Time

We all have the same amount. Each day, we are given 86,400 seconds, which is 1,440 minutes or 24 hours, until the next day. We reboot (sleep) and do it again…

Until our time runs out

How we fill our time is what differentiates us. You’ve heard do as I say and not as I do? The way to gauge a person’s values is to look at their bank records, and their calendar. Sometimes I’m proud of what they say about me, but I don’t even want to look myself at other times, and I certainly wouldn’t let anyone else see them.

If time with my family is important to me, I have to schedule it. I have to invest in it–with my money, my time, and my effort. If self-improvement is a priority, I have to invest in it. Most of us have careers or at least jobs to support us, and we spend varying amounts of time and money in the pursuit of education, training, and just plain working. There are also the requisite adult activities, including paying bills, cleaning, shopping, cooking, laundry, etc… But none of these things take up EVERY second.

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I just finished an extended time of studying in preparation for an exam. New rules were promulgated by USA Gymnastics in May and I have been studying specific parts of the rules in preparation for the exam I took last month. To make time for this creaky old brain to absorb some of the information, I had planned study times. I made flash cards. I used computer programs, made spreadsheets, color coded my notes and diagrams, cried, called friends and mentors, searched the internet for study aids and hints, ate chocolate, lost sleep, studied in my car, skipped activities, and began practicing yoga.

While studying, I worked a full time job, paid most of my bills, spent time with my kids, took two trips, maintained my yard and tiny garden, and did all the regular adulting required of single moms. However, I consciously spent time each week studying.

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In the process, I also found creative ways to avoid studying. In this same time period, I put down flooring in two bedrooms, traveled to Texas one month and to Florida and Georgia another. In the last month, I cleaned out my pantry and repainted it. I also revived my Twitter Account, played on Facebook, and updated the books I have read or want to read on Goodreads–nothing vital, but great ways to expend vast quantities of time in lieu of studying.

God has graciously granted me time each day, each week, each month, and each year. I pray I’m not wasting it. A precious family just lost their daughter–she has no more time. They can’t go back and spend a single moment with her. All they have are the memories.

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I want to live so that I have no regrets if tragedy strikes. I strive to maintain good relationships with family and friends so I won’t wish I had said or wish I hadn’t done…if it was our last time to together.

I am setting and achieving short term goals to improve my life. Time Management is so important, yet I let urgent tasks supersede the important. For now, I’m focusing on spending time intentionally in priority areas while also scheduling time for fun, because if it isn’t on my calendar, it doesn’t happen.

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PostScript–I failed the test I studied for all summer. (See Previous Post–I FAILED, but I’m NOT a Failure.)  I am studying again and praying that I do better next month!

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I Failed, but I am NOT a Failure

A grade shows how you did on a particular test on a given day–it neither measures nor affects who you ARE as a person. However, most students don’t feel that way, and I got a painful reminder of that fact. I just received the results from two exams I took last month for Women’s Gymnastics, and I failed both.

I know in my head that I didn’t pass, but I feel in my heart that I AM A FAILURE! That’s what kids feel when a grade or performance doesn’t meet their expectations, or those of their parents, teacher, or coach. If I’m having trouble separating the fact of not passing from the feeling of being a failure, how much more difficult is it for young people who don’t have the depth of knowledge and experience to help them sort facts from feelings?

In my defense, I studied a lot for this test over the summer. I was familiar with the material, but hadn’t mastered it by any stretch of the imagination. I’m not even surprised I failed. I fully anticipated failing, and had already begun organizing and planning my studying in preparation for a retake.

If a colleague hadn’t passed, I would remind her that these are all new rules, and that she is very new to judging. I would remind her that most judges have years of experience and that many of them have to retake tests, so she is in good company. I would never condemn her for not achieving her goal on the first try, but I have no problem berating myself for the same thing.

The almost overwhelming sense of worthlessness that threatens to drag me under is unsettling. I am more than a score on any test. I am more than a grade on a paper, or a test, or in a class. My value as a Christian, a mother, a friend, a sibling, or a person does not hinge on any test.

I pray I can remember how personal this feels the next time one of my children is upset by a grade. I hope to help them separate the fact of the grade from the feeling of failure. I also need to learn to give myself permission not to be perfect. I don’t expect perfection of others, and won’t hold myself to a higher standard.

I know this is a good Life Lesson, but it doesn’t feel good. It reminds me how much I depend on my feelings, which can be so deceptive.

What Makes You Happy?

I love the time spent in the car with my kids. They feel more free to talk and ask questions where they can’t be overheard and there are fewer distractions. Recently, my youngest was in a talkative mood, and she loves to ask rapid-fire questions. If I don’t respond quickly, she moves on to her answer or another question or topic, but the question that stuck in my mind was this:

“What made you the HAPPIEST in your whole life?”

