A Little Piece of Her is Back

This week I got a little piece of my mom back, or at least it sure felt that way. After my mom died, I would make annual pilgrimage to my dad’s to pick up her car and bring it here for the summer. It was one of the few material things in life that I could actually say brought me true joy. Sliding into the leather seat, turning the key, and hearing that distinct roadster purr. Top down, sun shining, and feeling the miles of pavement slip beneath me at a fast pace left me feeling peaceful and closer to her. My dad was bid me goodbye with his standard smiling wave. (One day I need a picture of this wave, as it is always done with a smile after a big hug, meanwhile I was often teary eyed knowing I wouldn’t see him for a while). I did this for a few years, until one year he told me to take it home and keep it because he saw just how comforted and happy it made me. He signed it over to me and said my mom would have wanted me to have it.

Over the years, that car has brought me so much comfort. When one of our main cars broke down, we had it as a spare. For a while my husband drove it daily, and I would look out the window and howl with laughter watching such a big, brawny guy compact himself to get into such a little sports car. He looked like a Transformer and would give me a sarcastic wave while watching me giggle away as he bent himself down to get into it. The car took me on long nightime drives along the coast on hard days which allowed me to clear my head. I would go and sit in it on days when I needed to talk to my mom, chatting away as if she was sitting next to me listening. I always felt better for doing so. It is a car my kids beg to go for a ride in, and they always ask for the top down, usually to go at night, and they stare up at the stars while the wind blows through their hair. When he was little, my son declared my car (an SUV) not a cool car, but my mom’s car was labelled as “cool”. The car has also taught my children a bit about marriage. The car, while impractical for a mom and expensive to fix, means more to me than just about any other material thing, and my husband knows this. I’ve offered to sell it when times got hard over the years, but he has always talked me out of it. He knows what it means to me, and because it means so much to me, it means a lot to him too. They see that their dad supports my passions and ideas, and it sends a good message about what marriage should be.

I’ve mentioned in prior posts that when we got a new family car, my mom’s car was parked, and it sat untouched as our lives were constantly busy. It sat. And sat. Sitting isn’t great for cars. They are designed to MOVE. Sitting isn’t much good at all. If you’ve followed along, you’ll know that it got damp, and then mold set in. I can tell you from experience that mold is a BEAST and if you’re not careful it can make you violently ill. I almost ended up in the hospital from it. That being said, I persisted, despite getting sick twice, and I got the car cleaned out. I had to make a decision on what to do next, and I decided to fix it. A trip to the mechanic had a big list of repairs to get it roadworthy. I got the whole list done. I got home after picking it up and found some issues has mysteriously resolved themselves. I got the headliner replaced since it had dropped and was in bad shape. After hunting for quotes, I went to the cheapest place because a shop I liked recommended them. The guy was a character, to say the least, but his work was good, and he offered to fix another issue….the top mechanics. I had troubleshooted the issue with the top, and after some trial and error, confirmed why it was sticking and not functioning. The headliner guy said he could manufacture a replacement piece after I showed him my findings and I took him up on it. What would have cost me about a grand at the dealership cost me $50. I left with the car running as it had back in the day.

As I drove around, top down, hair pulled back, I caught myself smiling a huge grin. My daughter commented “Nana would be SO happy you got it fixed” and she’s right. Just like years ago, getting into the car makes me smile, feel comforted, and feel like my mom is a little closer.

I’ve always tried to celebrate her life, her joy, and her sense of fun. I do it for her, for me, and especially my kids. My kids grew up without knowing her, but they know her through me. Through silly stories, through treats on sad days to make them less sad. On her birthday? We go for ice cream or do something fun. I’ve never wanted them to think of her in a sad way. That seems so opposite of who she was. I want them to think of her and feel love, kindness, and happiness, because that’s who she was. The only way they will know her is really through the efforts me or those who know her make. My best friend will sometimes tell them stories about her and it always makes me glad they hear how awesome she was from someone else.

Since I saved so much money on the repairs, I’m able to do some body work to it as well. Dents, and a spot of rust will get fixed up so the car will be in really good shape and last. Despite being 22 years old, it purrs and runs like it did when we got it. Now the process of getting estimates and making a plan. Regardless, I know my mom would be happy. I’m friggin ecstatic!

And Just Like That, I’m Back.

I’m back, y’all. Sorry I had to take a break, but a little bog-goblin was back at it and I decided to break for a bit to see if she’d actually come forward and say anything, but as usual, no.

So I’m back, because I refuse to give up what I enjoy doing. Sometimes, putting pen to paper (or fingers to keys) is cathartic and relaxing, and I think I need a little relaxation these days. The fact is, I’m FED UP. Indeed, Fed to the Eff Up. I’m tired of politics, tired of viruses, tired of selfish people, tired of dumb people, and I’m tired of fake people. I think that covers it.

Seriously though, this year started out pretty decent but it quickly went down the tubes, eh? Now granted, I am an introvert by nature, so the lock down thing hasn’t been all so bad. As a family of four, we all hunkered down, did some projects, spent time together, and found a lot of moments of joy in the whole disaster. I think in many ways, we came out of the primary lockdown closer than ever. In fact, there have been a lot of positives from it. We tackled some big jobs around the house, we took on some new hobbies, and my favorite…my husband has been home more than ever. It’s been great.

Inside felt comforting. Outside, the world feels pretty miserable. People are hurting, people are selfish, and there’s a lot of “the dumb” spreading that is almost just as bad and dangerous as the virus itself. There’s a sense of “me me me” that is just offputting. It makes staying home a lot easier. The hardest part is not being able to travel. I’d give anything to be able to go visit my family. Unfortunately, the US is the dumpster fire of the world in regards to Covid, so I can’t travel. Next time I am able to go, I think I will appreciate it even more. I was perusing my photos the other day, and realize just how much travel I did the past few years. From long cross Atlantic trips to short little day trips to visit places, it was glorious. I think travel is the thing I most miss.

