Tuesday, November 20, 2012

First Vacation in 6.5 years - Wyoming

It's true. The last "real" vacation - i.e. longer than a long weekend and without the kids - was March of 2006 when I went to Amsterdam for the first time to see Andy and Fred. I've been on short trips within Texas or work trips in different states, band trips and stuff like that, but nothing like I had the pleasure of doing last month.

Back in July, my birthday weekend to be exact, I was with Allan at his house. We had been dating a month. I was still in the very insecure phase of myself, already loving this man more than I thought possible ever, being all emotional with him and he said, "Remember a couple of weeks ago when I asked you what your vacation was like at work?" to which I replied, "Yes??" That was when he told me he wanted me to go with him on his Elk hunting trip in October. My mind was reeling. Now, we've known each other since we were in 7th grade but we didn't really KNOW each other. But he knew almost immediately, it seems, that he wanted me to go with him on this trip. He had talked about it in the many conversations we would have since that's most of what we have right now - communication in between times together. I was just shocked that he saw us together in October (I know, I am not an optimist when it comes to my relationship record) and that he actually thought we could spend ten days together and survive. Oh, and there was the fact that he was going with his Uncle Richard and Richard's nephew (who ended up not going). So it was basically a guy trip. Plus I knew I would be the only girl that the hunting lodge, which I was fine with but would the other hunters? Would Uncle Richard?

The next three months would prove to be trying for me. He is always as cool as a cucumber but me, I'm the insecure one that let's it all hang out. I could not WAIT for October 25th to get here. We have made a point to see each other every week to ten days, but October was going to be tough because he needed to work a lot to meet his quotas and I had Family Weekend at U of H with Ben. So, we went almost a whole month without seeing each other. This may have made the next ten days better, but I believe it would have been just as wonderful because we just get along so well.

October 25 - Allan gets to my house about 7:30. We have an early bedtime because we need to be at Uncle Richard's by 2:00 - a.m.. Yep, want to be on the road by 3:00 a.m. This man I love has a schedule and we need to stick to it.

October 26 - We get to Uncle Richard's, get all our things situated in the back of Allan's truck - cooler, riffles, duffel bags, suitcase. Once we are ready to go, we are early! 2:45 a.m. and we are heading down the highway towards Casper, Wyoming - the stop for the first night. It was a long, long day. After about six hours in the truck, I realized that we were heading AWAY from the sun. I kept thinking we would see the sun coming up any time, until I saw it behind us. At one point, I did realize it was just getting darker the longer we were driving. But I was with Allan and we were on vacation - I was on vacation. I wasn't going to find anything to complain about. I was going to enjoy every single aspect of this trip. When the sun finally made it's way up into the sky, the beauty around us was mesmerizing. We were going through four states in one day and what lies beyond the Texas boarder is pure beauty. New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming - it just keeps getting more and more beautiful. Our first snow sighting was in Colorado (I believe) when we stopped for lunch at McDonald's. It had been there a few days but it was still snow! Then we got to Wyoming. A new state for me (cross that off the list of visiting all 50 states before I die) and out we went for a picture by the state sign.

It was about 7:30 before we made it to our hotel in Casper, WY. The boys wanted to go out to dinner. I hadn't had a shower since the night before. I just asked for 20 minutes to take a shower and get ready 'cause this girl in the picture there was NOT going into any restaurant looking like she'd been in the car for 16 hours. Plus, this was a good time to prove that I wasn't going to be the one to hold anyone back just because I was a girl. Oh and there was some "bet" going on during the day...the last person to spot a live animal - deer, antelope, buffalo type animal - had to pay for the first round of drinks. I went ahead and gave in right away because I don't spot things like that. Dinner at Red Lobster isn't as cheap as you might think.

October 27 - Up and eat breakfast early so we can get on the road and get to Jackson Hole by the end of the day. We wanted to stop in Cody to visit the Buffalo Bill Museum so on the road we went. There were a few stops for pictures since we drove through an Indian Reservation and again, it was just beautiful everywhere we went. After the museum, we went through Yellowstone National Park. The only problem here was that the roads got to be a bit tricky. It had snowed a couple of days before and the road we needed to take through the park to get to Jackson Hole was mostly covered in packed snow. Luckily, Allan has 4-wheel drive so he said let's go. While he said he would never do that again because it was just too nerve wracking, it was gorgeous AND we saw a Buffalo just walking down the road.

The Hampton Inn in Jackson Hole was amazing and we were all happy that we would get to stay two nights since we were going to have a relaxing day around town the next day and a special dinner for Allan and I that night. It's a sweet little town surrounded by beautiful mountains. I would highly recommend a vacation there if you're looking for a nice place to visit.

October 28 - Sleeping in does a body good. We had a quick breakfast and headed out to see the town. It was Sunday so not everything was open but there was certainly enough open that we were able to do some fun shopping and great picture taking.

My only request for this trip was that Allan and I have dinner alone on Sunday night. He went ahead and found a nice restaurant there in Jackson Hole, planned the whole thing. I love that! He was very excited which made me just as excited. We had dinner at the Snake River Grill in the square there in Jackson Hole. It was beautiful and the food was delicious!

