Friday, April 13, 2018

Control of My Happy - Part Two

I was feeling a bit meh off and on the last few days, wondering if men and relationships are really worth all the fuss.

Of course they are. I spent 21 years with Ghon didn't I? For those that knew him, that was work.

I've been talking to a couple (remember folks, couple means two), guys and I have really enjoyed getting to know both and creating new friendships. Friendships people, not relationships. But one, well, one sort of derailed unexpectedly recently and not knowing why eats at me. While I have a little hope that our friendship isn't over, I'm more fearful that it is. I've felt a little lost without our normal conversation and on some days, any conversation. I had a few days of something short of anger and hurt, followed by denial, then, I was OK, then I was back to feeling this stabbing pain in my chest. Or maybe it was my heart being ripped from my chest. Cause you see, even though we weren't in a relationship, we were pretty damn close friends, or at least I thought. We talked (as in texted) daily. Then to suddenly go to nothing? I can't help but wonder what I did wrong - even though I may not have done a thing wrong! And as much as I will miss our bantering, the walking away was his choice, and that's OK. But not knowing why it happened kills me.

I'm a woman that needs truth and clarity in my life. I'm in my early forties and have two kids, I don't have time or patience for games.

As for the other gentleman, things are great. We have even better conversations and this time, I mean we actually use our voice. Let me tell ya, there's a whole lot less room for misinterpretation when you can hear sarcasm, as I have yet to find a sarcasm font. I catch myself smiling when the phone rings, and smiling again after our conversation ends. I appreciate his work ethic, his dedication to family and culture, and have mad respect for his profession. This guy is solid.

I was on my way to pick up the kids, further bumming that I was going to miss Jonathan's first baseball game of the season but excited to attend Genevieve's chorus program, when I looked down and saw rainbows dancing on my hand.  I saw my reminder to everything I choose. And I saw my little reminder that I'm a freaking wonder woman.

Do ya see the little rainbow??

My mind shift started at that moment. I had a little relapse a couple days later, got a little upset and had to hit up my Boo (thank you, Boo!!) for a little whine session, and am getting back on track. And Lord does the sunshine (FINALLY) help that too.

In that moment, seeing rainbows dance on tattoo reminders of who the hell I am and what drives me, my mind improved. As I always preach to my kids... you are allowed to feel every emotion, it's how you choose to respond that matters. I reminded myself that I am in charge of my happy. I do what makes ME happy. I do not have to rely on others to make me happy. Likewise, others do not have the power to make me sad! Not only am I in charge of that happy, I have plenty of reasons to be happy.

I have so much to be grateful for and I know it. I start each day thanking God for my blessings. If I ever forget, like when I'm blah, once I come back to that simple task, being mindful and thankful, everything comes back into perspective. I'm thankful for a few other close friends who have let me have my "WTF? What just happened here? What did I do?"  moment, then flip to the giddy "But things over here with this friend, yea, they are good!" (Insert that goofy smile.) I'm thankful that they, all being married women, are still willing to listen to my own mini version of the dating game. I'm a personal soap opera.

Earlier in that day, a friend shared with me that she'd been recently reading my blog and that it gave her new perspective on living her life. That is powerful! I am honored that my ramblings inspire others to live their best life and control their happy.

The next day, I was notified that the cost of the rest of my graduate certificate program would be paid for. (I don't think I mentioned that - yes, I'm insane and taking 6 grad courses this year!) In exchange for knowledge sharing and a promise not to run away and leave, my employer is paying for the entire program. I'm grateful, especially considering last month I finally paid off my college debt! HELL YES!

The other cool thing about my job? I like it. The work I do is appreciated and makes me want to do more, be more, do better. Yesterday, a team I worked with on a special project received an award from the FEMA Administrator. I'm amazed to be recognized for doing my job - and to be recognized with my co-workers and friends is even better. And then, well, I asked the Administrator if we could selfie. This guy is amazing.

Part of our project team!

Administrator Long with some of my amazing coworkers

Following the awards, I ate Georgetown cupcakes for the first time. That's a reason to be happy, right?

I didn't eat all of these. I thought about it, but no, I didn't eat them all.

After awards and after cupcakes, I was able to get a little Mom/Girl's night out with friends. Time to shake off some remaining blues and rejoice with friends and music. And nearly lose my voice from shouting over the music. I'm blessed.

Mind shift. Be grateful. Be thankful. Remember the good in life. You will receive in abundance.

Will every man be the right one for me? Nope. Does it matter if I'm not the right woman for every man I meet? Nope. (This is where I have to control myself and not list all of my perceived faults. I'm good, damn good, but I know I'm not perfect!)

Paths cross for a reason. Maybe each new friendship I make is for a particular reason, and we just have to ride it out to find that purpose. Some may last a short time, some may last a version of forever.  Friendships in and of themselves are powerful and valuable.

While staying true to who I am, I allow myself room to grow and learn from these friendships or any experience for that matter. Each person I encounter, each friendship I engage in or relationship I consider, has taught me something. I've observed friends' new and old relationships and had moments where I thought, wow, that's what I want to feel. I've been able to identify traits or behaviors in men that I admire or appreciate and want to experience more of. I've seen chivalry along the spectrum, and now have an idea of how much I would like to see or experience someone I might want to be with.  I've identified traits that might be tolerable in a friend but not in a partner. I've felt respect and mild levels of disrespect. I've felt appreciated. I've felt undervalued. One day perhaps, I'll feel loved again.

I wonder why each time I read those last three lines, I feel physical pain in my heart and a tear form in my eye. I'm such an emotional person sometimes. 

My quote of the week at work: Forget the things that hurt you in the past, but don't forget what you learned. These lessons are priceless.

There will be a time when it all comes together. The right paths will cross, if they haven't already. The signs will light up, start pointing in an appropriate direction. Signs, like unanswered texts, might actually read "One Way" or "Dead End." Signs, like expressions of gratitude, may read "Proceed with Caution." Signs, like the days I can't wipe off the RBF, may read "Caution, Road Work Ahead" or possibly "Road May Flood." Signs, like explicit offers for casual sex from someone 18 years my junior, have me throw up my own sign that reads, "Road Closed."

If I see this one though, I better think quick as to who is hiding and who is getting hidden!

Until that time comes, I'll live my life. I'll be happy, grateful, thankful, and remember all that I've worked for, all that I've earned and all I still have to give. I will cherish the friendships I have, open myself to new ones, and remember those that are no more. I'll probably continue to overshare my life, forget what a filter is, and wear my emotions on my sleeve. I already wear one on my shoulder.

Bluebird of happiness on my shoulder!
I challenge you to control your happy. Never let anyone or anything take that from you. Know what makes your face and your heart smile. Then tell me, what do your signs say?

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Family Tree

I've felt the need to write for a while now, but the topic has alluded me. All weekend, I should have been writing a paper for school or doing other homework. Instead, I've being cleaning around the house and a little in the yard since it was nice out. Spent some time with a friend, more time talking to another, playing with the kids, and cooking/dancing/singing around my kitchen. I did a little school work, but no writing. I have a paper due in two weeks. A little voice in the back of my mind kept saying "WRITE," but I knew it wasn't about acquisition and procurement policy.

