Saturday, July 19, 2014

What makes a house a home?



It's been an emotional couple of weeks.We sold our marital home last week after being on the market for 2 long years. It was to me both a great relief and a great sadness. The final piece of the divorce. The final reminder that alas life does not always turn out as planned and that some dreams simply do not come true. No one enters into a marriage wanting it to end. No one buys a home wanting to walk away from it.

I haven't lived in that home in nearly 3 years and I returned only when was necessary. I found it painful to go there for it reminded me of the many failures I had experienced. And truth be told, the house never really felt like a home to me. I could never pinpoint why.

When we moved in we tore out rugs, ripped down wallpaper, repainted, recovered, restored, refurnished. And still, all the while I felt like I was living in a house - not a home - someone else's home perhaps, but certainly not my own. Despite my own colors and fabrics and furnishings I always felt as though I was wandering through someone else's house, someone else's things. I tried to ask myself why I felt that way but I could never reach an answer. The home that we'd left, that we had outgrown fit us like a perfect pair of jeans.It was perfect but getting too small for our growing family.

Perhaps we weren't ready to move. We thought we were. We thought that a house of nearly 4,500 square feet - double the size of the home we just left - was what we needed. Looking back, I wonder what I was thinking... Who needs that much space? We used about half the rooms... and maybe that's what it was. Maybe it was large - too large - and impersonal... We needed elbow room but we didn't need to be as far apart as the four corners of the world!

We had a huge playroom over a 3 car garage - It's where we would banish the kids to with their Nerf guns, loud music and their screaming and hollering. But the kids never stayed up there for too long. They always found their way back down to us, in the large but comfortable family room where the over-sized L-shaped sectional, club chair and ottoman had a way of sucking us in and keeping us there... together... for most of the years... Our beautiful living room was almost never used. In the front corner, facing the grand 2 story entryway, my Steinway stood proudly, greeting everyone who entered our home. When we entertained the glow from the fireplace warmed the atmosphere. Adjoining the living room was a generous dinging room that easily housed my dining room table and all 12 chairs along with a few other pieces of furniture.

We used that room quite often when we entertained, over the holidays and often for family dinners. It was one of my favorite rooms of the house. After dinner, or lunch, or whatever meal, Alexander, my youngest - who was very young at the time, would wander over to the piano and play at the keyboard. He had never had lessons and never knew what he was doing and yet he never sounded like a child banging ... He always managed to created the sweetest sounds. My mother would urge me to get him signed up for lessons... Sadly I never took advantage of that - and that may be one of my greatest regrets of all time. And sadly, the piano is no longer mine or in my family.

Our kitchen was large and roomy and had great flow. It was my hope that we would one day overhaul it completely but she was functional and this is where we probably spent most of our time as a family. The children would sit at our table and do homework or crafts or paint while I worked or cooked. I did quite love to cook in that kitchen and the meals that came from her ovens (yes we had two!) and stove-tops were both a delight to make and a delight to eat.

I thought the upstairs to be cold and uninviting and no matter what personal touches I added, I especially couldn't get comfortable in that part of my home.

I was in the house for three years, and for those three years I felt like a stranger in my home. It was the oddest experience. It was unsettling, for sure.

It was in that home that my marriage started to unravel... And while I am sure the unraveling had started long before, the threads were getting longer and longer... and any semblance of fabric was now almost nonexistent... Threadbare.

I often compare a marriage to a home. They both need foundations that are strong and in tact and always ready to support all that they must carry. Next we have the walls. 4 solid walls that offer protection and safety from the harm lurking around, and a roof to keep the elements away and hold the walls together. Without these pieces, and without a strong foundation, the house, and a marriage will certainly come toppling down.

Now there are many failed marriages which do not end in divorce. But I wouldn't want to be in one of those. I wouldn't want to be in a marriage where the foundation is cracked and there is no shelter from the storm, from the anger, sadness and resentment that live within those 4 walls.

I wonder... I wonder if I never really felt safe or protected in that house. I only lived in that house for 3 years and while we had many wonderful moments and created many wonderful memories, it seemed such a sad place to for me to be. And so when I left I was more than eager to get out. I was eager to get out and move into a home, even a temporary one, that would offer me comfort and solace and hope. And small as she is, and temporary as she may be... I do have that for now.

