It’s only been one month since the idea occurred to me to challenge myself, break out of my old habits and comfort zone, embrace new challenges and new social connections. I jokingly referred to my new look at life as “my year of yes!”.
My friends laughed, and I laughed, but then when opportunities came up – social invites, new ideas, new skills, new social invitations, things that I had turned down in the past – those words came back to me. I have been gently, and not so gently, reminded of the promise I made to myself, to make this the year of yes, more often than I expected! Lesson learned: be careful what you say out loud amongst your friends and family.
Prodding me. Pushing me. Challenging me. Reminding me. It all comes back to this.
So to follow through with my vow, I have taken a sewing course to finally learn how to use my beautiful, expensive, sewing machine that I have owned for over seven years! I could only thread the bobbin and possibly do “practice” stitches, but never tried making anything or even putting in a hem. I truly wanted to learn before now, but never made the time to do so, or found a way to make it work with all of my other perceived “important commitments”. Suddenly, there was a Groupon with a beginners sewing class on offer, and I couldn’t ignore it or pass up the opportunity. It was only three classes, for two hours each evening, but that’s all that I really needed to not be afraid to try it. I actually MADE SOMETHING. An apron, that was made with my own hands and in a fabric that I chose. I felt like a blushing middle schooler in Home Ec class when I was done!
I also realized that I have lost the ability to read an entire book in the last few years. It seems that I can only pay attention for so long before my mind wanders and I think I have more important things that I should be doing, or I get distracted with family things or feel too lazy and just watch TV. I was down to reading magazine articles and snippets online, and feeling as if my brain were shrinking! So, I took on the challenge to read 25 books in 2016 through Goodreads. Going from zero books in 2015 to twenty five in 2016 sounds daunting, but I am hungry to read! I am working on three books simultaneously now, and it feels great!
I recently went to a bridal show with my soon-to-be sister-in-law, and during the vendor visits I agreed to take dance lessons at Arthur Murray Dance Studios. I originally agreed so my brother and SIL could get a free lesson towards their wedding dance lessons, but I’ve always wanted to learn how to ballroom dance and never made the time – or had the real opportunity since my husband had no desire the last twenty years. Who knew that you could take dance lessons alone? They promised me a young, good-looking instructor…now you’ve got my attention!
I signed up for and have successfully participated in my first ever public crossfit competition, the Trodo games, and finished with my team to earn the “grit award”. It was by far one of the hardest competitions I have ever been a part of, and I seriously underestimated what it would entail. I almost quit during the first WOD and truly felt like sitting down and crying, but it got better and I did it. I survived, and I am honestly looking forward to the next one! Maybe now I will make the time to take my training seriously and actually eat better to feel better.
And the latest challenge from a good friend is to wear makeup everyday for thirty days to see if it will change my life, or at least the way I feel about myself. I am the average SAHM, honestly. Most days I am in some sort of t-shirt, with jeans or yoga pants and casual shoes – no makeup. Everyday. It’s been interesting to say the least. I have tried each day to do something with my face, even if it’s just mascara and some blush. So far, after only one week, I am feeling more confident in myself. I take an extra minute to look at myself in the mirror (maybe I’ve forgotten who that strange woman looking back at me really is?) But within the first week of this challenge, I have realized that my makeup is pretty basic and could stand to be updated, or should I say, more age appropriate? I’m probably using the same techniques and colors that I did when I was a teenager, and that wasn’t last year let, me tell ya. Time for a makeover. Bobbi Brown, here I come!
All of this is just the beginning. It’s more than a resolution, it’s a promise to myself to be better to me, kinder and more forgiving of myself. I have been living for everyone else but myself for a very long time – usually it was my own doing, but sometimes completely out of my control. Or so I thought. I just turned fifty a few months ago and an idea became crystal clear shortly afterward. I only have one life, and only so many days and nights left to it. I should do what makes me happy, what brings me joy, and share it with those that make me happy and bring me joy. It’s time to let go of the negative, the exhausting, the sadness and make myself open to the positive, the exciting, the joy and all of the new opportunities that the future has in store for me.
I read some bad news today, as soon as I woke up and checked the Facebook icon on my phone. I lost a dear friend to breast cancer.
She didn’t just die from breast cancer, she died from a long drawn-out battle with breast cancer that took both of her breasts one at a time then moved on to her back and the bones in her pelvis. She died from the numerous chemo treatments and multiple surgeries. She died even though she did all of the “right things”. She ate well, exercised, slept, laughed, loved and touched so many around her in so many ways.
