Sorry this is late, I was at a wedding….

How did I get old enough to have a son getting married? 00000010

How did he get old enough to be getting married?

I can’t say, exactly, how I feel about my oldest tying the knot — bittersweet is the first layer, but there is weeping underneath –I can tell you that our life together is flashing before my eyes, in a good way.

I remember the day after he was born. It was when moms still got a 3 day hospital stay and if you paid for it, a candle lit dinner for two. It was a fair attempt at reestablishing romance, but the donut I sat on was a physical reminder that I was out of commission for a while. Landon and I were alone in our room. I was holding him against me, nuzzling him. Out of the blue he lifted his head away from my chest — I didn’t think new borns could do that — and looked me straight in the eye. In that instant I knew we were in this together. His eyes said, “Here we go mom’”

A couple of nights ago I sat on the deck, alone in the dark, looking at the stars, missing Landon’s youth and my mothering of him. He was a sweetheart and he was a hand full. He took life at full speed, which meant several trips to the ER, firemen pulling him out of a mucky swamp sink hole before hypothermia set in, and looking out my kitchen window one winter afternoon to see a car fly pass with him being pulled behind it on ski’s.

Still, today, I hear stories. He and Jena will decide to tell me about-the-time-when…they pulled the mattress off the spare-room bed into the living room, piled all the couch cushions on top of it, then leapt over the loft railing onto soft heap below. Or when he and his friends jumped, repeatedly, over a bonfire they started in the driveway. Or when he took my SUV off-road. Or…the stories go one and on…

As my first born, most everything I did was an experiment. We were learning together. I taught him know what he felt, what he wanted and to speak up for both. I remember at one particularly difficult stage in his adolescence rethinking my approach, realizing there may be something to be said for the adages, children should be seen and not heard and because I said so…As a result of my parenting style, he could argue like a lawyer. We often thought he would choose that profession. He could out-argue me. And often did. I remember walking away wondering how I ended up saying yes when I was sure I meant no.

And he was a sweetheart.

He struggled with dyslexia and a gluten intolerance — before gluten free was even a term. Together we worked creatively to deal with these issues and they were very hard on him. My heart often broke watching him find his way. I remember one evening, when he was in the 3rd grade, sitting together on the edge of my bed, holding him after a particularly hard day at school, assuring him that it would get better and that I would not let him do it alone.

If I sum up how I mothered it would be that I had my kid’s backs. I read, as a young mom, that my job was to provide a safe harbor for them. That the world was going to beat them up, and they would need a place/person that would provide sanctuary. That was always my guiding principle. I hope they felt that.

So on his wedding day, as we had a moment alone, waiting for all the guests to be seated, I hugged him hard, pulled my head away from his chest, looked him in the eye and said, “Here you go Sweetheart. You have everything you need.”
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Selling the family home…both of them…

I just started a writing class. I am so proud of myself, intimidated and excited. I would never have had the courage to take the class if not for this blog and your wonderful feedback. So thank you, you gave me the guts. 

So here’s the thing…each week I have at least one writing assignment due. Plus a lot of reading. The instructor takes this very seriously, we are going to learn… I wanted the easy version.

Anyway, my solution to not becoming too overwhelmed is to use my assignments as my blog posts. I hope that’s not cheating…I think that it is…but too bad. 

Our first assignment was to make a list, in 3 minutes, of 10 things we recently experienced. On my list # 4 was-went to NJ. There are so many versions of the same story, it is all determined by what we are  focused on. 

So here is another version of my trip to NJ…

 

I met her at the front door with a hand shake and mutual acknowledgement that after all our phone calls it was good to finally meet. I invited her in to see the house. As we stepped into the eat-in kitchen, familiar with mom’s meager attempt to update in the 70’s by covering the red linoleum floor with red indoor out door carpet, she admired it’s spaciousness. She agreed the plywood cabinets needed attention, but liked the amount of storage they provided. I pointed out the washing machine at the end of the counter, reminiscing my young self standing on top of it belting out Hello Dolly while impersonating Louis Armstrong. I even had a handkerchief I patted my not damp brow with. She thought it was an odd place for a washer.

She liked that there was a bath and a half, three bedrooms-my brothers room, with its telltale dark 1950‘s panelling, was used by the original owners as a den. She said she would have to check that the septic system was up to regulation to list the house as a three bedroom house. She also said, a couple of times, the house was deceivingly big on the inside. It looked smaller to her from the street. The deception that filled this house was not new to me.

