Saturday, November 9, 2013

One of Those Simple Good Days

Today I give thanks for simple pleasures and Fridays. (note- I started this yesterday, Friday)

Friday is the day that Hubby has "off" from work. Not really- he's teaching a boat load of classes and working late into each night and on the weekends. But he has Fridays to work from home.

Today we just celebrated the day. After the boy got on the bus, we got ready and headed to the local lab to give blood samples. His employer sponsors a complimentary screen for all sorts of issues, so you give a sample and wait for the whole profile of results. Various times through the day, I have to admit I have had pause. It's been such a nice day- a day where I have stopped often and given thanks- and then I have that impending doom feeling, like life is about to change radically.

I'm trying to keep that crazy-making voice quiet. I hope it's just that silly part of my psyche that gets too scared to be fully happy, so invents things to worry about instead. And not premonition. Either way, I'm turning my head away and not letting it steal my joy.

************** And that's where I stopped, because I got busy making dinner and doing all those family things. And had a bunch more to say, to reflect on the simple things that I am thankful. I got an email last night that someone in my family is having surgery next month. I don't know why or what the problem is- it's shrouded in mystery and I have to wait to hear from that person directly. Which makes it ever so much worse. Then my little boy got sick today, and has had temperatures hovering at 103, freaking me out. I thought that I was being silly with my premonitions. I'm still trying to feel that way, but it gave me a bit of pause, for sure. So I'm just going to post this and maybe the boogie man will go away. **************************

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Just Stop

I was just in the middle of writing a long post that is part bio and part diatribe about education.

I took a Facebook break, and while I was there I checked in on a family I mentioned a few posts ago. I don't know them- I just got directed to their page by a third-party. But their struggle to save their son has absolutely put chains on my heart and I find myself praying for them many times each day. It seemed as though things were looking up, but their latest post is devastating and I found myself in tears for them.

So, I'm taking a break from writing just now and going to pray for this family and take my baby for a walk.

If you want to pray for them to, here is their page:

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Need Verses Want

I've never kept us with the Joneses.
It's been a long time since I wanted to.
I've always hated the thought on principle. It reeks to me of being manipulated by commercialism, of being a lemming. I feel like I know myself and know what I like. I don't need society telling me what to want.

I am aware of culture, though. It's not that I block out trends. I just choose not to follow them blindly. Sometimes I like what is offered up and will adapt it to my own life, but generally I like to keep things more universal.

With the possible exception of glitter, my kryptonite. I so love a tasteful glitter. But I digress.

Not "keeping up" also does not imply a lack of material desire. For me, it means not being a slave to the desires of others.

I love to read about our human tendencies on this matter, swaying towards nonfiction works that examine these things through the lenses of history, psychology and business. When I get some time to myself, you can usually find me at the library usually pouring over the latest edition of "Inc" or flipping through a Malcolm Gladwell book.

One amazing benefit of the internet is that you can reach out to groups with who share some counter-culture views. Heck, just having the internet gives a platform to expanded media to cover these trends in the first place. One such group for me is with the "tiny house movement" and the idea of going off-grid and being more sustainable. I'm still comfortable in my 1,500 square foot house and need to seriously downsize, but it's a process. It's been great following people who are on this journey and sharing our dreams at workshops and in forums. Again, it's not a trend that I follow blindly (I spoke about this a lot at the workshop I took last year), but I want to take elements from it and make it work for my family. I am internalizing it and making it my own.

I still struggle with being incensed at the excess expressed in in flashy cars, handbags, jewelry. I love good design and a quality-made items and I can see the value of investing in something of quality, verses my old "buy it cheap" mentality. But I hate the celebrity mentality and the insipid magazines and websites that cater to it. Logo mentality disgusts me and what it can all too often represent, which is a pretentious and often unconscionable person with values counter to mine slapping a logo on an ugly piece that was made in substandard conditions in a third-world factory and then charging obscene amounts of money for the junk and having a lemming following doing anything to carry the junk. My objections are to what the object represents, which is thoughtlessness and exploitation.

But a sanctimonious tangent is not my intention here, and part of maturing into mindfulness is also accepting the paths of others. Did I mention it's a process? And for me and for authentic growth in this area, it will take time. At the same time, it's okay to have values, to stand up for what matters. It's a balance.

That is not to say that I don't see the fun of money. I loved having it to finance experiences. Standing under the Eiffel Tower at midnight. Having an amazing meal. Purchasing awesome gifts for my family, or even small, thoughtful ones for friends. Being able to help someone out. And I can certainly see the benefits of having enough money to buy your way into a safer neighborhood, a better school. I can still do good with limited resources, but yes, money makes life easier.

We are in an exceptionally tight spot financially. It's been hard to wrestle with, since I was always so proud of my responsible finances.
We are not austere, but have certainly had a long run of generic beans and rice and my dependence on credit card debt is remarkably uncomfortable for me since I used to be part of the Ramsey camp and didn't even have cards.