The next day was going to be the biggest part of the vacation. New day. New state. That requires a whole new blog, too.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Not Playing "the favorite child" game

This is my very favorite picture (to date) of my family. I heart them!
People say to me quite a bit, "You know you have a favorite child. Every parent does. I don't care what they say." I do have four children but I honestly can tell you that I don't feel that I favor one over the others. They may tell you differently, and if that's the case, I need to talk to them. I have always tried to see them all as individuals. None of them are the same at all. I don't even see them looking alike or favoring their dad or myself. I literally look at them and see individual people. I always have. The boys looked a lot alike as babies so thankfully they weren't all babies at the same time. I do have a hard time with the baby pictures, I admit that much.

Yesterday, as I'm sitting on the couch reiterating to my youngest why it's important to try your best in ALL subjects, not just the ones you like, he says something about his brother being a "prodigy". Yes, this is my youngest child, almost 14, who has always had a large vocabulary. I immediately went into defense mode because I never want any of them to feel like they have to "live up to" a sibling. I explained to him that they each have a special gift. The example I gave was "Ben couldn't draw a stick figure to save his life (he probably could but I was making a point) but he can play the trombone like no ones business. Alyssa can draw the most incredible things by hand, but couldn't begin play an instrument the way Ben does." Then I said how talented Michael is both in music AND art, which then led to the question, "what is my talent?"

This child I'm conversing with is one of those kids that you have a hard time pin pointing one specific talent. He has the most amazing personality and social skills, much better than my other kids. Is that a talent or a gift or what? I don't like labels so much but he seemed to need me to put a label on him. That's his label. He is so smart in the area of science and his personality is out of this world. I mean, I have gotten two phone calls from two different teachers this school year about what a great kid Jonathan is and how much they enjoy having him in their class. These are the two classes he is doing the best in, but still. Oh, and he has a 94 in Science for the first 6 weeks - just sayin.

That's not to say my other kids aren't smart or funny. They all are in their own way. (I feel like I'm digging a hole here....) My point is, not making your kids feel like you like one of them over the others is really difficult. Only have one kid so you don't have to worry about this!!

Not really. I love the fact that I had four kids. They have all been, and continue to be, such amazing human beings. My greatest pleasure has been to watch them grow up into adults, making their way through life, figuring out all the stuff we've all had to figure out along the way. I've had challenges with each one of them, but nothing they have done or could do would make me love them any less. If I thought you were interested, I would list out everything each of them has done that's incredible but I don't have the time or space here so I won't. I just wanted to say on this public forum, how incredibly proud I am of my kids. I don't have a favorite, really. I have a special, unique and different relationship with each of them - individually.

(I guess when I am old and dying I might have a favorite, depending on which on steps up to the plate to take care of Mommy Dearest!)
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Sunday, October 7, 2012

The Story of "Donna the Bear"

This is Donna the Bear. I've had her since I was probably 8 years old. I didn't get her when she was brand new. You might find it interesting how she became mine.

Growing up, we lived in a middle class neighborhood. My dad was a dentist. Our neighbors had various occupations - policeman, car salesman, airline employee, corporate something or other, but it was the family who lived across the street and one house to the left of ours that was "the mean neighbor".

Mr. Cole worked for General Dynamics. He and his wife had one daughter and we all knew she was spoiled. She was very girly and much older than the rest of the kids in the neighborhood. One day she moved out and went to college. The day her parents cleaned out her room and threw out all of her childhood toys was like Christmas for the rest of us. I'll never forget seeing the huge (in my 8 year old mind) pile of "trash" at the curb. There were so many toys. It was an incredible sight.

It was a boring Saturday, so we all sat across the street staring at the "trash". I'm pretty sure the law was the same then as it is now, "Once you put something out for trash, it's fair game", right? Therefore, we were figuring out what we were gonna take from the trash. Of course, as if on cue, Mr. Cole came out of his house and yelled at us, "Don't even think of taking anything from there!" As if we weren't scared enough, that just made this plan scarier. Once we had all staked our claim on what were were taking, we would make a run for it. Now, I didn't know Donna was a bear. Actually, I thought she was a poodle because just her legs were sticking out of the box and there was a lot of stuff around her. On the count of three, we made a run for it, grabbed our "treasure" and ran into our own houses.

Donna sat on my bed and became my "baby". My mom let me buy clothes for her from a garage sale. To this day she wears the same jumper I bought and its about a size 2T, if you wanted to know. She lost an eye and part of her nose when I was about 18 and got my first dog. I was horrified but would never consider throwing her away. It's just that now I don't really know what to do with her. One thing I can just about guarantee - I'm the only one that still has what they took from the pile that day.

