Alone At Last

The house is quiet. No one is whining or arguing or screeching. The TV is not blaring, nor is it even on. No music, no vacuuming, dish washer hum or clanking of the dryer, the wind isn’t even blowing. The only sounds I hear are the permanent ringing in my left ear, the taping of my fingers on the keyboard as I write and the occasional car drive down my desolate country road. More bliss. Alone at last with only my thoughts to keep me company.

It had been over four months since I last found myself in this wonderful predicament. And now for the second time in three days, I find my self totally and completely alone in my own home. Yeah me!!!  Thursday I took advantage of the fact that the girls still had one more day of school before the holiday break and my husband had to work, and took a vacation day. What did I do with my short-term freedom you might ask? Did I sleep until noon and then take a nap at 3, stay in my pajamas all day, read the next romance in the series, take a luxurious,soothing bath, dance naked through the halls singing Jingle Bell Rock (sorry for the visual there), eat chocolate ice cream as I painted my toenails pink? Sigh, alas I did not, but I could have, if I wanted to, and no one would be the wiser.

Instead, though I finished the last-minute Christmas shopping, bought groceries and wrapped all the presents. You might not think those three things would take that much time…but after I dropped the kids off at school at 8, it was almost 11:00 by the time I got done running errands. I did at least indulge in some cinni-minis from Burger King. After putting the groceries away, I started the daunting wrapping task. I drug all the presents, paper, ribbons, tape and scissors into the living room. What a pile it was. At this point I almost did go back to bed for that nap! But to encourage myself, I popped in the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie (at least I would have Jack Sparrow to keep me company) and went about the task.

Even though I had two pairs of scissors, three rolls of tape and a couple of pens it seemed I was always searching for one or the other. How they could manage to hide and move was beyond me – I think my daughter’s “Elf” may have been messing with me. In the end though, the wrapping was done and so was the shopping. I glanced at the clock and realized it was already almost 4 o’clock. I had still had to stop by work and pick up the last of the online presents I bought due to be shipped by the end of the day and then get the kids. Damn-I hadn’t even started my cleaning frenzy…

And thus my alone time end. So, today I find myself with a second chance at aloneness. The kids spent the night at Grandma and Grandpa’s and my husband went hunting with his dog.  Hmmm…what to do, what to do. As you can tell by now I have not started my cleaning frenzy yet nor am I sleeping in. I am procrastinating by blogging instead… I know I should vacuum and dust and mop and clean the toilets, but well as my daughters would say…”That’s not fair!” Why should I have to do all the cleaning, while everyone else is having fun. The house can stay dusty for one more day, week, month, year.

I think I will dance nak… Just kidding, I can’t even subject myself to that, but maybe I will stick Just Dance into the Wii and do a little clothed “Hammer Time!”  Can’t Touch This….

Happy Holidays!

S

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Anxiety Amuck

As I cleared the pile of junk mail cluttering our dining room table, I salvaged a scrap of paper and set it aside for safe-keeping. No, I’m not a hoarder, although sometimes I do feel buried alive among the toys, clothes and shoes that litter the floors of my home.  As soon as I pick things up, it seems something (or someone) else sneaks behind me and puts something else in its place like quick sand.

But back to the all important scrap of paper. On it my nine year-old daughter had scribbled the lyrics to a Christmas song she had written. I smile to myself as I read her neat handwriting and phonetically spelled words. Her song is about having a “wonderful time.”  I take the scrap upstairs and put it in my keepsake box with the other songs, stories and poems she has written. She loves to write and she loves to read me what she has written. Pride and love fill me as I listen to her and watch her face light up as she reads something she has written aloud. She asks me if I like what she has written and of course I do. She is aspiring and I want to help her get there. I admire her creativity and openness. Her kindness and empathy.

She reminds me a lot of myself at that age. I still have a box of old stories and poems that I wrote when I was a kid. We both like to be liked and are hurt easily. Criticism can cripple us; even if it is not meant to. As I have got older I have learned to take criticisms as avenues for growth and not take it to heart. After all, it is my right to agree or disagree with it. It is just someone else’s opinion. They don’t have to like me, nor I them. I am worth more than one person’s opinion. My daughter has not learned these lessons yet and worries — a lot. This is another trait she got from me.

