Tuesday, August 31, 2010

The Year of Choices

As My Young, Grade 7'er headed off to school this morning, I tagged along as an extra set of arms to assist with the excessive amounts of school supplies that he (and the Younger Grade 2'er that we are tending) toted off to school.

As we strolled down the street, I told My Son "This is the year you can choose to become involved in whatever interests you ..."

Throughout My Son's school days, our lives have been ruled by my daycare.

First, were the days when he was too young to be involved in any extra curricular activities. Our challenge in those days, was rounding up all that came to our home after school. It was a flurry of frenzied activity and responsibility. Counting heads, getting home quickly and basically ensuring that everyone made it home safe and sound.

Then, came the days when My Son was old enough to be in charge of walking my younger charges to and from school. I couldn't have done it without him. He was my biggest helper and I needed him.

As he grew into the older grades, he wanted to be a school safety patrol. He would have needed to be available before and after school. His responsibilities overruled his desires. He never complained. He just did what he had to do.

I don't know if he ever wanted to join any other before and after school activities. He never asked. It is my fear that he didn't ask or even tell me what his desires were, because he knew the answer.

As my Young Son was bemoaning the fact that he was not ready to go back to school this year, I gently tried to nudge his thinking in a new direction. "Keep your mind and ears open to all of the activities that interest you." "The people who have the happiest memories of school are the ones who became involved in school activities." "You can do anything this year. We will take care of our 'One Before/After School Charge' together. I can be available whenever you aren't." "This ... is the year of being able to do what you want to do!"

My Youngest found his name on the list of fellow classmates outside of the Grade 6/7 classroom door. I felt a great relief when I immediately spotted his friends names and saw many familiar faces. My Son saw that much sooner than I did. By the time I turned my head to tell him what he already knew, he was smiling. It's going to be a very good year. It could be the best year of his life so far.

Because this ... is the year of choices.

Monday, August 30, 2010

If ...

If ... I was still a full-time daycare provider, our summer holidays would have felt like summer holidays.

If ... I was still running my daycare, I wouldn't have had the chance to go back to school.

If ... I didn't go back to school, I never would have felt the endorphins released by learning.

If ... I didn't keep learning, I wouldn't have such faith that 'I can do anything!'.

If ... I didn't feel like I could do anything, I would be afraid to take chances.

If ... I was afraid of taking chances, I would be afraid to reach out and make new friends.

If ... I didn't have my friendships to fuel me, I would lose my enthusiasm.

If ... I lost my enthusiasm, I would lose the part of myself that keeps taking chances.

If ... I didn't take chances, I never would have become a daycare provider.

If ... I hadn't been a daycare provider, I wouldn't be who I am today.

If ... I wasn't who I am, who would I be??

I can't stop dreaming about my daycare days. They are over. The end of an era. There are so many good things that came out of my 12 years in daycare, that I can stop thinking about all that evolved because of the pivotal moment when I said the words aloud to a group of trusted friends, "I want to find a way to stay at home and be a Mom."

I knew who I wanted to be. I had searched for that all of my life. I made a vow that I would do whatever it took, to pay the bills. And I did it.

If ... I had to live the last 12 years of my life over again? I wouldn't change a thing.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Longest ... Yet the Shortest Summer of My Life

As I stated in an RSVP to a friend, "... it is simply a month with not enough days to do all that I want/need to do, yet a month with too many days at the end of the money ..." That has been the story of my summer.

The summer holiday season came in with a bang. In the first week of summer, I participated in a dance camp, held a pot luck supper, had cousins over for a small gathering, went to visit my mom. And then ... came our new reality.

I had hopes and plans for the summer. A new 'tradition' was being formed - one where a group of friends went out on a semi regular basis. Summer is a hard time to co-ordinate these outings because people are away on holidays, entertaining out of town guests and just generally busy. But what I found most frustrating was my lack of time and money to keep the ball rolling. My new budget simply didn't have room for these extra curricular activities.

I had hoped that this would be the summer that I would be a tourist in my own city. Our Fair City offers a lot of entertainment over the city months. I have never taken part in these events but I thought 'this would be the year'. Summer came and went ... and I managed to take in two evenings of entertainment. Better than last year ... but not quite up to my expectations.

I was ready, willing and able to partake in spontaneous visits and trips. I have no regrets there. In fact, that is what this 'new life' is all about. But ...

The underlying theme of this summer has been 'the budget'. Not enough work; too much work/not enough hours in the week; budgeting my time for work; budgeting the funds I was (or wasn't making) by working. Budgeting and work! Work and budgeting! Too much fretting!

As I was saying good night to My Youngest last night, I reminded him that today was the last official day of holidays. School registration is tomorrow morning and it's back to the books on Tuesday. It was like watching a balloon deflate in front of my eyes. We are still waiting for the fun, carefree days of summer. Our summer came and went ... and we missed it.

I've been wishing the summer months away because there has been too much month left at the end of the money. Yet there haven't been enough days to work in all that I had hoped to do. I not only missed out on attending the party I had been invited to, I missed out on summer.

Summer of 2010. I blinked ... and it was over. Oh well, we can still make the most of the months ahead.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Holiday Reflections

Be it ever so humble ... there's no place like home! We are back. As it is, with any holiday (or any time I leave the house) I love coming home.

I had an hour long visit with my cousin (half way to our first holiday destination) and an hour long visit with a good friend before check-out time at our hotel (at our last holiday destination). 'My Boys' visited amongst themselves the entirety of our (almost) three day adventure. They swam, played their 'Nintendo DS Lite' games, explored the sights together and simply enjoyed themselves. And I was quiet.