Last week I went back, one last time, to the large home that sits proudly on top of the hill. Save for a few items in boxes, a couple of tables and the piano, that I had come to remove, the home was empty. The movers had come and gone. The cleaners had come and gone. There was not a crumb or spec of dust for as far as the eye could see. Closets had been emptied and the cupboards were all bare. I walked through the long and narrow hallways, through the large and now vacant rooms. I admired my color choices, the ivories, beiges, sages, leaf greens, deep blues, and periwinkles. I admired how the color choices flowed so well from one room to another. I could picture the furniture perfectly placed. And then, as though I had never seen or felt before, I saw the children when they were young running through the house, laughing and screeching. I heard their giggles, their footsteps, their shrieks and shrills... I saw them at the table, in front of the television, in their beds... I saw them living and growing and being children. My memories were clear - not the least bit cloudy. I heard music. I heard the smoke detectors go off after my failure to set the timer when something was in the oven... I heard my ex husband chiding... "Oh, Mommy must be cooking again!" I heard the constant hum of the old energy-sucking Sub Zero and the never ending banging of wet clothes in the dryer.I heard the children bickering and pots clanging and the family room doors sliding open to the deck. I could smell the the aromas from simmering pots and freshly baked goodies.

I could feel the heat and the warmth of the fireplaces in the winter. I could feel the presence of my children... I continued to walk through the rooms. I stood in the kitchen, under the over-sized sky lights by the big bay window that looked out onto the expansive back yard. I had chosen Benjamin Moore's Leaf Green because when we sat in that large nook we felt as though we were outdoors. And when the snow started to fall... what a magnificent sight that was! I looked all around me... I saw the ovens where I baked Birthday cakes and holiday dinners... I saw my desk, now empty and bare, that housed my "piles" of papers and bills and notes and projects. And behind me, the dining room - the large chair rail and the shadow striped walls were a marked improvement over the horrific plaid fabric walls that we tore down. The chandelier hung directly in front of me... staring me in the eyes as though to say "Ah, now you see it! See all that you nearly missed!" And I did! And I was! I felt like I was seeing so much of this for the very first time... I had been going through the motions... my head and my heart had been elsewhere for so long, for so many years - I had been preoccupied, buried in pain and sorrow, and yet despite that the mind remained strong, clear and focused. And so what if I was just seeing this all now for the first time... At least I was seeing it!

I strolled into the living room and paused there again. This time I looked not at the room but outside where the swing set still stood. I could see the children swinging and climbing... I could see the Easter eggs hidden in the stone walls just beyond. And then I wandered back to the piano. I stood there and noticed how bare she seemed without our carefully curated collection of photographs. I wonder what I would have done or said had I known that would be the very last time I would see her...

Out the windows, just next to where she rested, I looked out at the massive hill on which our house stood.... I could see the children running, rolling and sledding down. I had stood there many times watching the snow fall all around our neighbor's red barn and each and every time I would think to myself, that that was a sight of which I would never tire... And I never did.

Back out into the entryway I saw the large stair case. I saw the children eagerly waiting at the top for their cue to come down to see what Santa had brought them. And I saw the image of my youngest, a baby at the time, dangling his toy over the banister where it would come crashing down on our collection of Nutcrackers, breaking many of them... And dare I say it... it was that very moment where my world and my marriage would turn upside down - crack open and become wounded like those wooden soldiers. That very image is still so fresh and raw in my mind, and not wanting to focus on that moment and not wanting that to be the last memory of the large home on the hill I headed to the front door. I looked at my piano on my left, smiled, and then closed the door behind me one last time.

The house and the hill are now a part of my past. The memories are still mine and they take up no room and will travel with me wherever I go. And with all the sadness and pain that I experienced in that house, I was so glad that the happy thoughts greeted me and bade me farewell. I hope that my children have happy thoughts as well.





Friday, July 18, 2014

Of Beaches, Books and Summertimes Past



What are you favorite summertime memories? Come visit me over at The Daily Basics to read my guest piece Of Beaches, Books and Summertimes Past.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How do you handle disappointment?



