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:

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More small town fun

Last night my daughters, I and my daughters friend headed into the next county for a county fair. It was a little over two hour drive through the mountain canyon to get there but so worth it. It was a beautiful drive too.

We've made this same route every November to spend thanksgiving at my aunts house for the past ten years.  After stopping for a quick hello, hugs and grabbing the tickets they were nice enough to reserve for us, we headed another half hour south.

If you have never been to a small county fair, you are really missing out on some fun.
We hit the carnival first- but it was horrible overpriced.  I loved watching the little children on the brightly colored  rides against the natural hues of the open range background.
I think we stood out like a sore thumb though. Everyone knew everyone else... we were 'strangers in this town'.

We also took the time to walk through the exhibits and livestock. I love the babies.
My youngest loves pigs and wants one of her own... hmm coincidence to her skills with chores?
Just kidding baby- I love you.

We grabbed some fair grub then settled in for the main event. The reason for our drive.
If you have ever owned a POS car. A car that seemed as thought it was made of a bucket of bolts and nothing more, this event is for you.

A Demolition Derby.

If you don't know what that is, teams of mechanics and hobbyists create cars out of old junk car finds and beef them up with roll-bars,  paint, extra power and some personal touch. Then they crash them into each other until they no longer run.

If a car stalls, gets stuck in the mud, or hung up on another car, they have a limited amount of time to 'make a hit' before they are disqualified. Last car running/ hitting wins.
It really is a treat. So much more fun than it sounds.
The pictures say it all.
The view was outstanding as one of the oldest and most beautiful of the Mormon temples was just across the street.
Some menacing clouds threatened to make the night a little bit more moist, but moved on and didn't drop a bit of precipitation on our fun.
As the clouds parted, a 'flock' of ten bald eagles made their presence in the distance.
And who would have thought we would see this guy? In a small town in rural Utah? Just two seats in front of us.
No... it is not really Matt Damon. But wow he could win a contest couldn't he?

We got home in the wee hours of this morning... calling to report a drunk driver on our way. But it was a lot of fun to help round off the end of summer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

"There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart." - Celia Thaxter

The summer is coming to an end. And there is another end for us.
My youngest is a Senior in high school this year. All those years of being a PTA mom are coming to an end for me.
No more parent teacher meetings, no more 'great job' stickers on writing assignments. No more report cards and book reports. This is the last year. And she is old enough to do it all on her own.
She registered for her classes without my input. She can get herself up and on her way without my prodding. She no longer requires my help with homework assignments and now driving, no longer needs driving services.

I am so proud of the young adults my children are becoming more everyday, but it leaves me in a somber mood. To be so proud and at the same time a bit sad. Empty.

But not all of this month is sad-

Although our own garden is a bit behind in its bounty, Neighbors have been sharing their excess.
Here is an end of summer meal we prepared one busy night. The best parts? No dishes to wash.

Grilled vegetables and steak

Begin by roughly cubing some small red potatoes.
And place them in a large re-close-able baggie.
Pour 1/4 cup of Extra virgin olive oil over the potatoes.
Add all the herbs and spices you want to. I used garlic, onion powder, and a prepared herb combination. and a bit of Salt to enhance the flavors.
If you want to make it easier still, you can pour in a dry onion dip or ranch dressing packet.

Close the bag and shake it hard. Really give it a good shake. This may just help keep that arm flab at bay if done right. :)

Layer two layers of heavy duty aluminum foil.
Approximately 24 inches long.
Spread the potatoes in a single layer over the center of the foil.
Mmm look at those herbs.. oh the smell in my kitchen.
Fold the sides in then the ends, create a sealed pocket around the potatoes. Fold the foil over itself and pinch to seal in the flavors and the steam.

Repeat the steps with some summer vegetables. I used yellow and zucchini squash. Tomatoes, peas, radishes, onions, peppers, mushrooms, corn cobs or other vegetables would all be wonderful in this dish.
Use about half as much olive oil with the vegetables.
Place onto a preheated grill set to low. (approximately 350-400 degrees.)
Leave on the grill with a cover for about 20 minutes. No need to turn over. (Forgive the condition of my grill)
Add the steaks to the grill at the correct time to finish all at the same time. Depending on your done-ness preferences.

And the meal is complete.
As I was grilling, a light summer rain cooled the night and it was so refreshing.  Not enough to cool the grill but enough to cool the air slightly. And bring out the appetite.
The only dishes you have are a plate, fork and steak knife. (unless you go with disposable)
What a way to celebrate the end of summer.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

"Scientists investigate that which already is; Engineers create that which has never been.'' Albert Einstein

People often inquire how I ended up working in Engineering. It is definitely a male dominated field. I am not a whiz at math, which is generally a requirement. I am however, a creative soul.

Since I was a very young child I loved to doodle, draw, and create. Some of my first toys were Engineering based. Tinker Toys,  Lincoln logs, and models. I love to create.

