Life as a Single Mom

Wow. I created writer’s block for myself by entitling my post “Life as a Single Mom.” It’s too big a topic for a blog post. I don’t trust myself to do it justice. But I guess I’m qualified to try. After all, I know a lot of single moms. And, I’ve been one since 2011! So, here’s a little window into the true life of a single mom for all who are really dying to know what it’s like.

First, I’d say it’s nothing like I thought it would be. It’s much better. I thought it was going to be really hard and awful. True, it’s really hard being a single mom of three boys. There’s so much to do every single day. They need and deserve so, so, so, sooooo, soooooooo very much. Bu-uuuuuuut, there are so many rewards. I’ll talk more about that in a minute, but the biggest reward is seeing them grow into confident, kind, healthy young men–and knowing that my daily decisions (which I often get wrong, but often also get right!). There’s a lot of giving as a single mom, and most of it isn’t exactly at the moments you plan. Most of the giving is done at moments when a) you can’t possibly do the thing that is needed, b) you don’t want to do the thing that is needed for an important reason–for example, the phone rings, and caller ID says it’s that company where you just applied for a job! But your child needs you urgently and keeps repeating “mom” over and over and over. Your only choice is the child. Answering the phone would backfire anyway! Or, c) you are dying to do that thing that’s needed–ie, what your child needs or wants–but something else really urgent is getting in the way. For example, your child is burning his finger on the oven, and you have to stop him, but you are also about to pee in your pants because you have waited so long while cooking dinner. Yeah, I think we all know what you choose to do. Child’s finger doesn’t get burned, and now, after dinner, guess what! You have to do laundry in addition to eeeeeeverything eeeeeelse you have to do that night–none of which is fun, it’s all work. But at least it feels important.

Each of my boys is so important and precious. And it’s difficult that no matter how much I hurry, how hard I try, how many things I allow to go undone (things I need, like ironing tomorrow’s work clothes), I can’t do everything that needs to get done. But I have found that I can do enough, barely, almost always! I usually don’t see it as hard; it’s just what I want and need to do. Here are examples of stuff I do by mysef:

  1. Daily routine–work full-time, get boys up in the morning, make sure they get dressed and look presentable, eat breakfast, and brush their teeth and hair before going to school, fix them snack after school, talk to them after school to hear how their day went and check whether there are any concerns/fears/needs for encouragement or advice, monitor their video game time to be sure they aren’t going overboard, force them to go pay outside which often involves some degree of conflict but I will not relent and force them to go play often with them obviously unhappy with me, fix dinner while feeling guilty that they are unhappy with me but proud that I made the right parenting decision on video games, round them up for dinner, ask questions during dinner to get good life discussions going, give guidance/praise/encouragement when needed during dinner discussion, do some type of “together” activity after dinner (for us, this means watching a movie together, reading a book, or talking to all three individually one by one), ensure showers are taken and teeth are brushed, round them up to get in bed, tuck them in, say a prayer with them, get in bed myself by 10pm to be sure I am not grumpy the next morning when I get up at 5:30am.
  2. Sometimes–Take them to church every Sunday, parks, the pool, friends’ houses, birthday parties in our town or other towns
  3. Fall basketball season–take them to one practice and one game each. This means, 3 weekday evenings per week, I take them to their practices. Then, on Saturday, I take two of them to games, and on Sunday, I take one of them to a game.
  4. Throughout all of this, there is all kinds of the following: Even though my boys are VERY sweet and well-behaved, they are still children, so they often ask the same questions five times or more hoping to get a “yes” when I say “no.” This drives me completely insane and often ends in arguments and makes me really mad.

Ok, but rewards. (Can I just interrupt myself to say that this is the MOST BORING BLOG POST EVER. Who on earth would want to read this??? Well…I haven’t blogged in 3 years. I’m trying…I think after a few, I might get the hang of it and be a little more interesting…hopefully.)

So, yes, rewards. Well, how can I put this? The reward–and sorry if this sounds like I’m over-praising myself, it’s just that this is really how it feels…The reward is that I see my boys growing up to be well-rounded, confident, smart, awesome human beings. And I know that my efforts have a lot to do with this. I see them doing things that I teach them. I see them thinking about people and the world in the ways that I think about people and the world. I am so pathetically far from perfect, but my boys know that in our family and in the world, we love, we accept, we try not to judge, we mind our own business, we respect others, and we avoid people who hurt us and who treat us without respect. I see my boys doing these things. This tells me that I’m doing a good job. And, this means, I am accomplishing the most important job I will do in this earthly life.

Ok. So next time, I’ll try to blog about something more interesting. Such as my dating life, or my communications with my ex husband, or other stuff!