Now that being said, we did do one trip. The kids and I went down to visit my dad because I think they really needed some grandparent time with him. Despite living 300 miles away, my dad is quite involved with the kids. What he makes up for quantity, he sure makes up with quality. He spent hours with them doing various activities, including fishing. My daughter was determined, come hell or high water, to catch a fish. My dad warned her that since the lake had been recently dredged, he hadn’t seen many fish out there. Then he cast the line with a lone little grub he had found, and low and behold, he caught a fish. This was a defining moment. This moment told my daughter that it COULD be done, and she then spent hours by his side, determined. She had no luck for 2 days. I took her to the store where they had live worms, because it was so hot outside worms were nowhere to be found. Lo and behold, on our last day, in the final hour, she caught not one but THREE fish. Her pride and glee was palpable, and I was so grateful my dad had hung in there. He’s always been patient like that. Even when I grew up, he traveled all the time for work, but he always made his time with me feel special. I have amazing memories of hanging out with him. I took a covid test before we headed down, just to be safe, and was thrilled to be able to hug my dad. My kids both gave him a hug and I could tell how excited they were to see him. They had been asking for him for months. It makes me sad to see all the things my mom misses out on since she passed away. She’d be so proud of the kids, and I know she’d want to see them every chance she could. It’s a bit of a tough pill to swallow, really, but that’s all I’ll say about that. For now.

The drive down was leisurely and relaxing. I realize how much I love Pennsylvania. We stopped off in Gettysburg to a small fruit stand I frequent who has the best damned peaches you’ll ever have. I highly recommend it if you’re down that way. It’s off Taneytown rd. and it’s called The Lion Potter. It’s a family owned pottery store but outside they have a fruit stand. The peaches are giant, juicy, and everything you’d want on a hot summer day. When we arrived, I was helped by one of the younger sons, who is one of the most polite young men I have ever met. The parents should be very proud. Stop by, you won’t be disappointed. We did the drive with my SUP strapped up on the car by my husband without issue. The ride home, with it strapped by yours truly and my dad, had a little issue. The strap loosened in NY and I heard a change in wind noise in the car. My son identified the board had shifted, now leaning against the short side of the J bar. I was able to find a small pull off, and my son and I climbed up to readjust it and tighten the straps. Luckily, we made the rest of the way without issue, but that didn’t stop me from being thoroughly convinced it was going to fly off my car on the Cross Bronx.

I walked in the door tired, stiff, and hungry. I noticed my husband had rehung my mom’s portrait back up in the living room for me. It’s one of my most prized possessions. He drew it from a picture years ago and framed it for me as a gift, then hung it in the living room for me. When I’m sad, it comforts me. When I am happy, it feels like she is somehow joining in on the joy. We had painted the living room and I had missed seeing that portrait. My husband rehung it for me and next to it, placed a vase of fresh flowers. They were gorgeous and made the room smell lovely. He got them for my mom’s birthday. He knows it’s hard not being able to visit her grave, and the kindness brought me to tears. He’s the best.

Just yesterday I pondered going back to visit my dad, but I’m not sure if I’ll make it before another lockdown. Right now I’m hanging tight and holding hope our vacation will still happen.

Ok folks, I’m off to go do some cleaning. Ha, just kidding. Stay healthy and be well.

Let Me Put These Emotions in a Glass Box

Yesterday I got an email from our principal at one of our schools, detailing how we can pick up my son’s items from his locker as well as an end of the year “graduation” of sorts before he goes to high school. I read all the details and got inherently sad that his last memories of the school will be from our car window. There will be no trips, no signing of the yearbooks, no ceremonies, no kudos for a job done remarkably well. When I emailed to get some information today, the principal was notably bummed and said as much. You can tell how much our teachers and staff loved these kids, and how they wanted better. It brought me to tears. Then again, it’s been a whirlwind of emotions the past few months.

I keep reminding myself it’s all a blip in time. One day I may have great grandchildren who will read stories about what’s happened this year and they will wonder what it was all like. While for many it feels like it’s been ages since we were doing “normal” things, it’s only been a couple of months. For me it’s been an interesting experience. Someone posted a meme online that asked how many people felt that while 2020 has been rough, it hasn’t been their worst of years, and that thought resonated deeply with me. 2020 has been, for me, while a bit challenging, not terrible. If you’ve followed along on here for a while, you know I love a silver lining. There are many.

While I am saddened by missing people, by loss of activities, and some other realizations about what I will and will not tolerate (and how that will impact some things), I’m actually doing pretty good. Granted, I’m fortunate. My family is healthy and safe. While we lost half an income, I’ve still been able to work. I’ve been blessed by timing this year. Lots of timing that fell into place that allowed us to be ok. Not everyone is doing so well. My neighbor has lost two people to the virus, many people are financially struggling, and the whole thing has been pretty unsettling. That being said, I think it’s important to see the good within the bad, take stock of what IS going ok, and to be grateful.

I am loving having the four of us home as a family. We’ve never had this much time together, and I’m loving it. I am loving being productive at home. The house, as always, is chaotic, but we’re tackling some of the big jobs we’ve been wanting to do for years, so I’m ok with a bit of mess while those are worked on. I’m tackling some bucket list items. I’m working on getting into a better headspace. I’m separating myself from other people’s issues and misery. I think there will be some upheaval coming down the pike, but I’m ok with that. I’m enjoying the simpler life that isn’t filled with a jam packed calendar I have to manage. I’m hopeful to keep that mindset and to cut back on my obligations.