I also know how to appreciate others work.

I cannot drive or walk down any street without observing and digesting all around me. Buildings, houses, paint choices, car contours, even people.

Sometimes I feel a little bit stalker when I drive by houses at night and sneak a peek inside the lit open rooms. I love to see how others decorate, arrange furniture, use color pallets and contrasts.

It started early with me. As soon as I could hold a pencil, I would create rooms and house designs on paper. I would often rearrange my bedroom furniture. A habit I still afford with some frequency.

Ever since I knew what an architect was, I wanted to be one. I love the shapes and colors that create a city skyline. That combine to form a sub-division, or those which create a welcoming old back country town with bridges and farmhouses. There are some structures locally which have been standing over 100 years.

Do you take the time to appreciate what is around?
Alas, I did not make it into the field of Architecture as there was not enough local job opportunity at the time. We were beginning our young family and moving was not an option.

I don't regret my choices. I am happy that my children grew up near my birthplace and near family. I still create. I still derive joy from others creations. And I am able to share that with my children and others through my photography and creations.

So take a look around you and notice something you have not before. The curve of a window, the slant of a roof, the colors and shapes, and the structural integrity some of those might require. What makes it work? what makes some buildings so appealing? It was someones creative mind who created such cohesiveness.

There is beauty all around if we stop to notice.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Easy like a Sunday Morning

Taking it easy this Sunday reading the paper, blogs, sipping coffee and resting.

This past week I have had a hard time concentrating. I have had a sharp pain in my lower back. It is not a constant pain. More of a sharp stabbing pain when I move in a certain position. But not the same position. This makes it difficult to diagnose and find a remedy for.

I rarely have pain such as this and find it difficult to relieve. How do you know whether to 'work it out' or 'sit it out'? Do I use Ice? or Heat? or both?

This recent pain was not caused by an event. I didn't strain it or overwork it in any way- that I could recall.

I have tried it all. Ice, Heat, Exercise, Stretching, Resting and anti-inflammatory's and mild pain killers. So far, nothing has helped.

It is not a constant pain. I have been able to take long walks, play tennis, stretch and exercise with no pain at all. However, sitting and then standing again can take my breath away with pain.

It could be that I have a nerve pinching between vertebra...

The worse part is I have no insurance and a real tight budget due to my continued unemployment.
I will wait it out and continue to exercise, ice, heat and rest.

I have enjoyed the time with my girls on long quiet walks in she sunshine and some time on the tennis court.

Here is a bit of my childhood I relived through one of our walks to the tennis courts. Hollyhock Dolls:

This is a hollyhock plant. Here in Utah it is often pulled out with the weeds. Not many here see it for its beauty.

It grows well in arid soil and needs little to no tending.
When I was a young girl they grew all along our fence line in our back yard. They don't have much of a scent but the deep rich colors range from white to the deepest reds and purples.

Here is a little easy craft if you have little girls:

Using one blossom and one un-bloomed bud,

Simply insert a toothpick between the two through the stem center.

The bloom makes the full skirt and the bud becomes the head.

Underneath the skirt is enough pick for a 'puppet handle'.

Simple fun

Friday, August 13, 2010

Penalties imposed for doing the right thing?

For the past twenty two years, I have worked full-time.
For the past thirteen years, I have been a single mother.
For ten of those years I have been a full-time or part-time college student. For all of those years, finances have been a stress in my life.

Making it financially is hard for new couples just beginning life together. The economic downswing making it that more difficult.
Being a single parent adds to the stress both financially and in workload  vs hours in the day. There are not enough hours in the day for most full-time employees, more so for working parents, and even more so for single parents who work. If you attend night school, God help you.

But that has been the life I have led for a long time.

Recently I graduated from night school. And some time was freed up. The older my kids get, the less they demand of me too. I was unlucky enough to finish night school just as the jobless rates increased. I was also lucky enough to work for three companies who in turn held huge lay-offs in order to cut costs and/or send manufacturing to foreigners to save money.

I have written about surviving in an 'old boys club' field of work. And about juggling motherhood and single parenthood. I have written here about struggling to complete my own school studies while helping the kids with theirs.

I have also written about my school project on the differences between the wages of men and women when comparing the equal education and experience levels.

I have fought a long struggle, I have made the money I have worked for and earned work for me. Both combined with my child support and also in times when I was receiving none. I have made it through. I have one more child to get through school.

I have never qualified for any assistance, government or otherwise. I have done it all on my own.
Nothing reduced, nothing paid for me. (albeit the occasional save from my family when an appliance broke down)

I have rarely complained.

However this article got my attention.

I have heard the stories often.

A full-time working mother struggling to make ends meet, needs just a leg-up, a small subsidy to help pay a medical bill, or put some food on the table for the month... a reduced price for her kids public school fees or lunches. Just a small supplement to aid her while she is doing all she can to survive.. and she is told:

I cannot help you. You do not qualify. You make too much money. But if you quit your job and go on full assistance, we can qualify you for everything!

