Category Archives: Women

A Time and Place…No Longer

She arrived late to the competition.  It wasn’t intentional.  Or perhaps on some level it was.  The last battle was long and wearisome and had taken its toll.  The scars she had were not by her hand, though she took them on without complaint.  That was part of the rules, was it not?  But after the 25-year battle, she hid, healing the wounds with salve given to her by the Earth, ensuring others wouldn’t be infected.  But she was ready, knowing what she offered was valuable.

Her eyes, though battle worn, were intent and aware as she surveyed the gathering of competitors.  She cringed at the sudden feeling of inadequacy.  How could she possibly compete?  She watched the leaders selectively sift through the crowd, letting strands of hair fall through their fingers, cupping faces more youthful than hers against their palms.  The young ones were eager, wide-eyed, optimistic, less willing to cast doubt or question their leaders.  They were desperate to blindly follow, compromise their values, and become something they were not, in order to serve them.

Oh, she had made that mistake so very long ago.  Never again.  Perhaps that was her downfall, her own boundaries getting in the way.

But she couldn’t deny the shift that was palpable in every fiber of her soul.  The confidence she had in battle now whittled down to nothing as, one by one, the leaders passed her over.  What could they possibly want with a veteran who saw life through narrowed eyes?  They looked for trainability, not one so set in her ways.  The sudden rejection left her vulnerable and weak, her ego judging her worthiness based on their approval.

It occurred to her that though her body was strong and her mind stronger yet, the young ones were skilled in ways she was not, for while she led her own battle, she’d neglected skills she rarely used, and those had eventually withered away.  She argued that she had different skills, stronger skills, life skills, skills the newcomers had yet to discover.  She held up the weapons that were well-honed, time-proven, and sharpened with age and wisdom. She insisted that her youth was a shadow behind her maturity and calm, and that she could fight alongside them.

But none of that mattered.

Was that punishment for the years that she refused to back down?

She stepped away from the crowd, her spine straight and jaw set.  She fought against the tears that spilled from her heart as she saw her future denied by virtue of her past.  It occurred to her that she had her place, but it was no longer on the front line.  Times had changed, and she along with it.  But she had no idea.

Until now….  until it was almost too late.

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The Wake Up Call, The Kick in the Ass, and The Silver Lining

I never thought it would happen to me, but there it was. I had known about it for six months, but assumed I could right the sails and keep the boat afloat.  I got caught up in what many families are facing:  The end to a well-paying, long-term job.  During those six months, like a cornered animal, I got a tad cranky.  I felt threatened.  After 18 years of working in my bunny slippers, with a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in hand, I had a wake up call. One I didn’t want to answer.

I was about to be thrown out of my comfort zone and into the world of *gulp* job hunting.

Which wasn’t easy. Especially in this small town where professional jobs are at a minimum and the lines are long for the rest of the jobs that open up. Small towns are awesome.  Small towns create a sense of belonging. I love knowing everyone at the bank or the grocery store. I love the fact that one of our busiest streets really isn’t so busy after all.

But none of that matters when the well runs dry, when I’m faced with decisions, when I feel like a failure.  A new plan was needed fast.  The more I thought about it, the more I looked at the circumstances, the choice was clear.  I needed to look outside of this town.

If I were to be honest, I’d been feeling as if my wheels were spinning and that I forgot who I was – still.  I’d been talking about a finding new direction for awhile, but since I was swimming in my comfort zone, I had no reason to get out of the pool.  Well, guess what.  Losing my job was the kick in the ass that I needed to move forward.

What I hadn’t counted on, though, was that I would be going at this alone. The boys and I had been a tight unit and I assumed we’d move together. But ‘twas not to be.  They wanted to stay with their father in Idaho for their own reasons. Reasons I understood, but still I felt I failed on many levels. Was I that bad of a mother that they didn’t want to be with me? Shouldn’t I sacrifice a few more years and stay here just in case they needed me? How much would this hurt them in the long run?

