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Thursday, January 31, 2013

My Word of the Year

I was invited to join the Inspiring Moms Network this year.  I know.  I wondered why I was invited to join too.  I don't find myself to be particularly inspiring.  I want to be inspiring.  I hope to be inspiring.  I seriously dream about being an inspiring person.  But for the last few years I actually feel like the opposite of inspiring.  I guess that would be UNinspiring.  So yeah...the invitation was kind of unexpected.  But welcome. 

Because I am sooooooo done being stuck.  I know.  Some of you have heard that before.  And yet, here I am, still struggling with many of the same issues that I have struggled with for most of my life.  My weight, my depression, my lack of self-worth, my financial instability, having to get jobs I hate when I would rather make a living doing something I love...the list goes on and on.  So I say I'm sick of being stuck, but I never really make a serious effort at getting unstuck.  And when I do finally make an effort it is short-lived.  Because I end up getting sick or some other distraction that makes life hard turns up in the middle of my effort to change.  So I quit.  Well, this year I finally realized I need help.  There is too much to sort through for me to do this on my own.  So I turned my face skyward and asked for help.  And then things started happening.  Not big, biblical things like locust plagues on my enemies or manna from heaven.  Little things.  Like Stacey asking me to join the Inspiring Moms Network.

I know.  It seems like a small thing.  But to me it was monumental.  First, it was an answer to my plea for help.  My cries were heard.  My faith ratcheted up about 10 notches.  Second...Stacey took a chance on me.  My self worth ratcheted up about 10 notches.  Then it fell about 8, because the worry voices kicked in and I started to panic.  What if I let her down?  What if my contributions are stupid and uninspiring?  But Stacey?  She is smart.   She knows how to inspire people.  So she gave me a task almost immediately.  She gave me something to focus on besides my fears and worries.  She gave me a way to chart my course.  And that is what I have been missing in my efforts to get unstuck.  A launch pad.  A starting point.  A "You Are Here" pin on my road map of life.   A "My Word of the Year" assignment.

The Word of the Year assignment almost did me in.  Most of you who know me know I write like I talk, which is A LOT!  So ONE WORD for the whole year?  Felt impossible.  I used to love challenges and sometimes I can still rise to the occasion for something worth fighting for, but mostly I just get excited about a cause and then give up because I am tired.  And overwhelmed.  And unclear about why my motivation has abandoned me.  Challenges are hard and require work.  The kind of work I don't always feel like I have the energy for anymore.

But I didn't want to be the first Inspiring Mom to quit, so I put on my big girl panties and took on the assignment.  And I am really glad I did.  Because the struggle I had with myself to figure out what I needed to focus on this year brought me to a better place.  I'm not all better.  I still have all of my issues.  But I feel like I am one step closer to knowing how to overcome those things that hold me back because I had to stop and think about ONE WORD to move me forward.

Stacey was smart (again) and gave us a great tool to use to help identify our word and there is no way I would have been able to get my word choice drilled down to just one without this little beauty from Christine Kane.  This free workbook was the key to my success because it forced me to answer some questions about what I want out of life and how I envision getting those things.  

So initially, I started the worksheet with 2 words:  stability and passion.  As I worked through the questions, I realized that neither of those words felt right to me, although stability is a major issue in my personal and familial life right now, so I was a little confused about why that word didn't feel right.  

And passion, well, I thought it was missing in my life, on many levels.  But I realized that the passion is not necessarily missing, it's that I don't necessarily pursue the things I am passionate about.  And thinking about why I don't pursue those things is how my word came to light.  Everything good that I have ever done in my life happened because I was unafraid to pursue something I felt passionate about.  I was not afraid to to jump in, head first, and MAKE THINGS HAPPEN.  I've traveled the country grooming racehorses all by myself.  I left a good job to go to another country and share my beliefs with the citizenry there. I started my own business and did really well with it for several years.  I competed in a stand-up comedy search on a whim.  All of those things...I did them because I was excited about the challenge!  And I succeeded to some degree in every one of those ventures!  Did I make mistakes?  Hell yeah!  But I DID them!  And the realization that I can do hard things when I believe in what I am doing brought me to the problem that I am dealing with now.  I am full of fear.  

