New Year?

I wish a new year really meant a reset. A putting away of the the past and a new embrace of the future. A hard line drawn in the sand where the old doesn’t start seeping into the new. But that isn’t the way it works. It’s February of a new year, and it doesn’t feel new. I know it’s my fault. Last year had some tough moments. Really tough. And some of those moments have lingered.

There is a budget crisis at work that makes my job feel unstable. Well, in Illinois pretty much all colleges are in a budget crisis. I survived one round of lay-offs already. But I’m close to finishing my Master’s degree, so hopefully I’ll be in a good position to find something different if the need arises.

My daughter totaled my newly paid off car which means I now have a car payment added to the strained household budget. But she wasn’t hurt and we got a new car so we don’t have to worry about something breaking down and adding to the bills.

And the doctor told me I have about a 1% chance of having a baby at my age. Even though I got pregnant last year, the miscarriage wasn’t an anomaly. That was the norm. But… This one is harder. This one challenges a lot of what I believed. Mostly that age doesn’t matter. Because now it does and for more than one reason. It means that because of my age, I must let go of the desire I have for another child, of experiencing parenthood with the man I love. It also means that I’m robbing him of fatherhood and trusting that he can live with that. All of a sudden, my age has become a life changer. I wasn’t ready for that. For the past six months I’ve been hopeful. Every month, hopeful that we could be part of the 1%. But my faith has also been challenged, and I realize that I can’t will it to happen. I can’t just work harder at it either. And I can’t change my age, as much as I may defy it. If it happens, it will be a gift.

There’s a quote that frequently makes the rounds and is usually attributed to the philosopher Socrates, although he didn’t say it. A character named Socrates said it in the book, Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman. The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new. This is a new year. And today is Groundhog day. I love the movie, but I don’t want to live with my life on repeat. I need to let some things remain last year’s issues and work even harder on acceptance this year. Of my age. My limitations. Once again, gratitude will be my comfort. For the best way to accept loss is to balance it with the blessings. I still have a job. My kids are safe. I’m almost done with my degree. I’m able to afford to replace my car. I have a 1% chance which is better than 0% and my guy insists he loves me no matter what. That’s what I’m thankful for today.




August 20

Lately I’ve been trying to clean up my electronic devices–mostly my phone–of unnecessary stuff, old pictures and apps I don’t use. I’ve also been cross checking my iPad since I’m never sure what is actually linked to my phone. So I opened the Notes app on my iPad to see if it had the same long list of notes (quotes, grocery lists, names) as my phone. It doesn’t. Instead, I found one note, not written by me. It said I really love you Melissa and was dated March 27, 2013. First of all, that was not what I was expecting. It was obviously not left by my kids. They’ve left me notes on my phone and they always call me Mom. Secondly, I apparently do not use my iPad to its fullest potential since I have programs and apps that I never even open up. Forsooth.

I’m not sure who left the note. Just like I’m not sure who sent me flowers on my birthday last year. I have suspicions. The curious cat in me would like to figure it out. After all, I’m the type of person who will get up out of bed in the middle of the night to check one more spot when I’ve been searching for a missing item. I like to investigate until I’ve exhausted my options and only then will I try to let it go. I think this time, though, I’m not going to expend energy wondering for too long over it. Someone loved me and wanted me to know and left me a note where they thought I’d see it. I’m sorry I didn’t find it earlier. But maybe I found it when I was supposed to, as a reminder that even though it sometimes doesn’t feel like it or it isn’t obvious, I am loved by people in my life. People other than my kids or my immediate family. That’s rather nice to hear. I think most people don’t hear I love you enough. So tonight Im thankful for the mystery message, 511 days late.

August 19

Well, I have to admit something. Lately I’ve been so tired by the time I get around to writing at night that I struggle to even get through a post. I usually end up typing up something quickly on my iPad or my phone app while sitting in bed before I fall asleep. I’m sure it’s been noticeable; I feel I should apologize to everyone who’s actually reading this regularly. I for one, really dislike bad writing, so it’s been disappointing for me too. But when I started this blog, I did it with the intent of finding at least one thing a day to be grateful for and write about, so I’ve at least kept that commitment to myself. It may not have been exciting lately, but the process still gets me to think about my day. Sometimes it really is the mundane or even repetitive things that I realize I appreciate the most. Or something random. For instance, tonight my kids and I had dinner outside. I grilled chicken and made corn on the cob and mashed potatoes from a box. (Don’t judge me. It’s good if I measure things correctly.) It was a nice evening since the humidity went down and a breeze came through. My puppy had been a nuisance during meal preparation; he acts as if he’s never been fed. Ever. Even though I give him a teeny bit more than his weight/age suggestion, he seems to want more. He had eaten his dinner, yet still did the constant jumping up on the counter with one of us with responding with the automatic Down, Chance. So just before we sat down to eat, I filled his Kong toy with peanut butter hoping to keep him occupied. That lasted only a few minutes until he realized that it may be easier to sneak food off the table. And so ensued the puppy jumping and the responding Down, Chance, once again. Eventually he quit, we finished dinner, and as we got up to leave, Chance used his ninja skills to grab the remains of an ear of corn off a plate and take off with it. My kids began to chase. He darted and zigzagged through the yard. Just as Emma almost reached him, he half swallowed the ear, slowed down enough to gag it back up and took off running again. At this point, I was just enjoying the show. As was my neighbor from his back yard. It was just like a Three Stooges episode where Emma would grab, miss, and Chance would change direction. I finally yelled out to encourage my daughter, You were on the track team; catch him! She wasn’t amused, but Bree and I and the neighbor were. The neighbor dogs were barking; Bree and I were laughing. Chance finally stopped in an effort to simply chomp the corn cob as quickly as he could, and she got it away from him as it broke into pieces. The entire episode was unexpected dinner entertainment, and I was thankful to be there as a witness.