Infused with guilt, I spoke with my uncle who reminded me that, in the face of knowing we would miss each other, would miss the routine we’ve developed over the years, both boys made a very deliberate decision.  Sure, they could have taken the easy way out and followed me, looking to me to handle things, but I’ve taught them to be free thinkers and to make choices based on what they felt was best for them.  It had always been my intention to pass at least one morsal of something to them, and here I had my proof.

Feeling somewhat better, I chose to practice what I preach:  Do something that is best for me.  After putting my needs on hold for 25 years, now is my chance to follow opportunities that will further my choice of career. Opportunities I cannot find here in North Idaho.

I want to show my boys a side of me they haven’t yet seen before – the woman who waited patiently behind the mother.  I want my sons to see me as a healthy and successful person, not the overbearing, overprotective mama bear who pushed them to realize heights I knew they were capable of, all while I was feeling frustrated because I wasn’t reaching my own potential.  I want to be the best person I can be, to show them that my happiness is as important as theirs. My reasons for doing this, as painful as the process might be, will serve them as well as me.

And the timing is right.  My job had allowed me to work from home for the last 18 years and over those almost two decades I’ve seen my oldest through to graduation and my youngest get through middle school.  I’ve taught them as many life lessons as I have experienced myself, taught them social graces, and how to be kind to others.  Now the rest is up to them.

Yes, I’ll definitely miss the little things, the daily routine, the chance to hug them when they’re feeling sad or happy, but through Skype, texting, phone calls, and Facebook, I’ll still be able to nag – I mean, guide – them through the trials and successes and celebrations big and small. The moments we share will be sweeter, the visits will be anticipated events.

The silver lining to all of this is that I will have the opportunity to discover who I am and what I need to feel whole, because when we become mothers and wives, so many of us lose sight of ourselves.  It’s a continuous process, one I started two years ago. I have a very specific plan A, with no plan B, so there won’t be any falling back.  Only forward movement. By expanding my horizons outside of this town, I will be able to bring more of the world to the boys.  It’s the put-on-the-oxygen-mask-first-before-putting-it-on-the-children mentality.

My uncle also told me, “Go ahead and feel guilty if you must, but it would be a mistake not to try.”

So try, I will.

This song, The Reason, by Hoobastank, is for you, boys. You are my reason.  I love you.

Mid-Life Crisis? Me? Umm.. No.

photo (10)

“Girls Night Out”  Me (left) with two of my amazing friends, Natascha and Kate, on my trip to California.

I was explaining to my son exactly why I went on a vacation to California, leaving him and his older brother in the care of their father.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah.  I know.  You’re going through a mid-life crisis.”

I spun around so quickly, I think I scared him.  The only reason why my youngest boy didn’t receive my full wrath after that remark was because I figured he had been parroting the words of my ex.  He had to have been.  Who else would be so closely affected by me wanting to escape from responsibility for a mere week (out of 1,144 weeks that we were together)?  The one man on this planet to have tried – and succeeded – to have guilted me from doing those things and seeing those people who really fed my soul.  (Okay, so I allowed it, but still…)

“Mid-life crisis” is usually said with a judgmental and condescending tone.  To me, this phrase smacks of negativity.  As if reaching this point is a bad thing, as if we’ve stepped over to the darker side of the tracks.

Anyway, whoever whispered that choice little phrase into my son’s ear needs to hear what I have to say.

Self Discovery is the new Mid-Life Crisis. 

“Mid-life crisis,” I think, is being in a place of self discovery.  It’s when we look around and reassess our life and say, “Hey! There I am! I had no idea I would enjoy something like that.”  So we start playing and doing things we’d forgotten to have fun doing.  Stuff we’d stupidly put on hold for… what?  Whatever we were doing that we felt took precedence over our own needs, could have been tailored to work around or with us.  If we hadn’t shelved the fun or passion for so long, we never would have gotten to this point in the first place.  And while we’re in this state of “confusion,” our loved ones sit back and patiently wait for us to “come back” to our senses.  Will we ever come back?  I hope not.