There are happy days, and sad days, but mostly happy ones. What I’ve realized is that with my calmer mindset and a little elbow grease, things are falling into place, and it feels amazing.

To be honest, as I look back, I realize I was constantly carrying a level of stress on my shoulders. Trying to be everything I needed to be for everyone, or at least what I thought I needed to be. I tried to go along to get along. I let people treat me as “less than”. I took the brunt of everything on my shoulders and tried to make miracles happen. The past few months have shown me a lot. I’m no longer interested in any of it, and it’s a freeing feeling. I have what matters, what is needed, and a lot of wants too. I couldn’t ask for better.

Silent Frustration, or When You Need to Vent.

The other day I saw a Facebook friend comment on how people she had thought she was very close with had pretty much ghosted her since the COVID-19 stay at home decision was made. Her hurt was palpable. A relative of hers commented, apologizing for not reaching out but mentioning she was having her own crisis and was struggling. I reached out to check in and she responded her husband was diagnosed positive with Covid. While his symptoms weren’t deadly, she was struggling to manage not only working, but also homeschooling two young children, one of whom needed much more help than expected. On top of that, she was balancing doing the shopping, cooking, cleaning, some of which were tasks her husband usually handled. She felt like she was drowning. I started noting that a lot of the social media posts that people were posting that had original started out as lighthearted jokes about struggling had lost their “jokingness”.

As an introvert, it’s never really bothered me to be at home, or on my own. I grew up as an only child and had to find inventive ways to entertain myself. The quiet doesn’t bother me. Even the routine doesn’t bother me. I don’t mind staying home…until you tell me I HAVE to. Even I am starting to get the itch to get outside these four walls. I was taking long walks at the beach, until everyone got the same idea, and now it feels a bit risky. After all, nothing like trying to get fresh air and maintain my distance while some jogger passes by huffing loudly and coughing from mouth breathing. Ugh. I feel like the once refreshing ocean breeze is not taking those huffing jogger breaths and logging them at me at a high rate of speed right into my system. Just the thought has put a big damper on it. We went as a family the other week to walk and hunt for rocks to paint but ended up having to walk down on the sand rather than the boardwalk because it was packed with people.

If you sit back and watch, it’s quite sad and frustrating to see how people behave in times like this. You have the helpers, who offer to do for others to lighten their mental load, and then you have, well, selfish bastards. I understand on some level, the need to protect one’s self and their family, but sometimes people are just selfish and vile. The hoards of store items, the nastiness…it just doesn’t help anyone. I think it’s making those who are struggling struggle even more.

The other thing I’m noticing is the feeling that people are afraid to complain. Sure, there are folks complaining about people going out when they should be decent people and stay at home. There are folks complaining about people being selfish. Social media has plenty of complaints about the external. What you’re not seeing as much of, until you ask, are those people who feeling like they are drowning in all of this. The people who are struggling to hold it together, or feel they are letting their families down. I see a lot of people who are afraid to admit they are getting deeply depressed, or are anxious and panicked about the future. Never mind the fears of actually contracting the virus, and what that means, but also the fears of “how will we manage financially?” “How am I going to work and keep my job while also homeschooling kids?” Even “how am I going to navigate the systems I now need to join?” I see people completely flummoxed at how the loans and unemployment work. The very things that should help people are making them anxious and uncertain.

Yet people are afraid to admit they are struggling.

Things have gotten better here from when we first started. The first week, I was almost in tears trying to manage everything. As someone who is used to managing “most” and being ok with what I can’t, my list of things to manage exploded and my things that I couldn’t manage were scaring the hell out of me. Once my husband was forced to close his business for the time being and was home, I was happy to have the help. He has been aces…helping the kids with school work, doing the store trips, and helping out around the house. As we normally work opposite schedules, he’s not usually home, so it’s been an utter luxury to have him home. There’s been a lot of laughter with him here, and one worry I have thought about is “how will we manage when he goes back to work?” My daughter has been THRILLED to have her dad home and doing things with her more. So have I. I know he worries about not working and carries his own struggles in all of this. He does more than for just our family so he worries about us as well as others. He’s not the type to complain, so of course I worry about him as well. I find I am getting anxious about any of us catching the virus, and what it would mean to us as a family. I worry about family members who are older or high risk, as well as my friends. I worry about keeping things “normal enough” for my kids. I worry about the fact that the politicians aren’t always looking out for the people, and are instead looking out for themselves and their friends. It’s scary stuff. It can feel oppressive.

If you need to vent, and you stumble across this post, please feel free to have a good old fashioned vent in the comments. I think sometimes we need to unload all the things that build up in our heads so that we can begin to more forward again.

Staying In and Staying Sane

Hey folks, just a quick check in to see how things are going. It’s been a somewhat busy week here at the Messy House. I say somewhat because the kids have been cranking out schoolwork, I’ve been insanely busy at work, and the husband has been home tackling a project or two while also keeping the little one entertained. We hustled all last week and then spent the weekend being as lazy as humanly possible…sleeping late, watching TV, and painting some art projects.

Speaking of TV, we started Tiger King.

HOLY SHIT, Y’ALL.