I watched and listened to the rapport between My Son and his friend. They are opposite in many ways but their friendship works.

I marvelled at the way My Youngest handled some of his friend's behaviours. He separated the behaviour from the person and set 'limits' with his friend. Certain behaviours simply weren't acceptable, right or age appropriate. My Youngest treated his friend with respect, reined him in at times and they just kept right on with the fun and games at hand. I thought to myself, "If this is the result of growing up in a daycare, I'm grateful ..."

Once upon a time, I would have allowed these 'behaviour issues' to ruin my holiday. I would have focused on the negative, stuck my nose in where it didn't belong (My Son was handling these little scenarios perfectly - without drama or sacrificing the friendship) and it would have interfered with their own abilities to work through a moment.

I like what I see, when I watch My Youngest and how he handles things.

He's a quiet boy. He doesn't speak unless he has something to say. To those who don't know him well, he appears to be shy. But for those that find a topic they have in common, they see him differently. He becomes fully animated and passionate about things that excite him. I like the fact that he 'spends his words' wisely.

I listen to the way he speaks to other children. He is respectful with his words, sets boundaries and doesn't play with those that don't follow the rules. It started out with the fun and games that he orchestrated with my young daycare crowd. Then he took his expectations (that people play fairly) to school with him. There have been some frustrations, hurt feelings and growing pains along the way ... but at age 12, I like what I see.

I see a child who is firm in what he believes and expects. Fitting into the crowd doesn't seem to be what motivates him. Friends that are respectful, honest and treat him with kindness is more important.

I admire the fact that he can separate the behaviour from the person. It's possible to like a person despite their imperfections. Adults could learn from him.

I like the fact that My Youngest doesn't look to me to run interference. He's testing his wings and handling things on his own. At one point My Youngest turned to me in exasperation because his friend was bored and taking the fun out of an experience for him. But he was venting a moment of frustration and if anything, it seemed more of an apology for his friend's behaviour than a plea for help.

I was grateful for the quietness of this holiday and an opportunity to see My Youngest in a new light.

I asked him if he enjoyed the holiday, and he did. I asked if he was glad his friend came along. Despite the challenging moments, he didn't hesitate for a moment and he told me that he was glad that his friend came along. His friend provided companionship and a refreshing new insight to the sights that we had seen many times before.

It's been a quiet and lonely summer for My Youngest. This holiday was for him. I felt that he deserved this time long before we left. But upon our return, I realize that this holiday was a gift for me as well. It's nice to step back and look at your children in action.

This twelve year old phase has been different for each of my children. I know that the road could be full of twists and turns from this point on. I believe that we are setting out on this next phase of development on solid ground.

I think this will be a holiday that I will reflect on, for years to come. I hope My Youngest feels the same.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Different ... But Still the Same

We've taken a brief hiatus from "life as we know it" and ventured out on a mini holiday before the onset of school and fall weather ...

My Youngest (12 years old) asked if he could invite a friend. If I was in his shoes, I'd want to invite a friend. He's had a very solitary summer holiday. He needs some companionship. So without too much thought, I agreed.

All was arranged easily and the next thing I knew, we were off.

We are now at the tail end of our 2-day-holiday-adventure. We have travelled roads we've travelled many times before. We have stayed at hotels that we've stayed at several times prior. We've seen the sights and did things that we have seen and done many times. It's the same ... but different.

I've travelled these roads with My Youngest through varying ages of his development. Starting at age "1" and at least four times between then and now.

I can't help but compare the past to the present ...

No longer are our days dictated by naps, regularly scheduled meal times and bed time rituals. At age 12, the kids stay up longer than I do and sleep in, in the mornings.

In the early childhood years, I pussy footed around in the mornings in the hope of having a quiet hour (or two) before I had to wear my 'Mom hat' for the day. This holiday? I banged and clanged around, ran water, turned on lights. And nothing. My young boys slept in spite of it all.

The days of packing 'healthy food' are gone (but not forgotten). We packed junk food and pop. We scavenged the cities we were in, to find the best take-out-food options. It was easier in the 'old days', in some ways. I knew the basic food groups were being consumed. Now? I hope My Youngest has an appetite. My Son's young travel companion is the polar opposite when it comes to food. Lots of it, any time, any place. But nutritional value? Not so much.

Independence. At age 12, 'my boys' could stay on their own. But being responsible for someone else's child keeps me close at hand at all times. I just about 'lost' my Son's Friend when he wandered into the hotel corridor ("looking for My Son") the first night. I heard a door open and shut (and assumed it was the bathroom) in the middle of the night. Something made me check it out and ensure 'my boys' were where they were supposed to be. Sure enough - one was missing. I reacted quickly enough, that he didn't catch the elevator he was waiting for. How do you make that phone call to a parent? "Sorry ... I lost your child". Thankfully, I haven't had to experience that.

Swimming no longer (nor has it, for a while) involves me getting into a bathing suit. I still sit at the pool-side and check for 'my boys' on a regular basis. But all in all, the swimming is a pretty easy way for them to burn off their energy and kill a few (or more) hours. Water and kids are a good combination (as long as they play safe and follow the rules).

I kept asking My Youngest "... do you remember when...", as we retraced our steps from a time when he was half of his current age (or younger).