I believe those with the tsk, tsk attitude might be a tad frightened when people like me wake up one day and say they’ve had enough.  I’m a threat.  I can single-handedly shake their tree and leave them scratching their heads, wondering what just blew through their forest.  I’m a break from their safe routine.

The reality is that this state of mind should be encouraged, for it is through the process of finding out what makes us happy, that this happiness will undoubtedly spill over into the outside world, not fester and breakdown, such as what happened to me not too long ago.

So, today, on my 50th birthday, I find myself still making up for lost time, and with a little help from my friends, the road to discovery has been over-the-top amazing.

The joy I’ve found and the joy I have yet to find will be for my friends and family as well.  So, here’s to 50 more years of self discovery….  Cheers!

A Nasty That Can’t Be Cured With Penicillin

You know what it is.  Sometimes it’s hereditary, sometimes it’s picked up from the environment we’re in.  It can be in the air, easily passed along from one person to another.  A lot of the time we’re scratching our head wondering where the hell it came from.  And it’s not gender specific.  Both male and female can be afflicted.

Though there are a few people in the human population who are immune to this, like, say Mother Teresa, most of us are able to steer clear of it, but even the toughest ones can fall prey.

Like me, for example.  I contracted a bout of this many years ago after being around someone with a similar affliction.  It was short-lived, fortunately, but from that day on, I’ve been diligent about keeping myself free and clear.

What is this Nasty?  Pure, undiluted Meanness.

The day it hit me, I had a slap-in-the-face reality check.  After some particularly choice words from my ex over the subject of laundry, of all things, I came back at him with a line so vile, so below the belt, both of our jaws dropped.  Neither of us could believe that I, one of the nicest people I know (okay, I’m in the top 100 of those I know), could have actually said what I did.  It was so out of character, so…so…not me.   All I could do was close my mouth and slink away.  I couldn’t even say I was sorry.  Because I had meant it at the time.  That was the part that shocked me – that I was even capable of saying something so hurtful.  Since that day I have kept my mind and mouth in check, because the look on my ex’s face will burn forever in my brain.

But what about others who do this on a constant basis?  Earlier this week some friends, including “T” from Give Me A Valium With My Latte, and I were talking and the conversation turned to women who were nasty, bitchy, and just plain mean.  We’re not talking about comments in the privacy of our own homes or amongst friends, but out-in-public mean – words intending to hurt, words that travel with such high velocity, they embed in others, compelling the receiver to “pay it forward,” or at least shoot it right back at the originator with intent to maim.  It has a ripple effect and unless we’re skilled at dodging that bullet (which few of us are), many of us tend to get defensive, ball up our fists, and get ready to throw the insults right back.

That is an example of a short-lived case, sort of like the flu or a cold.  As  soon as the offending person leaves our orbit, we’re back to our sweet selves.

I see that situation on a daily basis with my boys.  Separated, they are angels.  Together, I’m packing my bags, ready for a Tijuana run just to avoid their energy.  My oldest asked me once, “Mom, why is he so mean?”  I wanted to shake him into next week and ask, “What do you expect when you treat him the same way?”  But I didn’t.  We’d had that same conversation at least one hundred times.  There was no need to repeat it.  My words obviously weren’t going to be sinking in anytime soon.

Some people, unfortunately, are raised in that nasty kind of environment, so when they step out their front door, they are ready to face the world with a frown and a bad attitude.  They are the ones who suffer with chronic meanness.  They are the ones who have no intention of entering rehab.  They are the ones my friends and I were having a “discussion” about this week.

It’s sad, really.  Friends and family are alienated from our lives because of the words they choose to utter.  (My big brother and I, for example.)  Cultures are separated because of the inability to reach for a positive or grateful thought.

I’ve never understood the concept of being mean to one another, to purposely set out to dig under another’s skin until they bleed.  Perhaps it feeds the need to feel superior.  I don’t know.  Like I said.  I don’t get it.  “T” and I, along with many of my friends, prefer to live in a “no drama zone,” and I think that’s where I’m going to set up house.  Not only is it easier on the body, but just think how much money we’ll save in Botox injections.  Sheesh.

