Friday, November 30, 2007

Am I Just A Mom?

Don't get me wrong . . . I love being a Mom. But have I been a Mom so long that I have lost me? I am excited for my kids to grow up and become adults but I am uncomfortably aware that I will be rather lonely when they do. We will be friends but what am I going to do with my time?

I really like being alone. I enjoy solitary activities and treasure my alone time. But I don't like being lonely. I worry about being lonely.

I don't want to make my kids responsible for my entertainment and fun. I don't want them to feel like they have to include me or spend time with me because I am alone. That's not healthy. For any of us. I have friends. I have a fun life. But most of my friendships are through the kids or through work. But I have some "hobby" related friends too.

The real answer is for me to find a soul mate. Since my husband died, that is what I have wanted. I want what I had . . . a true partnership, a best friend, a confidante, someone that has a shared view of the world and similar goals. A soul mate. And guess what . . . that is hard to find.

But that is what I want. And I truly believe I will find it. Although I love it, I don't want to be just a Mom. I want to be someone's other half. One day.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

I Miss Her

Today is her birthday. She would have been 67 years old. She was an amazing Mom. She was my best friend. I miss her so much.

My siblings and I all loved her deeply. Other people loved her too. But I just want to talk about my relationship with her because that is what I miss.

Like I said, she was my best friend. Always. As long as I can remember being alive. Even when I was a teenager. We never went through the mother/daughter problems that you hear so much about. And I did some really stupid things. Things I regret. One of the biggest things happened when I was 18, in high school, and she about 6 otr 7 months pregnant with my youngest sister. She was working full time teaching at the high school, going to school after work to get her masters degree. I was supposed to pick her up. I was busy with my friends. I didn't really "forget" what time it was, I just didn't want to leave. I was about 30 minutes late picking her up. She was walking back and forth in front of the school when I pulled up. She looked like she was about to cry. When I pulled up, she got in the car and didn't say a word. She just looked at me. I cannot tell you how horribly selfish and guilty I felt. And I still do today. I left my pregnant 38 year old mother on the side of the road so I could spend more time with my friends. I don't even remember who I was with. But I remember leaving her on the side of the road.

There were some other incidents in which I put my friends in front of my family. Mom tried to guide me and show me what I was doing. I didn't really care. Then one day, close to graduation, she said this:

"You know, you are my friend, not just my daughter. I love going shopping with you, spending time with you, just hanging out. But it seems like you don't have time for me anymore. I miss you. And in a few months, you will leave for college and be gone. I am really going to miss you then."

She never yelled, she never said "You need to . . . ", she never really said anything else. But she may as well have stabbed me in the heart. She was right. And I felt horribly. And I changed. I grew up a little bit that day. I would never intentionally hurt my mother. But I had, over and over. I did better after that. I am sure I did or said stupid things later but nothing like when I was a teenager. And she never gave up on me.

After my husband died, she was my confidante. When I was frustrated with my kids or work, I turned to her. She listened patiently and tried to tell me what to do. She always asked me questions and had me think through the problem. Or just listened to me vent. I really miss having that now. I did the same for her - listened, talked about her issue, heard her frustration. That's what friends do for each other.

So today, I miss her. It's her birthday and she always made us think that our birthday was a national holiday. It was OUR day. I hope to honor her today in some way by telling her Thank You For Being My Mom. And I miss you.

Monday, November 26, 2007

I Am Not Ready!

I didn't want to put the tree up. We are barely past Thanksgiving and it is not even December. But she wanted to. I said, "Fine, do it then". She wanted to put it in the sunroom instead of the living room. I said there wouldn't be enough space. Sometimes I am not very supportive. I love the holidays and decorating but I hate the mess it creates. In fact, last year's decorations for the den are still in the red and green tub under the table in the den. So I just wasn't ready for it yet this year.

