Thankful This Thursday: My Life

Posted on January 7, 2010. Filed under: Thankful This Thursday | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Every day that passes, I become more grateful for the blessings in my life.  I haven’t always had such an appreciative spirit.  When I was a kid and into my early twenties, honestly, I think I was a bit of a brat.  And even once I had matured beyond that point, I still spent more time and energy wishing I had more than being grateful for what I had.  But over the past few years, I’ve learned to count my blessings.

What I didn’t expect, as I began to give thanks and praise, was that my blessings would multiply!  I have a very full life.  I am constantly trying to accomplish more than one person should in a given day/week/month/year.  And when I fall short, I know it’s because I have so many good things going on.

I have an awesome little kid, an amazing boyfriend, a family who I (usually) can’t get enough of and some really fantastic friendships.  I have a great job, beautiful home and food on the table.  I have hobbies and talents and passions.  I couldn’t possibly list all of the things that I’m grateful for — mostly because I’d accidentally leave things out.

So after closing on another holiday season and while opening a new year, I am feeling particularly grateful for my wonderful life.  I’ve therefore decided to share my appreciation on MLI in a weekly post called Thankful This Thursday.

This Thursday, I’m thankful for my life.  Next Thursday, I’ll be more specific.

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Today, I Am Struggling (MLI Discussion: Goal-Setting and Time-Management)

Posted on January 3, 2010. Filed under: MLI Discussions | Tags: , , , , , , , |

Proof positive:  I typed in that title about an hour ago and I’m just now writing my first sentence.  I’m overwhelmed by the abundance of things I’d like to do today, this week, this month and this year.  It’s all swimming around in my head and completely paralyzing me from doing any of it.

While I haven’t made a “New Year’s Resolution” in about a decade, I have decided to set goals for myself in 2010. I have always set goals at work and have set more unmet weight-loss, diet and exercise goals than any person should in a lifetime.  Yet, I haven’t made it a regular practice to set well-defined personal goals.  I have so much going on in my life right now and so much that I want to accomplish, that not setting clearly defined goals with action plans would completely undermine any efforts I put forth.

So today, I woke up with an inner conflict:  Enjoy some quiet downtime on this cold winter day, or get some things done.  Awaiting my attention is a huge pile of clean clothes that needs to be folded, hung and put away; a sink full of dirty pots from the New Year’s Day shin-dig a chez moi; a stack of bills to pay; Christmas decorations to store away for the next eleven months; a Mama Mondays post on Community of Moms; and a Co-Parenting Plan that I need to prepare. Yet, still I sit here with my second cup of coffee and my laptop…

To justify my sofa sitting, I’ve decided to spend this day outlining my goals and action plans. (I’ll save the chores for late afternoon/early evening.  Y’know, after my nap.)  Here’s the problem: I don’t know where to start.  I don’t know what is realistic to expect from myself, as I have clearly been unable to “fit it all in” in the past.

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As I’m contemplating this, I get a phone call from my sister pointing out that if it weren’t for her efforts, I’d never see her (and Braden would never see his Auntie Nen-Nen).  I don’t drive to her house or do things she wants to do when she wants to do them.  We see each other because she makes a point to come over regularly.  She views this as selfishness; I view it as a matter of convenience.  Essentially, when I’m not visiting Doug in his town 2-3 weekends a month, I’m doing my thing — whatever it may be: taking care of Braden, writing, reading, cleaning, running errands, etc.  I simply don’t have the time to add in unplanned time away from home.  She argues that it is my job to make time.  I get her point; I just don’t know how to reconcile.

I went to her house two months ago.  I have plans to go again this week.  If she never came to me — Braden and I would have seen her twice in three months.  That’s not enough.  Even if she came only as often as I go to her, we’d have only seen her four times in three months.  Even that’s not enough.  I am aware that this has been an issue in our relationship since we moved out of our parents’ home, but I really don’t have any desire to drive to her place more often.  Can I justify this with “I am busy, and that is how I am?”  Or is it on me to make a bigger effort?  If I make a bigger effort, what else will suffer?  There is only one of me.

