Good things

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Updating the November column from my 2012 series Adventures in Single Parenting.

At times it’s been hard to be thankful over the past few years. That’s selfish and whiny, I know, but it’s also the truth. While I’m always grateful for the big things like family and friends, a job and shelter, there are a few little things that have brought me happiness and helped make big life changes easier.

Music. Whether I want to scream or cry, laugh or dance, music is the way to get myIMG_8760 emotions out when I can’t speak the words. For getting my girl power on, it’s “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyonce. When I just want to sit and cry, I play “Happy Ending” by Mika. And when I want to dance and laugh and feel good, I crank up “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. Studies show that music affects mood, and it’s true. Listen to “My Ding-a-Ling” by Chuck Berry – I dare you not to laugh.

Books and movies and TV. Alone on Christmas Eve 2011 while my daughter was with her dad, I watched “Midnight in Paris” and dreamed of living in the days of Hemingway and Fitzgerald, sharing a glass of wine, wandering the City of Lights, and writing a book that would be loved by millions. IMG_0726Recently, I’ve resurrected my love of wrestling – yes, that “fake sport.” While the outcomes are predetermined, after having sat second row at a live show, I can say that the performances are in no way fake. Watching on TV is great way to escape reality for a couple of hours: I pretend Dean Ambrose is taking out MY frustrations on his opponents.

Red lipstick. I love red lipstick. Wearing it makes me feel pretty, even if I’m wearing a baseball cap, jeans, an old T-shirt, and my Buddy Holly glasses. I couldn’t tell you how many I have … glosses, mattes, balms, pencils, stains, even a compact. Two in my backpack, one in my purse, one in my truck, several in my makeup toolbox. Crimson Joy to match my Alabama sweatshirts, Dynamite to go with my Braves T-shirt, Chunky Cherry to complement a winter coat. I’m constantly searching for the perfect red. Until I find it, I’m happy to experiment with Romantic, Alarm, and Red Diva.

My 2003 Ford Explorer. There are crayon stains on the ceiling above the back seat where a certain toddler played Picasso on 2-hour trips to speech therapy. The CD is home to a gremlin that will no longer allow CDs to enter, the cruise control no longer works, and I find a small bit of oil in my parking spot every day, but my Explorer still gets me where I want to go. Whether it’s to visit my brother and his family in South Carolina, to a boyband concert in Nashville, to hang out with my parents in my hometown, or pick up my girl from school and head to a movie, the old Explorer helps me change the scenery whenever I need it.

What’s that old saying? God is in the details. It’s true, and I’m grateful for the small things that make my life more fun, more interesting, and more satisfying. What little things keep you going?

JBJ is always there

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You say you’ve cried a thousand riversJBJ2008
And now you’re swimming for the shore

I was thinking about this video on the way to work this morning as I sang along to I’ll Be There For You. I taped it from MTV and watched it over and over and over … when it comes to Bon Jovi videos, this one is tops for me. Probably because Jon looks so fine in the brown leather pants, the shirt unbuttoned to his navel, and that hair, oh, that glorious hair, and because I wanted someone to feel that way about me:

I’ll be the water when you get thirsty, baby
When you get drunk I’ll be the wine

Those are some of my favorite song lyrics. Even as a teetotaling 17-year-old, I loved the imagery. Someone loving you so much that he gets a high just from being with you? Back then I understood “getting drunk” as acting silly, giddy, and having fun while nursing a wine cooler. (As an adult, I’d learn more than I’d ever want to know about what it really meant. I’ll expand on that in a later post.) “Getting drunk” was something college kids and grown-ups did, not something high school me did. I just loved the metaphor. And still do.

Twenty-four years later, I could still watch the video on repeat, only now I can see Jon and his leather pants in high-def on my 42-inch flat screen. YouTube through a Blu-Ray player is an awesome invention. <clicks play>

Best weekend in a long time

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Riley and I spent Memorial Day weekend at my parents’ and it was good for my soul. Friday night, Momma, Riley and I went to visit Granma at the nursing home. I showed her some of Riley’s dance pictures and we had a nice chat. She’s doing pretty well.

When we got back to Town Creek, Daddy built a fire in the portable fireplace and Riley roasted “smarshmallows.” Or burned them. We sat around the fire and listened to Daddy talk about camping out under the stars when he was growing up, and about him and Momma fishing down at the creek when they were a new couple.

We also laughed about our camping gear when we were growing up. We had a shell on top of Daddy’s pickup and he created a makeshift bunk bed in the bed of the truck. My little brother Michael and I slept on twin mattresses on top of a plywood board anchored above the truckbed, and Momma and Daddy slept underneath on a mattress in the bed of the truck. It worked. And we always had fun.

Saturday, I got up early and went for a walk around the neighborhood before everyone else awoke. Then we spent the day at Jordan’s pool, celebrating his high school graduation. We ate BBQ, baked beans, pasta salad, buffalo dip, broccoli salad, corn on the cob, squash, and O’Charley’s rolls. And we swam. And laughed. And enjoyed being together to celebrate Jordan.

