Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Sunday Squirrel; Dishing on Raising Kids



Sometimes you don’t know you’re sinking until your feet scrape on the bottom…and sometimes finding the inspiration to keep swimming comes in a way that you least expect it, leaving you wondering why you ever doubted your capability.

Today’s Sunday Squirrel is dedicated to my oldest son, Alex, and a simple act of kindness…an unexpected gift he shared with me today.

I have admittedly been feeling a little drained by the winter blues, a hectic schedule, and juggling work and kids … school and house.  Life has been kicking my ass and my usual tenacity and grit has not risen to the occasion as quickly as I would have liked it to.  I haven’t been feeling like Wonder Woman, Super Girl…or even Minnie Mouse.  Been channeling more of a Droopy or the original Wimpy (as in old school Popeye cartoons).

If you’re following along with #followthedinopath, you know that life has served me up a few changes recently.  And my volleys back have, at times been inconsistent, and at times fell flat and short of my intended goals.  I like to spin the positive and look for silver linings.  But this rainstorm has felt like a torrential downpour and I’ve struggled to find a ray of sunshine on some of the darker days…but my faith is strong and I’m no quitter…and sometimes all I need is a little bit of encouragement to recharge my soul and re-energize my mind to refocus in a more positive direction.

The day started with a call from Alex, having blown a tire and needing a ride back from the tire store.  I hadn’t seen him in a week or more and was glad to have an excuse to spend some time with him.  We all know we are parents for life and at any moment’s notice, we are more than happy to drop everything to help any of our kids out when they are in a jam.

This impromptu visit turned into a stop at Sam’s Club, and I was able to pick up some of the heavier food staples like cases of bottled water and protein shakes with the luxury of having a 6’ 4” tall son, who was more than willing to carry it all in the house.

The afternoon continued, hanging out and catching up while we waited for a call about his car.  We had a meaningful conversation about motivation and life lessons in raising kids.    For once, I was listening and not lecturing…and while I may have felt a little overwhelmed, everything he said had merit and made sense.

My parenting style has always been a combination of Soft Santa, and respectful dialogue with independent and expressive children…with a hint of laziness during my less stellar moments and days when I lack the energy to embrace parenthood in a way that lets me look in the mirror and feel proud.

I am always ready to share learnings and enlighten others; today I remained silent and listened to my grown-up son share feedback on my parenting style.  It started with reminders not to let his little brothers spend too much time on video games or the computer.  And it was a painfully long “shared learnings” from my grown son, who did less judging so much as encouraging to push a little harder on them than I did on him as a kid.  He stressed how hard it was to pull out of a lethargic lifestyle of too much introspection and not enough outward and external exploration.

Part of me wanted to defend myself, part of me wanted him to just shut up, but mostly I just wanted to cry.  Because what he was saying wasn’t wrong, because I was a big part of bringing him up and into adulthood…and because I discovered I could experience pride and disappointment at the same time…pride in the man he has become and disappointment in the mom I am on days when I don’t have the energy to be the best mom I can be.

We parted in silence, with him going to get his car back.  He felt bad for having said so much; I assured him I wasn’t angry and it was just enough.  I drove home in silence, thinking about all the stuff we ought to do right in life…if it would slow down long enough for us to catch our breath and dig back in for the next round.

By the time I got back home, I was feeling a little deflated…instead of going right inside to face the younger boys, I pulled down a few more Christmas decorations from the yard (yeah, I know…apathy has been contagious around this house lately).  Just as I was pulling the last candy cane out of the ground, I heard Alex pull in the driveway…well, I heard the bass to his stereo and knew it was him.  He was rocking retro with Salt n Peppa’s “Push it…push it…push it real good.”  I knew right away he was trying to make me laugh, doing a little impromptu dance in his car.

I figured he’d stopped by to pick up his stuff from Sam’s Club.  What I didn’t expect was to walk into the kitchen and see him rolling up his sleeves and begin tackling my sink full of dishes.  I also didn’t expect this simple act to break a hard ass like me as tears immediately sprung to my eyes, threatening to spill over and down my cheeks. 

Being independent doesn’t mean I want to do everything on my own all the time.  And there are times when I wish I could just dig in my heels and say “not the momma!”  Today, Alex gave me the gift to do just that…for one of the most mundane but tedious of daily rituals.


So if you wonder if your kids will ever do the dishes, grow up and become responsible adults, I’d like to introduce you to my son, Alex…the boy I raised into the man I met today.  It may not be on your timing, but I can guarantee it is worth the wait.  

M

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Be Your Own Powerball; The Odds are Way Better



Before you rush out at the last minute to grab your “winning” ticket for tonight’s billion dollar drawing, consider betting on yourself for a change.

Did you know that your odds of winning the $1.5 Billion Powerball are 1 in 292.2 million?  What if you invested in better odds?

