What Happens When You Don’t Know Which Way to Turn?

Good versus evil; right versus wrong; white versus black. When our perspective shifts it’s amazing how rapidly our judgement changes as well.

I am told, “Do not worry about what others think.” And I believe this. My opinion of me is of the utmost importance. I press through my fear to achieve things I once thought impossible. I published a book that was deeply personal, allowing myself to be vulnerable. Take me as I am. What you think means nothing. But what if this is used against my kids? How can I say that their opinion doesn’t matter? How can I be true to myself, and still do what’s best for them?

I am told, “Their drama isn’t your drama.” And I believe this. I have the power to choose how I react, or I can choose not to react. I don’t have to engage in drama. I can rise above it, walk away from it. My ex is angry he has to pay child support. He is required by law to support his children and so there is no need for me to defend the small amount he contributes each month. But what if the drama is hurting my girls? How can I ignore it then?

I tell my kids, “It’s okay to let others be wrong.” And I believe this. If someone believes wholeheartedly that they are correct and nothing you can say will change their minds, it’s okay to just let them be wrong. My ex believes I cheated on him at the end of our marriage. What he believes to be true is not what happened. But what if what they believe changes how my kids feel about me? How can I not argue this point?

I am told, “Stand up for what you believe in; fight for what is right.” And I believe this. I have a strong sense of values and I will fight for what is right, especially when the girls are involved. The girls’ stepmother only wants them at her house when they are healthy (and possibly not even then). It is their dad’s responsibility to take care of his kids even when they’re sick. But what if what is right isn’t what is best? How can I not do what is best for my children, even if it’s not what is right?

I tell my kids, “Follow through when you commit to something.” And I believe this. Once you tell someone you will do something you need to do it, even if it’s difficult to follow through. The girls’ stepmother has asked that they babysit their sister one Saturday a month and I have agreed because the girls want to do it. She has promised to pay them both for doing this, which I believe is fair. But what if the other person doesn’t abide by their commitment? Am I still obligated to fulfill my part?

I believe I’m at a crossroads. There are a lot of things happening right now and it’s possible that the situation could escalate if not handled carefully. I need to figure out which way to turn. It’s not yet clear which direction is the best. What can I do that will be in our best interest? How can I ensure I am standing up for my kids and yet prevent the retaliation I fear is coming if I do?

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Rapid

Let Me Flaunt My Feeble Gratitude for a Minute

This has been a rough weekend. It started Friday afternoon when I got a text from my daughter. She wanted to be picked up from school because she wasn’t feeling well. I got her home and she had a fever of 102.7.

So I took care of her the best I could. I gave her medicine, put a cool cloth on her head and helped her feel as good as I could. Around the time she was feeling better her sister came down with a fever. And this is how it went, back and forth between the two. One sick then the other.

Saturday night my oldest got me up; last night it was my youngest. In the midst of it all I’ve had to take care of the kittens who are now getting into everything. Saturday night one of the kids’ friends slept over, invited when one was feeling better and before the other was showing symptoms. We had errands to run and chores to do. I was taking care of a cat, 4 kittens and 3 kids (the hamster takes care of itself).

I was exhausted. I still am.

But what I know is that it is these times I really need to appreciate all the good in my life. There is much I feel grateful for and so today I am going to flaunt my feeble gratitude until I build it into something stronger.

I am grateful for coffee…lots of coffee.

I am grateful only one of my daughters is sick.

I am grateful my oldest daughter was able to get herself ready for school today without any prodding from me.

I am grateful for the opportunity to help the kittens, even the one who will poop anywhere except the litter box.

I am grateful for the beautiful weather where I live. The sunshine makes everything easier to take.

I am grateful for a job that allows me the flexibility to stay home with my daughter even though I was expected in the office for an important meeting.

I am grateful for having the opportunity to write and share my thoughts.

I am grateful for my friends who were there to listen when I argued with the girls’ stepmother this morning.

I am grateful for my wonderful kids. Even on a weekend when they weren’t feeling well they helped with chores, cleaning without being asked.

I am grateful I will have a chance to nap, as soon as I am done writing this post.

Focusing on what I’m grateful for has already started to make me feel better. What are you grateful for?

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Flaunt

It Looks Like I Was Living in a Bubble

We create our realities with our thoughts and our beliefs. Our filters alter our perception of the world and events.

But what happens when we give up our right to choose? What happens when we allow others to make the most important decisions for us?

Recently my daughter and I read the book Everything Everything. It’s a fictional story about a teenage girl on the verge of adulthood, the daughter of a doctor, who has lived most of her life without leaving her house due to an extremely rare disease that affects her immune system. For the same reason, visitors were not allowed in the house. Her father and brother had died in a car accident when she was very young so her world was limited to her mother and a nurse who came daily to be with her while the mom went to work.

Her mother kept her in a bubble, away from anything that might hurt her, until the girl started to challenge the decisions that were being made for her. I won’t spoil the book, but once she began making choices about whether it was more important to live a full life or be safe, everything changed.

