Archive for family

Balancing Act

As a business owner running a successful enterprise I can’t afford to have an employee mentality. There’s no such thing as punching the time clock and working 8:00 to 5:00. It seems like my work day is never done,always emails to answer, billing to catch up on, bills to pay, office supplies to purchase and an assortment of little things that just need to be done.

Add to that the last minute emergency projects that always seem to crop up, pushing aside what I had planned and my life could easily revolve around work, work and more work. I think like most business owners I want to project an image of the woman who can do it all, balancing work, family and leisure activities. Sometimes though, its the family and leisure activities that suffer. I really try not to let that happen.

There are times that my phone rings as early as 7:00 a.m. and as late as 11:00 p.m. Why? I’m not really sure. Maybe its because people know I work a lot – seemingly all the time. Maybe they just assume that I want to be be woke up early to answer a question that could easily wait until regular business hours. I don’t know. I did really question the new client who called at 1:00 a.m. to order business cards. Did they really expect any business to answer at that hour of the night? So I’ll be honest, there are times that I don’t answer my phone. I don’t answer when I’m in a meeting, when I’m on a crunch project that I need to finish and I don’t answer when I’m watching my son’s school performance. Then I’m an engaged in the moment.

I even schedule days off. Fun, adventure days to go and explore the world, recharge my creative batteries, take photos, people watch (great for a writer!) or just hang out at the movies with my son. I think those moments are important too. They help to make up for working until 1:00 a.m. and setting my alarm for 3:00 a.m. to finish a project that my client ‘forgot’ they needed until the day before a big presentation.

There are times it feels like walking a tightrope trying to keep it all in balance. I just end up weighing what’s important in my life and what has to be done right now. Like today. I have a list of projects to get done and my son really wants me to take a break and watch his dress rehearsal. I’m lucky. Lunch is now scheduled for 2:00 so that I can be there. Yeah, the lunch that I don’t normally take because I’m working. Like I said, it’s all about balance.

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It Must Be a Sign

I woke up this morning anxious and ready to paint and write. My fingers were itching to wrap themselves around a paintbrush, gliding the bristles through the nice, rich, wet thick paint. I could see the glistening strokes before I even opened my eyes. Long, flowing, perfect. Ahhh, such a blissful thought as my lashes fluttered open.

Along with that words danced and pranced around in my head. Lines of dialog floating around as characters chatted casually back and forth. “What a marvelous day this was going to be,”  I thought.  An amazing, creative Sunday.

That’s when my creative caravan screeched to an abrupt halt. Wasn’t there something I was supposed to do today? Oh, yeah….now I remember, I know what it is. No wonder I’m feeling so deliciously creative. I have floors to scrub. Laundry to wash and fold. A design project to get off to print. Christmas cards to write. Bathrooms to scour. I could feel my mood sinking, the creativity being sucked out like a vacuum cleaner stealing away my little creative projects that circled around in my brain.

But wait! Maybe not all is lost! A glimmer of hope fluttered across the horizon. Today was going to be a marvelously creative endeavor after all! There are three times and/or places that seem to always inspire me. Driving. Lots of great ideas and I’m so thankful for my little recorder to capture them. The shower. Did you know its really hard to write with soap on the shower wall and read it later? Cleaning house. Yep, something about cleaning makes me come up with lots of new ideas. Some might think then that waking up thinking creatively might be a sign that my house needs cleaning…I think its a sign that cleaning my house is going to lead to an amazingly wonderful, creatively filled day!

Do you ever have one of those days?

Do you ever have one of those days when ideas just keep bombarding you, bouncing around in your head, multiplying quicker than a group of rabbits in the spring? Well, today is one of those days!

Here I am all set to tackle the laundry, mop the floors and scrub the sink when suddenly I have ideas dive bombing me. What’s a girl to do? Being the creative maven that I am I guess I have NO choice but to put off those boring and mundane chores until I’ve grasped each and every little idea and safely tucked it away into its cubby hole, ready for use when I can implement it.