If you haven’t seen it, meaning you’re one of a small group by now, the show is a documentary on Netflix portraying a group of people who own Tiger Zoos in the south. Most have other animals as well, but the focus appears on tigers, leopards, lions, and other big cats. Every person they document is a little insane, and certainly a character, the main one being a guy named Joe Exotic. Now, if any of you told me that after such a good start to 2020 I’d fine myself locked in my house with my family, working, homeschooling, trying to survive a pandemic, all while winding down my evenings watching a gay, gun toting, polygamist tiger zoo owner who does meth and wears sequin shirts, I’d have laughed at the absurdity. Strangely, that’s my life now. While I’m disturbed at how many of these “big cat” parks are run, I have found that the cast of characters and craziness the show reflects has brought a welcome distraction from the stress of the current climate. My husband and I sat with incredulous looks on our faces, laughing throughout the series. Honestly, I was sad when we got to the last episode and have now resulted to watching Joe Exotic’s internet shows for a fix.

I think on the whole, we’re coping ok. While I’m plowing through work, my husband has been tackling some jobs around the house. So this is what it’s like having a husband who is at home a lot! My husband normally works insane hours and we’re pretty much like 2 ships passing each other in the night. I’ve gotten used to handling much of the daily things on my own. Having him home has been really helpful, and has taken a lot of the edge off me because I’ve been so busy with work. I suspect that when things go back to normal and he goes back to work that we’re all going to struggle with it, especially my daughter, who is thoroughly enjoying having her dad around. It also has made me a bit sad for the fact he has sacrificed so much when it comes to our family all these years. I’m happy he’s home for now, and feel relieved to know he is safely here.

Social media is full of the doom and gloom (aside from Tiger King memes, and thank God for those!) and so is the news. It’s also become increasingly obvious that the info you get from certain politicians is not aligning with the news coming out from our medical community. I trust the people who are on the front lines over those in cushy government offices. When you see and hear what our Drs and nurses say, you become inherently aware of just how scary all of this is. What’s maddening is the number of people who just disregard all the guidelines and recommendations. You start to see that the amount of people who are just garbage human beings is higher than you thought, but then you also see the helpers, the ones who bring help and cheer as well.

I had a conversation with several people who all said they are having dreams of being “out of control”, whether it was being unable to steer a runaway car, dreaming of all their teeth falling out, and many others. It shows that our minds are struggling to cope with what’s going on. Rainy days and bad weather doesn’t help when you feel trapped in your house.

As for me, we are participating in little neighborhood silly activities that bring a feeling of solidarity and hope. I’ve found my daughter and I in particular enjoy a somewhat silly activity that was started which is where at 8 pm, many neighbors come out and ring bells for 2 minutes from their front step. Every night you can step out in the fresh air and hear the twinkle of bells around the neighborhood…all neighbors in solidarity reminding each other that while it can feel quite lonely, we’re all here in this together. There’s a family or two across the way who is too far to hear them, so my daughter and I hop in the car to do a “drive by ringing” for the kids at that house. They cheer and ring their bells, and look forward to it every night. Honestly, we do too! We do a quick spin around the neighborhood streets, ringing our bells out the window and waving to everyone. Such a silly thing, but you should see the smiles on everyone’s faces. It’s our routine, it makes us smile, and we all look forward to it.

Tomorrow we have a birthday parade to attend by a little boy’s house where we will hold up hand made signs, cheer, and drive by his house to wish him a happy birthday. Again, a silly, simple act, meant to bring a smile to a little one. I’m happy to do it.

All in all, we’re hanging in there. Staying busy, staying happy, and doing the best we can. I hope you are too.

The Buzz Continues

Thanksgiving weekend is finally over, and I am positively buzzing with energy, which is surprising really, as I may have a bit of a stomach bug. Mentally, I’m in a great space, which also is surprising as I’m once again learning that I need to pay a bit closer attention to actions and less to words. Regardless, I feel like I’m going to come out of all of it just fine.

The weekend started with my daughter and I doing some baking and cooking for the holiday. She’s one of those kids who at the end of the day, really just wants to hang out with the adults she loves. It doesn’t much matter what she is doing, she just wants to help and be involved. She enjoys helping me cook, and I know it will serve her well when she gets older. I didn’t have much desire to learn how to cook when I was her age. Then I moved, my mom passed away, and I really learned how to do most dishes after I got married. My daughter will be ahead of the game. Even my son is learning to cook and happily will make a meal. After we finished, we packed up our goodies and went to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. It was a laid back day full of amazing food and loads of laughter. Occasionally after dinner, a few of us will do a little late night shopping, but this year I had to bail because I had packing to do, as well as some jobs around the house to prep for the weekend.

Friday, the kids and I headed up north to visit my dad, stepmother, and her family. After the married, this became a bi annual tradition. We also get together over the summer as well before the kids go back to school. They have truly become family and it’s always a good time filled with food, wine, and fun. This year the huge group of us went to see Frozen 2, and then topped off the night with a Christmas parade. The little town we were in is really quaint and beautiful, and the crisp air made everything just perfect. We all headed back to the house to allow the kids to run and play (there are 7 in total now) before we had dinner.

It was lovely to see my dad, as I haven’t been able to see him much this year. Even when we met up in the UK for my grandfather’s funeral, it was a busy time for both of us and we didn’t get a ton of time to spend together. This weekend, he seemed much more relaxed than the last time I had seen him and we had some really good conversations. I felt lighter and refreshed after having talked with him. I’m truly lucky to have him. He always has my back and is certainly a calming force.

The weekend trip was filled with great food, delicious wines, and great people. The kids had a great time and got along really well, being silly and joking with each other more than usual. The quiet and peace allowed me to mull over some things.

For starters, I took a little time to pause and mull over some changes that need to be made. My focus is on my little family of four, and my feeling is we need to make choices based on what’s best for us. Not everyone will like it, but I always feel that people who love you want the best for you. I feel the time is coming to start moving and shaking and getting things in a better place than they were. The chips are landing in just such a way that I am excited to finally be able to make some changes to really improve our lives. It’s exciting, and I feel light weights are being lifted. Each small step leads towards an end goal.

