Saturday, January 30, 2010

Full Moon Dreamboard - Light

I've done some vision board collaging in my journal before, but this is the first time I have participated in Jamie Ridler's Full Moon Dreamboards.

However, I wasn't feeling much like the old magazines/scissors/glue method today. Instead I opted for looking through my photographs to see what stood out to me today. So here is my first Full Moon Dreamboard:

From left to right: the sunrise Thursday morning, the sun on a cloudy winter day, and the stained glass windows of a church on New Year's Eve.

Light is playing a big part in my life right now, which became even more clear to me as I gravitated to these photos. I'm learning to shine my own inner light without fear and without expectations.

To see what others are dreaming about, visit Jamie's post.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Saying Goodbye to Grandpa

Just when I thought I was fitting back into my day-to-day routine, life threw me another whammy.

My grandpa died last week. It was a complete shock because he hadn't been having any serious health issues. I'm still stunned and finding it hard to believe he is gone.

Grandpa was still really active. He just turned 86, yet he had recently been helping a new neighbor with some home renovations. He had fixed the church organ which hadn't worked in years. The church thought it was a lost cause, but grandpa spent many hours taking it apart and reconstructing it until it played better than ever. He was singing in the church choir and standing at the door to greet the congregation every Sunday. He worked and he gave until the very end.

Last Wednesday he was helping my uncle with a project. He was fine one minute and the next minute he sat down on the garage floor saying he wasn't feeling well. My uncle took him to the hospital right away. From there, he was transferred to another hospital for tests. The next morning he was being helicoptered to a heart hospital for emergency surgery on an aortic aneurism. A few hours after surgery he died.

I'm heartbroken. He was a wonderful, funny, and kind man. He and my grandma just celebrated their 63rd anniversary. That kind of love doesn't happen often, but it happened for them.

I remember visiting them every summer when I was growing up. When I was still in elementary school, I slept in a little side bed in my grandparents room. One visit in particular my grandma snored the whole night and I asked my grandpa the next day how he could sleep with all of that snoring. He said, "Well, I kind of like it. It lets me know grandma is still with us."

Grandpa always had an answer for everything and that one has stuck with me for 25 years now.

I had just taken my husband and stepson to meet my grandparents last summer. I'm so glad that we made that trip. If we hadn't, they never would have seen his big, goofy smile and witness grandpa's love for his family.

My grandpa was a devout baptist. He loved his family and he loved his church. I have no doubts that he made it to those pearly gates.

I miss him.


A week ago today I arrived in Florida 14 hours after the death of my grandpa. The next five days were a whirlwind of activity as the entire family worked together to arrange services and comfort one another.

None of us were prepared for this loss. It will take some time to figure out how to go about our daily lives with this void in our hearts.

The one thing I'm not sad about is that grandpa got his money's worth out of this life. He remained active, stayed busy, and lent a helping hand until his body gave out and, as he would have said, the Lord called him home.

I miss him a lot. I'm also sad for my grandma who is trying to figure out how to be "just me" instead of half of a "we."

I wrote about his generosity and his perfect answers on Too Many Toasters- my blog about families. Read it here: Saying Goodbye to Grandpa.

Grandpa was and still is an inspiration to me.

Now, go hug or call or write to your loved ones. I sent my grandpa a birthday card two weeks ago and I visited him last summer. Looking back now, I'm so happy I did.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Third Grade Journal (Another Working Mother Wednesday... plus some)

It's amazing what you come across when you're cleaning the house. Like really cleaning. My husband and I found my stepson's journal from third grade. One of those black and white marble composition notebooks with a weekly assignment from the teacher.

Oh the things we learned! For instance, if my stepson were to be a superhero (circa 2005), it wouldn't have been Superman, Batman, or any of the Justice League figures that adorned his bedroom. It wouldn't have been his current favorite, The Incredible Hulk. He would have been a "huge sgure bunny rabbit thing." We think "sgure" translates to "square."

It's a useful thing to be actually. As he explained it, "I could jump relly far. Also I could ram a lot of stuff." So there you have it.

What would he have done with $50,000? Buy Toys R Us. Brilliant!

This third grade version of my stepson didn't just have a good imagination, he also had good sense. See what I mean by reading his fire safety tips over at the Working Mother Mom Blog.

What do your (step)kids have to say? What superhero would they be? What would they do with $50,000? Are they up to speed on fire safety?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Answering the Sibling Question

“Do you have any brothers and sisters?” It sounds like an easy enough question. Most people answer it pretty quickly talking about their older brother or how they were the youngest of three.

Inside I’m usually answering something like this: “No. Well, maybe. Two, in fact. Yes, two. Or five? It’s complicated. Can you please define brothers and sisters?” Out loud the answer may not be much different.

For some reason, this question has come up several times for me recently and I’m always at a loss on how to answer. Saying “I was an only child” is an option, even if I’m not an only child now. Or maybe I am since my siblings aren’t blood relations and I never lived with them.