I remember my first apartment with my hubby. We were 20 and I was in college. It was an old building in a beat-up part of a river town, but it's what we could afford. His old car always broke down and he was working as a waiter because he couldn't afford college yet. We had sheets for curtains and ate a lot ramen. We couldn't afford a microwave and it was a big deal when we purchased a toaster oven. We were always just a few dollars away from the breaking point. I remember a friend was having a baby and her family was hosting a baby shower. I was responsible for bringing some element for it, and I carefully purchased it in advance. When I got to the party, it was sprung on me that I was also expected to pay for part of the cake. It seems like a small thing now, but I wrote that $35 check and then felt sick the rest of the party as I wondered how I was going to get the money in my account that would make sure that check didn't bounce. That was the first time that I sold some of my jewelry to make ends meet.

There is want. But I know that this time is precious and beautiful.

Our blessings are plentiful. My children have less than many here, but so, so much more than so many who suffer. They are safe, healthy, comfortable and have books, toys, and entertainment. We have to be creative sometimes, and I have to say no to a lot of extras, but in the end I believe it will help build character and help keep them from being spoiled. But they are clean, well-dressed, and well-fed most of the time (at least in public. Most of the time, lol.) Most importantly, they are loved and protected and they are our focus. They are seen and known and cherished, which is an element that has absolutely nothing to do with money.

And guess what? Having a stellar credit score is not nearly as rewarding as just living life. I'm on the cusp of working through some of these issues, but there is a definitive shift in me. I'll still trying to define it and figure out what it all means, and by the time I do, I will likely shift again. I write this with a smile on my face. For me, there is peace in accepting the flowing variable to her I am/was/always becoming.

Did I already write about the kindness of strangers a few weeks ago? Of a man in the grocery who gave me baby food coupons and a neighbor who gave me outgrown clothes from her baby? Both acts were small to the givers, but a huge emotional boost on the eve of my surgery that set us back thousands of dollars. The priceless aspects of these acts- reminding of good, reminding me of the angels acting in my life- was manna for my soul and I stop to keep nibbling on it, rolling the flavor of it over and over.

It's funny. I started this post thinking that I would compare a few recent needs and wants, but as usual, this is more my free-flow journal where I try to put a few parameters on my thoughts. For me, this blog is about the journey through my mind and there are no absolute stopping points. No points to be made, no definitive stands. Just reflections on the living while in the midst of it, typing while feeding bananas and cheerios to my baby.

And soon I'll gratefully slip on my beat up gym shoes and take a walk with my girl and be exquisitely thankful for all of it.

I'll Not Be Pondering the Great Mysteries of Life in This Post

Today, I am thankful for quiet, loving kitties.

They are such a contrast to the intense screaming of the last few hours.
Yes. Hours.

A certain baby, who shall remain nameless, has a frequent sleep problem. Every single remedy has been tried over the last year. Books read. Web researched. Earnest prayers. Consultations. Medications. It's not every night these days, but tonight was a rough one.

Before the concert of screams that makes Carmina Burana seem like a lullaby, I grabbed the boy and we did a quick run to Target. I needed few things, so I hit up a couponing website and wanted to hone in on the deals. It was a fun mommy and me activity as we slipped through the store, examining items and discussing trends. It's fun for me to hear the things that he is picking up naturally from these trips and it's such as great training ground for "real life."

As we put our small gathering of items on the belt, we engaged in our ritual of trying to estimate the total (that's right, Common Core- I've got your predicting and estimation right here, baby!). LM guessed $9 and I guessed $11. The best part came as the associate finished ringing the items... which totaled $34.
LM piped up as she rang the last item and said, "So, Mommy, WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE CLOSER TO, $9 OR $11?"
The clerk looked sympathetic and said, "Aw, well hon, it's already much higher than that." She thought my boy a fool, but soon she discovered our secret weapon...

El Coupon Diablo! Ole! *insert evil cackle here*

The final total was $14, and I received a $5 gift card, so LM won the game since the net charge was $9. The clerk looked dazed as she congratulated us. It was great.

So what did the $9.00 purchase?

3 bottles of creamer (say what you will, but it's the only way I can drink coffee at home)
1 small pack of coffee (did you read the part about not sleeping?)
1 huge bottle of shampoo (rawr! Wash ALLLLLL the hairs!!!)
1 gourmet chocolate (free/ hoarding for a future teacher gift)
1 toothbrush (also free)
1 pack of diapers
3 deodorants for the hubby(this stuff is expensive. When not on sale, it's $4.50. Ack! I remember when he ran out and just went out and bought a stick for $3.75. "It was on sale" he said as I had a mini-hissy fit. So now I stock up when I can so that he has some to fall back on. In fact, this deal worked out so well that I may have to do it again before the week is through!)

I am well pleased with the bounty. I don't got to Target very much these days. I have dramatically reduced "pleasure shopping" in my life and I don't like to tempt myself in the land of baubles and glitter. Sooooo much glitterrrrrr (drools). However, I have much greater discipline than I used to, both in terms of reducing clutter and reducing costs. And, when you combine Target's Cartwheel program with the fact that you can stack Target and Manufacturer coupons, it's a really great place to score a well-executed deal.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday, Monday

It's overcast and cool this morning, and we all got up a little earlier (despite the fact that I stayed up waaayyyyy too late. Again. It's a thing.)

This morning I am thankful for:

Garbage service. Seriously. I am so giddy each week to get rid of all that is nasty.

