FedEx, Delayed Gratification, and Building Paradise

A few days ago a FedEx delivery man came to my house with a package. We exchanged pleasantries as he handed it to me and then he turned to leave. As I was closing the door he turned back to me and declared what a beautiful home we have; he seemed especially enamored with the flower beds in front of the house. He actually gushed, asking where we got our pavers, the types of flowers, all the while looking at it all with a bit of wonder. I answered his questions, thanked him and he was on his way but his words, especially the enthusiasm behind them, stuck with me and caused some contemplation. 

When I was a little girl my grandmother had a beautifully landscaped yard with old growth trees in rows, trimmed hedges, and not one but two bench swings. I thought it was paradise. She’s since passed away but I still drive past her house multiple times per week (it’s on my route, I’m not stalking the house!) and I still love that yard. And now I realize, thanks to the gushing of a stranger, that although the details are different (roses instead of hedges, woods instead of trees in rows, etc.) we’ve built our own beautifully landscaped, albeit modest, yard. 

It’s taken a long time, we built this house 14 years ago and it’s only been in the last couple of years that the yard has started to come together.   For a long time after we moved in we didn’t do much, we were tired from the arduous task of building the house ourselves and busy raising kids. Then, as the kids grew older, we started doing small projects. A pergola for the deck, a structure for the wood furnace, a bedroom in the basement. And, slowly but surely, landscaping for the front yard. I’ve often chastised myself for not doing well with delayed gratification; I’m easily frustrated when the rewards aren’t coming quickly enough. But now, thanks to the FedEx man, I know that I can follow through when it really matters to me. When the desire is pure and runs deep. 

We sit here a lot,on the front porch where I’m writing this, to catch up on the day, laugh at the hummingbirds, and just relax but now I’m trying to imagine what my (far in the future) grandchildren will think of it. They won’t know that the bird bath and bench, which look like they’ve always been in the front yard, were actually bought the first year we were married and moved multiple times before they found a home under the hickory tree. They won’t know the years of shoveling mulch year after year until we could finally, FINALLY afford to put rock in the flower beds. They’ll never sit on the uncomfortable chairs bought on clearance that had to do until we saved up for the outdoor furniture we have now. It won’t cross their mind that I once sat here admiring the yard before some future feature, yet to be imagined, even existed.  They won’t understand, like I didn’t swinging in my grandma’s yard, that these things are built over a lifetime. But I do think (hope) it will be a place of wonder like my granmother’s yard was for me. Their idea of paradise. 

Fourteen!

IMG_1162

My funny, sarcastic, insightful, level headed girl is fourteen today! There isn’t a day that goes by that she doesn’t make me laugh, make me think, and make me proud to be her momma. There is so much to love about this girl I hardly know where to begin.

I love how comfortable she is with herself and that she isn’t afraid to like what she likes and be who she is while still leaving room for others to be themselves as well.

I love that she is happy to simply be fourteen and is confused (and also annoyed) by those who think acting older is the same thing as being mature.

I love that she can lose herself in a book and hardly leaves the house without one.

I love that she can watch Netflix for hours and sees nothing incongruous about loving both Sherlock and The Nanny.

I love that we share so many common interests, especially when it comes to TV and books.

I love that she is proud and happy of her small town while still appreciating all that lies outside this tiny corner of the world.

I love that all of this is effortless for her and she doesn’t need to think about it or remind herself, it just is.

But here’s the best part, the thing that I love most. I not only love this girl I genuinely like her and enjoy spending time with her (which is good since we spend a LOT of time together). And I love that she seems to feel the same way.

keepIMG_1248

 

My People

The kids and had the absolutely amazing opportunity last weekend to attend St. Louis Comic Con.

003e

Just hanging out with Alan Tudyk…

001e

Shameless brag that we met (for about 10 seconds) THE DOCTOR and AMY POND (aka Matt Smith and Karen Gillan).

I had been looking forward to this for a long time and it was pretty much as awesomely amazing as I’d anticipated. In addition to the photo shoots we got to sit in on a panel with local Doctor Who “experts” whom had access to behind the scenes information and spoilers.

Jace even worked up the nerve to ask a question... a big deal for him because he's pretty introverted.

Jace even worked up the nerve to ask a question… a big deal for him because he’s pretty introverted.

And we sat in on huge-fill-a-theater panels with some big name stars who discussed upcoming projects, behind the scene stories from past projects and answered audience questions.

Blurry, pixelated, and too far away but that's Sean Astin, aka Samwise Gamgee!

Sean Astin, aka Samwise Gamgee!

Of course there were lots of people cosplaying, including Kya.

This adorable girl dressed as the 11th Doctor stopped Kya, who is dressed as the 10th, so they could get a pic together. Incidentally, Kya felt like a rock star. :)

This adorable girl dressed as the 11th Doctor stopped Kya, who is dressed as the 10th, so they could get a pic together. Incidentally, Kya felt like a rock star. 🙂

In the days leading up to to this event (and even in the car on the way there) Kya and I kept bringing up that the people there would be “our people”. People who are just as obsessed with interested in Doctor Who, Sherlock, Firefly, etc. as we are. Sean Astin even called us (as in the crowd, not us specifically, lol) his people in the panel we sat in on with him. And it was true. Lots of people commented (to us or just to their friends as we passed) on Kya’s cosplay or Jace and my t-shirts. And we, of course, commented on the t-shirts and cosplay of others. A few times we even had short conversations with people about items we were looking at on the exhibit floor or actors we were waiting to see. It was an atmosphere where we could definitely be completely open about how excited we get about the things we love. But, when I’m being perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’d say I actually felt the “my people” connection I was anticipating.  A lot of that has to do with how introverted we all are around crowds. None of us are the outgoing, strike-up-a-friendship with strangers type. And I suck at small talk. I’m okay with that though and I do enjoy observing the people around me while remaining safely in my bubble.