She and her boyfriend put the tree up and decorated it last night. It was fun to watch them. And they were still together by the end. She talked about the first Christmas after her Dad died. She didn't want to decorate the tree with the new ornaments that year. She wanted to use just "Daddy's ornaments". The whole thing ended in tears that year. She explained it all to her boyfriend. He understands her a little more every day.

She did a great job. And she put everything back in the garage when she was done!!! Afterwards, she sat beside the tree and wrapped presents. She has already bought gifts for people. I am still thinking about what to buy.

The tree really looks beautiful. And it is starting to get me in the mood. I am trying. But she is fully invested in the holiday spirit. And she is guiding me there. It's kinda annoying, mostly because it reminds me that she is growing up. And that makes me sad. But excited, too. And it reminds me that I am not ready . . . for the tree to be up or for her to be grown up. But just like the tree, it's already done.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

My Favorite Kinda Day

I love the weekend after Thanksgiving for 3 reasons:

Rivalry Football

I am not shopping girl. I will reiterate that I hate the mall. Not just our local malls but any mall. I am not shopping this Saturday. I am watching football.

I love college football, especially SEC football. I am football girl. I watch by myself. Kinda weird when I yell at the TV but who's gonna hear? I pile up in the sunroom with blankets and the remote. The weekend after Thanksgiving is always the weekend of college rivalries . . . Georgia/Georgia Tech, Florida/Florida State, Tennessee/Kentucky, and arguably the biggest rival in college football - The Iron Bowl - Alabama/Auburn. Now everyone thinks the rivalry in their state is the biggest one. I live in Tennessee and Kentucky is a rival but no longer the biggest rival the Vols have. Still, it was an exciting game today - 4 overtimes, Tennessee narrowly won by 2 little points. But I lived the Iron Bowl for 16 years while living in Alabama. I have seen it damage family relationships and friendships. I know women that would not date a man because he was a fan of the rival team. I have seen work colleagues that would not speak for days after a game. And I have seen some pretty funny pranks. Coaches of these teams have had winning seasons and lost their jobs because they have not won against the rival. It is crazy!!! But I have been waiting all day for it to start and I am watching the game with one eye as I write this.

I also love leftovers. I would rather eat Thanksgiving leftovers than Thanksgiving dinner. There is something about taking the turkey, dicing it up (Who am I kidding? I tear it with my fingers!) and dropping it into reheated mashed potatoes, adding a little gravy and stirring it all together. It is comfort food to the max. Sometimes I drop in a few peas. Yummmm. I enjoyed that today too.

So that has been my day. Football, leftovers, and lazy. My favorite kinda day!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

She Found It!!!

First, you have to read the post below from Friday, November 16th. I talked about my sister being able to stumble across the flaws lurking in my house. Let me make it clear, she really, really does not go looking for them. While she was here, she read the post, we laughed about it, drank some wine, had a really good time. And we all had a great dinner. It was going well.

The neighbor kids got a football caught in the tree in my front yard. It took all of us and them but with tree climbing, a ladder and a long piece of PVC pipe, we finally got it down. While trying to help, I had the pleasure of receiving a basketball to the face - never saw it coming. It hurt for a second but gave everyone a laugh!!! You are very welcome everyone! Then Greg and the boys took off to visit the UT campus.

So later, I set out the pumpkin and pecan pies. While in the fridge, I spied a can of spray whipped cream. Hmmm, someone might like some whipped cream on their pie. What kid doesn't love spray whipped cream???? I sat it out. We sliced the pie. My nephew took a piece. My sister said "Don't you want some whipped cream?" He said "Sure". She took the top off and there it was!!! Mold growing around the spout!!!! We had almost made it through the day but she found it! Why is it always mold or mildew??? We laughed and she said "There it is, I found the flaw!" At least we got it out of the way.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

52 Blessings (No, Not Really 52, Just A Handful)

I belong to a group on Flickr called 52 Blessings. The idea is that we focus on that for which we are grateful and make a point to take a photo of it, at least one a week for one whole year. Then we post the photo and tell why. Kinda makes you think in a totally different way.