And if you count step-siblings, how do you know which ones to count? Do you include the ones you haven’t met? Maybe you count only the step-siblings you grew up with? Only the ones you’re friends with on Facebook?

Let me explain my confusion. I was an only child, right up until I turned 19 and my mom remarried. Her husband has three sons. The youngest one is about my age and I met him at my mother’s wedding and a few times thereafter. I met the middle son once over lunch. The oldest one, I’m told, is in prison and I’ve been content to keep myself out of those conversations. I’ve never met him and it sounds like he’s probably not a nice person anyway.

When I was 22, my dad got remarried to a woman with two kids, both of whom were in elementary school at the time. My step-brother is now a junior in high school and my step-sister is a sophomore in college. I see them a couple times a year when I visit my family. They’re very nice.

In answer to the dreaded sibling question, usually I end up saying that I have a stepbrother and a stepsister. Of course, that sounds a little clunky because of repeating “step” for both. I figure I don’t see my other stepbrothers, so I just don’t count them. If I’m met with a confused stare, I usually explain that it’s the new math and very confusing.

How do we explain our families in today’s complex world? I don’t know… “Next question, please.”

Does anyone else have complicated answers to simple questions? How do you handle them?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Vocabulary of an English Graduate (lots of monster battling here)

I have a degree in English. I should be prolific and insightful and bordering on snooty. Isn’t that how English graduates are supposed to act? I should use big words like… I don’t know. See my problem? I can’t even think of any.

Yet there is this monster that comes up for me every time I read something I feel like I need to look up. This week it was a quote on Havi’s blog from one of her Item! Posts: “I like to… laugh at anything that pokes fun at commercialism, holiday treacle, or extreme reverence.”

“Treacle?” “Reverence?” When I read things like this the monster attacks me with “Why don’t you use words like that? You should know what treacle means. You should be able to use it in casual conversation. You are a disgrace to English graduates everywhere!”

It’s a mean, mean monster.

So when the monster reared his ugly head this week, I didn’t bow to its authority. I talked back. “No, I don’t know what treacle means. In fact, I don’t care. I like the way I talk. I like the way I write, sentence fragments and all. Take your ‘shame on you’ lecture and go pick on someone your own size. I’m just fine here.”

I’ve been doing a lot of talking back these days. Last week I trash talked the universe on Twitter. The other day I practiced changing the thought when the angry monster wanted me to growl at people. Now this.

I’m battling these monsters one by one. I’m done taking their crap. It is their turn to fear me.

I will not change the way I write to match some preconceived notion of what I’m supposed to do. I like to write in a conversational way. I think it’s meaningful. I like inserting my goofy jokes even if no one gets them but me.

I don’t have an ostentatious vocabulary (yes, I used a thesaurus) and I’m okay with that. Moreover, it doesn’t mean I’m dumb or that I’m a failure to the English language.

So to this monster who tries to tell me I’m a dunce, I bid farewell. You are no longer welcome here.

P.S. To the lovely Havi and Liz Enslin- This post in no way reflects my opinion of either of you. I think you are both divine! Keep doing what you’re doing and, dangit, use whatever words are true to you!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Working Mother Wednesday: My Wishes for 2010

Two posts today!  I'm on a roll.

My Working Mother Mom Blog got a bit of a break over the last two weeks.  No more!  I'm ready to get back to routine.

This week I talked about my wishes for my family in 2010: what I wish for me and my husband, what I wish for me and my stepson, what I wish for all three of us.  It was way more exciting to dream those types of plans than to pretend I'm going to exercise more.

Read it here: My Wishes for 2010.  And, tell me... what do you wish for your family this year?

Changing the Thought

Last night my commute home stretched 40 minutes longer than its usual 2 hours. It was 8:00 p.m. when I pulled into my driveway and all of my built up stress began to boil over when I saw the garbage cans still sitting by the garage.

Sometimes I feel my stress turning into anger/sadness/frustration when I don’t even want to be angry/sad/frustrated over the situation. Does that make sense? Do you ever feel that way?

You see, it was garbage night- the night when my stepson is supposed to put the cans out by the street for an early morning pick-up. Like the rest of us humans, he resists the work he doesn’t want to do. More than that, he’s 12 which means, unlike adults who begrudgingly do the crappy chores anyway because we have to, he sometimes doesn’t give them a second thought.

My mind immediately turned this into something bad that I had to do. Not that I had to take out the garbage, it was that I had to go in after a long day and gripe and push and prod to get a stupid little chore done. I don't want to do that.

But as I got out of my car it dawned on me- I didn’t have to go in and immediately harp on my stepson about the garbage. Who says I have to do that? I tried to change the thought (a little trick I learned from Deb Owen’s Creative Pathways course).

I took a deep breath and decided to haul out some of the garbage myself. There was enough there that it would have been overwhelming for my stepson to do by himself, anyway. I left the last little bit so he could still get a star on his chore board for the night and, therefore, get paid for it at the end of the week.

With a milder mindset, I walked in to the house, called out “hello,” and put my stuff down. My husband came running to hug me (I love that!) and my stepson said, “Sherri, I need help with my math homework.”

