Tag Archives: single parent

Focus on the Priority

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“Contemplate the extent and stability of the heavens, and then at least cease to admire worthless things.”
— Boethius

I choose to interpret this to mean that we are being called to dig deeper, to focus on the really important things. We can put our selves to better use if we trust the extent and stability of the Heavens (our higher power, the Universe, God, or whatever you want to call it). And then, standing firmly on that trust, stop with the whining, the focus on materialistics, the focus on others, and get our own acts together.

Today’s worthless item we need to stop admiring/giving undue attention to:
Comparing ourselves to others. Our vision of what we SHOULD be doing, looking like, or having enough money to do is one of those worthless wastes of time. You know that. I know that. But sometimes we need reminders to stop whining and move on to the priority in your life now.

We are called to prioritize our attentions so that we can prioritize our actions. Thoughts lead to actions, and daily actions lead to habits. For me, that priority is to focus on the present person in the room. This morning it is my work–I need to stick with it and have trust that I can figure out the best action to take next with that difficult client. Last night it was the kid with a scratchy throat. Tonight the priority will be my boyfriend because I invited him to dinner, and that means share a meal, not turn him into the Chore Boy.

Sometimes the priority in the room is actually us, and we need to stop with the dishes and put our butts to bed so we can be mentally ready for the next day. Priorities are just choices for where we put our focus.
matters

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Choices, Ripples, Grace, Joy

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“Each choice we make causes a ripple effect in our lives. When things happen to us, it is the reaction we choose that can create the difference between the sorrows of our past and the joy in our future.”
– Chelle Thompson, Editor of Inspiration Line.

This is my quote for the day/week/millennium.

We can make choices to blame ourselves when our kids run away, and fall into self-blame about choices we made 2 weeks or 2 years or 10 years ago. Or we can do our best to love our child and ourselves through the turmoil so that we are open to new ideas, new approaches. My friend Susan is working through her daughter running away this morning; obviously our hearts go out to her and her whole family. I haven’t experienced a run-away, but I just hope she is able to love herself enough to let the grace happen on the other side, whether that other side of the horror is today, next week, or in 10 years.

We can choose to blame ourselves when our home is robbed- “Why didn’t I double check the doors and windows?! I am such a knucklehead! Why do I sleep at night?!”. Or, we can model to our family what it is like to be calm in the face of invasion. My friend Mark lived through this last week- at 2 am scary-looking losers entered his home while everyone was asleep. No one was hurt (or even knew about it until they went to look for their wallets and phones). His reaction not to blame himself for being a “Bad Protector” helped his family minimize the trauma. We don’t know what grace waits for them on the other side.

This is not on the level of runaways or home robbery, but I happen to be one to spend money when I am feeling low self-esteem. I inflict my own trauma. Towels helped me through infertility issues. I had lots and lots of plush colorful towels by the time I got pregnant. Cars helped me separate from my parents’ manipulations. And now it is fall, and I obsess about boots making me feel worthwhile in my office (the black Liz Claiborne suede zip-ups would help me have more clients, right?). I need to stop and love myself enough to let the grace in rather than spend the money that is already ear-marked for the mortgage.

You know the grace on the other side, they are creative miracles just in time: unexpected closeness in a relationship, tangible connection with our higher power, material blessings for someone truly in need, kindness from a stranger, reprieve granted on a stressor, the phone call we didn’t know we were waiting for…

Don’t be a victim, don’t let your past experiences be your bitch and make you make a mess of something that God intends for grace and mercy.

What will our ripple(s) be today? Will we role model calm to our kids when it hits the fan? Decorate our house with the Halloween goodies wehave rather than buy more? Make banana bread rather than feel grumpy and tired about the weather? Workout? Go to a yoga class? Congratulate someone on a job well done rather than point out the miss-steps? Decide to balance our checkbook rather than live in mystery?

Each and every choice has a ripple effect. Be courageous. Make some ripples today.

Tick Tock

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Tick tock. The clock is winding down. This morinng, I am pushing off frustrated, depressed, frantic thoughts as the sands seem to run out way too quickly. I attended my 25th college reunion last weekend, and was astounded at how old we have all become. My gray hairs are needing re-touches more often (I am not quitting on them, please believe me! There was one woman there who let her hair go, and I mistook her for my mother). My kids are getting taller and more independent by the day. My parents are losing their steadfast nature to confusion. My siblings are still abroad, and we don’t spend holidays together.

My life is ruled by the clock- I bill my 36 hours a week to clients, and get to spend 4-6 hours a week “unbillable”- cleaning up files, emails, desk, client relationships, etc. I need to get home in time for making dinner, for doing that one laundry load a day, for cleaning and de-cluttering the constant sea of gunk that coats my home’s surfaces. And then, I must get to bed in time to avoid that 10 pm cranky woman who emerges, no, she erupts from the stack of bills, the laundry loads, the hairy bathroom sink with nothing good or positive to say to anyone, least of all, her teenagers.