I spend a great deal of time focusing on what I want - life to be easier, more money, my kids to have calmness in their lives, someone to pay my bills, to be a lottery winner, to find a wonderful man, and the list goes on. I really want a lot of things. I want material things too, money being the primary material thing, but mostly I want things that make me happy and create an easier life for me and my kids.

It's not that I am ungrateful, it is human nature to want things, especially things you don't have. Our country's economy is sorta based on that. Create something people want and will buy and you can live a happier life. But we need to remember to consider those things for which we are truly grateful and appreciate them. So here are some of the things that I have remembered recently and consider blessings:
  • My Kids - as much as they frustrate me on a daily basis, I think they are two of the most uniquely wonderful humans on the planet.
  • My Job - as a single parent, I am so thankful that I have a job that I love, that provides we with an income on which I can support myself and my kids, that allows me the flexibility to be with my family when I need to be, that allows me to grow as a person.
  • My Family - I was blessed to grow up in a family that loved each other and still does today. We had problems, still do. But we were always there for each other and we always will be. My Mom was a shining example of how to parent and I only hope that one day I can be the Mom to my kids that she was to me.
  • My Home - it may be chaotic and messy. It is 25 years old and looks like the Brady Bunch house. But it is mine and I make the payments every month. And in 11 years, it will be paid for.
  • My Sunroom - I added it to the back of the house a few years ago. I love that, because our yard is full of leafy trees and the room is on the second level, it feels like you are sitting in a tree house. It is a 16x16 room and it has 10 large windows. I love the light coming in and just sitting in my huge overstuffed chairs.
  • Chocolate - yes, I love chocolate but it is not necessarily something for which I am grateful. The picture above represents an experience. My kids and I spent an afternoon at the mall. I hate the mall. But I enjoy spending time with my kids. It was not a successful shopping trip, we didn't find what we were looking for after many long, long, mall hours. But at the end of the night, just before the mall closed, we headed for Godiva. We all got something. We laughed and discussed truffles vs. chocolate dipped strawberries. It was the most fun we had all afternoon.
So these are a few of my blessings. Not 52 yet, but I will get there.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I'm On Vacation Ya'll

The leaves on the trees around Knoxville are every color you can imagine. The tree outside my home office window is a deep orange and when the sun shines through, the leaves glow. This is my favorite time of the year.

I am on vacation and not doing anything, just hanging out, doing laundry, reading magazines, catching up on the Tivo. I will be doing the grocery store/Sam's Club thing tomorrow in preparation for our Wednesday feast. And tidying up before the family arrives.

We will leave on Thursday to head for Alabama. We have really neglected the Priest side of the family for quite some time. Since both kids are working it has become increasingly difficult to get them both at any one place at any one time. My schedule is pretty flexible but it has been a long time since we had both kids in Alabama for a visit at the same time. My side of the family comes here so it works out a little easier. But my brother-in-law and his wife live 8 hours away and have 3 children under 10 years old. Not a fun trip to make. So they come up from Mobile to Montgomery (a more manageable 3 hour trip) and we come down from Tennessee to Montgomery (a not so bad 5 - 6 hour trip) and we meet in the middle . . . well, sort of.

This year, Casey will be with me, Zack has to work on Friday. Not unusual. With both kids in retail on the craziest shopping day of the year, it's amazing Casey doesn't have to work too. But she does work on Saturday so we will turn around and head back on Friday afternoon. Then we will do it all again at Christmas.

But until then, I am on vacation Ya'll! Just chillin'!

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Weekend To Come

I'm tired. I am hoping this is what my weekend looks like - snuggling up, a pile of magazines, mindless TV. Maybe some laundry or a drive to photograph the brilliant fall colors. It has been a long few weeks. And next week is Thanksgiving. I should be getting ready. My sister and her family are coming for Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday. My dad is not. Doesn't want to travel on the busiest travel day of the year, ya know. So I should be preparing, cleaning, cooking. But right now I don't plan on doing it this weekend.

