Life as a single Mother-Empty nest, Dating, Ex-husband, Best Friends, Full-time Employment, Unemployment, night school...How do these all relate to one another? Come with me:

Thursday, December 31, 2009

I sure see my year from a different perspective today.

I lost a great friend over the holidays. We had lost touch in the past year as he was having a rough go and not answering any phone calls or messages.

We were lucky. We worked together for nearly 14 years at a great company. It was one of those companies where the workers love getting up in the mornings. Where everyone said hello in the halls, we all knew about each others' families and cared about them. It was a very close knit company. You would think it was a small company- with maybe 20 or so employees to be so close? There were over 700 employees.

When the company owner was just getting too far along in his years to keep a business running, he sold the company to a much larger corporation. He was diligent in his search for just the right company to take his employees under his wing as he had. Things didn’t work out quite as he thought they would and not even a year after his passing, the company was closed and the manufacturing moved over seas. This was hard on a lot of us. Not just the lay-offs and finding new employment, but also losing a part of the ‘family’ we had become. Most of us still work in this same geographical area and most still in the industry. We try to stay in touch with as many as we can.

When the plant closed, it was hard on my friend Mike. He had just suffered through a tough divorce and was struggling with what comes with that. While suffering through the loss of time with his kids, starting over in a new house, new friends, and his new life, He seemed so sad.

Mike started with another company and all seemed a little better, he was dating and met some nice women. Then one day he didn’t show up for work. They called to see if he was alright.

Mike said ‘I would come in to work, but I don’t know where that is?’ They rushed to his house and he just didn’t seem right. They took him to emergency where it was diagnosed that he had fluid on the brain and was immediately taken in for surgery, brain Surgery. After the surgery, I saw Mike, on rare occasions when the old coworker gang met for drinks; he never seemed like the old Mike. He was visibly unhappy. We spoke of our divorces, our kids, and happier times. But something was behind his smile.

Soon after his surgery, that company also had cut-backs. I tried to get a hold of Mike. No one seemed to know where he was working. I did not know his ex wife well enough to ask. I called, he would not answer, I left messages – he would not return them. I was not alone. Many friends attempted to contact him, with the same result. I had not spoken with him since January of this year.

And then, I received a link from a friend to his obituary. He passed away on Christmas Eve, alone. He was 50 years old. I attended the funeral yesterday. It was hard. The obit did not give a cause of death. And the many speeches alluded to suicide.More than one speaker mentioned that in the past year Mike had asked, what makes you happy? What defines happiness? My wish is that none of us ever have to ask that question.

Although there were approximately 20 friends from the company there, and it was great to see them it was not the circumstances I wished I were seeing them under.

Mike was a family man, his kids and wife meant everything to him. The divorce shook up his whole world. I know that some of us handle tragedy differently than others but I can’t imagine the pain he must have felt. Oh the loneliness. I had a bout of depression after my own divorce; it lasted a couple months, and was the worst feeling of loneliness I have ever felt. I cannot change things, and my life goes on. But I will never forget Mike as long as I live. He left this world, and his children much too early. May peace come to them in their own lives’. I know he would want that.

I love you Mike, and I miss you already- Rest in peace

The end of the year is a time for reflecting on the past year, and looking forward to the new year. My reflection changed in an instant this year. I was contemplating posting about all the challenges I have faced this year and how I couldn't wait for the new one to start. 

That is still true. I wish Mike were here to enjoy it with me.

Happy New year to you all. Make it the best it can be.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas to all

This year was the first Christmas in my entire life I did not spend with my parents and my older ( and only) sister. I was a bit nervous and a bit sad in the days leading up to the holiday.

My parents moved south a little over a year ago and just didn't feel like making the drive this year. Understandable. Because I started work with a new company this year and am saving the little bit of vacation that I have earned for a family cruise in February, we just couldn't make the drive down to them either.

My sisters work schedule also put a damper on the holiday with her working on Christmas morning. She also lives a short drive away and the trip wouldn't be feasible.

