Friday, December 31, 2010

Peaceful New Year

I've been talking a lot lately about finding more accurate words than striving for "happiness." I don't know why it took me so long to find it; I've even used it here before: Peace.

Peace of heart and mind: knowing that things aren't perfect, but you're heading in the right direction.

Peace in love: appreciating all the love there is around you from friends, family and even in the kindness of strangers.

Peace in work: outside of the home, inside the home, whatever it may be, but knowing that your days are busy making meaningful contributions.

Financial peace: accepting that most of us aren't millionaires, but knowing that we are doing the right things with our money.

Peaceful home: okay, so having kids makes this one extra challenging, but striving for the sounds of laughter and joy, and understanding that in tears, there is usually some progress being made in our little ones' development.

Peace in soul: being present and giving to those who need us.

Wishing you all a peaceful 2011!!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Something Else I Learned in 2010

Even though I haven't participated in F.A.B. Fridays here, I've still been doing the work. I'm developing better routines, better habits. Especially financially. It's not all coming up roses just yet, but there is steady, slow progress.

I am also working on the guilt thing. I don't suppose it'll ever disappear completely, but I'm learning to work through it and focus on what's best for me, when possible. I'm being careful to make sure no one else gets hurt or anything, but I'm also quite proud of myself for not going broke buying a bunch of presents because I thought I "should." I couldn't afford it, it wasn't what was best for us, so I didn't. I didn't go crazy over the girls either, and they were perfectly happy with what they got. And combined with all the presents they got from everyone else, they felt it was the "best Christmas ever!"

All in all, I'd say this year we got what we gave. I'm not just talking about gifts here. I'm talking about how much effort, energy, and care we put into areas of our lives. Sylvia's hard work in art and dance has been paying off so far. The relationships that I care about most are strong and beneficial to both parties. Frankly, we've been getting back far more than we've been giving, but we have been giving, too. We just give in our own ways.

I'm learning how to give how I give best, and to graciously accept offerings. Not just in terms of $$, but in accepting help, advice, learning from what people have to teach just in the way they live their lives. And becoming a better mother, friend, and person for it.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Christmas Past v Christmas Present

It was my 2nd Christmas as a single parent when a lovely friend gave me cash with strings. The strings were, I had to spend it on me, not the girls, and it had to be for something I wanted, not needed.

That year, I really struggled with that. I wanted to use it for groceries. Or child care, or another present for the girls. I could think of a hundred ways to use that money, but came up absolutely blank for something for just me. I don't actually remember how I used it in the end, but I remember the stress of it!

This year, another dear friend did the same thing. This year, I'm not feeling anxious about it. This year, I can't wait to go to Nordstrom Rack and buy myself some new clothes! (Well, I can wait long enough to not go the day after Xmas; that's just crazy!)

It does seem rather ironic that I no longer stress about being selfish. I did stop long enough to ask myself if that really was a good thing. But hey, at least I can follow directions now!

Of course, it could have something to do with the fact that my mom and I were perusing scrapbooks from Christmases past and saw my same outfits over and over again! Guess it is time for some new apparel to go with the new 'do!

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday! As we head into the New Year, let's all remember to be a little selfish every now and then. Especially if someone gives you money for it :)

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In Lieu of Blogging

I stole this idea from Jeff at View from the Cloud, but just in case you've been wondering what I've been doing with myself these past few months, here is what I can remember anyway.

In honor of my friend that is fighting cancer, donated 11 inches of my hair to Locks of Love.

Took my girls to see The Nutcracker for the first time. They both loved it. We did not love the people who sat behind us, after coming in LATE, and the child talked all through the first act, while the MOTHER kicked my chair...we moved at intermission.

Attended 3 holiday parties in two days. At one of them, a very sweet older woman was stroking my hair (obviously, before the locks were cut). It was mostly strange because she didn't ask permission first, which I totally would've given! Oh, and at another party, one woman went off about how much she didn't like the Toy Story movies. Are you serious? Do you HAVE a heart?

Discovered AccuRadio and their multiple Broadway stations!!

Moved office locations. Very strange because for once, I've had the same home address three Christmases in a row, and the office has been the one constant in the last 7 years. Adjusting. Very, very slowly.

Celebrated with Sylvia. Along with the Peace Poster win, she just won a scholarship that will pay for her dance classes and clothes, etc. up to $2,500! Why yes, I am very proud, thank you!

