Friday, December 21, 2012

Oh, the Places I Went

Recently, I retired my trusty old suitcase.  It was in pretty bad shape.  The wheels were rickety, holding on by just a thread.  One side had a large dent in the metal frame.   Pockets were torn, there are a few holes around the edges.  Seams are loose and the zipper works so, so.  The labels have been torn away and more than one bump is evident.  My poor suitcase was certainly worn out.  And no doubt, it had every reason to show its wear and tear. 

Its first trip was to Romania, with a stop in Prague on the way home.  Then it was off to Australia.  Emily took it Greece.  Shanna took it to Florida.  I took it back and forth from VA to PA, then from OK to PA 2 or 3 times a year for more than 8 years.  It held my wedding supplies on its way to Jamaica, and my honeymoon souvenirs on the way back to Oklahoma.  I packed it full of stuff during the move to my first home, and to the 6 apartments I lived in prior to that.  It brought home baby shower gifts and teeny tiny outfits.  Reagan's clothes and little socks were added to the mix on more recent trips, including St. Pete's Beach.  It's held bathing suits and Christmas gifts.  I have stuffed it with camera gear and shoes to wear.  It's held treasures and trash.  Its held passports and seen a slew of different time zones. It has been on dozens of flights, handled by a hundred airport staff.  Its been bumped along, tossed, thrown, dropped, and stuffed to the point of zippers bulging.   Its ridden on escalators, elevators, cars, trucks, planes, buses and stairs.  It's followed me to 4 countries, and at least 6 different states.  It's been overseas, and its seen most of the east coast.  Its suffered through layovers and flight delays, its been transferred from plane to plane in sun, rain and snow.  It has sand from a dozen different beaches inside, and it has memories from many happy places.   That suitcase has been borrowed, stored, and repacked more times than I can count. 

Now that suitcase has been donated to the local Salvation Army.  It might look like it has some miles on it, but perhaps it still has a few trips left in it.  I will let another person continue the adventure.  I wonder if an OSU student will pack it for a study abroad.  Or an international student will take it home full of American purchases.  Maybe a  mom will give it to a child for a trip to Disney world, or a teenager will bring it on their first flight.  I know it has places to go still.  

As for me, I also think my travels will continue.  I hope to take advantage of the opportunity to travel for many years to come.  Maybe to Mexico next.  Maybe to California.  I certainly know Reagan and I will keep flying to PA, we look forward to our trips up north.  I want to help show Reagan the world as she gets older.  We will likely keep flying, keep going to the next place.  Here is the new suitcase, all shiny and clean.  Brand new and ready for the next adventure.  I did learn a few things when it comes to suitcases.  Wheels are a must, at 50 lbs that thing can be heavy.  Don't buy black, its hard to pick a black bag out from most of the other similar bags on the luggage claim.  Expandable zippers save the day when you over shop and heavy duty fabric will take a beating and keep on going.   But the most important thing I learned about traveling, you have to be willing to go. 

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who'll decide where to go...”
Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You'll Go!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Santa Baby

Dear Santa,
I suspect most of your letters are written in crayon and dropped off at Macy's but here in the land of internets you are going to get my blog post today.  Below you will find my Christmas wish list, please be a good ol' boy and take care of these absolutely necessary things. 

First, I would like my daughter's permanet runny nose to go away.  Now mind you, I can handle the occasional sniffly nose or slimy sneeze but this never ending snot is starting to erk me.  Please address the situation immediately, as Christmas is 4 weeks away I see no reason to suffer till then.

Next, I know you are in the business of elfs but I would like to employ a fairy.  And by employ, I mean pay with compliments and little pats on the head.  Please find me one who does laundry, scrubs the dishes and grocery shops.  Pixie dust optional, although it would make the chores more fun.

Also, we would like a puppy.  Not just any puppy though, turns out I am quite picky when it comes to my pooches.  I'd like one of those adorable teddy bear pups, whose disposition allows for a certain small toddler to carry it around like a rag doll and one that has a distaste for chewing any toy, sippy cup or nuk she drops.  I'd prefer a quiet dog, who only barks at strangers or large monsters who lurk.   And since I am asking, please make it potty trained, obedient and cute as a button.

Well, well what else is on my list?  Since you asked, I'd like you to ensure the following appliances I already own to work properly for no less than the next 20 years: microwave, stove, refrigerator, washer, dryer, dishwasher, laptop and printer.  Just for good measure lets also include the truck and jeep in that list.  Santa, make them built to last!

Now this next one might be a bit of a stretch but seeing how I have already so clearly crossed the line of what you can build in your snowy work shop, I will just go ahead and toss this one out there too.  Since my husband is in the business of dealing with the bad guys, I'd like to encase him in one of those force fields, sorta like the starship enterprise.  A nifty little invisible shield that would deflect bullets and bounce off harm would be great.  Of course it has to work at the push of a button and detect danger at the blink of an eye.  I will leave the installation process up to you, I'm sure you have your ways. 

At the risk of pushing my luck, I am going to keep going.  I'd like a tan, a direct source to warm, fresh yum yum donuts and a travel fund to visit PA.  I also could really use a little help dropping about 10 pounds and the ability to sleep through the night.  Send me some more patience and the ability to reason with a one year old. 

And that's it.  Just a few things really, nothing much.  I'd like to point out Madonna asked for a lot as well, diamond rings, cars, apartment lease... I feel in comparison I am much more realistic and practical.  So between  making bikes and rocking horses, try and make my wish list happen as well, OK Santa? 

Signed with love and great expectations,
Andrea Skimbo

P.s.  I realize some of this may be hard to fit under the tree or wrap so please don't bother with the fuss of all that.  Just make it happen and I will know it was all you buddy. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Finding Treasures

My daughter has a funny way of stashing toys and treats all around our home.  The first few times I found a toy or cookie in an odd place I thought it was funny.  Now that it is a regular occurrence to find her little treasures tucked into a random spot I have started to photograph my finds. 

First let start off with describing my home.  In life prior to the little bundle of joy I had always kept a clean home and tidy space.  Things were put up, dusted and organized.  No longer is the case.  I would wear myself ragged just trying to pick up toys, let alone clean up all the things Reagan gets into that are not intended for play.  To save my sanity (and my back) I have become accustomed to the scattering of books, blocks and stuff animals around my home.  Don't get me wrong, I still make an effort to clean on occasion but its not something I will squeeze into a hectic week or stay up late to do.  It happens when it happens and otherwise I live in functional mess.   And there are really no off limits areas to the house.  We allow Reagan to come and go and enjoy the space, lugging toys and all sorts of books with her where ever she goes. 

Some of the scenes I stumble upon really crack me up.  The apparent dead monkey, covered in respect by the white curtain.  The Elmo book discarded against the toilet where it will be re-discovered later to a squeal of glee.  Her sunglasses slipped into my jacket pocket for safe keeping.  The never ending cycle of finding blocks in random places around the house. All evidence that a little girl is really the one running the show.  All proof that life now revolves around the needs and interests of a child's growing mind.

 I have also incorporated serious math skills into my average day.  You know how kids always complain that they won't need algebra in everyday life?  Well I have a formula for you.   The likelihood of finding a nuk is directly in-proportionate to the level of emotional breakdown your child is currently having.  Minor tears and you can quickly locate no less than 4 nuks within arms reach.  Epic meltdown and I can't find a stinking one.  That's because I have set them down in a strange spot or Reagan has tucked them into the folds of her blanket for safe keeping.  
But my two favorite finds still make me giggle.  The other day when I went to get the mixing bowl from the cabinet.  On more than one occasion I have allowed Reagan to dig through the kitchen cabinets because she was entertained while I made dinner.  It may not have been quiet as she turned my pots into a drum set but it was a happy, noisy time that allowed me to cook dinner.  So it came as no surprise that I noticed she has also been into my mixing bowl and left a little treat for later. 
And then there was the late afternoon she spent gazing out the window on our front door.  No doubt watching the neighbor's horses or enjoying the sunlight.  I noticed she would play in the living room then return to the door only to retreat back to the toys, over and over.  Later that day I found a book abandoned and propped against our door hinge where she stood.

In the last 14 months life has gotten a lot messier.  I have sung itsy bitsy spider no less than 3 times a day this week.  I spend more on diapers than I really care to think about.  I plan snack time menus with more detail then shopping lists and can't even do a load of laundry just for me.  I find pink socks and pooh bear pjs tossed in my hamper and my sock drawer is fun to spread around the room.  I arrange my tailgate parties around nap time and I choose restaurants based on how kids friendly the menu is.  I smile at peak a boo every time and burst with pride every time she says a new word or imitates me.  I make every major decision based on a tight budget and a blond haired toddler.  But best of all, despite the chaos that is my new life now, I find treasures all over my house that I hope I will keep as fond memories for many years.   Clean house?  Sorta.  Loved home, you betcha! 