We stayed in the bunk bed suite of a hotel only once before and we returned to stay in that same room this holiday. I asked him if he remembered. His memory made me smile:

"I remember that you forgot to pack a book to read to me before I went to bed ... and you made up a story ... and now that I'm older, I realize the nights when I can't fall asleep, are the nights when I don't hear your voice before I go to bed ..."

That bed-time-story-ritual has passed by the wayside. But his need to 'connect' with me before he falls into a restful slumber remains.

Yes, many things change and evolve over the years. But it's comforting to realize that some things never change ...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dirty Laundry

I can't help but reflect on my daycare days a lot lately. My life has made a 360 degree turnaround since that time ...

Back in the 'old' days, I was around kids, food, dirt, vomit, runny noses and dirty diapers. We spent a lot of time outside. At the end of the day (and sometimes half way through), my clothes were dirty. Really dirty.

These days?

I am inside all day. I sit at the computer and type. I stand at the table and file. I wear comfy clothes because sitting too long in restrictive jeans is very uncomfortable. At the end of the day, my clothes are still clean. Lightly used. Heavens! I don't even sweat any more!!

In the past, I have always been the only one who tended the outdoor work. Cutting grass, pulling weeds, shovelling, maintaining, you name it ... I did it.

This year?

My Middle Son has taken over the lawn care. I don't work up a sweat as I listen to the lawn mower go by the living room window. I don't get dusty, dirty, bug infested ... I don't work up a sweat.

Then there was this past Sunday.

I cleaned. I was down on my knees cleaning. I was rummaging around the garage. I looked down and my pants were dirty. Really dirty!

At the end of a productive and fulfilling day, I tossed my dirty clothes in the laundry basket. It was evidence of a day well lived.

Airing my dirty laundry in a public venue is something my mom wouldn't recommend. But in this case? It felt kinda good.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Does it Take Longer to Clean Real Dirt ... or Imaginary Dirt?

I used to devote Fridays to my household chores. I probably spent at least an hour (if not two) dusting, cleaning, washing, scrubbing, watering plants, scouring bathrooms, shaking mats, washing floors, etc, etc, etc.

I used to vacuum each and every day (at least once, sometimes more). I used to wipe down my couch and love seat on a daily basis ('nose juices' from my daycare days initiated that routine).

I used to be obsessive/compulsive about keeping on top of my household chores.

Then ... I stopped babysitting and started working full time at bookkeeping from my home.

There is no time to dust while I work. There are no little breaks in the day to squeeze in my old daily cleaning routines.

Granted, the house isn't as dirty as it used to be with 5 - 8 kids running at large five days out of seven. But ... dirt happens.

The last time this house has seen a good cleaning was oh ... let me guess ... June 25th. Almost two months ago.

Since that time, I have swept/vacuumed/wiped and swiped. I haven't devoted any more time than absolutely necessary to house work. The plants are looking out the window at greener pastures and longing for a better home because of the drought conditions under their present roof.

I figure that I have probably saved at least 25 hours in cleaning time.

Yesterday ... I cleaned. Real dirt. You could actually see where I had dusted. The hair balls running at large on the laminate flooring have finally been captured within the confines of the vacuum cleaner.

I spent at least two hours cleaning.

Hmmm ... 2 hours verses 25 hours. Real dirt is much faster to clean. Why didn't I learn this sooner???

Sunday, August 22, 2010

A Day of Work = A Day of Nothing to Write About

I'm geared up for another day of work this morning. I worked all day yesterday. But I'm not working Monday through Wednesday ...

I get to make my own weekends in this life. It's kind of fun.

It would be more fun if I didn't have to work all of Saturday and all of Sunday though.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

These Are the Days!

I can look back on any day of the recent past and know without a doubt that it was a day well spent. Yesterday was another ...

My goal yesterday? Work, work and work some more. My reality? Work with perks.

By 8:30 in the morning, I had my work set out before me. Goals set. Priorities in line. It was going to be a good day.

By 8:45, my Middle Son asked me out for coffee. I hesitated a millisecond and said, "Sure!!"

We were back home by 9:45 and I immediately returned to my work which was exactly where I had left it and I was ready to pick from where I had started.

Fifteen minutes into my second attempt to work, the phone rang. It was my 'Sister Friend' from a lifetime ago. We talked, talked and talked some more. We didn't quite solve the world's problems, but we are working on a few. It was a most excellent conversation that takes me back to a happy time when I 'adopted' this sister when I lived so far away from my inherited sisters.

By 11:00, I was back to work. Then the phone rang. I was starting to feel deflated. Such big plans and life was intercepting them at every turn. I looked at the call display to discover that it was my 'boss' calling. It was work related and I was still on the clock. We are feverishly working on tying up year-end and we are ever-so-slowly pulling into the lead.

I hung up the phone and was back at it. I received and made several work-related calls in the 6+ hours that followed. But the task that I had set out before me was completed yesterday. I wrapped up one section of what has to be done for year-end and it balanced. To the penny. I was so excited that I had to call and leave my boss a message. There are few people who can feel the thrill that I do, when I tie up one more job that must be done in this bookkeeping world. And my boss is one of them.

I had another project to turn my energy towards when I completed the first. I was on a roll, so I continued to work.

It was at some point right around this time, that my Second Son and I decided that we would go out for supper. We picked one of our new favorite places to dine, called My Oldest Son and asked if he'd like to join us. My Youngest was thrilled to be playing a new X-Box game (it has taken him over a year for him to convince me to let him buy it), so he was more than happy to have me whip him up some nourishment and I doubt that he even noticed that we were gone.