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Recognizing that I just went off on a tangent – I’ll get back to my originally intended post.

Time management has been one of my major personal and professional deficiencies. While I probably wouldn’t mention it during an interview, I share this openly with my superiors, peers and subordinates at work — and there is no need for me to share it with my personal contacts, as they are all well aware.  I share openly at work because I aim to improve in this area.  If it were a flaw I chose to accept, I’d probably try to hide it – but how am I going to learn and grow if I don’t put it out there?  By being open about it, I help others gauge what they’re dealing with, and I also invite advice, best practices, etc.

I’ve learned a lot in the past three years, as I’ve come to acknowledge this flaw and opened myself up to improvement.  Most of my growth has been in the professional arena.  I’m still trying to hone my time-management skills in my personal life.  And when I really think about it, I must conclude that my biggest barriers to efficiency are 1. the conflict of quiet downtime vs. productive time that I describe above and 2. analysis paralysis — I over think it and become overwhelmed, and therefore accomplish little to nothing.

Needless to say, my first goal that I’ll be outlining today is to improve my time-management skills as applied to my personal life.  I ought to go get on that…

Some questions for you:

What are your personal goals this day/week/month/year?

Do you have any personal time-management and/or goal-setting and action plan tips you can share?

How do you deal with the two barriers I mentioned above, when they threaten to impede on your productivity?

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A Week of 2009: Favorites

Posted on December 30, 2009. Filed under: Extras! | Tags: , , , , , , |

Of course, some things remain constant over the years.  My favorite person will always be my son.  My favorite food will always be pasta.  But most things change as time goes by and I have new experiences and interests.  Today, I’m listing my favorites of 2009 – things that are new to me this year, and likely to change again in the future.

Place to be:  In my home.  I’m not a homebody (I don’t think) but I am just so happy to have this wonderful, cozy, beautiful new home that it is my favorite place to be – to relax, to hang with others, to play with Braden, to eat, drink and be merry!

New possession:  I guess I’m a bit of an indecisive person – that, or I just appreciate A LOT – because I’m having a hard time deciding between my iPhone, my Canon PowerShot camera, and my new Dell laptop (that I’ve only spent a total of an hour on thus far).  I’m going with the Dell.  My justification is this: the camera is a replacement for a broken Canon PowerShot, so not really new for 2009, and [spoiler] the iPhone will find itself a home elsewhere on this favorites list.

Quote:  “A parent should love their children more than they hate their ex.”

Wine:  Oak Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.  There’s a story here.  At a restaurant I love, I always order the House Cabernet.  The first time I tried it, I was trying to choose the cheapest glass of wine because my friends were buying.  But one sip and I was in love.  IN LOVE.  It is so smooth with not a hint of sweet.  And it comes in monstrous glasses at this particular restaurant.  After about my third visit since my discovery of the House Cab, I decided to ask what it is, so I could enjoy it at home as well.  The waiter gave me the name and when I got home, I began my quest to find this wine.  I started at the usual places I pick up my wine: the grocery store, Target, the liquor store down the street.  No luck.  I searched online and found that the wine is carried at Binny’s.  Binny’s is about 20 minutes from my house, so Doug and I made a trip out there one Saturday.  I made a mental note of how much I would allow myself to spend on a bottle of this wine: $30.00.  I usually buy $10.00 bottles of wine, or Trader Joe’s’ infamous Charles Shaw for $2.99 — so this was going to be a treat.  I search the aisles, but to no avail.  I asked the guy at the wine counter if they carried Oak Vineyards.  He pointed us to the front of the store.  And there it was!!!  (Imagine clouds parting, sun shining down, and church music playing.)  Stacked by the case, I had trouble locating the price.  Once I found it on the back of the display I nearly dropped dead.  $3.99.  My entire world changed at that very moment.  I felt as though I had been very, very, very good and God was rewarding me.  I bought a case.  One for me, one for my friend, one for Doug’s sister-in-law. 