August 7

I was invited to a four year old’s birthday party last night. She got the scooter she had been wanting for the last several months and her reaction was just what you’d expect. That’s just what I wanted she said several times. And as she opened her other gifts, she was smart enough to show some enthusiasm, even commenting on one of the board games that my boyfriend and I gave her that it, too, was something she had always wanted. But the scooter was a definite highlight. She wanted to ride it immediately after gift opening, going in circles inside a few times until finally getting to go outside with it. But what was sweet is that she didn’t want to ride it alone. She asked if I’d walk with her. So we went up and down the driveway a few times until she decided she was done with the scooter. Then we played with other toys for a while and then raced a few times up and down the driveway. She pointed out where her mom had written happy birthday in chalk on the sidewalk. She explained why she loved a Wisconsin postcard she was given. We made faces in a plastic mirror that she found in the garage and sat outside and ate birthday cake. And that was pretty much it. Complete excitement. She got the scooter she wanted, rode it for about 10 minutes and was perfectly happy with her birthday celebration. What a great reminder to appreciate the small stuff. I think sometimes our expectations for things, especially things we have been anticipating or waiting for, are too big. Adults sometimes expect the things we desire to fill more than what they’re designed to…we expect the attainment of “things” to somehow drastically change our lives, whether those things are objects (new car, nice clothes, new house) or people or jobs. But really, a scooter is just a scooter. Good for about 10 minutes of fun. Getting the things we desire won’t change anything unless we are somehow content already. At least reasonably content. Because if we aren’t, then we simply start looking for the next thing on the list that we think will make us happy. And the next thing. I’m thankful to have been reminded by a four year old that the things I yearn for will only be gifts (realistically or metaphorically) when I see them as additions to my life, not panaceas for any discontent. Once again, gratitude is key.

May 29

I got an email today from a student in my Spring class who had, at the end of the semester, a lot of conflicts with class attendance. He had signed on to coach a baseball team and kept needing to miss class because of it, including the final exam night. However, because he was diligent about communicating with me and making arrangements to get assignments in ahead of time, I worked with him, even though I found it a bit annoying. And ultimately, he did end up with a decent grade, regardless of his absenteeism, mostly because he had to work a little harder to keep on top of everything. In college especially, learning how to manage time wisely and putting in hard work is how a student ends up successful. At least my student was figuring that out. And his email to me today thanked me again for working with him so he could honor his other commitments, even though, as he said, he knew I didn’t have to. He then commented that he felt my class taught him strategies that he will use as he continues in college.

He certainly didn’t have to email me, since the semester is finished and he passed the class. So I was touched. Not only that he felt compelled to thank me again, but also that he affirmed that he learned something he will find useful as he continues in college. As a teacher, it’s not always easy to tell if you’re getting through. Students look bored, act disinterested, or otherwise don’t always seem to care. I love hearing that some of them do. It makes it worthwhile. I’m thankful today to know that I was successful making a difference in at least one student’s life last semester.

May 18

It was a productive weekend in many ways. I love when I can go to bed on a Sunday feeling exhausted and accomplished. I’m thankful for many things today, but the one that I want to put out there is the fact that my GRE studying paid off. I got my grad school acceptance letter this weekend, so I’ll start classes in the fall. I’m actually very excited to add student back on my to do list.

April 27

Sometimes I ask my kids what they think I should write about, just to get an idea of the types of things they would be grateful for during the day. Sometimes their suggestions are pretty obvious attempts at coercion (you love me enough to buy me the sweatshirt I want/you’re thankful you can bring me to the mall tomorrow). Tonight my oldest said, you got to make dinner. At first I thought she was being flippant, but she wasn’t. It dawned on me that because of our busy schedules, tonight was the only time this week the three of us had sat down to dinner together. It doesn’t always happen that way, but I’m afraid this is probably becoming the norm for us. Thankfully, tonight I ignored the first suggestion of frozen pizza and instead made a chicken marsala which we put over cornbread waffles (made in my Mickey Mouse waffle iron) and added a side of steamed green beans. It was actually pretty good. I am grateful we were able to eat together tonight. It was a nice end to the week.