Recycling. I'm not always the best at it, but have been getting increasingly better. One element that I am good about is "upcycling" which is turning used items into something new. Of course, it tends to look a bit more like hoarding, but let's jut take one vice at a time, hehe.

Why else do I like recycling? Because Monday morning is our pick-up day and so after I got LittleMan on the bus, I took the baby for a little jaunt in her stroller. The voyeur in me can't help it- I like to see what lives in those green boxes while I get a little exercise. Since I have been walking this tiny neighborhood many times a week for over a year, it's always fun to have something new to see. It's a fascinating glimpse into the lives of others, those boxes. And when I get lucky, some folks will throw their Sunday coupons out on the top of their paper boxes. I just swipe and go and end up with a lot more diaper coupons.

Ah yes, I am thankful for being easily amused. Truly. I have said it for years, but it is the gift that keep giving. Some folks need a lot to make them happy. Give me a few free coupons, and I am all giddy.

So I've had my first mile walk of the day, and a wee bit of coffee.

With any luck, I might be able to get the baby down for a nap and take a shower before noon. And even though I struggle with my evolving identity sometimes, I am truly grateful that I have been able to stay home with my little girl this year. I am looking forward to finding something meaningful and challenging and stimulating to do to pay the bills and get us both out of the house to make friends, but I am thankful for this time. As we come up on her birthday, I am reminded just how fast the year flies by, even when the days felt slow.

To the joy.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sunday: Come the Sun

The sun came back today, and it kissed my face.
It was cool and beautiful as we drove downtown to go to a fall festival.
I am thankful for the money for gas, for parking.
I am thankful for the painkillers that let me have some relief.
I am thankful for the gym shoes that make it ever so much easier to enjoy movement.
I am thankful for the dollar store, where we stopped on the way home for some essentials.
I am thankful for the rice and peas that made up our simple dinner.
I am thankful for my safe neighborhood, where I walked an easy mile tonight.
I am thankful for the open back door and the cool, non-humid air pouring through it.

I am thankful for my husband who is taking out the trash.
I am thankful that I get to see the look of joyful adoration on my little girl's face as she reaches for her big brother.

And hot chocolate. And creativity. And inspiration.

And the peace of the night.

Saturday: Come The Rain

Saturday brought the rain.

I am thankful for the rain.
To grow. To thrive. To appreciate the sunlight.

When the boys were glued to football, I slunk off to the library and then got lost in a silly book.

I am thankful for books.
All my life, my most constant and variable friend. My portal to other places, other realities.

Friday, November 1, 2013


The challenge- write at least one blog post each day in November.

It's not that I don't have anything to write about. It's usually too much. Too personal. Perhaps a bit too raw.
So today, I start with simple gratitude. Which is not always so simple.

I believe strongly in practicing mindfulness and daily exercises in gratitude, and science (especially in the form of positive psychology) has been steadily "proving" the benefits of such. When I am most fully myself, I love to go outside and just breathe in the smallest details of the world, to take huge delight in the smallest of details. The rhythm of the wind. The hilarious chattering of the squirrels. The symmetry of a leaf. The vivid saturation of the hues in the sky. Every small little thing is a miracle.

There is so much that I am thankful for each night as I lay down my weary head.

The trouble is that sometimes my gratitude slips through my fingers while I struggle. I don't lose it, but sometimes it floats around my hand while I splash about in the mud.

You see, I am wrestling an invisible alligator. I've known it for some time now and some days the thrashing about, the gasping for air, gets too much.

I've been thinking about and writing about the alligator for awhile now, but I'm not fully ready to share that story.

But the alligator has been stalking me, and has had me in his jaws for the last few days. When he has me, it's hard to feel the gratitude as deeply.

Today, I took back the gratitude and wound it around my fingers. And even though the alligator is present, I cling to the golden coil of my thankfulness.

Today it was a simple Facebook post that reminded me. It was a work-from-home page that I follow, and the admin posted a link to a friend who had a baby born too early. I clicked on the page and their story pierced through the mud, the armor, the noise. The sweet baby boy and his struggle to survive was documented in pictures. I broke down and cried for the family, for their pain, their hope and their need. I prayed for them. And I posted a message of support. I don't even know their name, but they have been in my mind all night. I watched my spirited Little Lady (watched, because she does not want to be cuddled right now, she wants to EXPLORE!) I tended to my LittleMan, who is running a low-grade fever from the latest crude to go around. And I held tight to my glowing gratitude and thanked the universe and all of the angels for the gift of my children.

And the alligator. He is there. Crouches to the side. Waiting for another piece of me. Anxious to try to take me down again.

So I flipped him the bird.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Riding The Couponing Unicorn

Also known as...
Make Your Husband Think You Are Crazy as You Take Pictures of Your Purchases.

Last fall and winter, I entered the world of couponing. The WORLD. Sure, I'd used a coupon here and there, but mostly just purchased generics and called it a day. But with all the websites online these days that walk you through it, I thought it was time to jump in. And I did. Deeply.

To really get great results, you have to be quick to jump on the deals, quick to print the coupons, and meticulously organized. I was, for awhile. I was also new in town, without friends, without a job, ready to give birth any minute, and barely scraping by on the family budget.