The Christmas holiday was just me and my girls. And although it was different. A real change. It was really nice. I love my girls dearly and love that they love hanging out with their mother. Christmas eve my older daughter had to work a few hours.

My youngest and I headed to my best friends house for her family party. Great food, great company and all around love.
Christmas morning was different too.

I missed my son. I missed my parents. I missed my sister. We all spoke on the phone and it made it better. But time with my girls is priceless and we had a wonderful holiday. The gifts were great!

The food was awesome. The company was priceless. We laughed until we hurt all over.

A New Year is coming upon us and boy do I need a new start! Wishing for the coming year to bring you and yours Peace and love and Harmony... ahh yes Harmony.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Betty Crocker's here in spirit

Every year the girls and I (even my son when he is in town), bake up a batch of festive treats and then run them to friends and neighbors. When the kids were younger it served two purposes. First being that it was a rather inexpensive way to share the season. Second and most important was the company. Spending the day in the kitchen with the children is a great way to teach them. Spending the day together also teaches them to get along, work together and give them the satisfaction of creating something delicious.

Then we deliver them. Meeting with neighbors we rarely see in the winter months when we all hibernate and stay out of the cold. Saying hello and spending a moment or two catching up. Suburban neighborhoods can become a bit unsociable or make you feel isolated especially in the colder months. It is nice to take a moment with others.

This year we made quite a spread. I would have taken a few more photos but our tiny kitchen was overrun. More like a disaster.

After spending the morning coffee in hand, wrapping gifts for my ever expanding family we fired up the oven.
Beginning with simple mini banana bread loaves which used up our ever ripening supply of the star ingredient.

Next we made some tiny little vanilla tarts with pomegranate seeds.

Rachel mixed up some lemon ginger biscotti cookies while I started on some toffee fudge.

Things could have moved along much more quickly if we had more than one oven. Lots of waiting time on baking and cooling. This is why I think I love cooking so much more than baking.

We created a good mix of old favorites and some brand new recipies we found this year. I really need to stop watching the food channel and picking up new recipe books on a whim.

We made tiny cherry cheesecakes and then some blondies with cranberry and apricot topping and some raspberry spritzel bars.

Finishing off with chocolate truffles, and a pecan log then some simple edible snowflakes for decoration.

Hours later I sit, pizza in hand absolutely exhausted. The girls have run the treats this year I haven't the energy. Will have to get out to say hello to the neighbors and friends before the holiday hits.

But all in all it was a great bonding day with my girls. I love spending the day in the kitchen with them. We laugh, we talk, we giggle at our mistakes sing to the carols playing on the system and just enjoy each others company.

Isn't that what the holidays are about?

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Holiday Stress doesn't have to be

Being a single mother of three for so long, I have seen a lot of Christmas's come and go. Christmas's I thought I would never get through financially, emotionally and with my sanity intact.

Living on a single income is tough all year. Making ends meet, getting bills paid, repairs completed and food in the cupboards can be so stressful. When Thanksgiving passes and we begin to think about the big holiday, when our children come home from school asking for all the things their friends are asking ‘Santa’ for. The stress meter begins to rise. Holiday work and social parties, food, secret Santa presents, it all begins to add up in our minds, the mental calculator buzzing in our ringing ears.

The change in regular schedules can make children and even parents cranky. Involving the ex may ease some of the stress. Or it could potentially make it that much more stressful. Finding time for the children to spend with both families, deciding who will have the kids when, who will pay for and spend Christmas morning with them, arguments over buying too much or too little, it can all lead to a no- fun holiday for all of you.

But what if you are alone? What if the father of your children lives 2000 miles away and doesn’t even call his kids on the holiday? How do you cope? The burden can be a heavy one.