I love all my siblings. They really are some pretty cool people. We are all very, very different. We have diverse beliefs. And we all have opinions on everything. So it is rarely quiet when we are together. My brother and youngest sister live on the "left coast" and will not be traveling for the holiday. My sister Mickey and her family always travel. I know she would love to spend a holiday in her own home. But her husband's large, close knit family lives in Kentucky, about 1 and 1/2 hours from me. My sister lives in Louisiana. She ALWAYS has to travel. Since Mom died, we have managed to have family holidays at my house. It is convenient to her husband's family and it is close enough for Dad to drive here. So it works out for all of us.

But of all my siblings, my sister is probably the most different from me. In a good way. She is the most giving, selfless, religious, patient person I have ever met. She has a strong Christian faith, I am still wandering on my spiritual path. Her house is as neat as a pin, mine is full of dogs and chaos. She writes everything down in a planner, I use my Outlook calendar on my Blackberry. She is thin and gorgeous, I am not. She is a peacemaker, I am an instigator. But we are still very close.

However . . . normally I am fairly organized and my house is relatively clean. But if there is a flaw lurking out there, Mickey will find it. Not intentionally, she doesn't go looking for it. It is drawn to her like a magnet. For example, this summer I did about 72 loads of clothes right before they arrived. Towels were hurriedly folded and put away. A few days later, Mickey took a shower and washed her hair. Of all the towels for her to get, she used one that was not completely dry before I put it away and it had set there for a few days. We all know what that's like, right? Mildew smell does not go away from your hair after you dry it with a mildewy towel. She was so nice about it but I felt so bad. But something happens every time.

So I am sure I should not spend the weekend with mindless TV and magazines. I should be looking for the problems I know are lurking and correcting them. I will take off work next week and do it then. Until then, it's me time.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

He Wants To Grow Up

He really does want to grow up. He tries. But he is a Mama's boy. I have spent the last year pushing him out of the nest. He wouldn't go. He left willingly about 3 years ago, tried it for a year and came back. I knew he wasn't ready but had to let him try. He has been in the guest room since then. He is 21. He is not terribly self motivated. He is a great son but it is time for him to go. I think he might be ready.

All he wants for Christmas is the deposit for an apartment in the old city. He is doing well in his 2 part time jobs and was just offered a full time job. He accepted the full time job and is going to keep one or both of the part time jobs. He had it all figured out - the money, the rent, the "budget" and how he would pay his other bills. This is the most motivation I have seen from him in a long time.

Then today, one of the PT places asked him to apply for the manager position at another store. No guarantee of getting the job but WOW! Dilemma. He is submitting a resume today. We will see what happens.

I am really excited for him. Things are finally looking up. He has found something he is good at, he fits in, prospects are good. He is TRYING and that is more than I have seen him do for the last 2 years. I am happy for him. And I think he might be happy too. I haven't seen that in a long time either. I am keeping my fingers crossed.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Camp Honey Creek Experience

Camp Honey Creek is a girls camp in Hunt, Texas. Just like the ones you see on TV, real cabins, wooden bunks, a dining hall, etc. The owners/leaders are unbelievable ladies and if I had a young girl, I would send her to their camp in a heart beat and never worry. This is where our business retreat was last week.

About a month ago, we were divided into 2 teams - one red and one blue. We had to come up with Indian names for our team and an Indian name for each team member. Our tribe was Maniwanawin (Many wanna win, get it?) and my name was Tiponi which means "Child of Importance". We had to design shirts for our team using our team colors and names. Then we plotted for the next month even though we really had no idea what to expect.