I won't go into all the reasons for the fear right now.  Maybe someday.  The important thing is that I realized that the fear is not serving me or my family very well.  And I realized that the accomplishments I have achieved up until now happened because I was unafraid to pursue them.  And THAT realization is how My Word of the Year materialized.  I KNOW!  FINALLY!  No.  Finally is not the word.  I was just...OK, OKAY!  I'll quit messin' wit y'all!  




That is my word.  I don't want to be afraid anymore.  Fear is an inhibitor when it comes to making progress.  I wanna move forward.  I am intelligent and able to think through options and information to make good decisions about my future and that of my family.  So I need to not be afraid of what I cannot see and start making those decisions with fearlessness as my guiding force.  

BOOM!  There it is people.  I thought it.  I said it.  Now I gotta live it.  And if you wanna share your word of the year?  I'll help you live yours too!    

Friday, January 11, 2013

My Son's Bad Day

We've had a week full of snow and both boys loved it at first.  Big Brother has decided that it looks nicer than it actually is, while Little Man is frustrated that we can't take full advantage of the white stuff by driving to cool places where he can slide down hills and run through huge, open fields where no man has sullied the huge, frozen canvas with footprints or tire tracks.  He doesn't get that the car is not geared for driving on the roads that don't see too many plows.  They say they don't get large amount of snow very often around here.  Which is good because my Arizona tires just slide around and spin and make everyone else on the roads around me frustrated while they watch and wait for me to get some traction so I can get OUT OF THEIR WAY!  But Little Man's a kid.  Why would he worry about driving in the snow?  His job is to play in the snow, my job is the driving part.


As much as Little Man loves the snow, he has some learning to do regarding the navigation and effects of the white stuff.  When I picked him up from school on Tuesday, he walked slowly to the car minus his usual vim and vigor, looking pretty close to tears.  When I asked him what was wrong, he muttered something about being cold and tired.  He hardly ever uses those words.  The kid's a walking furnace.  He puts off enough body heat to roast a chicken. And tired?  This is the child who wakes up at 6 a.m. on weekends so he has more time to play.  

When we got home he walked straight into the house, got into his flannel pajamas and crawled under a fleece blanket on the sofa.  And then he looked up with the most pitiful face I have ever seen and said, "Mom, today was the worst day EVER."  

Okay.  Here we go with the drama.  I love my Little Man, but he tends toward the dramatic when his day doesn't go as he planned.  So...I took the bait:  "Why was today the worst day EVER, bud?"

"Because I thought it was going to be fun and it ended up NOT being fun.  Well it was fun at first.  But then all this bad stuff happened."

By now, I'm starting to wonder just what happened?  Did he get hit?  Was someone picking on him?  What? So I ask, "What do you mean bad stuff, Little Man?"  

"Well, at recess we decided to slide down the hill on our stomachs.  But only two of us had slippery coats, so we let other people sit on our backs while we slid them down the hill on our stomachs.  My last slide, my coat got pulled up and snow went in the top of my pants.  It was cold and it made me feel like I had to pee, so I started running to the bathroom." 

I kind of wanted to laugh at this point.  Only a kid would think it fun to let someone sit on you while you slid down a hill in the snow on your stomach.  To me, that just sounds awkward and painful.  But so far I wasn't hearing anything too disasterous.  Although having to pee when it's cold can be pretty worrisome.  Peeling down pants made wet and cold from snow and exposing your already freezing nether regions to cold air and toilet seats is just not fun.  But certainly this was not the whole reason to label this the "worst day EVER."

"Okay, so did something else happen or was that it?"

"Mom.  I'm trying to tell you, if you will quit interrupting me.  It got WAY worse."

"My bad, son.  Please continue."  (Man he's testy after the worst day EVER!)

"Mom.  I slipped running down the hill and did a face plant and hit my nose and forehead on the ground really hard.  Really hard, Mom.  Then I flipped over like a somersault, but I didn't roll, I just flipped and landed on my back.  And it hurt, Mom.  It hurt my back and my face.  When I got up, my nose was bleeding, so I ran to the bathroom."

Well, I can see where that would constitute a rough day or even a bad day, but worst day EVER? I let him keep going to see if there was really any truth to the "worst day" thing. 