Our supper was delicious, the conversation flowed easily. We talked about family issues and it seems that we are all on the same page (or pretty close). As the words were volleyed around the table, we were united. My little family feels like a strong, cohesive unit. Impromptu visits like this make me smile inside. A year ago, this would have never happened.

As if the day wasn't already good enough, I returned home to a message from another friend that I hadn't heard from in a very long time. We talked for hours. It was the perfect end to a perfect day.


I connected with friends, I nourished my own family ties and I had the satisfaction of seeing a work project through to the end. I took time for the unexpected bonuses that yesterday had to offer and still accomplished all that I wanted to do.

Days like these are the reason that I have chosen to work from home.

Friday, August 20, 2010

In Good Shape

I thoroughly enjoy the Microsoft Excel program. For a person who likes to play around with numbers, it is fun to easily manipulate financial scenarios within this program.

I cannot remember a time when I didn't have a budget. As a young child, I budgeted my allowance. As a newlywed, the finances were handed over to me because I was good at 'juggling the books'. As a young divorcee, I bought a home and provided for our little family of two. Old habits die hard. I have always budgeted and probably always will.

I've always had contingency funds -whether in the form of a savings account that was hard to get to ... to a $20 bill hidden in my wallet ... to an emergency stash of cash inside of the torn lining of my jacket. Unfortunately those emergency funds also come in the form of 'available credit' on the line of credit or a credit card. But I always have a back up plan.

I have worried endlessly about money, about my financial future, about keeping solvent and continually 'juggle the books' so that I can indulge myself in the frivolities of life.

This past month has been worrisome. I have fretted and stewed. I have juggled the numbers but the only wiggle room that I have are groceries and dancing. I cut back on both.

This morning, I balanced the books and re looked at the budget page on my Excel program. As of this moment, I'm hanging on by a thread and any expenditures between now and the end of the month will be in the red (but I still haven't gotten paid from my typing job, so it's possible I could actually come out of this month intact). As of now ... I'm doing okay.

I sighed with relief and thought "I'm in good shape ...". And then I remembered how chubby I have been feeling as I have been stuffing my body into clothes that are (now) a size too small. And I thought "Now I just need to work on getting my body into shape (sigh) ..."

If I come out of this month in the black, anything is possible!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Into Each Life, Some Work Must Fall

My little 'vacation-like' hiatus is over. I am back to work. I'm working with a vengeance (or that is the plan) so that I can take a few days off with My Youngest before school begins. I am working with a purpose.

As I immersed myself in my work-from-home venture and raced off to my casual-work-out-of-home job and back to work-from-home yesterday, I thought "I'm glad I savored the moments this past week". It is much more fun to gallivant the countryside and visit with friends and relatives, than it is to 'work'.

I remember the time before My Youngest was born. I was up to my neck in taking Financial Planning courses. I applied much of that knowledge to my own life. I was headed towards a financially secure life style. But I wasn't 'living' my life. There was very little fun mixed into those days.

Ballroom dancing was an illusive goal at that time. I didn't have the money in my budget to allow myself such an extravagance. My plan was to dance when I retired. My family would be grown and away from home and I'd need some diversions to get me through the quiet life I forecast in my financially secure future.

What I have done (quite accidentally) instead, is I've started building a life that doesn't revolve around my children before I retire (and at the rate I am going, I will never retire ... or at least that is my plan).

I have 'fun' interspersed into my life on an irregular (weeks like this past week) and a regular (my dance lessons) basis. I am living a balanced life.

I wouldn't appreciate the down times as much if I didn't have to work for a living. Work is a necessity in life. Whether you work for a pay cheque, work to keep your house and life running smoothly, work to take care of your family ... work in any form provides contrast to days of ease.

I'm so grateful that I decided to start dancing before I retired. I needed to start building a life outside of that of being a mom. I believe that this is the best retirement plan that I could have right now.

Since I rather enjoy the contrast between work and play, I suppose that it is fitting that I believe that I will be working throughout my retirement years. As much as I enjoyed the past week, I know that I appreciate it even more ... because I must return to work when the fun is over.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

This ... Is Why I Wanted to Work From Home!

The last week has been a busy one.

I've been gallivanting south, west and east of My Fair City. I've been able to partake in 'life' with friends and family. I've been (or trying to be) a vital member of my own family. I've been present and available for all of the opportunities presented to me.

I have worked full time since I was 18 years old. I took two, 4 month hiatuses when I had my last two children. I have taken vacations. I have taken a leave of absence from work (so that I could work). I have worked two or three jobs at a time.

In my previous daycare-career, my days were long and highly committed. But I got a lot done while I was 'stranded' at home. It was the first time in my working life, that my house was fully under control.

The past month, I have been struggling to find a way to make this bookkeeping-from-home work for me. It's been a challenge to work and not allow the distractions of life lead me astray. It's been frustrating not to be able to clean the house, make meals, pick weeds, write a book/cards/letters or return emails in the spare moments of my work day.

I have been calling this The Summer of Transition. It has not been without its perks and pitfalls. Finding a way to pay the bills on my new wage has been overtaken my thoughts for weeks on end. The struggle between knowing when to work and knowing when to pack it in has been on-going.

But this past week, I have been able to be a part of my mom's visit 'back home'. During her visits for all of the decades prior to this, it seemed that she felt guilty for taking up my time because my work drained the life out of my soul.