I've seen and experienced a lot of disappointment over the years. I've had my share. I keep thinking it's time for that rainbow and that figurative pot of gold... At some point my luck has to change, doesn't it? At some point I've got to stop getting knocked down. I keep getting stronger and my footing is more and more stable and yet I can't seem to stop myself from getting knocked down... You'd think you'd get used to disappointment and loss if you experience it enough... but I can assure you that that's really never the case. And perhaps it's because I still hope. It's all I've got left. And without hope, what is there? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.

At 47 I'm finding that I am clinging on to hope because it is truly all I have left. The divorce took from me everything I had. It took my car, my house, my entire savings and as of yesterday an antique, heirloom Steinway piano... A piano that I have written about before... A piano that was in my family for a long time... A piano that was danced on and played on by the great maestro Leonard Bernstein. That piano was more than just an object. Her worth was not much in dollars, but in sentiment she is irreplaceable. The loss of this grand object has shaken me to the core.

It's easy to blame and point fingers. There are lawyers and there are other characters. But mostly I blame the heartless people who have purchased my old home. Due to unfortunate circumstances I could not get my piano out by the agreed-upon date, but I did have a mover all lined up for the very next day - a mere 12 hours later. But the cold and callous new residents have forced me to declare my family heirloom as "abandoned" and they can do with it what they see fit. I spoke on the phone with the husband yesterday. He had every opportunity to do the right thing. He's going to be traveling he told me. His wife has to work. (She's in a town about 20 minutes away.) No one can be there to supervise the removal. And so, the piano sits "abandoned" in a house, my former house, that is being completely renovated. I have no issue with that. I take issue with the fact that the current owners should do the right thing and return the piano to me. So legally I agreed to have the piano out by a certain date and the soonest the movers could get there was 12 hours later. Legally, they can do what they want. Morally this is a different story. They have no morals in my book. Apparently the wife now wants to take up piano. Really???? Just like that, she wants to play the piano... or maybe they won't.... And then I was told that they may even donate the piano somewhere. DONATE it somewhere? Really?? And I told him that perhaps he should "donate" it back to me...  but I didn't comply with the contract... 12 hours... We are talking a mere 12 hours... 12 hours and the loss of a family heirloom to someone who will not appreciate it... Or to some facility who may or may not appreciate it... They can fix it up and restore it to her full glory and then they have a very nice piece on their hands... Or they could donate it... A write-off perhaps??  I don't think in my 47 years I have EVER met anyone so cold, callous or heartless...

My mother used to call me a dreamer... I'm always off with my head in my own clouds, in my own little perfect bubble with this perfect notion that people in life are good and grand. I've had several experiences this year that have proven that this is not at all the case. There are people out there who are clearly not good, who put themselves in front of all others... I'm so utterly disappointed. I want to think that people are good and worthy... I want to be able to give them the benefit of the doubt. But I've learned the hard way... Why must lessons always be so hard?

And who does that? Who?

I've come to a point in my life that I never imagined. I have lost everything that was ever mine or important to me. Everything. It's a scary and very strange place to find myself at 47... I wonder if I will every truly be able to climb up... I don't expect to get to the top... can I even get halfway?

Today I had an opportunity to get away from all this for a while... I had an opportunity for a distraction and to get away from my own thoughts, worries and fears and I was so excited. I went to start the car and she wouldn't start. A battery that I had replaced just 6 months ago was dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. So dead that I would need to replace it. So dead that my entire day and adventure had to be cancelled.

So forgive me, please, if I am coming off as extreme, or "dramatic" but that's just how things feel right now... there was hope, just a little of it... as warm and bright and promising as a ray of light on a cloudy day... And then just like that the light went out and the hope was extinguished.

I can handle a bad day. We all have them. We brush them off and tell ourselves that tomorrow is another day. We have the hope and promise of something better. But what do you do when you have one bad day after another, after another... how is it that you keep your chin up and stay positive? I'd like to know, really.


Thursday, June 26, 2014

getting there...


I'm behind again. I am struggling lately to keep up with my blogs. It's not that I have nothing to think about or write about, but, rather, that I haven't quite figured out how to divide my time properly. Whenever I sit down to compose something over here I get swallowed up by this giant, black, empty vortex. I simply cannot write. I cannot create. My ideas and my words don't seem to flow. In regards to work projects looming deadlines and money are huge motivators. So for some reason, while I can still struggle with creativity and style, the words somehow always seem to flow. I may not like those that have originally appeared onto the page, but they can always be reworked and eventually end up sounding halfway decent.