After coming home mentally refreshed (although physically not feeling so great), I was able to do a little Christmas shopping. I love Christmas shopping. Well, let me refrain, I love online shopping. The stores kick in my anxiety this time of year. I was able to pick up a few needed items for the husband and kids, which made me feel elated, some of them I am really excited about giving. I’m really trying to budget myself and pace myself out this holiday season. I’ve found that Christmas doesn’t really work well with my procrastinating nature. I’m terrible at pacing myself, and always end up stressed out, trying to tackle a million projects at the last minute. There is always so much to do in December. This year, I’m setting myself a goal to do a few things each day, so that I can spread the work out over a month. I’m already tackling my list, bit by bit, and it’s got me feeling excited for the season rather than stressed out. Again, small changes towards a bigger goal.

Now that I have my mind in a great place, it’s time to start making other changes too. It’s refreshing, and I feel much less stressed with each step I take. I have a good feeling that within the next year, I’m going to feel some big weights lifted off my shoulders. I’m ecstatic. I don’t know what it is about this time of year. It’s cozy and comfy, but it also feels like a hibernation that prepares us for the changing year ahead. I’m hopeful to get a head start on what’s to come. I know I’m mentioning change, and haven’t specified a whole lot of what change will be coming, but I’ll expand upon them as time progresses.

For now, it’s time to circle em up, look after the ones who look after us, and focus on betterment of not only myself, but my little family as well. After all, winter is coming.

Halloween on Halloween, dammit!

Some of my blog posts are sparked by things I see on social media. Let’s be honest, spend some time on social media and you’ll see all the crazies come out to play. Now I have spent significant time clearing crazy out of my personal life, but I must admit I enjoy a certain amount of “people watching” when it comes to the crazy, from a distance, of course, which social media allows you to do.

Now on this week’s episode of crazy watching, we had not one, not two, but TONS of sanctimommies up in arms and ready for action. Why, you ask? Because the weather forecast called for rain on Halloween, and this was simply not acceptable. Their solution? Move the holiday to another day so that their child won’t get dampened by Trick or Treating. Now, this wasn’t a case of “oh boo, it’s raining so I have to find an alternative plan to take my kids trick or treating because I don’t want to walk in the rain. This was a whole MOVEMENT where women called town hall and their representatives to MOVE a holiday for everyone else so their snookums didn’t get damp. Some comments I actually saw: “wet leaves are SLIPPERY!” and “I spent over $60 on my child’s costume!”

Let me preface what I am about to say by saying I am all for a kinder, more inclusive society. I am all for everyone being equal, for accepting differences, and I teach my children as such. Now, that being said, I am concerned that our quests to raise a kinder, gentler group of children mean that we are hovering too much over our kids. In our quest to give our children an easier life than perhaps we had, we are helicopter parenting, trying to remove obstacles, while believing we are being better parents than prior generations, and frankly, I’m not sure that’s the case.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll remember I ventured out to try to be more of a free range parent on certain levels. I had realized at one point, that things I did with great confidence and ease as a child, my kids didn’t/couldn’t do, simply because I’d never given them space too. In my quest to protect them, keep them safe, and be helpful, I was instead keeping them a bit stunted in some areas, where they didn’t have certain skills because they’d never had to learn them. I am a child of the 80’s, and parents back then were very live and let live with their kids. We rode bikes without helmets, car seats were lacking, and we were outside playing all the time until the street lights came on. I’m quite confident there were times my parents weren’t entirely sure where I was all the time, but they rested easy knowing I knew the rules and would be home on time. Ever watch an 80’s movie with your kids and hear their commentary on it? They think some of what we did as kids was completely implausible because they could never do those things now. Of course, when you know better, you do better, and certain things are leaps and bounds safety wise nowadays. But some things, like kids being outside playing all afternoon, and being street smart in the suburbs aren’t quite as common as they used to be. And I think it’s sad.

As a child, my mom and dad taught me to navigate airports, neighborhoods, and spaces. I was encouraged to explore, read the signs, and I learned to get around where I was. I knew who to look for if I got lost or ran into trouble. There was always a loose plan in place. I am so grateful for that push to be independent and responsible for myself. I have grown up feeling confident I can navigate where I need to go, can handle travelling (despite my dislike of flying I am good at getting myself wherever I need to go). They taught me a love of exploring, and the confidence to feel secure while doing so. It was one of the best gifts they ever gave me.

Now we have parents who are afraid their child will step on a wet leaf.

I have to ask myself, what will these children do when they grow up and enter adulthood? Will they call out of work because leaves are slippery?

If you’ve been a reader of this blog a while, you’ll remember that my first foray into letting the kids roam the neighborhood with other kids resulted in my daughter going momentarily missing. She had simply gone down to her friend’s house and gone to play in their back yard. I didn’t know that, however, and panicked when I couldn’t see her. I called the police. You know, I got some snide and nasty comments by some people locally for “losing my daughter”. Folks love to judge, right? But you know who I DIDN’T get a harsh word from? The police officer who came to help me find her. She was found moments after they arrived, and the cop pulled me aside to tell me I had done the right thing. He told me to not let the one bad experience change my mind, and to continue to let my kids play out in the neighborhood with their friends. He told me the police are seeing a trend with all the overbearing parenting that is causing kids to not function as well if their parents aren’t there. “If a parent is late picking up their kid, the kids are melting down and panic stricken.” he said, because they aren’t used to not having the parent right there all the time. He advised that kids don’t have the same street smarts, and aren’t as independent and responsible, which causes them to get into deeper issues as they “follow the group” because that’s all they know. I’m still learning to navigate some of this free range parenting, and I’m finding that there are ways to meet in the middle.