Workplace Phrases That Annoy Me

I have been holding this in for a really long time because I don’t want to offend anyone who says these phrases. But I just can’t withhold this blog entry any longer. I just read one of these phrases, and it brought on this flashback from a prior place of work where one of my colleagues just LOVED most of the following phrases. And believe me, that job was truly already sufficiently irritating and toxic without any of these stinking phrases being tossed in your ear every hour or so. But I actually think any and all workplaces make use of these phrases abundantly, and you know what? I’m taking a stand. I won’t say it aloud to anyone, but if you read this blog entry, please, please consider not saying the following words anymore. (I know you just now thought to yourself, “Are you serious? You’re going to actually try to tell me what to say or not to say?” Noooo, I’m not. No one listens to me, so I feel free to just say whatever I want. See what I mean?) Here are the phrases:

Annoying Phrase #1Reach out.
Example: You’re right, Holly. We need that speaker at our conference. Reach out, and see if he’d be willing to attend…

Hu? Reach out to him? I have this image of me running with my arms open wide, ready to embrace this speaker with all my might. No, no, no, I will not “reach out” to him. In fact, let’s just get this out in the open right now–I don’t “reach out” to anyone. I will “reach inward” and figure out how to convincingly ask this speaker to come to our conference. I will call the speaker. I will email the speaker. I might even send the speaker a letter. But not if you use the phrase “reach out” when you ask me to do so.

Annoying Phrase #2: We/You/I wear many hats.
Example: In this office, we wear many hats. Sometimes you’ll need to put on your “technical hat” to troubleshoot software. At other times, you need to wear your “customer service hat” to…

Oh please. If I hear one more person explain a place of business using a hat metaphor, I’m going to stab myself in both eyes. If a task is described to me in terms of a hat, I will do the exact same thing that I always did as my parents or anyone else told me to “put on a hat” as I ran outside to play in the snow or rain–I will totally ignore the speaker. I’m not trying to be a smarty pants. I’m simply trying to enforce my need to hear sentences that don’t sound stupid.

Annoying phrase #3: Let’s be transparent.
Example: Holly, we need to get Mary to change something that she doesn’t want to change. We need to make this happen. Let’s be transparent about how we communicate with Mary about this.

No, I’m not going to be transparent, and  you aren’t either. If we are transparent, Mary will never listen to us. That’s why we should all remember to be non-transparent and somewhat manipulative. Cause that’s how you get things done with lazy, passive aggressive workers like Mary who doesn’t like change and who refuses to do her work! Being “transparent” won’t help. You know what will? Disguising what you need in a way that motivates Mary! But guess not–that’s not transparent.

The other really annoying thing about this phrase is that when people say, “We’re very transparent in this workplace,” what that usually means is, “We’re all liars. We’re using the word transparent because we like to use buzz words, so you’re going to hear a LOT of annoying phrases if you take this job.” People who use a lot of buzz words like to talk a lot. People who like to talk a lot sometimes don’t like to do a lot. Oh, wait, that totally describes me. Well, at least I don’t sit around talking about how “transparent” I am and how “transparent” you should be. In my book, that alone is reason enough to hire me on the spot.

Annoying Phrase #4: Team player.
Example: Oh no, Holly, look! Your lazy coworker isn’t doing her job. Be a team player and help her, fast. This way, something will actually get done around here. Raise? No,  you won’t get one of those now or ever. Just be a team player like we asked, ok? Thanks, Holly.

The only saving grace about the phrase team player is that it’s over-used to such an astonishing degree that when people say it, my mind automatically tunes it out. Often, this phrase is used in conjunction with other phrases like “wear this hat” or “that hat,” taking my mind from tune out mode to shut down mode. Who thought this thing up anyway? First of all, a team player is a person on a team playing, not working. So the metaphor is just dumb because it means the opposite of what it’s supposed to convey.

Next, this phrase is always–almost without exception–used in a situation where the only “player” expected to work is the employee being told to be a team player. This is because the other employees on the “team” (i.e., the other so-called “team players,” bear with me, these phrases sound dumber every time you say or write them) don’t do anything but take long smoking breaks and surf the internet, except for their three-hour lunchbreaks when they vigorously shuffle trying to fit their shopping and gym time into the workday. So that one “team player,” who is usually me and perhaps you too, is expected to pick up the slack of all the other colleagues. In essence, what this means is that the phrase “team player” should actually be substituted with the more accurate phrase “the only person in the department who actually works.” It’s almost always like this. Therefore the phrase “team player” is stupid.

Annoying Phrase #5: We promote from within.
Example: You will have lots of opportunities in this company because we promote from within.

Wait, that’s not an annoying phrase per se…Rather it’s an annoying sentence and an annoying lie. Let’s proceed nonetheless. First of all, this sentence is lacking in basic grammar because “within” is a dangling preposition. I can’t STAND those!!!  But more importantly, notice that this annoying phrase leaves off the most important word–the one that should follow within. They promote from within WHAT? You need that word to know what they mean. Because in my experience, companies that say they do all this “promoting from within” don’t promote from within the company–rather, they promote from within their imaginations. Yeah. (Ha ha! Those companies just got so owned by my crafty world play. I considered writing, “They promote from within their lies” but that joke wouldn’t really make sense.)

Okay, so, moving along.

Annoying phrase #5: Engage with
Example: You will engage with stakeholders and key clients.