Nature or nurture? I am not sure. Was she born with propensity toward worry and anxiety or does she emulate what she sees? I have struggled with worry, anxiety and panic for most of my life. I empathize with the stomach aches and  racing heart. I know what it feels like to have some unknown heaviness pressing down on your chest threatening to cut off your breath. I intimately know about the restless indecision and unrelenting “what if’s” that make you want to jump out of your skin and run as far and as fast as you gave. I understand the waves of nausea, hot and cold flashes and the urge to pull the covers over your head and sleep. Sleep to escape. Sleep in the hope that tomorrow, you’ll feel OK again, but fear prevents you from actually sleeping, because what if you’re not?

Over the years I have learned many coping skills and have learned to keep the anxiety and panic at bay. My faith has given me that strength; continues to feed that strength. And still I worry about my daughter. I know I should give it to God and I try, but… The big “but.” I want to spare her from the pain, protect her and keep her safe. I don’t want to watch her go down the same path I did. I want to reassure her she is OK, not matter what. I teach her what I know when she starts to “freak out,” and it helps. She is seeing a counselor and created a worry box to put her worries in. She is making one for me as write this. She has a notebook where she writes down all the gifts God has given her that day – watching a funny movie, playing with her best friend… She re-reads her list of gifts when she starts to worry about something. The other day, she gave me a new notebook she got the other day from the treasure chest after one of her appointments. She told me I could use it to write my gifts from God in.

At the top of the list right after God’s grace, is her name and her sister’s name. I am truly blessed.

Sisterly Love (and Hate)

Growing up with my younger sister by two years, we were the best of friends. We loved to play together. We did everything together without a bitter word ever passing between us. We were the epitome of sisterly love.

And if you believe that, I have a private island in the South Pacific I’d like the sell you. In reality, sure there were times we got along well together, but mostly, we argued a lot. Back then, we really couldn’t agree on much of anything. Of course I was always right and she always started it! I can remember hearing my mother and grandmother saying, “Stop your bickering!” or “enough girls.”  But, we both had to have the last word and the argument would continue. At the time, I never really thought about how are arguing and constant picking at each other effected the ‘grown-ups’ around me until now.

I know God must be laughing at me now (along with my mother and grandmother) as I get my just rewards. I know have to argument-prone daughters of my own. At almost five years apart, you wouldn’t think they’d have anything to fight about. That they would actually get along with each other, but no. I think they live to antagonize each other and me. The youngest wakes up in the morning, reaches up and pulls her sister’s hair for no reason. And it begins:

“Mom, she pulled my hair!” the oldest one tattles.

“Well, she hit me first,” the little one defends herself.

“No I didn’t,” the older one retorts.

“Yes, you did!” she asserts back.

“No, I didn’t”

“Mom, I just lightly tapped her to get her to move off my shirt. Ouch! Mom she did it again!”

After a few moments, the words “That’s enough girls! Stop your bickering now!” spew out of my mouth. The constant picking at each other is like fingernails on a chalkboard to my nerves. They continue on with their argument though as if I hadn’t just told them to stop. It wouldn’t be half as bad if they didn’t keep dragging me into it. As the arguing escalates through the morning routine, I start to count to three. If I get to three, no TV in the evening. They hate that! It works way better than timeouts for me, plus I don’t have to watch the same episode of Shake it Up for the twentieth time.

One Saturday morning on our way back from running errands, their need to be right lost the television privileges from the rest of that day all the way to the Tuesday. By the time the lost Tuesday they were done fighting and were pleading with me for away to get their “Wizards of Waverly Place” fix back.

“What if we be good for the rest of the day?” they both begged.

“Well, I told them. You can’t earn back today, it’s gone. But, if you are good for the rest of the day and you help with the chores around the house, you can earn back your TV privileges.”

They were all over it! They were best friends for the rest of the day. In addition, they cleaned the bathroom sinks, the toilets and helped wipe down the tub. They picked up their stuff in the living room and cleaned up their room. It was AMAZING. We turned up the music and sang and danced as we powered through the chores. In the end, they earned back the three days of TV they lost, I didn’t have to listen to them argue and I got my bathrooms cleaned.

Hmmm…. Maybe their arguing isn’t so bad after all. They argue, I take away the TV and they earn it back by doing chores without complaining… I like it!!!

Back to my sister and me though, we are quite good friends now. We talk on the phone once or twice a week, we go on girls weekends when we can, and we rarely, if ever, argue. So, there is hope for my girls yet, that someday they will love their sister and value her, just as I do mine.