Christmas morning would be too much if Santa doesn’t come, how do you explain that he just can’t afford it? How do you tell coworkers that although you work full-time and make more than a lot of others, you just cannot afford the $10 gift for the exchange? There are family presents to buy- the only chance you get to tell them how much you appreciate all they have done for you in the past year. Decorations, holiday dinners, everything is on sale but sure adds up with every five dollars spent.

I know what it is like when your children need clothes so badly, growing out of everything they own. Socks and underwear with holes or tears they need those too. Everything is on sale now. But that is not what they are asking Santa for.

Young children believe so strongly in the spirit of the holidays. Their tiny eyes glow when they talk about what will come. When they sing carols in their school performances they really want it to make someone happy. We can learn a lot by watching them.

Every year though, after all the stress, after all the financial shuffling, and the late Christmas eve’s spent locked in your room buried under wrapping, scotch tape and boxes and then dragging it all into the main room in the wee hours of Christmas morning. It is all worth it when you see the tiny sleepy-eyed wonder on the faces of your children waking each other or waiting snuggled in bed with mom until the last one stumbled out.

Nothing beats sitting in your comfortable clothes, with a warm cup of coffee in hand watching your children open up the gifts you stressed over for so long. And it doesn’t matter, that they didn’t get everything they asked for. And it doesn’t matter that everything didn’t happen when or how we wanted it to. They run up and hug you and say thank you mom. This is the best Christmas EVER! And, in reflection, they are right.

I lucked out. I have three very grateful, very easily pleased and happy children. I never heard a complaint on Christmas morning, always helpful in the kitchen and cleaning up the house. And on top of that- They are the first to offer help and feel emotion and sadness for those hard on their luck at Christmas.

 No matter your situation this Christmas, no matter your struggles, things have a way of working out. They always work out.

In all of the years we have struggled to make it through the holidays, my children and I have never missed an opportunity to help out with a sub-for Santa program, feeding the homeless, giving our pocket change to the toys for tots or the Salvation Army. We have sent home-made treats through our neighborhood and given where we could.

Last year my daughter made me proud. She paid for a child’s Christmas through the Angel tree with her own money earned at an after school job. She is saddened that she is not working this year and cannot do it again.

Christmas time- (or any holiday you celebrate this time of the year) is a time for giving. Sometimes giving doesn’t cost you a dime. If you live near a struggling family, or someone who lives alone, do what you can. Sometimes all it takes is stopping in to say hello, and offering up the gift of conversation. Invite them for dinner, Shovel their walk, or bring them some warm tea or cocoa. Meet all your girlfriends for a lunch without a gift exchange, they may be just as grateful for one less present to stress over.

Holidays don’t have to cost you much, many years we strung cranberries and popcorn on the tree, made salt-dough ornaments and baked treats for Santa and friends. Spending time together is the most important.

Pack some sandwiches, blankets and holiday CD’s into the car and drive through neighborhoods with lots of light displays. An inexpensive Ice Skating rink or sledding hill makes for lots of laughs follow it up with hot cocoa and a fire if you have a fireplace. Many old holiday classic movies are on this time of year and many carry a wonderful theme of giving. Build a snowman together, decorate sugar cookies together, even letting the children help to decorate the house and yard helps them feel a part of the process. Give them small tasks in the dinner preparation, not only will they learn cooking essentials and basics but take some of the load off of you.

Snow angels are free, and very stress-relieving. Nearly every school puts on free Christmas concerts and programs, after watching your little ones in their own why not go together to see a high school play?

I truly believe that sharing one’s self this time of year is the most thoughtful gift you can give, and also may be the one that is never forgotten. Your children are watching you- what will they learn.
Wishing anyone who reads this a very happy holiday and that you get all that you wish for.