There were some amazing deals to be had. Sometimes I did end up buying things that I normally wouldn't have... okay, often I would. But almost everything was put to good use or gifted.

Besides the excessive time it takes, the other problem I found it that I would get shopping paralysis. I wouldn't go to the store unless I had a perfect list with extreme deals. It got bad- I would not shop unless well prepared. There were a few times that supplies got pathetic.

When I got a part-time job in March, the couponing mostly fell to the way side. I still watched the budget like a hawk, but I just didn't have time to be extreme. It would pain me to see receipts from my husband running to Publix and blowing $30 on just a few things when I knew just how much farther I could have stretched that money. I would do a few deals here and there, but I went back to dashing into Aldi or just buying generics.

Well, I am back to freelance work now and money is quite tight again. I've been putting off a grocery trip all week (erm, maybe two weeks. Or three), and it's been rather funny to see how I can stretch our bare pantry with creative recipes.

I finally had to give in and go today. But I planned it tightly and walked away spending $63... and saving $107. I got many things for free or very close to it. And it felt good. I now have a good supply of basic toiletries to last for a few months too, and that makes a big difference. When hubby goes out and needs some of special manly-man body wash, I don't have to dish out $3.74, because I got it for around $1.

I didn't take a picture of my Public haul, because I was too busy putting it away. But I did also do a nice deal at Walgreens today, and took at picture to show what I got and for how much. I love it when other blogs to this, because it helped me to learn how to work the deals.

Okay, so here is how I did this deal. It's not jaw dropping, but it is a good savings of around 80% of regular prices. One of the most important things for me is to have a mental (I'm working on a spreadsheet too) of "Buy Now" threshholds. For me, the price needs to be less than I can get it at a dollar store or for a generic version. Each of the items below fit that criteria.

And now, here we go

Puffs- On sale for .99. Buy two and save $1.00. Total: $1.00 for 2, or .50 each
Turkey bacon- On sale for .99. Have a $1.00 coupon. Price, free plus .01 bonus
Bread- On sale for .99. Lower than the $1.39 generic.
Dove Chocolate- On sale for .49 each. Bought two to use a .50 off coupon, so .49 for both. I have these in the freezer to use for the next time I have the wild urge to bake something dark and wonderful.
Highlighters- On sale for .79. Used a 1.00 off coupon, so free + .21 to apply to the deal.
Toilet paper- On sale for $5.00 each & I bought two. Stacked coupons- $1.00 off each with a Walgreens coupon. Also had a manufacturer's coupon on top of that for .50 off. Then I got a register reward for $2.00, which I used to buy water in a separate transaction. So $5.50 for them both.

Water- On sale for $1.99. I don't often get bottled water, but we do sometimes need it school events or for the diaper bag. Walgreens often has their water on sale, and this is the best price.

So, I got two things- the bacon and the highlighters- absolutely free, plus made a little money. I have a big drawer filled with good school supply deals, so that I have them when I need them. I got everything for less than the cost of just two packs of toilet paper (on sale). It's just a nice feeling to have these things and not have to freek out when things run out.

So now I am off, to ride my couponing unicorn over to the land of crafts and get to work on a few fun projects.

Thursday, June 27, 2013


The sunlight streams in and makes shadows play on Tiffany blue walls as she babbles from the crib.
My LittleMan wanders in, so long and lean and toasted sesame skin. So many hints to the handsome man he will become, but enough of the sweet swell of cheek that I still see my baby. We snuggle together, an occasional furry friend jumping up to join us on the bed to get in on the love.
Daddy comes in then, fresh smelling and ready for work in one of my favorite outfits. But he joins us, sharing kisses and blowing raspberries and chatting easily about my next not-so-fiendish plot.
And then he's off, just a short drive down the road, and we are out to the kitchen. She fists Cheerios, wrapping a clenched fist around each one. Most will be found in the bottom of the chair after I get her out, a pile of wheat O's that have amnesty for another day. I put on a little coffee and make my famous breakfast: two bowls, slowly partitioning the decadent Greek yogurt into each, dousing cinnamon and dried orange peel onto the white waves before drizzling sweet amber honey ribbons. A handful of blueberries, some sliced frozen strawberries, a sprinkle of multi-grain cereal...
Onto the table they go, these masterpieces. And he eats his enthusiastically. "Yummm, the honey is so perfect. Ummm, great amount of cinnamon." He is profuse with his praise, hilarious in his commentary. I agree with him, as I sneak in bites of my own in between the coordinated spoon dance of rice cereal and sweet potatoes that she allows.
Jazz plays from the local public radio station as he looks through the book I got out yesterday for inspiration. Sister Wendy and her 1000 art masterpieces joins us at the table as he pages through and we talk about Van Gogh, and history, and Texas. We still miss Texas, that alien place that became home. The friends and comforts that we left behind, the sweet memories of Kindergarten that are already drifting like dust in the sunlight in our mind.

A song comes on now, "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy," and I realize I've played it before, long ago, in the days of awkward middle school jazz bands. Even then, my husband was there, all neck and legs, and floppy hair, and trombone. So many life times ago, yet all leading to this life.