I look around me and see that there are two sides that are vastly opposite. One side, sadly, has parents who simply shouldn’t be parents. They aren’t involved, don’t care to be involved, and frankly, are really just shit parents. Then you have the opposite side, parents who will fill out their teen’s job applications and do follow up calls on their child’s behalf on a job interview. What we are left with from both extremes are non functioning adults.

Now, you may think I’m taking it a bit far, but honestly, some of our youth are going to struggle. The world is often a pretty harsh place. While in many ways it’s getting better, by the same token, people soon grow tired of dealing with entitled, babyish, non functioning adults. When your coworker has their mom call them out sick, or can’t come in because it’s raining…how long is that person going to be employed?

When we have to discuss moving a holiday because it might drizzle, we have a big problem. When kids can’t go outside in the rain for fear of a wet leaf, we have a problem. When people are so determined that their child not get their costume (THAT THEY WILL WEAR ONE DAY, MAYBE 2, OUT OF AN ENTIRE YEAR) wet that they call town hall and demand the day get postponed, I have to question our sanity as a nation. The level of tunnel vision and self entitlement is strong, and kind of frightening.

We need to teach our children that life has challenges, and that they need to problem solve to ride up and overcome those challenges. You know, like….carry an umbrella.

Happily, Halloween was celebrated on Halloween this year. Common sense prevailed, and the weather actually broke to give us a few hours of dry time. We had a house full of people as usual, family and friends coming together to haunt the neighborhood, give out candy, and make the night a little extra special. I always say Halloween is my husband’s holiday in the family, because it might just be his favorite. Yet I too have a deep love for the traditions we’ve started, and the plans we’ve made to go even bigger next year!

Even a little rain won’t dampen our fun!

Grief and ramblings

I’ve sat down many a day and mulled over what to write. I feel a sense of writer’s block and nothing seems to flow as it usually does. I’ve been out of sorts the past few weeks. Death will do that to you. It brings on a flurry of emotions, and I’ll be honest in saying that I usually prefer to keep the physical part of grief to myself. That being said, sometimes when you don’t know what to write, you just have to start someplace, be honest, and see where the old brain takes you.

I realized the other day how grief when you’re a parent is a different ballgame. At least for me it is. I have so many responsibilities that there simply isn’t time for me to have a meltdown, or a big deep cry. I’ve also become fairly distrusting of people’s motivations over the past few years and prefer not to let people see me sad. I don’t need to give people fodder for gossip. I think it’s important for my kids to see my grieve, but sometimes when I am in the thick of it, I know that my tears will bring questions, and sometimes I’m not always ready for those questions. Sometimes I need to just process my own feelings before I am ready to handle my feelings with everyone else’s feelings layered on top, if that makes sense.

The day my grandfather died was a weird mix of emotions. The usual grief of losing someone was there. The grief of losing my last grandparent, and knowing that it was sort of an end to an era. The knowledge that with his death would eventually mean the sale of his house, which made me sad too, since I had a lifetime of memories within those walls. I felt sadness for my dad too. He lost my mom and now both of his parents. There was some relief on his behalf, as I know he wouldn’t have appreciated how that last month went for him. Death often feels rather undignified, and my grandfather was a very dignified person. It was a veritable onion of emotions, and I wasn’t quite ready to start peeling the layers. I knew I wanted to go to the funeral, so I allowed myself an hour or so to try to get composed and set off to work, since I didn’t have much vacation time left. I arrived, started to cry, caught myself, and headed home. I stayed pretty stoic and held it together quite well through telling the kids, and navigating arrangements.

Each time I started to get upset, I’d rein it in. I had a job to do, kids to look after, a husband. I had friends going through their own troubles. And through all of it, I held it together. Life is just to busy and I have too many people to be responsible for than to fall apart.

I started to crack when the hearse pulled up outside my grandfather’s house. I pulled it together quickly. I decided I would try to grab a few moments with his casket after the church service. I made it through the service quite well. I held it together even when I learned I wouldn’t get the chance to have a few moments alone with my grandfather to say goodbye due to a lack of communication on my behalf with the FD. I held it together at the gathering after. I allowed myself a quick few minutes to cry when I stepped out of his house for the very last time.

There really hasn’t been any proper grief that I’ve allowed myself.

I remember that when my mom died, I went into a type of shock and into survival mode. I was a new mom, with a new husband, a new home, and I went back to work. My world crashed down and I had to stay strong to keep everyone else ok, and keep myself above water. I allowed myself just a few minutes to privately grieve here and there. I managed. That being said, I felt like the grieving process dragged out for ages, where perhaps if I had allowed myself to really feel it in it’s entirety up front, I’d have processed it better.

I need to have a good, old fashioned, soul cleansing, ugly, red faced, boo hoo sobbing cry.

Sometimes a good old cry can work wonders.

On the brighter side, my trip had some really lovely moments. I spent time with family. I learned that certain people in my family will always show for me, and I felt really loved. I stayed with my cousin and the two of us had loads of laughs. I got to hold baby puppies and pet older dogs. (If you’re having a bad day, go look at some baby German Shepherds and listen to them grunt, it’s adorable and will brighten you right up.) I got to see and bring home my great grandparents’ marriage license, as well as numerous other pictures and documents. I brought home a suitcase from WW2 that belonged to a little Jewish boy my great grandparents took in during the war. I learned to cook some new dishes. I walked outside in the freshest of country air. I had people come up to tell me they went to school with my mom, and how amazing they always thought she was. I had folks come up to tell me what a fantastic person my dad is. I worked on our family tree. I got to call my husband and kids and hear that they were doing ok, but that I was missed a lot. I got to meet family at the pubs for pints of well poured Guinness and old stories. I got to go to my mom’s grave, and catch out of the corner of my eye a beautiful sunflower growing out of the top of a building, making me feel comforted and happy. I had late night chats and hot cups of perfectly brewed tea to combat the chill.