Stay warm--- and in your heart too

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

Although this has been a bit of a rough road the past few months for me, I can’t help but feel thankful for the not so rough parts.
I love the time of year from Thanksgiving through the first of the year. Not as much for the presents or the decorations, parties and glitz, though that is all nice too. I love this time of year for the emotions it inspires in me.
Emotions stem from so many places but this time of year even more so:

  • Gathering with family and friends just to play games or chat or laugh
  • Teaching children to cook a really great dinner or the components of one.
  • Baking warm treats for the neighbors you only wave hello to through the year.
  • Watching someone’s face light up when they open the perfect gift.
  • Sitting by a warm fire
  • Crisp leaves or icy snow under your boots
  • Feeling the icy cool bite of a cold winters night while building a snowman, then stepping inside for a cup of hot liquid or soup
  • Cuddling babies who live far away before they grow between visits
  • Women chatting in the kitchen men cheering on the game in the other room
  • The smell of a turkey or ham ready to come out of the oven
  • Driving through neighborhoods lit up with lights
  • Helping out those less fortunate with food, blankets, coats- or even free babysitting or repair work
  • The smells of the seasons- such as cinnamon, cloves, roasting turkey, sugar cookies, and pine
  • The sounds: bells, children, crowds, chorus’s, laughter

    These are some of my favorite things about this time of year.
    Hope that those of you in the states have a wondrously delicious long weekend. And those of you farther think about your favorite holidays and times of the year.
    Please share your thoughts below- would love to hear.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you.

    and I leave you with this:

    Saturday, November 21, 2009

    One simple mistake can cost you.

    I used to laugh at these ads.. and as I stated in a previous post, thought my identity was so bad no-one would want to steal it.

    Over two months have passed since the incident. The weeks Prior to my fortieth year on this earth. The scariest, most exposing, and most foolish episode of my adult life. Police reports were filed. A day off work to get the paperwork filled out, and obtain a new drivers license.

    Then I relaxed a little. All the stolen money was credited to my account, The suspect that took my wallet was arrested while attempting to use my debit card (which was recovered) and we )me and the other four victims) were called to testify at his hearing. Which never happened. He pleaded out and attended drug court. Six weeks of court and proving his sobriety. Thing is, he is not a drug addict. He was found with marjuana on his person, which is a drug. Just not the kind of drug that tends to make someone commit crimes. One scary thing I learned at the courthouse, from another victim, was that the suspects girlfriend looks an awful lot like me.

    Life went back to normal....or so I thought.

    Then I see on my credit report ( which I now scutinize monthly) a charge account for a department store. The credit account was denied, but showed as an inquiry. Here is the twist. I didnt apply.

    A week later, I received a phone call. It was the credit union account where my car loan is held. I had opened a savings account in order to get the loan and had not used it in so many years. However the CU was calling about the large check I had cashed on the account. Another twist. I didnt cash a check on that account.

    I filled out more paperwork, more police reports, this time, the report was filed against me. By the credit union, MY credit union. It was up to me to prove myself innocent. easy enough. I am not a criminal.

    Then, another check. Credit union drive-up window video, and my signature were under scrutiny.
    I was visited at work by a detective, who was 90% sure that I was writing bad checks, bad checks which now totalled over $3000. He showed me pictures from the video. It was like looking into a mirror- well almost. I could tell that it was not me in the pictures. I knew it was not my car. I knew it was not my signature on the check copies that he showed to me. But fear gripped at me, I began to sweat when I realized that if I were him, looking at the file in front of us. If I were him, standing there talking to me. I would be convinced that I had committed those crimes. It was so crazy scary that it was dibilitating.

    I have been through the horror, the terror of having my wallet taken from my own car. I felt like a fool for letting him in long enough to do it. I felt exposed and threatened when my accounts were hit and someone knew all about where my accounts were and how to access them.
    But nothing in this world put fear in me more than thinking that I was about to be taken into custody, jailed in front of all my co-workers because someone was becoming me and committing crimes using my persona.

    About an hour later, he left my office. He left instruction that I should be looking for the vehicle in the photos. That he was less sure that it was me in the photos and I should be cautious. He was sure that this was far from over and that they would be trying to get more and more information on me. Trying to take my mail, my trash. 'They' would know where I lived because it is on my license. Once again, I felt terrified and exposed. Scared for my girls who would be home alone sometimes.

