It has been my way of honoring the commitment I had to my marriage, providing time to grieve and to heal.  Honestly, I didn't have any desire to be around men. 

Oh, that it were this easy!
Photo Credit: mycreativestirrings.com
My disdain for the gender has waned, though, and I now I think the idea of a male companion sounds sort of wonderful.  It still feels a bit scandalous to admit that and I can't imagine it actually happening.  Right now, I'm simply open to the possibility.  The reality of meeting someone seems like a great mystery to me!  How have you discovered companionship?  Please share your secret.

More than ever, I'm convinced relationships are the richness of life.  Naturally introverted, I make the dedicated effort to nurture relationships.  Am I missing anything? 
  • I schedule monthly dinner out with friends.
  • I actively participate in church small groups.
  • I get out into my neighborhood and look for ways to connect.
  • I invite people into my home whenever possible. 
Because I feel like I 'lost' myself in my marriage, I'm working even now to have a good relationship with myself.  I'm working to accept the challenges of my age and stage of life.  My body isn't that of my twenty-something self, but it's not awful either and I'm blessed with good health.  I am working on eliminating negative internal chatter about my shortcomings.  I give myself permission and time to work on me, what I love and what helps me feel good about myself.  I am taking good care of what I've got with regular health, dental and salon visits.  Yes, the salon often gets pushed to the bottom of my list, but it's on the calendar now.  I will not let false guilt steal my joy.

I shared how I'm working to improve my relationship with my children - it's an ongoing, ever-changing dynamic.  All realtionships are, when I think about it.  I feel good about my relationship with my parents and extended family.  I only wish we could be together more.  The main thing for me is to stay involved and engaged.   What about you?  Do you think online relationships count?

Monday, September 12, 2011

I used to be a Career Woman

Long ago and even quite far away, I graduated college with a full time job waiting and entered the world of working women.  I felt nothing but optimism as my life began with a fun career in my field of study and lots of rapid advancement.  Soon I married and began to hope for a family and to that end determined to orient my life around my spouse as provider and myself as home manager.  When we relocated south, I took a part time job to make ends meet, but not part of a career path.  When the babies did arrive, I backed off even more and began working just a bit to make some wiggle room in the family budget.  While my employer has graciously increased my hours, I'm still at that same job.  There is no path for advancement and I'm not sure what steps to consider for my future.

I'm very thankful for the job that I have.  Because I've been there 6+ years, I have a degree of flexibility which is a huge blessing.  But I don't want to do this for the rest of my life.  There is no opportunity to increase my income and I would prefer to work with people more than I do now.  In two years my youngest will begin kindergarten and that means that increasing my work load will no longer increase my childcare costs.

I don't even know where to begin thinking about entering a career path again.  I've been out of my field of study for so long, and with the rise of the internet and social marketing, I'm not sure I could compete any longer!  I have few connections to my former life and am limited by location.  So what's a girl to do?

This is what I'm thinking about:

  1. Share with my friends about my need to become more career-minded.  I can think of a couple who work in Marketing and PR that may be helpful should I re-enter that field.  
  2. Network more.  I guess I need to put myself 'out there' and expose myself to others who could help me one day.
  3. Do I need more education?  Should I speak with a career coach?  That all seems so far-fetched?
I feel pretty stumped in this department.  Does anyone have experience with a midlife career change?  Does anyone have recommendations for a flexible career with good income potential that is 'Mommy-friendly?'  Do share!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Paychecks and Bills and Payments, Oh My!

It seems one of the implied definitions of single mother is “broke” and while that is mostly true, I have found some benefits of being the Head of this household financially. First, there is no miscommunication about where and when money is spent. I never have to wonder what is in the bank or get that question mark in my mind when I review statements. I have no one to blame but myself when I mismanage money or plan poorly, so that is plenty of motivation to behave financially. In addition, I have no excuse for selfishness and no one to blame when there isn’t enough to donate. Yes, I could rationalize that we’re living well below average, anyway, and ‘should’ keep the funds in-house. But the truth is, I don’t want that attitude of hoarding and doom. We live well above much of the world with our modern appliances and air conditioned suburban life. Our first-world problems are small when compared to the struggles many face.
At our house, I set the tone of “Enough” with statements that imply we have plenty and God provides for all our needs. I never want my little ones to feel insecure about their basic needs, but to be aware that they do not get everything they want or at the time they want it. Often when a child has a request, I state that “I’m not choosing to spend my money on that today.” Or “Did you bring your money?” My children don’t earn an allowance for basic help around the house like making beds, clearing the table or picking up toys. The older two do have a chance to earn extra with bonus jobs. So far one is more of a giver and one more a saver. They know that I work so we can have a home and food, and do some of the fun stuff in life, too! They heard me talk about saving for vacation and know that we plan for larger purchases or expenses.