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A messy weekend

This week has marked a rough one for the Skimbo home.  I never would have expected motherhood to be glamours, my breast feeding days killed any hope of that, but we reached all new levels of gross at my home recently.  (For the faint of heart, stop reading now)

It really started about a month ago with the start of daycare.  We decided to enroll Reagan in a local daycare, and though the transition hasn't been easy we were getting by OK.  Besides the new expense, we like the facility and love her teacher.  However, I fully expected that among the many changes day care would bring, exposure to germs would certainly increase.  And sure enough Reagan picked up a runny nose the first few days she spent there.   She very nicely shared those germs with Mommy who was rocked with a cold/allergy attack/ sinus infection during career fair week.  Picture me with a horrible cough that even my student appointments mentioned.  This meant instead of spending the day in bed like I so desperately wanted to, I was pushing through the virus at a very busy office.  It was not a fun week, and by Friday with the career fair finally complete, I waived my white flag and took the afternoon off to rest. 

Then, the following Wednesday started off normally.  Woke up, got ready for work, feed and dressed the baby and out the door we went.  I arrived at day care to find Reagan had thrown up all over herself and car seat.  This was no small mess and since I don't travel with my diaper bag for day care drop off I found myself ill prepared to handle the situation.  Hoping it was a fluke throw up since she had acted normally all morning, I carried her at arm's length into the daycare and used her extra clothes there to clean her up.  Crossing my fingers, I left for work.  I was at my desk for less than 30 minutes before I got the call that Reagan had gotten sick again and I needed to go pick her up.  I grabbed some paper towels from the break room and did my best to clean up her seat and brought her home now wearing her third outfit of the day.  When I picked her up from daycare she quickly realized she was going home and started smiling and waving bye to the other kids.  In my mind she was saying "So long suckers, I get to go home!".  If I didn't know better I would have thought the kid had learned early to play hookie.  It was a very stinky car ride home and we were both glad to get there and air out.

Shortly after we arrived home I went into my closet to take off my work clothes and Reagan again threw up all over the carpet.  The little stinker didn't even give me any warning, she just projectile puked then went about her business playing with my shoes.  I stripped her of her third outfit and tossed everything, including her car seat cover into the wash.  We spent the rest of the day on the back porch in just a diaper to avoid further mess but that seemed to be the end of the stomach bug.  Little did I know, it was just getting started.

For the next 4 days I dealt with "faucet butt" syndrome.  This is when regular poo become complete liquid, and it was not pretty.  My first mistake was continuing to give her milk in bottles.  I had started her on the BRAT diet (Bananas, rice, applesauce, toast) but I forgot about bottles.  This resulted in constantly leaking diapers, and by Friday I was flinching everything she farted.  Chet's training required him to work through the weekend so he kept Reagan home with him on his day off on Friday to spend some time with her.  I thought this would be a good thing for everyone, she had time at home to get better and could spent quality time with Dad.  Turned out it was the perfect time to infect Dad.  At 10 am I got the first pathetic phone call from a now sick Chet.  By 11 he was begging me to come home and help him.   You would have thought the man was dying by the sound of him.  I held him off till noon then returned home to find a very crabby, very nauseous husband. 

We have all been down with a stomach bug before and I am sure no one enjoys the experience.  But for men, it seems they turn into helpless children when they become sick.  Chet wanted to go to the ER.  Yes, that's right, a little throw up and diarrhea reduced him to seek immediate medical assistance.  You know what I did when I had the stomach flu a few months ago?  Took Imodium and ate crackers for the day.  I called my MIL to help with the baby and suffered through the day taking care of myself.  When Chet got a similar virus I had to take him to urgent care just so the doctor could prescribe anti nausea meds and send him home.  My big tough police officer husband is the world's biggest baby. 

The whole ordeal was expensive, time consuming and a complete waste of my sick leave from work.  To add insult to injury, Reagan had another faucet butt episode in the waiting room unbeknown to me.  When she bent over to pick up a toy she dumped the horrible contents of her diaper onto the carpet in the doctor's waiting room.  It. was. nasty.

So I found myself scrambling to clean her up in the bathroom, thankfully armed with at least the diaper bag this time.  Then I returned to the lobby where I did my best to clean up liquid poo with paper towels and soap.... while the whole waiting room watched... and then had to return to my seat and face the unfortunate spectators.  This might be my embarrassing moment to date.  But it's what you do for your kids, it's what you take on as a mom.  I probably would have felt better about the situation if there had been a single mom or woman in the room who could sympathize.  I was not so lucky, and it was all men who sat around me.  Men who don't have to worry about things like faucet butt syndrome or cleaning up puke. 

I drove the mean spirited and still ill Chet to the pharmacy and home.  He snapped at me, grumbled about everything, and was less than understanding about the fun I was also having.  Chet retreated to the bedroom and I did yet another load of laundry.  Every couple of hours I got a call from the bedroom for me to bring cups of water (don't forget the straw) or gatorade, or nutrigrain bars (not the granola bar).  No pleases, no thank yous.   I got down the routine of changing Reagan over the sink so I could literally dump out her diaper before it spilled and I wised up to Soy milk for her bottles.

At that point I had cleaned more poo, puke and general ickiness than I even want to think about.  Thankfully the night pressed on and I tucked Reagan into bed, collapsed into the bed in the spare room and hoped that the weekend would bring an end to the mess. 

Sadly, Saturday was almost as bad.  Lets just summarize by saying oxy clean carpet cleaner, Bisel spot cleaner, and lots of laundry.  I lysoled everything... twice. 

I had to cancel the lunch plans and game day plans I was really looking forward too.  For one, I didn't want to risk taking Reagan into public again and I was sure whatever bug we had could easily be passed on to others.  So I mopped around the house all day trying to clean and not trying to be positive.  In truth, I got a bad attitude.  I kept thinking about the lengths I had to go to take care of my husband and how he would likely not be available for me if the tables had been turned.  I am expected to leave work to help him but he would never leave shift to care for me.  Being a police wife means you clean up the mess and you figure out how to handle the situation because police shifts are not flexible or optional.  I began to feel a little under appreciated and a lot annoyed.  Taking care of Reagan wasn't fun but I accepted as part of the package of being a good mom.   It didn't feel fair to do the same for Chet and I begrudged him for the situation.

So my weekend was rough, and the chip on my shoulder was not small.  Even now I am nervous about other illnesses Reagan might catch.  With Chet in training it is not an option for him to miss work so of course it is me that will continue to rack up the sick leave to take care of her as needed.  It's me that drops everything to prioritize my family.  I am just wondering if it will ever feel different?  Will there come a time when I just deal with the unfairness of it and move on?  Can I find a way to be thankful that I have sick leave to utilize instead of stressing when I need to use it?  Maybe when the puke memories fade and the embarrassment of public messes eases I can look back on this crazy, messy weekend and laugh.

Then I remember that terrible moment when I was trying to clean Reagan over the sink and I stepped in something warm and squishy... with my bare foot. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Child Care debates

This Monday was not a good day.  It started off with a 5:50 am wake up with Reagan thanks to lots of new teeth making their way through her gums.  And then we arrived at our sitters house where she told me the dreaded words every working mom hates to hear.  "We are moving". 
We were lucky to find a situation that was working extremely well for us.  Our beloved sitter was on the way to work, affordable, had a daughter the same age as Reagan and a provided a great environment for the kids.  It was a perfect situation and Reagan seemed to really enjoy it.  So now that I face the daunting task of finding a new sitter I am heartbroken.  I literally cried at the thought of trying to find a situation that I would be comfortable with taking my dear daughter to for 40+ hours a week.  I had a hard enough time with it when I was thrilled with my sitter, how could I deal with something else?  I think I am really realizing how good I had it when I am faced with choosing between the other options. 

I started with, which is where we had meet and interviewed our current sitter.  So far I have had a few applicants, all of which were unaffordable, too young, or unprofessional. 
No, I don't think I will choose an 18 year old mother to watch my kid.  In her trailer.
Despite another applicants "years of experience", at 20 years old I fear she is not my top choice.
And how can I take seriously an applicant who contacted me with "Hey girl  I am interested in the job you posted on here.  :)  lemme know".  The only thing I let her know was that we were not interested. 
I briefly got my hopes up for one applicant who later told me her going rate was double what I offered.  Ouch, I knew she sounded too good to be true.
I even called a couple day cares, even though our preference was an in home sitter.  Even my back up plan didn't pan out because even if I could figure out how to afford it, there are only wait lists for Reagan's age. 
So I reached out to friends and church members looking for suggestions and so far I have a whole lot of nothing. 
It really makes me think about staying home.  It makes me dream about it in fact.  But I have tried the numbers this way and that, and it would be awfully hard to make it work.  We certainly don't have an extravagant lifestyle but with student loans and a police officer's salary there is only so far one pay check can take us.  It doesn't help that we bought a new car last month that added a jeep payment into our monthly expenses. Not to mention that Chet's old truck desperately needs to be replaced.  How would I make all those payments? 
Could I make it work if I watched a couple kids?
Could I make it work if I did more photo work?
Could we cut back on everything to trim the budget?