And I hate that time is ticking by. I hate that my parents live too far away to know if they really are safe still driving to dinner and to shop across town. I hate that my siblings all have full lives that don’t really include me or my kids. I hate that I have to pay bills that shouldn’t be mine, but are. And the only way to pay them is to keep tick-tocking on the work clock at a job that I would like to leave. I hate that my kids are getting older and bigger, and I am so busy on my little work clock, my laundry clock, my cooking clock, my sleeping clock that I am sometimes too tired to have the conversation, the trip, the joke, the fun with them that we all need.

I cannot seem to escape the damn tick-tock. So I meditated on it, prayed on it, and wrote on it. I decided to look for the things that most please me: time with my kids, time with my writing, running, time with my cute boyfriend, time feeling grateful, time loving and helping others, and time reading. Those are the places I really WANT to spend time. Per my friend Liz’s advice, Whenever I am doing those things, I will refuse to multi-task the time away.
As single parents, we are tasked with too much to do, too many bills, and too little time with our precious kids. We have to live more presently, more consciously, and more purposely than it seems possible. And that is ok. We can do this.


First Step is to make a list of priorities: what feeds us, what feeds our loved ones, what activities do we consider loving others as God intended us to?

Second Step is to make a plan: decide what needs changing up, set a budget for time and money, identify times for the preciousness. Don’t continue to scramble and leave it up to chance.

Third Step is to ask for help, (aka pray and tell a friend so that we are held accountable)find a sense of humor, and vow for patience with everyone again so that the treadmilled cranky lady stays out of the picture.

Chicken Dance for Your Soul

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I had so much fun this past weekend, I have to write about it. You know how valuable girlfriend time is, you know how much I love running, and you know how much fun a physically challenging adventure is. So, when asked, I said “Yes, I will jump in a van with 5 women I don’t know very well, and share 34 hours and 100+ miles run between the 6 of us.” It was a blast!

We chicken-danced along the highway, made a video for the “Call me Maybe” song using the porta-potties along the way as props (somehow, I will figure out how to post a video to prove our artistic talent to you), ate bags of potatoes chips, Swedish fish, and cinnamon bears, slept outside in a Church yard in broad daylight with 500 of our closest running competition, and generally laughed until we peed our pants. How old am I again?

I highly recommend finding a way to follow your hearts’ play requirement soon. It is true, I came home to an empty refrigerator, sleepy teens who had taken advantage of my absence, fur balls rolling their way around my kitchen on the un-swept floor, piles of laundry, and I was a teensy bit tired and sore still when I reported to work on Monday. But it was worth it! I have my kids 24/7. So once a year I do this race (and I did provide care for my kids- they just know how to work the system now to use my absence in their favor).

Not everyone needs to do what I did to nurture their inner spirit. You may not need to run 20 miles to get the office crap, the teenager angst, the financial stress, and the new wrinkle on your forehead out of your mind. But it worked for me.

Maybe you can:
Roadtrip to Las Vegas, Baby
Take a sick day and read a book in a coffee shop all day long while kids are at daycare/school
Go to Utah to see the colors change and the rivers flow
Sign up for an all-day pottery class at the Rec Center
Go to a yoga conference

Think of what you can do to feed that part of you, the overworked parent who is working her tail off trying to make ends meet and children behave. I am here to tell you that you can find it. Set the intention today, find a girlfriend or 5 to go on the lam with you, get it on the calendar, and do it.

The Hardest Years

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I have been saying this mantra over and over, every time my teenage boy/man exasperates me:

“These are the most difficult years of his life”. He is 15.75 years old, and it is the most selfish, most exasperating frustrating years. He is a freshman in high school, the bottom of the totem pole, the pimples are too many, the girls are too few, AND the teachers are “mean”.

“These are the most difficult years of his life”. Finally today, my friend Julie came up with the most awesome response to that: “Yeah, and they will make sure to make them the most difficult years of your life too!” Hahahahahahahaha. I fell out of my chair laughing. It is so true! I got sore nipples breastfeeding, it hurt sooo much. And potty training was the shits (pun intended)- I got so sick of cleaning up accidents, getting poop under my fingernails, and finding pee-smelly clothes hidden in clean clothes. Starting kindergarten, and well, every first day of school I cry and cry (still) over my babies growing up and my need to let them go. But this stage, this sarcastic, I-hate-you-and-you-never-do-anything-for-me-ever-can-I-have-some-money-I-love-you” stage is the most difficult so far. And I have awesome kids!!!

You might think I am complaining about my kids, I am actually complaining about me. This is a difficult stage, and these are hard years. I need a walrus coat, and courage and strength and fearlessness. I ask for it every morning, and usually it shows up.

My friend Liz suggests we shut the door to their rooms if they are too messy, because “that is not the hill we are going to die on”. That off-the-cuff remark is still re-playing, helping me to choose just which hill would I die on? Leaving dirty dishes on the living room floor? C’s in math and english? Eye rolling? Muttering as he walks away? Sneaking beers? Smoking pot? Sexting? Everyone chooses. Everyone chooses their own boundaries with teens, and sometimes the eye rolling is just as bad to me as sexting would be.