Today is Easter. The kids woke, excited to find out what Mom stuffed in their baskets. I wanted to sleep, but Genevieve wasn't having it. I quickly gave in, we all rummaged our baskets (yes, I made myself one too), I made breakfast, then we were off to church. After worship, the kids participated in the annual egg hunt then I forced them to take pictures. Oh the horror of taking a picture!

Although still a little cool, temps in the upper 50s to low 60s feels pretty warm after being in the 30s and 40s. While I made a cake for dessert then prepped a ham for dinner, did my best kitchen karaoke (which may be getting better than car karaoke, but not as good as treadmill lip syncing), and cleaned up, the kids played outside. They wanted me to come play, and once I made it outside, I decided to take a walk, and they joined me.

Before I go any further, it was during kitchen karaoke that I knew I'd end up writing today. At the middle of the walk, I knew what it would be about. But after dinner, as the words started taking shape in my head, I realized I'd have to give a little backstory for any of this to make sense.

On December 7, 2017, the kids (and this includes the biggest, Eric) and I spread the majority of Ghon's cremains on our hill. On the hill, there is a chair that Ghon's Dad would sit in to hunt. Ghon had told me there were times after his father died, that he would just sit there and talk to his Dad. His place to get some quiet family time. He'd often leave a shotgun shell there in honor of his Dad. Not far behind this chair, was one of Ghon's tree stands. The last bow deer season, he'd left his bow in the tree, and it stays there now. I decided, with Eric's agreement, that this was the place Ghon should be. On his birthday, we climbed the hill and I carried Ghon up. I carried Ghon up the hill that he often joking called the widow maker because it was so steep. The widow maker. Hmmph.

I won't go into a ton of details, but for a scattering, it went OK. The four of us took turns, the kids climbed the tree stand and we watched the sun start to set. In typical Ghon fashion though, he was stubborn til the end. Perhaps there was a moisture issue, perhaps it's because we held onto the scattering tube for nearly 18 months, but Ghon got a little stuck. Yep, stuck in the tube. Eric and I kinda looked at each other and had to employ a few methods to get him unstuck. Last resort - I actually had to beat the tube against a tree. Yep, nothing like a somber occasion of spreading cremains to bring you back to the reality of the deceased's dogged determination and sense of humor like banging him against a tree. Once things broke loose, we headed back down the hill for what the kids have decided will be the traditional December 7th dinner, fried chicken.

Back to today. I hadn't really intended on going for a walk up the hill, but that's where I found myself. Kids in tow, we climbed the hill, finding fallen trees from our recent wind storms. I tried to quiet the kids down so they could hear the woodpecker that I heard. As we climbed Genevieve started asking where Daddy's tree was. Although we spread Ghon around the tree, the chair is the marker, and this they knew to look for. As we crest the first part of the hill and walked along, they spotted the chair and ran ahead.

Now we've had a little snow and a lot of rain in the last four months. I myself was wondering if we would actually see anything - knowing that in at least one spot, there was a considerable amount of cremains left. Sure enough, it was Genevieve that exclaimed - "there's Daddy!" and pointed down. Of course, she was right.

We investigated the tree and the holes that I assume had been bore by woodpeckers. One was considerably large, almost big enough that Genevieve could get her head into it. Fascination wore off quickly, and they ran off to argue about taking turns in the tree stand.

Earlier in the day, while they were playing and I was doing my thing in the kitchen, I had a wave of sorrow wash over me. Here it was, Easter, and it was just me and the kids. Another holiday, just the three of us. This time, it wasn't just that it was the three of us without Ghon, I started to think about how little family we have and how little we see those we have. I thought about how I knew they were going to gripe and complain about dinner and I wasn't sure why I was even bothering. I love to cook, but hate making a "decent" meal to have them complain and have a million leftovers that they won't eat. I thought briefly about my family traditions for Easter and how the kids won't have the same memories, or even similar. It's not to say they will have bad memories, they just won't have family memories. I felt my eyes welling up with tears, and stopped myself. No. We'd had a great day, even if it was just the three of us. A good weekend even, even if it was me fussing around the house and them playing, we were all here together and just being relaxed before baseball season kicks in and we get super busy again. No, I was not going to cry, because my memories were mine and while I'd love for the kids to have something similar, they are not living my life. They will have good memories, just not like mine.

I climbed that hill in shorts too short for me to be 100% comfortable in public, and an old hoodie that was Ghon's and often stole from him because it was big and comfy and I didn't mind if it got dirty, unlike MY hoodies. In other words, I climbed the hill in inappropriate clothing. I stood there and stared at what's left of Ghon. I squatted down, and stared. I almost dared myself - took a knee, and picked up a piece of what I'm pretty damn sure is Ghon, held it, and cried. I cried for the kids not having their Dad. I cried knowing this is the only way I was going to touch him again and wondering if I would ever experience love again. I cried as I thought again about how little family we had and how many of our friends were spending the day with their families; extended families. I thought about the book I am reading and the idea of a spirit tree, and it made me cry. I cried knowing that Ghon came here to seek counsel with his deceased father, and here I was, seeking some unknown counsel with him. I cried, because I've shed a few tears here and there for other reasons, but it had been a while since I'd cried related to Ghon and my family.

Jonathan could see me, still on one knee in front of the tree, from his vantage point in the tree stand. He yelled at me "What are ya doing Mom? Praying or something?"  Yes, praying or something is right. Something between the two or both. My crying was not a big messy, wailing from the top of the mountain. It was just enough to make my vision a little blurry and make me act like a total lady and wipe my running nose on the sleeve of my hoodie because I don't care if it gets dirty. And as I sit here, still wearing the hoodie and feeling the emotions again, wipe my nose again because I have to get the words out and don't want to go find and a tissue. Judge me. Call me gross. I don't care, I've been called worse. I have a washing machine.

As I knelt there, seeking guidance, I dropped Ghon from my hand and looked at the tree. This is now the family tree. Ghon came here to be with his Dad. I came to be with Ghon for a moment and the kids - they know the spot and suspect will do the same. We have a big family in some ways; yet so small in others. We'll seek refuge in a tree - and a tree stand.

Eventually I stand, knowing the timer is probably going off in the house and it's time to finish making a dinner the kids won't want to eat. We head down the hill, and Genevieve takes off ahead of Jonathan and I. As we are walking, I happen to look down and see the most beautiful feather I've ever seen here. Even Jonathan was impressed. I told him that sometimes, people believe that feathers are placed in our path as a gift or sign from a loved one that has died to let us know they are with us. He says like Daddy? Of course! He continues, and mentions his grandfather and grandmother. From there, he starts a conversation about how he only has one grandfather, and he's never known any other grandparents, and never had a grandmother.

How does this work? Is this not in someway exactly what I was fretting about earlier today? That my kids are growing up with out that family history? My Dad lives five minutes away and we don't see him much. Ghon's father and stepmom died while I was pregnant with Genevieve and Jonathan was 18months old. My kids do not know what it's like to be spoiled by a grandma, or two sets of grandparents. I grew up with just one grandmother, so I know it's not a horrible thing, but I too wondered what it would be like to have more grandparents. Of course they would too.

I don't say anything to Jonathan about it, but part of me immediately thought, well, maybe if Mom gets married again one day, you'll have a grandma. My mind jumped straight to what it would be like to be part of a big family. Wait, a big mostly happy family. But these are not promises I can make to my kids, nor to myself. I don't know what the future holds in that respect. But wouldn't it be nice to be part of a family again, instead of just a family tree in the woods?