I showed one other house to a realtor in 2008. It was the 1939 chestnut log cabin home I raised my children in, that my wasband and I built a1200 square foot addition to…ourselves, and that was the love of my life. I felt safe in that house. I described the IMG_2451feeling as “well held.” Selling it was harder than ending my marriage. At night when I can’t sleep I walk myself through the rooms of the cabin often starting in the kitchen meandering my way through each room. I usually fall asleep somewhere between the den and the master bedroom. I do this to comfort myself as well as to not allow myself to forget even one detail of my home.

Showing the cabin was made easier since a neighbor, who had been in the house plenty of times over the past 24 years, was my realtor. I didn’t need to show her around revisiting the painted over trains Landon and I stenciled on his bedroom wall before his sister was born, or the log in the living room with each of our initials carved into it’s surface or the basement where they learned to roller blade while Jena belted out Everybody…Everybody…Everybody…Wants to be a Cat, from the Disney movie Aristocrats.

I was spared salt in my wounds-then, but not this time. I had to show Debbie the linen closets in the bathroom and hallway. The coat closets by each door. The full size basement now empty but full with memories…particularly the now empty space where my brother built a raised, enclosed platform lined with mattresses we called the “sin bin”. He included colored lights that blinked in time with the music of Bread, Simon and Garfunkle, and Steppenwolf.  My first french kiss and full body contact with a neighborhood boy was in the sin bin. I have often since wondered what my parents were thinking when they allowed Rob to develop his carpentry skills in this way? Maybe they weren’t. They often didn’t. He did go on to make a beautiful maple end table in High School shop class. I guess he had to start somewhere.

I showed her the hardwood floors hidden beneath the matted celery green carpet  remembering that I faked falling asleep the day the carpet was installed so my parents would think I was ‘oh so cute’…desperate for their loving attention. Assuring them, as I often did, that every thing was okay. They didn’t have to fight, they didn’t have to drink, because the carpet was so soft their precious daughter could sleep on it.

I pointed out the built in bookshelves/cabinets in the combined living room dining room  that held the porcelain Irish Setter I bought my parents one Christmas. It cost $25.00 which was my allowance saved for five months. It looked just like our family dog that dad threw down the basement steps one night in a rage.

Debbie liked the house. She said it was perfect for a young family or someone down sizing from a Mc mansion. Apparently quite common these days. She loved the neighborhood, the potential of the house and the floor plan. She was excited to sell it. Seeing it through her new eyes, instead of my duplicitous nostalgia, I saw the house with a new life, new loves, and a new family. I understood, walking through the house that looked like always, yet felt so foreign, was my new normal.

Debbie hugged me as she left. I held on to her for a moment too long, she felt like an old friend at this point. The salt of my tears felt healing. I was let go of her and the house at the same time.

With Love,
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Good Surprises

So I am here to tell you, ya just never know.

 

We just have to be open to the next thing that appears.

 

So I am telling myself…as I work with determination and faith to develop a new venture I am alternately thrilled by and terrified of. (Can I end a sentence with of?)

 

I am offering my counsel as a financial wellness coach.

 

I am thrilled because I have been informally sharing with anyone who would listen–and some who would not–my personal financial transformation.

 

After my divorce I decided to I needed to change my relationship with money. I knew if I was going to make it on my own financially I had to take a look what was not working-just like I had done with my ailing marriage. Over time and with a discerning eye it was clear-money and I needed some couples counseling.

 

So, one night, with a bottle of wine, steamed shrimp, cocktail sauce and chocolate for dessert (my comfort menu at the time), I sat myself and money down on the couch. We spent the evening reacquainting ourselves with one another. We painfully sorted through everything, especially what was coming in and what was going out.

 

What made this evening so memorable is that money and I became very clear we both needed more from each other. I needed money to help me have more adventures in my life and money needed me to be pay more attention to it.

 

So we began, awkwardly at first, like dancing with a new partner, to develop our rhythm.

 

This meant learning several new steps. I had to look at long held family dysfunctions concerning finances. I had to treat myself and money with respect…everyday. This meant making responsible money choices. At least once a month I needed to spend quality time with my budget and bills. Finally, and maybe most importantly, I needed to dream and plan my future.

 

The resulting two-step crescendoed into a very specific budget system I call The Best Money Management System in the World (pretentious perhaps, but true!). Eight years later I am living the financial life I dreamed about that night on the couch.