Restaurant:  Reality Bites. This great little place with a trendy atmosphere and amazing menu of tapas and regular meals.  They have great food, friendly wait staff, sexy ambiance and flights of beer and wine.

Pastime: Blogging

Bands:  Train, Zac Brown Band, Nickelback, Three Doors Down, Kings of Leon

Singers:  Rob Thomas, Jamey Johnson

Songs:  Need You Now by Lady Antebellum, Save the Day by Train, Her Diamonds by Rob Thomas, Closer to Love by Mat Kearney, Whatever It Is by Zac Brown Band, Dreamgirl by Dave Matthews Band

Indoor entertainment: ROCK BAND!

Two Things Braden Says: “I’mashowya” ~and~ “You’re the best mom in the whooooollllle world.  I love you sixty hundred.”

Thing I don’t have anymore:  Sirius Radio.  After a year and a half of being spoiled with a huge selection of commercial-free music at my fingertips (in my car, on my computer, on my iPhone), my subscription ran out and I’ve decided not to renew for now.  Damn practical decisions.

Beer:  Bud Light Harvest Wheat.  Yummmm.  So much flavor!  I used to drink Bud Light when I drank beer.  Then they introduced Bud Light Lime, which replaced Bud Light for me in the warm months.  Now this Bud Light Harvest Wheat is replacing Bud Light for me in the cooler months.  Bye Bye, Bud Light!

Fashion trend: Long baggy sweaters/shirts, leggings, chunky boots, leg warmers.  Yes, all worn together.  I was going to include brightly colored jelly bracelets, but I’m afraid you might come kick me back into the 80s, and I have no desire to re-live grade school what-so-ever.

Color: Teal.  Okay, come and get me.  I deserve it.

Book: Twenties Girl by Sophie Kinsella

Make-my-life-easier item:  Hands down, my iPhone.  Phone, camera, calculator, Internet, email, maps, directions, Google (voice activated search, translator, reader), weather, music,  alarm clock, voice recorder, photo album, video player, address book, calendar, handheld game, time-passer, babysitter… ALL IN ONE!

Blog Post (mine):  So hard to say, they’re all so good!  So I’ve “narrowed it down” to seven.  Obscure Injury, I don’t remember God., Old LaurenThe Perfect DateAn Awesome Little Team, In the Face of Fear and You Can Have the Blender, I’ll Keep the Friends

Blog Post (other):  Yesterday and today, as I mentally prepared this post, I was debating between a couple of favorite posts I’ve read on other blogs.  Which one will make the list?  And then today I read a post that trumps all other posts I’ve read this year.  Penelope at Single Mom Adventures wrapped up the month of December with this beautiful post of gratitude. 

These are the topics that come to mind now.  I think it will be fun to compare this list with the same list for 2010. 

What are your favorites this year?

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MLI Discussion: What light bulb!?

Posted on November 28, 2009. Filed under: MLI Discussions | Tags: , , , , |

Last Saturday, I had my boyfriend’s family over to celebrate Braden’s birthday (a.k.a. an excuse to make them all come up and get a glimpse of my life when I’m not visiting them).  It was a great day, I loved having them and that’s not the point.  Not even sure I have a point.  Bear with me.  At one point in the day, Doug’s dad opened my refrigerator and “informed” me that the light bulb had gone out.  Funny.  What light bulb!?

The fact of the matter is that there wasn’t a bulb in the fridge when I moved in, and more than two months later, there still isn’t.  Which reminds me that there is something I had intended to write about a while back and never got around to it.