This time? I have had the ability to chauffeur her here and there. I have had the time to sit and smell the roses with her. We have enveloped my family into this visit ... I have seen both of my sisters in the past week because of Mom's visit ... I have visited an aunt ... I have heard and relived the 'adventures' of Mom's holiday with her as she has been eager to recall the memories of this past week.

I have had time and flexibility to choose my own work schedule this week. I have been able to put family first. It is a decision that I will never regret.

As I look back on this past month and the inner turmoil that I have been experiencing as I get myself into a new groove, it is with a giant sigh of serenity that I can say: "This ... is why I wanted to work from home!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Good Life

I live a charmed life. Yesterday was a perfect example of my definition of a perfect day.

First and foremost, it was Sunday. My favorite day of the week. Despite the fact that I have ruined my own Sundays lately, by working ... Sunday is still the day of the week that stands out as special to me.

Originally, the whole day was mapped out. A balloon ride with My Oldest was on the morning's agenda - bright and early. That would have most likely taken up the majority of the morning. I thought My Oldest and I would have most likely gone out for a leisurely breakfast afterwards and enjoyed some easy conversation. That was the plan.

When our balloon trip was cancelled, my initial thought was that I could probably squeeze in five hours of work. But since I had budgeted my time for a leisurely Sunday morning without thinking about work, that is the morning that I had.

I had the most laid back and enjoyable morning. My body and mind were rested and I was in a serene state of existence. I savored every moment.

Mom and my sister arrived mid afternoon for a visit. It was fun and easy (made even easier by the fact that my sister made supper and brought it along with her). Our Sunday Supper Experience was enhanced by the addition of a few more family members. My own little family plus more. Perfection!

We wound up the day by heading out to see My Middle Son's farm. Some family friends met up and joined us at the farm. My little family's friends. We have family friends! Friends where each and every one of us feels a kinship with each and every one of their family members.

This is the life that I have always dreamed about. A life full of simple pleasures.

I am complete, happy and relaxed in my own skin. I am content with the person that I am. That is the foundation on which to build a life.

My own little family unit is a cohesive one. We may not be 'The Walton's' but we are family. We come together for our weekly suppers. My relationship with each of my sons is in a healthy spot. We are far from perfect, but we are striving to become better. There is a sense of peace in our home.

My extended family is a heartbeat away. On special days such as yesterday, we are blessed with their physical presence. But on any other day, there is a closeness that makes the physical distance between us feel invisible. My family is the root of who I am. I'm beyond grateful for my roots ... my family ... and the easy companionship of each family member.

Friends. The friends that joined us yesterday are symbolic of the friends that each of us are making beyond the walls of home and family.

I have a family that are my friends ... and friends that feel like family. Does life get any better than this? I keep thinking that I'm living the good life. Then life surprises me once again ... and just keeps getting better!

Sunday, August 15, 2010


It looks like a beautiful day for a balloon ride ... but looks can be deceiving. It's too windy. The balloon ride that I was to be on with my Oldest Son right now, has been tabled for another day.

I'm grounded this morning. In more ways than one.

Tuesday morning, I wrote the words, "People. I miss people." True to form, my wish was granted. And then some!

Tuesday afternoon, a friend came by for the afternoon and stayed for supper. We had a marvelous visit. She had a lot of words of wisdom for my Second Son and I, as we venture into new career paths. As we parted ways, we renewed our promise to go on an Alaskan cruise together next summer. She is a friend in so many ways and I always enjoy her company.

I literally followed her out the door when she left, so that I could make it to my dance lesson in time. My head was full of words, thoughts and plans ... but once in the dance studio, I was transformed. I thought of nothing but the moment, the laughter and dancing.

Wednesday morning, I met up with a childhood friend so that we could drive out to visit her aunt. We went there this past spring, and our promise was to return in the summer so that we could see her aunt's farm in all of its glory. We followed through on that promise and returned for a most wonderful visit.

What I find amazing, is the fact that this friend from my childhood (in large part, due to the close proximity of our farms) and I are so in tune with each other. Our lives took us in opposite directions and for the better part of 40 years, we had little or no contact. It's amazing how easily our friendship was rekindled. It didn't seem to matter what we talked about, at every turn ... I felt 'she gets me' (and vice versa).

We took this easy rapport along with us as we visited my friend's aunt and it seemed her aunt got swept up in the flow of our conversation. There was a third person added to the mix and we all 'melded' and had a most interesting and fun afternoon.

From there, I came home to pick up my own little family and make a quick trip to pick up my mom at my niece's. Each of these destinations were about one and a half hour in opposite directions of each other. There was lots of time for conversation as we drove. The words came easily and we talked.

We stopped at my niece's and visited some more. We had a nice little gathering of people - not only my niece and her husband ... but my sister and her husband ... not to mention Mom and my own little family. Lots of laughter and the easy rapport that is exchanged among family. I love the ease in which conversation is lightly tossed around a room full of family. More fun! More conversation!!

We brought Mom home with us and I eagerly volunteered to drive Mom to my other sister's (another hour and a half voyage in a third direction from Our Fair City) the next day. I was anxious to visit my sister and I had no desire to cut my mom's visit short. It feels wonderful to finally be in a place where I can be an equal sibling in doing small good deeds. So once again, my small family came along for the ride (and visit) and we made a little day trip out of delivering Mom to her next destination. It is unfortunate that Mom's suitcase made the round trip from our place ... to my sister's ... and back home with us again ... but Mom was quick to point out the fact that it will mean less laundry for her when she gets home.