    With that.. he left.

    I cried! I broke down there and then, in front of my coworkers, boss, friends. I was so scared.
    About an hour later he was back. I did not want to see him. I was so scared of the detective. But, he came back with somewhat good news.... he had been driving near my place of employment and saw the vehicle... the one in the photos, the one used in the crimes. He didnt give many details and based on the face that he had come back alone, he had no one in custody. But he was less convinced that I was the suspect.

    The next day a woman from the credit union called. I had been cleared. the money was credited back to my account.
    Once again I felt relief. Until I picked up the mail. A warehouse sore membership I had let lapse was reopened and checks for over $800 had been spent there.
    More police reports... more fear.
    As of today I have so many police reports open, so many bad checks written in my name on bogus accounts... will this ever end?
    I am certainly more cautious, I am certainly just as scared as the day it was taken.
    I want this to end.
    It is not funny!

    Saturday, November 14, 2009

    My little star

    My youngest wants to be the next Audrey Hepburn. She may just make it- If she works hard. Thing is she cant seem to get a speaking part in the plays.
    Last night we attended her school's rendition of Shakespears Much Ado about Nothing. She was a towns person and also in a dance ensemble. But she LOVES it. She loves being a part of the group, part of the cast.

    Drama students are a different breed of kids. They are what they are and dont care what others think. An although they may act totally crazy sometimes, do things like create sharpy (yes the brand of markers) masks and parade through the local mall. They are a lot of fun and a very talented group too.

    Last nights performance was amazing. So much better than the past high school performances I have been to. Shakespeare plays- other than Julius Ceasar and Romeo and Juliet is pretty new to me. I have not seen many of his creations. It is a different language for sure. Old English with a twist.
    But it was a great story of love and innocence.

    Some of these kids were just at our house a few weeks ago in different costume- Halloween attire. Maybe one day I will see them in their own style. Maybe.

    The crew has spent the past few weeks everyday at 6 am, everyday after school, and some Saturdays rehearsing, and building this incredible set. You would swear you were in Old England. Mr.Shelly, the drama teacher/coach put a lot of hard work into it and it paid off.

    They took first place in most of their scenes at the National Shakespear festival this year.
    Every scene, and my daughters Ensemble group took home a prize.
    Way to go guys!

    Great acting, great set.
    If only I had not been so darn tired from work.....

    But it was a great way to end the week....then I woke up to this!

    The first snowfall of the year. It was early so the pictures are not very clear.
    The dogs love the snow.. I suppose I would to if I could never take off my fur coat.

    Welcome to November in the Rockies!

    Sunday, November 1, 2009

    Whistle While you Work

    Fifteen years ago, my ex husband and I purchased the house that I reside in now. We were recovering from some finacial difficulties brought on by his tour in Germany for Desert Storm, the first Iraq war. Although we married young, he being 19 and my being 18, we were able to purchase our first home just 5 months after getting hitched.
    We ended up selling that house in order to pay off some debt, catch up some late payments all due to a decrease in pay caused by his tour.
    But things were looking up and although we werent able to get the house of our dreams, we were able to purchase a fixer-upper with high hopes of ..well, fixing it up.
    The thing about buying a fixer-upper being the only affordable option is, that if you only have enough money for the cheaper house, you probably dont have the money for the 'fixing up'.
    Thus was true in our case.
    Just three years later, we divorced. I was awarded the house in the divorce. And as such, have inherited the fixing also.
    The house at the time we bought it was about twenty four years old and just getting to the point where most all the plumbing and electrical were outdated. Things like the furnace, and water heater were reaching the limits of thier lives and some of the 'secrets' of the previous owners lack of DIY talents were beginning to rear their ugly heads.
    But little by little, and small catastrophy by small catastrophy... I have been able to reconstruct most of the rooms in the house, and get a lot of the yard work completed. It gets expensive.
    Now that I am finished with school and have a lot more weekend freetime, and with the nice fall weather we have had this year, I am feeling stir crazy and beginning with some much needed and well past due yard work.
    When we purchased the house there were hose bibs on both the front and the back of the house. Both of which had broken off handles and had been pinched and mis-shapen from use of pliers.
    Because hose bib replacement is a bit intimidating and there is a small bit of welding involved, I continued the use of pliers until they became worn and rendered worthless.