What a curse! : ) Forced to create instead of clean…its a burden that I must carry. Someone has to do it!

A funny thing happened on the way to the airport…

We’ve probably all heard the lyrics, “It never rains in California” and this year that was almost true.  Southern California set a new record for historic low rainfall.

And you’d have to live in Southern California to appreciate “Storm Watch”. The local affiliate stations go into overdrive reporting on rain that in other parts of the country would get only a passing comment. Reports come from any corner where ‘flooding’ occurs. It doesn’t matter that it would flood in those spots due to poor design with only a fraction of an inch or rain. 

We all have to watch the obligatory reports with reporters in their company-issued raincoats hiding under oversized hats or umbrellas talk excitedly into the camera as cars pass by in the background splashing water.

This is the second Friday with rain in Southern California. Someone must have done a rain dance. Oh wait, someone did say a rain prayer in Georgia. Maybe this is spill over from that. Thank you, Georgia, for saying that prayer, we needed the rain here too.

Last Friday when it rained I headed out to take my son to school. Dodging raindrops it wasn’t enough to justify an umbrella but I did need to run the windshield wipers. That’s when it happened.  I couldn’t remember how to turn them on.

Now, in my defense, we’ve only had the car about a year and with the rain patterns in Southern California we don’t get much need to run them but at that exact moment I was feeling pretty foolish. I thought for my own sake I probably shouldn’t share this information with others. A terrible blonde moment!

So, later, when we’re driving to the airport for my husband to catch a flight I noticed with amusement that he was fumbling with the wipers trying to get them to work. Now this is a smart man, not baffled by technology. Suddenly I felt sooooo much better. So good in fact that I shared our common problem. Together we shared a good laugh. Guess we’d better keep the owner’s handbook handy!

Wouldn’t you like to be their hero?

(Hum “Didn’t you know you were my hero” as you read along)

I read my 18-year-old son’s My Space page the other day. It was as disturbing as I thought it might be but not as bad as it could have been. He’s an 18-year-old ‘sowing his oats’, “you can’t tell me what to do” 18-year-old. And since he no longer lives at home – he’s right. (That doesn’t mean I don’t occasionally still try to slip in some advice or, “you can’t do that!” in my conversations with him.)

And after that I read my 22-year-old daughter’s page. I held my breath as I started. You NEVER know what you’ll find. But it was pretty predictable. She loves her boyfriend, he’s good to her and loves her for who she is (YEAH!!!) and listens to country music. Ok, two out of three aren’t bad.

And she says that I’m one of her heroes. That came as quite a shock.  And, I admit, as soon as I read it I felt this immense sense of responsibility. Suppose I ever disappoint her? Suppose she discovers that I’m only human and I screw up.

After the shock wore off I stopped and thought for a minute. Maybe there was a bigger compliment in there than I’d realized. She and I had some rough patches, just like most mothers and daughters. There were tense times and times she didn’t really want to talk to me. There were times she screwed up and I yelled at her or punished her and there were times she didn’t mean to screw up and I just gave her a hug. And there were times I made mistakes too. Those are the times I said I was sorry and asked for her forgiveness. I guess she already knows I’m human and doesn’t expect me to be some “Wonder Woman” in tights (thank goodness!!).

And I’m still her hero? Maybe that means that she knows me for who I am and accepts me for that. And maybe it means that she needed the discipline that I gave her in order to grow up to be a good person and appreciate me for doing that. Its so much easier to be their friends than their parents but that’s not the job you sign on for when you hold that tiny baby for the first time and promise to love and protect them and help them grow up. They will have lots of friends over the course of a lifetime. Friends will come and go but parents are there for the long haul. Parents have to do the dirty work from changing diapers to teaching right from wrong. But parents get the big rewards in the end to. Real parents. They get to be their kids hero. And they get to watch them raise their kids just the same way, if they are lucky.