Now, some of our team are rather high maintenance. We call them the "Princesses". Wooden bunks and cabins would not be their idea of a retreat. We put them all in one cabin together. Upon arrival, they were quite shocked at the accommodations - I can show you, I have pictures! But they had the promise of La Mansion Del Rio (that's a hotel, ya know) awaiting in San Antonio on our last night. And the first night, the heat in their cabin broke - oops!

The first afternoon we had orientation and then all piled in the camp bus to tour part of the 300 acre camp. The photo above was of the sunset we experienced. The Texas hill country is very different than what I am used to seeing. But it was quite beautiful in a craggy sort of way. And the sunset was one of the most beautiful things I've seen in a long time.

The next morning, the bell rang for breakfast and we chowed down, fortifying ourselves for the challenges ahead. The teams separated and ours started with a team building activity and then moved on to rifle shooting. Each member of the team learned to shoot at a target and then our scores were added together. After that, we headed back to the dining hall for lunch. After a huge camp lunch, the red team had the option of trying the rock wall while we went to the archery competition.

Now the rock wall was supposed to be optional. And I decided early on that the vision of my fat butt, trussed up in a climbing harness and ropes, wearing a goofy helmet, while co-workers stood beneath me staring up was just more of a visual than I wanted to provide for them. So I was going to gracefully decline. Which wasn't a problem because others felt the same way. Then while standing on the archery field, kicking butt shooting arrows at a target (I came in fourth overall) they called down to say that one of the red team made it to the top. It was one of the princesses! She waved at us! Then about 20 minutes later, another one. Again, a princess. This one was 57 years old!!!!! And then another! Now, there was no way I could make it to the top but after that, there was no way I was going to stay on the ground. So after archery, the teams switched places. Everyone on our team tried although no one made it up. And I did get on the wall and went about 4-5 feet off the ground. Then I got a cramp in my calf. No, I was not faking it, it really was a cramp. But it came at quite a convenient time cause I wasn't going any farther! I have newfound respect for the princesses!

That night after dinner, we had a campfire and s'mores. It became quite emotional because the two other Tennessee district managers and I will be changing regions in January and will no longer be with this team. We told stories, cried, laughed, and sang songs. It was very corny and quite touching.

The next morning, back to competition and the canoe races. Four members from each team were in a canoe on the river. And yes, we really did race. I was in the front, middle for our team and we won!!! My knees will never be the same. Fat girl kneeling!

Later we had a pow-wow around the flag pole and each of us shared what we had learned about ourselves or others that week and how we would take that back to use in our real life. I shared that I have great new respect for the princesses and their climbing ability. I was also impressed by their lack of complaining when the heat broke. They truly were low maintenance for the first time in the very long time I have known them. It will be hard to criticize them going forward. I shared that I hated to leave the unbelievable support and friendship of such a team. And I really meant it.

It was an emotionally draining, rewarding, bonding experience. I am glad we did it. And I am really glad I got to see that sunset.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Break Time

I am heading for Texas to a camp in a rural area. It is for a corporate retreat and then we will be on to San Antonio for the weekend. Casey and Chase will be joining me this weekend for fun and sightseeing. I will not have access to an internet connection for most of the week so I doubt I will be blogging this week. But I will have a lot to say when I get back.

Monday, November 5, 2007

It's My Feet Again

I love this picture. I also like to take pictures of my feet. It's easy, it's weird, and it's a different way to take a self-portrait. And my shoes say something about me and my personality. These shoes are new - got them on Saturday and I love them! They are totally me.

So, I also love Flickr. For the uninitiated, Flickr is a photo sharing website. You set up an account (either a free one or pro) and then post your pictures. You can join groups, get pointers, join in on challenges, etc. It is like a MySpace for photographers. A social network of sorts. And it challenges your creativity and pushes you to improve technical skills. I have really focused on carrying my camera every day and practice, practice, practice.