I think I saved her to pass down to my kids but I had three boys who would never take her and a girl who doesn't have any interest in my memory, not that I blame her. Now it's just a good story to tell. It's not like she really takes up room. She lies on some boxes in the back of my closet. No one would know she's there unless I pulled her out. I have a few things like this from when I was young - ok more than a few. I'm trying to go through this stuff and decide what's really important to me. I'm sending anything ex husband related home with my daughter for her to decide what to do with. I only have it because she made a request nine years ago that I not throw anything away that had to do with my marriage. I did the same with my mom, but I was 23 when they got divorced. Everything else I have was from my kids and will go to them soon or from my parents or grandparents.
Clearing out one item at a time, but for now, I think Donna will keep her place in the back of my closet. For now.
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Thursday, October 4, 2012

Alternative Cuss Words

This morning, as I was waiting for Jonathan to get ready for school, we got into an interesting conversation about cussing. I think I said, "Shozbot" instead of "the S word" and he laughed. Then he says, "I'm not old enough to cuss yet", which caused me to correct him and say, "It's really never ok to cuss, even when you feel like it. It just makes you look dumb, like you aren't smart enough to come up with a better word to say when you're angry or upset."
Now, for my friends reading this - I know I am the LAST person to say no one should cuss. I cuss a lot, which just makes me look stupid. Yes, I know that. I have recently decided that I wanted to work on my language. I don't want to look stupid, ignorant, whatever you want to call it. I need alternatives. Why? Because I get upset and there's such a relief when you say a word that starts with an F or an S that helps release the frustrations. I wonder why that is? Anyway, Jonathan and I started saying phrases or words that were good for getting the frustration out but that didn't offend anyone within ear shot.
Thinking this was fun/funny, I posted about it on Facebook and got some great suggestions from a couple of friends, James M and Ginger H. Then a request for a list...so here it is.

1. Shozbot
2. Lint Licker
3. Frickin' frackin'
4. Shut the front door
5. Franklin Delanor (haha)
6. You son of a salad eater
7. Sugar
8. Oh snap!

I want to add to this list, so I will be listening intently to anyone around me that cusses without cussing.
This leads me to a thought I had. As I was typing this blog, I thought about growing up in the Baptist church and my Sunday school teacher saying, "Thinking the cuss word or saying something close to it is just as bad as saying it." Disagree! I mean, really. We all get frustrated and need to let that out, so why take away ANY form of release? Personally, I'd rather be caught saying "Shozbot" that S&*(^%&, wouldn't you?
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Friday, September 28, 2012

How About You Mind Your Own Business

This whole Facebook thing has kinda gotten to me as it does during every election year. I thought Facebook was a social media place to reconnect with friends and kinda get an inside view into each other's lives, kids, family, fun stuff and humorous stuff. For me, it's been a place to brag about my kids and post things that I thought were funny. Have I had people "unfriend" me for no reason that I could think of? Sure. Do I care? No, because I "unfriend" people too. I just don't go so far as to tell them why. It's probably because they are too religious or political or just plain irritating to me. And if they are a good friend, heck, I just hide their profile and go directly to it if I wanna see what's been going on.

There are those self-righteous people who think someone really cares that they are about to "unfriend" you, so they send you a private message just before hitting the fateful "unfriend" button. I've never actually had that happen, except with guys I dated or whatnot....until tonight. Yes, it did chap me (shocking) and I did try to just blow it off, but that never works all that well for me. I've removed the name to spare this person her identity, but here was the exchange:

The no-longer friend

Pretty shocked that you would post something with such vulgar language. You may want to re-think that. I have told my kids that is unacceptable to have friends that post things like that. Unsubscribing from you today. I really hope you re-think your posts. Take Care.


My response


You could have just as easily unfriended me and gone on your merry little way and it would have taken me months to figure out you weren't my "friend" anymore. But apparently there's some self-righteous Christian inside you that felt this judgmental need to call me out on MY post on MY Facebook. Last time I checked, that was MY name, which gives ME the right to post whatever I want. You don't know me or my kids or how my family works. You've never taken the time to know what we've been through but I'm pretty sure it's NOTHING like your perfect little marriage with your perfect little children in your perfect little house in your perfect little life. So better that you don't have to tolerate my humor anymore. I'd rather not have "friends" who are going to cast judgement and tell me I should "re-think" a post when they can't bother to congratulate me and be happy for me when I say something nice or uplifting. As I'm sure my humor made you think differently of me, your chastisement of me has made me think differently of you. So-take care.....

This is what I posted in case you missed it the first time...

So, let me make this clear. This picture was sent to me through text from a really good friend who gets my humor. I thought it was hilarious as did many of my friends on Facebook. If you found it offensive, um, sorry?? I guess? I don't know. From the few responses I get to things I post, I just didn't really think that many of my "friends" paid attention to what I said. I don't post as much as I used to just because I like to make my posts interesting or funny. If you wanna "unfriend" me, go ahead. I won't be offended. We probably didn't have a meaningful friendship to begin with. If you think I'm a bad parent for posting things like this, you can go suck it. But one thing is for sure, don't bother chastising me. I'm a 45 year old woman who just doesn't care what other people think. (Unless you are my child or my boyfriend and at that, I know they would just tell me to my face.) 

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Thursday, September 27, 2012

Can't you find someone closer?

I went to lunch with a coworker yesterday and, of course, the conversation turned to my long distance relationship. I was telling her about my weekend plans. I'll be driving there tomorrow, taking the afternoon off so I can get there when he gets home from work. Then we are going to watch his son march at the high school football game that is an hour and a half, at least, from his house because that's how they do it when you are a rural high school. Saturday he has to work, which means he will be gone all day because he works 45 minutes away. I'll be getting my craft on as well as finish up the book I'm reading. Lucky for us, he's off Sunday.