No cable, no trash service, no iphone, no vacations, no flights home, no shopping, no extras ever.... would that be worth the time I spent at home?   Would that even be enough?  What if we needed a new heater?  Or repair?  Or surgery?  What if unexpected bills came up? 

And how hard would it be to get a job again later since my limited job pool at OSU only has positions for me rarely?  Would it hurt my career to take time off work to be a stay at home mom?  Would I be happy?  Would I go crazy?  Would I decide to have another baby? 

Too many questions. 
Too many bills. 

So here I am stuck trying to find a way to stretch the budget or find a great sitter I can afford.  Both feel impossible right now.   Once again I find myself in prayer, trying to hand over a situation to the Lord I know I can not control and ask for him to show me the path he wants me to take.  Maybe the most important question I should be asking is how I can find faith that the Lord has all this in his plan. 

Is this the chance I needed to kick my butt in gear and get the photo business going?  Should I try to find a way to balance photo work and stay home with Reagan?  It could be so risky with no guarantee of work or clients but no change in bills or monthly expenses. 

It feels like I am risking a lot, but looking at options that would change my entire lifestyle.  Is that what I want or should I keep looking for another care giver?  Quitting my job would mean wasting my master's degree and potentially ending my higher education career even if I tried to re-enter the profession later on.  

But staying at home would mean so much more precious time with Reagan.  Time you never get back.  As we face her upcoming birthday I already feel like I missed so much.  Sitting in an office helping other people's kids, mine was growing up fast. 

Monday.. well monday sucked.  Lets hope Tuesday is better.  Tuesday might hold some answers or at least some options. 

Monday, July 2, 2012

Office make over final step: stain

I am finally getting around to showing off the finished offices shelves.  When Mom visited a few months ago she helped me stain all the new built ins.  Whew- that was no small job.  We lugged the shelves outside to stain, then did the inside wood.  I thought we would only have one step but it turns out we also needed to gloss them (first time to tackle a project like this!).   I admit the orange walls need a touch up from a few drips and sadly my last stain touch up also resulted in a drip onto the carpet.  But all in all the final product looks awesome!  It was a lot of hard work, and we paid for the work but I think this really brings value to the office space. 
empty wall to start

cabinets are built and installed!

stained and stocked! 
p.s.  When you stain something indoors be forewarned that it will make your entire house stink for a few days! 

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Goodbye old friend, hello car payments

I had honestly hoped it wouldn't come to this but last night I resorted to purchasing a new car.  A brand spanking new car.  Most people would have been excited for this experience, so far I have felt a lot of things but not excitement.

There is a lot to this story.  I lost more than I gained yesterday, even though I took home a new jeep.
You see my old Jeep, a beautiful white Grand Jeep Cherokee, was in need of major repair, far beyond what made sense to fix.  That jeep had a few bumps and bruises that had been collected since I picked it out in 2006.  A while ago I noticed a chip over the passenger door from a branch that fell during the tornado.  And there was the broken side mirror from the softball sized hail that fell in 2009.  It was dirty from the road I drive everyday to my first home.  It has some scratches from tailgate tents and tables coming in and out.  Sand was permanently in the back fabric from beach trips.  There was a small dent from a car door when it was parked in KPF.  It brought my wedding dress to the airport and my new born daughter home from the hospital.  That car was my dream car from the day I drove it home from Johnson City, TN on a snowy day in February 2006.  I had been dreaming of a Grand Cherokee since I was 16, and after a lot of saving and searching I was able to take one home.  That was where the story started.  I remember the day quite well, I went right to Darby's house to show it off and celebrate.  Emily and I brain stormed names and I choose Miles because of course when you have new car you watch the miles add up each day.  It was a big moment for me, owning my own car.  It was my name on the paperwork tucked into the glove department.  It was me alone that went to the dealership to make a choice.  It took me to PA, DE, TN, and then Oklahoma.  I hooked up a u-haul and moved myself across the country that summer.  Just me and my jeep.  Then shortly before Reagan arrived, I paid it off!  6 months early!  I was so proud, I was so happy!

My first few cars were not so glamorous. I got our family white station wagon hand me down in high school, then I bought a green sunbird which I named Grendal, followed by a silver Alero Mom surprised me with during college.  All those vehicles served their purpose at the time and I should have been glad to have them but all along I was dreaming about my Jeep.  I used to play a game with myself whenever I was in a parking lot returning to my car, I would think "If I could drive any of these cars home, which one would I choose".  But then I got the jeep and I stopped playing that game.  Even 6 years later, after some wear and tear and more than 50,00 miles that jeep was still my dream car.  I love it, I lived in it, I was proud of it and proud of myself for working to pay it off.  I never wanted to sell it, trade it or upgrade.  It was MY JEEP.  I told the salesmen the day I bought it that my kids would learn to drive on it and I had every intention of keeping my word. 

May 1 was the last day I drove it, and I never would have thought those days were numbered.  After the diesel torn it up, it was a down hill spiral.  I guess we will never know for sure if the diesel did the damage to my cylinders or if it was strange coincidence that those broke at the same exact time.  All I know for sure is the jeep was in great shape before my fateful trip to Loves and now it was kaput.  We tried to repair it only to have more and more problems.  When the mechanic said his best recommendation was to replace the entire engine I knew we were done.  I no longer had a reliable car, and that was important for me with the baby.

Today I cleaned it out so it could be taken to the dealership as a trade in.  I took out maps and umbrellas, little pink sneakers, old CDs, and pennies from the ashtray.  Then I looked a little closer.  I unclipped a photo from my passenger sun visor of me and my best friend Christina that was taken after church sometime during high school.  Gosh we looked good back then didn't we Chrissy tina?  My hair was so long and naturally blond.  We were both so thin, so happy and carefree.  I began to realize that picture had been in one car or another with me for more than 12 years.  It had seen the sun from 6 states.  Its now a bit faded, wrinkled and scratched but I proudly slid it into my new Jeep.  I sat in the drivers seat looking at those two girls smiling back at me and I began to smile too.

Then I pulled off tinkerbell from my rear view mirror.  That little figurine had been a gift from my high school friend Lindsay who had traveled to Florida on the senior trip when I choose to stay home.  I didn't go for lots of reasons but she brought that back for me, and its been dangling from every rear view mirror I owned since then.  She has lost most of her color and her suction doesn't always work but I can't get rid of her now.  She knows too much!

Then there was the old key from one of the closets at VIC.  We had installed new locks and for whatever reason I slid one key into my pocket that day.  When I discovered it later as it poked me while I drove I put it in the compartment next to my gear shift one day in 2005 and there it sat until I picked it up today.  Just one lonely old key, from a lock that no longer existed, from a closet in Virginia.  I put that key into the new jeep too.

Deep in the center console I found a slew of random things.  Gas receipts, flashlights, cough drops, a tire pressure gauge, and one special something.  It was the sold tag I found attached to the windshield of the Alero my Mom surprised me with in 2003.  She was pretty clever that day.  We had been talking about buying me a car, my sunbird was old and dying and since I drove 8 hours to and from my undergrad in Virginia we knew I needed something more reliable.  So she told me when I came home for a visit that we were going to go look at cars, and I thought nothing else of it.  We got to the dealership and she pointed out the Alero she had been looking at and I went in for a closer look.  Disheartened I noticed the sold tag on it right away, bummer.  But wait... did that have my name on it?!?!  I literally jumped around the dealership, I may have hugged the salesman and I drove home my car that day.  It was a special memory, and I kept the tag.  Now I moved that tag into the new jeep's center console.  It can ride around with me there.  

I dug around and found the magnetic strip off my first name tag I received when I accepted my position with OSU (which I thought was lost and had replaced).   I found a backstreet boys CD, a cherio, and roll of tape.  All with their own stories, memories, that now seemed displaced.  This jeep meant so much to me, it had been through so much with me over the last six years, it was hard to face that was over.  To say I was attached was an understatement.  This jeep represented so much to me, my independence, my ability to conquer the world, it was home and happiness to me.  It was a part of me, an achieved goal, a dream come true.  Most people probably don't feel that way about their vehicle, but I did.  It didn't just get me from point A to point B, it helped me find new homes, new friends, it was the one constant thing in my life during years when I moved states, apartments, and jobs often.  It was stability when everything else was in flux.  It was mine when I didn't have anything else. 

