Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Not the only one to feel THE HAND in feeling thankful

I've been super busy with life (I know, who isn't) and have two or three posts hanging in the "drafts" folder waiting to be finished. But just now, I read a post from one of my all time favorite bloggers and radio personalities, Sheletta. She shares my perspective on keeping a thankful heart, and she's brilliantly funny.

In case you missed her recent post, you can link to it here: "In all things, be thankful"

And then, once I get passed this weekend of hosting Easter and shopping with my sister for some slightly more hip "attending a wedding" wear, I'll work on finishing my languishing posts, all the while being thankful for all that I have, love and know.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Rediscovering Love

I tagged along with my husband during a trip to Puerto Rico. The trip consisted of quite a bit of down time, along with a perfect array of tours to see historical sites and different ecological variations that this tropical island holds. I had never been anywhere south of Florida before this trip, and never been to any Spanish speaking nation before (the west side of St. Paul doesn't count).

So I am a 37 year old mostly stay-at-home mom. I work out by walking the kids and the dogs, not at a gym. I have housed two huge babies, birthing them through two crazy c-sections so my body is battle-scarred. I also come from a mixture of northern European nationalities, all of which consist of peoples who thrive in the cold weather (and who apparently are covered with what I would consider less-than-feminine body hair). So, though I do believe that I am beautiful, I am far from any magazine cover.

My man and I have been together for the last fifteen years. I was never committed to any man before I met him, and I have never faltered in my commitment to him since we met. He is my best friend and all that mushy stuff. He loves me in such a crazy way that I never doubt it will last a lifetime.

All that said, I do enjoy witnessing the beauty of other men. Being raised on a steady diet of Benny Hill, Monty Python, Vicar of Dibley and such fine British comedy, my rather lewd sense of humor takes over and I fall into imagining people nude while I wait for life to get more interesting. No one would ever know, especially since I've realized that I have, for the most part, become indistinguishable from the crowd of other SAH moms that drive generic minivans filled with the required 2 or more young children to the routine destinations of the grocery store, preschool, church and playgroups. If anyone would ever care to extinguish their own feeling of sex appeal, live my life for a month. I've been living it for the last five and a half years. There are many days where I am amazed that my husband can see anything sexy in anything I do or wear. But my dirty-little-secret acts like a buoy of hope in my sea of a-sexuality. And then, I arrive on a six day trip, sans kiddos, to a beautiful tropical destination with my amazing husband...

The island has a definite rhythm to it, maybe being so close to the Bermuda Triangle has something to do with it, but it's there. Along with being free of my obligations to my life back home, I was immediately swept up by the pulse of the island life. And so many of the men there are beautiful! Having lived my whole life in Minnesota, the land of the pale and the blonde, walking around in a sea of dark, handsome men was a little more than I could handle. I spent the first few days just enjoying all there was to see and do beside my husband. We had a blast together, like we usually do. But while he was being "Band Director Guy" with his students, I had time to sit back and enjoy the view. And my "dirty-little-secret" just made me blush. Seriously. I've really gotta break that habit someday.

As my "soft" little self walked around, I had no intention of attracting any attention. I haven't done so back home for ages, so it never crossed my mind. But then, Puerto Rican women are known to be blessed with "junk in the trunk" and apparently curves are much beloved by the men there. Whoo Hoo! I suddenly felt so sexy that I was giddy. The husband loved it (to his defense he gives me compliments all the time, which I usually brush off) and I noticed that my walk changed, along with my attitude about myself.

The day before we flew home, we were sent out on a catamaran tour around the smaller islands that surround Puerto Rico. I wore my new one-piece suit that takes 10 minutes to put on because it does so much work for you. I was nipped and tucked and ready for some sunshine! I took two motion-sickness pills too, just in case, because there would be no turning back for my sake with two boats full of high school students and the adults in charge of them.

We met our Captain, Arturo, and his First Mate, Willard. Arturo was cute in a Campbell's soup kid sort of way, and Willard looked like he just stepped off the stage of either a Latin music tour or the set of a sailing calendar photo shoot. I know, the things I put up with for my marriage!

Two minutes into the trip, I started feeling sick. I had Willard filling cups of ice for me while I sat back and tried thinking settled thoughts. Nothing seemed to work very well, and I resorted to sitting on the deck of the front of the boat. (I've never been on a sailing vessel so I have no idea if it's the Poopdeck or what.) The 360* view and the fresh air helped tons and I started having a great time just sitting. We anchored in a bay so those who wanted could go snorkeling along a coral reef. I took great shots of my man in the water, swimming happily close to eels and all sorts of fish.

We pulled anchor and everyone on the boat moved all around. I had company for a bit from my husband and the other adults aboard, but I had a good time being calm by myself. Then Willard came and sat right next to me. At first I thought I was in his way, and he was being polite before asking me to haul my butt somewhere else. But then, he started chatting me up. Like I said before, I've been with my husband for 15 years. I hadn't had that much experience before him, so I am not any smooth sort of flirt. I tried to nudge my connection to my husband into our conversation as much as I could, but it seemed Willard either didn't care or didn't understand. I had the most exhilarating 5-10 minutes of conversation, knowing full well that I was more-than-happily married and knowing that this gorgeous man was flirting with me. His sailing duties called him away and my husband came up to sit next to me again. But that 5-10 minutes with Will (doesn't that sound better?) will be a moment I think back to for ages to come.