Personal &a Household Financial Goals

- Fully tithe on my income: It is my privilege as a single woman to make the statement of trust to tithe each month. Trust that God will supply, that the church will support us if needed, that obedience positions me for blessing. It is not always easy, but this sacrificial choice keeps my own priorities in line rather than selfishly spending on us or hoarding for just in case. I’m not sure of what is right about tithing on child support income, but I’ll share my thoughts soon.

- Complete house repairs: Insurance paid for recent storm repairs but I need to get ice maker working, kitchen sink to stop leaking and now the children’s bathroom functional. Why? My darling baby child dropped a small flashlight down. And flushed. It’s still glowing.

- Get completely debt free and establish savings:  I've been debt free for brief moments, but something seems to throw me back into bondage again.  I'm making it a priority to have some emergency backup.  I listen to Dave Ramsey in the background at work which helps me stay motivated. My emergency fund will likely never be “fully funded” according to his definition (it would mathematically take me eight years!) and I’m okay with that. It’s still important for me to have a backup account in case. In the short term, I’ve got to start saving now for Christmas!


- Train the Children: Provide more chances for my children to earn and then save, spend, and give their own money. I may consider helping them sponsor a child to increase their awareness of how well we live and continue to instill my philosophy that we “Gather to Give” not to hoard.

- Increase Income: The bottom line is that we live well below the national average for a family of four. To accomplish the standard of living and giving that I want, I truly need to increase my income. In two years, my childcare costs will decrease but until then I’m looking for ways to earn money from home or in non-traditional ways. I’m seriously considering putting my name out there as a speaker. It worked for my mother for many years.

Finances are a topic often avoided and certainly frustrating for most of us. The responsibility of managing income, outgo and the deficit falls squarely on our shoulders and the anxiety of it can keep me up night after night. God has chosen to provide for us in ways I would not have dreamed. Sometimes, He inspires a friend to send a grocery gift card out of the blue which makes ends meet so much easier. One time I won a free oil change on a website! Most of the time God provides by giving me health and the ability to work hard, a considerate employer and flexible job, the ability to shop well and find great deals, the wisdom to distinguish between wants and needs along with patience to wait for the wants.

So, what do you splurge on? What inspires you to save? Have you done any radical giving? I’m going to talk more about this soon, so I’d love to hear thoughts from moms everywhere. I don’t doubt for one instant that it’s just the single mamas who deal with financial decisions daily!


Monday, September 5, 2011

The Big, Bad Mama

Sigh.  I feel like I yell too much.  I get disrespected with inconsistent obedience.  My home has been the scene of frustrating walk-offs and glares across the kitchen.  We have times of calm and lots of fun, but what concerns me is the seeming lack of respect for mom.  Rarely does obedience happen the first time.  Often the competition among siblings escalates to shouting matches or bullying.  One of my children is so loud and stubborn that the standoff drains every bit of resolve and patience from my soul.  Sometimes, I scream, glare and bully back. Sometimes I give up and walk away. These are not my proud moments.

When I think about it, there are many more moments of affection and joy, but the times when I am blatantly disobeyed and disrespected steal my joy and rattle my confidence.  The moments of turbulence stand out and are too many to be ignored.  Just like in my marriage I accepted less than stellar treatment, I've accepting it from my children.  I see the pattern, but I don't know how to 'fix' it and have been feeling so discouraged in this department.

When I know a problem exists and I'm at the end of my own ropes for the remedy, then it's time to look outside myself.  I've read so many parenting books and we are beyond that point.  Here's my action plan, all of which to take place in the next month:

  1. Speak with counselor - a children's counselor and discuss methods for training children.
  2. Visit pediatrician - at lease one of my children need to be evaluated for ADHD.
  3. Commit to keeping calm - I've verbalized to my children this week that I will not be raising my voice - AT ALL - and their loud demands will not get my attention.  Not much success yet, but it's still Monday, right?
  4. Wake early to pray specifically for wisdom in parenting and the needs of each child.
  5. Share with others - it helps to know I'm not the only one falling short of perfection.  Last week a friend breathed hope and acceptance into my weary mother's heart with her transparency.  I appreciated it so much and swear her children are all angels!  
  6. Self Care - I say it a lot, but I don't practice it as often as I should.  When I'm frazzled and anxious I respond negatively and harshly to the normal needs of my children.  Taking time for me lets me be in a better place to meet the needs of my little ones.  
  7. Consistency - it's hard to be steady day after day, but from all I've read it's crucial.  Daddy is out of town and the children will be with me for the majority of the month, so we're going to practice new patterns and habits of interacting.  
I'm in the trenches of motherhood and no matter what else happens in my life, these three are my top priority. I have one child who claims not to like school and cries many mornings at dropoff and another who is struggling there with behavior issues.  The one who isn't in full time school is delightfully charming to others yet willfully disobeys or ignores instructions from me.  We are past the age-appropriate misbehaviors and dealing with something more.  My goal is to get a handle on it before these become lifelong choices and patters.  The 'work' I do now is going to set the stage for how we interact when they are 13, 15 and 17 - Oh Lord, help me!