I whimpered inside with all kinds of comebacks swirling in my head. Again, rather than lash out or speak any of those awful thoughts, I breathed. I looked at my husband and calmly asked, “Will you please let him know I just walked in, I haven’t yet taken off my coat, and I’m not ready.” Then I hung up my coat and sunk onto the couch for a few minutes.

My husband did one better. He helped my stepson with his homework. My mind quieted.

While looking at the math problem he said, “Your dinner is on a plate in the refrigerator with foil on it.” (My in-laws have taken up cooking dinner on the two days a week I commute to New York- yay!) I felt my body relax a little.

As I walked into the kitchen I found my stepson already pulling the foil off and heading to the microwave. I was surprised and felt my body relax a little more.

When I set the timer on the microwave, my stepson was back at the refrigerator asking what I wanted to drink. I could have cried happy tears from the weight being lifted from my shoulders. By the time I finished eating, I was feeling calm and cared for. Almost ready to face the world again.

Once homework was complete, I nicely asked my stepson to please take the garbage out to the street. I let him know there was only one can left. He asked, “Did you take some already?” I detected hope in his voice. Who knows? Maybe he was relieved to have some help, too.

Sometimes the universe (or your family) gives you exactly what you need. I am so grateful for that… and them.

And to my mind who tried to take me to a dark, mean place, I have this to say: I’m not afraid of you. I won’t let you bring me down.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Rough Holiday Break and Bonus Mom Badge

I was at a complete loss for what to write this week. The holiday break was more difficult than I ever would have imagined. This weekend I had to put my dog to sleep after just a few short days of sudden illness. His kidneys and liver had failed and I suddenly found myself having to say goodbye to this one constant in my adult life. I’m sad, lost, and completely uninterested in returning to the normal grind.

With the way 2009 drew to a close and the way 2010 has started, I’m feeling full. During the holiday break alone, the van battery died, my stepson’s allergy to red dye returned with a vengeance, my husband’s “indestructible” tungsten wedding band broke (again), my dog fell ill, and yesterday my car battery died. No more, please.

While I’m not a regular church attendee these days, I remember from my childhood that God doesn’t throw you more than you can handle. He and I must disagree about how much I can handle. If everything happens for a reason, I hope I learn this lesson soon.

Anyhow, as I shuffled around the internet last night awaiting inspiration to strike, I found The Dawson Family blog. Yesterday’s post was written by a lovely fellow Bonus Mom. As I read it, I was surprised and humbled to see she had bestowed upon Too Many Toasters the Bonus Mom Badge. This kind gesture was just the boost I needed.

It’s funny because even though I call myself a stepmom, my stepson refers to me as his bonus mom. What a great title. Thank you Dawson Family! My blog will wear this badge with honor.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Changing Words

Last year I chose a word of the year on Christine Kane’s recommendation. The word I chose was focus. My intention was to use that word to help me focus on one thing at a time, to focus on breaking nervous habits like leg shaking, and focus on where I was spending my attention.

I kept that word in the back of my mind, drawing on it for subtle reminders to put down the cell phone or laptop or to spend some time letting my creativity run wild. It seems to have served me well.

A few weeks ago, I set out in search of a new word for 2010. I started along the lines of simplicity, be, and enough. Then I thought release. I tried it on for size, rolling it around in my mind for a little while.

In my frustration over a dresser drawer that was in disarray, I heard “release” and pulled out clothes to donate that I no longer needed or loved. On a tough day I allowed myself to release past pains and release my fears.

Then the battery on the van gave out. Then my husband’s indestructible tungsten wedding band broke after a small tumble from the counter. (This is the second time the indestructible ring has broken, so it isn’t as indestructible as advertised.) Then, of course, there was the day I dropped the baby Jesus while putting away my miniature nativity set. The baby Jesus survived and I laughed to myself because the word release was definitely showing its down side. The next day I dropped five different ornaments when packing up the tree and I started to think maybe I should go back to the drawing board.

On December 30th, something happened. My dog, Bruno, was suddenly very ill. I made three visits to the vet in four days and this weekend after bleak blood results indicating both his kidney and liver had shut down, I had to let him go. Even as I type this, I’m crying. I strengthened myself for him, pushed aside my fear of all things medical, and held him the entire time. I rejoiced for the nine good years we had together (pretty much my entire adult life). I certainly can’t be sad for that, but I’m sad to have had to say goodbye so soon.

My husband and my friends (who corralled around me with hugs via phone) and I all had to agree release was not the right word for me this year. I’m just not ready for all of the “opportunities” to prove I am able to release. My friend noted that my energy must be really strong, which is good, and that we should put some extra care in choosing a new word.

So here I am a few days in to 2010 without a word of the year. I’m jotting a few down. Feeling how they resonate. I don’t think I’ve found the right one yet. I’ll keep looking. I’m sure when the time is right, a new word will present itself.

In the meantime, it’s still me and Bruno against the world, even if only in spirit.