Wouldn’t you like to be their hero?

The Story of the Green Blanket

Yesterday my son had a friend over to play. With the great weather it seemed the perfect plan to suggest a picnic. They loved the idea! So, out came the green blanket for them to lounge on while they ate and shared secrets and made up stories for each other.

It wasn’t until later when I casually tossed the green blanket into the perpetual pile of wash that I really thought about the green blanket. This had been a gift to me for my birthday a million years and a lifetime ago, but sometimes it seems just like yesterday. My 18th birthday, I think it was. A gift from my best friend in high school. She had worked diligently on it, hand-crocheting it between classes and dates to give to me. 

At first the blanket stayed on my bed and was great for snuggling under when I was reading or studying.  And later, when I moved from a twin bed to a queen-sized bed, it was relegated to the linen closet to be pulled out on cold winter nights for snuggling under on the couch while reading, watching tv or holding a baby.

That blanket has been through a lot of things. Not always treated with care but always there when I need it. Its been wrapped around the bottom of my Christmas tree when I couldn’t afford a tree skirt. Its kept sick children warm and been tossed over the back of an old couch that had seen better days, covering its imperfections. The blanket has cushioned breakables in the trunk of the car and hidden Christmas presents from peering eyes.

Friends have come and gone. Children have grown up and even had children themselves. I’ve moved house numerous times and even trekked across country to raise my family. I’ve seen birthdays come and go, changed jobs, switched careers and found the love of my life…and always the blanket has been there.

I lost touch with my friend, Cindy, who made the blanket after I moved across country and we both started having families. But a year or so ago, I looked her up online. She was still living in the same house, with the same husband. And she was still there for me – just like the blanket she made for me so many years ago.

All Is Right With the World

We all have problems. Life is full of them. Sometimes it seems like they are all closing in around you but when you take a step back and appreciate the things around you its easy to realize how good life really is and how lucky we all are.

Now is the time of year that people are so focused on Thanksgiving. So why do they forget to give thanks every other day of the year? Turkey and stuffing is nice but that’s not what life is all about. “But my family is all gathered ’round at this time of year,” is offered as one explanation.

Having those you love near is always nice but in this century with cell phones, internet, video conferencing they don’t have to seem as far away. I’ll grant you there’s nothing like a hug when you need (or want) one, and a kiss can sooth away so many problems. But shouldn’t you be grateful every day to have your family with you? What guarantee do you have that tomorrow will bring another day? Live today. Love today. Appreciate today.

I was up most of the night last night stressing over things I couldn’t change at 3:00 a.m. Things that will all resolve themselves. And what did I really do? I lost sleep. And today?  The sun is shining and I hear the laughter of children as my son plays outside with a friend. All is right with the world and for that I give thanks to God. Today. Tomorrow. And every day.

Dr. Laura – Friend or Foe?

When my older kids were younger they used to listen to Dr. Laura on the radio when their grandpa picked them up from school. The irony of that does not escape me now.  I was working and not able to be there for them.

There were times, when I was married to my first husband, that I was the only one working and bringing in income.  Quitting work didn’t seem like an option. And after I was divorced working was a necessity.

And funny enough, years later when clearing off a bookcase to move, I found one of Dr. Laura’s books there. I vaguely remember buying it. It was probably 1992 – I read a lot of self-help books in 1992. This one was 10 Stupid Things Women Do to Mess Up Their Lives. I would have read that one when my now-ex-husband left me the first time.  I tried hard to fix what was wrong with me. Guess I should have read it more than once.

Problem was, not all of it was me. I married a person (NOT a real man) who beat me and verbally abused me. I figured as long as he didn’t hit the kids and they didn’t know he hit me it was all ok. Guess that kind of went out the window when he beat my head into a wall right in front of three of them. This was right after he locked himself into a bedroom and shot a gun so that we’d all think he’d killed himself. I can still hear the screams. Their screams. How could any parent do such a thing?