Now that I've been back home for a bit, and have had some time to get past the initial exhilaration and move into a mild giddiness, I know that this trip did more than give me a change in scenery. This trip gave me a chance to renew my love of myself: body and all. I had lost that during these years of marriage and children. It had been so lost that I never even thought about it as a loss, but now, I've rediscovered my mojo and damn it, I've got my Groove Back!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wondering what's on the Horizon?

My husband, the wonderful man who agreed to spend the rest of his life with crazy old me, is also a fabulous high school band director. He works around the clock to make the quality of his teaching better; in kind, making the experiences of his students richer, the environment of the school better and the connections to the community (and outside it) stronger. And I don't just say all that because I love him (true but not the point).

So right now, I live in Minnesota, the land of my birth. And we are in the crapper with school and state budgets. Those who've been on the line or out of work from other professions know just how terrible it feels to be "let go." Being a band director is always a tenuous career. Fine Arts are never at the top of a school's educational requirements, even though they surely make the educational experience richer and more fulfilling for everyone when they are included. I feel for the administrators who have the burden of choosing which educational areas in each school will lose out. That's exactly what's happening right now. So many livelihoods that bring joy and richness to the educational experience are being "cut" out of the budgets, in big part simply because our governor refuses any compromise on his motto of not raising taxes. (He's from my own home town and he's a dinkus.)

Where is all this going? Husband called me today, while I was driving my late self and the Toddler Queen to pick up Mr. Monkey Man from preschool. Husband shared the news, his position at the high school he works at this year (and for the past 7 3/4 years) will be 1/2 time next year (or a .50 position). He's not sure what else he'll be doing in the district. He may well be able to fill in the remaining .50 of his full-time position with other teaching assignments in other schools. His seniority level is such that he SHOULD be able to do that, if the staffing cuts do not go that deep.

We've talked about this over the last few months. What would we do if his position was cut fully? What would we do if it was "trimmed"? What job could I take that would help and not just go to pay for childcare? (which is one factor in my current SAHM position- I am an Early Childhood Teacher by profession so my paychecks have always been small)

I don't want to share any of this with Mr. Monkey Man. My father was on strike for 9months while I was a young child, and I loved that my parents kept their financial stresses off my little shoulders. So I will just work on keeping our expenses low, I guess. I already make my own household and laundry cleaners. I take the kids to free or super cheap activities. I do my best to stick to a grocery budget. I shop consignment and thrift stores for cute clothes for the kids and I. I cook dinner & plan for dinners at restaurants. I even save stamp money by sending bills out through my bank. If I could cut my own hair without looking like the crazy person I often feel like inside, I totally would, just to save the cash.

As much as we are stressed about all this, I do understand fully that we are so fortunate. We have a home that we can currently continue to pay for. I am able and willing to seek additional employment, and I was fortunate to be raised to know that jobs are just jobs - your pride should never limit what job you will take. My children are old enough for me to feel safe putting them in the care of others, if we need to. My husband will still be employed. We have loving family close by who can help. We are all healthy and have good health care coverage, if only for the next few months (worst case). The love we have for each other has only grown over the years, and it will help us get through anything.

And God has something amazing in store for us. As a nation, I've witnessed a new focus on family happiness, good health and helping others. I know that so many families are broken and scattered because of all this economy crap. I pray that those families find ways to be safe and to make it back to a better life. But I do find my heart thankful that the "need" for constant materialism has waned and we are waxing into a happier state of life. I just wonder what will be ahead for us, oh, and I hate waiting.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Thankful in a stronger way today

My two kids have had the flu over the last few days. Anyone who has held a young child as they emptied their stomach understand how horrible that experience is. The little ones have no understanding of what is going on and when it all might stop. They feel terrible in every way and have a small understanding that the adult(s) comforting them can do little more than that. I have done my best to keep a positive outlook - my kids rarely get sick and I find that to be a rare and wonderful gift. (I'm sure they do too).

I was able to meet up with longtime friends to do some really fun planning for the baby shower for the first child of a mutual friend. We enjoyed a fun dinner, catching up, sharing ideas, planning for a celebration of new life and the connections we all had to so many experiences of the past. I was overflowing with joy that night.

I began to drive back home, enjoying my last half hour of being away from home, knowing my husband had the children lovingly cared for and safe. My minivan was filled with items my friend was letting go of, as her family had redecorated their basement. I noticed a woman with a stroller at an intersection of the busy business road I was traveling on. Then I saw that she had two older children dressed for the early spring Minnesota weather, bundled in warm coats and boots. I didn't realize the oddity of this at first, as I usually drive on this road during the daytime. I looked at the clock on my dash: 10:27pm. I had a first reaction of distaste that this mother would drag her young children outside so late at night.

But then, I realized with great assurance that NO mother would do this unless she felt that she NEEDED to. This mother is weighing on my heart today. That she is living in circumstances that cause her to choose a late night walk on the sidewalk along a busy road as a safer or better option than staying inside, wherever she is living. I have been praying for her so much today. That she will find a safer, more stable home for her young family. That her children are aware of just how much their mother loves them. That she will be connected to people who can connect her with the help she surely needs. That I can be more aware of ways that I myself can be of service and help to the people that cross my own path. That my strengths and abilities, my connections and awareness may be put to use to reach out to those whose lives are on the edge.

I am thankful that this young mother was so careful with her young children; lovingly guiding them down the sidewalk. I am also thankful that I was able to notice her and be inspired to find more ways to help.