I spoke briefly to a friend about this after dinner. Ya know, the dinner I was right about, where the kids, mainly Jonathan gagged over the idea of eating. Family is family no matter what. Some, I'd rather not interact with on the regular. Some, I wish I could see more of. And it's not that I'm far from home that keeps me from family. My immediate family is small. My extended family by marriage - the kids' family - is spread far and wide. It's not like going "home" will bring me closer to family. Home, my family, is here. Three we be, except when the Viking and his wife are able to come by (love you guys).  We have friends that are more family that family and for them, I am grateful.

But back to that feather for a moment. I carry it back to the house, and per Jonathan's suggestion, try looking it up in one of our bird books we keep by the kitchen window. I have no clue what it is, so I send pics to our friend Laurie, because I know she will know, and she does. Go figure. It's a woodpecker. Now I can't say it's the one I heard, or the one that's been drilling in that family tree, but how coincidental? I decide to walk the hill. I walk up the hill to the sound of a woodpecker. We see the evidence of a woodpecker going to town on that tree. I find a feather on my way down - which is the same way we went up - from a woodpecker that I've never seen before on the property.


Feathers apparently have a few meanings, and once again, I'm thankful for Laurie sharing a link with me that had a few symbolic meanings such as: freedom, inspiration, giving thanks and appreciation, and fertility.

The same page offers the following:

Possible Meanings Of Finding Feathers

  • Get Grateful. Feathers are a reminder to count our blessings and be thankful for the good stuff going on in our lives.

  • Get High. No, not like that. Feathers are a symbol of levity. When seen, they remind us ease up on all the seriousness. Take a breath, relax, enjoy.

  • Get Listening. If feathers really are a communication tool to and from the gods, then their appearance is a reminder to listen to the bigger voice - as in a higher power.

  • Get Love. Feathers often show up when there is someone or something that wants to reach out to us. Sometimes this might be a loved one who has passed into non-physical. A feather is a reminder you are loved by infinite people (both here on earth and otherwise).

Oh, I'm grateful alright. I start each morning with thanks and gratitude.
Oh, I try to relax. Like this weekend. Or those pics with the kids. Forget asking them to smile. Just act goofy with them - that gets the best and most real pictures.
Listening - I've been asking a lot of questions lately. I'm trying; I'm trying real hard to listen.
Love - yea. I've been reminded a lot recently of how many people love me, love me and the kids. I continue to remind the kids how important it is to love and how I love them. I've joked recently how I love me some me - someone has to! And a few of the 'lot of questions' might be related to love. Maybe I should go back to listening.

It's late. I still haven't wrote anything for my paper. But because I love me and know I have to relax, I'll be going to bed soon and will reflect not on the moments of tears today, but on all the good things today. The things that went well. The happiness in my kids eyes, the laughter in their voice, their ability to argue and make up. The freaking sugar high they had. That we woke up, we rejoiced  in the resurrection of our Lord, and spent time together. That we shared, that we loved, and that we will continue to give out the love we have to give. That we can visit the tree, and that it doesn't have to always bring sorrow, for we can be grateful for what we've had, hopeful for what's to come, and for the beauty of a feather - even if it's just a feather.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Be Ready To Learn

I could make this the shortest post ever and simply say, go see The Greatest Showman and be ready to learn everything you can from it. 

But that's not me.

Family Friday, we opted to go to the movies. Split decision between The Greatest Showman and Jumanji. Because Jumanji was sold out when we arrived, Showman it was.  

The kids and I have seen quite a few movies in the last year, especially in the last two months. Many kid movies have a hidden lesson and sometimes the kids pick up on them, sometimes they don't. Sometimes I'm a good mom and try to talk about a theme if they don't and well, sometimes, I don't. Once and a while, it's good to let a movie be a movie.

Last week we saw Ferdinand, and at the last line of the movie, I started crying. I wasn't expecting to leave The Greatest Showman and feel the way I did. I laughed and I cried.

I'm so damn emotional.

I went to the movies expecting to learn a little via dramatization about PT Barnum, the circus life, and watch Hugh Jackman. Jonathan sat down, ordered his pizza and waited begrudgingly, as he wanted to see Jumanji. Genevieve was excited, but I don't think she really knew why. When we left, Jonathan was impressed and agreed it was a good movie. When I told him Barnum was Wolverine, his mind was blown. Genevieve kept asking if we could buy it, and when we could see it again. I literally couldn't wait to get home to buy the soundtrack; it was downloaded before we were on our street.

Most of our way home we talked about what we could learn from the movie. We didn't discuss business practices or animal cruelty in depth. We discussed basic human rights and to love and respect all people.

We talked about how sure, Barnum was in to earn a dollar because the circus performers were different, but in the end, they were a family. That their uniqueness made them special. That people came to see them and in the end, were entertained and appreciated them. That the kindness of a disfigured woman helped inspire Barnum to employ these people.

We talked about how it is important to treat everyone we meet with respect. That it doesn't matter what size you are, what you look like, or how much money you have, what matters is how you treat other people. We talked about what it feels like to be treated differently and how it hurts. We honored the fact that sure, sometimes it may be hard not to stare at someone that looks different, but we should try not to - and just because they look different, doesn't mean we should be rude or disrespectful. 

We talked about how it is important to help all people. That being kind, friendly, and giving isn't just for holidays or when you have more than enough. That sharing and giving to people who need it more than you is important.

We talked about how family is important. Whether it be the family you create and are born into, or the family you choose, like the circus performers. That when you are kind and loving, you will always have support.

We talked about the protesters and why they weren't happy. How times were different then and in some ways not so different now. We talked about why Philip and Anne were hesitant at times with their relationship because of how people looked at them because of the difference in the color of their skin. I shared with them a recent example where one of our friends was concerned about the same scenario. The kids were shocked that it was even a concern and happy to hear that in the end, there was no issue. I told them how lucky we are that don't always have to be worried about what people think about us because of the color of our skin and they should never treat anyone different due to the color of theirs.

We talked at length, as we often do, that it is important to be who you are and to do the right thing. That just because someone is being a bully or mean, you don't have to be to. Stand up for the person being put down. Be kind to everyone we met. 

We talked about having dreams or goals and how with a little work and dedication you can achieve them. That when everything is handed to you and you don't have to work for things it is hard to appreciate what you have and that sometimes, you can't even find happiness. 

I think at one point I heard them reciting something close to their school pillars of character, so I added be ready to learn.

Be ready to learn. Learn who you are. Learn how to be a good person. Learn how to help others. Learn about other people so you don't have to be an ignorant fool. Embrace diversity and respect your peers. There is too much hate, darkness, and loneliness in this world. Be the light. Give others hope by being a decent human being to everyone. Is it really so hard?

We've been singing the songs all day. Songs about giving a chance on living life a different way, songs about being true to yourself, songs about dreams, and songs about love - a love that has no boundaries and is possible despite the odds - if given a chance. 

So much of what I've learned in the last year about myself was summed up in this movie if you take a moment to reflect. Be good. Be yourself. Love others. If we all just took a moment to be quiet and listen and learn from those around us rather than be quick to judge, where would we be?

