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Monday, April 29, 2013

Moody Monday

My weekend was unexpectedly quiet.  The constant rain kept me mostly indoors and when we ventured out to church, I was interrupted in class to be told I had a sick child.  So back home we went and stayed.  I spent the afternoon playing nurse to my baby and even napping with him.  He was miserable but I did my best to keep him comfortable...and he got to watch unlimited movies!

Now, I'm hoping against hope that the others stay virus-free!  Me, too.

Before the sickness set in, I was able to spend some relaxing time with Mr. Wonderful and his girls.  We enjoy a Saturday lunch tradition of Tex-Mex ... it's just fun! 

I caught up on home cleaning and some organization, which was nice.  It always feels good to start the week off from a good place. 

Have I shared that Mr. Wonderful is a high school soccer coach?  He is down to one last game of the regular season and then the district tournament.  I so enjoy watching him lead the team and am proud to cheer wildly for them to score.  My children love to go to games and feel like a big part of the action since they know the coach.  It's a great experience all around.

Except, I know it is a huge time consumer for Mr. Wonderful.  Coaching is a second full time job during the season and mentally very draining.  For his sake, I'm thankful that a break is coming.  I know he'll be able to take a deep breath and rest. 

The next big event on our calendar will be a wedding in July!  We're all excited!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Build 'Em Up - Friendships

A Sacred Vow to Friendship

There are pulls in every direction as a woman, mother and especially in the role of single motherhood.  We truly cannot do it all and sometimes have to let go of all but the essentials in our daily lives.  It's easy to think that friendships are one the things we just have to sacrifice. I have found the complete opposite to be true!  It is my friends that I have most needed when I had sick children, overwhelmed Mommy and a to do list longer than the hours in the day.  When my soul is empty and my body weary, the women in my life have surrounded me to propel me into a better day.  There are some who are friends for life and others who are friends for a season - often we don't know when we meet one how important they will become.

Like most things in life, you don't have to be perfect to be a good friend.

Affectionately labeled in group form, the College Girls are by lifelong besties.  College life has a way of bonding friends and we do share so many great memories.  The first few years after school, we saw each other at weddings and when traveling through one another's towns, but we drifted.  There was no intention  to keeping our friendships close.  Then we scheduled an official reunion - all of us together again!  It was so fun and so wonderful that we pledged to keep it up. Now we have an annual girls weekend.  We share prayer requests and news via email and Facebook.  We even have health kick challenges where we 'weigh-in.'  We have walked each other through weddings, babies, divorces, hurts and celebrations.  There is nothing like being known and loved well.  These are the friends who don't live close, but remain close in my heart.

From our 2012 Get Together - the College Girls!
There is no camaraderie so close as the clique of Motherhood.  Sharing birth stories, toddler tantrums, homework secrets and laundry woes is a whole 'nother kind of bonding.  Some of my Mom-friends are people I may not have connected with in different season of life, but the trenches of motherhood bring us together.  I learn from them and lean on them when I can.  We car pool each others' children, we price for a joint garage sale, we compare homework tips.  These are the women with whom I do life.

When my van died as I drove my firstborn home from his tonsillectomy, both of us in tears.  I needed the friend who came to get us and the other friend who had my van towed for repair.  When I couldn't make it to the school pick up line in time, I called my friend who was already in line to pick up her own.  When I had to move, I needed the friends who gathered around me as I grieved the rooms and packed the space...then came for appetizers and desserts at the new house.  I am always thrilled when I get asked to return the favor.

I need others.  You do to.  But for people to be available, we must foster and nourish the relationships in an ongoing fashion.  It's worth it to take the time and energy to invest in friendship.  Here are some fun ways:

  • Use social media - especially for the long distance friends & family.
  • Notice who is at church, school, parks and grocery store - your path is crossing the path of others.
  • Schedule something fun - I have a group that loves to go out to eat.  It only happens every couple of months, but our 'dinners' usually last four hours!
  • Share a play date by getting together with the mother of your children's friends.
  • Look for someone who needs help and offer to babysit, pick something up at the store or car pool.
We know there are so many benefits, so even though it takes some extra effort - it's worth it to invest in friendships.  Life is more livable when shared.  How do you stay connected?  Do you think it is more difficult to make friends these days?  