That evening, Momma, Riley and I went shopping at Target. And we stopped by Georgia’s on the way home, where they were putting a new liner in their pool. They finished up around 9:30 and we went inside and watched “A Dolphin Tale” (Riley loved it) until nearly midnight. I love days like that … no drama, no stress, just enjoying the company.

Sunday, Riley and I threw the softball and played volleyball, Daddy vacuumed out my truck, and Momma taught me and Riley how to play Rook. Momma and I beat Daddy and Riley. That was a lot of fun.

On the way home, I stopped by to see my best pal Kristi at her mom’s house. Her daughter just turned 21, so Riley and I had to swing by and wish her happy birthday.

After getting home and unloading all off our stuff, Riley’s dad came and picked her up. My friend Kim came over and we hung out on the patio until midnight, laughing, downloading music, and talking over a couple of beers.

I love my family and friends. They love me for who I am and who I’m not and what I can still be. They’re the best.

 

 

Saturday Night and the Single Mom

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Here’s my latest column for Birmingham Parent.

Saturday nights used to be my favorite time of the week. After a day of fun, we’d be settling down for the night, looking forward to one more free day before heading back to school and work. Now I hate Saturday nights and bedtime. I feel guilty about what I did or didn’t do while Riley was with me. (Riley’s dad picks her up on Sunday mornings, and she’s with him until I pick her up after school on Wednesdays.)

When Saturday night rolls around, I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about everything I did wrong. Am I the only mom who feels this way? How do you stop the guilt? How do you balance “mean mom” with “fun mom”?

Did I tell her enough that I love her? Did I yell too much because she wouldn’t clean up the paper clippings and glitter after an art project? Will she smile thinking about cooking chicken burritos together? Or will she cringe because I got frustrated after telling her for the umpteenth time to brush her teeth?

Enjoying life with my 10-year-old is my goal – I want our days together to be more satisfying and less frustrating. More calm, fewer arguments. Of course, I know every single minute will not be a party. What’s fun about your mom making you put away dishes and laundry or making you write your spelling words three times each?

Lately, I’ve been focusing on taking a deep breath when I get frustrated instead of yelling. I admit it: I yell a lot. I’m not proud of it, and I’m working to chill out because hollering only makes it worse for both of us: Riley’s feelings are hurt, and I feel guilty. And the dirty clothes are still on the floor.

Maybe we should pull out the old chore chart again. She does what is on the list and gets rewarded with her chosen prize. Or she doesn’t do her jobs and faces the consequences. Dirty clothes not taken to the laundry room? Don’t fuss about your favorite shirt not being clean. Markers and glue sticks are missing? You should’ve put them away before I put them in the “earn it back” box. Either way, I stop yelling about it.

Besides, I try to balance the “boring” days with small outings at least once every week. We have season tickets to our local children’s theater and a standing Friday night dinner date. And during the week, we watch a couple of “Big Time Rush” episodes after homework, or she does my hair. Sometimes we just sit with my laptop and laugh at a slideshow of her old baby photos.

One Saturday night soon, I’ll be able to to drift off to sleep easily, knowing that even though I’m not a perfect mom, Riley understands that I have to be both “fun mom” and “mean mom” in order to be a good mom.

Girl trip!

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Riley and I took our first mama-daughter trip two weeks ago during her Fall Break, and we had a great time. The only thing we argued about was what music to listen to … we compromised by using headphones (her) and plugging my music player into the truck’s radio. There’s just so much Selena Gomez and “Shake It Up” that a mama can take!

We made the 7-hour trip to South Carolina to visit my brother, his wife and their two boys. We were treated to baked spaghetti, barbecue cups and sausage balls as well as trips to make ceramics (see photo at left), shopping, and the pumpkin patch. And I finally got to see Charleston, thanks to my sister-in-law who willingly made the 2-hour drive just so I could walk around and snap pictures.

The boys were tickled to see Riley, and she was so happy to see them. They played Wii, ran around the house on stick horses, and read books and played with Little People playsets. Riley and Lincoln even made a “gingerbread” Halloween house, while little Griffin napped one day.

At The Mad Platter, we made gifts for my mom, Riley and Lincoln made a bat and a snowman, and Robin and I made handprint platters. It was fun to do something I wouldn’t normally do. Robin picked up our creations last week, and she said they look great. Can’t wait to see!

I think the kiddos had the most fun at the pumpkin patch that had a pirate ship on the playground. They were excited be able to run around and yell and “walk the plank” and fight the bad guys who were trying to take over their pirate ship. We also saw some goats, ducks, an ostrich and a little Shetland pony at the petting farm. Of course, Robin and I loved the great photo ops we got.

Our last day was spent in Charleston, walking around admiring the houses on Rainbow Row and the Battery. We had a picnic in Battery Park, chased the kids underneath the old trees and watched them climb on the Civil War cannons and cannonballs. Lincoln and Riley pretended to be fighting the battle, carrying cannonballs to the cannons and “launching” them out to strike imaginary invaders on the sea.