Take a moment. Think about how you could have treated someone with more respect. How could you have given more of yourself to someone that needed it? How could you have changed someone's life if you only listened before acting? Where would you be if you didn't give up?

Think about those moments. Learn from them. Grow from them. Smile at someone that may not expect it. Befriend someone that has none. Don't be afraid to love. Give, even when you don't think you have anything to offer. You will be rewarded. I promise you.  

Go see The Greatest Showman, and be ready to learn everything you can from it. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Be More Patient

A couple weeks ago, I was giving consideration to a year in review post, but I never sat down to do it. Then it occurred to me about a week ago that I haven't posted anything in while. As I thought about it, I realized that most of my posts happen when I'm in a particularly emotional spot, and it's not always a good one.

Welcome to today's post.

A year ago, I shared my thoughts on celebrity death and how reactions to these deaths compared to my grief process as related to Ghon. It seemed to resonate with a lot of people, getting plenty of comments here and on my Facebook page. Today though, it wasn't so much my post alone, but that a friend of mine had shared the post last year and quoted the following line:
With every end, there is a new beginning. As with every death; an end - there is life; a beginning. 

With every end, there is a new beginning. How fitting for a post at the end of the year?

2017 brought an end to the year of "firsts" in respect to grief and ushered in the year of seconds. And seconds can be just as bad, if not worse than firsts. The support isn't the same. People don't ask how you are doing or are maybe afraid to ask. Anniversaries and holidays come - and go - that doesn't change. Some were a little easier, some things sucked just as much, if not more than year one.

This time of year is hard. In six weeks, I get to deal with Ghon's birthday, Christmas, New Year's and my birthday. It's hard because these are things I always liked and Ghon always hated. OK, maybe he didn't hate drinking on NYE but I wasn't something I was into. He hated fanfare of birthdays, and I liked making a big deal of them. He was a self proclaimed horrible shopper for my birthday, some years forgetting it completely. He hated Christmas, ever since the holiday changed for him after his mom's death as a child. Christmas was exciting for me, even more so with kids, and not just from a Santa perspective, because he doesn't do much here. It's about the birth of Jesus and giving for me, and that's what I teach the kids.

It may sound like Ghon's feelings would make getting through the birthdays and holidays easier. In some ways, it does; but in others, it's harder. There is still a void even if it's a void of a negative energy. I try to fill it with positive energy, but there are still moments I get down. Despite living in a fictional world where I am Wonder Woman, I am but a mere mortal with overwhelming emotions.

This holiday season, the kids and I did less, but in many ways did more. Our decorations were minimal, the number of holiday themed activities we did greatly decreased, and we has less visitors. These changes are largely OK; perhaps I crammed too much in last year so that we couldn't think about the Ghon's death. Jonathan and Genevieve have grown so much in the past year - I let them help make the decisions on what we did and when. I gave them the chance to think about the impact of their choices and letting them lead the way on when to relax and when to go out.

Yet, we did more. We spent a little more time together. We spent more time giving to others. We remembered that the holidays are not about what you get, but what you give, especially to those without or those without expectation. We made new traditions and carried out or modified old. Never in my life would I think I'd be at the movie theater on Christmas Day - but this year, I was.

Life is about taking chances and making memories. Take the trip, eat the cake. No Ragrets!

2017 In Review
  • Secured a mortgage in my name
  • Drove to Connecticut so the kids could compete in a chili cook-off
  • Watched my step-son get married
  • Bought a car on my own
  • Vacationed with the kids in New York City and a quick trip into Boston - and a LONG ride home.
  • Had a one year memorial service for Ghon
  • Re-homed our goats
  • Saw more movies in the theater than probably the last 5 years combined
  • Became a pig landlord
  • Visited the White House for the Spring Garden Tour and two months later, toured the inside
  • Went to at least eight concerts; seeing NKOTB, Paula Abdul, Boyz II Men, Volbeat, Metallica, Avenged Sevenfold, Andy Grammer, The Perceptionists, Janet Jackson, Taylor Swift, The Chainsmokers, Liam Payne, Demi Lovato, Fall Out Boy, Sam Smith, Ed Sheeran, Nial Horan and so many more... some with the kids, some with friends, and some all on my own.
  • Got four new tattoos by 3 different artists in 3 states
  • Had my first month long work deployment experience
  • Made several new friends
  • Took the kids to Reno, NV to compete in the ICS World Championship Chili Cook-off
  • Did some serious Black Friday shopping for the first time in years
  • Broke my cell phone; and its replacement within a week
  • Shared my first ever bottle of wine with a friend
  • Pulled off a surprise of damn-near epic proportions, to me at least
  • Joined an exercise program I loved; left it to make schedule changes better for the kids, and joined a gym
  • Donated a ton of stuff - PURGE!
  • Watched fireworks in pure bliss
  • Saw Kinky Boots on Broadway
  • Crocheted again for the first time in years
  • Read a few books
  • Took a solo trip to NYC
  • Walked the Brooklyn Bridge
  • Hiked alone in Yosemite National Park
  • Drank and listened to music at the Bucket of Blood Saloon (Virginia City, NV)
  • Spread part of Ghon's ashes.
  • Realized how much I need sunlight and the energy of a city
and I cried. Sometimes more than I like to admit. Sometimes for what seems like ridiculous reasons. Sometimes for what ended up being for no good reason at all. Sometimes because I could feel someone else's pain. Sometimes a movie or line in a book hit a nerve I didn't realize was weak. Sometimes, I had no idea why. Sometimes in the shower, sometimes while exercising, sometimes in my cubicle at work, sometimes after I said goodbye, sometimes as I went to sleep at night. And a few times, they were tears of joy. I'm looking forward to more of those tears.

With every end, there is a new beginning. 

This post started two days ago when I was feeling alittle down. Now, it's New Year's Day and I'm feeling OK. Perhaps even hopeful? At a minimum, I'm not really feeling down. Just spending the day cleaning up around the house, relaxing, writing, listening to music, and letting the kids rot their minds with video games. At least they are working on sharing and taking turns. 

I'm looking at possibly returning to school and am already working toward earning new certifications at work.  I'm going to continue to do more of what makes me happy. My mantra has become if it doesn't hurt me, the kids, or my bank account, I'm doing it. I've started by buying tickets to 3 different concerts. I'd love to be able to see one show a month. I'll start planning summer vacation soon - it's going to be a big trip. I will color more. I will forgive myself more. I will make less excuses. I have to get comfortable with down time - I am on the go too much.

I will continue to be positive; the light when others are in darkness; and allow myself to experience the dark - but not dwell in it. 

How fitting, that as I end this post, with the last image already chosen, I hear the following lyrics playing in the background...

If it's meant to be, it'll be, it'll be
Baby, just let it be
If it's meant to be, it'll be, it'll be
Baby, just let it be
So, won't you ride with me, ride with me?
See where this thing goes
If it's meant to be, it'll be, it'll be
Baby, if it's meant to be

Life will happen. The things that are meant to be, will be. I will live; I will learn; I will fail and I will succeed. I will be the light, I will feel the dark. But I won't get any of it if I I don't believe and be patient. As I shared with a friend recently, I know I was made for more; to do more, be more, give more. To be loved more. I just have to do some work, be me, and be more patient.