Promises, Promises, Promises…

I gave myself a ring – a promise ring of sorts - a permanent reminder to love and honor myself and to never lose sight of me again.

I promise to hold myself up to the light of truth, to acknowledge my worthiness, and to know that I am not somehow flawed,  but a work in progress.

I promise to go easy on myself on days when my reserves are low and to make it okay to say no.

I promise to praise myself as much as I praise others.

I promise to be grateful for all that I have accomplished and know what I have not yet accomplished is on its way.

I promise to see the woman in the mirror and always find something to be grateful for.

I promise to love without restraint if only for the sole reason that I am capable of doing so.

I promise to trust my inner voice, for I truly do know the best decision to make – the one that works for me.

I promise to use my experiences to my advantage, to learn from them, not berate or minimize them.

I promise not to take myself too seriously, to laugh a bit more, to take a few more risks, and to do things because I want to, not because I should.

I promise not to settle for less than I deserve.

I promise to believe that I can and will accomplish what I intend.

I promise to fix my nail polish if it gets chipped.  It might seem trivial, but it’s also the little things that make the big difference in how I feel about myself.

A Sigh…The Period At The End Of My Thought

We all do it.  Or rather don’t do it.  We don’t always say what we think. You know what I’m talking about.  We’re on the verge of saying something, but then we cover our thoughts with sighs and forced smiles.

We put on that façade because…sometimes it’s just easier.  Easier to slip out of the conversation unnoticed.  Explanations usually only complicate the situation, opening the door to more discussion and blatant exposure of our soul.  We are called on to answer questions that sometimes catch us off guard, tricking us into revealing more than we had ever intended.  With everything so transparent, we are up for scrutiny with emotional poking and prodding and curious interrogation.

So, instead we come up with pretty words, smoke-screen phrases, trick-of-the-light diversions that lead our companions down one alleyway, while we’re running like hell the down the other, looking for the nearest dumpster or empty doorway to hide in until the perceived threat passes.

Photo: comicbookresources.com

Or maybe that’s just me.

Okay, so I tend to hide sometimes.  Even when my heart screams yes, my mind slaps me upside the head and says, “Are you nuts?  What are you thinking?”   For years the tides of emotion in my house began and ended with me, and for some unknown reason, my emotions were law.  Me.  My emotions.  As if I had any expertise in that field.  Go figure.

So, to maintain a steady stream, I dubbed myself the dam keeper.  And it became a way of life.  But it doesn’t serve me anymore, and now I’m working on my letter of resignation.

As part of my “rehab,” I do let loose.  There are playgrounds I let the Wild Child run amuck, giving only a brief show of concern when the Wild Child gets too…wild.  But some neighborhoods are dark and silent, familiar, yet…not.  I tend to explore those with a bit more caution, making sure each step is solid before moving on.  But the Wild Child is always there, egging me to run through those streets barefoot.  Some days she’s so much fun to follow, and I lose track of myself.  Carefree one moment, waking up the next with such an emotional hangover, thinking…Yikes!  Did I actually do that?

Ah, but we’re all works in progress, and I’m certainly no exception.  I would even claim that none of us are the same as we were one, five, or ten years ago.  Shedding behaviors that are counterproductive – just like ridding our closets of the clothes that don’t fit us well anymore – is key, and huge to our growth.

It may be hard to part with that comfortable pair of sweatpants, but, baby, if it doesn’t look good, if it’s worn out and tired looking?  Yeah.  Just give it to the Wild Child.  She’ll know exactly what to do with it.

A Man’s Role In A Woman’s World

“When you marry a girl, don’t expect her to abandon her girlfriends, because you’ll never be able to take their place.”  ~ A man to his son

Truer words were never spoken.  It’s that whole DNA thing again.  A basic need that appears on an almost daily basis, to connect, to absorb, to reach out to our female counterparts – feeling completely and undeniably safe to expose whatever thoughts that happen to surface.  We know we will be accepted, but that’s a given because after all, women are from Venus, aren’t we?

But in life, there must be balance.  The yin to the yang, the black to the white, the leather to the lace.