In other words, I felt at home, surrounded by family who have known me my whole life and love me, plus I found a lot of happy, joy filled moments during a sad time.

Having family on two continents means that my heart is always split between the two. I always feel like something is slightly missing, but also feel that regardless of which place I land in, I am at home. I feel at home walking the streets of my town here in the US, but also feel perfectly at home walking the fields of a village 3000+ miles away.

In summation, my grandfather, who had admittedly and vocally grown rather tired of this life, has passed. Perhaps he is back with my grandmother, perhaps death is all there is. Regardless, he is not suffering, and for that I am thankful. A trip caused by a sad loss was also filled with joy and laughter, because life is always a balance of the two. If we do not experience sadness, how do we truly appreciate joy? And lastly, I need a good cry once in a while. Grieve the loss, but celebrate the life.

Watch Me.

Today I was hard on myself. A project I was doing at work had some technical glitches and didn’t go as smoothly as I hoped (although I got it done. My daughter was a bit upset by an interaction with a teacher in the car line when I picked her up. I had to race out to the orthodontist and stores after work. Dinner was late and I ended up having my son help me with it. I had a bunch of jobs to do like ordering school pictures, trying to gather items for the Closet project. I’m tired. Tired physically and tired of garbage humans who are just shitty people. I looked around at the chaos in my house and felt overwhelmed. I started getting frustrated with myself that I couldn’t get it all done and do more around the house.

Then I took a deep breath. And another. I sat back and watched a mental replay of what I had done all day.

I began to realize that I was too busy giving myself a hard time and wasn’t acknowledging the successes I had today. Some were small, but they were wins as far as I was concerned.

That project? Well, I got it done, and learned a whole new software in the process. I got another big project on my dreaded to do list accomplished as well.

I worked a full day and got a lot done.

I coordinated kids getting home.

I turned my car around in the car line and went to speak to the teacher who had upset my daughter. It was a misunderstanding, and I ended up really liking her and sorting it all out where everyone was happy.

My daughter, who has shed many a tear at the orthodontists, looked at me when I told her “you’re a big girl now and you can communicate what you feel needs correcting and you can rock this” and did just that. She handled it like a boss and walked out proud without a single tear being shed.

I got the items I needed from the store.

I ordered school pictures.

I was able to coordinate getting the shelving units I need for the Closet Project with the help of a friend, for free, donated by her neighbor. This is HUGE because currently everything is in random bags, boxes and bins making it near impossible to find what you need. I also found clothing racks for cheap and purchased a couple. I’m excited to now get it set up.

I coordinated a few more donations of clothing and toiletries.

I took a moment to ponder how grateful I am for the internet and the volume of things I can accomplish by using it.

I scrubbed the tub and toilet quick.

I delegated some jobs to my son, who was a rock star and cooked dinner.

I got a load of laundry done.

I did a load of dishes.

I fed all the pets.

I saw a woman say something vile and called her out as the asshole she was.

I saw a lurker lurking, sighed, and wrote this post anyway.

I did some good deeds.

I made calls I had to make and sent emails I needed to send.

I gave out some compliments. I laid out some truths.

I took out my esthetician’s equipment and helped my son with a breakout.

I gave goodnight hugs and kisses. I sent two happy kids to bed.

In other words, I did a LOT. I did some small things, and I did some big things. I did lots of things and I handled my business. So my house is messy. I work full time, run a major project to help kids, raise two kids, and manage a household often on my own since my husband works different hours. I kicked some ass today! I’m proud of myself and my kids told me they are proud of me too. I often find myself being so hard on me, never taking the time to just stop, breath, and recognize all the things I DID accomplish during the day. Sometimes I need to step outside of myself and watch all the things I have accomplished, and all the things I did get done.

Are you watching me? Because I’m watching me, and I kicked some ass today!

Take me to the Ranch!

I’ve been (mostly) MIA the past couple of weeks as summer has wound down. Summer, which normally feels lazy and laid back, became crazy busy. Between work, camp for the kids, and my nights spent working on the Closet project, I stayed busy. I was burning the candle at both ends and by last week I was in dire need of time to rest and recharge. We had booked two vacations at the end of the month, one for our annual family reunion at the lake, and the other at a Ranch in upstate New York. The Ranch trip was first.

Now let me preface the rest of this post by saying I’m probably a little high maintenance, but at the same time, I have a soft spot for the country and would love to live in the country at some point. Despite coming from a family who is very into horses (several of my cousins own, breed and show horses. One is a professional rider), I am….not. I grew up far away from them, and never had much opportunity to ride. I spent my childhood on boats and the water, but despite a love of horses, I’ve always been a bit nervous around them.

We booked the trip with some family members that we have vacationed with in the past. They have been going to the ranch since childhood, and they asked us to join. We decided to jump at the opportunity as we know we vacation really well with them. We share a similar vacation mindset. That’s very important when travelling with others. If you don’t kind of have the same vibe when it comes to how you vacation, you may feel either you didn’t fully get the experience, or you may feel like you need a vacation from the vacation. This collective group just worked like a charm, and I knew fun was to be had.