My beginning isn't defined by the year, but with every chance I take. And I'm looking forward to taking more chances this year.  Anyone want to join me on the ride? Don't be afraid to find your beginning. Live your life, make your happy happen.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

New Beginnings

When you are young, you make decisions without thinking about the future, that you hope you never regret, and that your parents advise against.

Please tell me I'm not alone; that I'm not the only one. Not up for a confession? It's OK - I know you were there too.

If you've read any of this blog in the past seventeen months, you know that this time frame has been a long, and often hard personal journey. I've shared pieces of it with you:  anniversaries, special occasions, being my own pest control, and dipping my toes and perhaps a foot into the dating world. There are things I haven't shared, some posts in draft form, like crying in a bubble bath, and things that just sit in my head. 

For eighteen months, I've been working on me. Yes, eighteen, as one of the last arguments I had with Ghon was about this topic. I had no idea who I was anymore.  At 19 years old, I started dating Ghon. Ghon needed constant attention and I was willing to provide. My experiences dating prior were limited, and here, finally, was a guy who gave me attention back. I was hooked. It took him about a month to tell me he loved me. It took me two more to repeat it. From that point on, my world revolved around him. Until we had kids. At that point, my world was infinitely tied to Ghon and the kids. So much, that I could only be defined in ways that involved them. I had no idea who I was anymore.  I mentioned much about this in a previous post.

I can't entirely remember what I liked to do or what I did before kids. That was nine years ago! I can't remember what Ghon and I did for fun when we dated. That was over twenty years ago! At 19, I can hardly say I knew really who I was. Married at 23, I can barely say I knew who I was. I never really found out.

What I do remember, is that slowly, I adopted his plans, his dreams, supported his goals. I had few goals over the last 22 years. Some I did achieve, some I longed for and died off in pursuit of Ghon's goals, some, just fizzled off.  I never really knew what I wanted out of life. As a psych major understanding Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, this is an issue! I will never reach self-actualization if I don't know what I want!

Ghon told me eons ago, that his plan was to retire in Rapid City, SD and he didn't care if I came along or not, that's where he was going to live. Well, I loved him, so I went along with it. That changed of course when we bought the farmhouse. Death in the Shenandoah Valley became the new plan. We'd argued about the house, I think he deep down knew that farm and country life is not what I wanted. I admitted that too - it was not. But being with him was what I wanted. Seeing him excited, made me happy, and that while yes, living in a big old farmhouse was never my dream, as I had few, it did become one to an extent. There were aspects of the house I loved and couldn't wait execute in the remodel and live with.

While I've had 17 months to start working on me, the first 12 or so were mainly an adjustment to life as a widow and single parent. I made some small changes, but really, the work has really begun in the last 4-5 months. I've recognized that I've had some significant losses in my life, but the 3 biggest losses have had the biggest impact on who I am and who I am becoming. There is still work to do. But I've made amazing progress.

My first attempt at a relationship and developing a friendship during my work deployment have been two immensely helpful experiences in my growth. Both reminded me that it's OK to be comfortable and confident in who I am. That I need not follow the path I did at 19, and forget about who I am to suit the needs and desires of someone else. My opinions matter, my thoughts matter, and if they don't mesh with yours it's OK.  I want to learn about the opinions, thoughts, hobbies, activities and well EVERYTHING about people not only because I am genuinely interested in a person, but it helps ME know what I like, don't like or might want to try.  I had this same epiphany in the aforementioned post. I have nothing to prove to anyone at this point in my life. I am who I am and while much will stay the same, I will continue to evolve. As I reflect now, a month after my deployment, I'm pretty darn happy that I didn't compromise me at all.  There were definitely times I pushed myself WAY out of my comfort zone so I could experience more, but that's where growth occurs, right? They were things I wanted to do, but was afraid to do. Six months or two years ago, they were things I never would have done out of fear, no matter how much I would have wanted to do them. Being true to yourself is the shit. 

In the long run, this philosophy of being me, having nothing to prove and being confident may help me earn the respect, trust, and love of a man who is confident enough with his own self to not be intimidated by me. Or, it could seal my fate and I'll be single forever. 

Dear Lord, let there be a man out there strong enough to handle me and care for me. And let him not only exist, but let us find each other. And if we are found but to dense to know it or afraid to admit it - knock some sense into us? Amen!

Deployment also made me realize just how much I long for the city. I made brief mention of this in a post almost a year ago. Visiting Baltimore or DC energizes me. I was so excited this summer to tour New York City for the first time. I couldn’t wait to go back. I did for a day trip a week later, and want to go back again. I haven't had my fill.  Walking around downtown Reno in casual conversation with a co-worker, with no real direction, looping block after block, taking in the city and enough time to get to know each other where we moved from coworkers to friends, was a perfect evening. Yet it was as sat in my room one night in my pajamas, feet propped up on the window, watching the cars on the interstate and lights of the neighboring casinos that I realized just how much I missed the city, or at least a good sized suburb. Another friend, hearing me talk about my time in Carson City, told me "You realized again that you were a city girl didn't you?"  Well damn. I certainly did.  And before I probably even put it together, the next message came. "It's not who you are [farm girl]. I think someone is finding herself."

Reminds me of when I stayed at my sister-in-law's house. Since it is so quiet where I live in Winchester, she forewarned me of car noise at night, thinking it would keep me up.  I slept like a log that night - the noise was the same I had outside my bedroom window growing up.

As I've been reflecting on this, and drafting this post, I found it quite ironic that Facebook provided this memory.

No, the city never left me. I left it. Not to say it's all been bad, and I haven't learned a lot being in a less than urban environment. It's just not me.

Also ironic as I've been trying slowly to convince the kids that we should rehome our chickens and turn the coop into a massive playhouse! What?! 

I've also come to terms with another aspect of my life or should I say, death, as it relates to my location. Death in the Shenandoah Valley is not my plan.  I do not want to live my entire life in Winchester nor will I be the third Mrs./Ms. Eckley to die in this farmhouse. Some of you may need to pick your chin up and recover from shock. Yes, there are things about this house that I will miss. But they are things. I have some memories, but the memories that were supposed to be made here were not mine alone. I like having space and privacy, I like hearing the creek and tree frogs, and I love the stars at night. But I'd love a place where the kids can play with friends outside, where playdates don't have to be scheduled and they can actually learn and be successful at riding a bike. As for the creek and frogs - I have an app to cover that. 

Let me make it clear. Yes, I plan to leave the farmhouse.

So where am I going to go? Today, I have no idea. But I'm already working on figuring that out. While part of me says "ohhh New York City!", the rest of me, the majority of me knows I need someplace warmer. I'm always cold. I need a warmer climate. I need sunshine. Above even a trip into a city, the number 1 thing that brings me instant energy and makes me feel, well, whole, is the sun. When I go out to walk (something else I can't do at my house easily), I will often close my eyes and face the sun. Sounds a little weird perhaps, but I can feel the sun's energy and warmth travel through me, re-energizing me. I need warmth. It's not quite the same, but perhaps the same principle when talking energy transfer, that a good strong hug can give you. 