As a Christian, I know the answer should be when I committed to follow God. As a mom, I know my answer should be the birth of my children. I don’t “should” on myself, so …. what, when, where was I the happiest?

As a teen, I can remember flying across the Lake on a slalom ski and experiencing pure joy! On the best days, I got up before my siblings so I could be the first one on the lake. My mom or dad would wade into the water to throw me the life jacket, rope, and ski, then get all set to take off. When I was set, the engine would roar to life and then I would step onto the ski as the rope reached its limit. There would be a moment of uncertainty, wondering as I committed to the ski if I was balanced and had timed my take-off to glide across the water or would fall into the frigid water and have to shiver while the boat circled back for another try. On those early mornings, the lake was smooth and shone like glass and I could ski as long as I wanted before signaling to return to the shallow water where we began. On good days, I wasn’t wet above my knees. On other days, I was drenched from head to toe and the wind and water were chilly, causing my teeth to chatter, but it was a risk I was willing to take for the EXHILIRATION and JOY of skiing early in the morning on the smoothest water. (And bragging rights for the day.)

I remember those scenes so vividly. As an adult, it’s harder to remember the times when I’ve been deliriously happy. Maybe I’m so blessed and have had so many wonderful times that they blur together and it’s hard to distinguish ONE memory. My happy place is in nature, so snow skiing, camping, and the beach would be among the top collective memories. I can also remember the day I was awarded my first national certificate in sign language interpreting and spinning in circles with a friend who helped me celebrate!

As an adult, I also see the flaw in the question. No THING makes me happy. I choose to be happy. I choose joy even when my child is in ICU. I choose to be happy despite disease, illnesses, surgeries, divorce, death, depression, broken vehicles, money problems, etc… I can have hours, days, and sometimes weeks that STINK! There are more problems than hours, it seems. I can choose to be mad, angry, frustrated, sad and depressed. OR I can choose to tackle the problems without letting them steal my joy.

That’s the choice I have. It is to deal with the situation with grace and love and joy, or let the “problem” overwhelm me and steal positive feelings such as happiness. I’m so grateful to have learned that I can be happy even when circumstances aren’t great. I am glad I’ve had many chances to practice living joyfully despite the situation.

James encourages us to “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. ”  (https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James+1&version=NIV) I wouldn’t have written this verse–why do I want to be HAPPY about the bad stuff? What Can I possibly learn from the struggles? But my Heavenly Father, who is wiser than me,  tells me to survive with JOY!

I’m still working on JOY, but I don’t fall into deep despair and gloom when trials appear. I’m practicing the joy. I feel like a grad student at final exam time sometimes–ready for the testing to be over, but the tests have produced good qualities in my life. And God sends people to help me through so that I’m not alone. It may be a friend, or a coworker, or a neighbor, but God has always blessed me with help and comfort during those darkest times. Jesus cried in the Garden because He was ALONE! God made us and knows we need each other. And He supplies all our needs.

So ask yourself, When have you experienced PURE JOY? When have you been the happiest? The question was eye-opening for me.

Acknowledgment: Depression is real. I’m so grateful for professionals and medications to help me through the deepest valleys. In fact, large percentages of individuals use medications to control their depression and to stabilize their moods. Some do it for a short time while others are on medications for extended periods or life. Prescribed medications are safer and have more predictable results than the “self-medicators” who use illegal substances, or legal substances in illegal ways. There is no shame or judgment for anyone getting the help they need.

My {Not So} Glamorous Life

Some charmed individuals swan dive into the pool of life, and emerge with their hair smooth as silk to swim gracefully to the edge. Some are more like ducks that fly into the pond and look peaceful most of the time, but have those moments when they have to take care of business under the water and everyone sees their tail feathers in the air. I am more like a cat being flung into a pool. I will get to the side to escape, but it won’t be pretty and there might be collateral damage. (Yes, I admit to throwing a cat in the pool when I was young, but the cat learned to dig his claws into my arms after the first time, so it wasn’t pleasant for either of us.)

I am blessed beyond what I deserve. I have four amazing kids, a roof over our heads, a steady job, transportation, and a wonderful support network. However, I still manage to make a mess of things regularly.  Take today, for example:

I slept in a little, knowing that I didn’t have to be at work until noon, and I was totally prepared. I had written a list of what I needed to accomplish before work, and had mentally run through my morning, knowing it would be busy but productive.