Quest To Be a Morning Person

As I reflected on my need for more me-time to focus on achieving my goals and making my dreams come true, I determined I needed to carve out that time and take it back for myself. As I looked over my busy schedule, the answer became clear to me. As I know Santa won’t be bringing me any extra hours in my day nor will he be bringing the magic hand that automatically puts everything in its place that my youngest daughter imagined, the next best thing would for me to become a morning person.

I reflect on how wonderful it would be to wake up at 5:00 AM refreshed and ready to start my day. I would have two peaceful, wonderful hours all to myself to do whatever I wanted — no children, no husband, no phone calls or chores (that might wake someone up). In the early morning hours when everyone else was a sleep, I could work on my writing, edit my photos, do a little Wii Fit… The possibilities are endless. I could get so much accomplished with no interruptions.

The only problem? I am the snooze queen. I typically set my alarm 20 minutes earlier than I actually need to get up, just so I can push it at least twice. I am not going to let that little fact deter me though. I did a search on “becoming a morning person.” Believe or not I found hundreds of hits and quite a few good tips. Of all the articles I read there were three tips most sleep experts agreed on. 1. Go to bed at the same time every night by no later than 10, if possible. Even on weekends. That didn’t seem too hard.  I could do that. 2. Get up at the same time every morning. Even on weekends. I can do that too. Although, sleep-in Saturdays would be a thing of the past, it wouldn’t matter because I would love the morning anyway, right?  3. No snooze bars. None. You have to get up as soon as the alarm rings. Move the alarm across the room if you have too. Hmm. #3 is not so easy. I have been known to walk across the room to push the snooze and then get back in bed. But, this time however, I am determined. I am going to do this; I can do this. I won’t be long before I will be enjoying beautiful sunrises as I sip a hot cocoa and work on the latest revision of my book. Yes.

So, last night, I set my iPod touch for 5:00 AM. I was tucked into bed by 10:30 and asleep by 11:00 PM. I was only an hour off my goal, not bad. It seemed like my eyes had just closed and I’d nodded off to dreamland, when my alarm started to go off. I stumbled out of bed and went to turn it off, when I glanced at the other clock on my dresser. It read 2:00 AM. How could that be? What time is it anyway?  I checked the setting on my iPod. The timezone was set to auto-locate. For some odd reason, it thought I was in San Paulo where it was in fact 5:00 AM. I still had three more hours to sleep. Hurray I thought to myself. I turn autolocate off and selected the correct time zone. I went to the bathroom and then snuggled back under the covers and laid awake another 30 minutes until I finally feel back asleep.

Another five hours and fifteen minutes later I heard the keys in the door. My husband is on night shift this month and was just getting home. “Crap” I think to myself, what time is it? I glance at the clock and it reads 7:15! Great now I overslept. I check the alarm settings, somehow in my grogginess at 2:00 AM, I turned the alarm off. Sigh. The mad morning rush is off again (while my husband is home from work, he is busy doing well I’m not sure what. I try not to get angry at my perceived unfairness in life (as in why do I always have to get three people ready in the morning and he only has to get one ready?) as life isn’t fair you know. So, I wake the girls up. Shower, dress, hair, make up, brush teeth pack lunches, help the little one get dressed, sign the older one’s school planner, find the missing shoes and library books…I manage to get it all done and no one missed the bus and I’m on time for work. Success. Everything is good.

Tomorrow is another day and my alarm is set for 5 AM and the time zone is set to Eastern. I’ll be a morning person yet. Zip-pity Doo-dah…

Santa’s Watching?

OK, so I admit it. I used the whole Santa ploy the other day to try to stop my four-year-old from having a full-blown tantrum in the grocery store. You may be familiar with the kind where the child starts screaming about how mean you are and how she hates you as she lies in the middle of the aisle and won’t move. When you try to get her to stand up, she goes limp. The half-blown tantrums are bad enough…

It’s just me and her at our local grocery store. The kind of grocery store where you always run into two or three people you know. Lucky for me, I saw no familiar faces that night. I needed to pick up a few things after work so I could make supper. I’m feeling pretty confident as I’ve already successfully steered her away from the huge, unmaneuverable car carts (who ever invented those things never had to push a cart full of groceries and a whining kid around in it.) We have the regular cart and life is good. She is very helpful and not too greedy. She decides to get the “Cookie Crisp” cereal instead of the “Brownie Bites” and doesn’t throw a fit about not getting both. I even throw in the Cheezit’s she wants as she is being so good. We head to the check-out. Hurray, I think to myself. We made it! A pleasant uneventful trip to the store without too many extra’s thrown into the cart. I don’t even have a headache (yet). Those shopping tips don’t happen too often in my life.