"I was trying to hold my nose so the blood wouldn't get everywhere, so I went in the stall to get some toilet paper.  Somehow my gloves fell in the toilet.  In the toilet, Mom!  Gross!  I shoved some toilet paper in my nose so I could try to get my gloves out of the toilet.  

"Ewwww.  How did you get them out of the toilet?"

"With my hands, Mom.  There wasn't anything else to use!  It was so gross and I was so mad.  I put them in the sink and washed them, but the water was really cold and my hands were freezing and plus I was trying to make my nose stop bleeding.  After I was done washing the gloves and cleaning my bloody nose, I remembered I had to pee.  So I went back in the stall and when I went to unzip my pants they were all wet." 

"Oh buddy, that must have looked bad."

"YEAH, MOM!!  IT DID!!  The snow melted and made it look like I peed the front of my pants!" 

"How come you didn't go to the nurse and call me, Dude?  I would have picked you up and brought you home."

"I don't know, Mom.  The bell rang, so I was just trying to get to class so I wouldn't be late and try to fix my coat so kids couldn't see my pants and laugh at me.  And my nose and back hurt from when I fell.  And my feet were wet and cold and I guess I couldn't think.  Worst day ever."

Wow.  I have to agree.  That was a pretty tough day.  Toilet gloves, bloody nose and wet pants.  Not sure it will be his worst day ever, as he has lots more days to live, but as bad days go, this one was is definitely up there.  Welcome to winter weather, son.


  

Sunday, January 6, 2013

New Year's Eve was a Funeral

New Year's Eve was a funeral.  I don't mean a funeral like I was at a party and it was really dead.  I've been to those kind of parties though and they suck because you don't want to be there, but if you leave the host gets all offended because they know their party sucks and you leaving early just makes them feel worse.  It wasn't that kind of thing.  I mean I literally spent New Year's Eve giving the eulogy at a funeral.  It was my Uncle K's funeral.  He died just before Christmas and my poor aunt waited until New Year's Eve so that we could get through Christmas with our own families and deal with traveling and stuff after the holiday. Christmas was already kind of stressful (hence no Christmas post) because Big Man (the hubby) was out of town looking for work and it was tough to get through the season without him.  It felt weird and incomplete and we all felt kind of lost.

Then my aunt called to tell me Uncle K had died.  And she asked me to do the eulogy. I couldn't say no.  My Aunt K is almost my mom.  She took my sister and I into her home and helped raise us when we needed a safe place to live. She gave us the childhood we needed and had not been given the chance to have until then.  She treated us like her own children and loved us unconditionally.  How could I say no?  I wanted to, though.  Because eulogies are so personal and important and what you say when a person dies to commemorate their life may have a huge impact on the living who are listening to your words, trying to hear anything that might help them find peace or laughter or closure.  It's a lot of pressure to get that right.  To make sure you honor the dead and uplift the living.

How do I know it's pressure?  Because this is the third eulogy I have delivered.  The first one was for my Dad.  He was my dad and there was lots to say about who he was and how he impacted my life and there was never any thought about speaking at his funeral, it just seemed like it was my responsibility and I wanted the opportunity to honor him.  It was amazingly cathartic and I was so glad afterward that my sister and I chose to take on the responsibility, as tough as it was.

The second eulogy I delivered was for my grandmother.  My Aunt K had been her caretaker for several years and asked if I would talk about Grandma G.  My Grandma G was such a wonderful lady and she too did all she could while we were growing up to love us and help us through some very tough times.  I lived with her on two different occasions while I tried to find my path in life and spent many, many nights listening to stories about her life.  She was so tough and funny!  I loved going through all of her pictures and sharing stories about her life while we prepared for her service.  It gave me the opportunity to see her in all of her glory!

So Uncle K was the third.  An honestly, I wasn't in a real great place emotionally (what's new, right?), so when my aunt asked me to speak, I wondered why her kids didn't want to do it.  She went on to answer my question without me asking..."my kids aren't good at expressing themselves and sharing their emotions in public."  Ah. Well...I'm not sure I am either.  And honestly...who IS comfortable giving a eulogy?  Just because I like to talk a lot and don't mind doing it in front of people doesn't mean I have anything of value to say about a person who just died.  But...I would do anything for my aunt, so I said yes.