Upon our arrival back home that night, I made plans to go out for the evening with a friend from the dance studio. One of our young dance couples was competing at the youth talent show at our Exhibition. I really wanted to see them and yet another wish was granted.

Our plans were made on the spur of the moment and the next thing you know, I was out the door and on my way. We enjoyed the talent portion of our evening. We visited with a group from the studio afterwards. We wandered down the midway and I savored the lights. I honestly can't remember the last time I was at the Exhibition in the evening. I wouldn't be lying if I said decades. I breathed in the excitement of my youth and simply savored the sights ... and the feeling of being part of a group. A little bit of the feeling of The Great Dance Adventure was bestowed upon me as I wandered down the midway with a group from our dance studio. Such a small thing ... but oh, so big. I live for moments like this!

Each and every one of these outings were fun and thought provoking. I was mentally stimulated, I laughed, I connected and I enjoyed each and every encounter. I wanted people? I got people!!

Then I crashed.

I am an overly excitable kind of person. I think adrenaline kicks in and I go a little over the top as far as the excitement levels. This is all good and fine ... if you don't have to work the next day. That was not my reality.

I got called into my typing job the next morning and I could feel my overtired and overworked brain neurons trying their best to send the messages to my fingertips, so that I could type up a storm and finish the tasks at hand. I got through the day but it wasn't easy.

I had bookkeeping to do when I got home. My Youngest was on the computer and inwardly, I thought "Good!! I can't work!". Outwardly, I thought "He deserves a turn at the computer - I've been dominating it all summer with my work." It was a win-win situation. I couldn't work. So I slept.

I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up to provide My Youngest with some nourishment in the form of supper. I fell asleep. I ate for the sole purpose of keeping myself awake. By 7:00, I was ready for bed. Shortly after 7:30 I was in bed. And I slept.

I woke up at 5:30 the next morning thinking I was ready for a productive day. I had slept myself out and I was eager to go. I was back in bed by 6:00. And I slept.

Finally, I was up for the duration of the day by 8:00. I worked. I put in a productive day. I didn't talk (and it felt rather wonderful). My Middle Son asked me the simplest of questions. I couldn't put words together in the form of a coherent sentence. I finally said, "I don't know. I don't know anything today." But I worked. And it was good.

This morning, I was awake by 4:30 a.m. We had to call to see if our balloon ride was a 'go' at 5:45 a.m. and I was awake far earlier than the required time. Was I just a tiny bit relieved when I heard the words "... the Sunday morning balloon ride has been cancelled ..."? In a word? Yes.

I want my head to be in a serene and quiet place when we go on this ride. I want my thoughts to be light and fluffy as we waft above the city. I want to appreciate every little moment of this adventure. I want to be as excited about it, as I have been about the days of visiting that preceded this state of exhaustion.

This afternoon, my sister is delivering Mom back to our home to wrap up the last portion of Mom's visit.

Not only is my sister driving Mom back here ... but she is delivering 'Meals on Wheels'. She listed off the menu that she has prepared for supper and my knees went week. At the very moment that she was telling me this, I hadn't even begun to think about our menu tonight. I woke up this morning and knew what I would have done for supper today. But yesterday? A day in advance? While I was up to my elbows in work? And in a state of "I don't know anything"? I was in awe of all that my sister does and does easily.

Both of my sisters are like that. They whip up a meal and make it appear effortless. They run around and do kind deeds and it is as natural as breathing for them. They surround themselves with family and friends and they just go with the flow. They are open to the 'mini adventures' that life has to offer and they savor the moments.

Me? I cook ... and it hurts. I try to do a kind deed ... and end up returning home with my mom's suitcase still in the trunk of my car. I surround myself with family and friends ... and I get so excited that I can't sleep and lose the ability to function when I finally come down to earth again. I have opened myself up to 'mini adventures' ... and the thought of it frightens me. The reality of it stirs up the adrenaline within me. I savor the moment ... but I know that I will soon be coming down to earth with a mighty crash.

Yes ... maybe it is a very good thing that the Great Balloon Adventure has been tabled for today. I am due for a crash and I'd rather it be one where my feet are firmly planted on the ground.

I'm grounded today. But not for long ...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

And Then I Danced ...

I'm not sure of the exact moment of my return to calmness a few days ago ... but I'm guessing it was right around the time that I booked my dance lessons for the month.

I have been fighting the reality (which is my budget) that dance lessons are truly a luxury item right now. Something which I should most likely cut from my expenses. But the thought of that?!? Stresses me out.

Yes, I believe that my coping mechanisms all started breaking down when I started imagining my life without dancing.

I started obsessing about groceries, money, budgeting and the limitations of my new pay cheque. Because something has to happen. The expenses must go down ... or the income must go up.

Then ... I booked my dance lessons. I was back in my happy place.

The magic of the dance studio, the good humor of my dance instructor, the music, the challenge, the movement, the dancing ... and the laughter.

Oh, the laughter!

I forget who I am, when I am in the dance studio. My instructor works his magic and then insists that I dance.

I raced into the dance studio last night with a busy brain and a racing heart. But the moment I walked through the doors, I forgot everything else. I had arrived on time and intact. I was ready.

And then we danced ...

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

I'm Back

Sanity reigns once again.

I haven't been myself lately. My mindset has been one of angst. I couldn't talk myself down. The inane stuff that was taking up room in my brain was ridiculous.