    Because one room of the basement is unfinished we were able to replace one of the two pretty easily as there were no finished walls covering the pipes. The other remains broken until I have time and money to tear into the sheetrock. Running a hose around the house became a real issue and my back yard fell victim to the lack of watering. There is no sprinkler system installed and all is watered with small fountain sprinklers.

    This is what my once lush backyard has become, No more grass, just overgrown with weeds. I do not have the money right now to pay anyone to landscape, I dont have the money to rent a cat for the day, so here I am, Halloween morning with shovel and rake in hand, tilling the dirt and raking it smooth so that in the spring I will be able to re-sod.

    I am excited to have my yard back, I am excited to have the time available to get it done. It is hard work, better than the best Gyms. And I had a lot of help company. My dog loved lying in the cool dirt as I dug it up.

    Here is how I see it. As I am great at starting projects...and not as great at completing them, I want to post the progress here. Then I will have to get it done right? And in a reasonable amount of time.
    Later last night with tired hands and sore limbs, I chapperoned a teen halloween party then headed out for drinks with my own friends for a couple hours...Good times at Halloween. And now, I am off to get on that dirt again. Hope you all had a great Halloween.

    Friday, October 30, 2009

    old friendships never die

    Had a visit from an old Jr. High school friend over this week. She was supposed to be in the country for an event with her grandmother. However flight delays and 'mechanical problems' caused her to miss the very thing she was coming for.
    But- I got to have dinner with her and her siblings (whom I have not seen since they were in elementary school) and you know, it was like stepping back in time.
    Not a beat was missed. We are all still as goofy and sarcastic as we ever were.It was as if she had not moved away. As if we were still the pre-teens, walking to school and making up our own languages.
    I am so glad that she found the time to get out with us while she was here.

    Now- If only I could get my darn car repaired so I can save up for my ticket to France to see her and her own territory.

    "It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them."
    - Ralph Waldo Emerson 

    I love you Darlene! Oh and double thanks for the french chocolates! Rachel thinks are hers alone --not

    Sunday, October 18, 2009

    Baby John

    My niece is a young mother. Turning 20 this month and her baby is already six months old. I was a young mother. I understand how frustrating that can be.
    She is also in a financial strain and her mother, my one and only sister, is also in the same predicament.
    On a whim, my daughter decided we should take the baby and give my neice a break. The man she is living with, not the babies father, is out of town a lot and she was feeling overwhelmed. She was also fighting a bout of swine flu and just didnt have the energy needed for him.
    Thursday night after working a full shift at work, I drove the 40 minutes home to grab my daughter then we hit the road for the 2 hour drive to pick up the baby.

    It has been a great weekend playing mom again...being that my baby is now sixteen. It has also been an awakening for my girls. Babies are great fun, and we love having him here to cuddle. However he has been teething and also fighting an ear infection and had some challenging moments.

    My older daughter put up his port-a-crib in her room and was great at getting up with him at night. I have faith in my girls that they will someday make great mothers. I also think that this weekend just might help them to hold off a few years before haveing children of thier own. It is great when you can send them back home.

    I am also proud of the fact that they both seem to take on the challenges of the cranky baby on thier own but are open to help and input from me. I watch my older daughter watching me with the baby and she is learning patience and how to keep the stress to a minimum. My younger daughter still gets quite stressed and tries to calm him any way she can...she cannot handle crying for long.
    It has been a fun time and a lesson for them.
    And just in time to send him home to mother... I feel a cold coming on... great!