Over the course of the month I have celebrated a Birthday (was going to write about that) and I have celebrated the passing of a wedding anniversary as a divorced woman (was going to write about that as well.) I recently read an article by a young, happily married man denouncing divorce and said that he'd never get one. This angered me so. (I was going to write about that too.)

As I hit another milestone, I've been thinking a lot about my own life...  about my dating struggles and celebrations - I was going to write about those too. I was going to share some of the items on my summer bucket list... but I just haven't been able to find the words. I really have no idea why. I've never shied away from the personal. I've never had a hard time revealing my vulnerable side, for we all have our vulnerable sides and our insecurities. I'm not alone in my thoughts or feelings and that's one of the reasons I sought to create this blog in the first place - to share my own triumphs and tribulations with you, so that you would know that you were not alone.

I realize that I've come so far in the past two years. And yet I still have miles more to travel. Emotionally, intellectually, even physically, I have grown and gotten stronger. I know what it is I am looking for and what's important to me. Do you? I am quite certain that in that area I have found all the answers. But my life today remains much as it was a couple of years ago. I thought that would have changed. I thought in that regard I would have moved on. I thought that in that regard I might be a bit more steady on my feet. And I am realizing now that things take longer, sometimes, than anticipated. Time is important and a key factor. The saying that timing is everything has never rung truer. It really is - Timing must be right and the stars must be aligned. It's just the way it is. Everything can look good on paper, but if the timing is off nothing changes. I have learned, among so many things, about the importance of time and timing. In trying to figure out timing I am learning about patience, something that is not one of my virtues. But good things do come to those who wait... I believe that... sort of!

Over the past two years I've also struggled with my role as mother-slash-single mother. As all mothers are bound to feel, I have often felt as though I have let down my children. Their lives have changed. They have to miss out on a lot of opportunities and experiences. Gone are the swimming lessons and all the lessons. Gone are the trips. Gone are the experiences that are integral to childhood. It has nothing to do with material possessions - nothing at all - for I was never one to get too attached to things and I have always wanted my children to value people, life and experiences. I hope one day to be able to offer them whatever experiences they want - whether it has to do with a sport, music or travel. Meantime I do the best I can to raise good, respectable and respectful kids. Manners go a long way and I want them to be ready for whatever life may one day offer them.

This afternoon I was out with my boys running errands. We had two large carts loaded up with all sorts of gardening goodies - soil, a corn plant, a cucumber plant, assorted herbs, a blueberry plant, sunflowers, dahlias, and a few other items. The purpose was two-fold - to better the look of the back yard and to give the boys some projects and responsibilities. While I had my younger one with me, my older one was off getting the two large bags of soil. When he came back an older woman came up to me and told me that my son had helped her out. She wanted to thank me for raising a kind and respectable boy - that she doesn't come across many these days. I thanked her for coming over to tell me. I was proud, but not surprised. That's just the kind of kid he is.

A little while later after our plantings were all safely tucked away into the car, we went to get a few grocery items. We had just finished sampling some lemonade when my youngest came running over to me excitedly. Inadvertently he darted in front of, and cutting off an elderly man pushing a shopping cart. Even though it was unintentional I gently scolded my child and reminded him that he needed to be aware of his surroundings and other people's spaces. (It was probably the 6th time I had to remind him that afternoon.) After I had done so an older Asian woman came up to me and thanked me for disciplining my child. Too often, she told me, parents let their kids get away with behaviours they shouldn't. Children need to be taught of they won't grow up knowing right from wrong. I see that a little bit now. Anyhow, I thought, despite my own shortcomings and failures, that I really am doing something right. It felt good. My kids are going to be OK. I'm going to be OK. We're all going to be OK.

And so, I suppose this is all part of my crazy journey towards self discovery and beyond. And sometimes small things happen and if we choose to take notice we will all see the progress, improvement and growth. Our challenges are just lessons to be learned to resolve on our own. I hope that this crazy journey is a kind one and takes me and my children to a place of beauty, calm, tranquility and inspiration. Until I we get there, I will make sure that seat-belts are securely fastened and we will anxiously await at all the bumps still to come. We will handle them with patience, grace and dignity, hoping of course, for the smoothest ride possible.


Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Checked Out



It happens to me like clockwork. Like the seasons that turn... Like the buds that know when to burst open. I come out of my winter-induced, self-imposed hibernation. The great oaks and maples that grace my backyard are now in full bloom, dressed in their emerald robes - their great branches now form a canopy that shield much of my back yard from the bright hot rays of the summer sun, offering respite and a place to relax in the shade.

My backyard is now completely private - It's quite expansive as we've got nearly an acre. In the fall, winter, and early days of spring I can see out my living room window for as far as the eye can see. I'm less than a mile away from the Long Island Sound and while I cannot see the water from here, on a clear day I can see the large ferries that sail past me carrying passengers to Port Jefferson, NY or to Bridgeport, CT. From my window I can watch the seasons change. I watch as the days get longer and shorter. I can see the morning sun rise and shift positions ever so slowly. In the fall she rises to the right. In the spring she rises off to the left. I'm an early riser and never miss a sunrise. While the bare trees can make us sad, there's a beauty I see once a day that is spectacular and breath-taking and it is fleeting and if not for those bare trees I would never see it.

I can no longer see the sun rises early in the morning. But the beauty that comes with the great green wall that surrounds me is equally is wonderful. For there's an entire eco-system that lives just beyond my back door. We've chipmunks and rabbits and deer that graze upon our property. While I leave in fear of deer ticks, there's nothing like watching a Momma deer and her young graze upon the grass. We've more kinds of birds than I can identify - robins and cardinals, finches, barn swallows and chickadees... blue jays, wrens, mourning doves, humming birds and woodpeckers. Yesterday I watched as two large yellow-winged butterflies swooped all around, resembling miniature kites off in a distance...

I've slowed down. Summer does that to me. All year long I force myself to slow down and during the summertime it comes naturally. It's not that I get lazier (though maybe I do) but I attribute it to the warm weather and all the great things that come out in hiding. When I'm not at the gym I walk my 5K loop down by the harbor, to the beach, around another loop and back. I'm not a runner. I walk quickly and with a purpose but I become lost in my reverie and the beauty that surrounds me. I'd miss all that if I was a runner.

I suppose I've checked out... I'm done with school work, making lunches, shuttling kids hither and thither, spending hours a day in the driver's seat while juggling work and deadlines. I'm just as bad as the children, really. They've checked out too. Perhaps it's that after a really long winter, the warm weather is finally here and I want to run out and take advantage of it. Perhaps it's because Memorial Day has now come and gone and in my mind summer has officially started. Pools have been opened. Beaches have been as well. The sweet smells of summer barbecues intoxicate as their wonderful aromas are carried along in the gentle breezes. Lawn mowers can be heard buzzing in the distance. Is there nothing so wonderful as the smell of a freshly mowed lawn? Is there nothing so wonderful as the feel of freshly cut grass underfoot? The smell after a rain fall? The way the warm sun feels on the back of your shoulders? How wonderful it is to leave the house and not have to toss on layer upon layer of warm clothing? To stay out later and enjoy our long days? I, like the children, want to be outside and breathe in the fresh sea air and not be cooped up indoors all day! I don't want to work. I want to play! I want to take a nap in the hammock under the shade of my great oak tree, or take a nap on the couch on the porch, a pile of magazines, a good book and my iced tea by my side.

What is it about summertime that does this?

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Where have all the children gone?



Where have all the children gone? I don't mean it in a literal sense, but certainly a figurative one. My generation was different than today's and different from my parents' who walked to school (both ways!) in snow, rain or shine! We were free as kids - even when we were little. My parents didn't hover. I don't believe the term helicopter parent even existed. I had one friend with this incredibly over-protective mother. She was the exception and we all felt sorry for her. Kids are meant to fall and stumble. Skinned knees are a rite of passage - along with stubbed toes, and dirty hands. Parents never hovered at the playground. We played on equipment that was dangerous by today's standards. I can't tell you the stunts I performed - with my friends, with mothers looking in our direction. We teetered upon tall metal jungle gyms, slid down hot metal slides. We had swings we could fall out of. They were metal too. And everything was on asphalt. Asphalt that was hard and hurt and had to be pulled out of skinned knees with tweezers. We rode in cars. Backwards. Without seat belts. There was nothing better than sprawling out in the back of a huge Ford station wagon. Blankets, books and pillows too. Sometimes a 4 legged friend would hang out with us back there. We sang in cars. And talked and looked out the windows. We didn't have built-in screens or iPads on which moving images could be streamed non-stop. (Though, admittedly, as a mother who used to do a lot of long-distance driving in the summertime, those screens were a godsend!)