This is the point where I get the usual, "He needs to find a Monday through Friday, 8-5 job" or  the best, "Can't you find someone closer?" Well, yes, the job hours could be better but it's what he does and he isn't really a behind the desk kind of guy. I'm fortunate to have a very flexible job that makes it possible for me to be there when he can't be here. The distance thing, though? Not an issue with us right now. Can I find someone closer? Um, no and nor do I want to. I've dated PLENTY of men in the DFW area, enough to know that this relationship is totally worth the drive, the distance, the time spent on the phone and texting and getting to know each other. It's not going to be this way forever, trust me.

It's very much in me to want to launch into a conversation about dating. Not just dating, but dating in your mid-30's and beyond, dating after divorce and kids, and well, just dating. It's a phenomenon to me actually. It's hard enough when you're in high school and college and pretty much have a pool of people to chose from. When you are working and raising kids, it's much more difficult, especially if you are against dating a coworker (NO! I will not do that!). Now they have these "great" dating websites that statistically show to be working for a few people. They didn't work for me. I wasn't willing to do the bar scene and I didn't have friends who had decent single friends. My friends were either married or their friends weren't my type....or I wasn't theirs.

If I've learned anything in my late-in-life dating experience....well there are a few things.

1) Don't count anyone out.
2) Have a very short list of deal breakers.
3) Make sure you stay open to any possibile situation.
4) Go out as much as you can or as little as you want, but go out.
5) But, before any of that, make sure you are happy with you. Be able to be alone and see your future with just you and if you end up having someone else along side you, that's just purely a bonus.

No one is going to be happy with you until you are happy with yourself. And that goes both ways. I honestly believe that, until you like you, are ok with spending a weekend alone or being the "third wheel" with your favorite couple-friends, you aren't any good for that person that you want to end up with.

And if you're lucky enough, you will end up with the best friend and partner that you always knew you wanted....just like me.

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Monday, September 24, 2012

College Stresses

Turner Falls, Oklahoma - 2004
When I was young and in my early 20's just poppin' those babies out like no one's business, there were a lot of things I never even considered. One of them was college. I got loans on my own and went to college. I guess I just assumed that, if my kids wanted to go to college, they would do the same. Their father never went to college and, in fact, thinks it's useless and stupid. After all, he owns his own company and makes the "big bucks" with no college degree. We should all follow his lead, right? Even if you want to be an Interior Designer or Music Teacher. Sure.....ugh.

My oldest child has, at this point, chosen not to go to college. In fact, I believe this is his last week as a waiter at Red Robin. He will begin cleaning buildings for his dad's company. He's been cleaning one very close to our house to pay off the car his dad bought him this summer after he totaled the car he was given after my aunt passed away. I suppose he thinks the money is good and the work isn't that hard. Two true statements. I should be thankful that he's made that choice except that he's going to be around his dad more and that isn't always a good thing. People's personalities can rub off on you, especially when it's your parent.

My middle two kids are both in college and it's been a bit stressful. My daughter is going on grants and working and my middle son is going on scholarships and help from his dad. He's got some students lined up to teach, which is amazing to me since he's only a freshman in college, but he is good and will be a great teacher. I can't do much, provide money for food or send groceries home, but I can't help with big money. And I get sad about that. I want to but I just can't. My son thinks he will be able to go through college and not have to have student loans at the end. Well, good luck with that! I don't think it's possible but he does so more power to him. My daughter needs more student loans because she feels the need to be out on her own. I told her this weekend she can come home and sleep on my couch and commute. She didn't like that answer very well.

Waking up at 3:15 this morning from weird dreams and guilt because I can't help my kids is now how I would prefer my life to be right now. I have always been the comforting parent but I have come to realize that I can't put my own stuff on hold just so they can get support for college. I did it on my own and so can they. I just have to make it seem like the bottom isn't going to fall out and that it's possible. Don't drop out is what I tell them. I believe in college whole-heartedly and for both of them, their major is something they've had a passion for since they were in 7th grade. I completely support their choices. Emotional support is what I have now. The financial part will work itself out. That's what I keep telling them and myself. It will

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just to Clarify.....

Me and Z, 12/2011
As I do, I question things that I write. I wonder what people actually read. Do they read what I really wrote or do they read between the lines and wonder what I really meant by that? Probably both because that's what I do when I go back and read what I write. Occasionally I will make changes just to clarify those unanswered questions in everyone's (my) head.

My blog post on 9/12/12 was about my internal celebration of the anniversary of my own personal Independence Day. I didn't mean to come across like I need a man in my life to be whole or fulfilled. That is really just a side note to who I am today. I wanted to celebrate and encourage not loosing yourself in a marriage/relationship. I wanted whoever reads my ramblings to know that there is hope when you feel like you can't go on anymore. You just have to dig DEEP down inside, sometimes almost to your toes, but you WILL find the strength to succeed if you focus on the end goal. Mine has taken nine years so far, but I believe it will take a lifetime. I don't ever want to stop growing. Always keep learning and improving yourself.

I believe that we all want to be loved for who we are and not what we can do for someone. No one REALLY WANTS to grow old alone. We all have our childhood traumas and neglect that we have to overcome. Ok, maybe you are one of the lucky ones who had great parents that had a great and perfect marriage and you came away without any scars or battle wounds that you have to get over. Good for you. I think you are the .10% of the human race so be happy for yourself. That isn't the norm.