I'm Linking up with Kelly Here.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Moody Monday

It's been an extremely busy season.  So I treasured this unusually slow weekend even more.  I was able to sleep, go to a movie, read, dine without rushing, exercise and worship with my favorite people.  One of the best moments was a nap with my firstborn.

The worst moment was when I learned my grandfather passed away.  But even this was peaceful.  He was in his nineties and sleeping as he moved from this life to the next.  I imagine he wouldn't choose to come back.

I'm loving the wonderful spring weather - cool mornings and warm afternoons.  I miss gardening this year, but do have some flowers planted in pots.  Mr. Wonderful and I discuss how we'll spruce up his patio next year - there isn't much of a yard, but there are several places just perfect for flower beds.

I love Mr. Wonderful with everything in me.  I never believed in soul mates or finding, "the one."  I wonder if I was wrong?  We were meant to be together, truly.

I have a wedding dress, caterer, photographer.  My dearest friends have plane tickets.  The wedding is less than three months away.  I already feel married in my heart.

My heart is full, busy and content this morning.  I would much rather be hiking than working, but I'm grateful for this life.  What would you rather be doing than what you must?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Zero Dollar Budgeting

Because I'm a detail person, I sort of fell into accounting as a job description.  But it has been out of sheer necessity that I've learned to budget.  I lived on my own before marriage and did a great job of managing my single girl income.  My goal was to pay off college debt in two years - I did so with two months to spare.  Yay.  Through our marriage we incurred debt and paid it off and the balance seemed to rise and fall fairly predictably.  We rarely did without what we wanted but sometimes had to pay back because we didn't save first.  However, money was rarely a source of conflict.  I was the one who managed the day to day accounts.

In 2008, I found myself as the only adult managing a home (with mortgage) and three young children.  I was working 12 hours per week and did receive support from the father of my children.  An anonymous angel gave me $1,500 cash and that was the extent of my resources.  I had reason to panic.  Before the shock even wore off, I knew I had to get a gameplan.

First: Assess the situation - be brutal.  I couldn't minimize the seriousness of our needs and I knew I didn't want to move in with my parents.  That is a wonderful solution for many, but it wasn't going to work for us for a variety of reasons.  So, I quickly realized that we needed short term assistance, I had to cut our living expenses as much as possible, and I needed to earn more money.

I applied for state healthcare assistance, and was approved.  I received nutrition assistance from the state. We cancelled all additional services such as cable, cell phone, even the trash pick up.  This was a humbling experience - yet it was also empowering to take control of the situation instead of just waiting to see what would happen next.

I approached my existing employer and said that I needed more hours or would need to find another job.  I'm blessed that I was able to more than double my working hours.  I would have enough income to survive month-to-month covering our immediate needs.  I was scared, but I had peace and committed to tithing on the income.

Zero dollar budgeting for me, meant that when I got paid at the beginning of each month, I had a plan for every penny.  I spent on paper what I planned for the month and there was zero left at the bottom line.  Literally.  I changed the thermostat to save electricity and trimmed every single place possible. 

Have you ever brutally assessed your financial situation and let go of things you once considered necessities?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Taking Care of Me

I will never forget one morning looking in the mirror one morning (2004), shortly before the birth my third child in less than four years and genuinely wondering about the reflection - Why are you this person?  It happened again in 2010 as I officially became a single mother - Who am I?   Getting to the core of my identity is what makes it possible for me to function at my best.  Learning that disappointment does not define me has allowed me to let go of the past and love my present (even when it isn't what I expected).

Motherhood is full of responsibilities, we all know this.  The title of mother is worn as a mantle that can cloak deeper passions which we feel must be put off or put away until another season of life.  Yet I'm learning that am more than someone's mother - I am a person with a world of desires, opinions, likes and dislikes.  Recognizing this does not detract from mothering, it adds dimension and flavor to the sometimes numbing cycles of daily life.

For many years, I didn't allow myself to count in the life and decisions of our family.  I didn't put myself of 'the list' and when combined with young children, a difficult marriage (then a falling apart marriage) and trying so hard to convince everyone I had it all together - well, my spirit was dying.  One of the gifts of my most painful season was learning who I am again.  Yes, for me it took losing all that I thought I was, and lots of therapy, but I'm so thankful for that work of rediscovering myself!