She got cancer anyway.
It didn’t just take the breath out of me when I first read the post on Facebook, I honestly thought that my brain wasn’t functioning correctly and that I was misunderstanding the message. Somehow, I thought, this can’t be true and the real post should read “she has made a miraculous recovery and will be dancing at her own birthday party next month!” It took me awhile to process the news. It was early morning and I was alone for the first hour in the kitchen trying to wrap my head around it.
I made coffee. I cleaned up the sink area. I checked email. Then I went back and reread the post. It was still there and condolences were being posted. I tried to write my own, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Not yet. Surely we were all reacting too quickly and it would turn out to be incorrect information, right? I would hate for her to think that I gave up on her.
Then I cried.
Every time I tried to think of her being gone I cried again. I cancelled a coffee date with another friend by text, too afraid to use my voice for fear that all I would do is cry. I spent the better part of today in a monk-like silence, working and cleaning inside of my home and hoping not to have to tell anyone or say it out loud. I cried again and again, for my loss and for her children’s loss. For her husband left alone to raise their children. For her mother who buried her husband only two years ago. How would they all deal with their grief and loss? Hadn’t they all suffered enough already as they watched her fight for her life?
I called to make an appointment with my OB/GYNE determined to finally get that mammogram – it’s been three years since my last one. The last time we Skyped I promised her that I would do it. I don’t pretend to believe that it’s a magic spell or a shield against the same diagnosis happening to me, but I promised her.
I will think of her often, and all of the people that she touched along the way, and over time I will stop crying each time I am sure. I will remember the way she brought so many different people together and was the glue of so many groups, the life of the party, the planner of parties, the friend who would listen and not judge or judge for you against whatever/whomever was making you unhappy. She made you feel special, always.
She was stunning, beautiful, warm, funny, entertaining, brilliant, loving, caring, generous and most of all she was my friend.
I just realized today that I actually like my kids.
No, really. I truly like my kids. I find myself choosing to be with them, not just because I’m their mom and they can’t do something or go somewhere without me. No, I choose to be with them more often than not. And that sort of surprised me today.
Now that summer is here we have many opportunities to go out and do fun things. Some are more fun for me than they are for them I suppose, but then again, they are willing to go along so they must not hate it. Some of those activities are farmers markets and antique shows, musical performances in local parks or bike outings around the area. I love that kind of stuff in the summer! Just a reason to meander around, eat different foods, listen to a local band, have a picnic dinner… (sigh)
The idea came to me today when my oldest texted me asking if he can hang out with his friend after he gets off of work (he’s 16 and has his first real, full-time job this summer) I of course said “sure”, but then I sent a follow up text that read: “So no farmers market then?” Which was followed up immediately with “No big deal just asking”
Wow. Am I his girlfriend or his mother?
True to his personality, he responded by texting “Oh crap that’s right. Nah I’m going to that”.
I felt instantly guilty.
“Honestly it’s not a big deal if you don’t go, it’s happening every week” but I knew as soon as I sent it that it was a kind of a big deal – to me. I wanted him to go. I wanted all three of them to come along and enjoy the experience with me, to watch them eat their favorite tacos or try new foods.
I needed them to go.
I must really like my three boys.
I realized at that moment that I not only like my kids but I pretty much prefer being with them than most adults at this point in my life. We share the same sense of humor, we have the same quirky tastes in food and fun, we talk about things that are important to each of us but overlap with each other at the same time. We fit together like a puzzle.
You can’t say that about most of your friends by the time you’re in your forties. At least I can’t. Don’t misunderstand, I like having grown-up friends to hang out with and to do adult activities often. I don’t go to a bar with my kids or take them to R-rated movies – then again, sometimes I make poor parenting choices and watch a movie with them that they probably shouldn’t be watching, but who hasn’t crossed that line during their parenting career? But I do take them to concerts and fairs, farmers markets and flea markets, new restaurants and road trips to see odd sights.
I like having other women as friends to talk about “girl stuff”and family challenges, and having guy friends to talk about life in general, but I really enjoy being around my kids. Given the choice, most days I would choose them over most other invitations even if it is to just stay home and hang out.
Other people like my kids, why shouldn’t I?
Today was a good day. A “too good to be inside” kind of good day.
The temperature was around 78, the sun was shining and everyone was smiling, laughing and playing. Then it was time to get to our “activities”…sad faces, sniffling noises, dead man walking…
But maybe, just maybe, we don’t really have to go…do we?