One Jan. 1 of this year, I declared that I was going to stop dating. Since I started having boyfriends, probably 8th grade, I would guess I've never gone more than six months without a date or guy/boyfriend in my life in some fashion. So when, at 44 years old, I went a full six months without a date, that was huge for me. And probably the best new year's resolution I'd ever made. I had also just gotten a dog, which TOTALLY helped the loneliness that I would feel when the kids were gone and it was just me alone in my apartment - reflecting. I had this precious little dog who looked to me like I was his everything - because I was. I spent those months thinking about the horrid experiences I'd had with men my whole life, the mistakes I'd made,the behaviors I'd allowed from men and what I truly wanted if I was to ever be in a relationship again.

My thoughts were such that I had sort of written off ever actually being in a relationship again because I wasn't convinced there was someone out there that I could tolerate, honestly. It wasn't so much that I wasn't sure there was someone out there who would tolerate me. I hadn't really had that problem. It was finding that guy that "got me", that guy that just genuinely LIKED me, that guy that wasn't an annoying jerk or needy girly guy or such a judgemental Christian that it caused me to feel like I wanted to run screaming down the street while pulling massive amounts of hair out of my head. I wasn't sure he existed so I would say, "I am destined to be eternally single" and honestly, I had gotten really ok with that. I saw too many people in really crappy relationships just because they didn't want to be alone. I'd been there, done that. Wasn't going to do that EVER again.

Here I sit today, with three adult children on their own or in college and one teenager still at home, in a really great place emotionally, physically (getting there), and just genuinely happy with life and thinking about my future. My heart aches for friends I have that are just now starting their new life process. I hope that on some small level, I can be a beacon in the night on their journey, a symbol of hope and promise that this will get better as long as you make the choice to make it better!
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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

So as not to offend my family.....

I am writing a blog post instead of a Facebook status update.

Today marks a special day for me. I'm not sure everyone sees it this way, but for me, it's a pretty big day. Nine years ago today, I filed for divorce from the man I was with for 20 years, the father of my four children.

This decision was many, many years in the making. I won't go into the details. If you want those you can go to my other blog and read about it. Just know that it was a decision I did not come to lightly. It had been obvious for many years that neither of us were happy and there were other people in the marriage, but that wasn't the final straw for me. The final straw was when, after contemplating suicide and going through an intense outpatient program recommended by our marriage counselor, I realized this situation I was in was never going to change. I wanted to live for my children and if the only way to do that was to be divorced and struggle to regain a career and a life path, that was what I was going to do. I knew I was strong enough, I just didn't realize how truly strong I was then - and still am.

So, what have I been doing for the last nine years, you ask? Well, not remarrying for one. Dating a heck of a lot and finding out who I am deep down inside. It has taken me every bit of the last nine years to find that person that I was before I got so wrapped up in boys and needing to fill the void of attention I wasn't getting from my father and the loss of my granddaddy. Good news! I found her and she is just as funny and sarcastic and honest and, at times, sad, just like she was when we last spoke. I am happy to say I am in a relationship for the first time in my life that fulfills me but doesn't make me feel desperate or needy or used or abused.

When I realized what today was, I got all giddy inside. Crazy that I remember the exact date? Not to me. I do that with a lot of dates, but especially when it's a true date to remember. A day that I stood up for myself and declared that I was going to break away from the abuse and destruction of a marriage that didn't need to exist any longer. A day that I knew would affect more people than just me and him. I had four children to think about and think about them I did. I knew that I didn't want them to grow up around what they were experiencing at the time. I wanted to be strong for them and I couldn't do that as long as I was married to their father. Not a lot of people really understood that. I lost pretty much all my friends and some family members, but I was ok with that. I am alive and so much better for my kids now than I was back then. I hope they would say the same. To this day, I honestly believe, as hard as it's been on them at times, we are all better off for the decision that I, alone, made nine years ago.

For all those people, men and women, who are contemplating divorce, going through a divorce, or just in a difficult relationship, I won't tell you that my life has been easy because it hasn't. Far from it. I have not and would not recommend divorce to just anyone. There is a lot to consider before you just go all willy nilly and file to end a marrige. I've seen many people go through it just because they are unhappy, yet no abuse or infidelity is going on, and then they truly regret it later. I will say that I would have done things differently if I had it to do over again. This is not regret, just those "knowing now what I wish I knew then" kinda things. But, I don't have it to do over again so I just say, lessons learned from doing things the hard way and hopefully, I have helped people along the way to go about their divorces and breakups a little bit easier.

To those people who judge me, made assumptions and believed a load of lies, just know that my life is good, God is good, I am happy and I hope you are, too! Don't judge someone until you've walked in their shoes. There are three sides to every story. Celebrate EVERY LITTLE THING!
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Last Four Months

Wow! So it's been a while since I've written anything. I've thought about a LOT and a lot has been happening. I just haven't had the time or motivation to write any of it down. Let's see how good my memory is....this could be a very long blog.