We walked downtown and looked through the vendors at the Market, which apparently used to be where slaves were bought and sold. The history made me squeamish – I still can’t wrap my brain around why people thought treating humans as chattel was OK.

Today, the Market features beautiful woven baskets, handmade jewelry, souvenir T-shirts, and photograph and other artwork. I bought 4×6 photos of various objects that spell out Riley and my names, and I’m looking forward to framing and hanging them in the living room.

The trip ended with my brother Michael and I hanging out in the backyard by his fireplace, listening to the high school football game down the block, and reminiscing and planning and dreaming. We might not agree on everything, but I love my little brother and times like these are the best.

Riley and I had a wonderful trip, and we already miss them! We don’t have to wait long to see them again, though, because they are coming here for Thanksgiving, and we’ll celebrate Griffin’s second birthday. My house will be filled with laughter, love, and my family.

 

 

Happy Birthday, Riley!

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Riley turned 10 on Monday! I cannot believe I have a 10-year-old. 🙂

She celebrated with a sleepover (the five girls were loud and fun), a Justin Bieber cake, pizza, and ice cream. Her dad and I got her an iPod touch, and she is thrilled. She has already downloaded Angry Birds and Ninja Fruit. And she and I are having a blast with FaceTime. It’s a cool feature from Apple, and I look forward to using it more. She thinks it’s hilarious to FaceTime me when she’s in the kitchen and I’m in the living room.

I love that she is technologically savvy but not too savvy. We keep a close eye on what she sees and hears online and what she plays. She doesn’t know any passwords to buy or download anything. And it’ll be that way for a long time.

When Riley was born, she made my life infinitely better, and my love for her is one that can never be measured.

 

 

When is it OK to move on?

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What I've been doing

Has it been long enough? It’s been more than a year that I’ve been on my own … which isn’t long at all seeing that I was married for 15 years.

Is it OK to admit that I miss not a specific person but companionship? Having someone to hang out on the couch with, to watch cruddy preseason football with? Or should I pretend that being lonely is just fine?

Is there a timeline for getting back out into the world? Do I want to try it again? Not marriage. Heck, no. Just someone to watch football with, go to a movie, get coffee, catch a concert, have a beer, hang out. Maybe more, maybe less.

I do get lonesome sometimes when Riley isn’t here. The house is so quiet without her energy and joy that I just turn on the Braves while I read or write or unpack all the boxes I packed when I thought I might move.

Of course, I enjoy many aspects of my alone time. If I want to go out with friends, I go. The bathroom counter space and walk-in closet are all mine. I can stay up all night reading. My razors are lasting quite a long time. Obviously, there are some benefits.

Still, though, as the great Bruce said, we all need that human touch. Even me.

Justin Bieber is cute. My girl watching JB? Cute overload!

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Last night, Riley’s BFF’s mom and I took the girls (and BFF’s little brother) to see Justin Bieber’s Never Say Never 3D. I went into it expecting your typical cheesy Disney/Nick platitudes and overprocessed pop, and was pleasantly surprised. It wasn’t any of that.

It was good, and I came out a Justin Bieber fan. Seriously. The kid can sing and he seems to be a good boy. He exudes happiness on the stage, and he appears grateful for his opportunities. I particularly loved Justin’s grandparents, who helped his mom raise him. His grandfather tears up when describing the day his daughter and grandson left Ontario for the U.S. It’s touching.

The best thing about the whole night? Watching my daughter and her friend freak out over this cute little pop star. “Ohmygosh, we can touch him! Ahhhh!” they said when we got to our seats in the theater. The two of them, nodding their heads to the beat, wearing their 3D glasses was a priceless sight.

It reminded me so much of myself in my early days of discovering musicians and music. For me, it was Shaun Cassidy, then Bon Jovi and New Kids on the Block in high school up through today and Amos Lee and Jonathan Tyler & The Northern Lights.

My friend McLovin said it best via Twitter: Musicians. They start stealing our hearts early and never give it back. They just get new faces.

She is so right.

Rock on, baby girl! Never lose your love for the beat. 🙂

Blue Christmas

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Every time I’ve come here to write, I’ve decided against it. But today’s the day. I’m going to talk about what’s been going on the past five months. But not in too much detail. Details suck sometimes.

I will be a single mom probably by the first of the year. Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you’d planned. Sometimes two people just don’t fit together anymore. It hurts, but it’s time to move on and start a new life.

Y’all know how much I love Christmas, from the lights and trees to presents, shows and music. So this year, three of my favorite tunes – “Blue Christmas,” “Please Come Home for Christmas” and “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” – certainly apply to my situation. I love these songs whether I have someone to meet under the mistletoe or not.

While it will be sad that the three of us won’t be a family at Christmas, I won’t be singing these tunes about the past and love lost. I’ll be singing them and I may brush away a tear or two, but I’ll be doing my damnedest not to be sad and blue. I have Riley to make it bright and shiny and new and happy.

And I’ve got the rest of my family and friends, a job I love, my writing, a roof over our head and food in the fridge. And it’s Christmas! So while my happiness might have a little blue around the edges, it’s still going to be merry and bright. And I’m grateful for that.