It was a tough eulogy to prepare.  I'd visited them throughout the years, but I hadn't lived with my aunt and uncle for 35 years. He was a truck driver, so even when I was living there as a girl he wasn't home a lot.  I had a few memories, but not enough for an entire talk!  So I started trying to interview his kids and brothers and sisters.  His kids couldn't seem to talk much.  Which is so opposite of how I process grief and sadness, so I was really struggling with how to talk about their dad without their input.  His younger brother, however,  painted an incredible story about a man I barely knew.  Apparently my uncle had a pretty tough childhood, which explains a lot about why he wasn't very talkative about his life.  I won't go into details, but it was tough and his dad made it tougher. His brother shared  a lot of things about mu uncle's life that even my uncle's kids didn't know about him.  What I really came away with was that Uncle K wasn't a talker. He was a doer.

He didn't tell his kids about driving trucks, he taught them how so they could make a living.  He didn't tell them how to fix cars.  He taught them so they could fix their own.  He didn't say he would be over sometime to help fix the house.  He just went and fixed the house. Almost every person I talked to shared an experience about how my uncle had helped them.  The picture that emerged as I wrote his eulogy was a huge lesson in judging people and assuming that we know people when we really don't.  Honestly, I always thought my uncle was kind of high maintenance, because I really only saw him at home, where he relied on my aunt a lot for his daily needs.  Turns out the person I thought I kind of knew was in actuality a much more giving, loving person that people realized.  He wasn't a touchy, feely, talky guy who walked around saying flattering things he didn't mean.  He served people.  He helped when he was needed.  He was present when he could be - Daddy Daughter events with granddaughters and nieces (me), time spent working on cars or in the shop with his boys or the neighbors, hiking, camping with the family and grandsons.  There weren't a lot of words.  He didn't talk about helping and loving and sharing feelings.  But there were actions.  He willingly gave of his time and talent when he was needed, from the time he was a young boy until his worn out body wouldn't work anymore.  And I think we all needed to know and understand that about a man that some of us thought was kind of quiet and detached, even grumpy at times. 

So I spent New Year's Eve talking about the life of someone who had just died, while pondering the beginning of a new year in my own life. It was an irony that was not lost on me.  At 48 years old, after five years of struggling with our finances and life in general, I am more lost than ever about who I am and how to get my family where we need to be.  I have no life plan anymore.  Our plans have fallen apart.  Our back up plans fell apart.  We have to start over.  I have to start over and I am scared and worried and afraid to take even one more step forward because I cannot handle one more failure.  So I have been taking stock of my life.  And then I got asked to take stock of someone else's life and present the findings in a pleasant way that would honor the way they lived. Karma or blessing? Maybe some of both.

I was surprised at how emotional I was during the talk.  I thought I would be more composed.  I cried more than I wanted to.  Because I was blessed to get a glimpse of who my uncle really was and share that with people who needed to see him in the most positive light possible.  I got to see how someone who rarely got the best life has to offer accepted what he was given and tried to do something good with it.  And I suddenly felt very grateful for the example my uncle had been.  I'm great with the words of love and support, something my uncle didn't always verbalize, but not so great at actually showing up when I can be of service.  I don't want to be the person who offers help and lots of hugs and "I love yous", but never delivers the goods when push comes to shove.  And sometimes when I am asked to sacrifice my time or energy, I complain because it seems inconvenient or hard.  Uncle K never complained.  He just did what needed to be done.  And mostly...I don't want to die and have my kids not feel like they can talk about me at my funeral because they didn't know me well enough to have something to share. Or because they don't like to speak in public.  I want to tell them everyday how much I love and appreciate them and what a blessing they are to me and how incomplete my life would be without them.  I want to tell them how important it is to serve and love others and not judge.  I want to tell them how important it is to be happy and positive, even when it's hard to feel that way.  And then after I tell them, I want to show them.  

I hope one day they will look back and say, "Remember when we spent New Year's Eve at that funeral and mom had to speak?  Boy...Mom really got her crap together after that.  Life got so much better for our family in 2013."