Our mothers didn't fill fancy diaper bags with juice boxes and snacks. We ate at home. We had water fountains. Water was free back then. Our mothers watched us carefully from a distance interfering only if we weren't being kind or someone was bullying another child or a child was being bullied by a meanie. Today's parents are too quick to defend their kids. Today's kids can do no wrong. "My daughter would never have done that. You must be mistaken. Your child must have made it up." I've seen this over and over again. Honestly, how will kids ever learn? How will they learn to take responsibility for their own actions and to apologize when need be?

Don't worry about that here. My kids are wrong. A lot. And I let them know and if they do something wrong I make them apologize. There are consequences in my home. There should be consequences. Now, my kids are far from perfect but they are good kids. They'd never bully or be mean but over the years there have been times when I have seen my kids do something wrong and I have made them apologize. The lack of apologies given today by children astonishes me - especially when parents are nearby.

We walked or biked, roller skated (in our uber cool sneaker skates) and skateboarded to our friends houses. Every once in a while a play date was arranged. Mostly we went over to our friends homes and rang the doorbell. If you lived in city, like I did, you would still ring your friend's doorbell. Sometimes your friend would live in your building which was great when the weather was lousy, otherwise we'd walk to our friend's homes. We learned to look both ways when we crossed the street. We walked everywhere. We were outside all the time. We were active. Some kids I knew in country (cousins and friends) had swing sets but they were metal and modest by today's standards. They didn't resemble mini palaces or pirate ships or amusement parks. There were a couple of swings. And a slide. And maybe a sandbox. Not every kid got a swing. We had to share. We had to learn to take turns. And not everyone had a swing set. We learned to keep busy doing other things. We created obstacle courses, we'd go exploring. We kept busy and we had fun. We didn't get bored after 20 minutes and ask to come back inside.

Sure we had electronics. We had our Ataris and weekend morning cartoons. The Betamax made it possible to rent movies. But we didn't spend all day inside glued to them. (Except for maybe when Luke and Laura got married.) We didn't have organic this and organic that. We didn't worry about hormones and GMOs. Vegetables were vegetables. We knew they came from farms. And from the freezer. And from cans. We ate meat and potatoes and potatoes had eyes on them - remember that? (When was the last time you saw or had to cut eyes out of potatoes? We can blame chemicals for that.) We drank whole milk. We ate baloney - our baloney had a first name it was O.S.C.A.R - and we ate Cheese Doodles (which we had to save for Grandma) and we ate Cream of Mushroom Soup from a can and many meals, called casseroles, were prepared with it. We never, or rarely drank soda. We were thin kids. There was one "fat" girl in my class, but by today's standards she was barely chunky.

We all played sports and we all had gym and we all had outdoor recess. Even those who weren't terribly athletic or competitive participated in some sort of sport. There was something for everyone, either available through a town or, in my case, in New York City, the school. I swam. I ice skated. I took ballet. When I got older I played basket ball and badminton. I was not terribly good at either one, but I enjoyed them. Why can't kids play sports today simply for enjoyment's sake and not for competition? Today a kid must join a team in order to play sports. Even the most non-competitive teams are competitive. And, better yet, every kid who tries out makes the team! (Please do note my sarcasm here!) Kids don't get cut from teams anymore. Instead of 1 team there are many teams. A through D. AND each kid gets a trophy simply for participating. Guess what? I had no trophies as a kid. I don't remember it ever being the end of the world. I was never devastated when I didn't make the team, or get the part I wanted in the school play. Of course there were times when I was sad and disappointed but I think that's all good and a very important part of growing up. "It's life." That's what we are told. "Those are the breaks." And today I have an extremely hard time trying to teach my kids about disappointment. There's so little of it out there. And it seems that lately because no one else wants to disappoint a kid that I am doing all the disappointing. In the end - one day - I am sure they will thank me. But now I often feel like the bad guy. But I still don't believe that kids should get everything they want and never experience disappointment. I do not believe in rewarding my kids for every little thing they do. I do believe in rewarding them for larger accomplishments. This means so much more to them, I believe.