Let’s not say things like that. Engage with is a phrase that needs a looooot of clarification. If someone tells me I’m going to be “engaging with” stakeholders, I get a picture of a job that I simply refuse to do (on a moral basis). No, I will not engage with stakeholders. I will communicate with them. Is this what you meant? Then use that wording, please. Unless you mean I’ll be dating them or kissing them, because frankly, that’s the picture the phrase “engage with” paints, and for your information, I’m not interested in dating right now, especially your weird stakeholders and mean clients. Thanks.

Okay, I have to now get back to my work.

OH, should I update you on my job? I am freelancing. So I’m not on the clock. I have a deadline, and as long as I meet it, no one cares when I write or where or why or how. No really, as long as it’s done by computer, not by hand. I’m really enjoying freelancing because I almost never hear workplace buzz words anymore. Also, I don’t have hot bosses who I develop crushes on. Nor do I have…Oh I’ll stop being silly. I gotta get to work. I do have four mouths to feed, after all!

Thank you for reading, and have a wonderful weekend!

Words for the Chicago Bulls (My Boyfriends)

The Chicago Bulls are my imaginary new boyfriends. That’s surprising considering that I never liked sports until 2013. ANY sports. It’s a long story to recount how I transitioned from boredom with sports to my boyfriends being the Chicago Bulls, but basically it started due to my sons’ love of basketball, my taking them to practices, and so on.

SO, I have learned stuff, such as “field goal” is something that happens in basketball, not just soccer! (Really, its true.) And let’s see, I know what things like ” a pick” is (that’s a defensive move, or an offensive move, anyway, it’s a type of move)…Ok, let’s stop bragging about all the stuff I know and move onto the words I have for the Chicago Bulls, whom my boys and I LOVE with a capital “L.” Each team member is unique, so I have unique words for all of them. But the play-off’s are coming on in five minutes, so I will probably only be able to write words for five or so of the team mates:

To Derrick Rose: You are the cutest basketball player on earth. You are one of the cutest people on earth. Everyone keeps talking about whether you’ll play, that you should play, that Joachim is the team’s leader now, that you won this award and that award, you were the youngest player to do this, you should do that, and so on. While you ARE incredibly talented and skilled and have done amazing things considering your tender, young age, and while I AM really sad about your ACL injury (yet happy it healed), I just want to say that I don’t think we should forget how adorable and sweet you look. That might not do much for your basketball skills, but it sure does a lot for my interest in basketball games. Thank you for that, Derrick.

To Joachim Noah: You are a wild one. You wear your hair in a bun. Did you know that your “game hairstyle” is the same, exact hairstyle I wear while cleaning my house? Isn’t that funny? This makes me think you and I would see eye to eye on lots of things. One thing we definitely see eye to eye on is Derrick Rose. I love how you defended him today, and your words, while astonishingly ungrammatical (soooo much, wow…but it’s okay because you are bilingual in French and English, so you’re sophisticated no matter you say or do), the message packed a serious punch–basically that unless people have walked a mile in Derrick’s shoes (let’s both call him by his first name), they need to quit judging him. And I suppose I need to quit judging you for your cleaning-my-house hairstyle. DONE.

To Nate Robinson: Have you ever heard that song “You’re the meaning in my life, you’re the inspiration” by Chicago? Oh, no, cool people don’t know that song because it’s over 20 years old. Never mind. Well, being 5’9″, plus in the NBA, plus a STAR player in the NBA, not just the 5’9″ guy who sits on the bench all the time,  I must say, you have totally inspired me to do pretty much anything I ever dreamed of. If you can be 5’9″ and play like that in the NBA, then I can do stuff like..uh, handle computer viruses without the help of my ex-husband (see what I’m saying?). ANYWAY, you also look sort of like that singer Fifty Cent (I know, it should be “Cents” but that’s not how he writes it), which is always a good thing. And you have been getting knocked down and stuff like your face stepped on lately in the play-off’s. You are tough. There’s nothing better than tough. In short (sorry, the puns are writing themselves at this point), I want to be you.

To Carlos Boozer: I’m sorry about your last name, but clearly, you’re fine with it. I like how it’s hard to peg you. You are bald, yet you have a thick beard. For these reasons, you look somewhat similar to my ex-husband! Isn’t that creepy? Yes, it is. But let’s not worry about that. You know, you have your moments when you unexpectedly swoop in there and score. You aren’t intimidated on the court. You seem like the silent but deadly type (sorry, I know people say that about other things, like bodily gases) but I’m serious, you are fun to watch, even if it your appearance does remind me a lot of how often my ex-husband was never at home, therefore I’m the one who does sports and watches basketball with my boys. No big deal. Keep up the good work!

To Jimmy Butler: You are really adorable, and you seem super young. How old are you, anyway? Does this sound like un-basketball talk? That’s because it is. I don’t know that much about the game yet, but I DO know that you’re on the Chicago Bulls, and that you are one of their “good” players. So that’s a start, right, Jimmy? (Right, Holly.) Thanks!

To Taj Gibson: Hi Taj, well, I think we’ve exhausted my basketball knowledge. At this point, all I can really say is, hey, good free throw in that last game. That was you, right? And you are certainly really tall and really thin! I mean, I definitely saw you in the last play-off game, but uh…well, I can’t remember what you did or why I noticed you.