And I am lucky. So very lucky that it takes my breath away.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Pondering Home, Part 2

Saturday night, Central Florida. The rain is coming in poetically soothing torrents, which I can enjoy now safely home. I just got home from a glorious massage, one that I redeemed after hoarding gift cards from holidays past. I even slipped through the adjacent Starbucks, and the combination of the two luxuries reminds me of the easy joys of past expendable income.

Caffeinated and relaxed, I'm in a happy haze and I wanted to go back to the theme that keeps gently nudging me, hungry for acknowledgement and attention.


What it has meant, and what it can mean. What is given, and what is built. Structure and substance, emotion and ethereal.

Some of this is familiar, and I've written on it before. But since this is my online therapy, I'm going to work through it again, gently pushing through the hanging vines of the topic as they drape across my path.

The first nine years of my life were spent in a small ranch home in a tidy, post WWII neighborhood. While I have plentiful memories from that time- riding my bike on only the designated streets, playing in the backyard and the uncomfortable lumber pile between the shed and the patio, the neighborhood park, slumber parties, strange science experiments, the talking curtains (um, don't ask), I have to say that there is no real emotional tie to this home. We have driven by it a few times in the last 20 years, but it's more a specter, a setting to a play that no longer has much importance in my life.

Then we moved to the beautiful historic home, the one that was next to a cemetery. The place I walked home to when I experienced my first taste of freedom after school. The place that I would sneak into my mom's dresser and put on her makeup when she was at nursing school, or look at my dad's dirty magazines tucked into his closet. A place of good and bad memories, but primarily the place where my parent's marriage ended. I appreciate the architectural qualities of the house so much more as an adult, but again I only have wisps of memories here. Probably the best one was in my room, a grand space with huge closets. But the most remarkable thing about it was the memory of my little brother and I gazing out the frost-clad windows on a frigid winter night and watching the stoplight at the top of the hill change, the rhythm safe and familiar as it colored the jagged glass with red, green, and yellow prisms. We sat in that same room and sang Amy Grant songs together. These are probably the best memories I have with my little brother. But as I think of them, too quickly the other ones come rushing in: the Thanksgiving that we spent spinning in helicopters to the "Footloose" soundtrack by ourselves as our parents were upstairs fighting, until my brother tripped and crashed his skull into the corner of the piano bench and blood was everywhere. The time my father went on a rafting trip and my mother went into a rage that sent rocking chairs flying across the living room and lots of broken glass. My father said I begged him to never leave again after that trip. But he did, and the divorce and darkness came. Soon enough, there was a strange new stepdad to get used to, and then a move to a new home, a classic suburban box. There were so many more houses ten. The apartment, the trailer, the houses I lived with my dad. The places where I started new schools and welcomed new sisters. So many other places.

But I'm getting off track. I don't want to talk about the homes that mean nothing to me now. I want to write about the safe places, the places of good memories and peace. Because I think as I explore those memories, I find some of the answers that I need to recreate the good homes again.

My grandparents moved close to us when I was in that first house. We could walk the 10 blocks or so and be happily at their house, a simple, small bi-level. That's the home that I go to so often in my memories. To family holidays. To safe times when I would bake with my grandma or file my grandpa's nails after he had a stroke and couldn't do it himself. The place where even though I was an overweight child, my frail grandmother would share her tiny Rondo ice cream bars with me. The place my grandpa would work on his roses, his tomatoes, his zucchini. The twin bed where I would sleep, the little room with the CB radio that I would play on. I often think about trying to go back, to see what it looks like inside.

Here it is, a little piece of my memories:

And then, suddenly, I was a college student. Two years in a dorm apartment left me with some strange roommate memories and a dear friend who was my maid of honor. And then I tried playing house with my fiance, first in an dodgy old apartment where we had sheets as curtains, then in a tiny old row house in Northern Kentucky that I loved, then hated, then loved again. In between, I had some time on my own and a sweet apartment in a huge old home and a townhome. I'm sure I already talked about those places, those wisps of memories that swirl like smoke when I try to grasp them too hard.

The other safe place is The Farm, and my ole Kentucky home. It's been in my step family for many decades and has been a major part of my life since I was 11. My dad, stepmom, and sisters are the caretakers now that my step-grandparents have passed. It's a place of peace for me, a place that I always imagine that I can return to no matter how bad life gets. Zombie apocalypse? That's where I'll be.

The interesting thing about moving to completely new places is how it subtly shifts you, changes little edges and pieces of your soul until you no longer fit quite the same way into the old places you once called home. Each move we have made has made me grow. Each move has hurt- sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. There is excitement of new places to explore, and the soft little agonies of saying goodbye to the places and people you have loved. And then there is that settling in, that comfort that comes from having friends and family close by that you can call on, or knowing exactly where to go when you need something.

Hubby's post-doc comes to an end at the end of July. When we moved here, there were indications that the job would grow into something more, something permanent. It didn't. So he has scrambled and interviewed and been a little crushed when certain things didn't come through.

Two months ago, he found out that there was an opening at our alma mater in the honors program, which we both absolutely loved. And it sent us in to a tizzy. It would be a chance to return to the college and unique program we loved. I could be close to the rest of my family again- my children would get to have a meaningful relationship with them. Immediately, I set about looking at the best schools in the area and taking online virtual tours of homes. My sisters and I texted like crazy, plotting and planning.