The point of this post is to let you know that you aren’t alone on this rollercoaster of raising teenagers as a single parent. It feels like a FunHouse, but it ain’t fun!! There will be hard days, and there may not be many easy days between them. Luckily there are endearing moments, such as when my son says “I love you Mom” before he walks out the door to ride his bike to school, and when she gives me a sweet smile and tilts her head sideways from across the track field (when she sees I brought food, water and her favorite warm sweatpants to the track meet). So I won’t strangle them tonight after all.

Love – The Terror of It

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“True Love is one of the rarest jewels of life, treasure it with all your heart. When you find someone who loves you just as you are, is steadfast during moments of stress, willing to grow with you and allows you to feel however you choose to feel in any moment – there is nothing more you will ever find in a person. You’ve found True Love when you feel fear; fear of vulnerability, fear of abandonment and fear of letting go of your own stubborn egoic patterns that keep the real you separate and safe from the other. Trust in love and go towards your fear, taking this leap of faith in every moment is the journey Love requires for its sweet reward.”

– Jackson Kiddard, author & polymath.

pol·y·math   [pol-ee-math]
noun
a person of great learning in several fields of study; polyhistor.

Ok, so the quote above was written by a man of great learning in several fields of study- a very smart cookie. I love this quote! Love is terrifying! So I would add that it requires courage added upon our relationships on a daily basis.

Truly loving ourselves requires courage to stand up for the person and her ideals, even when we really aren’t so sure about how she will be received by the world.

Loving our teenagers means we have to step up to the plate and stand up for what we believe in (our rules, our boundaries, our behavioral expectations), and who we believe in (the cute pimply kid in front of me who just got busted for breaking the rules, again). It takes guts to show up every day as a single parent, ready to step in when needed, to discern when we can butt out, and to have faith that we are enough and what we have done is enough. With no back-up, no cheering section, and no partner.

For me, loving my lover means I need to show up, let my ego take a break, and throw that oh-so-ugly-fear of abandonment out the window.

Some days, the courage needed to truly love me, my teens, and my lover is elusive, I really want to back down, accept, and burrow in to the fear, let it take me over. I think that I am not worthy, that I just can’t do it…I don’t have the energy needed. Ha!

Guess what? I can do it! And you can too. So keep on stepping up to the plate, keep showing up, keep on setting aside your fears, and give the ego a shove-off. You are vulnerable, you may be abandoned, and the real you might not be compatible with your lover after all. But today, in this moment, you know what you know. So do this one step you know right now. Be present. Be vulnerable. Be Truthful. God and the Universe are on your side. Ask for their help!

What would it be like to live this day believing that we are truly blessed, protected, and guided? I have that written on my mirror with stars and underlines, because I tend to forget that, even though it really is kinda important…

Let’s get out there and love, truly love, you, your children, your lover, and your life. You are truly blessed, protected, and guided.

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Napping

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I had some surgery last week, and it was serious enough that I stayed in the hospital one night. I am ok, it was planned, and no more surgery is expected. But I have been told it could take 6 weeks to recover… 6 weeks?!?! When my doctor initially told me that, I burst out crying. That was 2 months ago, and I am still struggling with the concept of being restful for weeks at a time. I told my boss I would be back at work after 2 weeks- probably not realistic, but it was the only way I could tell him I wouldn’t be there for 2 weeks…

I have been told to “rest as much as possible, and don’t do too much too soon”. Hmmmm- but what if “doing as much as possible as soon as possible” is the way I have survived as a single parent for the last 9 years? This space in my life is definitely a brain twister. How can I be my productive self if I am laying around on the couch?!? Is this me? Will I get swallowed up and lose myself in my pillows and blankets for these weeks?

I am hoping that at the least, I get a little perspective on my life during these 2-3 weeks of time off of work (probably the only 2-3 weeks I have spent off of work since I graduated from high school a hundred years ago). And of course, at the most, I would like to 1)get all of my pictures arranged and organized in my computer (my music too), 2) get the last 10 boxes unpacked from our move in November, 3) get my and my kids’ closets organized, 4) have devised the miracle budget combination that allows me to save and yet live abundantly, 5) blog meaningfully on a regular basis, 6) write some hand written notes that are overdue, and 7) do research on parenting teenagers and significantly improve my parenting. That is the first 7 items of my 21 item To Do List. (I figured I could complete one a day)

The problem is, I keep having to sit down because I get tired after being awake for 2 hours. But yet I really hate napping… I am having anxiety dreams every time I fall asleep, that is part of the lack of allure of naps… I am actually anxious and nervous about this time off. What if I become a couch slug and NEVER get back to my prior life of athletic health and productivity? What if I cannot convince myself after all of this that my job is meaningful? What if I really like working part time and cannot go back to full time? What if I cannot finish all 21 To Do items?

You know the answers to all of these questions: This time off IS going to change my outlook on life and my job, and the point is to come up with some changes in me, not necessarily my house and its organization or lack there of. And all I can do is turn over this time, ask for help from God and my friends, and do the best today, this hour, taking care of my body and mind and wait to see the miracles that occur.