Pretty simple, I guess when its all about them. Self-absorbed and childish are two of the kinder words I’d use to describe him. I should have changed the locks when he left the first time but I was afraid I couldn’t raise four young kids on my own. And I was afraid to admit I’d made a mistake. I wasn’t used to failure and this was a BIG failure.

Even when he said to me one day, “I’m trying to decide, should I just kill myself or should I kill you first,” I didn’t act. I remember that little voice inside screaming, “If I get a vote, I pick just you,” but I didn’t leave and I didn’t make him leave. Instead I accepted that he was going to kill me one day. It seemed inevitable.

Wow, how pathetic a mother I must have been letting my kids endure such an environment. I even had a next-door neighbor who I hardly knew come over and give me a lecture about raising my kids in such a house – seems I wasn’t hiding things nearly as well as I thought I was. Everyone knew what he was doing but nobody said a thing until that.

Eventually, I got lucky. He left me telling me that I’d never been there for him. Completely untrue and unfounded but a blessing for me and the kids.  I know I wasn’t perfect in the relationship either but I had stood by and tried to help through all of his mental illness.

It was rough for them dealing with everything. And I was mostly at fault for the state of their life. I hadn’t picked well. I hadn’t picked a good dad. They loved him but he wasn’t good for them and he wasn’t good at being a dad. Kind of explains why they struggled so hard as they grew up.

Funny thing is, I have a fifth child now. The rest are all grown. And he looked at me the other day and said, “We’re so lucky to have dad.” At first I agreed. But then I said, “No, I’m lucky to have dad. You’re not lucky. I picked him for you. Its not luck.”

I listen to Dr. Laura now almost every day. In my office and in the car, if its time for her show you can bet my radio will be tuned in. I learn a lot from listening to her show. Sometimes its words of wisdom directly from her. Odd, how sometimes its such obvious things but when we are wrapped up in the situation we just can’t see it. And sometimes its from her listeners. I am inspired by them in two ways. Often times I am struck by their power to overcome really tough situations. And sometimes, I hear them tell their story and ask their question and think to myself, “I never want to be like that.” Sometimes these are hard lessons to learn and I feel for them. It took me a long time to learn after all.

And there are moments, brief moments like snapshots that stand out. Experiences that make me smile – when Courtney, my daughter, is in the car with me, she’ll grumble if Dr. Laura is on. “We used to have to listen to that with Grandpa,” she’ll say. 23 and worldly, she doesn’t need Dr. Laura now she thinks. And other times, I’ve come into my office to find her yelling at the radio. “What’s wrong, now?,” I’ll ask. And worked up, she’ll reply, “These people are so stupid. Even I knew that wasn’t the right thing to do,” she’ll explode. “Dr. Laura told them exactly what I would have,” she’ll conclude.  And I try to hide my smug smile. Maybe even after screwing up some important things she’s gotten the message.

So many people berate Dr. Laura for her views and outlook. How many of them have ever really listened to her? Her message is really so simple. Put children first. If your focus is there then you’ll fight hard to do what is best for them. Children aren’t an accessory like a new purse or bracelet. They are little people who depend upon you for everything. Don’t sweat the little things. Pick wisely, not just from the heart. Morals and character matter. Real men will swim through shark-infested water for their wives. Real wives will take care of their husbands because they love them. Once you put everything into perspective its all so easy.  What’s there not to like? Be secure in yourself and don’t make excuses. Own your own stuff and change what you don’t like about yourself. “Go do the right thing.”

I wonder what would have happened if I had sat in Grandpa’s car and listened to Dr. Laura years ago. 

My Daughter, the Trucker

“My daughter, the trucker,” has an odd ring to it, doesn’t it? I’m sure I’ll get used it eventually. Just like anything you say enough, or hear enough, after a while it will sound ordinary to you. But for now its strange to say and even stranger to think about.