 

I recently shared my journey and my system with some close friends. Their unanimous advice was to teach this to others. “Really? Me teach money stuff?” I countered, “I can’t teach this.” This brings me to the terrified of part of my story.

 

You see I was never a math wiz. Actually, that isn’t quite true. I was good at math until I hit middle school where my 7th grade math teacher hated me. I, in turn, hated him. He was also the vice principal. So while commendations for History and Spanish were being sent home, Mr Small (yes that was really his name) sent home Math deficiencies. He called my mom in for conferences on my behavior and dress. He took exception to the culottes I wore, calling them shorts. Unfortunately for him, my mom had made those culottes and was quite proud of them. Mr Small was sorry he had shared his opinion with my mom. He never commented on my culottes again.

 

He also would keep me in his office all day bullying me into confessing to offenses I didn’t commit. I was a really good girl in middle school. I tried very hard to stay on adults’ good side. My rebellion thankfully showed her brilliant face though by refusing to give in to his harassment. I was determined and I succeeded sitting the full day in his office without showing him any hint of fatigue. He finally gave up, but the damage to my math self esteem was done. I had come to believe I was bad in math.

 

I went on to bomb out on my math SAT’s. I zoned out when I saw anything math related. My first job after college was as a bank teller outside of Richmond Virginia. My friends were astounded. They knew my talent was in talking with people, not banking. However, in Va. I needed a masters to work in the therapeutic field, so I took the job that would hire me.

 

Citizens Saving and Loan.

 

My money drawer never settled. Some days it was over, some days under. Amazingly Citizens never accused me of embezzling. I think it was because they knew I was not mathematically savvy enough to rip them off. At my exit interview my manager Rick commented that my people skills were exemplary. He went on to say that wasn’t so true of my teller skills.

 

He highlighted the day a familiar customer pulled up to the drive thru window explaining she had forgotten her check. She asked if I could give her the amount of the check and she would run the check back later in the day. I had no doubt she absolutely would bring the check in. I also knew first hand what a pain it is to forget your check when you need the cash for your next errand. I considered her request. I trusted her.  I still believe, to this day, she would have come back with the check. Rick didn’t agree. He said, “No.”

 

Today, I am out from under Mr Small’s spell and I understand why Rick said no.

 

Necessity derailed my self-fulfilling prophecy, as it is known to do. I needed to support myself and my kids, I wanted a life with more financial pleasantness and security.  I had to get serious with myself and with my relationship with money.

 

I am writing this on my way to Barcelona, Spain followed by 10 days in the South of France. Places I never dreamed I would be able to afford to visit. I have also been to vacation in Paris, Mexico, New Mexico, Wyoming, Cape Cod and the California wine country in the past 8 years.

 

My ability to travel is a dream come true. My ability to pay for it feels like a miracle, but it isn’t. It is a result of using a very specific budget system that thinks ahead so there is money there when you need some.

 

Who knew?

 

Random Acts of Kindness

Anyone that lives in Pittsburgh knows that going for a walk involves hills. It is the good news and the bad. I love that I have a treadmill right outside my door and hate that there is no such thing as a leisurely walk that doesn’t involve sweating.

 

So it was this morning. The spring weather has me ditching the gym and heading out over the hilly terrain of Pittsburgh to get my heart rate up and, hopefully soon, my butt in a favorite pair of summer slacks. On my last leg of my route is a very steep hill. As I looked up from the bottom, I prepared myself mentally and physically for the climb. I found a favorite song on my ipad, jacked up the volume, dropped my focus into my hips, made sure my feet were fully meeting the sidewalk, took a deep breath and started up the hill. Whew, half way up I decided there was no shame in stopping against a railing to rest. As I rested I noticed the neighborhood, smelled a cigar-couldn’t find the culprit-and noticed two cars drive past me going down the hill.

 

I started the second stretch. I was tired and not sure I wanted to, or could, do it. I remembered going into labor with Jena, my second child. When I got into the full throes of labor I said (well shouted) to my husband, “I changed my mind, I don’t want to do this.” I fully expected him to say okay and we would go home. We didn’t.

 

The also remembered was when I was leaving my marriage. I would go to the gym and run (I am not a runner) on the treadmill. I would think I was going to die. I would tell myself that if I could survive 5 more minutes of running than I wouldn’t die leaving my marriage. I ran those 5 minutes. I didn’t die. I felt more confident, so I ran 5 more telling myself, “If I can run 5 more minutes without dying…” I ran 30 minutes this way and successfully ended my marriage.