But at the same time, I was confused. Most of my close friends have moved on from the area, scattered about the country. And while I long for some of the places of my past, both of us struggled with the fact that a large part of us doesn't fit there anymore. I longed to return to the Farm and my family... but didn't long to return for all of the other things. Florida has changed me. This decade has changed me. The place that was so hard to leave 10 years ago is not the same, and neither am I. In a perfect world, I would magically lift the Farm and my family and transplant them here.

In the end, the position closed before he could apply. The universe had spoken. But it certainly kicked up a lot of thought and exploration in me, and I believe there are still some cobwebs that I need to work through there. Ah, the leisure of introspection. Even now, as I sit out in the lanai in this rainy night, the boys are curious why I won't just sit and watch TV with them (ugh- the TV struggle. That's another post).

So, back to the search for home...

Hubby has an offer to work at a university about 45-60 minutes from here (depending on which campus branch he'll teach at). It's not a great job. Certainly not what you dream of as you work your way through (or pay for someone to work their way through) a doctorate program. But perhaps it can be great- so many factors influence that result.

We both ache to be settled. To be someplace where we feel that we belong, that we can built a future. Professionally, spiritually, emotionally. I have found myself drawing back a lot with each move. It's hard to plant roots when you know that they will be yanked up soon enough.

We now have to decide- do we stay in this area and let him do the killer commute that eats time and money from an already small pot of it? Do we move to the coast to be close to the new job, once again uprooting our son? Who knows how permanent the job is? But that is a silly question- indeed, the trip of life is filled with no such guarantee.

It's not the coast I would have chosen, and I'm having a hard time searching for good schools and safe homes in an area known more for Spring Break parties. But again, all that research neglects the intangibles, the heart and soul of a place that only reveals itself as you are immersed in it for a time. My son is currently in one of those "10" schools. It's a safe place, a good school. There is certainly nothing wrong with it, and he could get a good education. But it lacks a bit of soul, and I think how ironic that I- a former teacher who spurned the school rating system- have almost bought into the system. There is something to be gleaned from statistics, for sure, but I don't believe that my son's sole (and soul) outcome is based on that dicey numerical assignment. The problem is, however, that it's hard to take a school for a trial drive.

All this thinking has led me back to an interesting conclusion that is both startling and completely obvious. The place that is most "home" to me right now is Tallahassee. Sure, it fits a little snug. There are places where I feel like I've outgrown it. But at the same time, I've sacrificed a lot to hang on to the house we own there. Subconsciously, that is because I felt that it was a safe haven I could return to if I needed it. There are some bitter memories there, for sure- a few snarky co-workers, a very unfair dismissal, a few times that I was taken advantage of that still sting. But so many good memories, and good friends, are still there. Life was simpler there- we lived simply, below our means, and had the time and money to explore and connect.

A few weeks ago, when I was really thinking about this conclusion, I started carefully exploring the possibility of returning. There were a few leads that seemed promising, but "scratch beneath the surface, and it's fool's gold" (thanks, Indigo Girls). And when I say promising, I actually meant for me, my career. I was thinking that perhaps I would jump back in the driver's seat instead of trying to drive from the backseat trunk tied to the front bumper, hehe.

Right now it seems that hubby's offer will dominate. We'll be getting the official offer in the mail this week. And maybe if I went back to Tally, I would find that it doesn't fit as much as I thought, that I've morphed more than I knew.

And then again, maybe... just maybe... maybe it's time to buy that old RV and just take to the roads.

Friday, May 31, 2013

Thought of the Day

As I clean up the house, and get laundry and dishes going, I think once again....

I am really depriving someone who likes to clean of this fabulous opportunity.

No, really. I mean it. hehehe. Stop laughing. I'm serious.

There are people who like to clean. Who make their living from it.

Who am I to rob them of that?

When I start earning substantial money again, I shall stimulate the economy by creating that opportunity to do it.

It's all about spending your time wisely. I need to spend my time on things I excel at, things that enrich me.

And then help someone else find joy and money in cleaning ;)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Little Dash of This and That

Today! Today is the first day of summer!
At least, it is for me, as my LittleMan finished first grade yesterday.

First off, the first lesson of summer is:
Every day may not be fun, but every day can be good.
And really, every day can probably be a little fun.

It's interesting- LM goes to a very high ranked school, and for that I am thankful. It does, though, seem to lack a little soul, a little of the playfulness that makes school fun. There were no ceremonies, no awards to end the year, so it just seemed to fizzle out into summer. And BAM, here it is. Two kids and me, looking at each other in wonder.

This is the first summer that I have been home with my little people. I'm blessed to have a part-time job which I do primarily from home, though I must say that it's difficult to juggle it. I am going to be paying my LM to help evry day with his baby sister. He is a great help, fetching me items and entertaining her when I am on a business call. And she adores him. What I love about LM is he didn't ask for the money- didn't even occur to him. I told him I would give him $1.00 for every day that he helps, and that we would open a savings account for him to put it in. He's so easy going about it, and just does it because it's the right thing to do and he sincerely loves his little sister. Man, I love those kids.

I'm mostly content right now just waiting to see what cards are going to fall on the table in terms of hubby's job (it helps that he has an offer) and where we will be living. Time is marching on quickly, though, and by this time next month we either need to commit to another year on the current lease, or find somewhere else to move. Ah, the "M" word.

