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