I have a list of cities and states that are acceptable to me temperature wise, and have started some cross referencing to cost of living and crime rates. A little more work to do there, and I'll start factoring in likelihood of natural disasters (side effect of my job and desire to not be near any of it!). Then, the fun will begin as I plan trips to get a feeling for all the locations to narrow the list even more. I survived a move from Maryland to Virginia when I never thought I'd leave Maryland. I got this now. 

Now what does any of this have to do with decisions I made when I was young? Whether I knowingly did or not, I sacrificed who I was and what I thought I wanted to be for the approval, affection, and comfort of others. Beyond that, I at times, sacrificed my happiness for the happiness of others. Today, seeing people I care about be happy or contributing to that happiness continues to make me happy - but it is not going to replace the happy I'll get doing my own thing. And yes, quite often my own thing may be doing stuff to make other people happy. But there's a difference now.

Want me to do something I don't want to so you can be happy - no, that won't make me happy. Remember, I control my happy. You will not make me sad. You will not make me happy. It's my choice on how I respond to your actions. Sure, the things someone might do for me might "make me" happy - but it's because I chose to find joy in those things. [Note: next time I get sad about someone or something, can someone remind me about this happy choice? I'm still working on the sad thing. I'm much better about being happy. Thanks!]

It's not like the life I led didn't work for me or that it was all bad.  I really do try to learn from all of my experiences, at least now. But being my age and not really knowing what you want out of life and living "alone" for the first time in your adult life - that was and occasionally is a little scary. I'm not in my 20s, but in some ways, feel like I'm living part of those years over, the way they should have been. Well, except I have kids. I've seen myself approach new experiences with an almost child-like sense of wonder and amusement. I've had at least one person tell me that I'm like a kid, and I own it (I even mentioned it once!). There are parts of the world that I'm experiencing for the first time or the first time through my own eyes and open mind. It's been interesting and exhilarating to say the least. 

I have a bucket list. I have a start on a country life exit plan. I continue to control my happy.  I am continuing to take care of myself, living the life I want, and learning every single day. I continue to raise my kids to be healthy in mind and body, kind and caring, and knowing how important it is to do what makes them happy, and not what anyone else, me included, tells them should make them happy. 

With every end, there is a new beginning. As with every death; an end - there is life; a beginning. It's been a long time coming. As I died a wife, I was reborn a widow. Both will always be part of me. But I'm proud of my new beginning and am excited to see how far I continue to grow as Kim/Kimmy/Mom. 

[If you are super'll also notice a change here on the blog. kudos to you if you did notice. It's another new beginning, that I'll be tweaking a bit in the future.]

Tuesday, October 24, 2017


When I applied for a position with FEMA in 2016, I had to acknowledge that at any time, I could be deployed to a different location to support the FEMA mission. Typically, this would be a disaster location, or an office location close to a disaster. Not a problem; Ghon was about to become a stay at home Dad, and if I ever had to go, I could.  I would eventually interview for two different positions, and have an offer pending when Ghon died. A few weeks later, a counter off came. The next day, an offer came for the second position I interviewed for, just four days before his death.

Obviously, I accepted a position, but was pretty worried about needing to ever deploy. Although FEMA responds to many different types of events and disasters, hurricane season is typically the busiest time of year for my department, and heaviest in need of deployable assets. Assets meaning bodies. I had to leave the kids behind for two weeks (but home on the weekend) for orientation and it wasn’t until the end of the 2016 hurricane season that I’d joined. Extremely low deployment chance.

Likewise, with the work I do, the opportunity or need for me to deploy is small. I didn’t have a lot to worry about, and therefore, I didn’t.

Until Hurricane Harvey hit.

A very generic request was sent to likely everyone in FEMA – can you deploy for 30 days to assist with recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey. Like a grade school love note, I had to choose yes, or no. After a quick chat with division leadership, I chose no. Some friends and coworkers said yes. Within a week, they were off to training then off to Houston.

Then Hurricane Irma hit. I was a wreck, worrying about friends and family living in Florida in her path. I volunteered to answer phone calls, taking registrations for assistance from disaster survivors. I worked close to sixty hours a week, supporting the recovery mission however I could. I supported those in my division working even longer hours by bringing in snacks – keeping everyone well fed and heavily carbed up!

I had been long prepping the kids that at some point, Mom may have to go help. It was my job, and just like we do with anyone, anywhere, we help people. We talked about the hurricanes and what survivors were dealing with and how we were lucky to have the things we did. We talked about what would happen if Mom had to leave.

Despite the initial feeling of NO, I can’t deploy, I slowly felt otherwise. I had to go. I felt called and compelled to go. When a request came for people with a certification I hold to volunteer to potentially deploy, I added my name to the list. I reached out to several people, looking for an opportunity to deploy. It’s hard to explain, but I knew I needed to go. I wanted a deployment experience and despite anxiety in leaving the kids behind, I just knew I needed to go help.

Friday, September 13, I received an email. It was time – could I complete a deployment in Carson City, Nevada. Say what? Things weren’t necessarily slowing down in Texas, but more people were going to or already in Florida. I thought for sure I was headed to the Sunshine State. But no, Nevada. I was going to help hurricane survivors from Nevada. I responded that I could go and a few hours later, a phone call confirmed my availability and scheduling. I was to get on a plane to Nevada on Sunday and report to my temporary duty station on Monday.

I’m a planner, and knowing that I could be deployed and was actively trying, I’d been doing lots of prep work. I had stocked the freezer full of food the kids would eat: chicken fingers and nuggets, fish sticks, waffles. I made 14 meals of tacos, taco soup, spaghetti, chicken alfredo and put them in the freezer. I loaded their meal accounts for school breakfasts and lunches. I secured a sitter and a host of friends to play support and back-up roles. I shared everyone’s phone numbers. I grabbed as much as I could for the kids’ joint birthday party with our friend that I was about to miss, and offered up my house as planned.

Sunday afternoon, I was on my way to the airport for my first deployment. Just two days after the phone call. That’s how it works – we are called and we go. Nearly twelve hours later, I was in my hotel in Lake Tahoe. Six hours later, I was at my job site.

Thirty days later, I have completed my deployment and am on the airplane home. (But by the time I'm publishing's more like 38ish...)

I’m not going to tell you all about the work I did in Carson City. I will tell you that despite some challenges, not mine or mine alone, that there is some good coming about in Carson. A new call center was stood up with little notice, hiring done, training completed and there are now more people providing disaster survivors connections to the help they need. Whether it be taking registration calls for help, answering calls about cases, or completing reviews of cases, the team in Nevada is doing it. And I amazingly was a part of it.

Deployment for me was a wonderful experience. I know not everyone has the same experience had, nor are they all good. The work I was there to do and the location were much different than many people are accustomed to. You would never see me in any picture on the news about recovery efforts or the perceived lack thereof.  I wanted a deployment so I could help and so I could learn. In the end, I do feel like I helped. It may have a few degrees of separation from my tasks to impact on a survivor, but I can find that connection. The things I learned and the contacts I made added so much to the experience.

In no particular order, these are the things that will stay with me after this deployment.

1.      I learned more about my function and use of my certification. I was able to put to use a certification that I spent many hours training for and haven’t been able to use day-to-day at my regular position. It was because of this certification that I was sent to Carson City, and although the need for that role requires a longer term assignment than I could give, I learned a bit about the functions and from people in similar positions. I was also blessed to have someone I could call a mentor that was not afraid to teach me things. Sandy was encouraging and supportive and I couldn’t have asked for a better Contracting Officer to learn from.