I haven't written much lately, and what I have written I haven't chosen to publish. But tonight it's quiet. Little Man is sitting with me at the kitchen table, writing in his own journal and looking at his yearbook, which was shockingly expensive for a little paper elementary view book. But it bothers me that we keep moving and that my son keeps starting over, so I wanted him to have the book in case we do it all again.

I have a little container garden going. In theory, I love gardening, but I don't have much of a green thumb. I look up ideas and try to coax the little greens along, but it's often a wildly unsuccessful endeavor.

Despite that, I had fun trying to play with ingredients tonight. We had brown rice, topped with a really tasty sauce that included:
green onions
basil (garden bounty!)
parsley (garden bounty!)
raw almonds
curry powder
greek yogurt

I didn't take pics, and this is as close as I am getting to a recipe, but it was very, very tasty.

And I must say- I'm loving Cabot Greek Yogurt. I've had a lot of brands and I think hubby bought this on sale, and it's just so thick and versatile. LM was craving dessert, so I have some of the yogurt mixed with a little mashed banana, cinnamon, and a touch of vanilla and honey. It's chilling in the freezer and about to make a debut.

So this is me, breaking my quiet spell and launching the Summer of Mommy.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Take Me Home, Country Roads...

At this time last year, I was at a conference, wondering about the "weird little stomach flu" I picked up. That "flu" is currently sleeping in the crib next to my bed. And I am profoundly grateful for that.

We went back to Tallahassee this weekend. These trips tend to be disorienting for me. How can so many places feel like home? On the surface, it seems like a good problem to have, but it leaves me feeling unsettled. In fact, as I was typing these words, I realized that I recognized this feeling too intimately. After my parents divorced, I spent many years not always knowing where I would spend the night. Dad's house? Mom's house? Maternal grandparents? Step-family's farm? I had a large bag that was packed with a few days worth of clothes and toiletries and that bag was home.

I've always been a bit of a gypsy, and I've always loved to travel. But packing a suitcase to travel is not the same as packing one to float between other people's guest beds or floors and a big part of me longed to make my own home. After two years of dorm living, and a scary old apartment, I bought a home at age 21, anxious to feel centered, rooted. It was cheap, and a bit scary, and more than a little broken, but it was mine.

Only problem is that I shared it with a boy that was also cheap and a little broken and I got to the point that I wanted to leave the home because he was in it. And so I did. I sold it to him and moved to the first floor of a large old home. And it was sunny and sweet. I bought new furniture and plates. And I was given a cat. And then found another. And I would sit on a wooden porch swing on the front porch, and love yet another cat who roamed the neighborhood. I liked that apartment. It was all mine, and I would snuggle to sleep in a canopy bed with a gray cat who would drool on me all night and a little black kitten who was a runt and almost blind.

Things were good until the house was sold to a new landlord. And suddenly, as he made too many bad changes, it was no longer home. Restless in my job, I moved again, this time two hours away. I found myself in a bad job in which I often feared for my life. And while I still think about my sweet rental townhouse there, I didn't stay long.

I moved back into my old home and with the old boy. The house was a wreck, and so was I. But then I got an amazing job and some great friends and my world burst open like a cherry blossom in spring. "Home" was no longer a building, but a city. With each late night in my office watching the sun set over the skyline, with each wine tasting, with each gallery opening, I was cultivating home. My friends were home. My family was home.

And then I got married to that boy. And then he wanted to move to Florida. And I wanted to stay, but I didn't. I left those friends and that job. And I cried, because I lost home again.

And during those first six months in Florida, I cried more. Because although we bought a sweet little house, I didn't feel home. Not in my new city. Not in my new job. Not in my new marriage.

Ironically, it was on our one-year anniversary, when we were "home" for the holidays, that my body became a home for another. And I got a new job. And I got new friends. I explored my new city. And I had a sweet baby. And we spent seven years in the little city, making a life.

But then the boy had to go on internship, and he needed to move. I thought about staying again, but this was to a major metropolitan area. A place of plentiful jobs for the boy after he finished his internship. So I moved. And the first six months were hard, again. But then I got a new job, and I worked real hard, and I got new friends, and we started building a life again. One complete with a pool in the backyard. But then, well, the hubby didn't seem to find any local jobs. And he found a great post-doc far away. And he reminded me that I didn't even like that new city when we first moved there, so why not move again?

And by that time, my body was home to another. I tried to find a way to stay just a bit longer, you see, because there were things that I wanted to finish. I wasn't ready to leave. But I couldn't figure out a way to make it fair to my little boy, and so we moved. To a decent town and a decent house and a decent school for my boy. And now I have a job- it's little, but interesting.

Today my old boss posted an award on Facebook. A prestigious recognition for a project that I spent months putting together before leaving my last home. I didn't get to stay to see it through to the end, but I poured a lot of time and effort into getting it put together. And once again I get to see evidence of my career cut short, my life interrupted. I feel like Sisyphus pushing the boulder, only to find myself having to start over as I get close to the top.