A girl in her early twenties generally takes one of two paths: get married, or don’t.  And, like all decisions, the path chosen will dictate the rest of her life, in one way or another.  A girl who choses “don’t,” will likely spend her twenties meeting people, discovering herself, going after her dreams, dating and, if she’s lucky, living alone.  While I’m sure (as I have no experience in this path) that all of these are defining experiences which help mold a girl’s personality, perspective and future, that latter is the one I am going to focus on here.  Living on your own is a time of skill acquisition.  In the case of my peers, we’re talking about suburban domestic survival skills here.

A girl who choses “get married,” in her early twenties likely went from childhood home to college dorm to starter home, without much opportunity to develop some suburban domestic survival skills of her own.  In talking with fellow [shouldn’t there be a more feminine word option here?] divorcees, I’ve learned that there’s so much a woman who chose “get married,” relied on her husband to do.  And now, on her own for the first time ever as a 30- or 40-something, she’s left to ask, “you mean I have to do that?”

And the answer is “YES!”  (Unless, of course, you want your house to burn down, your furnace to break down or your heat bill to take you down.)

In the case of my married life, when it came to the kinds of things I’m talking about, I was the “man” of the house.  I took care of the home maintenance; even the more traditionally male tasks.  There’s really no excuse for the missing bulb in my fridge, other than sheer forgetfulness.

But I wonder what responsibilities fall in this category for all of you newly-single women who have never been on your own before – and whether there are similarities in your lists.  I’d guess I’m covering some common ones in the list below.

  • Changing smoke detector batteries (same goes for CO2 monitors)
  • Changing light bulbs
  • Changing furnace filters
  • Winterizing
  • Auto maintenance (tire rotations, oil changes, etc.)
  • Reaching high-placed items
  • Lifting/moving heavy items
  • Lawn care
  • Painting
  • Picture hanging
  • Other minor repairs requiring breaking into the tool box

Am I on track?  What am I missing?  And more importantly, how are you dealing?

Other MLI Discussions:

MLI Discussion: How do you help when there’s nothing you can do to help?

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From the Other Side – #3. Not Choosing a Primary Residence in Joint Custody Arrangment

Posted on November 13, 2009. Filed under: From the Other Side | Tags: , , , , , , |

I have been sitting on this topic for a while.  Perhaps because I know how important it is and I’m intimidated by the challenge of getting my message across effectively, or perhaps because this is a pretty emotional topic for me.  Either way, I’m going for it now.

Joint custody with 50/50 split residency sounds like the perfect arrangement for a child when first considering divorce.  Especially a toddler, as Braden was when Ex-Husband and I decided to split up.  Although I made some other divorce decisions in haste that ended up to be poor ones, I didn’t take this one lightly.  I did my homework to be sure that I did what I truly felt to be in Braden’s best interest.

My research included surfing the net, reading child psychology and development journals, talking with other parents who have been in my shoes and finally, meeting with a child psychologist.  I wasn’t going to mess this one up.  Or so I thought.

What I learned was that children as young as Braden needed equal time with both parents and that his time away from either parent should be limited to 2-3 days.  So that’s the arrangement Ex-Husband and I agreed to and wrote up in our DIY divorce decree.  We created an alternating schedule for Braden:  M/T – mom, W/Th – dad, F/S/S mom, M/T – dad, W/Th – mom, F/S/S – dad…  This worked well for the first year. Which says to me that the research I did proved correct – FOR TODDLERS.

The divorce decree stated that we would revisit the schedule just before Braden started kindergarten.  I knew that once he was in school, he couldn’t bounce back and forth during the week anymore.  But as it turned out, he needed more stability earlier than that.  At age three was when I started to really notice the impact the back-and-forth was having on Braden.

He was at an age when he was trying to comprehend expectations, develop standards of behavior, understand his parents, etc.  Doing this was difficult when switching houses every 2-3 days.  He would begin showing signs of understanding how to behave in a certain situation (i.e. bedtime, dinner time, potty training) and then he’d leave for the other house and it would be like starting from scratch again.