I think it’s time to stop now. My boys are getting mad that I’m not watching the game with them. Honestly speaking, this post isn’t really reflective of my basketball knowledge. I could name ALL the players on my son’s team, for example. But trust me, it’s a step in the right direction. By this time next year, my goal is to be an NBA EXPERT. If I even post a blog. We’ll see.

Gift for Valentine’s Day?

What, oh what, should I get myself for Valentine’s Day? For like 13 years, I received no gift–I repeat, NO GIFT–from anyone for Valentine’s Day (including my ex husband, and we were married for 12 years).

Wait. I take that back. One year, my father got me a gorgeous bouquet. It was so sweet that it almost made me cry (keyword=almost)…It’s almost impossible for me to cry, but if I remember correctly, that was a hard year, and boy, did I ever appreciate that bouquet. Dad of the year. Really, he is. Dad of EVERY year.

Ok, and wait…I received that one small aquarium from a drugstore that one year from my husband. The one that cost $7, that had a small cactus and cheap mirrors on each side that he obviously bought at the last minute, was scary looking, and that I tried to inconspicuously get rid of many times…only to result in the ex husband digging it out of the garbage and getting angry at me for having thrown the “gift” away…Not to be catty, but this is a man who bought himself a BMW, as well as a Cobra (Mustang)…uh, can Holly have a gift, a real one, for Valentine’s Day?

Okay, but he and I are friends, and we’re so ever happily divorced, so let’s not talk any further about that ole’ aquarium, and let’s hope he got it because he loved and appreciated me, and NOT because the drugstore was just around the corner, and he couldn’t care less what he got me, and he wanted to spend as little as possible on it, and just get it quickly.

SO, long story short, I’ve gotten 2 Valentine’s gifts in 13 years…Well, I am ready for ANOTHER one! But this year, I think I’ll get one for myself. I can’t decide between these things: 1) a beautiful bouquet 2) a bottle of wine that is made from rose petals–flowers are my favorite things, as are botanical gardens, any kind of gardens, orchards, and pretty much, any type of land with colorful growth, or 3) a piece of jewelry.

Well…this presents a bit of a conundrum. I’m NOT good at buying things, especially for myself–those purchases usually get put off indefinitely in place of other things more urgently needed, like school supplies for my precious boys. But I’m not good at deciding which thing to buy either. However, after getting two Valentine’s Day gifts in 13 years, I’m pretty dang determined to get something this year. Long story short, I think I’m getting all three things!!! The good news is, I’ve got a good project that will allow for those extra’s…So, I’m thinking, there’s no time like the present.

Let’s do this! I hope all of you have the most wonderful Valentine’s Day ever this year.

Sometimes We Just Need…

Sometimes we just need someone to say, “You can do it!”

I am so lucky to have friends who tell me this. I’m not even the type who needs it very often. I enjoy taking risks and trying new things, and failure doesn’t crush me. But every once in a while, something I want to try makes me feel afraid, nervous, inadequate..and that’s when I really need the right words from another person, when my own self-encouragement might be just enough to keep me going, but not quite enough to make me sure.

I am trying this new thing, and I am feeling so unsure, yet a voice inside still says that I should be able to do this–with enough thought and with enough work. And as a single mom of three boys, I have to be careful which ventures I attempt to put my time, labor, and heart into…So, I choose ventures that involve no financial risk. Therefore, this particular venture involves no monetary risk, only the risk of learning that I’m unable to do this particular thing that I really want to do…In other words, I have my regular income. I’d never risk losing that…I have three little mouths to feed, and by gosh, they’re getting fed:) And while I accept that with no questions or doubts, it tends to leave very little time or energy for mom (i.e., me) or mom’s hopes and dreams. There are so many dreams I could spout off in this blog post, but why? The most important thing I can accomplish in this world is to raise my three boys to be compassionate, help others less loved and less fortunate, and to believe in and respect themselves–and me, of course, and all of humanity. Oh, but I digress. The point is, I’m bound to these sacred obligations, and my own personal dreams, as much as I’d love to have the time and energy for them, come after my young boys. They are young, after all. When they are older, I am sure (or at least, I hope) that my blog posts will be full of my own dreams and all the steps and time I’m taking to accomplish them!

But anyway, there’s this thing I’m trying to do. I have limited time, limited energy, but limitless hope and desire to do this thing. Today, one of my confidantes–one who’s rather finicky and not one who tends to give empty compliments–told me I can do it. She even named a few different parts to it–the parts, or steps, that particularly make me nervous, and that make me feel inadequate and unsure. And she meant it.

Even though I keep telling myself the same words she said, that I can do it, it’s so immeasurably helpful to hear this from another person. May I remember the importance of words the next time one of my loved ones comes to me to discuss a venture, or a risk, or a new idea.

Acceptance and Rejection

I have recent experiences with acceptance and rejection. I’ve also had recent experiences with UFO’s. Ha ha. Sorry, just kidding. Ok, so let’s cover the bad news first. Actually it’s not very bad. It’s just that the other news is better! BUT two rejections occurred in my life, and they irritate me, and I will comment on each of them briefly before moving onto the awesome acceptances!!!