First, I woke up a little earlier than planned since Son #1’s alarms were going off, so I had some extra time. You know how you have 30 minutes of time, so you try to squeeze an hour worth of work into it?  Yeah–THAT! I decided to wash dishes and make breakfast before my shower. We had delicious pancakes (if I do say so myself), and I washed dishes and cleaned the kitchen. However, everything was off schedule from that point on.

Since I was cooking, Son #2 jumped in the shower, virtually emptying the hot water tank. Knowing that Daughter #2 needed a shower, my hopes for even lukewarm water evaporated. Mentally, I rerouted my day to include a shower at the gym even though it would be a short work out. I got everyone out of the house, dropped my youngest at school then started on my list. First item: pick up moped that was ready. The kids’ father had graciously paid to get it running again so they have transportation when necessary, but I couldn’t find a time in the foreseeable future when the shop was open, I was in town, and a child was available to drive me to the shop.

So, I drove to the cycle shop, parked my car, got the moped and drove it home. I had to make two stops on the way (to order a corsage for son’s prom tomorrow and to get the last items daughter needed for a retreat this evening). I left the moped in the garage, and set out on foot to retrieve my car. This was my planned exercise for the day–a good, brisk three-mile walk from my home back to the shop to get my car. As I walked down the street, it started sprinkling. No big deal–I used to run in the rain, right? I walked faster, and the rain increased in intensity. By the time I got close to the half way point, it was a frog-strangler. (That means it was raining hard!)

In my mind, I had limited options: I could turn around to go home, get the moped and ride it to my car, or I could continue walking to my car. I considered calling a friend to come pick me up, but I would have to stand in the rain and wait for them, then slither  into their vehicle, where I would soak the seat and leave puddles on the floor. I kept walking, even jogging V-E-R-Y—-S-L-O-W-L-Y… I finally burst out laughing. When I ran in the rain, I always wore a hat to keep the rain out of my eyes. Today, I was only wearing a  light jacket over my sweats, and I was soaked from head to toe. I slogged on.

When I made it to the car, I had to think through my day. My list was in the jacket pocket and it was too wet to read, so I spread it on the seat and drove to the gym. I did take a shower there, but my clothes were too wet to work out in! I drove to work shaking my head at my own predicament. The list dried out at work and I have moved everything to Saturday, hoping I am able to accomplish half of it.

If today was an anomaly one, I would have a great story to tell, but I know ME. I know I jump into projects and then LIFE happens. (LIFE is what happens when you’re trying to do something else.) LIFE is fun and messy and frustrating and wonderful! Thank you God for blessing me with a sense of humor–so I can laugh at my own stupid self!

More Fishy Business

After cutting my koi population in half through a tragic mistake, I worked hard to take good care of them last summer, but….

The poor poisoned poisson survived my accidental poisoning. (Read about it here: Fish Fiasco ) You would hope that they would all be allowed to grow old and die in the aquatic version of rocking chairs, but that would be fiction. In reality, they only survived to fight for their lives again. This is, after all, MY Crazy Life.

The fish did really well last year, even producing several offspring that survived the predators drawn to the waterfall and pond. (Yes, we woke up one morning just in time to see a waterbird snag a fish and fly over the fence with it–the cycle of life in our back yard!) During the drought this summer, we had to add water to the pond quite frequently. The children were responsible for cleaning the filters most days, but I kept an eye on the water level and added as needed.

I turned on the water one afternoon and asked my son to turn it off a little later since I was leaving for work. When I got home, he was in the shower, so I went to bed. During the night, I heard water running, but one of the kids was taking a midnight shower, so I climbed back into bed. The next morning, I got up to get ready for work, but water was still running. I checked all the bathrooms, then the kitchen and laundry room.

Yes,  you know what happened. I went out to the back yard. Instead of turning the water off, my son had turned it on HIGH. Water was pouring out of the pond and pooling around the lower ground on the back, watering the entire back yard! I turned the water off, then surveyed the damage. None of the fish were in the yard due to the pond’s design, but a couple of the babies hadn’t survived the chlorine overload from the influx of chlorinated water.

I dug a small hole near my tomato plants, then retrieved the trusty crab net. Two of the four babies died, along with several of the larger, older fish. I don’t know if the older fish had less resistance–or if their systems were compromised due to the previous year’s genocide, but it was some of the oldest and prettiest fish that died.

Call me the Hitler of the Koi Pond–I kept the strong fish to combat mosquitoes, but unwittingly used chlorine to get rid of the youngest and the elderly.

Lamp Repair 101

I broke a lamp. Well, that’s nothing new. The exciting thing is that I FIXED IT! (Anyone with a Y Chromosome can skip this post–or shake your head and smack your forehead, but I am so excited!)

I broke the turner thing on a lamp the other night. You know–the knob you grab hold of to turn the lamp on and off–that’s the thingamajig I broke. It was a smooth, clean break, so neither superglue nor duct tape would hold. This was serious!