So if I were to place an ad in the newspaper tonight, it would say something like this:

Wanted:  Seeking Males for Friendship Only – Applications now being accepted.

I’d do it because I like men, because some are strong, some are witty.  Some give that big brother feeling that women just want to embrace.  But most of all, men offer something girlfriends can’t – a perspective of life from a male’s point of view.  Men offer the other half of balance.  These friendships are easy-going and safe and are an underrated commodity that is a shame not to pursue.

 

But can men and women truly be friends?   It depends on who you’re talking to.

In college, I hooked up with Rob, who was my best male friend through my first year.  As a couple, we went bowling, watched movies, ate Chinese food in front of the TV, and took walks on the beach – sans the emotions.  It was a nice change from hanging out all the time with my three female roommates whose emotions ran to the extremes from one day to the next.

Then there was Chuck, Dave, and Dave (yes, two) who were always up for taking me and my roommates out clubbing.  Again, just as friends, and if there was any sexual tension between any of us, we never let it get in the way of our friendship.

Is this the exception rather than the rule?  What happens when there is attraction on one side?  What if two people met at the wrong time in each other’s lives and a relationship beyond friends is not an option?

A friend told me once that in order for men and women to be friends, the attraction had to run its course and then, only then, could the two be friends.

And if it didn’t run its course?  We could walk away, but then we literally toss out any chance of interaction with a person we were attracted to in the first place.  It’s a case of cutting off our nose to spite our face, and both sides usually feel the loss.

The end result of any relationship doesn’t have to be the progression of the human race or co-habitation in order to fall into the roles society has set up.

Friendships between men and women can be….just because.

What about you?  Do you think men and women can be friends?  If you are married, do either of you have opposite-sex friends?  If not, do you find yourself missing it?  I’d love to know!

Indulge In Bonding – It’s A Primal Need

Finally Friday!  For some that means a few more hours until the start of the weekend, hanging out with friends or sleeping in.  For me, it’s just another day.  Not a big deal.  It’s just that I have this thing about relaxing.

I don’t know how to do it.  I only have two speeds – fast and faster.  Crazy, I know, but a lot of us are like that.   Our strength is immeasurable; our talent for multitasking is, in a word, unbelievable.   This is a gift that is given to all mothers and is a gift that serves us well.

But what if we take all that energy and run with it?  I mean run away with it?  I’ve read a couple of books lately (Nothing Stays in Vegas and The Bridge Club) that just has me screaming ROAD TRIP!

Personally, I’ve set my sights on Italy.

Lazise, Lago di Garda, Italy – Photo by Ian Britton – freefoto.com

I love every single picture I have ever seen of Italy.  I want to experience first hand the food and the culture.  I adore la bella lingua.  Heck, even four-letter words sound seductive in Italian.  (And, I’ll admit, I am a bit curious about the men, but who isn’t?)  I even have a couple of Italian pen pals to help me learn the language.

A trip to Italy would be incredible.  A trip to Italy with my girlfriends would be unbelievable.   So I pick my posse – My cousin Toria, an incredible writer who encouraged me all the way through my first novelKathleen, also a great writer, who is my copy editor for my work in progress.  Aunt Renee, who has my vote of most likely to get us into wicked trouble.  Natascha, my cyber friend who I’ve gotten to know over the last year and just cannot wait to finally meet.

Whether out of the country or just out of town, there’s something about a band of women in unfamiliar surroundings that just brings out the best in us.  Our true, untamed selves spark to life when there is no one looking over our shoulder, no one judging what we do.  Secrets are shared, fears are exposed – and we’d all go to the grave without ever betraying what we know or what we’ve seen.   We play hard, we fight hard, and we love much too easily.  Sure, we can get bitchy sometimes, but that’s part of our charm.  In the end, we’ve got each other’s backs.  This bond of sisterhood has been ingrained in our DNA since the day the caveman discovered fire.

So whether Friday signals an end to your week or the start of another, let’s all feed the need of sisterhood and get in some much-needed girl time.

