Thursday, December 30, 2010

New Year, Same Me...

Tired eyes stare back at me in the foggy mirror. I shake my head, lean in, hands firm on the edge of the bathroom counter and say out loud to my frustrated self: “quit being so damn hard on yourself.”

And there it is. My New Year’s Resolution.

It’s that time of year again. Intent on becoming a “better” version of ourselves, we vow to eat healthier, work out more, scream less, get along, donate, listen, learn, try… and on and on.

This I do not need. Granted, I can definitely stand to make improvements, just like anyone else. But, I was right that morning I spoke to myself in the mirror. I am too hard on myself. If I say nothing else about my thirties, it’s that I have become the woman I was meant to be all along. I am a better friend, a better mother, daughter, sister, ex-wife, employee, writer, student, teacher… I also eat better than ever before. None of my meals is picked up from a “drive through” window. I attend boot camp three times a week. I have spent the past year working hard to get published, and have succeeded – times three.

Nevertheless, I constantly berate myself. I question my actions, my words, my work ethic and my parenting skills. And I wonder. Whether I’m making the right decisions, whether I’m too lenient or too strict. And I am consumed by a mother’s guilt compounded by my Catholic upbringing. I feel guilty about not making it to Mass every week, and every so often, missing one of my son’s many soccer games. I’ll say it one more time: I’m too hard on myself. I need to learn to be content with who I am.

Every day, I get three children out of bed and off to school. I give 100% at work, and then some, fielding calls and emails from my own clients at lunch time for freelance writing work. After work, I pick up kids, sign papers, get homework started, shuffle kids to soccer practices and religion classes and prepare dinner. I run the washer the dryer, and the dishwasher. If it’s cold, I start a fire in the fireplace (yes, a real fire, no flipping of a gas switch in my home), make hot cocoa, and sometimes cookies and milk. I give baths, kiss boo-boos, rake leaves (or mow the lawn or shovel the snow), read bedtime stories, and pat backs as my children drift off to sleep.

I might spend a few stolen minutes writing, and after a few weeks, I’ve got another article or essay ready to send out for possible publication. It’s not a boring life. In fact, I should be damn proud of what I accomplish every day. It’s about time I start realizing that, instead of worrying about how I could have handled a fight between my kids better, or finished a freelance assignment quicker, or got to work a few minutes earlier.

This year, I will try to smile when I see that fiercely independent, healthy, successful, 38-year old woman eyeing me in the bathroom mirror. This year, I will reach my own arm around and pat myself on the back for a job well done. This year, I simply resolve to be.

Do you have a New Year’s Resolution? Or do you simply resolve to avoid them altogether?

Here’s to a healthy, joyful New Year at the end of which we can look in the mirror and be damn proud of the person looking back ; )

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Footsteps in the Dark

I just love a good book.

I’ve seen this one in the bookstore on several occasions, but for whatever reason, passed it up for different titles. Finally, after weeks on the Best Seller table, I bought a copy of “The Girl With the Dragon Tatoo.”

This is a good book.

It’s been awhile since I’ve stayed up past midnight reading, but I simply could not put this one down. If any of you have read it, there are a few awful parts. The other night, I was reading one of these, and decided I’d better close the book and get some sleep before I gave myself nightmares. I turned off my bedroom light, slid under the covers, and waited for my eyes to adjust to the dark. There is an alarm key pad right next to my bedroom door. And I noticed, the minute I lie down, that the light went from green to red. Mind you, I am a single mom with three kids, but it was midnight. They were nestled all snug in their beds (sorry, couldn’t help giving a little nod to the season), right?

A split second later, there was a shadow looming over me, and as my eyes adjusted the shadow turned into the shape of a man. I screamed. I didn’t yell, I didn’t cry for help, or grab the bedside lamp and knock it over his head. I screamed. Just like a pitiful, helpless creature in a B-roll horror flick.

“Mom, it’s me!” Yes, it was my thirteen year-old son. Who stands 5’8” now, and in the dark, looks like a man (where did my baby go?!).

It took me a few minutes to recover from that one.

Last night, I skipped the reading and went straight to bed. I was in a deep sleep when I thought I heard footsteps. I opened my eyes to see my son, his head peering cautiously around the corner of my bedroom door. “Mom. It’s me,” he whispered as loud as possible, “don’t scream!”

I belted out a laugh instead.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Christmas = Love

An old highschool friend posted something the other day on Facebook. It touched me.

Actually, she’s not an “old friend” although I do know her from highschool. We weren’t really friends, in fact we barely knew each other. Which isn’t saying much, because at that time in my life, I barely knew myself. But, as time does, we both became the people we were meant to be (I suppose I can’t speak for her. As a matter of fact, I see the same girl in her that I saw those 20 some odd years ago), and now I see her through a grown woman’s eyes. And I like what I see.

