Half full of sunshine on the road to nowhere…

When I wake up most mornings, my glass is pretty much “half-full.” I rise quickly, don my “good-mood” cap, and am off and running, figuratively, that is. I don’t let the day ahead get me down, yet, and I can usually retain my optimism for a good long while. I’m like the sun who rises up past the cloud in that Jimmy Dean sausage commerciaI, minus the sausage. I even have 2 different colored “Life is Good” T-shirts that I wear regularly to remind me of that slogan, along with the accompanying picture of a glass half-full in case I forget it sometime during the day. Sometimes I put a sweatshirt on and all is forgotten…

When I exercise in the morning, I have a good 45-60 minutes alone to ponder my day, my life, my job, and most of all, what I want to write for my next blog. When I started this project, it was mainly just to record my thoughts. To share them would require some extra work, but since I’m a daring person, I decided I was up to the task no matter what the repercussions. What I’ve taken from this 3-month experiment, is that I’m not sure I’m cut out for this.

First of all, although, the number of post reads is good, I’ve gotten only 2 comments in 8 posts. Secondly, I realize that I care too much about whether people read my posts and I find myself checking stats much more often than I care to want to admit. Thirdly, I have discarded many more subjects and ideas than I’ve approved because they are either too negative or personally revealing, and finally, because sometimes it feels too stressful to find the alone time when probably it’s no more than 3 people who are even reading these things!

It’s not like I’m lacking for ideas. In fact, I’ve got more ideas than I can write, but for some reason, feedback is important to me- even if it’s negative.

So, I’ve come up with an idea for a new system that I hope Facebook and WordPress will consider…it’s a quick rating system that’s anonymous. At the bottom of each post, entry, picture, etc. would be a pull-down menu with lots of different choices for responses to things. Instead of having a very limiting response such as “like” or “dislike,” there would be:

Got me in the beginning but lost me later
Stop writing, you suck!
Keep your day job!
You have potential, but no common thread in your writing.
Somewhat entertaining, but doubtful that I’ll read again.
Yes! I can identify, keep the stories coming!
Wow, that was great!
You had me LMAO!
Great post!

Do you think you could check one of those? Because they would have the option of being anonymous if you didn’t want your friends to know and, you would also have the opportunity to compose your own response, but keep in mind, all responses on WordPress, where my blog sits, are read and approved only by me anyway, so any nasty stuff wouldn’t be seen unless I wanted it so.

Here’s your chance, let me know what you think, and be honest, because I can just start writing in a journal, really!


Gumby Brains and Bumper Stickers

I realize, that at 51 years old, I am one of the “older” parents of my 3 younger kids crowd. I also will note that after doing this parenting thing for 22 years now, I sometimes feel like an “old” parent. I’ve experience the tumultuous adolescent girl years for 2 of my kids already, and while we’ve all managed to live through them, there were a good number of rough patches to mow through. Now, 7 & 10 years later, I’m doing it again and it feels a LOT harder this time!

Each of my kids are very different and although I know that each child has to go through his or her stages in their own time, that knowledge doesn’t make it any easier. I clearly remember the early days of parenting, reading through a plethora of books in my “supermom” effort to find the “expert” answers to all of my first child’s major hurdles. I eagerly employed my new knowledge of all of my child’s stages from “Your One-Year Old Child”, then “Your Two-Year Old”, etc., until I finally gave up or they ran out of books around age seven. By that point, I was armed with many great parenting tools and had moved onto “1,2,3, Magic,” much to my then 8-year-old daughter’s dismay. I will never forget her taking one look at the book and saying “You are not going to make me do that!” Apparently, the “magic” rumor had already circulated among her cohorts!

That same child is now living in Minnesota, taking a year off between college and grad school, so she’s in her “early 20’s” stage. She’s living the life of a young adult, rooming with several other college students in a college town, working at slightly more than minimum wage in a job that she will likely enjoy.

My next daughter is living it up in her second year at college, taking advantage of a wonderful education, playing on the ultimate frisbee team and enjoying her “college years” stage. She’s in no rush to hurry her stages along, which is great, and seems to be basking in the comfort and security that college life offers.

As a quick side note, I was the third of 4 girls in my family, all born within 5 years. My family’s photo albums were full of the 4 of us dressed in matching or complimentary attire, posed in a stair-step fashion of oldest to youngest. I ruined that tradition, when between 7th and 8th grade I sprouted about 5 inches and have towered over my sisters ever since. I remember that it was a pivotal year for me as I gained a much greater self-confidence about my body, liking the changes that being tall brought with it. When I was about 10 or 11, I overheard my mother saying to a friend, “there’s something special about a third child.” It made me feel special and I’ve held onto that feeling for a long time. Lately, I’ve started thinking that “special” meant a whole other thing! I was in a crazy time in my life, riddled with questions about sexuality, rebellious and wanting more independence, and resentful about the changes that were happening to my family. I’ve often wished she were alive so that I could ask her, “how did you make it through that time?”