I tried to empty my brain by dealing with the small stuff that has been overtaking my thoughts.

I called and rebooked an outing with a friend. I called and rebooked my appointment to donate blood (only to realize that the appointment was already made for the very day I was requesting ... it never did overlap on my 'busy' calendar!). I called and left (a most befuddling) message so that I could walk away from the phone and know that all I had to do was to wait for a return call.

And yesterday ... I worked.

After allowing myself the luxury of a weekend (I only worked four hours but was guilt ridden for the remaining 44 hours because I thought that I should be working). I haven't got a handle on this working-from-home-thing. When your work is staring you down all weekend, the I-should-be-working mentality sets in. I must hide my work on the weekend. Or leave the house. Or both.

I also managed to cook two decent meals in a row. The idea of creating a meal that is pleasing to the tastebuds and inviting people to come and join us stresses me out in a big way. And to do it two nights in a row?! Beyond insane. But the reality of eating home cooked food in a meat and veggies sort of way? It must be sending some sanity back into my overtaxed brain. I am calm. Finally.

People. I miss people.

In this new bookkeeping-from-home venture, I spend the vast majority of the day staring at a computer screen or sorting through boxes of papers. There is not a lot of verbiage in the day. I have learned to enjoy two way conversations in my later years. I miss them.

Thankfully my Second Son comes and goes throughout the day. The last four consecutive evenings, he has invited me to come out and have a drink on the deck. He has a way of knowing what I need and gently moves me towards 'the sun'.

Last night we started talking with some neighbors (who live across the street and down two houses) that I've never talked to, in the 16 years that we have lived here. It was thanks to my Second Son that we befriended our next door neighbor. He was a friendly, outgoing and helpful seven year old when we moved here and he quickly adopted our neighbors as pseudo grandparents. And it was thanks to him, that the conversation with our other neighbors took place last night.

I have been finding it hard to live with myself lately. I've been over analyzing life. I'm trying to fast forward myself into the place that I want to be. I haven't been in the sun. I haven't been talking to people.

Yesterday was a good day. It was a day of venturing back into the life I want to lead. It was a day of dealing with things ... not just fretting about them.

It is good to be back.

Monday, August 9, 2010

I'm Not Keeping Score ... But I'm Not Going to Lose Either!

I Believe...
That money is a lousy way of keeping score.
~Excerpt from "
I Believe"

I believe this quote with all of my heart ... but money is a necessary evil.

To have enough money to pay the bills, live a comfortable life and not be overruled by debt is my wish for all.

Today, I am talking with a friend/accountant who I hope will have some tips and tricks for my Second Son and I. My son is embarking on his business venture (he is into his fifth month) and I am trying to find a viable way to become self employed with my bookkeeping 'career'.

I don't know that there are any easy answers. But there is an opportunity to learn if you ask the questions.

I've never met a financial challenge that I couldn't overcome. I believe this will remain to be true.

I'm not keeping score, but I will not be beat by this latest economic down turn in my life!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

How Can Such an Empty Calendar Be So Busy??

The calendar used to be full before I even flipped over a new month in my day care days. My schedule with the kids filled each week day. 'Our life' was written in the margins in red. Those were the busy days.

Now ... I flip over to a brand new month and the calendar page is empty.

This month, I had two things written on the page. Two.

A friend called and asked if I'd like to go and visit with her aunt one afternoon. I quickly agreed. And guess which days she suggested? Yes ... the only days I had anything marked on my calendar. We then settled for the 30th of the month and plans were made.

It's amazing how back-to-school slipped my mind this year. I woke up the next morning and researched what days the kids go back to school. That would be the 30th.

It was about this time that I realized that the plans that I made for the 9th intercepted with my blood donor appointment. How could I double book myself on the only days that I have anything planned?

I'm having a major internal struggle with the budget this month. In all reality, I should cancel all dance lessons for the month. Then again ... I could compromise and take half of them. That seems like the sane way to go.

But ... My Youngest is craving a mini holiday before he heads back to school. How do I juggle the time to afford to be able to take some days off, with the lack of funds and the days we have left to work with? If I cancel all of my dance lessons I have a bit of wiggle room. No I don't. I don't have wiggle room this month. No matter what I do (even if it is nothing), I am spending more than I made. It's just a matter of how much I allow myself to over indulge ...

Dance lessons. This week they land on the same night that one of our young dance students is performing in the Youth Talent Search. I'd love to go and see this. Yet ... if I go, I could end up spending more than the cost of my dance lesson. Oh, the dilemmas!

Then there is work. Yes, I am in control of my work days. But I am finding that it is very hard to work in a 40 hour work week when working from home. I am easily distracted. I delay starting. I allow myself to take breaks that are longer than they need to be. I worked so hard last week that I decided I could allow myself a weekend. But I want to 'play' too much this month. How can I work in all that I want to do, with all that I need to do??

I am torn in too many directions.

For a calendar month that appears so 'empty' ... it is very full.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Groceries - Are They Really Necessary?

I've noticed something interesting about my grocery expenditures and how they relate to my other spending this past while ...

In the last two weeks, this is the grocery to take out allocation of assets:
Groceries - $ 43.42
Take Out - $143.00
Considering that we ate out four times and ate at home for the remaining ten days, it would appear we need to find cheaper places to dine out!