And then there was nothing else to find, that was it.  I sat back and looked at the old dusty jeep, now in pieces and looking worn down.  A tire was flat, the engine was pulled apart, the OSU stickers were faded and chipping and it was no longer mine.  I turned to face the new jeep, smelling strongly of new car and promising years of payments.  I should be ready to face this new chapter but I wasn't.  I didn't cry because who cries to leave a car, but I wanted to.  I felt regretful to leave the old jeep, even if I was pulling away in a shiny new one.  It felt like I was leaving a lot of hard work and memories behind.  It felt like I was discarding an old friend, someone who had been by my side for a long time.  It felt wrong.  But go I did.  Of course I indulged myself in a glance back and I began to think about the next person who would put their name on the paperwork in the glove department.  After the dealership gets it put back together and shiny again maybe some young girl would find it and jump up and down to take it home.  Maybe she would sing along to the radio at the top of her lungs.  Maybe she would take it to the west coast, for new adventures and memories.  Maybe someone else would love it next.  Maybe, just maybe, it's days weren't over, they were just over with me. 

I bought a new car and signed up for 7 years of payments for lots of reasons.  I hope it was the best choice for my family.  We have already been trying to work with a tight budget and now we are adding another monthly expense.  After more than 6 weeks of stress, worry and expensive repairs I needed to have a reliable vehicle that felt safe for me and my daughter.  I had thought about a lot of options leading up to this day but suddenly the decision was so fast, so sharp, I was surprised it had come to this.  I left my dream car, the one with my maiden name on the title for a smaller, cheaper comprise of a jeep that was jointly owned by me and my husband.  It wasn't MY JEEP, but it was what I needed right now.  With better gas mileage, side air bags, and a bumper to bumper warranty, this car made sense for me.  

Now I guess I face a whole new pile of debt and the task of making new memories with Reagan in the Jeep compass.  I guess it will have to do even though I realized today there is no sunglass compartment...

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Beauty of Bartering

A tight budget teaches you a lot of things.  With the jeep still being repaired and the lingering chance that we will be responsible for at least some of the cost, money has been tight at our home.  We also expect to purchase a truck for Chet soon, and it's now my goal to be able to take some unpaid time off work by next summer to spend with Reagan.  So that means we are watching our pennies.  Well, I'm watching our pennies anyway (Chet... not so much).  Coupons, check.  No crazy shopping, check.  Cooking at home and packing lunch, check.  Living within our (limited) means, check.  Off brand diapers and formula, check. 
But it wasn't enough and that's when I really started to focus on the idea of bartering.

I am lucky enough to have a skill that most people want, photography.  And offering a portrait session (for which I normally charge $150) in exchange for something I need has helped me take care of a few things on my list without costing me the normal price.  This actually started almost a year ago when we realized we needed a few electrical sockets in both one wall in the kitchen and nursery.  Thankfully, we have a friend who works as an electrician.  We made a deal; he put in the sockets for us before baby Reagan arrived and I agreed to take family portraits for him in the spring.  The nursery now has a separate switch for the night light and two more outlets and the kitchen has two more outlets which we use for our lit hutch.  I recently took a bunch of fabulous pictures of his family in return and burned them a CD.  It was a great deal, and saved me quite a bit on a project that we needed to be completed.

Turns out my neighbor also does hair so I traded highlights and a trim (saving me my normal $100 trip to the hair dresser) for photographing their upcoming daughters first birthday.  Yes sir, that's a great deal.  Especially since I hadn't had color in more than 6 months because I just couldn't justify that type of "extra" spending on something that wasn't necessary.

I had also arranged for my babysitter's husband to make me a new bigger chicken coop, but since the guineas are dropping like flies that one is on the back burner.
Now I am really thinking... what else can I do?  We need new siding - maybe someone out there can trade me for wedding pictures?  We need some carpet replaced - anybody want to make a deal?  How about a pool deck - anyone able to barter with me on that one?

Bottom line is my skills can save my family money when you know how to ask and who to ask.  I'd love to have a bigger budget but sometimes you have to work with what you have.  What I have is a very expensive camera and flash, degree in photography and a knack for great ideas.  Have something to trade?  Lets talk!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

From Bad to Worse

This has been a hard week.  My limits have been tested, my patience has been destroyed, my anger has been flamed, and my strength has been lost.  Sometimes I think I am holding it together, and then I cried at the FedEx store because my package was on the truck after I drove 15 minutes to the store.  Obviously anyone who sheds tears in the FedEx store cannot be described as "composed" or "functioning".

Things had been going pretty well for a few weeks.  My mom visited and with her help I was able to do several projects on my TO DO LIST, that felt really good.  I took some great graduation photos and booked a portrait session with another family.  The budget was balanced, we even found some great deals at a consignment sale for Reagan.  I enjoyed a few days of vacation and even felt, dare I say, rested!  Even though the moment was short, I felt I had it somewhat together.  And thats when the sky started falling.

If you read my previous post you already know my poor jeep suffered considerable damage when a Loves gas station gave me diesel fuel instead of unleaded gas.  In case your wondering, that is bad... very, VERY bad.  It has been a nightmare, and now TWO WEEKS LATER things are actually getting worse.  The jeep is still a mess, despite two repairs, and has to go back into the shop for more work.  I haven't been able to drive it since May 1st.  Today, Loves finally followed up with my claim to say "We found no problems with the gas" and have refused to reimburse any repairs or take responsibility for the mistake.  Here's the thing: my mechanic who has no reason to lie (we already paid him) found conclusive evidence that the fuel was diesel and the damage that resulted was from that bad gas.  In fact he still has the gas in a barrel at his shop because he had to drain the gas tank!  And all the repairs we have had done on the jeep are indicative of the damage caused by diesel in a regular engine.  So Loves findings are puzzling, what in the world is going on?

I  had no choice but to file a claim with my insurance who will now visit the repair shop to confirm the damage and seek attribution from Loves.  (AKA - take them to court and fill out a load of paperwork)  Liberty Mutual is an awesome company if you are looking for insurance, because not only did they quickly help me but they also arranged for me to get a rental car today and will take care of the rest of the repair costs.  As long as the claim adjuster concludes the same thing the mechanic did (please Lord!), they will take care of the repairs, rental car, and reimburse us for the previous work.  With the exception of my  deductible, I have only lost my sanity during this process.  Lets just hope this all comes together because I am about to lose my mind.

A few nights ago, the jeep was parked in the driveway but it sounded like a bag of bolts to start, leaked diesel out the tailpipe and stalled when in idle.  Chet's new work evening schedule (AKA the bane of my existence) required him to work 2-midnight or 11-9pm so there was no way I could share a car with him while I work 8-5.  We had already paid hundreds of dollars to fix the jeep, and it wasn't fixed.  It had been two weeks of me driving the truck with Reagan and I hated taking risks like that when it comes to her safety.  We had no money for a rental, we had no idea how to fix the problem, and I had left 3 messages in 3 days without a word back from Loves.  To say the situation was stressful was an understatement.  I had no idea how to cover more bills, and no plan to remedy the situation.   I felt stuck, what was I supposed to do now?

I cried.
I prayed.
I lost my cool.  (Yes, in that order)

And now I am just waiting, stressing and sweating it out to see if the insurance agent will find the same results as the mechanic.  If not, all the repairs and the rental car will be my responsibility.  This is one of those times that you just have to trust God.  It's hard to give it all over to him, but I need to be able to find a way to do that.  I am trying to change the way I pray about the situation, I don't want to just ask for these problems to go away.  Instead I am asking for the strength to deal with them.

Lord, show me the best way to handle this situation.  Help change my anger to patience.  Help me behave in a way that you can be proud of even though this is hard and frustrating and desperately unfair.  Help me grow through this time of stress.  Help me find the way to better prepare my finances so I can move forward in my life.  Help keep me and my daughter safe, and help keep me open to learning and loving.  Help me find you in this process, show me your path.  If this is my burden, help me bear it in your name.  If this is my joy, help me celebrate it for you.   

I cannot expect perfection in my life, but I can pray for better ways to sleep at night during a time of trial.   I won't lie and say I am dealing well with this stress.  I AM NOT.  I get chest pains from the anxiety and tossed and turned last night not knowing what to do.  I could have wished for more money.  I could have cursed Loves.  I could have lashed out in anger and frustration.  But I didn't.  I cried and called my mom, and I took it all to the Lord.  This too shall pass...