As I have explored Flickr, I joined in on several groups. I love portrait photography so I joined one of the many groups related to that. I joined a local "meetup" group where once a week on Sundays, they meet and take photos or hang out. I have not joined them in a meetup but hope to soon. I joined 52 Weeks which challenges you to take a self portrait and post it each week for a year. I joined 52 Blessings which is similar to 52 Weeks except you post a photo of something for which you are thankful each week for a year.

Then I found the group Will I Ever Stop Taking Pictures Of My Feet. It is NOT a fetish group. It's just a bunch of folks like me who take photos of their feet in a creative way. Now there ARE the fetish groups out there but this is not one. And I do not belong to those groups. But I have gotten a couple of weird emails that creeped me out. And my most viewed photo on my page is the one I posted here several weeks ago of my pink and green flip flops with my hot pink toes. Freaky!

So I will keep taking pictures of my feet in a non-fetish way. And I will keep buying shoes that are fun and show my personality. And you will probably hear about them again.

Happy 18th Birthday Casey!!!

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Yeah, Me and Posh Spice

Posh Spice, AKA Victoria Beckham, is known for being on the leading edge of fashion. I, however, am not.

Three Ways That Posh and I are Different:

1. Her entire body would fit in one leg of my blue jeans.

2. She is married to a world class soccer star that is smokin' hot. I am a single mom with a wide open dating calendar.

3. I work for a living. Just exactly what is it that Posh does?

But I have Posh's haircut. And I have had it for a while. I didn't know I was copying Posh, it just turned out that way. Her haircut was recently named as one of the most popular haircuts today. Jenny McCarthy has joined us. Katie Holmes. Now Posh has gone a little extreme with hers lately and I am not brave enough to go there. But I am getting my hair cut nextMonday. I think I am going with bangs.

My mom used to say that when it came to me, the only thing she could ever be sure about was that each time she saw me, my hair would be different. That is so true! I have had red hair, brown with highlights, long, short, permed, and yes, at one time, I had a mullet! One time I wanted to be blond and had no money so I, being so naive or stupid or both, decided to buy the lightest blond hair color on the market and do it myself. Now, having very dark brown hair, you can probably guess what happened next. Yep, orangutan orange. Quite frightening and lesson learned.

I am pretty sure that if I didn't highlight and color my hair right now, it would be mostly gray. But I have been coloring it long enough that I don't really know. I know the gray peeps out when it is time to color but it is NOT pretty gray and I continue to cover it up. So that's what I (rather Stephanie, my stylist) will be doing on Monday. Covering up the gray and adding highlights and bangs. The bangs will be new. I gotta break away from being linked to Posh. Yeah, right!!!!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

My Baby Is Growing Up

Casey is my youngest. She will be 18 on Monday. I find myself wondering why life is moving so quickly. I feel like I missed something. But I was there for the whole thing.

When Zack was 3, I was pregnant and worried that I would never love another child as much as I did him. I could not imagine it at all and was quite concerned. I guess I didn't really understand motherhood. Because a mother's capacity for love expands at the rate required. You love as much, but you do love differently.

My children are nothing alike. Zack is laid back, Casey is intense. Zack is quiet and a people-pleaser, Casey is outgoing and independent. I love those things about each of them. I love that they are different. But that is challenging when kids want to be treated the same. I have always told my kids that fair and equal does NOT mean the same. Here's my speech:

Kid - "Mom, you let him/her have this/do this/go there/etc and you NEVER (it's always never) let me!"
Mom - "You are not the same. Do I need to point out the differences between you again? I let you do other things that I don't allow him/her to do. I treat you differently because you need different things from me. I love you both equally but you are different, so I treat you differently. Now go find something else to complain about."

And now they are technically, legally grownups. At least Casey will be on Monday. I am kind of sad but very excited for her and for what lies ahead. She is an amazing young woman and we have become quite good friends as she has grown up. I am still her mom but our relationship goes beyond mother-daughter. And I like that. It is what I had with my mom. It is what I have always wanted.