I consulted his father, who didn’t think there was a problem, but agreed to a new schedule.  What we arrived at was a compromise, because I wanted majority residency and he didn’t want to change anything.   We still have 50/50 split residency, but our days are constant.  So I always have Braden W/Th, Ex-Husband always has him M/T, and we alternate the weekends.  This is great for planning purposes (now we can schedule weekly events with Braden or in our personal lives, we know which days we can work late if need be, etc.), but not so great for Braden.  He’s away from his mom for five nights on his dad’s weekends (same for the opposite – but I really do believe that small children need their moms more, for a number of reasons).  And I’m away from him for five nights on his dad’s weekends – which isn’t the point, but it sucks nonetheless.

When we first made this change, Braden showed very obvious signs that he was not happy with it.  On Wednesdays, when I would pick him up from daycare after five days away, Braden would regress to baby-like behavior.  He asked me to hold him like a baby, when we got home he’d ask to go straight to my room to snuggle for a little bit before dinner, he wouldn’t let me out of his reach.

One time, we were in the kitchen and I walked to the fridge (5 feet away) and he started crying, holding his arm out, “Mommmmmmyyyyy.”  Another day he said to me, “Mom!  I was away for three days!  That’s a long time!”  I said, “actually, it was five days, and it was a very long time.”  He responded, “but now you let me come back home?”  My heart broke instantly.  To think that my sweet boy felt like I was sending him away or wouldn’t “let” him come home killed me.

He also threw a fit a few times that his dad picked him up from daycare, yelling “I don’t want to go home with my dad!  I want my mom to pick me up!  I want my mommy!!!!”

But he eventually adjusted to the new schedule, and he’s doing fine now.  However, once he gets to school age, we cannot continue like this.  So I revisited the topic with his father.  This is when I discovered that Ex-Husband wanted majority residency once Braden goes to school.  I saw my whole world spinning as I took in this news.  How can this be?  Why can’t he just be like every other divorced dad and just let his son be with his mom where he belongs?  (I realize that this is not the most rational thinking.  I realize there are worse problems and I should feel blessed that Braden does not have a dead-beat dad.  But at the same time, this is my son and my life we’re talking about here, so I decided I reserve the right to be a bit irrational.)

So we went to mediation.  Through that process, we learned what it would be like if we were to take this to court — and agreed to do whatever we could to avoid that.  Through the course of a couple meetings, we verbally agreed that Ex-Husband would let me have majority residency if he could have every other weekend and Thursdays.  I also suggested he move closer to us so that once Braden is in school, the distance doesn’t cause logistical issues for him.  Ex-Husband agreed to that as well.  And then a few days later I got a letter from him stating that he changed his mind — that he still wants majority residency.  And then a few months later he moved – still 20 minutes away.  He reneged on both agreements.

This is where we are today.  I plan to file for a hearing, which will include court-ordered mediation, an investigator who observes us each with Braden and interviews ALL THREE of us, and months in court.  I dread this.  For so many reasons.  First – my son will be interviewed about his relationships with his parents.  All he knows at four years old is, “I love my mommy,” and “I love my daddy.”  And that is all he needs to know.  Second – Ex-Husband and I have a pretty good relationship.  We treat each other with respect, we work together on scheduling issues, we talk about parenting challenges and techniques and we, for the most part, like each other.  I worry that this will change all of that.  And that will not be good for anyone, especially Braden.

Ex-Husband and I are supposed to get together soon to talk this out.  I still want to do whatever I can to avoid the court proceedings – short of giving up residential custody of Braden.

I don’t know how this will play out, but either the path or the outcome will be bad, if not both.  I wish I had done my research beyond toddler age.  I was too concerned about the present.  I assumed I knew what the future had in store.  I assumed school-age would come and I would have majority residency.  It never crossed my mind it might go the other way.  But a good lawyer would have warned me, and advised me against the arrangement we created on our own.

Previous posts in the From the Other Side series:

From the Other Side – A series of posts on the decisions I made during the big D

From the Other Side – #1. The Divorce Attorney

From the Other Side – #2. Assuming You Know Yourself

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