Friday, May 11, 2012

Not All Gas Stations are Created Equal

This past week has been... interesting.  Two notable things have happened that are in such odd juxtaposition that I had to point it out. 

The first was the story I blogged about a few weeks ago (Stealing Gas) when I told the story about a local Conoco OnCue station that had accidentally programmed the pumps a dollar lower than intended.  I took the time to step into the store to notify the employees of the mistake.  I blogged about it because I wanted to talk about the importance of doing the right thing but I was also a little jilted for not being thanked for correcting the problem.  I forwarded my information to the Conoco corporate website along with a link to my blog post and shockingly heard back from them.  Not only did they read my message but they read my blog too!  Then they forwarded the message to the Regional Supervisor, Tommy Shreffler, who turns out to be a pretty wonderful guy.  He also read my blog and contacted me.  How amazing is that?  Not only did he thank me, but he told me that because I notified them of the error that morning, the pumps were only incorrect for about 15 minutes.  How cool is it that I likely saved them a bundle by catching the mistake right away!?!?  I feel really good about that and I am extremely impressed that there was feedback and communication with me.  When I sent the original message I really didn't think it would ever get any attention, just sent out into the black hole of some generic corporate email.  No one was happier than me to get a response, a thank you, and Tommy told me today he is sending me a gift card!  Me = jaw on the floor and a committed customer to the OnCue stations. 

The irony is last week as I headed out of town with my Mom I stopped at a Loves gas station in Guthrie to fill up.  I purchased gas and got on the highway to head to OKC for a visit to the consignment sale, lunch and then dropping mom off at the airport.  Everything seemed fine until I got to the city.  Suddenly the car started bucking and jumping and acting like it was about to stall.  My check engine light came on and I quickly found a place to pull off the busy street downtown.  It was a warm afternoon and since I had the baby with me, it became clear pretty quick that this was not good.  No AC, 60 miles from home, and stuck with Mom's flight scheduled to leave in less than 2 hours.  I called Chet and while he made arrangements with our Repair shop to use a trailer and got a friend's suburban to tow me home Mom, Reagan and I walked 3 blocks to the only restaurant near by to get out of the heat.  Mom then grabbed a cab so she didn't miss her flight and Reagan and I waited in a (somewhat shady) motel lobby till Chet made his way to us.  Thank goodness I had diapers and formula with me.  5 hours after the car died I was finally home, exhausted, hot and worried about the jeep. 

After a week of investigating the origin of the problem and trying to fix the damage our mechanic determined the fuel was diesel which had done all sorts of bad things to my engine.  I called the gas station but they told me they didn't have any problems with the gas, and didn't think my problems were from bad fuel.  So started my headache.  We paid the $380 repair bill and I called the Loves Headquarters to file an official claim for reimbursement.   So far I have talked with three people and it seems like they are willing to investigate the issue.  But for now, I am still out a bundle of cash and still driving Chet's truck because even though we have the jeep back, it is running very rough.  And it can't idle because of the sludge in the engine.  We have been told to run a few tanks of regular gas through it to finish flushing out the bad stuff and hopefully things will get better. Right now all I know is it sounds terrible, and Chet has been driving it.  You can't let it idle at a light so you have to put it into neutral and put your foot on the brake and the gas to keep it revved up.  Apparently Chet says I can't handle that, and honestly I really don't want to mess with it.  So, I've got good old red, Chet's Chevy truck. 

Let's take a minute to discuss Chet's lovely truck shall we?  I know all boys love their trucks, and surely that has to be true because love can be the only explanation for why he has had that beast for so long.  Don't get me wrong, I love that truck too, because it's paid off and runs.  Those are it's only redeeming qualities.  First there is no power locks or windows.  This has been annoying when you are lugging the baby, car seats, bags, diapers and bottles everywhere.  There is also the obvious safety issues to having a car seat in a single cab truck, with no air bags or safety features.  I am always worried about getting into a crash and not being able to protect Reagan, but this is the only vehicle we have so I pray and hope for the best.  In addition, the stereo face plate constantly pops off, and when the radio does work the speakers often go in and out.  Both doors are so old and rusty that you have to slam them closed to latch and fling your body against them to open.  I made the mistake of rolling down the window the other day, and then it was stuck.  Chet managed to muscle it back up and informed me the window was to remain up for now on.  It was an interesting day when I forgot about this and went to the bank drive thru only to have to get out of truck and stand next to the truck to drop off my check.  But best of all is the lingering smell in that truck.  It's a mix of gym socks and dirty butt, from years of a stinky boy farting into cloth seats on hot summer days.  Whats not to love about this truck?  201,000 miles and that truck is still going strong though. 

So on one hand I have been super impressed with Conoco, and on the other hand Loves has destroyed my Jeep.  Conoco = great customer service, Loves = 10 day (and counting) nightmare.  I find it kind of ironic that both of these incidents happened just a few weeks apart, what are the chances?  Lets hope that Loves takes care of the bill and steps up to admit a mistake, if so all will be forgiven.  As for Conoco, Reagan and I plan to stop in today for a cold drink and a tank of gas at the station on the corner of 51 and S Country Club.  Guess you know where I will be filling up for the rest of my life.  

So after a stressful, expensive week there is only one thing to help keep me sane.  It's my baby girls laughs.  I found her ticklish spot on her thighs and I abuse this information all the time.  I love those giggles!  Enjoy my own personal therapy!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Extinguishing Anger

It's something I know all too well, being angry.  It's the emotion I have far too often and handle the worst.  I am a grudge holder, I fuel the flames and I am happily content to let the fire burn for months.  It's not good for anybody, especially me. 

And lately, I am angry a lot.  I stew on the fact that though I love being a mother, I find it terribly unfair that the brunt of child care falls to me.  In part, this is the reality of being a Mom.  Life as you know it before baby turns head over heels after you have a child.  My free time, disposable income, and the ability to pee alone disappears.  Becoming a mother means you give up a lot, but you gain a lot too.  I don't regret the work I do as Mom, but I despise the fact that my workload is so much more different compared to my  husband's role as Dad. 

On one hand, my husband's schedule and job just don't allow  him to take on certain responsibilities and tasks.   As a police officer's wife (LEOW) there are enormous effects his job has on our family life.  And yet, in addition to the limitations his job puts on him, the reality in my house is that all the inconviences, compromises, and and sacrifices are mine.  With rare exception, if it needs getting done, I am the one to do it.  I am the one to give, plan for it, find a way to work it out, and make it happen.  Me.  It's my joy/burden to bear.

From diapers to lost sleep, outings and errands, bill payments and shopping; that's all Mommy's job and then some.  I take sick leave for fevers, I change dirty diapers and wash dirty clothes.  I wipe 2 types of cheeks and give kisses to bumps.  My evenings are bath time, don't forget the bubbles and baby food, don't forget the bib.  Get out the toys and clean up the toys.  Buy the next size clothes but stay on budget.  Cook dinner and pack lunches, wash bottles and measure formula.  I do 90% of all the parenting alone and thats in addition to my full time job.  It can be a lot.  It can be stressful.  And it starts to make me a mad mommy when I think about all I do that my husband never even has to think about. 

I started to list all the things that I am mad about but the list was just too long.  And really to rant about those specifics is the opposite of what I want to do with this post.  I want to find a way to put away the anger, not by changing the situation because that is not an option, but by accepting the unfairness of it all and moving on.

And today that seems pretty freakin' impossible.

I know that I will be happier, more content, and start thriving when I can forget about the lopsided scales.   Sometimes this is just the way it goes, life is unfair.  I need to accept that.

But I am still mad.

I love being a Mom, even though its hard and all consuming, I wouldn't give it up for anything.  I knew it was going to be my responsibilty to do most of the child care before I had my daughter.  This didn't catch me off guard, I knew raising Reagan would be up to me most of the time.  But now that I am living life as a mom, and I realize how hard it actually is, I get mad thinking how much easier it is for my husband.

And thats where the problem lies.  This is my life.  This is the path I choose.  Yes, it's unfair.  Yes, it can be a hard burden to bear alone most of the time.  Yes, I have every right to be mad.  But that anger isn't helping, in fact it is hurting me and my family life. 

And my beautiful daughter is worth the trouble, energy and time it takes to be a (hopefully good) mom. 
But knowing all this, rationalizing the situation doesn't alleviate my anger.  It still feels like I should be angry.  It still feels unfair to ask not only for me to do so much more, but to accept that situation as well. 