Rejection #1: Old friend. So this “friend” and I were corresponding about getting our families together (meaning her, her children, her parents, and her husband, plus, my children and me). Um, so she asks about my husband, I said I’m divorced, and boom? The correspondence ground to a hault. I have known this gal since college. She’d written, “Can you get together one day during the first two weeks in August? OH, also, not to be nosey, but are you and the hubby doing ok?” I responded, “Yes, we can get together any day during the first two weeks in August! You choose. And, no, divorced now, but we’re all doing well!” Um…no response. Oh my, I just wrote a  three-page blog entry about how much that irritates me, but I can’t be 100% sure why she didn’t respond, plus, I am so happy, so is my ex-husband, and so are my children. Also, this particular individual tended in the past to be very competitive (who has the biggest house, who is the prettiest, who is this, who is that, and so on), and that kind of stuff is dumb. So, these are the reasons I waited a year to contact her after moving near her, and these are also the reasons I feel great about leaving that friendship in the past (assuming she never answers to let me know if the first two weeks in August 2012 work, that is:).

Rejection #2: Well, I can’t think of a specific one. There is the general rejection of living in a new town. I am in a place–an unusual one–where like 70% or 75% of couples are married AND quite well to do. I am divorced and, well, financially, average or maybe below average. It makes me feel very out of place. I’m not usually one to feel awkward, but in places where a lot of moms congregate and talk to each other, I’m finding myself alone a lot. I don’t like that. It feels a little like rejection. I mean, I won’t count anyone out. I’ll just stay aware. If anyone says hi to me, I am sure to return that gesture, but between preschool and elementary school moms–all of whom seem to be integrated into a crowd and not needing new acquaintances like me–I’m feeling a little like a fish out of water.

Acceptance #1: Two old friends from forever ago. How loved do I feel?  Two friends from 10 years ago contacted me this week. These ladies and I went to graduate school school together around 1999-2001, Seriously. We were in class together the day after 9/11 in 2001, and one of them had to console children whose parents were working in and around the Pentagon that day. Yeah. Both of these awesome teachers called me this week and want to talk and meet. I’m SO  EXCITED. These ladies are neat…one’s from Italy, and the other’s from Rhode Island. These gals have so many “fans”. Student fans. Parent fans. They’ve been teachers for a million years. But still, they are interested in catching up with me. It’s good to be interesting!!!

Acceptance #2: New Friends. I have two new friends who I am really liking!!! One’s divorced like me, but in some ways we’re very different. This lady lives in a home that is like five times the size of my condo. She is supermodel pretty. She drives the sassiest looking SUV I’ve ever seen (and usually I don’t really like SUV’s…but this one, well, it’s just an extremely nice looking car). My OTHER new friend is from Russia. She lives in our condo complex. I love going to her place because she’s a minimalist (not self-proclaimed, just, you can tell because…well, because it’s obvious). There’s no furniture in their place. The living room is HUGE, but you will only find a place to sit down, a table (for tea), and a TV with a stand. Otherwise, that place is barren, just like mine. I like these ladies because they are smart, funny, interesting to talk to, AND they have both invited me to their homes and other places. I LOVE getting invited places, especially since I’m still sort of the new girl in town. It’s so easy to ignore the new girl…but I’m lucky, thanks to these ladies and a few other awesome people like my sister and father, I don’t think I had one lonely day this year. Hm. Compared to when I was married when…oh, but no reason to look back!

Acceptance #3: Playground Dad. I saw him once last spring. We were joking about stinky flowers. Here, there is this a flower that blooms in spring here–not sure of the name–and it smells horrid. He and I happened to be at the school playground together one day during the week of this flower week-long stinkiness event, and we were asking each other where the heck this scent was coming from. I like him. He is tall, wears cute sunglasses, and in general, I’d say this man is very attractive–but most ladies would not think so, which is fine with me. The thing that really gets me? I saw him today for the first time since last spring, and he’s wearing the very same pair of shorts today as he was the day we were talking about the stinky flower. Coincidence? I think not. If I have met a man who wears the same outfit every single day (like I do), there is no option other than to marry him immediately. Oh, and I hope he likes me. And I think he might, but after the Hot Boss email rejection incident, I no longer trust my “man” senses, so I will just relax and keep reading my Twilight books rather than think too much more about Playground Dad for now.

So there is my update about acceptances and rejections. Other than that, there’s not much going on over here.

Security is an Illusion

I have to go to bed in a minute, but I’m going to try to write about this critical topic and cap it at 10 minutes. This will not happen, but instead of staying up late as I usually do, I will stop writing my post and revisit it soon. Deal? Deal.

SO, I don’t have tons of wisdom to share with the world, and even if I did, I wouldn’t share it because I’ve learned that unsolicited trinkets of wisdom and advice doesn’t help anyone. That’s an entire post in itself or even two or three posts, but in short, I’m not here to tell people how to live or what to think. We all have our own paths, and we are here to make mistakes to learn for ourselves, and NOT to learn from other people’s wisdom and trinkets of unsolicited advice, including mine.