Since April, I've had my third child graduate from high school, met an amazing man (well more like a reconnection, but he's still amazing), turned the big 45 and sent said graduated child off to college. It has been a crazy four months and so much to tell. I'll start with Ben's graduation. He graduated on May 26 and turned 18 the very next day. All went well, meaning nothing out of the ordinary happened. He did graduate as an IB candidate and did end up passing all the tests to get the IB diploma. That helped a lot with his scholarships and classes that he now doesn't have to take in college. He's going to the University of Houston as a Music Education major.

The music students had to move into the dorms a week before everyone else. That was a very long, but enjoyable day. We, as in Ben, April (his girlfriend), Jonathan and that amazing man I mention, drove Ben to Houston and got him all moved in to Moody Towers where he will be living for the next year. It was a quiet move in compared to the move in we had with Alyssa last year. It was also a quick trip, which April wasn't really prepared for. But we will be going back on October 12th for Parent Weekend. So far, he seems to be settled in and started classes yesterday.

Quick overview of this amazing guy....we've known each other since 7th grade, friends on Facebook (of course) and have a mutual friend who wanted to play matchmaker with us. We've both been a bit unlucky with relationships but have fun flirting online. She saw an opportunity and I must say, she was pretty spot on. She set up a party at her house on June 23rd and he came in town for the weekend. He lives in Cuthand, Texas (aka middle of nowhere) so he would be staying the weekend at her house. The next day, she had tickets to a Rangers game for the four of us. He had no clue she was matchmaking but I did, which is how I preferred it. This way, if he wasn't interested, no harm, no foul and I could go on my merry way being single for all of eternity liked I've vowed in January. Well, as fate would have it, we kinda hit it off really well and the rest is history. For the first time in my life, I think, I've been dating a man for two months and there is nothing about him that makes me want to pull my hair out. Even the fact that he lives two and a half hours away is a bonus right now. The lengths we will go to so that we can see each other about once a week are incredibly reassuring. There is a hunting trip planned for October that he's invited me to go on. If we can survive 10 days together, I'm pretty sure we've got this thing in the bag.

So, on July 27th, I turned 45. I have to say I really like being 45. Is it that I am in a really awesome place in my life? Probably. But I also know I don't look my age and I don't feel my age. I feel amazing, loosing weight and being content with my life. There is a lot to be said for just accepting the path you've been given and walking it in faith that God really knows what He's doing. That's not something I've ever really doubted but my patience has been very lacking - until now, and it feels really, really good. What did I do for my big birthday? My team at work took me to lunch. Then, I got my sweet Z dog and drove to the country for the weekend. My sweet man took me to dinner (after a little bit of a harrowing ordeal getting there) and then I was with him, in the quiet of the country. I can't think of any other way I would have rather spent my birthday.

I've also learned a lot of wisdom this year:
  • Pick and choose your battles.
  • Accept who you are, changing only those things you are responsible for changing.
  • Enjoy when your kids turn 18 and you can let them go and learn things the hard way.
  • A dog will always make things better and is probably the best therapy there is going.
  • Country boys make amazing gentlemen.
  • Living 30 minutes from the nearest grocery store may not be all that bad! 
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Monday, April 30, 2012

Pen Pals for 36 years

From our first meeting in 1980 to our most recent visit in 2012.

When I was in 3rd grade, my teacher had some big books sitting on one of the tables in the back of the classroom. She told us that, if we wanted, we could look through them and pick out a teacher, write her a letter, and she would give it to one of the kids in her classroom and we could have a pen pal. My mom had a pen pal that she kept up with for a very long time. I wanted a pen pal. With two brothers and a handful of friends, I wanted a pen pal. It was an intriguing thought. So I picked a teacher in Maryland and wrote her a letter about me. I think I picked Maryland because it wasn't one of those states that we didn't really talked much about in school. It was small and up north. Intriguing.

A few weeks after I wrote my letter, I got a letter back. The girl who wrote me was Sue Ellen Rowland from Silver Spring, Maryland. She was also in the 3rd grade and her birthday was August 5, 1967. We were only 9 days apart in age. I was older than her, which wasn't very common for me since my birthday was late July (the 27th to be exact). She also had two older brothers and her parents were older - even older than my parents which was also unusual. My friend's parents all seemed to be way younger than mine.

We wrote back and forth on a fairly consistent weekly/bi-weekly basis. I don't remember the first time we talked on the phone but I'm sure it was full of excitement to hear each other's voice after many months of writing. You have to remember that, back then, you didn't just pick up the phone and call just anyone. We couldn't even call our grandparents in Dallas without it costing money until they came out with the metro line that cost a little more but would allow you to call from Hurst to Dallas for one flat fee. So from that first phone call came more phone calls and finally we would get to meet face to face.

Somehow, my parents agreed that my mom and I would fly to Maryland, stay with Sue and her family, I would go to school with Sue for two days and then go to Washington DC to see the sites. I remember that mom and I had matching outfits for the trip - nice pants and a blouse with heels to boot! It was so exciting and, come to think about it, probably my first flight on a commercial airline. My dad flew single and twin engine planes that I was used to. This was big time.

I remember a few main things from that trip. First, her house had a basement and an upstairs. You enter the house on the second floor. My house was one level....but we lived in Texas and she didn't. Then there was the days I went to school with her. It was my spring break but I was all too happy to be with her and see what her school day was like. I got asked to talk a LOT because of my accent. It brought the attention to me and that was perfectly fine - just the way I liked it. Then there were her brothers. They were even older than my brothers and kept to themselves just like my brothers would have. Her mother was so sweet and her dad was very nice yet stoic.