2.      What it feels like to be valued. My first few days, things were slow. Not for the center itself, but there was a bit of transition still, people needed to figure out who I was and why I was there and I needed to understand the requirements of my position. Once my section chief figured out my abilities and willingness to learn, I was given a variety of tasks. There were times I identified a problem and ran with it, making it my personal mission to help create a solution. And when I say run with it, I marched myself all around the office and requested meetings, set up agendas and plans to not just present an issue – but to suggest and get people talking about solutions and taking action. I was thanked often for the work I did, much above and beyond my position. It’s just what I do, but it was great to feel appreciated and respected.

3.      Always do the right thing. Of course, I knew this going in and try to always do the right thing anyway. But my commitment to doing the right thing helped co-workers know who they were dealing with. I stood up for those being mistreated. I didn’t tolerate disrespect, and when processes were not being followed that could ultimately impact me and my position, I let it be known that it was not going to happen that way. Sitting in a room full of men and telling them all that I was there for two more weeks and during my time they were going to things the right way, as I said, and they just had to deal with it – was empowering. Not just because I pushed an issue; but because they recognized that I was not a pushover, I knew what I was talking about, and I earned respect. But that moment also began a campaign to keep me longer than a standard 30 day deployment.

4.      I needed a break. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids and I missed my kids. I talked to them almost every single day – I think we only missed 3 days. But being away was a mom-cation. I didn’t have to make my bed, I didn’t have to cook. I took short breaks during the work day just to walk around outside and feel the sun. I still made time to exercise, I explored new places on my day off or in an hour in the evening. I spent a majority of the first two weeks to myself. It was good for me to push myself out of my comfort zone in many ways and help continue to discover what I like to do, who I am, and what I want from life. If you know me well enough, you know I’m always on the go. This was a chance for me to slow down a tiny bit, despite the hectic and long days and still trying to do a lot while I was there. OK, maybe I didn’t slow down. The one night I didn’t have plans or anything to do I went stir crazy. But I otherwise filled my down time with things I wanted to do, with things I wanted to see, and people I wanted to be with. I listened to live music - from hip-hop to blues, saw fireworks, took hikes, danced, ate food I haven’t had in ages, tried many new foods, shopped for me and others, watched the sun rise and set, exercised, read, colored, shared a bottle of wine with a new friend, took my first Uber ride, lost a little and won a little money playing roulette, had a lesson in craps, got a tattoo, and stared at the city lights. In short, I had fun. Even when I was working, I had fun. A lot of fun. All of this also reinforced the fact that I miss city life.

5.      The people. The people I met and those I got to know will always stay with me. Many of the people I met there work deployments regularly. Some hadn’t been home in months, some for over a year. Some would be there a short time like me, some knew they’d be extended. Others were pulled from our location to go support new disaster locations. I now know a variety of people with different skill sets that came together from locations across the country to work toward a common goal. Some will certainly stick with me more than others. Saying goodbye was harder than I imagined it would be. I suppose I left an impression on them, and they on me. I did become close to one person there, something I never expected. We walked, we talked, we shared meals, drinks, stories of our past and hopes for our futures. I know I will miss him the most for sure, and already do. 

I've heard a lot of stories about deployments. Some people love to deploy, others do not. Seems a bit like a rite of passage. Although my deployment was somewhat atypical, created a little havoc at home for the kids and may have made things a little crazy for those taking care of the kids, I am thankful for the experience. I learned a lot about FEMA and my position, the continued resiliency of my kids, the generosity of my friends for helping take care of the kids, how to have fun again, how to make new friends, and how to just be me.

Who would have thought? Hurricanes in Texas and Florida would put me in Nevada to further find myself. Was that what the calling I felt was for - momcation? Meeting new people and creating new relationships? Was it to fill that professional need? These are questions I can't answer. Whatever the reason, I am glad it happened.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

On Dating

…Until death do us part

The vow we made almost 17 years before his death. As quick as the filing of the death certificate, I’m now single for the first time in 21 years.

While married, we’d discussed remarriage in the event we ever split up, or more often, if one of us died. Are we the only ones that talked about these things?

Ghon often said he’d never remarry. He’d been married once, twice, and if I were to leave or die, I couldn’t be replaced. He wouldn’t do it again. I argued that he would, and it’d be relatively quickly. He’d never been without a girlfriend/fiancé/wife for more than, well, maybe 36-48 hours since his first divorce. Even before his marriage, he jumped from one girl to another, sometimes admittedly, he had multiple girlfriends.

I always said I’d never remarry. My opinion was been there done that, especially if we’d ever divorce. Why go through that all over again? I could see myself being set in my ways. Ghon would of course tell me I would, and more importantly, should. He didn’t think I should be alone. He even named a mutual friend of ours that he would approve of me marrying!

The first thing Jonathan asked me after I told him that yes, his Daddy died (Genevieve told him first!), was if I was going to get remarried. I remember thinking, “WHOAH!” I told him I really didn’t think so, but what did he think about it. His response was yes, because he didn’t have a dad. Then he quickly changed his mind, because he didn’t want my name to change.

At my first primary care visit following Ghon’s death, about four months after, my doctor made the connection between the death of one of his patients (Ghon) and me. We talked for a few moments about what happened, then why I was there, then near the end of my exam, he asked if I was going to get remarried! Slow down, Doc! I couldn’t believe he’d ask that – then tell me I should. How about you let me process what’s happened? How about you let me get through this first year? How about you let me figure out who the hell I am without Ghon, however long that takes, before we talk dating, OK?

After I got my memorial tattoo with Ghon’s ashes, and later a second tattoo that has many elements in memory of Ghon, including the pattern of his wedding band, I was told that the tattoos sealed the deal that I’d never remarry. I was taken aback and perhaps even offended. Certainly, I wasn’t entertaining the idea of dating. I’m not thinking about marriage. But I couldn’t fathom why having my relationship memorialized would prevent me from dating or marriage.

It wasn’t long after this conversation that Jonathan slammed me with it again, but this time, Genevieve was there to encourage him. He asked me again about dating, and told me I should because I need an adult to talk to.

Another primary care doctor visit and after checking in on any health concerns, he asks if I’m dating. When I said no, he told me I was a young attractive woman and I should go find a man. But not one in Winchester, look out toward Northern VA so I didn’t find a redneck. I guess he didn’t know Ghon that well, and that a well-visit really checks on all well-being.

There have been iterations of this post, or at least parts of it, in the making for months. I have countless notes, half written posts, or short quips about interactions I've had with people since Ghon died about the potential for me to date. It’s interesting to see how time changes perspective.

In the last few months, I've noticed something I'm not sure I ever thought would happen. Different times, different places, different situations and different tactics employed. If it has happened in the past, I can't say I've noticed until now. Men were paying attention and showing interest in me. Am I acting differently? Has the unspoken period of 'respect the widow' been lifted? This is just, well, weird. And maybe a little exciting.

After a while, I did start to think about dating. Over the last 14 months there have been times the idea absolutely terrified me, nauseated me and overwhelmed me. Recently however, there have been times that I wish I did have a date once and a while. Someone to go out with me when I want to dress up or feel particularly pretty or confident.