And no, its not because I believe in stereotypical roles for females. I’ve always maintained that if a woman can do the same job as a man then she should be allowed to do it. But I mean the SAME job as a man. Not a modified, watered down version of the job to accommodate a woman. Where’s the equality in that?

I’m not a feminist. Not at all. Not by any stretch of the imagination. I’m glad to be a woman and think that God had a pretty good plan when he created us to be different from men. We are (hopefully, ideally) a perfect compliment to men.  “And together we shall become one.” Pieces of a puzzle that when you find the perfect fit make a beautiful picture together, working together for a common goal. 

But I didn’t mean to go off on a tangent about women’s rights and equality. I was telling you about my daughter, the trucker. Meet Melissa. She’s an interesting study of the human spirit and drive (no pun intended) for success.  She doesn’t fit the mold of what you’d expect for a cross-country trucker.

Admit it, when you hear the word ‘trucker’ you get an immediate mental image of a rough and tumble male, flannel shirts and blue jeans. Our modern-day version of the cowboys of the old west, but instead of wrangling cattle and riding horses off into the sunset they drive a big rig delivering products for us all to use.

Melissa sure doesn’t fit that picture. She loves make-up and curling irons and spends hours getting ready. Expensive perfume and even more expensive purses. Frilly girl things. Prissy girl things. And she’s always been that way. Growing up with her siblings she didn’t play with the cars and ‘boy toys’ like her sister Courtney did. She always opted for the traditional girl toys.

That’s why it was funny to watch her ride a dirt bike. Where exactly do you put the $300 purse when you’re riding a bike? Hmmmmmm…….interesting question. And from that the evolution into a truck driver.  Not the career path I’d envisioned for her, nor one that she’d ever dreamed about. Of course, along the way a ‘significant other’ entered her life and his dreams became hers. Happens to all of us. Its supposed to be that way, isn’t it? Keeping our dreams but expanding them to include what the other person wants as well.

So now Melissa is poised to graduate truck driving school next Friday. And hit the open highway off to other great adventures. I admit it, I’ll worry about her. And I’ll miss her. But she can always email and call. And I know she will.

And in a couple of years when she’s saved enough money she will go back to school and get her degree. After that maybe she’ll open a day spa like she’s always planned. Did I mention that she’s a girly girl?

My daughter, the trucker. Kind of has a ring to it I guess.

Awards Day

Its hard to believe its the end of the first quarter already.  Today was awards day for the children. Rows and rows of smiling, anxious faces  sitting in their chairs, anxiously awaiting the calling of names.  Legs swinging back and forth, as they fidget and squirm. Its so hard to sit still when you’re still so young. So many things to run and explore. To giggle and share secrets is tempting but then they glance over and see the intent stare of their teacher and behind her the principal looms. School assembly hardly seems the place to get in trouble. Especially with parents seated just a few rows behind.

The hum of conversation is muted as parents sit, just as anxiously, waiting to hear the name of their little one called. And one by one, the first grade class is called up. Expectional Bible Verse Studies.  Math Excellence. Outstanding Reader. The children beam as their names are called and stand in a row, holding their certificates, some upside down, but all with pride.

“I earned this” their faces say. “I really did this!”. And then I hear it spoken. The name of my son. “Christopher – Outstanding Reader.” Instantly my heart swells to a bursting point and I fight back the inevitable tears I feel welling in my eyes.  Just one look at my son’s glowing face and I’ll cry for sure. But I can’t help it.

He’s a reader. That might sound silly but I’m a ‘reader’ too.  A chronic, compulsive reader. If its in front of me I have to read it.  He’d left signs that he was a reader all over our home.  Books on the bathroom counter. On the couch. On a chair or countertop. Everywhere. And I am thrilled. Reading is the foundation for everything. A love of reading can take you anywhere! And you can learn anything. Absolutely anything with books at your fingertips. 

My son is a reader I say again to myself as I leave the assembly. Not just a reader. Outstanding.  And he truly is. I didn’t need a certificate to tell me that. I can read it on his heart.

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