I believe students should work hard for their As. I would rather see my children struggle for a well deserve B than slide into an A without effort. I believe that children should work - help out around the house. I believe in age-appropriate tasks such as setting and clearing the table and doing the dishes. Or taking out the garbage, or Swiffering the floors. It's OK if sometimes I ask my teenagers to help with the laundry - toss something into or take out of the machine or dryer. I believe that they should do their own dishes and not just leave them in the sink. (We've been working on this for years, and sadly we haven't progressed all that much.)

I think that kids should earn money either at home or out of the home and not handed an allowance simply for existing. There are chores, other than the unexpected, that kids can do to make their own money such as helping out in the back yard or around the garden, babysitting, any other house hold project that might not fall onto an every day To Do list - polishing copper or silver. I believe in instilling in them (or trying to) a good work ethic. I'm always surprised to hear that so many of my children's friends have no chores and do nothing to help out around the home. I'm also surprised to hear that children don't set tables and have no idea where forks and knives go. Maybe they're not eating at the table en famille... is that it? Are they eating alone, in the family room, in front of the TV? I really hope not. While we don't have a family dinner every night, I make a point of having one several nights a week. It's important - if only for working on table manners and playing silly word games!

My kids aren't top athletes or scholars. They are not over-programmed with activities - In fact, by today's standards we are way under programmed. And I'm OK with that. I do enough chauffeuring as it is! Their time with me at home is limited - I want to savor every minute I have them here. And then when the time comes, I will watch them leave the nest and grow and soar and become who they are meant to become. They will figure out who they are and what they want all in good time. They don't need me pushing them in one direction or another, forcing them to be something they don't want to be. I will always encourage and I will always support and lead the way to wherever it is they want to go. Right now, they have no idea, and they shouldn't. They are 8, 13 and 15 and they shouldn't know where they will be in the next 10, or 20 years.

We don't have a fancy play-set though we do have some scooters that the older two have outgrown that have gotten all rusted out because the youngest one left them out in the rain - repeatedly, despite my asking him not to. And no, they won't be replaced unless he spends his own money. I do not believe in replacing things because they get broken - We have way too many accidental breaks in this house! My kids do spend too much time on their iDevices and pulling them away is a constant battle - a battle that I hate. We have organic milk in our fridge and chemical-ladden sugar-free Fudgecicles. That's just how we roll.

I'd never say my kids are exceptional. But they are good and kind and courteous and respectful. I don't think I could ask for more than that. If anything I feel as though I've not done enough for them. As a single mother I wish I could be there for them more and I wish I could give them more - I don't mean give them everything, as I believe that children should have wants. I would love to take them on a vacation. It's been far too long. We all need to get away.

I worry that over the past couple of years I have not created enough memories... that we have not seen enough or done enough. I want to fill their lives with as much as I can fill them with. I don't think life should be measured by material objects, but by memories created along the way. A memory, after all, lasts forever. I want the children to have rich and memorable experiences. This, I think, is my greatest disappointment. I will figure out how to make it all up to them - I will figure out how to give them back some of their lost youth. That is my regret. I regret nothing else.

I wrote this piece yesterday about my perfect Mother's Day. Re-reading it, over and over again, long after it was written was confirmation that I've done something right and that they're truly good kids. I don't care if they don't get into the Harvards or Yales or Browns. I don't care that they're not setting out to save the world or looking for a cure for an awful disease. I do care that they are good, kind people.


This piece was inspired by recent conversations I've had with friends on Facebook, via emails and in person.


Monday, April 7, 2014

a midlife blessing...



I tend to get very introspective this time of year. It was this time nearly 4 years ago that I knew I had to change my life. It was this time 2 years ago that my marriage was legally ended. A lot has happened in 4 years. A lot has happened in 2 years. I've changed a lot in 4 years. I've changed even more in the past two. I've grown. I've matured. I've become even more steadfast in my convictions, desires and motivations to succeed and grow and live and thrive. As I look back I can see that despite my passions and curiosities I was terribly lost and confused. There's a lot I still don't know. I don't know where I am headed (not to be confused with not knowing where I want to be.) I don't know how these cards will all pan out. In fact, I know that there's just so much I don't know and life is about learning and I intend to learn all that I can. If I've learned one thing I've learned that everything I have is a blessing. I'm not lost. Confused. I'm not dazed. I am very much aware of where I am, what I am and who I am. I call this a blessing. Perhaps I should call it a mid life blessing.