So, this discovery I’ve made may not really make sense to some. But I feel dismayed by this discovery, in a good way sort of, and I simply must write about it. Oh but look. It’s 11:30pm. It’s my BED TIME. Guess who just said that and isn’t ignoring herself? That’s right, me. (I don’t always ignore myself, only when I say it’s time to go to sleep.) So nighty night. I’ll tell you about my compelling discovery soon–as you can see by the title, it pertains to why having a sense of security (through a job, namely, but there are other ways–money, relationships, almost anything that gives a sense of security) is an illusion.

Fear of Driving…Bye Bye

This is an image from Google Maps. Google Maps has really helped reduce my fear of driving since I can study the whole route at home before I ever get into a car.

I have been meaning to write about this for a long time. But it’s been a busy year.

SO, we moved to the East Coast last July. We live in a place where we can walk everywhere. Within walking distance are three parks, three grocery stores, a video game store (my boys’ favorite one), at least 10 restaurants that are not fast food + maybe 4 that are, three ice cream shops, public library, community center, pool, and so on.

It seemed there was no reason to ever drive again! Pure happiness. For me anyway. Partly because I love walking. But partly because I have had a fear of driving since age 17. The word “fear” is an understatement–to put it plainly, I just never drove. That’s it. There were no thoughts like “oh, maybe I’ll drive to Target today.” If Target wasn’t in walking distance, I didn’t go, didn’t want to go, and didn’t care. Cause I didn’t drive. I WALKED. But also, I never felt very hindered by it until this year. My jobs are freelancing (mostly), so I have made good money working from home, and when we moved, I always chose places surrounded by tons of things for my children and me to do, so we filled our time with lots of fun activities even without driving.

But then my oldest son began playing basketball. The first practice, we walked home in the rain, and it was dark, and the entire time I was terrified we’d get hit by a car. Then my younger son started basketball, and his practice was across town. And the games were way too far away to walk…I kept trying to figure out how to get them where they need to be without driving. But, I basically had to choose between facing my fear (and driving) or being a mom who lets fear limit her children’s development. That can’t happen.

Time to start driving. I mean, I’ve driven over the years–only to really close places, never busy highways, and even that, very rarely. It was ALWAYS for my oldest son–first for playdates when he was little, then for karate classes because he was a little too passive and needed a confidence boost, then for swimming lessons all the way across town. I could never do it for me–too scary. Why was it scary? Well, I don’t know. I think it started with an accident that happened when I lived in Moscow, Russia. I was in the hospital for a month and still limping long after that–cracked a bone in my back, cracked ribs, breathing was agony due to pain, shards of glass were in my hair for a week because they couldn’t move me to clean my hair. That accident was scary–a truck hit the car I was in, we spun around several times, car was totally out of control on the highway, and so on…I think that made driving seem scary. Also, I started driving too late in life–that seems to cause fears of things–like doesn’t a fear of water sometimes happen to people if they learn to swim too late sometimes? Besides being scared of driving, in my early adult life, I lived in two large cities where most people take the metro rather than driving–which made not driving a completely normal and comfortable lifestyle for me. (Of course, these people knew how to drive and weren’t scared of driving–they just chose not to because they felt it was easiest, cheapest, or whatever…while I chose not to drive because I couldn’t drive and was terrified of it!)

Ok, so anyway, back to the present time on the East Coast. So my oldest son had to get to basketball. And other activities, of course, but basketball was the only one we’d need to DRIVE to…I think there were two major lucky strikes that helped me overcome my fear of driving…make that three lucky strikes: 1) Unlike the roads where we lived on the West Coast, the roads where we live now are almost all two-lane, not four-lane, and the speed limit is 25 on most roads AND the police ticket incessantly for speeding, so everyone drives slowly! YES, I like 25mph. 2) I got a small car, a Corolla. Much, much easier to drive than my 2001 Impala–the newer Impala’s are small, but that thing was a freaking boat compared to my Corolla. 3) I realized that it’s really easy to understand road signs! I was always so afraid of misunderstanding a road sign and messing something up…but I finally realized, it’s not like the highways are full of Albert Einsteins…there are teenagers out there figuring out road signs, people who can’t see very well, people who aren’t super bright, etc–they’re all doing fine. If they can do it, I can do it. 4) I got a driving teacher here to give me lessons, and he kept yelling at me to slow the heck down. Rushing was making it hard for me to focus. I used to drive too fast! Now I drive more slowly, and it’s much less stressful. 5) Make of it what you will–I am NOT good at praying, but some people seem to be, and a few of these people were really praying that I could lose this fear. If you knew me and knew how much this fear dictated where I went and how I lived for over 20 years, you’d be shocked I overcame it–really.