Attended PTA meetings, PAC meetings, helped out at a few events, gone to a few luncheons, gone to my leadership classes, read books for the leadership classes, accomplished all of my Xmas shopping online (even remembered stocking stuffers this year), taken the girls to see Harry Potter (or, as Riley likes to say, HP7), survived a parent teacher conference, survived Sylvia's finals, took a tour of a high school, solve challenges like how to be in two places at once (be at neither place), attend a happy hour night, a girls' night out night, negotiated agreements with government agencies, cut monthly expenses, slowly but surely paying down my credit cards, obsessively check my bank account balance, discovered Leverage, took the girls to Disneyland, laughed with the girls, cried with the girls, struggled with the girls, worried about the girls, think about the girls, talk about the girls, talk at the girls, talk to the girls, listen to the girls, try to teach the girls, learn from the girls, get mad at the girls, make up with the girls, love the girls.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

10 Lessons Learned in 2010

This isn't in any type of order, and I'm sure I've already forgotten some important things I learned this year. Hopefully, some have already become so ingrained that I forgot they were revelations; some, I will just have forgotten and have to learn again sometime.
  1. Integrating the past into the present can be scary, but it is so worth it
  2. As important as communication is between parent and child, sometimes, silence can accomplish so much more
  3. It shouldn't be a surprise to me, but it still makes me happy that Sondheim was right: Children do listen and learn.
  4. With a little time and perspective, what were once thought of as necessities really aren't. The girls have been out of therapy for over 6 months now, and yet, they are still growing, still healing, and still becoming stronger people.
  5. 7th grade can be survived.
  6. The quickest way to brighten my mood is to listen to Broadway musicals. For years, I've been operating under the assumption that I have to watch the news in the morning. And then I'd leave the house frustrated with the state of the world. It started with listening to my latest Glee purchases and my days start off "so much better." (Can you name what musical that's from?)
  7. The girls and I are pretty good at heavy lifting. We've accomplished a lot of furniture re-arranging, just the 3 of us. But I was most impressed when they moved their own beds without me!
  8.  I need to get my blogging mojo back. It's taken me 3 days to write a post of 10 things!
  9. Goals are scary. But thinking in terms of 5-10 years down the line is possible.
  10. I was reading Take the Cake about balancing life, and the way the steps were broken down were exactly the way I'm living my life right now. So what did I learn? That I'm doing better than I thought I was at this whole balancing act. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Success and Happiness Don't Last

I was asked to define success recently, and I just couldn't. I mean, sure, I know the basic definition of success. Success is achieving a goal. But do I consider my life successful because I've attained a few goals along the way? Of course not, because there are always more goals along the way. And re-defining goals, and yes, even failing a few. Does that mean I'm unsuccessful? No, and I'm not a failure because I haven't succeeded at absolutely everything.

My X likes to say that happiness is an unnatural state of mind. I think a more apt way to put that is that happiness is like any other emotion: it comes and goes. Sometimes I'm happy, sometimes I'm not. If someone asked me if I was happy with my life, I would say yes, but I think it's an oversimplification of what true happiness and joy is. If we're happy 24/7, then how could we appreciate it?

Balance, I should say, is also not achievable. It's a great goal because it allows us to shift and re-focus as necessary, but no one's life is ever completely balanced. Routines can feel comforting at times, but at others, they can feel stifling. The sensible approach is to shift the routine a little bit in order to make room for other goals, other pursuits.

I was reading a book about how to achieve balance, how to segment goals into tiny reachable steps in order to reach those goals. As I was reading them, I have to say, I'm pretty proud of how I'm doing when it comes to looking at my life that way. And to feel validated like that helped alleviate some of the guilt that was stifling me a few posts ago.

So at this point, I would say that the thing I can attempt to sustain is feeling like I'm making progress. To know that I've made progress in my work, with the girls, in getting stuff done allows me to relax in front of a TV show or a book with a sense of accomplishment. It's tempting to re-name this blog It's All About Progress, but I'm still going for that unattainable balance in order to keep progressing. As once was brilliantly said by that genius Stephen Sondheim, "well, what's the point of demands you CAN meet?" (Merrily We Roll Along)

The point is to just keep going.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Finding Peace

This is Sylvia's award-winning peace poster. The girls and I are on one side of a cracked heart, and their father's on the other. Sylvia placed a band-aid with peace symbols over the crack.

The contest was about peace, both universally and personally. Obviously, Sylvia chose the personal side. Even since creating this earlier this school year, she has found even more peace with the situation. She has come to accept the idea that our family can never be "repaired" in the sense of Mommy and Daddy getting back together, and even agrees now that it shouldn't happen. She is still coming to terms with the idea that her father will never be a part of her life in a true parental role. (Not because I wouldn't allow it, but because he simply is not capable.)

It's bittersweet that she would receive such recognition for this very personal piece. She obviously touched the heart of the judges, but of course, there's that pain of wishing she didn't have to experience any of this at all. I choose to concentrate on my pride for her.

Accepting situations for how they are, accepting people for who they are; these are things that have never come easy for me and I still struggle with them. In some ways, I think it's a worthy struggle because we should all try to be better, but sometimes, we do have to let go. That is much harder for me than it is for my girls. I am in awe of their strength of character.