 

So it was with me and this hill. If I could do this hill I could survive anything. And, since every alternative route home also involved a steep incline, there was no backing out. Halfway up the second stretch a women in a Honda CRV pulled up next to me and rolled down her window. I wasn’t sure I could talk to give her the directions she must be stopping to ask me. Then it occurred to me, wasn’t she one of the cars that just passed me? I stopped walking and looked in through the open window.

 

“Do you need a ride?” she asked with concern.

 

I instantly had a visual of how tragic I must have looked plodding up this incline and felt ashamed. Gratefully, as quickly as my shame reared its disabling head, it was replaced by how touched I felt by her kindness. She had turned around to check on me.

 

“Bless your heart,” I said between gulps of air, “but I am going to do this!”

 

“You go girl!” she responded.

 

I did. I conquered that hill, with her encouragement and kindness inspiring me all the way.

 

Encouragement and kindness. I think that is all we need.

 

Thank you, woman in the CRV.

BUTT

I have been mad at my body lately. Maybe most of my life. I was too tall as a girl in the 60’s-so I slouched. My mom would instruct me to, “Stand up straight” then she’d exclaim, “You’re soooo tall.” Relatives would ask her what she fed me.

 

My mom was 5’2. I was 5’10” in middle school. After 20 years of marriage at age 42 I put on a pair of high heels. My husband said, “Oh, now I know why you don’t wear heels, you are really tall.” I didn’t put another pair on until we separated several years later.

 

I was also called “fatty Patti” by my brother and neighborhood kids. My mom countered with, “NO YOU ARE NOT!”, then refused my request for a piece of her freshly baked chocolate cake she. (My friends now call me Patricia, it doesn’t rhythm with fatty.) Continue reading

The Honeymoon is Over

We are headed out of PLT. Back over the rutted road, past the cattle, flocks of sea birds and palm groves. I saw what I thought was an ant eater run off the side of the road and into the bush.  I have never seen an ant eater for real, only on Mutual of Omaha’s WiId Kingdom, but if memory serves me, it was an ant eater. So later when I saw movement on the side of the-sorry excuse for a-road, I perked up.

 

“What is that?” We both looked carefully as Tom slowed the car down. It was a tiny brown puppy. Continue reading

The Honeymoon HEATS UP in Mexico

 

We are in Mexico at a resort that is a full hour off the main road. Let me be more specific. The main road is a two lane country road about 20 minutes from the last small village. The road to Playas las Tortugas is a rutted out dirt road that passes through mango and coconut groves, pastures with cows and bulls that have beautiful coats that glisten in the sun and are standing with bright white egrets. An occasional flamingo flies over the now dust encrusted rental car. A Jeep Patriot. In the brochure this is to be a 15-20 minute trip into the settlement.

 

Before leaving PA. we received an email explaining this road had been washed out due to the rainy season. Therefore it was suggested we rent a high clearance vehicle. That meant the car rental fee went from $8 a day to $40 and the travel time quadrupled. (Really, you can rent a mid size car in Mexico for 8 bucks)

 

I was driving this leg of the journey from Puerta Vallerta. Tom kept complimenting me on how well I was doing. I am not sure if he was referring to my driving skills; avoiding moon size craters in road, pulling over on this one lane road to let locals pass in their full size pick ups with smiles that suggested Stupido Gringas or not becoming hysterical.

I drove this stretch of road without putting my foot on the gas pedal. We traveled at the speed idle. When I did press the gas, out of impatience and shame, I feared for the axles, tires and paint of the rental. The man at Thrifty Rental made it very clear, in his broken English, that we are responsible for every ding and scratch incurred. The woman with the camera taking detailed pictures of the car from every angle increased our paranoia. An hour later, we drove onto a cobblestone driveway and into the gates of Playas las Tortugas. I was tense trying to be relieved. Continue reading

Where have I been?

Getting married.

 

I thought since it was a second marriage it wouldn’t be much work. I was wrong.

 

Some of the difficulty was me. I changed my mind about “THE DRESS” 3 weeks before the wedding- which led to changing Jena’s maid of honor dress, which led to changing our previous shoe choices, which, of course, led to the changing the flowers we planned to carry. (More about all that in another post.) The truth is, planning a wedding, regardless of the number, is a ton of work! Ask a bride.