When I told my husband I wanted a divorce, he thought I was crazy. He told me I wasn't thinking properly and that I must be having some sort of midlife crisis. He thought that I would come to my senses again one day. After all, why would any woman want to break up a family, and lose the security of a home, shelter and family. Why would a woman want to give up happiness? Unless... unless of course the woman wasn't happy.

Now imagine being in a situation where home, the one place you are supposed to feel safe and secure and loved, turned out to be anything but. Imagine if your home made you sad and lonely. Imagine if you did everything to stay away from your very own home. As a mother with three young children, that's nearly impossible. And then you realize that it's not necessarily your home, per se, that's making you sad... but someone in it. You become sick and sad, depressed, and you start walking on eggshells. You realize that you've stopped living and you're merely existing - you're merely waiting for the day to be over so you can go to sleep, only to wake up to the same angst and pains the next day, and the day after that and the day after that, over and over again and it never seems to end. You know this is no way to live. You know there is so much more out there to see and taste and do but it all seems so unattainable.

They say that a traumatic event or situation often is the catalyst for divorce. Right before mine I had surgery. It was during that time, when I was stuck at home, unable to drive for 3 weeks, that I had my epiphany - for lack of a better word. I may have had too much time on my hands, but looking back I am so grateful to have had that time. It helped me to see things as they were. It helped me to focus - I could see where I had come from, where I was and where I was headed. I knew I had to change my own course. I wasn't exactly sure how to though. The idea of divorce had never entered my mind. I knew of no one who was divorced. There was no divorce in my family. I had a negative image of it. Like a woman scorned - a woman wearing a scarlet letter, scorned. I didn't really want to be thought of as divorced. I had all these preconceived notions in my mind and none of them were terribly good. But I also knew that my life needed a change. A drastic one.

I was confused about a lot. But I knew three things. I knew I wasn't crazy. I knew I wasn't happy and I knew I needed a change. But the type of change I was looking at - as with any major event - isn't something that can be done impulsively. It's  isn't something that one rushes into... It's something that must be done deliberately after much thought and consideration, after weighing all of one's options. It really must be the last resort... what is done when nothing else can be done.

I think people have this preconceived notion - Someone doesn't choose divorce because they want to see if there might be something or someone better out there. It's always a last resort - or it should be. It's not easy. It's not fun. In fact, you can experience some of your hardest, deepest, darkest days as you navigate the seemingly ominous journey of divorce. It's not something one decides to do in haste the way one might decide, at the spur of the moment, to drive into New York City for dinner, or become a redhead or chop off one's hair. Divorce is life-changing, and life-altering. But when you get to the other side, you will see that sunshine and warmth awaits. The battle isn't over and the struggles won't be either, but the knowledge that the future is bright and out there and that anything and everything is possible is a gift that one simply cannot put a value on.

You can't put a price on happiness. It's not something that can be won or purchased. All the money in the world won't buy happiness. And there are plenty of people with money, a lot of money, and trust me... they are far from happy. Happiness isn't what's defined by what's around you but what's inside of you.

I have no need or desire for fancy sports cars, huge McMansions, and I don't need my closets filled to the brim with designer clothing. I like nice things and I appreciate nice things but they won't make my life better or happier. In fact, dare I say, I'm liking the simpler things - the simpler life... it's easier this way for sure. I'm lighter. I'm freer. It's hard to explain unless you've been here.

In the past couple of years I have found happiness. I've had great moments of it - moments I never would have had if I had still be married. It's not all easy. It's not all happy. I have come a very long way and I know I still have a long way to go. But I have been given the greatest gift of all. The gift of a second chance. The gift of being able to start over. I can take all the knowledge I have gained, all the lessons learned from mistakes, and the wisdom gained from failures and use all these experiences to create a better me and a better life for myself and my children. How lucky am I? I truly consider this to be a midlife blessing.

It's been a good two years. I'm looking forward to the next two years.