Amazingly we never stopped writing all through school an beyond for many years. There would be four more trips - her high school graduation in 1984 (she took all her junior classes during the summer and graduated a year early), my high school graduation in 1985, her college graduation in 1988 and my wedding in 1989. There would be marriages, kids, a couple of divorces, another marriage, more kids and all that, but yet we still kept in contact. There weren't too many phone calls and it would soon boil down to baby announcements and Christmas cards, but we never lost contact. I've only had this type of relationship with one other woman who was not related to me. I feel extremely blessed.

Then comes the announcement from work that our yearly team meeting would be held in Washington DC. This was what I had been hoping and praying for. It was pretty certain that it would be in Dallas or DC this year. Dallas would be fine but DC would mean I had a much better opportunity to reconnect with Sue. As soon as I knew the date of the meeting, I sent her an email. It had been quite a while, years maybe, since we had really talked sans the Christmas card and Facebook. My heart leaped when she emailed me back. She wanted to see me and was just as excited to see me as I was to see her. We exchanged several more emails with me not making any specific plans because I just wanted it to be a relax meeting. I didn't want to have "plans". I wanted to just go with it and not be under any pressure.

I flew into DC late Friday, April 20. I still haven't called although I have her number. I'm nervous. The little evil devil on my shoulder is telling me she doesn't really want to see me, she's just saying that. I become this little girl who doesn't think anyone likes her. Where is this coming from?? The next morning I get up and get ready realizing we hadn't really set a time to meet and they have at least an hours drive from their home in Maryland. I finally decide to just call at 9:00 am. She answers and I start babbling about how I'm here, ready, not sure what their schedule is but whenever they can come in.....and there's silence. She says, "Oh, that was today? I was thinking it was next weekend." My heart sinks (and I find out later so did hers).

"It's ok. I'm here tomorrow with no specific plans then either. Whatever you have to do just do it. Let me know about tomorrow." "No, I have staff that can man the booth at the dog fair." (They own a Dogtopia in Clarksville, MD, by the way. Go visit if you are in the area!) She asks me to give her an hour and she will call me back. I try so hard to think positive. I want to kick myself for not following up more, for not calling before I left Texas. This was my fault. She has given me no reason at all to doubt that she wants to come see me. What in the world is going on with my self-esteem!! Sure enough, she calls back, says they have to drop off something at the house and then will be on their way. YAY!! She, her husband Ron and 9 year old daughter Samantha are on their way. I couldn't be more excited!!

When she text me to let me know they are down the street I literally run downstairs and stand outside the hotel like a kid waiting on Santa. There they come down the street and turn into the hotel drive. I see her unbuckle her seat belt and she gets out of the car. We hug like it's been....well, 23 years, and just laugh and say how good each other looks. Then I'm in the car, back seat with Samantha, and off we go. It's like I'm with friends I hang out with every day. There isn't one ounce of uncomfortable. Not one. Her husband is GREAT! I tell her later how lucky she is. He is patient and attentive and loving and a very involved dad. She agrees that she got lucky with him.

She comes back the next day and we go to the Newseum. It's spent mostly talking and walking around and occasionally reading the stuff we both paid $18 to see. It's raining outside so this is truly the best place to be. When they close we head back to the hotel and sit in the lobby for another two hours just talking and catching up. There is so much to talk about, so much to say and plans to be made for next year. I want to come back and spend time at their house, in their city with them. She tells me what happened Saturday morning...how she couldn't believe she had the date wrong, how she got to work and talked to the girl that was supposed to help who also had her days mixed up, how she went to her office and cried, how she would have dropped any and everything to come see me....nothing was going to keep her from seeing me. How special did I feel at that very moment? I felt the same about seeing her but for her to want to see me as bad, it was wonderful.

I've had several friends tell me how much they love our story and love how we've been friends from different states for so long and still keep in touch. It's true. It's a great story about great friends who are always friends no matter the distance.

Me and the Dietrichs at the Capital

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Friday, February 3, 2012

Politics and Religion Do Not Mix

Today I "liked" a page on Facebook. I have my account set to not show on my wall when I make these actions. Somehow, this one showed up, I assume, in the little ticket thing on the right side of the page, who knows. I had two friend who commented on the link "Signed the Weapons Systems Acquisition Reform Act to stop fraud and wasteful spending in the defense..." I suddenly felt drawn to reply the best I could as I am not a very political person but am working towards being more aware.

When I initially posted this blog I had my response and a bit of a rant. Funny how that all vanished when I posted the blog. Now I can't find my response but I know the basics of what I said back to my friends. One of them is very right wing religious guy and the other is a very liberal woman. I went to high school with both of them. Interesting to have these conversations now that we are older.