Ever want to be an Olympian?  You could do it!  If you follow the logic of everyone has a chance, the odds of making it are about one in one half million.  Staggeringly better odds than the elusive Powerball.

Maybe you moonlight karaoke and local theater and are waiting for your big break?  Well, if by break, you mean something really big, the truth is that you have a better chance of being hit by a satellite than by fame (www.cracked.com/blog/5-awful-things-nobody-tells-you-about-being-actor/

Dreaming about making it in the NFL?  The odds of high school senior player who go on to be drafted by an NFL team, about nine in 10,000 (or 0.09 percent).  That’s about the chance you have an IQ above 150.  By the way, the average IQ of Ph.D. students is 130! (www.norwichcsd.org/downloads/prosportsodds.doc)

Were you born to be part of the WWE (wrestling !!!)?  In 2011, WWE was getting around 2,000 wrestler applications a week, from 14 different countries.  About 5 were expected to actually make the main WWE roster. (www.wrestlingnews.net/how-do-you-get-in-the-wwe)

Or maybe, just maybe, you’re like me and waiting for your big break to be discovered by Oprah and have a best selling memoir (okay…best selling wannabe) and were born to write about absolutely everything?   

Apparently I’m not alone…more than 80 percent of Americans would like to be an author.  Google estimates 130 million books have been published in human history (I’m in that rank!)

The odds of any author making it big are a long shot.  Nielson Bookscan reported in 2004 that of 1.2 million books tracked, only 25,000 – barely more than 2 percent – sold more than 5,000 copies. (http://williamdietrich.com/the-writers-odds/)

Okay, now where was I going with all this?  If you’re willing to dream big on a ticket that spits out on a quick pick, why wouldn’t you at least entertain the thought of going after other dreams…while with still daunting odds of succeeding, the odds are are way better than discovering the meaning of life through a 1.5 billion dollar ticket.

So, instead of thinking about what you’re going to do if you win the lottery, consider what you will actually do to make your real dreams come true!

And yes, I’ll probably grab a few tickets before the day is over or jump in a pool at work…I’m not gonna be that one person that said it could never happen!  After all, I’m still working on my next best selling novel J


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Evening the Odds; Single Parent Survival Tips and Observations

One of my little super heroes

Like most people, I usually start the year off with a bunch of new year resolutions…commitments to become better organized, establish a routine, work out, and drop a few pounds.

At the end of last year, I did more than shed a few pounds, though my jeans size remains the same.  I joined the ranks of single parenthood.  And for every ending, there is a new beginning and for 2016, I wanted to create a bubble of serenity around an otherwise insane world and hectic schedule.

If you’re reading this, you know we haven’t even moved out of the first month of the new year…and you already know that I failed miserably in creating that bubble.  And said bubble eludes us all; but still we all keep trying! 

I’d like to say that I did absolutely everything and this transition has been smooth…but I can’t.  There may be inequities and the scales may feel more heavily weighted in one direction, but I am now convinced that this one woman show is having a few growing pains with two boys, who, at the moment, bear a striking resemblance to Bevis and Butthead in their current pre-pubescent state.

Catch phrases like, “deez nuts” and ridiculous Youtube quotes like, “he needs some milk” send them both into fits of laughter, leaving me to choose my battles carefully.  Especially when they continue to feed off each other’s laughter and explode into nonsensical hysteria more when I put my “stern mom” face on.

And if a little silliness was all I had to contend with, I could handle that just fine.  In fact, it’s a camaraderie and closeness I see growing where they were more indifferent before.  I like it – so many other by-products of single parenthood involve therapy later in life.  I'm taking this one as a positive sign.  

This new normal requires a completely new toolbox of tactics to manage work and life balance.  They say it takes a village, so here goes (and I welcome any others that are constructive or have humor in entertainment value…I’m more than happy to post and share!):