Mike, my stepdad, gave me a lamp socket and tried to explain how to replace it. I unplugged the lamp and took the shade and harp off. After that, I was going where this woman had never gone before! I unscrewed the socket thing, then took it apart. It was in three pieces. (Actually, I couldn’t figure out how to get the last one open, but a screwdriver wedged in a couple of places worked great. The bottom part was more oval then and the round piece came right out! See how the middle piece isn’t round any more?)

He had explained copper was ground and the other wasn’t, but I followed his last advice: look at it when you take it apart and put the new one together the same way. I unscrewed the ground (copper) wire first, then trimmed it, stripped the ends and wound it around the ground on the new socket. I repeated it with the other wire, which looked the same, but was on the other screw in the old lamp. I only used three tools–my son said it was the wrong screwdriver, but it worked just fine.

I put in a light bulb and pulled the chain (that’s right, I changed it from a knob you turn to a pull chain–FANCY!) and

              IT WORKED!

I did a happy dance (not pretty–be glad there are no pictures), then unplugged it again. I put the pieces of the light socket back together, then struggled a minute to get the long pole of the lamp tightened up again. For a minute, I thought I would have a lamp that worked but would never stand upright again. After I figured out which pieces need to be tightened, I replaced the bulb, harp, and shade and VOILA–I had a working lamp again!

I know the Winter Olympics will begin soon, but I am experiencing THE THRILL OF VICTORY right now!

I Will Survive

My 17 year old just texted me from college.  “It’s not torn so it’s not surgical yet, however it is severely fractured so no weight on it for a while. Going to let me stay in the boot as long as the pain is tolerable.”

How does a 17 year old in her first semester of college crush the top of her foot so that it is “severely fractured”?  Like everything in my life, it’s complicated.

On the first evening in September, her father (my ex)was in a motorcycle accident and had to be hospitalized due to his injuries. He had road rash on his torso and arms, surgery on one hand, and was unable to move his other shoulder, leaving him virtually incapacitated. I waited until her classes were over the next day, then called and explained the situation, letting her choose whether to stay at college for her second weekend or come home. She chose to come see him that Friday evening, and spent the night with him in the hospital. At some point during the night, he had to smoke, which meant she helped load him into a wheelchair and take him outside to get his nicotine fix. In the process, they ran over her right foot while he was in the chair.

She limped the next day, but was so concerned with his health and stressed about her adjustment to college that we didn’t think much of it. The following week, her foot became more painful, and the nurse at Health Services on campus wrapped it, put her on crutches and made an appointment to see a doctor. The x-ray didn’t show a break, but it was extremely swollen, so he put her in a walking boot to support her foot and give her some relief from the massive blisters that had erupted across her torso.  A week later, she was hurting worse, so we made an appointment with an orthopedic doctor. He reviewed the x-rays and her symptoms, determining it was more serious than a sprain, suspecting a lisfranc injury to the middle part of her foot. He ordered a MRI, put her in a larger boot that isn’t conducive to weight-bearing, and prescribed a knee scooter to aid her mobility around campus.

The orthopedic office scheduled an appointment for an MRI at the local hospital the following week during a class, which would also require her to miss her first college Speech & Debate Tournament, and told her it was the only time available. I intervened, asking them to reschedule, but they weren’t able to accommodate her within a reasonable time frame, so I scheduled her with an independent MRI provider for this week outside of class time. It took four calls to the doctor’s office, two to the MRI location, one to the hospital and one to the insurance company, along with two emails and a stop at the local UPS store to fax authorizations to treat, but I did it. (SCORE!)

She had the MRI on Saturday, and we have been waiting on results.  This afternoon, I check my phone during a brief break at work and find out the orthopedic has called her to explain that they received the results and that her ligament isn’t torn, but there is a “severe fracture” that will require her to stay non-weight-bearing for a while and may still require casting later.

So my daughter will continue her first semester of college in a walking boot, using a knee scooter. Her second-story dorm room on the farthest end of the hall from the elevator is more challenging to reach these days, and the tiny space is crowded with the scooter she has to maneuver. She will have to make follow-up appointments with the orthopedic specialist as well as deal with ongoing pain from the injury while maintaining passing grades in her classes.  The car she drove to school is now useless as she is unable to drive it, and she will have to depend on friends and public safety for transportation until her foot heals.

I’m learning to turn loose more and let God control her life, and dependence on strangers to be His hands in her life. I guess she is learning humility, patience, and perseverance. I haven’t decided on the best soundtrack for this chapter: “What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Stronger”  Or “I Will Survive.”  Either way, cue the disco ball!