The reason I even found the link or have the above picture is because I asked my brother to help me sort out the presidential election this year. I have been able to vote since Ronald Regan ran for President and have never thought past Republican until last election. I knew there needed to be a major change. I wanted a major change. And for me, I feel like that's what I've gotten. I have benefited in more than one way from Obama being President of the United States for three years. Let me tell you how:

When I divorced my husband in 2003, I was making $8.25 an hour at a very part time job. I had not pursued a career or finished college because I was popping babies out with no way to take care of them except for me to become a stay-at-home mom. As they got older I was able to work as a teacher at their preschool and later the home school school after I put them in public school. My dilemma was now finding a full-time job that would support me and the kids. While I was securing said job, I had to go on food stamps. I wasn't proud of it and I truly hated going down to the Texas Health and Human Services offices every month or two to show that I was still poor enough to need their help. At the same time, I was so grateful to have this program. It made life a little easier knowing they wouldn't go hungry.

Later on, after I worked my way up the corporate ladder and was able to get off food stamps, I didn't really think much about any government programs. That was until my oldest son graduated from high school and didn't go to college. This also meant that he wouldn't have health insurance. Now, honestly, for most of his early childhood we didn't have health insurance consistently. There was the CHIPS program with the state but his father was self-employed. There is no health insurance when you have to pay for it yourself. So, when Obama passed the health care bill, I was on board. This meant that he would again have health insurance. I had to be the health care provider for the children still remaining on child support and with my company you can have yourself and children with no limit. Four kids cost the same as two. He, said oldest child/son, had to have hernia surgery on January 3, 2012. If we had not had this Obama health care option, he wouldn't have been able to have the surgery. Therefore, at whatever cost, I do not want to loose the health care bill. It affects me in a positive way.

Then there are the Pell Grants that my daughter was able to secure. She is making it through her first year of college with only having to take out a $2000 student loan. That was necessarily only because they, the school and the government, wanted to see that she is serious about college, making good grades and not dropping classes or dropping out. If we as a country elect a Republican president, I am very concerned that my children will not have the opportunity to have their college paid for. I wasn't able to go to college without racking up a huge student loan bill that I am still paying for 25 years later. I don't want that for my children. I believe that they should have what they have worked so hard for through high school. Good grades and ambition should be rewarded. I work very hard but don't make all that much. If that gets them student loans then great. I am all for it.

My theory is that, if it doesn't affect you then it doesn't matter to you. But some of you who read my blog know me very well. Does it matter at all that there are major things that could change and drastically affect MY family? I bet there are other people you know who would also suffer. This is an all for me and me for me world we live in. All I'm saying is think about THE FACTS! Not some crap someone spouts because they think they know what they are talking about. I want facts. Period. I want my three older children, who coincidentally enough are all able to vote for the first time this November, to understand how their vote can affect them. I want them to know the facts and to really consider who they are voting for. Don't just vote like your parents because they will be upset with you if you vote for "the other party.

This is hopefully my only political rant. We will see what happens closer to or after the election in November.

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Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Still Single After Eight Years

Me at a cooking class, still the flirt.

I've been doing quite a bit of thinking the last month or so. December of 2011 made 8 years since my divorce was finalized and I was officially a single woman again. Only this time, I had four children that I was responsible for raising into decent adults. That didn't seem like such a huge job to me because I was born to be a mom and I was very confident in that part of the life ahead of me. It was the "am I going to be alone forever" part that I think scared me just a little.

Looking back at that time in my life and where I am now, I am absolutely amazed at how I was able to come through some truly rough patches and be standing up straight and sane. Ok, the sane part some may disagree with, but I do walk with my head held high. Very proud of all of my children, my job and where my life is headed. I've been asked many times how I do it. For me, that's an easy question to answer. I just do. I don't have a choice not to so what's the point in even thinking about failure.

For fear of getting "preachy" I will say that my faith in God has been the rock in getting through being a single mom, making $8.25 an hour for a few years, trying to get a better job and making sure my kids had all the necessities. I have never spoiled my kids and have never felt the need to keep up with the other parent in this situation. I have what I have and I have no more. I have always done the best for them and they have never missed a meal or gone without. Not everyone has something or someone they believe in. This could very likely cause them to have a harder time dealing with the hand they've been dealt in this life. But, it is what it is and if you can control it you should do it as best you can. If you can't control it, you should let it go.

The greatest gift in being a mother is when someone you don't know but who knows your child comes up to you and tells you what a great person they are. I take great pride in this because all of my children have primarily been raised by me. That's not to say their father is a bad person because he is not. He and I just have very different values and ideas about pretty important topics. Hence the reason we aren't married anymore. They have been my focus their whole life and more so since my divorce. They are literally the four most important people in my life. I would die for each one of them.

Which is probably a big reason I am still single after eight years....I have had several relationships, albeit rather short ones, and so many dates I lost count years ago. I will admit that I have had to overcome (and am still overcoming) some pretty big man issues. Being raised by a controlling father and married to a controlling man will do that to you. I always picked the bad guy to date. Good guys had no chance with me, sad to say. And I'm sure there were a few that got away that would have been really good to me. This has carried over to my new singleness, but I'm working on that! The experiences I've had have been priceless and I have absolutely no regrets at all.

2012 is my "New Year New Me" time. No more online dating. No chasing guys. No. If I'm going to meet someone this year it will have to be the "normal" way, which isn't so normal anymore. I have two and almost three adult children and one new teenager. There is more to focus on now than when they were young. Or maybe it's that I have all the dating crap out of my system and can just be happy being me. Either way, I will be much better for whoever, if and when that ever happens.
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