BUT here I am. I’m like a cowgirl on the road. Ha ha. That doesn’t mean anything, I just wanted to call myself a cowgirl because I feel brave. But really, driving is so easy and sometimes even fun. If you found this post in Google because you have a fear of driving, I have some really good tips for you. Trust me, I was most likely much more scared of driving than you are now. But I’m ok now. These tips helped me, and they might help you:

  1. Use Google Maps to see the roads you’ll be driving on. It’s like watching the road you’ll be driving on out of your windsheild, except you’re safe at home (or work) at the computer. No more unexpected crazy stuff like weird lanes that go in places you don’t want to go, signs you don’t understand, all that kind of risky business. You can see the whole route. Then, when you drive it, when you’re totally familiar with it. To see your route on Google Maps, you type in the “to” and “from” addresses, then you drag the little “guy” (at the left of the page) to the road you need to see. Try it. I bet it will really help you feel less scared of driving new places.
  2. At night, use the polarized yellow night driving glasses. Even after I drove in the daytime, the first time I drove at night, I was totally hyperventilating because I couldn’t see anything except headlights! And, while I used to not believe people when they said this, I learned it’s true for sure, because I actually HIT something (a garbage can only, thank goodness, but it did fly way, way, waaaay up in the air)..But I couldn’t see it due to oncoming headlights that “blinded” me. The yellow glasses took care of all that. Don’t forget to get polarized lenses. My glasses cost me like $13, but they made the difference between being able or unable to drive safely at night!
    3) Try to use routes with small, slow roads! Fast roads=scary, slow roads=not scary.
    4) Drive slowly–at speed limit, but not faster. Keep checking on your speed. When you are going too fast, driving and making decisions gets too stressful. Focus, read the signs, and remember that you can always pull over or make a wrong turn if you need to–that’s better than making rash decisions on the road.
    5) Start with a driving teacher and practice one or two routes to and from your favorite places. I totally did this. HUGE difference. It’s sort of like Google Maps–you get some familiarity while you have someone there to help. (Oh, and driving with your husband or Dad? Not a good idea. Best with a driving teacher who is used to students. Dad’s and husbands don’t know how to help nervous drivers, but driving teachers do.) Then you can do those yourself. Then you’ll start to branch out.
    6) Drive a SMALL CAR!!! I used to think the big car was protecting me and my children–actually it was making me have a lot of trouble passing cars, parking, and making driving too hard and too scary. I should have gotten a Corolla years ago.

There you go. I shared real stuff. I usually hate sharing real stuff, but I’m going to write a post or two about real stuff, not jokes. We’ll see if I like it. Probably I won’t. I might even delete the posts because I feel too exposed, including this post. But for now, this is the story of my (past) fear of driving.

Cute Lifeguard – Goodbye and Hello

Our condo pool is only open in the summer. Last summer there was this really cute lifeguard who worked at the pool. He was from Bulgaria. He had blond hair. He had green eyes. He had a lot of intriguing tattoos on his torso, which was very toned and very tan.

The lifeguard is probably in his mid-20’s, late 20’s maximum. We saw him almost daily because I took my boys to the pool to practice swimming–lest they lose the skills I have paid so dearly to help them acquire over the past three summers.

Was I happy about my attraction to this man young enough to be my son? Well, not really. However, important note: EVERY lady who came to the pool acted giddy, giggly, and all-around annoying while in the presence of Cute Lifeguard. Once there was even a retirement party full of ladies over the age of 55 and 60–one of the ladies constantly flirted with Cute Lifeguard, and all the other ladies joined in whenever the chance presented itself, which was rare since the one lady would NOT leave him alone for three seconds. I’d like to add that I, on the other hand, acted super cool and pretended to not notice Cute Lifeguard at all. In fact, I would suspect if asked, he’d say that single mom with three boys (meaning me) didn’t even realize there was a lifeguard at all. I mean, save that one time I waved at him and immediately tripped over the curb, nearly hurdling my toddler forward out of his stroller–thank goodness for stroller seatbelts (always keep them fastened!!!). That was the ONLY uncool moment. All other moments around him, I was so cool, it was like I had ice for veins.

But alas, summer ended, and Cute Lifeguard went home–I assume to Bulgaria (which I now know LOTS about, you know, not stalking anyone, just out of interest about the country and its dating and marriage customs and stuff). Bye bye, Cute Lifeguard.

So how uplifting to see…Just yesterday I was driving out of our parking lot, and a big huge moving van was parked horizontally across the lot so NO ONE could pass by, as I look up to ask the driver to MOVE so I can get my sons to their classes, GUESS who’s standing there moving himself in for the summer. That’s right–Cute Lifeguard.  I guess he will be supervising our swimming pool again this summer.

I’m super happy about that. I will try to take a photograph of him and post it on this blog. Then everyone will want to visit my blog daily because, it’s just hard not to keep looking at him. But you know what? Other than posting his photo on my blog without his knowledge and zooming in on his abs and stuff like that, I will treat him as if his mother were at poolside on a daily basis. For example, I will not flirt with this young man because I am almost old enough to be his mother. I will not stare at him (unless I am wearing my sunglasses.) In fact, I will not look at him at all. Instead, I will bring my Albert Einstein book to the pool and keep my eyes pasted to it. When my eyes are not pasted to the book about Albert Einstein and physics, they will be glued to my Mandarin language books as I memorize vocabulary words in Mandarin while watching my boys practice their swimming strokes.