It wouldn't be so bad if my husband really got it.  But he doesn't, and no amount of explaining or complaining will really help him fully understand.  I can not list the things I do and simply expect that to have an impact on him because it doesn't show the emotional and physical price you pay as well.   Reagan is fully into the separation anxiety stage, and though it is somewhat flattering to know I am her current favorite, I would also like to leave the room for one minute without a melt down from her. 

The truth is being mad isn't helping, and the reasons to be mad aren't changing.  Somehow, I have to be the one to change my attitude about it.  I have to accept that it's always going to be unfair and my life needs to find a way to deal with that reality and still have happiness instead of anger.

My husband's schedule is about to change again to working the evening shift, and I start to stress out just thinking about how enormously worse things will be when that happens.  I have a whole new appreciation for single moms (seriously, how do they do it?).   Even though I do a lot, I do still have help from my husband.  It may feel like I do it all but my husband does help and is there part of the time. It could be worse.  It could be much worse, in fact. 

It's my goal to find a way to extinguish my anger.  No matter how justified it is, it's not getting me anywhere and putting out those flames are the only thing I can control.  Though I have every right to be mad, that anger is hurting myself the most. So I'm praying, and I am practicing my deep breathing.  I can do this.  I can do it happily.  I can choose to feel differently about the situation.  I can accept things the way that they are because it will make me a better mom to stop keeping track of all I do and make me a better wife to stop evaluating the burden of parenthood.    I'm not there yet, but like Dory I am singing "Just keep swimming". 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Stealing Gas

A few saturdays ago, I was on my way to a baby shower and stopped to fill up my jeep.  I noticed the large price sign out front was advertising gas for $3.58 a gallon and so I pulled in, swiped my card and started to fill my empty tank.  As I waited, I glanced at the pump.  The digital screen for unleaded gas read $2.58.  "Huh, thats weird" I thought, "Must be a glitch with the screen".  But as I did the math in my head for the total the machine was charging me, I realized it was in fact charging me a dollar less per gallon than it was supposed to be.  I glanced around, wondering if it was a joke but the busy station looked normal.  I finished filling up and stepped into the store.  Despite a long line of customers the cashier made eye contact with me and I told him the pumps were not set correctly and charging me only $2.58 per gallon.  Another employee who overheard my comment jumped onto a computer and started frantically punching keys.  Reagan was in the jeep so I quickly left.  No one said thank you.  No one said anything in fact. 

When I arrived at the baby shower I told my friends about my savings, since I had filled up I had saved about $16 that morning.  They asked which gas station it was and told me I should have called them right away!  They were laughing about it but then seemed surprised when I told them I had notified the store of the error and I expected the correction had been made right away.

Now that I was thinking of it, several people in line also gave me the evil eye when I had talked to the cashiers.  People were genuinely surprised that I was doing the right thing.  It never really occurred to me to take advantage of the situation.  Although I had already benefited by receiving reduced gas, I didn't have any intention on continuing to steal from the gas station.

That's what it was after all, stealing.  It may not have been my error to mis-program the machine but I knew the price was wrong, I knew someone had made a mistake.  I have no idea how long those pumps were not charging the right price, but at the large busy gas station it is fair to stay they probably lost hundreds of dollars, if not thousands for that mistake.   I have no doubt the responsible employee was in hot water, if not fired for the error.

I began to think about how other people would have not thought twice about calling friends, and cashing in on that mistake.  It's easy to feel like taking advantage of that low price wouldn't hurt anyone.  It wasn't my fault, I was just buying gas at the price they set, right?  Conoco is a huge company, and a few bucks off my bill wouldn't bother them!  But if we are honest, taking advantage of that gas was the same as robbing the owner of $16.  It was still stealing, it was still wrong, and I was still responsible for my actions.

So for me, of course I told them.  I would tell them again if I had the chance, even though it came without a thank you.  The reality is, doing the right thing doesn't always come with recognition,  you don't do the right thing because of what it can do for you.  Am I annoyed that they didn't acknowledge the fact that I helped them out, even when I didn't have to?  Sure, but that's not the point.

I challenge you the next time a situation presents itself to do the right thing too.  Not because you have to, not because someone is watching, and not because it could give you a reward or recognition.  Do it because it's what Christianity is about and God will always know.

The Liberty Mutual commercial doesn't quite get it right - it's easy to hold a door, give up your seat or loan someone a quarter.  But can we have the same approach when no one is watching, and when it could benefit us when we DON'T do the right thing?  I want to take it a step further, past volunteering and donating.  I challenge you to take risks by speaking up even if your opinion isn't popular, sacrificing even when it means you do without, and making the right decision even if you do it alone.  That is when it gets hard, but means the most.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wanted: Best Friend

Wanted: Best Friend in the Stillwater Area

MWF seeking a BFF.  Must be willing to bash on your husband, relate to new mom issues, live in the Stillwater area, have ideas about losing a few pounds, love chocolate and enjoy sno cones and mexican food.  Added bonus if you have kid(s), love cats and or have a husband in the police force, but not required.

Best friend duties include helping me plan events and activities, being honest about how clothes look on me, sharing hand me downs, attending "girl's night"s, and spending a ridiculous amount of time talking to each other about everything.  Must be able to keep secrets and be willing to share secrets.  Also must be willing to forgive all the crazy you will discover in me once you get to know me.  I will expect you to utilize phrases like "He said WHAT to you?, "I will be right there and don't worry, I'm bringing the rum", and "Sounds to me like you were right and he was wrong".

Plan to discuss and analyze the following topics in details:  In-laws, husband's crazy habits, the cute thing my daughter did today,  my budget, my next craft project, and the drama in my office.  I'm willing to listen in detail to your issues as well, as long as I can throw in my two cents. 

Perks of friendship: Willing to dedicate myself as a work out buddy, swap free babysitting evenings, and give you camera and photo tips.  Friendship also includes regular trips to get a chocolate/caramel covered apple from Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory and sno cone from Cruise's.  I have a pool (that is almost ready to fill) and apparently, I am also a resume whiz so good ahead and ask that favor now...

Planned activities include garage sale and flea market junk shopping, painting or craft projects, sunbathing and swimming, sweating and swearing to Jillian Michaels, walking Boomer lake, gardening, cooking and tailgating for OSU football.  Some shopping, mostly in the Stillwater shops because I hate driving to the city.  Up for occasional well planned adventure like road tripping down Route 66 or exploring a new lake.  I love being by or in the water so those type of activity requests will always be a yes for me and I have a huge kitchen we can cook or bake in. 

Disclosures: Please try to avoid my pet peeves which include canceling on me last minute, making me repeat myself and waking me up.  I have a bad habit of holding grudges so I will go ahead and apologize now!

If you can relate to country girl, have sympathy for homesickness and sleep deprivation, and would enjoy spending time at my country home then this is the "job" for you! 

To apply send resume and references to

p.s. If Chrissy tina, Erin or Leah relocate to the Stillwater area than this posting becomes irrelevant.   Though I doubt it, those yankees are afraid of tornadoes.

p.p.s .  One more thing: Obviously must have a great sense of humor because if I can't laugh at this crazy life of mine I will go crazy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Growing Where I am Planted

It was a post a friend left on my facebook page a few months ago, in response to a status about dealing with regret.  "Grow where you are planted".  That is what I have been trying to do lately.  I can't change alot about my life right now, so that just leaves acceptance.  My prayers aren't for second chances, or do-overs because I know that is just not an option.  My prayers focus on finding happiness exactly where I am.

In times of trial, its very easy to indulge in self pity and sadness.  I don't doubt for one minute that if I had the chance to do it all again I would rewind to my senior year of high school and do every single thing differently.  But that is the value of hindsight, you have the knowledge of the future and wisdom of your mistakes.  I would spend more time with my Dad, his sudden passing caught us all off guard.  I would have double majored in business and photography, so I could have the information I would need to open my own studio.  I would have gone to school by the ocean, instead of always trying to vacation or visit the sea.  I would have looked at large public universities, instead of a private college that left me with student loan debt.  I would have dated Christian boys, worked out more, kept playing tennis, taken more pictures in undergrad, and moved closer to my family before starting a family.  I would have/should have/could have done a lot of things differently.

But I didn't.

So here I am planted in Oklahoma.  Trying desperately to grow.  I find myself caught in daydreams of the tails I spin if I had done one thing differently.  If I had chosen a different college.  If I hadn't walked away from a past relationship.  If I had accepted a different Graduate Assistantship.  Sometimes it blows me away to think how very different my story would be right now if just one decision changed.  And yet, those daydreams are toxic.  I can't spend anymore time dreaming or wishing for one of those possibilities. 

It's not about the mistakes I have made, though I do admit they exist.  It's not about what I wish was different.  It's definitely not about finding a way to go back in time.  I am looking for ways of changing the view from looking back over my shoulder to facing forward.  I need to concentrate on making today better for me in ways that are possible.