We arrived at Rydin-Hy Ranch on a Saturday. I had had a stressful few weeks leading up to the trip, and unfortunately got a call with some bad news about a family member on the drive there. I arrived stressed, but looking forward to having some down time, as was my husband. My kids were wanting to do all the things. As we pulled in, I saw log cabins, and a gorgeous lake ahead of us. Our cabin looked out towards the lodge in front of us, and the lake to our right. It was simply stunning. We checked in, dropped off our stuff, and headed out to explore. My daughter, who LOVES horses, was eager to ride, so we signed up for a trail ride. The boys headed off to check things out. We wandered over to the barn where there were loads of beautiful horses. The cowboys that work the barn (that’s actually what they are called on the ranch) chose horses they thought would be a good fit for everyone. They helped each of us get on the horse, and we got in a line to go for a slow leisurely trail ride. I was nervous and a bit anxious the first ride. Ok, I was the same on pretty much every ride, but I couldn’t help but have fun.

After the ride, we headed off to the lodge for dinner, which was delicious. The easiest way to explain it is that the food is simple, yet done well. Each family has their own table for the length of their stay, so you simply wander in during meal times and sit at your table. The staff there were extremely accommodating. After a delicious meal, we headed off to the bar for drinks and laughs. We had a fabulous night out at the bar, and a good time was had by all.

Each day in the lodge, they put up a chalk board with the times and locations of all the activities. This is the moment when you start to realize that your kids have likes and know how to do things that you had no idea about. To my surprise my son signed up for a ping pong tournament. I didn’t know he enjoyed ping pong, as he’d never mentioned it, but he said he played at camp all the time. Turns out he’s really good at it! My kids were very eager to try archery. My daughter wanted to do the banana boat, which is a long inflateable yellow banana looking boat that you sit on while a speedboat tows it at a pretty high speed in the water. I went on, as well as her aunt, and the three of us were laughing hysterically as it pulled us through the water. I sat amazed at how fearless my kids are, and how much joy they got from trying new things.

My sister in laws’ cousins were there the first day and were extremely kind enough to leave us their kids’ bikes to borrow while we were there. This gave our kids another layer of freedom. There is an incredibly strong feeling of “home” at the ranch, in the sense your room door is unlocked throughout the day (you get a safe for valuables) and kids are considerably more free range than you see at many vacation destinations. Of course parents have an eye on their kids but you feel safe allowing them to roam a bit if they are older. My son, a teenager now, loved having the freedom to come and go as he pleased, riding the bike throughout the ranch from place to place. He went to the gym to work out, played basketball, and attended activities on the board that piqued his interest. My daughter loved spending time riding around on the bike while the adults were relaxing outside. One of the things I loved was that kids were a bit more free range there, and it all felt super safe and easygoing.

While I was there, I got a call with some more bad news and needed a bit of time to process it. Travelling with the Aunts, Uncles and bonus grandparents made it easy for me to ask for some alone time, as they were happy to oblige and take the kids to different activities. The ranch sits on a beautiful lake, and they have plenty of paddleboards, kayaks, rowboats and paddleboats for the guests to use at any time. I hopped on a kayak and took off across the lake to have some quiet time to process things. It was exactly what I needed, and I found myself feeling really calm and collected when I arrived back to the beach. I ended up kayaking multiple times per day and each time enjoying myself more and more.

The resulting sunburn? Not so much.

OOF. One night my skin felt like it was on fire.

The bed? Well, the bed was way firm. Perhaps it wasn’t super firm, it’s just that my bed at home is so soft it’s just ridiculous. I have a double pillow top with a massive feather bed on top, and a down comforter. It’s like sleeping on a cloud. Heaven. The bed at the ranch was the polar opposite. Not uncomfortable, but firm. I told myself it was the cowboy life for me that week and to suck it up, buttercup. I was so tired from all the activity each day, I slept like a log. The first night, I had multiple dreams I was laying on the floor, so my brain was certainly processing I wasn’t at home and was on a firmer setup than usual.

Each day we found ourselves excited to see what was planned on the board in the lodge. Activities differed from day to day. This was an interesting lesson in learning new things about my kids. I was surprised to find out my son really enjoyed ping pong after playing it at camp, and was also very good at it. He’d never mentioned ping pong to me before, but he was looking forward to entering the Ranch’s ping pond table. I was surprised my daughter was eager to do the banana boat ride after seeing it tip over at a fairly high speed, dumping all the riders into the lake to be picked up by the pontoon boat. She was all in. I was surprised when my son said the horseback ride he took was his favorite part of the day, as while my daughter takes lessons, he’d never shown much interest before. Even my husband really enjoyed riding. The boys went hiking to check out what was around. The girls did some water sports. I tried paddleboarding for the first time (harder than it looks but I enjoyed it). We attended our first rodeo, and my daughter was thrilled to see a girl close to her age doing the barrels. We all tried archery. The adults spend the evenings around the bar laughing and talking. The bartender took a shine to my daughter and let her sit with us, handing her a rootbeer in a bottle. She joined in for late snacks and sat happy to be a part of the group. My son, more of an introvert, rode his bike at night around the loop and did manage to squeak in a few texts to his friends. Considering the wifi in the room was minimal (it was good in the lodge) and there wasn’t a TV in the room, my teenager acclimated well to a minimally electronic vacation. My daughter, the early riser of the four of us found great joy in being able to run up to her Aunt and Uncle’s room to hang out in the mornings, while my son relished in being the last one of out bed. Even my husband and I, neither of us early risers, found ourselves getting up early to see what the day held. By the end of the week, I think we all tried something new, and everyone left the Ranch relaxed and smiling if not a bit bruised. Personally, I felt like weights had been lifted off my shoulders.

I arrived home with bruises on my legs, sore arms, but happy and content. After a busy and chaotic few weeks, to come home feeling peaceful and relaxed was perfect. My mood was great, my body was battered but felt strong, and my family were all smiling.

We enjoyed the ranch so much we booked another trip for next year.