So…meet my 3rd daughter who has hit seventh grade and is in that “tween” stage of caring about how she looks, what she wears as she attends school, goes to dances and plays on her soccer team. She now has access to most of what high-schoolers do since she is part of a small school that includes grades 7-12. While physically, she’s a tall girl and has an “older girl” look, emotionally she’s still 12 years old. Intellectually, she’s a very bright girl, does well in school, and has a promising future. Unfortunately, making good decisions and having common sense aren’t things that she will get naturally just by getting older…those things, as well as many more character traits, have to be learned.

To my friends, I’d call these the “lost years,” as she traverses the gap between an adolescent and an adult. She’s pretty much lost from us as she finds her way in the world of friends, the pressures of societal norms, exposure to the media and all of the messages she is bombarded with from music to fashion to boys, etc. She rarely responds loud enough for us to hear her, doesn’t like any overt displays of affection in public, and seizes any opportunity to criticize or tease her siblings about anything and everything!

To my wife, I call her a “gumby brain!” It doesn’t matter what I tell her I need her to do, she’ll forget it. Unless I threaten to take away her phone or computer, any requests are routinely “forgotten!” Gone are the days of outstretched arms when I come home with the big scream of “mommy’s home!” along with the cooking projects and fun trips to the park. Now, I have to knock and wait for her to get off her bed and unlock her door in order to not have to shout to her. I’ll admit it, I have texted her while in the house just to avoid that scene at her door. At least I get a response! When I ask if she wants to come to the park and ride her bike around with the other kids, I’m met with a shrug and a mumble of “not really.” I have the same requests every week for her to PLEASE PUT YOUR CLEAN CLOTHES AWAY AND YOUR DIRTY ONES IN THE HAMPER IF YOU WANT THEM WASHED! We rarely see her unless it’s feeding time, and I’ll spare you the details of the difficulty of getting her to go to bed at a reasonable hour and getting her up in the morning.

There seems to be nothing that we do or say that’s of interest to her unless it’s about her or her activities, and everything that she needs bought or cooked or completed for an assignment seems to always come at the 11th hour! And, a recent surge of text messaging (and hell yes, I look at my phone bill often to see her usage), has caused us to take her phone at night for charging in our room!

Now I know, that anyone else who is a parent or even those who aren’t, can identify with what I’m saying. Sure, this too will pass. It’s a stage and she’ll move through it. Soon she’ll enter the real high schooler stage where the true pressures of being a student athlete/band geek will set in. She’ll get a boyfriend(alas, we’ll be dealing with that for the first time!), she’ll start thinking about college, and then it starts over with our next girl(and boy, but he’s a whole other story)!

As for our 9 year-old, soon to be double-digit twins, they are imaginative, musical, and sporty kids who keep us hopping and the house humming with constant singing and instruments, yelling and chasing. Life is good for them. Not much to worry about, not going hungry, clean clothes, loving parents, and totally oblivious to most of what keeps their lives moving along.

Remember when you were a kid, and an adult would say “oh my goodness, you have grown so much since the last time I saw you!” People do that to my kids all the time. I do it myself frequently to other people’s kids who I haven’t seen in ages and am astonished that they’ve continued to grow and change when I wasn’t looking! As if somehow time would stand still. I do believe that change is good, and it’s a good thing I’m a Gemini because change is my middle name!

Yet, as we reach adulthood, and continue to evolve, to move from teenage years to young adult, we think we’re immortal and time seems to stand still for a while. That “baby face” that people told me I had at 22 hasn’t exactly hitched a ride into my 30’s, 40’s & now 50’s, and, the wrinkles that shocked me when I first noticed them in my 30’s, I can barely see without twisting my glasses on my face to see out of the reading part of my progressive lenses. And don’t even get me started on the random hairs that sprout from areas on my face that I can’t see without a bright light and magnifying mirror! Yet, no one comments on these stages we go through once we get past 30!

It’s no wonder that as we get older we forget things more. Yesterday when I was driving my 3 youngest and one of their friends, my 9 year-old daughter started asking her older sister, “do you remember that time we were at the (and I wasn’t really listening to where)…” and went on to recount some past funny situation. “How do you remember things like that?” said her older sister?

“Because she doesn’t have much else in her brain she needs to remember!” I said, sarcastically.

Kids don’t, really. Sure, as they get older their brains fill up, but if I can’t remember every single one of my kids’ birth weights or the exact time they were born, that doesn’t mean I’m ready for the Alzheimer’s ward. I remember that Murphy Brown was on the TV when I had my first pregnancy(second child) , so there! How many of you even remember Murphy Brown! I don’t need to remember phone numbers anymore, as long as I can remember who I’m calling, and I set up every appointment to alert me on my iphone twice before it happens! If there’s something special in the future that I really can’t forget, and a phone alert won’t do, I can send an email to myself into the future and it will arrive on any date I set it to send!

My wife is at her own stage which seems to have moved from “caring for the kids,” to “caring for others who are ill or dying.” She’s moved from caring for her mom (until 2008) to her sister (last week), with her dad throughout that time, and then who knows what. It’s a “big Catholic family” side-effect, that although the good times are great, there are a lot of relatives, so the bad times can be plentiful.