1.              Yes, there are dishes in the sink when you go to bed…and they will be there in the morning too.  Even if you have a dishwasher, someone has to load it.  And if it breaks, remember it’s expendable and you grew up in a house where there was only a sink and dish drain.
2.              There’s no such thing as a sock monster, but I have no rational explanation for where my kids’ socks disappear to between the time they are peeled off their stinky feet and work their way back into the laundry room as a solo act.  I did create a matching game, though.  For every matched pair, they get a quarter.  I’ll let you know how that goes.
3.              If you have more than one child, you will never know who broke it…doesn’t matter what “it” is.
4.              Kids can be bribed and if you’re not above that, consider Cosmic PVP for Minecraft, @Cosmic_PVP, with virtual ranks and chests.  Today, a small virtual chest was exactly what it took to get my 11-year-old to shovel the sidewalk…and it didn’t take long for word to spread to the 13-year-old, who took care of the driveway.
5.              Kids spend too much time on computers and video games; if they didn’t, we wouldn’t have anything to take away.  Just need to find a way to make it work in the right direction.
6.              If you decide to wait a kid out to see if they will finally do something, my personal best is that every cup in the house was dirty, some with caked and dried sour milk…with the remainder resembling some kind of a science experiment.  Although I had better success with laundry, leaving their dirty clothes in their rooms until they realized they would not have anything to wear if they didn’t put them down the laundry chute.
7.              To save face, in my case, I threw away every plastic cup in the house (without exception) and purchased plastic, disposable cups.
8.              To save the planet, once I’d moved out of crisis mode, and we created a family plan to each have a single cup for which we are responsible for drinking out of and washing for re-use. 
9.              I hate laundry…I’ve always hated laundry and just to spite me, when I began keeping up with it in earnest, the 15-year-old dryer was kind enough to break, with the motor seizing up beyond possible repair.  I guess the shock was too much for it.
10.          I’m a confident 21st century woman, but I still don’t like dealing with any kind of installation or service…suffice it to say I did not know where the gas valve shut-off was, and by the time I found out, the delivery men were long gone.  Thank goodness for great friends or I’d still be drying my clothes over the gas fireplace (which by the way, works really fast and can melt some fabrics fairly quickly…approach with caution).
11.          Creating a calendar and schedule, with chores and time limits only works if everyone reads said calendar and tasks are enforced, with consequences. (TBD)
12.          No matter how hard you try, you’ll always be too easy on your kids…guilt will always work. 
13.          While your kids are praying for a snow delay, you are canceling out their requests with your own…please God, if there is any schedule interruption, let it be an entire snow day that doesn’t affect my morning commute…a 90 minute delay would decimate any hope for a smooth Monday.
14.          Kids say the darnedest things…both their dad and I have been on the receiving end of Bevis and Butthead and trying to have a serious conversation about preparing them for the new normal.  According to the boys, dating = sex, sex = Viagra, and “you don’t have to be lonely at farmersonly.com.”  And if you think this makes me uncomfortable, you’re wrong…I think my kids are hysterical and in between the punch lines, I make it a point to reset their world views formed from television, internet, and observations.  And when they are in complete fits of laughter, I occasionally crack a smile…because life is funny and you can’t take it too seriously. 
15.          Kids say the darnedest things Part II…apparently, I am a mom and not allowed to be anything more…but dads are allowed to date and have sex according to my kids (because they are men and that’s what men do).  I CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP
16.          Kids will gang up on you and your former spouse/co-parent if you let them…they will expose every weakness, play every broken dysfunction of your former family.  It’s important to remember that this was true before becoming a single parent…and the only reason it works now is because of guilt (see #12 above).
17.          Once you can accept imperfection, your life will feel a little more perfect.
18.          Of all the mistakes you think you may have made, the choice to become a parent will never be one of them.
19.          Because the choice to become a parent will never feel like a mistake, don’t be too hard on yourself for other life choices.  You can’t have one without the other.

#followthedinopath


Good Luck! 

M

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Tipping points, virtues, and knowing where you stand


I think that I have spent more time planning and thinking about the future, than actually living in the moment and enjoying the life I have as it is right now.

Thankfully, today a tipping point occurred…something subtle…I felt a shift in my thoughts and for the first time, I found myself content standing still … enjoying exactly what this day brought, instead of looking ahead without pausing to enjoy the place I found myself in today. 

For years, I’ve let stress, 24 month interest free financing, 60 month car loans, and all the other “wish away life crap" control my frame of mind, pushing me forward and past the actual part where we all get to live each day.

It started with an unexpected kindness from a friend, that forced me to take inventory of my own virtues and vices…and recognize the difference between them.

I was bouncing between pride and humility, pride clearly taking an early lead.  One simple statement resolved an inner conflict, making it possible for me to accept the kindness, without compromising anything.  What was the statement?  Nothing earth shattering…but I found meaning in it almost immediately.  “Pride is not a virtue.”  I considered this simple thought…others came to mind like “Pride goes before a fall” and when I thought about it in that context, I gained an insight about myself and where I stand in life…my inner moral compass that guides me in decision making and staying true to who I am:

1.              I acknowledge now that pride is not a virtue I should embrace too tightly. 
2.              Equally important, the true definition of humility is also a trait to be loosely held…and never at the expense of your own self confidence. 
3.              Generosity is a virtue I have embraced all my life…I now humbly accept that I don’t have a corner on the market, and accepting the generosity of someone else’s kindness does not compromise who I am, what I can do, and the confidence that I will still maintain the giving side within myself.


Knowing where you stand in life is important…but if you suddenly find yourself standing on less sure footing than before, be wise enough to admit the person standing before you has not changed…and it’s okay to accept help without compromising anything.  So long as the pendulum swings both ways, I think it’s a pretty basic example of reaping what you sow.  And I can guarantee when my bumper crops come back in, I’ll be the first to offer help to someone else. 

M