 

Part of the problem was Tom. (He knows I am telling on him.) His “party planning” style is “last minute and trust the outcome”. The first party we threw as a couple was his idea, he wanted to have an engagement party. “Okay,” I said to myself, “I know how this worked in my first marriage. Let’s have a party translates to, you make a party happen and I’ll come.”  So I said to myself, “Patricia, you know how to plan a party, work yourself to death, make sure everyone has a great time and then feel resentful that you did it all. So, this time don’t take the reigns, wait and trust the outcome.”  (I was consciously monitoring an old, habitually destructive, relationship pattern and challenging myself to rework it.)

 

So, a week before the engagement party, no menu had been discussed, no beverages purchased, no paper products considered. 3 days before- nothing. 2 days. 1 day.

 

I began to reassure myself that my side of the guest list would still love me when we served them freezer burned hot dogs and filtered water. They may not come to another party of ours, but they would still love me. I worked with myself to not to feel resentful by picking up the party ball but to remain interested in this absolutely foreign style of  party planning instead.

 

The day of the party we woke and had our coffee together in bed as we do each morning.  As we finished Tom said, “So…. I guess we should get shopping for the party.” “Yes”, I responded a little too casually, “I guess we should.” We headed out the door at 1 in the afternoon with Jena in the back seat of the Honda. She had come in for the party that morning. As we drove down the road she overheard Tom and I creating the shopping list. At some point it became clear to her we were not running to the store for a few final items, we were on our way to get EVERYTHING. “Mom,” she said, a bit quietly, “This is really unlike you.”

 

Out of the mouth of babes! “Yes” I smiled, feeling a bit proud for being noticed in this new way and equally uncertain I could maintain it, “It is.”

 

By 4 o’clock we were home with all the food, drink and paper products of a good party. We went to Costco and bought prepared hors d ‘oeuvres, cheeses, dessert and paper products. Then to  the state store and finally the beer distributor.

 

In my past life, any party I hostessed everything was homemade.  That was my expectation of myself. It is what a good hostess did. As a result of this I admit I felt a bit of shame popping the prepared puffed filled pastries into the oven, defrosting the bite size cream puffs, and pulling a party together in a few hours versus a few days, maybe weeks. But I was learning, right?

 

Our friends arrived. The party got rolling. The food came out. I held my breath, adverted my eyes, and waited. Lisa, my corseted renaissance  friend,  wanted my recipe for the spinach and cheese filled puff pastry. The cream puffs were a huge hit.  Everyone ate heartily, drank merrily and stayed until late! I had never had such fun at a party I had thrown. This was a revelation to me. If I am not exhausted I have a good time at my own party. WOW, I had indeed learned something new! And Tom was spared my rendition of “poor me I worked so hard.” I had been spared too. We stayed up most of the night talking about what fun we had, how much we enjoy our friends and wondering when we would have our next party!

 

So Tom’s “last minute, trust the process” style has worked well for our parties.  But… not so much with the wedding. I told him, “I don’t want to do the wedding like our parties, there is too much to do, I want to plan ahead.” You know where the story is going….don’t you?

 

Much more of the wedding was last minute than I liked. I wasn’t as gracious about it as I had been with the party… Tom would agree. I wrestled with discerning, “what are my belief systems, perhaps control issues, and what it the reality of securing wedding venues. Where, when and how do I push and where, when and how do I yield.”

 

These questions kept me honest and my therapist busy (every therapist should have a therapist.) I learned how to push without anger and yield without resentment. Some of the time.

 

Yielding was the hardest for me. I had to not only trust the process, but Tom too. I learned he cared about things differently than me, but that did not mean he didn’t care.  By waiting and trusting, we found the PERFECT place to be married.  If we had followed my style, which in some ways is fear based, we would have missed this opportunity.

 

In the end, a week before the wedding, I got sick. My body insisted on rest, and I wasn’t listening, so she knocked me off my feet and put me in bed. Again, I had to yield and again I had to trust Tom to be there for me and for the last minute wedding details. He was.

 

Long story short we had the wedding of my dreams! I didn’t want the night to end. Our friends are still saying it was the best wedding they have ever been to. We married over looking the city of Pittsburgh in an amazing home. The weather was perfect. The food amazing . (Catered by Chrissie not Costco.) The people we love most were with us. And Tom and I are now happily married.

 

you may now kiss the groom

I trust the outcome.