This is a broken system. I do not know how to fix it. But I have lived it.

What are solutions?

Why do we penalize those who work hard.

Why are you penalized for being a woman? ( my thoughts on the reason this one was put into place was when women were thought of as the supplemental income- which is really not the case these days)

Why are we penalized for being working mothers? Mothers who tend to give 110% as they feel guilty if they need any extra time off.


Why are we penalized when we give all we have to make our kids, our employers, our instructors and our own selves happy in every hour of every day?

I have never taken a sick day just because my child was sick, I made other arrangements.
I have never asked for more time on my school assignments because I am too busy with my kids or life. Most of my teachers didn't even know I was a mother or single.
I never qualified or lied in order to qualify for reductions or waiver of food, fees, bills, etc. I went without and my kids went without the latest gadgets and things we would certainly love to have but could not afford.

We made it through and I think my kids are better for it. They know the value of a dollar, they understand and are sympathetic of those things they went without. But it doesn't make it any easier on a parent knowing they did all they could and still could not provide all they wished they could.

But why the mistreatment? Why penalties are imposed on those working to make it better, I will not know.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

A phone call that changes your perspective.

This morning I received a call. I almost ignored it as I was in the middle of some work and figured it was a telemarketer considering the time of day.

And then the news. 'Christopher was hit by a car!' Wait what? 'He was on his way from school and he is in stable condition.'

Christopher is my only sisters youngest. He is 16 almost 17. A bit of a reckless spirit and as they just moved near my parents, in unfamiliar territory.

I called my dad. I figured he would not be as 'involved' in the craziness as my sister.

He had indeed been hit by a car. It was his first day of school. He left the school grounds on his lunch hour and was headed back and in a hurry. Not uncommon with him, shortcuts. He had attempted to cross a four lane street, too impatient to cross at the intersection.

He was hit. I don't know all of the details but he ended up on the hood, cracked the windshield with his body and then to the pavement. He was conscious through it all. Which is good and bad.

Taken by ambulance to the hospital, his cuts were stitched, he was well bruised. His left non-dominant arm was aching. Further examination showed one dislocated and one fractured bone in his lower arm.

He has grown up in a very small town all of his sixteen years. They just moved to a much larger city a few months ago. Certainly the traffic is much busier. It may be hard to change that small town attitude.

Tonight he is resting, spending the night of his first day of school in a hospital room. I am so grateful he is OK, that he was not hurt worse. I hope too that he learns from this. Learns to slow down, to be more cautious and  what I seem to learn a little more every year on this earth. Time and life are precious.

And, he will have some great stories to tell in his new school, when he returns.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

End of Summer

This summer has been bittersweet. I have had a lot of time to spend with my girls. My girls who will soon be leaving the nest for their own lives. We have been able to do and see so many things.

The flip-side is that I have not worked all summer and am still jobless. Worry is beginning to set in. We are doing ok. But just OK. We have school fees to pay and school clothes to buy for my youngest.She made the drama club this year. She will receive her letter sweater, attend clinics and workshops and trips. But all of those cost money. More money than the monthly bills.

I have hope this will all work out and I will be working soon. I am sure it will. But it is stressful and a bit worrisome.

I am happy though. This stress cannot cloud the time I have spent with the girls. It cannot take away from the pride I feel knowing my son is home safe and grown to such a wonderful man. The pride that my older daughter is working with those less fortunate and doing one hell-a job. And the pride that my youngest is not only filling her senior year with fun and experiences but also preparing for the future on her own.

I am one proud and happy mama today.

Happy Sunday.

We are off to watch one of my good friends from my high school years play at another local outdoor summer Art festival in Park City. Soaking up every drop of sun and fun.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The lake of Salty Water

Have you heard of the Great Salt Lake? Yes, You are correct, it is in Salt Lake City.

Correct again- It is Salty like the sea.

Why? Because water comes in.. carrying traces of Salt and never leaves. Well, only by evaporation.

The high salt content is where Morton gets a large portion of their commodity. It is also where the most of the worlds brine shrimp supply, is found as they feed on the algae collected in the lake.

Brine shrimp eggs are often used to feed prawns. In larger shrimping areas.

The salt content also gives the lake the beautiful blue tones.

The lake has one island, Antelope Island, where many  protected Bison and Antelope still roam free. We did not visit that end of the lake on this day, however and I could not find my pictures.

My daughter and I spent a sweltering 24th of July on the shores. The 24th is our state founders day..Pioneer day.

It was a heat wave when we went.. but my daughter was not feeling well so we didn't take the plunge like these gulls.

We did stop by this land mark-
Once a beach resort this skeleton of a building is abandoned all but the gift shop and the swallows who nest in its eaves.
The salt content in the water makes the lake uninhabitable for fish but perfect for sailing.

If you are ever in Utah, make sure to make the stop,  you wont be disappointed.