I may not be blooming yet but I am reaching for the sun. 

I saw a sign the other day that said 'It's not the happy people that are thankful, it's the thankful people that are happy".  That is my attitude today, thankfulness.  Not of empty wishes and pockets full of regrets but of finding the joy that does exist in my life and focusing on love.  There is so much to be thankful for, right now and right here.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Will the Imperfect Please Come In

Sometimes I think we are only trying to fool ourselves.  We pretend to have our acts together, we continue to compete with the Jones' and we complain about things that aren't really problems.  Why do we all pretend that our lives are perfect when they so clearly aren't? And frankly, they don't have to be.  It doesn't make us weak or unworthy to admit the imperfections in our lives, but we so seldom do.  After my previous blog post about some challenges in my marriage the mention of the dreadful "D" word I have had more than 100 visits to the blog.  That's a lot of clicks, and while it is somewhat flattering to know that people check in on me, something else stood out much more.  No one had anything to say about it. (insert cricket noises here).

Most of the topics of my posts aren't earth shaking.  They are simply the rants and raves, enlightened moments, and the personal sharings of a person who is walking where many others have already trod.  I don't change the world with my blog, and I don't try to.  What am I is honest, upfront, and real.   I really say what I am feeling and I address what I am struggling with and I honestly admit my flaws!  And more importantly, what I talk about are the issues, joys, and challenges we all face.  For some reason or another, sometimes I am one of the few willing to talk about or admit the hard stuff.  I want to talk about the stuff we keep hidden away, I want to openly discuss the heart of the matter, the dark places, the stuff that bothers us but we pretend isn't there. 

There are times when being a mom is really hard.
There are moments when staying married is tough.
There are days when I have regrets.
I have made mistakes, chosen wrong, and sinned.  

BREAKING NEWS:  I AM NOT PERFECT.  Whew, there, I said it.  Glad I got that off my chest....
So why is it that others can't seem to admit that the perfect portrayal of their lives, is in fact just the sugar coating they put on it? 

When I said that no one had anything to say about my previous post, that wasn't completely true.  Almost no one had anything to say, but a couple conversations were started when I probed friends for feedback a couple days after the post was published.  When I asked a couple friends what they thought about the post it started a couple great conversations.  When I admitted what I was struggling with, it opened the door for them to share something that was going on with them.  Gasp, it appears that imperfections are in their lives too! 

Even better, I had one friend send me a message after reading the post and she was awesome and supportive.  I was so thankful that some true friends were able to open up about stuff going on in their own lives.  When I talk to my friends, almost all are long distance friendships, I found that though our paths were different, it really did seem like we shared so many similar struggles.  My post's open approach to a taboo topic was a way for some tough conversations to start.  And it was amazing, it helped me, and I hope it helped them too.  But I was still surprised at the lack of response in general. 

The reality is that every marriage has struggles.  Without a doubt everyone has times of hardship in their life.  The bumps may be bigger or smaller and caused but all sorts of different things but the question of staying or going, the struggle to work things out, the battles that rage, the feelings that ensue, are always the same.   Everyone deals with unhappiness, stress, anger, and regret. What I am trying to say is that my post wasn't special, it wasn't unique, it wasn't an isolated problem I faced alone.  I wish we were admitting that more often.  I wonder what our relationship would be like if we were more honest about our lives with each other.  I wish we could all openly talk about some of the more hush hush topics without judgment or fear of losing a friend.  That's the type of relationships I want to have with friends, one that accepts and supports each other no matter what is really going on in our lives.  I crave relationships that will challenge me to do better, be better and face issues head on without the shame that comes with admitting problems exist and that we have stumbled.  It is easy to celebrate joy with each other, but it is so much harder to listen to pain and problems.  Especially when there is no clear answer to the problems we face.

I don't know about you, but for me, I'd rather address whats going on so I can keep moving forward.   I know I will find my way to better days by dealing with and being honest about what I am really feeling.  I know dealing with my sin, asking for forgiveness and being honest with myself is the only way to make changes.  So perfection, that's not for me.  It never has been.  And I don't want perfect friends either.  Even God knows we fail, so if we can't hide it from him why do we hide it from each other?

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Choice to Stay

For a long time I wasn't sure how to start this post.  Or if I should write this post.  Recently, one of my favorite blogs posted: The Mommyland Guide for a Marriage that Doesn't suck Gonads.  I read it and I even contributed a comment during their earlier post that was collecting advice.  Not because I am an expert, and certainly not because I have been married long but I had recieved some good advice once too and I wanted to share.

Blogging for me has been therapy.  I re-read my own posts all the time, its my equivalent of shouting it off the mountain tops.  Blogging helps me get it off my chest and express my true feelings so that I can deal with them.  I can't tell you how rewarding it is to feel supported by friends and family and I enjoy the advice and suggestions I have gotten from others who read what I wrote and say "been there, felt the same way".  It honestly makes me feel better to put my feelings out there and know that others can relate.  So, knowing that this is my own therapy and that I often share absolutely everything going on with me I have a big topic to cover today. 

Sometimes marriage sucks.
There are days when I would rather throat punch my husband than be married for one more day.
I have times when I am engulfed with regret and I am unhappy in my commitment to my husband.
There are moments when I just want to walk away, get out, and not come back.
Screw the consequences, I have thought of ending the relationship.

I have had a lot of these days lately.

I'm not going to go into the details of what has been going on with us, because honestly its not a simple thing.  There isn't even one clear problem to address.  I can pretty much sum it up by saying that when life changes or when people change it can be hard to accept those changes.  There are hard moments when people don't live up to your expectations, when life is different than I thought it would be, when it becomes really  hard to live every day with someone when I am mad, frustrated and very sleep deprived.   There are clear times when he is wrong, wrong, wrong and I feel right, right, right.  Feelings are hurt, score is kept, words that cannot be unsaid are spoken, and damage is done.  It can feel like I am banging my head against a wall and he just doesn't understand.  And more often than not, the messiness of relationships can make it feel easier to just end it all rather than try to untangle the emotions and decisions that got me to where I find myself today.

I have had more than a few friends who have walked away from marriages after only a year or two.  When I was first married this was such a perplexing thing to me - how could they do that?  They had barely given the relationship a chance and they were already divorcing?  I was shocked, and couldn't understand how something had gone bad so quickly.  Now, I get it.  There are times when it can be VERY HARD to keep loving, to keep working, and to keep choosing to stay together.  It wasn't so much that they had chosen to separate, it was that they had stop making the choice to work to stay together. When people told me a marriage takes work, what I now know that to mean: marriage takes work in order stay committed even when it's easier to go.

This post isn't about lining out all the reasons why I have struggled for the past few months.  If I wanted to, I could tell you all the ways my husband has been "wrong" lately.  I have a list of all his sins from the day we met that I could pull from, and believe me the list is long.  I could make a very compelling case for why it would be OK for me to leave.  But my transgressions are not absent from my relationship either.  Over a couple of beers I am sure my husband could point out a few of my flaws as well, maybe more than a few.  It's never completely one person's fault is it?  It's never black and white.  I am not the perfect wife, and my husband is not the perfect husband.  If we both started throwing stones, it would take a long time to be done with that petty war.

If I am completely honest I can acknowledge that I have not been very happy.  That statement alone was hard to admit.  This isn't about my hormones, or lack of sleep, or getting on medication to make me feel better.  This is about admitting there are things in my life that I struggle with.  There have been moments where the miles between me and my family seemed to have swallowed me up.  I have struggled with finding the energy to deal with my own frustrations and anger when all my enthusiasm is given to taking care of my new daughter.  I have found it easier to slip into anger and blame than to deal with the actual problems.  I have accused more than I have taken responsibility.  I have yelled more than I have prayed.  I have pointed the finger more than I have asked forgiveness.  I have not been blameless but I have been fast to point out errors.  I have asked for consideration for my own feelings but not understood his. 

I  can recall the day early in our relationship when we faced a fork in the road.  We had been dating for about 8 months, and I knew I loved him.  As I began my final year in graduate school it was time to begin my job search and choose my next step that would likely take me far from this small Oklahoma town.  Chet and I met for a date at the lake to grill dinner and I knew the conversation that would address our future was going to happen.  I thought for sure that when I laid it all out for him, he would walk away.  I told him in no uncertain terms that I was not willing to limit my job search and professional career just because we were dating.  It was time for us to move forward and get serious or to go our own ways. Though I expected a break up that day, Chet surprised me.  He told me he saw a future together.  He told me he was already serious.  A couple months later we were engaged and 3 weeks after I graduated we were married on a sunny beach in Jamaica.