This goes for you men out there as well.  Not being part of the male gender limits my perspective a bit, but I know the need for male bonding is just as important.

What I want to know is this…how often do you get out with your own posse to do some serious decompressing?  What is the craziest trip you’ve ever taken?  Do you make it a priority in your life?  I’d seriously love to know!

By the way, since my last post, I’ve been fortunate to discover three other Facebook communities of the sisterhood!  The Divine Secrets of a Domestic Diva, Home C.E.O., and Chibi Cow.  Give them a check-out.  It will be well worth your time!!

Girl Power – Totally Real, Totally Raw

“Mom…That’s not right.”

“What’s not right, honey?”  I wasn’t really paying attention to what he was referring to.  I was focused instead on getting us across the busy street in one piece.

“That.”

I backed us both up and followed his gaze in the direction of his pointed finger…all the way to my stomach.

To the approximately one and a half inches of exposed skin.

“I don’t get it.” I asked.  “What’s wrong with that?”

“I dunno.”  He wouldn’t meet my eyes when he said, “Mothers just don’t do that.”

Is this what he had in mind?

Hmm…Okaaaay.   So show me whatever book that is written in so I can refresh myself with the rules of being a mother.  Obviously I had forgotten them.

“Who said mothers don’t do that?” was my reply.

“Well, Jeffrey’s mom doesn’t do that.”

That stung a bit and I got a tad defensive.  “Yeah?  Well, here’s a newsflash for you, kiddo.   I’m not Jeffrey’s mother and I am not like other moms.”

In the silence that followed, I thought about this and quietly rephrased it.  Most moms are not like most moms.

It’s hard to live up to the standards and expectations that society has so cruelly branded into our foreheads, and when we deviate, either privately or publicly, we usually end up with an elephant-sized guilt trip riding on our shoulders.  We worry what others might think.  We wonder if we’re going to be the topic over the next morning’s coffee.  Will so-and-so’s mother let our little Johnny play with her son anymore?  In a little town like the one I live in, word of deviant behavior travels like wildfire.  We might as well be walking around with some big scarlet letter silk-screened on our shirts.

I understand that not every woman has an alter ego kicking and screaming to be heard, and that’s okay.  As long as she is happy.  Happy is good.

But speaking for myself, I love a great trashy novel, love slamming down shots of tequila, and have been known to drop the F-bomb on a few occasions – but only when no other word in the English language would suffice.  Okay, on more than a few occasions.  But that’s not the point.  The point is that I’d be willing to bet there’s a little bit of wildness to some degree in all of us women, mother or not.

In an earlier blog I spoke about trying to be someone I wasn’t – the perfect example of the wife and mother – and it killed me.   So I loosened up a little and stopped trying to be so perfect.  I mean, how bad can it really be when even the Queen Mother will toss back a beer?

queen mother

I can’t be wrong on this because there are a minimum of 4000+ women who have embraced their wild and aggressive side and made it more than okay to be that way.  A close friend of mine has created a Facebook page for women, mostly mothers, to vent their frustrations and generally blast apart whatever is annoying them at the moment.  It’s not a place for the easily offended, because it gets totally real, totally raw.  The page is called Give Me A Valium With My Latte.  Reading the threads usually has me laughing out loud and/or shaking my head in amazement.  These women say what I can only think, and I consider myself a fairly outspoken person.  Here is where it all hangs out.

Facebook harbors a community of like-minded women who feed off of each other’s boldness and use it to fuel the smoldering fire within them.  Other fabulous mommy pages on Facebook are The Brazen Apron, Maybe It’s NOT Me, Maybe It Is You, Epic Mommy Fails, and Reality With A Twist Of Lime.

Keep this in mind – Just because we allow ourselves to dance the line between the expected and the unexpected, doesn’t mean we don’t love our families or fail to put them at the top of the priority list.  It’s just that we agree to share that space with them.  As it should be.

So how about you (men included)?  Do you tend to play down certain characteristics out of fear of disapproval?  Is cutting loose ever an option for you?  Do you allow yourself to be truly you?  Let me know!  I’d love to hear from you!