And that "great job" that we moved here for ends this summer. And the promise of a position after has now dissolved. The optimistic outlook of just a few weeks ago for two local jobs for the husband has dissolved, and I'm left to wonder if it's ever going to be possible for me to find a home.

I wasn't going to write this, actually. I just came to post two songs to capture how I am feeling. So I'm going to do that, and try to sleep to dream of home. Wherever that is.

And my anthem:

Monday, January 28, 2013

Good Lord... I think I bore myself...

Not quite, actually.
The title of the post, I mean.
I actually amuse myself too much, enjoy my solitude perhaps to detriment.

What I actually mean is this...
On paper, I am boring. I am unrecognizable.

This isn't, upon reflection, a recent problem.

I decided to strike out a bit this week, to make an effort to jump into some social groups. Not working really, really limits one's social choices. I joined a few groups on Meetup. One is for plus size folks in this area. They seem like a nice diverse group. I can't seem to get to their social events for awhile yet, and most of them are about an hour away (ah, the drawback of a major metropolitan area).

Another is a parent's group. They have a breakfast in a few weeks that I am going to.

In the meantime, I took to good ole' Craigslist to mine the friend field for some nuggets of gold. After all, I was on there anyway trying to sell some small appliances. So I see, in the "Strictly Platonic" section, a woman around my age and around my area. She likes to craft and go thrifting- great, me too!

So, I craft a reply. And as I lay my life out on the screen, I seem so alien. I am someone that I wouldn't have recognized 10 years ago...

Mother of two kids and two cats
Currently a stay-at-home mom

Hanging with my kids!!!
Trying to find a job!!!
Watching episodes of Buffy as I breast-feed!!!

Wow! I'm so boring that I would never friend myself.

There is so much more to me than that. Or, at least, there used to be.

I need to meet that girl again.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

If You Give A Mommy Some Coffee...

She's going to add peppermint mocha creamer.
And then she's going to have lots of energy and forget that she hasn't slept.
So she'll make some appointments and answer some emails.
Then she'll paint a decoration for the nursery.
But when she goes looking for the paint, she'll organize the cabinet.
Then she'll take out the trash.

And if the baby is sleeping,
Then she'll go on Pinterest,
And that's when she's really in trouble.

'Cause she'll decide to try and clean the microfiber couch with alcohol.
It will work pretty well, but then the cats will walk on it with dirty paws.
So she'll do it again.

Then she'll make homemade coconut milk.
And load the dishwasher.
And then grind some flax seed,
because she's feeling inventive with food.
But she'll have to use the dustbuster to clean the cabinet because the flax seed escaped.

And then the baby will wake up.
So she'll sit down with some water and feed her.
Maybe she'll turn on the tv and wonder when Jack McCoy became the DA on Law & Order.

When the baby goes back to sleep, the mommy will be feeling hungry,
so she'll make a strange mixture with the flax seed and other innocent ingredients,
'cause the fridge is bare and she's trying to eat healthier anyway.
Then she'll decide to make a freezer meal. And then another.

She'll want to take a walk, but it will look like it is about to storm,
so she decides to wait and check her email and facebook- real quick.
But the baby is awake again and so the mommy will feed her,
and read about inspirational people on the laptop while nursing.

When the baby seems full, she will play with her on the bed and sing her silly songs.
And then she will put the baby gym next to her and try to get her girl to work on her hand-eye coordination. The mommy will then start to type this, but soon the baby will be indignant at the gym and hungry again, so the mommy will finish and feed her again .

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Tides of Love

It's rather fascinating how you experience love in deeper and deeper stages.
After a few very tough weeks, I'm definitely enjoying my days with my little girl this week, as she sleeps peacefully besides me (for the moment).

I see so much of myself reflected in my little girl, and in profile I can see generations of women in my family. My mom. My aunt. My beloved grandmother whose name my baby girl wears.

The last few weeks have brought challenges- her GERD, with led to much screaming, worrying,and constant painful breastfeeding. My frustration at my marriage. My panic about out financial situation. And just the normal new mother issues of extreme sleep deprivation and loneliness, which is compounded by our recent move and the fact that I haven't yet built a social or support group here.

When I gaze at my sweet little ham hock, I feel such a mighty need to protect her. Already, she needs me more than my little man did. Her dependence on me is much stronger and she is much needier. She needs to feed and be held constantly. That makes the rest of life rather hard to accomplish and it worries me greatly how we'll adjust to my going back to work and the introduction of a new caregiving routine. And yet, it must happen. I have nothing more to give up, nothing more to sell that would allow me to stay an "at-home" mom.

So I'll enjoy our quiet days together now, as I gaze into her blue eyes that hold so many galaxies. I'll kiss the corners of her mouth, and make her smile with her rosebud lips. I'll sing her crazy songs, and listen as she tries to echo me. We'll both overuse our eyebrow muscles as we make faces at the world. I'll wash the little peach fuzz on her head, and get high on the wonderful sweet baby-head-smell. I'll try not to yelp with pain as she feeds for what seems like endless stretches of pain. I'll comfort her as she grunts like a little piggy, burps like an old man, and farts like a band of thieves in a bean soup factory (hey- it's hard to be a gassy little baby!)

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Thought of the Day

I've been thinking a lot about sublimation of self.
In relationships.
In parenting.

Just thinking about it, that's all.