I was living in this kind of bubble for years, allowing others to make all the important decisions, doing what I thought would make others happy instead of what would make me happy. I didn’t want to risk upsetting friends, family or my ex because I was afraid they wouldn’t like me if I did; I was scared I would be alone.

My relationship with my ex was the culmination of this attitude. I gave up my sense of self, and self-worth. At the end we went to marriage counseling and the therapist described our relationship as a that of a parent and child. I was the child, doing what I was told without challenge. I couldn’t even be called a rebellious teenager…because I never disobeyed.

Perhaps it’s for this reason I have always been an advocate for allowing my kids to make as many of their own choices as is reasonable. I started when they were very young, letting them choose their own clothes, even if they didn’t match. As they grew I gave them options for dinner and weekend activities. I teach them that their opinion matters, a message that is in opposition to the one they receive from their dad.

It’s easier to help my kids than it is to fix my old habits. When making plans with friends I have to stop myself from letting them make all the choices. With my kids, there are certain decisions that are mine alone because I’m the parent. It’s still something I struggle with when I’m with specific people, but I’m more aware of what I am doing and so I know I can change.

I control my thoughts and my beliefs. I make the important decisions that impact my life. Each choice is mine to make.

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Bubble

The Best Friends Make Better Mentors

Please mentor me, teach me, help me grow. I want to learn and explore. I want to experience more.

I learn by watching others. Their success becomes my lesson; their mistakes teach me even more. How did they get there? I want to know. My path may be different, but if they did it maybe I can too.

Early in life I learned what not to do. It was easy, I had plenty of examples.

My next door neighbor died in a drunk driving crash, on his 16th birthday. His brother was driving and four of them had gone out to celebrate, coming home drunk. They almost made it, but life was never the same again. You would think they would learn. I was 9 and I did. Driving drunk = death. Pretty easy. But a few years later one of the remaining brothers was riding a motorcycle, drunk again, almost home when he missed a turn that landed him in a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

Some people never learn. I am not one of those people.

My mother and my stepfather spent every penny as fast as it came in. They lived paycheck to paycheck, when suddenly my stepfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. My mother, largely unable to work due to a disability unexpectedly became the sole breadwinner, leaving them unable to keep getting by. Bills piled up unpaid, the mortgage was charged to the credit card. My mother was frantic, terrified they’d lose the house, so we helped them out and took over their mortgage. You would think they would learn. I was unintentionally the owner of 3 houses at that point and I did. Income > expenses = security. Simple. But a couple years later a bank gave them a 30 year mortgage on a condo they couldn’t afford that will be a burden on my mother for the rest of her life.

Some people never learn. I am not one of those people.

These days I want to discover more of what I should be doing instead of what I shouldn’t do. So I surround myself with people who have qualities I want to have. In this way, my friends have become my mentors, guiding me, teaching me, advising me. One friend is very spiritual, a mother whose grown children are independent but still emotionally close to her; another has retired early and spends a great deal of time travelling. One maintains a strong relationship with her family even though they’re far away; another forges her own path and lives life with gusto.

From them I am learning to be the person I want to be. From me they learn that people really can change. They’ve watched me grow. They’ve seen me bloom.

And so it turns out I am also a mentor for them. We make each other’s lives better. I want to do the same for you. I want to give to you as through my writing as much as I get from yours. I want to connect, befriend, share, and support each other however we can.

We are stronger together.

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Mentor

Breathing With the Tide is not a Temporary Fix

The tide rolls in; the tide rolls out. It is smooth and rhythmic, like my breath. It calms me. It soothes me. It brings my focus to the present moment and allows my cares to be washed away, at least most of them.

Last night I went for a walk on the beach. This is something I used to do several nights a week, but recently haven’t had time for, or haven’t made time for. I’ve been feeling a bit off recently and needed time to think about some things (this is the introvert in me).

On the beach the sound of the waves and the cry of the seagulls drowns out my less helpful, self-critical thoughts. The feel of the sand beneath my feet helps to keep my attention on the present. The breeze blows my hair and my worries behind me. For a while I am captured by nature; as the sun drops closer to the horizon I am a part of something bigger than myself.

But sometimes life intrudes on these moments….a text from my tenant explaining why the rent is late, another from my daughter asking what happens if she’s too sick to go to school. My peace shattered, my attention turns to the people I pass as I walk. Happy couples, hand in hand; families building a sandcastle and taking selfies. Why was their happiness suddenly making me feel like something is missing in my life?

I do not spend time regretting the past. It can’t be changed. I don’t compare myself to others. Even people who look happy in a given moment have problems; and besides, I’m not unhappy.

These past few months I’ve accomplished more than I ever dreamed possible. I’m getting into shape; I published a book; I’m beginning new projects. I am surrounded by friends who are infinitely supportive, and sincerely happy for everything I am achieving. My kids are amazing and truly bring me joy. My finances are solid, money is building in my savings. I’m making plans for my future.

I guess the way I’ve been feeling can best be described as lonely, and possibly nostalgic. I’m not going to pretend I don’t feel this way, but I’m not going to wallow in it either. Today I’m going to focus on gratitude. I’m going to spend some time today thinking about how much I really have in my life, because honestly my life is amazing. I don’t regret what has brought me here and I’m going to look forward instead of behind me.