Sometimes you’ve just gotta say, “what the heck?!” and do it – or actually don’t do it. Blow it off! Play hooky! Have fun and live a little, for goodness sakes!
So we did. And I wish that I could say that I felt at least a little bit bad about it, but I didn’t. I actually felt great about it.
I dropped off my middles son’s golf clubs to him at the course so he could play his first nine holes of the season, then swung by to pick up my other middle-schooler from school to take him along with the youngest to go out for ice cream.
We ordered from the walk-up window, along with half the town that showed up, and sat under a tree in the shade enjoying our first taste of something like summer – but not quite. Then we went for a haircut (only by request) and headed home.
On the way home my middle son called to be picked up and we all agreed that we needed tacos for dinner. He got a 97 on his Spanish project today afterall – now THAT’S worth celebrating!
A quick shower (my oldest is at that age, for better or worse), grabbed the keys and we were off! A taco dinner at our favorite place that my husband usually protests going to, but he’s not home to make that argument, so we went. And it was great!
We laughed, we talked, we goofed around driving there and back. We made plans for spring break to go camping and exploring. We slowed down and just enjoyed being a family. No real plan, no activity to get to, just us and that was all we needed.
These are the days that I hope my kids will remember – not just the big events, not just the bad events – the good times that came out of nothing more than just an idea on a “too good to be inside kind of day”. Those days when we blew it off to do something we wanted to do, not went to something that we had to do. And don’t get me wrong, most of those “have to do” things are things that we chose to be a part of, but some days you’ve just got to let it go and enjoy the sunshine, the smiles and the laughter. Sometimes it’s what makes us a family.
In a “perfect world” yesterday, Valentines Day, would have gone something like this for us:
After running all day between the three boys‘ classroom parties, and then to the religious education class that I teach and two of them partake in, I would have ordered the pizza for the boys while they did their homework. Once they were fed, I would have picked up a delicious sushi dinner for two that my husband and I would share – ALONE – once said children were tucked into bed. We would have opened a bottle of wine, shared the chocolate-covered strawberries that I picked up especially for us, and gazed longingly into each others’ eyes while reminiscing about how we met and what makes us so happy to have each other. We may have even gone to bed “early” to enjoy one last Valentines gift (yes, even on a TUESDAY! Unimaginable, I admit, but if I’m going to dream I want to dream big)
But, of course, we don’t live in a “perfect world” and really who would want to? Instead, our oldest son texted me that he needed extra help with math after school so he would LIKE TO GO TO THE TUTOR after school (I put that in caps because if you are a parent you know how jaw-dropping that idea is for your teenage son to request help with his schoolwork!) Not to squash his effort I agreed and promptly got him an appointment from 5-7pm, knowing that my class begins at 4:30 and ends at 6pm, but I was going to make it work. I spent the last hour of the day at their school, so I picked them up and headed directly to the tutor to drop off our son with snack money to hang out at Panera Bread while he waited for 5pm. Off to my religious education class with our other two boys to teach a double sized class to cover for an absent teacher. No problem, it went pretty well, but took a bit more time to clean up from the craft project I gave them to keep them busy.
Home with the two by 6:15, ordering pizza…oops I only ordered one pizza, not two, because for some reason I forgot that our oldest son needs to eat dinner! Ugh! Call back, add the pizza which adds time of course, but no worries. Try to call and order sushi for take-out…the line is busy for 20 minutes straight. What?! Off I go to stop at the restaurant to place my order, then go to pick up our son at the tutor, then back to the restaurant to wait 15 more minutes to get my take-out order. Back home. The pizzas have arrived, as well as my husband, but nobody has eaten yet. Why?? Because they wanted to wait for me, of course.
So, here I am with a fabulous sushi dinner for two that I pretend to myself I am not going to share with our oldest (even though it is quite possibly his favorite food group – go figure) as we all sit down as a family for our Valentines Day dinner. Whew!
It was actually pretty fabulous. We ate on heart shaped plates and used bright red cloth napkins, we talked and laughed and yes – I even shared my sushi. (I’m not an ogre…and he didn’t even have to ask) We opened that bottle of wine that I fantasized about all day and drank it all by the end of dinner! And once the boys were all in bed, we plopped down on the couch exhausted and happy, and opened another to have with those chocolate covered strawberries (I’m only willing to share so much)
Not what I had in mind, but maybe a bit better. Actually, a lot better because I’m still smiling thinking about it.