Unfortunately, I silently “hurrayed” prematurely. We get to the check out line, the one with candy lining both sides. Her eyes get big. “Mommy,” she asks ever so sweetly, “Since I was so good, can I have a candy?” Now, here’s where I should have just said “yes,” but I decided to try to be a good mother and not spoil her dinner for once.

“No, sweetie,” I replied, “I won’t by you candy…we’ll be having supper soon. But, you can pick out a pack of gum.” Now isn’t that a great compromise, I thought.

The boy at the check out starts scanning my groceries as she looks me straight in the eye and says rather loudly, “I don’t want gum! I want candy!”

I try to remain calm. Deep breaths. “I’m sorry. I said no candy, but you can have some gum.”

“What about this?” she asks picking up one of those baby-bottle shaped suckers.

“No, I said gum.”

“What about this she asks picking up another candy bar?”

“Gum,” I say pointing to the rack of gum.

I start to write the check as all the other groceries have been scanned. Now she’s lying on the ground mumbling about how mean I am. Suddenly she stands up. She has one of those plastic packs of pink bubble gum tape in her hands and whips it toward the conveyor belt. It bounces once just missing the checkout boy and lands on the floor as she yells “I don’t want gum.”

I could have crawled under the counter at that moment. I am proud of myself though and stayed composed and calmly told the boy that if the gum was not broken that we would not be purchasing it. He found it by his feet – it was still intact – and set it aside.  Thinking back I am sure I apologized to him for her behavior – but I can’t remember if I did or not. I need to remember that the next time I’m in there (if I don’t chicken out and head for a different line.) I do know I didn’t think to make her apologize to him. That would have been really good. Maybe I’ll make her apologize next time we see him. Anyway, I was focused on getting out of there without causing a bigger scene.

We head out the door and now she is even angrier and I am the worst mother ever because I didn’t buy her the candy or the gum. And that’s when it happened. I caved. “Hmmm. I say to her looking around. I hope Santa isn’t watching you now.”

She gets uncharacteristically quiet. “Do you think he would think little girls that throw gum at the check out are good and deserve presents?”

Her little voice quietly, says “no.”

On the drive home she apparently forgot about Santa again and begins to whine about the candy/gum again. So I lay a bigger whammy on her, “If you don’t stop by the time the light turns green, we won’t put up the Christmas Tree tonight.”

That stopped her in her tantrum tracks. I finally figured out that time-outs don’t work with her, but taking away the things she likes or wants certainly does.

Later that night after the tree is up and decorated. She looks up at me and tells me she loves me and that she’s sorry for being so bad at the store. She didn’t mean for the gum to fly off the conveyor belt and hit the checkout man.

I take her in my arms and kiss her head and tell her I forgive her and that I love her too.

Forgetful Friday

Humiliation follows me like a hungry, lost puppy. It’s Friday afternoon on the day after Thanksgiving. Yes, black Friday. I am NOT a black Friday shopper. The crowds and lines make my head hurt just thinking about it. I am more of a Cyber Monday kind of gal. Let them deliver the goods to me. But, I digress…Where was I? Oh yes, black Friday.
My husband works swing shift and worked from 7 PM to 7 AM Thanksgiving Day. So I made the rounds with the girls to the various family Thanksgiving feasts by myself. I really didn’t mind. It’s not his fault he had to work and in fact I know he would have rathered made the rounds with us, but still…I’m tired and I just want to veg a little. Which takes me back to black Friday. #1. My husband is sleeping upstairs. #2 He is a light sleeper. #3 He gets angry when people (i.e. two children) make noise and wake him up. #4 He blames me if #3 happens. #5 The kids are getting antsy and getting harder to keep quiet.
So I am forced to take the girls out and about on this most horrible of horrible retail days. I vow not to go into a store and most certainly not into Walmart. We’ll just grab a bite to eat and hang out a bit. Unfortunately one daughter wants McDonald’s and the other Subway. I am really not in the mood. So we compromise. We’ll go through the drive through at McDonald’s and then go to Subway where my oldest daughter and I can get something slightly healthier and all eat together. A brilliant plan.

Now comes the humiliating part…I am in the drive though lane. I’ve ordered the happy meal -a hamburger, no pickles, fries and chocolate milk. But no, they are out of chocolate milk and she has to have root beer instead. The kids are still arguing about something and I try to block them out as I inch ahead in line.