That day at the lake I saw one path turn away from Chet and toward a limitless career and new direction and one path firmly planted in Oklahoma soil with Chet by my side.  I knew I had two options that meant two very different things and I made a choice.  I choose the path with Chet.  That decision meant I choose lots of other things too, things that are hard to accept some days.  Things like being far from family, accepting a very limited job pool and career path, and a permanent home in a state that will never completely feel like home.  I didn't think about the consequences of that decision, though they were not all bad, there were many dominoes that fell after making that choice to take the path with Chet.
The choice to be with Chet also meant I would feel moments of enormous homesickness, for which the only cure I have found is detailed early planning for future trips home (yes, this is why I am always talking about my next trip to PA or vacation plans).
The choice to be with Chet meant I could start the family I had always dreamed of but it also meant my family would only get to see my daughter a couple times a year.
The choice to be with Chet meant I lived the life of a police officer's wife of worry and sacrifice.
The choice to be with Chet meant he could always make me laugh but also cut me down with his jokes.
The choice to be with Chet meant we lived on salaries in low paying careers.

Some of those choices were harder to live with than others, and some days I was resentful of the things I gave up and have to live with every day just because of one decision I had made.   Worst of all, some days that choice felt like a mistake because I felt entitled to a different situation, a better paycheck and a more understanding and loving husband. 

In our lowest low, the conversation that finally got to the bottom of it all, I oddly found myself calm.  We were facing another fork in the road.  One path lead away from my marriage, that freed my feet from red dirt soil and opened new job prospects and zip codes.  The other path meant I was going to need to fight to keep my family together and reconfirm my commitment to stay and work through a hard, unhappy time in my life.  I won't lie and say it was an easy choice.  It can be very appealing to think that it would be easier to walk away, start fresh with things I thought I really wanted in my life.  Its easy to think that I would find happiness in a different situation and justify quitting the relationship was OK if it meant I would be happy elsewhere.  It was much harder to face the problems we both were offering and chose to live up to the vows we made.  Hadn't I promised to stay in sickness and health, in good times and bad and in joy or sorrow?  Perhaps, for the second time, my relationship surprised me.  We both choose to stay, to try and help each other better understand and to find ways to heal and be better spouses.

One of the bits of advice a reader provided to the Rants from Mommyland post about marriage advice was a story her grandmother told her.  She said in 50 years of marriage she had been happy for 45 years.  That meant there were weeks or months, even one stretch of 2 years, that she was unhappy with her husband.  But she stayed in the relationship despite that unhappy time and it led to much more happiness, a lifetime of happiness in fact.  When you think of it like that, aren't short times of unhappiness worth 10x as much happiness? Doesn't enduring a time of challenge help you find a path to happiness?  Relationships grow stronger when they survive hardship, they become better when they overcome problems. 

This past week has been rewarding.  I found myself laughing and playing with my husband and really enjoying the time together.  Last week when we had a minor tiff, we both handled it differently and I was so thankful for the change.  To expect the problems to simply disappear would have been stupid, to expect them to disappear without making changes would be even more stupid.  Did you know the definition of insanity is repeating the same action over and over again, expecting a new outcome?  So, if I want something to change and get better, part of that change needed to come from me.  Even better when as a husband and wife, it can come from us both.  We are not fixed, I still struggle but I am coming to terms that leaving is just not an option.  That my happiness comes from within myself, not by finding the perfect relationship or situation.  I falter, I fall but I keep my promise. 

I wish as a society, more people would try this approach.  I believe that in most circumstances, divorce is not the right option and people say "We wanted different things" or "We didn't make each other happy" in order to justify decisions that defy what God wants in marriage.  I could have said both of those things in the past six months and it would have been true but it wouldn't have made leaving the right thing to do.  I could make plenty of excuses to chose divorce but I'm not because I want to be a better wife even if it means times of unhappiness or problems.  I want to be a more Godly person so I can role model sacrifice and dedication to my daughter.  I want to build a stronger marriage and a deeper love by working through a time when leaving was a very real option and staying meant a lot of work.  I certainly didn't stay because it was the easy choice, but it was the choice I can be proud of.  In a society where divorce is so common people don't blink an eye, I want to be different.  I want to be honest about this time of trial but also to lean on my decision to stay committed to my husband and follow the Lord.  I made a choice that will continue the fall of dominoes in my life in the future; some I will like, and some that I will not.

An article my pastor shared with me this week was a great read on this topic : Should I divorce if I am miserable? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy 6 Months Reagan!

It has been a whirlwind these past six months.  Part of me cannot seem to fathom the reality that I've been a mom for six months already.  I recently spent some time putting together the video below and though my video skills are somewhat lacking (I'm learning!) I had a great time looking over the past six months of shots we took of the baby.  Boy has she grown!  But despite my imperfect videos, and life for that matter, I am a happy Mommy and I love my little family!

 So to commemorate this milestone I thought I would put together a list of my highs and lows.

Lets start with the LOWS...
Without a doubt there are two clear lows for me.  The first was my c-section.  I was not anticipating that surgery or recovery and therefore I felt completely unprepared for the first two weeks with Reagan.  I was in a lot of pain, couldn't use narcotics (due to allergies) and did not mentally or emotional expect my body to feel like it does after a major surgery like that.  It was rough, and perhaps even worse for me is the dread knowing that all of my future children will likely be delivered the same way.  I know its crazy, and I just need to get over it because it all worked out fine, but I was really looking forward to pushing and having someone hand me the baby.  I had this idea of what her birth would be like, and basically it didn't even remotely happen that way.  Instead it was a much more "medical" experience and I was heavily drugged during the labor and delivery.  I was hardly able to stay awake for my c-section due to my blood pressure medicine and my memories from her birthday are quite foggy.  It was one of those somewhat scary birth stories and I wish things had gone differently.  Emergency induction due to pre-clamsia - 12 labor with lots of pain and no progress - last minute c-section - but a healthy baby girl!

The second is Reagan's sleep struggles these past two months.  It seems that she has settled into a much better routine now but for a while there I was having a very hard time.  Sleep deprivation is no joke and I really struggled with bad moods, exhaustion, and juggling my roles at being a mom, wife and career coordinator.  When too much is on my plate I tend to feel like I do nothing well and I wanted to do better.  Thanks to a lot of support from friends and family, I was able to stay on my feet and now things have found a better grove for me.   She has been doing much better lately and I feel fresh from coming off a great weekend.

Beside some serious sticker shock over baby supplies, those are the only real lows.  Honestly, that isn't so bad.  No one can predict births and all babies cause their parents to lose sleep so these bumps are normal.  In retrospect, I have it pretty darn good.  

Now on to the HIGHS...
Perhaps its goes without saying but my highest high is just being a Mom.  Though it is not without its difficulties, I do love being a parent.  If you aren't one yet, there is no simple way to describe it but it is immensely rewarding and I have more love in my heart for that child then I ever thought possible!  Knowing fully well this next statement is biased, I have a beautiful baby!  Those rosy cheeks, big smile and happy disposition make her a joy to be around.  Even though she looks just like her Dad, I adore my pretty little girl!

A major high for me is when Reagan laughs at me!  It is completely contagious and I will do pretty much anything to get a giggle from that baby girl!  People always tell me she is great for smiling in pictures and while this is true, it is more accurate to say that girl is always smiling! She is for the most part, a very happy baby.  This is a true blessing, and I love to sing, play and be silly with her. 

One of my greatest highs was this past weekend.  It was one of those rare times when I felt I had my act together and I was somehow able to get a nap, check things off my to do list, and spend some real quality time with my family.  I filled my freezer with homemade baby food, made a great meal for Chet and I, took Reagan to the park and had a great time!   One of my greatest struggles has been feeling like I am accomplishing all I should, and this weekend was a success.  It really lifts my spirits to know I can do the things I want and find satisfaction in them.  I did however miss Church this Sunday, but my mom sent me a mother's devotional bible and I was able to read the first few pages. 

I guess I have realized I am not seeking a perfect life.  I have found joy in the imperfections, and my expectations have changed.  If these past six months have taught me anything it's that life can change, your plans and budget can go right out the window and happiness is still there.  I don't live a glamorous life style, I don't have much money but I have true happiness and wealth in my life.  I am learning and growing through it all and learning to laugh at the things that used to stress me out.  The biggest thing I am learning, is how your marriage needs to grow and change too.  Becoming a parent really affects your relationship and working on continuing to love can be hard too.  So despite my failures, my horrible days and tears, I am still finding all these amazing things.  There is just too much to look forward to that I don't want to waste time regretting the past. 

So cheers to six months Reagan.  Here is to many more happy moments to come.  Mommy loves you!