But I digress…she posted a video on Facebook of a young woman and her father singing and playing piano, respectively. They had written a Christmas Song entitled “Where’s the line for Jesus?” It’s a very touching song about all the children waiting in line to see Santa. But if Christmas is the day of Jesus’ birth, then, where, the little boy wonders aloud in the video, is the line to see the birthday boy? Isn’t it He whom we should be lining up to see?

I feel frustrated in the weeks leading up to Christmas when I see the stores putting up all the Christmas trees, jolly Santa Claus decorations, twinkling lights, etc. And the throngs of people who celebrate the holiday, yet have no religious ties to the season. How dare they, I think. They don’t even care about the real reason for all of these decorations.

But something occurred to me this morning…All these people are excited. They are buying gifts for loved one, looking forward to seeing the surprise and (hopefully) delight in the eyes of the receivers. They are preparing food, making Christmas cookies with their children and extended families. They are decorating their homes together, spending time together as a family. And on Christmas day, whether they believe that it’s the day of our Lord’s birth or not, they will come together, sharing gifts, enjoying each other’s company. They will be reminded, for a short time at least, the joy in giving, the joy in sharing. And maybe, just maybe, they’ll feel grateful, and thankful, for the family and friends in their lives.

The reason for this season can be culled down to one word: Love.

Looks like God might know what he’s doing after all.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bittersweet News

I've been having some good luck with getting published recently. Yesterday I found out that my story "A Healing Friendship" will be published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: My Dog's Life. The book will be out in stores next April. It's an essay about the profoundly special relationship between my middle child, Jack, and our dog, Biscuit.

Jack was thrilled, and actually got a little chocked up, over the news. It's bittersweet for me.

Biscuit has been through so much in her 8 years. She was injured at the age of one, had two surgeries by age two, and then, due to a life-threatening infection, had to have her left, hind leg removed. Since then, she's had several additional surgeries...infections, skin cancer, a cancerous tumor and a procedure to flush out a severe case of pancreatitis.

A few weeks ago, she began falling down every time she'd get up to walk. Her one remaining hind leg seemed to have lost all its strength. Over the past few weeks, her condition has gotten progressively worse. A visit to the vet yesterday confirmed that the problem is neurological. She won't get better. In fact, she'll get progressively worse. I can't put Biscuit through any more surgery. And her quality of life is nowhere near what it should be.

Dr. Mike (her vet) told me I have a tough decision to make. Biscuit can't run (or even walk without help), she can't play, she can't even stand at her food dish to eat without me holding her up. My heart is breaking, but I know that I can't let Biscuit continue to suffer. Talking to my kids - especially Jack - is going to be difficult, to say the least. I pray that we'll all get through this, and find peace in the knowledge that we love Biscuit enough to let her go.

I will be taking lots of pictures of our beloved Biscuit this week. A black and white close up of Biscuit and Jack, along with a copy of the story of their friendship will make a great Christmas gift.

The news from Chicken Soup couldn't have come at a better time. Writing has always been cathartic for me, and getting a piece published brings with it a great feeling of accomplishment. This time, it's a blessing. Not just for me, but for our whole family.

If you've got any words of wisdom, advice or prayers...I'll gladly accept them this week.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

3.3 Weeks and Counting…

As per usual, the past couple weeks have been full of ups and downs. But, I think, more ups than downs have been recorded, so I am feeling good today. On a personal note, yesterday was tough, but worth the fight, and I finally feel as though I’m in a good place. I’ll leave it at that. AND… Lots of shopping accomplished, thanks to that miracle invention…the Internet.

UPS delivered 10 copies of Chicken Soup: Shaping the New You to my door last night. My essay “Taking Care of Me” is on page 346. That’s the second CS book this year. My good friend, Linda O'Connell, also has an essay in this book. I am very proud to be in such incredibly talented company! Linda, I met you at a time in my life where everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) was changing. You have been such a role model to me. I value your advice, your wisdom and your friendship always.

And this morning, the December issue of Sasee Magazine came out, featuring my latest article, “Empty Case, Full Life.” You can read it here:

Sasee is a women’s magazine distributed throughout South Carolina. Another shout-out to Linda for introducing me to this magazine. The Editor is very selective, but if you’re interested in publishing credits, and want your articles read by more women… visit the website, request the editorial calendar and get writing! They look for feel good pieces written by women, for women.

But I digress… back to shopping. Just a few things left to buy for the kids, and then on to the rest of the family and I’ll be done!

Don’t forget to carve out a little time for yourself in all the hectic preparations for your holiday.