I am finally at the food window. I hand the girl my debit card. She looks at me a little strangely. And asks me, “Did you already pay back there? At the first window?”

I have no recollection. “No, I don’t think so,” I reply. At least I’m honest I think.

“Are you sure?” she asks. “It’s coming up paid. ”

‘That’s weird, I don’t remember stopping at the first window. I’m sorry if I messed up” I tell her.

“No problem,” she continues. She hands my card over to her manager and she runs back to the first window to see what happened. The first girl gives me our order and I pass it on back to the girls and wait to get my card back. I glance back in my rear view mirror. I feel bad I’m holding up the line. As I wait, I notice a piece of white paper lying on top of my open purse sitting between the two front seats. Can guess what it was? You got it, it was a receipt for my happy meal. I knock on the window to get the girl’s attention.

She opens the window. I smile brightly. “I actually did already pay,” I tell her and show her my receipt. She is very gracious. The other woman has just returned and gives me back my card. I am mortified!

And yet I am sharing this story for all the world to read if they so chose. Why? I don’t know. It is kind of funny. And no, I’m not going senile. (At least I hope not). However, when I can’t remember what I did two minutes before, I may need to slow down a little and take time to pay attention to the little things. Now, I just need to put the “slow down,” plan into action, which I will promptly do once, I have some extra time to figure out what that “slow down” plan is.

Do you think Santa would bring a couple of extra hours a day for Christmas?

Dressed For…Me

Confidence and happiness radiate from the faces of my two beautiful (yes I am biased, but it is still true) daughters. I can’t help but smile and laugh when I am with them. We are getting ready for the day. First things first – deciding what to wear. My four-year-old can finally get herself dressed all by herself (when she wants to). She also likes to pick out her own outfits as well.  She comes into the kitchen as I am packing lunches. She is wearing a pair of  pastel rainbow striped pants, her hot pink and orange “Hello Kitty” t-shirt and the new brown suede boots I just bought her.”Don’t I like pretty?” she asks me as she twirls around to show me the complete outfit. It is quite an ensemble.”You look beautiful! I tell her. I could force her to back upstairs and put on something that remotely matches. In fact, if my husband were awake and saw what she had on, he would probably do just that, but I don’t.  She is so happy and proud of what she is wearing. She has a smile a mile wide! She feels good about herself. Who am I to wreck her happiness and force her to follow typical societal fashion norms. Maybe she will be the eccentric artist some day.

My nine-year-old is already a little more cautious about what she wears. She wants to fit in with her friends. I did too at that age. Part of fitting in is wearing the “right” clothes. She has on a black and teal glittery long-sleeved t-shirt that says “Dance, Dance, Dance” on it paired with a denim mini skirt and black leggings. She is wearing black suede boots and her hair pulled back in a pony tail. As she is putting her books and folders into her back pack and can’t help notice how grown up she looks these days. My little girl is gone. She catches me watching her.

‘What’s wrong Mommy?” she asks me. She looks down at what she is wearing. “Is something wrong with my outfit? Does this go together?” she immediately questions.

“Yes, yes. Nothing is wrong with your outfit,” I reassure her. At this age, her mother’s opinion of how she dresses and looks is still important to her. “You look great! I was just thinking how grown up you look.”
She beams.  I guess that was the right answer.

I look down at my own attire. I am still in my PJs. Appearances are something, but not everything I think to myself. I am always turning thoughts over and over in my head.  I want to be loved and respected for who I am on the inside. At 41 I am not going to look like the woman I did at 20. In fact, I really don’t want to be that woman again. I continue to think about appearances. My appearance – how I wear my hair, the clothes I put on each morning, the makeup I put on (or not) are all things I can control in a world of things were there is not much that I can control. I can’t control what happens as I drive to work or after I drop my children off at school. I can’t control how people treat me or what they think of my. But, I can control how I react to these uncontrollables. I can focus on what I can control and leave the rest to God.

And so out all that, I choose to wear the clothes that make me happy, that make me feel good and confident. If I think I look good in them, then I do. I am going to choose clothes like a four-year old – if don’t like an outfit or feel my best in an outfit I am not going to wear it anymore. I am going on a closet, clean out rampage and giving away all those clothes that make me feel less than beautiful. No longer will I buy something ho-hum, simply because it is on sale. So even if I have only three outfits left, at least I will feel good about wearing them (and I’ll have less laundry). I am going to dress  for me.