While all of the other older ladies in our condo flirt with and stare at Cute Lifeguard (pitiful really), I will be diligently planning my children’s summer camps, fall sporting activities, and healthy snacks and dinners and stuff like that.  It’s going to be great.

But uh…I’m still going to wear my pretty swimsuit.

People Are Being REALLY Nice To Me!

What in the world? It seems like everyone is being so super nice to me–I mean, people are generally pretty nice and all, but goodness…how lucky I feel. The niceness is SO plentiful this week that it has overwhelmed me enough EVEN to motivate me to write a blog post about it. Are people catching spring fever? Are they reading a lot about NDE’s like I do? (Hey, can you remind me to write a big long post all about NDE’s the next time I can muster the motivation to blog? Okay good.)

Alright, so general recap: I am a single mom of three wonderful super handsome awesome boys. We moved cross-country about a year ago and loved where we lived in California but are loving the Washington DC metro area just as much–probably more since there’s family here. Other deets: My ex-husband is very nice but for various reasons things are much better now than they were when we were married. He constantly asks me for help with spelling and writing emails and all kinds of stuff like taxes, and that is fine, and we get along great. Um…I can’t think of anything else that’s pertinent to this post, and actually, none of the above is pertinent, but it seemed relevant to throw these tidbits in there.

SO, here are all of the people who have been so super nice to me lately:

1) Very Handsome Neighbor Guy: I noticed this guy the moment when we moved in, and boy, is he good-looking. He is single. He often walks his dog outside, and every time we see each other, he smiles at me, and I like it. I smile at him too. Today he started a conversation with me when we happened to both be heading toward the garbage dumpster, and he was nice. It was fun to finally talk to Handsome Neighbor Guy. Oh…I just realized that talking to me isn’t the type of kindness that warrants being #1 on this list…but I’m mentioning him first because a) it’s the most recent of all listed events and b) he’s so cute.

2)Pakistani Neighbors: There is a Pakistani family who lives by us, and they are SO NICE. The mom and I see each other at the bus stop waiting for our children, and she doesn’t really know English. But she wants to talk, and me too–I have tons of questions to ask about her culture. So she talks to me usually in her language of Pashto–I don’t know any Pashto, but it sure sounds beautiful when she speaks it. Also she and I exchange foods. I send my children over to her house with desserts and fruit, and she sends hers over with the BEST rice and meat dishes in the world. I love them. I hope they never move.

3) Fellow Mom #1: YES. I got a social invitation from a fellow mom. These are few and far between when you’re the new mom in town, and you are far too shy (at first, not always) to stick around trying to talk to parents at school events and things. No way, too scary. I like this mom. She has children the same age as my boys.

4) Fellow Mom #2: YES. A really cool mom who I have a ton in common with has been talking to me a lot while we wait to pick up our kids. It is not fun waiting alone every day. This lady is so neat. She has a business, she has a website, she has three boys. Hi. Me too.

5) Really Nice Plumber: Ok, this is sort of a long story. BUT I had this big huge board that’s 4 feet by 7 feet and needed 1 inch sawed off the top of it. SO, these plumbers are fixing this thing nearby, and I have talked to the guy in charge–his name is Sam–before and know he does other types of maintenance. So I asked Sam if he happened to have a saw (it felt embarrassing to ask a plumber that, but my intuition said he might have one–and by gosh, he did.) SO he sent one of the workers over to saw this board. Sam and the worker were SO NICE. Dang.

6) Ruby the Cleaner: Ruby is the lady in charge of the cleaning crew for our condos–the outside areas, not inside of course. Anyway, my toilet got clogged up, and I had no plunger. So I called Sam–the guy in #4. His crew was working far away that day, so he gave me Ruby’s number and told me to ask her to borrow a plunger. CRAP…who borrows a plunger? But I had no car at that time, so few choices. SO I called Ruby, and within five minutes, she showed up at my condo with a plunger and said I can have it.

8 ) Billy: Billy has such a nice voice and sounds like he’s from Tennessee. You have to love that. He works for Ruby. So, I asked Billy if he does handywork on the side, and he said yes. He came to help me dismantle this big bulky piece of furniture and take it to the dump. THEN the next day at 10:30pm, Billy called me. I thought, “Oh no…why is he calling me so late at night?” I mean, who calls at 10:30pm? BUT turns out he was calling to tell me my car lights were still on. NICE. Thanks, Billy, you saved the day (see #9–this was the day that would have been ruined had Billy not called).

9) My sister: Ok, so Saturday two of my boys had soccer games at 11:30am…uh, hi, how am I suppose to do that? My sister came and rescued me. I drove her with one son to the location of his game, and I took the other to his game. Not only THAT, but THEN she stayed forever after that so I could take a long walk AND go to the store. She acted like it was all easy too. That’s what I call love.

Is this list boring? My sister keeps telling me to blog about my life right now. I think I’m having trouble with that because I don’t feel that most things going on make good blog material. I mean, hi, wanna hear the story about how I burned dinner the other day? Yeah, I didn’t think so. But there are a few topics I want to share. And these people made such a huge difference in the past several days–it’s so amazing how a kind deed like sawing a board can totally relieve stress and completely change the course of the entire day or week ahead.