There are ways to honor yourself in the midst of the craziness of life and mothering demands.  Remember the things that bring you joy!  For every person, we must care for these aspects that speak to our deeper self

Spirituality - I am a follower of Christ Jesus.  I look to the Bible for instructions and find that Proverbs speak to my practical needs and Psalms validates so many of my emotions.  Worshiping in a community with others is one of my favorite parts of each week ... even when it is a challenge to get there!  We are at the core spiritual beings and ignoring this part of yourself will create a hollow-ness to all we do.
  1. Emotional - Single parenting can be one of the loneliest positions.  The constant pressure of maintaining consistent discipline, instruction, sole caretaking duty which we measure against the seeming perfections of Facebook and Pinterest can literally drain the one who bears the responsibility.  Sharing this struggle, even with one trusted person makes my load so much easier.  We need to hear that it's going to be alright, things won't always be this tough, others struggle, too.  If you find yourself depressed without reason, reach out for help.
  2. Physical - I hate to add to the "take care of yourself" crowd by mentioning exercise...but the truth is that we need it.  I find a walk, jog, video or rousing game to tag helps my perspective in many ways.  I also like to surround myself with things I love...for me that means photos, candles, lovely things that have memories.
  3. Relational - Find your people, People.  If you have supportive family, embrace them.  If you don't, get real with friends and let them see the real you.  Let your children know that you value friendship and family by making them a priority in your own life.  Step out and invite someone over or get a group together for dinner downtown.  It's easy to isolate as a single parent - it is the natural way, so fight hard against the tendency and reach out to someone.
  4. Practically - Remember the things you love.  Do you enjoy going outdoors?  When do you feel creative?  What did you want to be as a little girl?  Is there something in that you can embrace as a grown woman?  When I quit living for others and learned to appreciate my own quirky ways, I became a whole lot more comfortable with myself. 
You are valuable and worth knowing.  Get to know yourself and give yourself permission to enjoy something just for you today.  You are worth it and it enables you to be your best self for those who are depending on you.

I'm linking up here today.  Is there something you can do THIS WEEK to appreciate your fabulous self?

Monday, April 8, 2013

April Showers

We've had a lot of rain in my part of the country.  The early spring has been damp, cold and well - endless

Each time the sunshine peeked through, it was quickly gone again, overwhelmed by the gloom. 

Logically, I knew the spring season would come, but practically it felt very far away.  Three children in coats who have been huddled in the house far too long are bursting to get outdoors. 

This week, we have had several days strung together with sunshine and warmish temperatures.  It was followed by another day of constant rain.  And today, once again - sunshine!  The temperature is forecast to go up every single day for the next week and perhaps, spring has sprung.

I know there have been days in my journey through divorce and single motherhood where it felt like the sunshine would never return.  Just when something good seemed to be coming, another setback would move onto the scene obscuring my hope. 

It would have been so much easier to endure those dark and challenging days if I had known what my future held.  If I had known that I would know what it means to be loved and cherished, then bearing the loneliness would have been easier.  If I had known that I would eventually earn enough to not dread each trip to the grocery store, it would have made those days of doing without feel more temporary.  I wish I had known that conflict wasn't going to be part of my daily existence forever, then discouragement would not have been such a constant companion.

There is so much we cannot know about the future.  I had faith, small on some days but consistently there, that we would eventually thrive.  I learned to take hold of so many little joys in my most trying days.  And now I do know, deep and surely that when the clouds gather and it rains on my soul for weeks on end, a new life is coming.  The cold dampness which threatens to last forever will not win.

 Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.
Hebrews 11:1-2 

I am no longer na├»ve to think dark days will not be part of this continuing life journey - yet, I am more confident that ever that the darkness will not be the lasting part of my story.  Do you get overwhelmed by your present circumstances?  Can you look back and see how you made it through the dark days to something better?  What storm are you currently facing? 

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

I'm Not Sure How It Happened...

Photo Source: BUSINESS OBJECTS © Anatoliy Babiychuk
I love to write.  I crave outdoor activities like gardening and hiking.  I love acting and reading.  In college, I studied communications.  But in real life I've become a numbers nerd.  My work is in bookkeeping and I daily spend time in a spreadsheet.  My life as a single mother has forced me to be practical and precise in my finances.  I hear and read a lot about what others are saying and so I thought I would add my voice to the noise.  I doubt you will hear anything new, but I promise what you hear will be from real-life experience!

So, let me know if you've mastered the master plan of budgeting.  Do you have any questions?  Are there any topics that you would like to hear how we've managed?  Let's share together!