I’ve had mixed reactions from friends regarding me and dating. They vary from "you are awesome, go date, find someone to love and appreciate you!" to "no one will want to date/marry you" (yes, really) to "oh, (insert dramatic pause) you aren't thinking about dating already are you?"  Let me tell ya, I've had all those thoughts myself, but never at the same time I hear them from friends and acquaintances. 

Yes, I am awesome, and I don't need a man to tell me that. But it's pretty nice to hear. It would be nice to have someone, an adult someone, to talk about my day with. To just kick back and relax with. Someone that appreciates me for me.

And yes, no one will want to date me because, well, I'm becoming more and more independent. I don't need a man to open jars or carry heavy things. No one will want to date me because my kids keep me so busy, I'm almost always unavailable. While I’m independent, I do also think I can be a touch needy, and who is going to want that? No one will want to date me because they won’t know I want to date because I don't go out to meet guys that need dates. (Go ahead and read that again if you need to.) I don't have single friends and I'm not going out alone. It's a vicious cycle and as an over-thinker, I will over think every scenario.

Have I already started to think about dating? Yes. Yes I have. If you think I should spend the rest of my life alone purely because my husband died, well, you can stop reading my blog. Am I looking to replace him? Find someone like him? No. There is no replacement, there is no one just like him. How do I know I'm ready? I tested the water and felt no guilt.

Few people know that I have actually spent a lot of time talking to and occasionally hanging out with one person. The best part of our relationship is just what Jonathan said; it’s great to have an adult to talk to. (Maybe I should just take all my dating advice from him?) He encourages me to keep figuring out what I like, what I want, and basically who I am. He challenges my way of thinking, introduces me to new things, and isn’t afraid to hear my point of view. We share our experiences, fears, and maybe a few plans and dreams for the future. He compliments me, helps me (whether I admit I need help or not), and does little things that mean a lot. There is a lot we have in common; and many things we don’t.  

Despite this, if you shook the magic 8 ball and asked about our future, it would probably come back with “try again later.” Most days, a romantic relationship doesn’t seem to be always be in the cards for us, timing often working against us, and that is OK. We gave dating in a more traditional sense a try for a very short time (I think it holds the record for my shortest relationship ever – talk about an ego killer at the time), but it just didn’t work. Regardless of any future potential for more, the main thing is that I still have an incredible friend in my life who isn’t afraid to hear me talk about Ghon, thinks I should date lots of guys until I find one as amazing as me, and vows to run off any losers I do try to date in the future. If we are both old and single, we have laid out some basic retirement plans together.

I can't really imagine him not being part of my world right now. I wouldn't trade his friendship in for anything. It was due to our friendship that I even began to see the possibility of loving someone else again. And because I know he reads my blog, and will understand this – 🌟🌞, I JUST love you. Thank you for being you and tolerating me.

Now let me back up and note that I’m not soliciting marriage proposals here. I still don’t know if I ever actually want to be married again. I would however, like to find someone that I can share my limited free time with. The kids and myself will always come first. But sometimes, I just need adult interaction and well, I’d like it to be a guy. This is also not a solicitation for sex. M’kay? Sometimes a girl just wants to be in a man’s company and maybe get some cuddles.

Now that I’ve cleared that up, as I’ve continued to learn more about who I am and what I want as a single parent, single woman, and though I don’t like to admit it, a middle-aged single woman, I want someone to do stuff with. Someone that shares some of the same interests as me. Someone that may not like what I want to do,  but is still willing to go somewhere with me because I want to – and would ask me to go with them to someplace maybe I would not be regularly into. Why? Because we enjoy not just the company, but the company of each other. I’d like more of that encouragement, support, thought-provoking conversation, and someone to share my day with and in time, maybe someone to grow old with. I don’t want to be a third wheel, I don’t want to be a pity invite, and I don’t want to be a crazy old cat lady when I get older. I don’t need to be anyone’s top priority; but a priority would be nice.  Balance.  I crave balance.

I mentioned before the book about moving from we to me. It suggested I identify what I want in a future partner and after a few quick thoughts, I came to two conclusions. He either did not exist, or, he was going to have some other serious issues, like being a serial killer or something if he wasn’t already married.  Back to the drawing board.

Qualifications for dating me:

1.     You must like kids. My kids are a little crazy, a lot of fun, and are my world. They had a dad; you don’t have to be him. You will never be him. But, that doesn’t mean you don’t have to be a role model, play Xbox, play catch, watch their sporting events, maybe watch them when they are sick, and support and guide them as they grow. If you’re in it for the long haul – you have to appreciate and respect them, as I’d expect them to do for you. Not only must you like my kids, you will need to respect my relationship with my biggest kid, my stepson. Our relationship did not die when his father did; if anything, we grew closer. If you thought your days of seeking a father’s approval for dating a girl were over, think again. He’s not my father, but I seek and respect his opinions. He is one of my trusted guides as I consider dating.

2.     Honesty and respect are key for me. Do not lie to me. Do not lie by omission. If you do, there is no trust. No trust means no future. I’ve had my trust violated in the past, so bear with me as I learn to trust again. Respect me, my feelings, my opinions, and my decisions. Respect that I’ve been married and I will talk about my deceased husband. Respect my time. If you regularly can’t keep commitments, I am not likely the girl for you. I enjoy spontaneity, and can do some things on a whim, but life with kids means I schedule, a lot. If I’m making time for you, it’s more disruptive to cancel plans that it can be to make them.

3.     Like music. Like live music. Go see shows with me, on any scale.

4.     Have a life; but appreciate sharing it with me. If there is something I want to do different in a relationship, it’s being comfortable doing my own thing, having a partner that is comfortable doing their own thing, and doing many more things together. You are probably going to be close to my age – so I hope you have your own interests and hobbies. I don’t want to change you or them, nor do I want to change me or mine. I want my life to be enhanced, enriched, and more fulfilling as a result of a relationship.

5.     Make me laugh.

I have several well-meaning friends tell me that I deserve someone great and fabulous, that I have so much to offer, I’m a great person, never settle. It makes me wonder then why haven’t I found someone to spend even a little of my time with.

I also know that I’m at a disadvantage when it comes to meeting people.

I’m not into hanging out at bars, and certainly wouldn’t go alone. I’m not asking any of my married friends to go hang out at a bar on a Friday night with me. One, it’s that third-wheel thing again, and two, I could care less about drinking. I think I’m approachable, but then again, maybe I’m not. Once I know you, I’ll talk your ear off. Until then, I’m not the best at starting conversations with strangers, even in a professional/networking environment. The whole idea makes me uncomfortable. I don’t go out much, because, again, I don’t have anyone to go out with.

And no, at least not at this point in time, am I not interested in any online dating sites.

I’ve come to realize unless a guy is a single parent with a kid in the same extracurricular activities as my kids or potentially at work; I’m never going to meet him. Unless I already have and just don’t know it. As much as I’d like to find someone to do stuff with, I also find the idea of dating a little exhausting.  I’m not looking for potential blind dates out of this post, or a bunch of “hey you should meet my brother/cousin/friend” either. I’m a firm believer in when the timing is right, and the person is right, even if right for a period of time, our paths will cross. Until then, I'll be working, mom-ing, and listening to my music. And maybe shopping for a red dress