I think that my stage in life now is mainly maintenance, yet I haven’t given up on any growth. I don’t want to lose anything mentally, physically (OK, maybe a few pounds), and any gains are just bonuses! I would certainly like a better job that is more meaningful and rewarding and that utilizes my skills best, but I’m happy to just be working when there are so many unemployed skilled workers. I have plenty of hopes and dreams that I plan to accomplish and I know that things will fall in place when it’s time. I do believe that everything happens for a reason and I’m open to the Universe for whatever is in my future.

My motto comes from a bumper sticker I saw once…it said, “Life is change, growth is optional. Choose wisely!”

(quote attributed to Karen Kaiser Clark)

Juggling Soccer Balls

When I was in my 20’s, I lived in Ithaca, NY, after graduating from college. I used to see an astrologer routinely to seek guidance during some unsettled times. He was an odd sort, this guru of the stars, and he had an uncanny way about him that was always right, no matter how hard I fought his ideas.

I remember it like yesterday, sitting at a routine “reading” of my birth chart, while he summarized where my planets were at that time in my life and what the significance was to the present as well as the ramifications for my future months and years.

“You like routine,” he said.
“Um…No. That’s kind of the opposite of me. I like spontaneity I’m a free spirit!”
“Well, that may be, but routines work for you,” he said.
I don’t remember how long I persisted in denying that fact, but the inevitability has become quite evident in the years since then.

I do like routine. I like knowing that my morning routine of making kids’ breakfasts, packing their and my own lunch box, then sending them out the door with my wife to get to school, leads into my morning workout then shower and off to work.

I like getting to work and having my time alone before customers or other staff come in and break my silence. I enjoy listening to my radio shows as I work. I look forward to the food that I’ve nicely packed, spreading it out over the 7-8 hours so that each item is savored. I also like leaving my work and coming home to my lovely family.

Boring? Maybe, but I’ve interspersed it with the many other more exciting things that I do throughout the day, week, month and year to spice it up, so it doesn’t seem boring to me.

Every once in a while, and some months more often than that, things pop up that disturb that routine. I try to roll with it for the most part, getting my primary needs met differently, but intact enough to reap the same rewards, yet sometimes that’s just not possible. Like a sick kid, perhaps, or a snowstorm, loss of electricity, a dead car battery, one of my kids who’s forgotten something important at home that they need at school, a friend in need, or a dying relative.

Routine for me is the fuel for the system that keeps my family together, so when it’s gone, the whole unit can fall apart and I can start to get grouchy.

I hurt my baby finger on my left hand this week. Why bother you with such an insignificant whiney detail? Because it’s my shift key on my keyboard. It’s the link to the whole system of my hands that keeps things flowing. It’s been out of commission most of the week and still hurts, but I wanted to put this post out, so I’m trying to teach my right hand to do it instead. Easier said than done!

On a larger scale, my wife has been gone since early Sunday morning to sit vigil with her dying sister. I know that it must sound very selfish when I say this, but we miss her here and hope for peace for Patty soon.

I have been a working parent for most of my kids lives, so I know how hard it is to juggle parenting needs with a career. What I am feeling now is probably more akin to the majority of my friends’ lives who all seem to be sharing their kids with an ex-partner and in a relationship with another person who is doing the same thing with their kids. I often point out to them that we have our kids all the time, so “NO we can’t just go out whenever we want because you’ve got nights without kids! Our kids are always here!” I’ve been through that with my two oldest girls, 4 days on, 3 days off, etc., and while that in itself became a routine, it’s not my routine now.

My system now thrives on 2 parents sharing the load. I don’t know how one parent can do all of this day after day. I do know that my kids wouldn’t all be playing on different soccer teams with 6 games a week, taking instrument lessons, playing in the band, singing in the church choir, and one a boy scout. If I were a single parent they would probably have boring afternoons in the after school program so that I could work a full day.

From the outside, my wife and I have very little in common. We share interests with the kids, but overall, we don’t share a lot of interests. I like sports, music, photography, politics, computers and all technology, cars, bikes, and social media sites like facebook. I keep us tethered to the world on a broader plane, while she does it more locally, chatting it up with parents at games, knowing all of the other kids names, and sharing the “us” as a couple and family more personally with strangers & friends. She likes to garden, has more time to cook, likes to take pictures but leaves me with the sharing and transfer of them, hates technology, never watches sports, doesn’t notice when her car is filthy, loves to talk on the phone, and can talk to just about anyone she meets! Somehow, it works, and I’d say that we’re pretty successful in making it work because we’re so different. But what we’re in sync about is our routine.

This week, not so much. While I’ve made every drop-off and pick-up on time without her help, I’ve been lucky to have help from a good friend whose children also play soccer with our kids, so driving has been easier. We are blessed to have many good friends who have been there in spirit, offered meals and help if needed, and are there for support. That is the key to a good support system and it’s the glue that holds the family together from the outside when cracks start to form.

Every person needs that glue, whether it’s family, friends, strangers, or a combination of all of those. Thank you all who have been there for us and who generously give to others in their time of need. Someday it may be you who needs the help and I will be there for you!

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