In the past month, this has been my grocery to dance lessons ratio:
Groceries - about $400 (divided by 3 = $133.33 per person)
Dancing - about $250
Food to dancing ratio: 133:250 = about 13:25, which equals about 1:2. If I'm dancing twice as much as I'm spending on groceries, one would think that I should be a little skinny minny ... but I'm not. Mathematics lie!

For the month of July, these are the grocery statistics as they relate to our household expenses:
Groceries - 24%
Bills, mortgage, dancing, spending, taxes, annual expenses and everything else under the sun - 76%
Food and shelter are highly over rated. I'm thinking maybe we should pitch a tent, collect berries and eat whatever we can catch. Or else pitch a tent and eat out all of the time?

Hmmm ....

My family is starting to notice the echo within our food storage areas. The natives are getting hungry.

Dancing verses groceries this month??

Groceries may be pulling into the lead (personally, I'm thinking we should push this a little further. It could be a good time to defrost the deep freeze if we go a few more weeks without wasting time and money buying groceries).

A girl's gotta dance. Doesn't she??

Friday, August 6, 2010

I Believe

"The happiest of people don't necessarily have the best of everything;
They just make the most of everything."

Excerpt from "I Believe"

~ Author Unknown

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Thirty Two Years

August 5, 1978
5:38 a.m.
My first born son was born

Thirty two years have passed since that moment. Thirty two years of life, action and drama. Thirty two years of memories.

Thirty two years is a pretty good age to be. You've had enough life experience to know what direction you want to move your life towards.

There have been good times, bad times, happy times, sad times ... memories that linger, moments that have changed your life.

You've worked hard to get to where you want to be ... but the closer you get, the more illusive the destination.

Never stop growing, never stop dreaming, never give up.

Oh, to be 32 again. Life is just beginning!!

Live it up, My Son. Happy Birthday!

"If you can dream it ... you can do it." ~ Walt Disney

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Life Beyond the Next Door

'It's hard to believe that life is still going on ...' I remember the moment when Mom lifted her head out of the drama that had enveloped our family after Dad had his last heart attack.

That next morning, I had to make arrangements for the life that was going on in my absence outside of those hospital doors. Our world had become very small in those hours. But life was going on without us ...

I visited with a good friend last week. She has so much going on in her world but she had arranged for My Youngest and her nephews to have a visit and a sleep over at her house. The kids had a ball and my friend and I had a nice, leisurely visit that afternoon. I picked up My Youngest the next day and went on to live my regularly scheduled life.

I look at the mundane little things that I've thought and written since then. The trivial little worries that sit in the back of my mind. I think of the 'stuff' that takes up space in my brain. It's all small stuff. No matter how much it may consume my thinking ... it's small stuff.

Since I parted ways with my friend on the day I picked up My Youngest, her life has been turned upside down and back again.

The health of my friend's parents has been very fragile this past long while. They take things one day at a time because that is simply all they can do. But the past five days have been more worrisome than most ...

As life hangs in the balance for my friend and her family, the world outside of their doors continues to move on.

If only those of us who have been wrapped up in our own little worries had a peek inside of that door, our lives would come crashing into perspective.

It is the small and precious moments in life that matter.

The smile and hug of a loved one that you thought may be lost to you ... we must cherish every moment while we have it. We just never know what lies beyond that next door.

Monday, August 2, 2010

I Do Like My Job After All!!

It's been rather exhilarating to be excited and challenged about my bookkeeping the past week.

Yes, I've been frantically trying to log the necessary hours. But there is something else that takes over when you get beyond feeling overwhelmed. The challenge of keeping up and doing each task to a state of completion which means that you will never see it again.

I have done, undone, redid, checked, double checked and have still had to redo many of the mundane bookkeeping tasks that have been set before me in my (almost) two year 'career' with this company. I am finally at the state where I feel that I know what must be done ... the first time.

Checks and balances. I love them. I love being able to take a huge job and break it down into manageable segments. I like being able to check my work. It can't come back to haunt me if it is done properly the first time.

I am surrounded by buckets, boxes and files. But they aren't intimidating me any more. I've got the bulk of the work conquered. I find myself wanting to dabble in one job that I haven't completed to my own satisfaction.

But today? I am granting myself a day off of work. A day to follow my whims and go where ever the wind blows.

I can't believe that I am actually having a hard time convincing myself to keep my hands off of my work.

Ahhh ... maybe this career wasn't such a bad choice after all.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

An Idyllic Day

Ahhh ... balance! I had one glorious day of 'balance' after a week of work, angst and stress.

It was a day sprinkled with work. A little here, a little there and a little bit in between.

But the flavor of the day? Was going with the flow. I forgot that life could flow. Flowing is good.

Yes! I could go out for coffee with my Second Son yesterday morning. We had an energy inducing power visit. He's been under a great deal more stress than I have been lately and we have both come up for air and can see the light again. I'm so glad that we made the time for that coffee.

I couldn't wait for the phone to ring yesterday. I was going to call my mom to make up for the letter that I didn't make time to write last week. But instead, I promised myself to turn everything 'off' in my world when she called and focus 100% on our conversation.

So when the phone rang yesterday, my caffeine induced state had me racing for the phone and talking a mile a minute whenever my mom took a breath. It was a most excellent visit. I sat in the spare room where there was no computer, no work, no nothing. I sat. And we visited. Perfection!

The day was wound up by going to a friend's for tea. A perfect end to a perfect day.

Yesterday was balanced by work, family and friends. A little dash of work and a pinch of friendship, with family as the base.

A perfect recipe for a most idyllic day!!