And it’s simply not possible to feel both grateful and lonely at the same time.

I’m going to start right now. I am grateful for you. I am grateful you took the time to read this. I’m grateful for everyone who follows my blog and who takes the time to comment. I’m especially grateful for those people who I am now connected with outside of this blog who are becoming good friends. You all add so much to my life.

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Tide

What Beauty Do You Discover When You Look Around?

Look around you. What do you see?

Well right now I’m in a dark office with half the lights off because for some reason IT people like to work in the dark. But as often as possible I take myself out into nature where I can connect with a feeling of peace I can’t seem to find anywhere else.

I have always spent a significant amount of time outside. In NH I explored trails all over, taking my golden retriever with me in all kinds of weather. I would trudge through knee deep snow while she happily pranced on top, running ahead of me with ease. Together we got lost on a trail in the middle of nowhere, alone with no cell service or map. We frequented places along a river or lake and she would chase sticks into the water. I should have spent more time exploring the mountains but it’s this regret that pushes me to explore further now.

She is no longer with me, but I still love going out into nature to observe wildlife. Where I live now is far more urban than where I used to live; it’s more urban than almost any place in NH actually. But there are many great parks and preserves to explore. I love the mangrove bays and many are accessible through hiking trails or on the water. There are several places where you can kayak through tunnels made out of the branches of mangrove trees.

There are rivers fed by springs where the water is so clear you can easily see schools of fish swimming by. I’ve watched otters playing on the shore and manatees floating near the docks. I’m warned of snakes and gators but I’ve never seen either.

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The beach is nearby and is beautiful any time of day, both sunrise and sunset are equally beautiful. Mid-morning is the perfect time to catch dolphins playing along the shore, in the photo just a black dot in the blue but in person a spectacular sight.

And when all else fails I can observe nature lurking at my house these days in the form of 4 frolicking kittens who you knew had to appear again today. This morning I was their tree and could barely keep them down long enough to snap a picture.

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Observe

Not to be Abrupt, but I’m Frantic Today!

I don’t mean to be abrupt but I’m busy today, no time to spare. Work has me frazzled in back to back meetings; a coworker texted early this morning, desperate though I’m not sure why. The kittens I’m fostering are demanding; my cat is hissing at the door, unhappy with our new visitors. The kids need my help; the grass must be mowed; the laundry isn’t done. The ex wants to know about summer plans, and others are waiting as well; my friends want to see me, but no time for fun. My mother is calling but I will ignore the ring; there’s nothing to say and I’m heading out the door; an email later will suffice. The tenant is contacting me; the AC isn’t blowing cold. I’m 2 days behind on reading posts; I’m not working on my goals. Exercise, what’s that? Stop and smell the roses? No time to waste!

The demands on my life can be overwhelming, yet I keep adding to my responsibilities. How do I juggle it all? How do I keep important things from falling through the cracks?

Sometimes I’m not sure myself. I need to constantly review my priorities and make sure I’m focusing on what is most important to me. Sometimes things like laundry and the dishes aren’t done as quickly as I’d like but I won’t do these at the expense of helping my kids with their homework. Sometimes I don’t have time to go to the rental house but I have someone I trust who will go, for a fee. Sometimes I don’t have time to play with the kittens but I know people who don’t feel that playing with them is a chore.

I do what absolutely needs to be done and if I can’t get to it I am more than willing to pay someone to do it for me. I enlist the help of others to do things that they will find fun. Whenever reasonable I combine things like spending time with friends with something else that needs to be done, like exercising. I try to keep my additional commitments limited in time; I choose to foster kittens that only need a couple weeks, instead of those needing a couple months.

All of this has worked for me to this point, but now there’s so much more I want to do, so many ideas I want to implement and I want to do it all NOW. I don’t want to wait. I have unlocked my love of creating and everything else feels like it’s getting in my way. I’m in new territory here and I don’t really have an answer yet. This would have been easier 6 months ago when my work demands were minimal but now office hours require my undivided attention.

Summer is coming and soon we will be leaving for vacation, then my niece will be here for 6 weeks. Will all my projects really need to wait until August? No, there has to be another way…I just need to find it.

In all honesty, as busy and crazy as my life is I actually do make a lot of time for fun. I have a day here and there that leave me a bit frazzled but I really do try to appreciate all the little things in my life. I will drive to the beach and catch sunset when I can, or grab a slice of pizza at my favorite place on the water. I frequently meet up with my friends, take my bike out for a spin or spend time just floating in my kayak. I read every day and writing has become another important daily habit.

It’s true that sometimes the responsibilities seem overwhelming. At those times I’ll take an afternoon off, either to get things done or to simply get back to enjoying life. When I’m feeling stressed is when I know I most need to slow down and count my blessings. My sense of gratitude is usually enough to help me refocus, calm down and move forward. And if that fails? There’s a kitten around who is sure to bring a smile!

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This post is in response to the daily writing prompt Abrupt