So, instead of connecting with “my people” I did a lot of observing. And what I found (or I guess reinforced really as this isn’t exactly new information) is that sharing a common interest with someone doesn’t necessarily make them “my people”. The people who attended this convention where a diverse group, as diverse as any sampling of the general population. Some people were friendly and outgoing, others were quiet and introverted. Some people were laid back and others seemed stressed by all the people. Some people were happy to interact, others seemed to want to be left alone. We encountered people who amused us as well as some who annoyed us. The only thing that brought us together was the fact that we all happened to like similar things, though even this wasn’t exactly true because while some people where there for their favorite sci-fi actors, others came because they love comics, cosplay, or video games (or any combination of these).

With all of these observations floating around in my head I had a very brief existential moment late in the evening when we were tired and had a few minutes of downtime before our next scheduled activity. As I looked around the room full of people who love, love, LOVE the same things that I love, love, LOVE I thought, “These aren’t really my people. ” And then I momentarily wondered where my people are.

Don’t get me wrong, I have plenty of friends and family that I care a lot about, have fun with, and feel connected to. But I don’t ever feel like I completely fit in with any particular group. My interests, values, and beliefs are too varied (as many of you who read this blog regularly have probably noticed- I’m a bit all over the map) and I make references that people just don’t get, no matter who I’m with because of these varied, sometimes seemingly incompatible, interests. I had a very alone-in-the-crowd moment but then I realized, I do, at least for now, have a group who understands all of my references. A group who will go to Comic Con and fangirl/fanboy out over Matt Smith with me one day and watch the Country Music Awards with me the next because we want to see The Band Perry perform. A group who will spend hours analyzing the nuances of Sherlock and Doctor Who but also enjoy a completely mindless Friends marathon. A group where we can all just unabashedly be ourselves.

IMG_1225

Yep, I don’t just love my kids I love hanging out with them. Don’t worry, I’m not a sad, clingy, smothering mom; I have other friends and so do they. But we also genuinely like each other and pretty much like most of the same stuff. They are my people. And that’s more than enough.

Disclaimer: It was VERY hectic and crowded at times. The best I could manage with photos, aside from those professional photo ops, was quick snapshots with my phone. Sorry for the blurry, pixelated pics!

Fifteen

20130928_599I’m a few days late in writing this post because I spent the weekend doing things with J for his birthday instead of simply writing about him. 🙂

My son is nearly a man. He towers over me. The deepness of his voice is sometimes shocking. His size 13 shoes are too big for his dad. He’s made difficult choices this year and has done so with maturity and wisdom beyond his years. He is kind, courteous, generous, loving, and appreciative. The young man he is becoming makes me proud.

He and I are alike in many ways. We’re both a bit quick tempered but also quick to forgive. We’re both pretty good at talking through our feelings, letting others know why we were upset, and acknowledging our own mistakes if we handled the upset poorly. We both feel the criticism and judgement of others deeply. We are both inquisitive to a fault.

He has also learned, at only 15, to unapologetically loves the things he loves. From Legos to Star Wars and superheroes to video gamesm he embraces the label of geek and wears it proudly.

20130928_747 20130928_621 20130928_446

He’s not afraid to be openly affectionate. Whether he’s hugging me goodbye in front of his friends, slinging his arm around his dad for a picture, or meeting a childhood favorite he just allows himself to be in that moment.

20130928_1466 20130504_47

He’ll tell you up front that he has some social awkwardness but he’s okay with that and doesn’t let it hold him back from having fun.

20130928_672

He’s still messy and needs reminders about cleaning his room, showers, brushing teeth, etc. But he’s self sufficient in other ways. He’s developed an interest in cooking and sometimes makes delicious meals for the entire family. He feeds himself all the time. 😉

Right now he says he wants to design video games for  a living. He’s working on a game now that he hopes to finish by the end of the year and make available for download. This is his first step in building a portfolio. He also thinks a marketing degree would be valuable if he wants to sell his games himself. He isn’t afraid to dream but knows he needs a plan to make those dreams come true.

Each year that passes I am more and more aware of how quickly it all goes by. Fifteen. He’s studying to get his learner’s permit. I hold in my mind the image of him toddling away from me and soon he will drive away from me. But, just as surely as I knew it then, I know he’ll return to me. He returned then because he needed me. He’ll return now not because he needs me or even because he loves me, which of course he does. No, this time it will be because he genuinely respects and likes me. The feeling is mutual.

20130504_265

Day 12/Post 11: A Simple Life

botts 1

This quote has become my mantra lately. I need this reminder when I feel like I might be missing something by living in a small town. I need it when wanderlust kicks in and I just want to GO. DO. SEE. EXPLORE. EXPERIENCE. I need it when I see pictures of patios with outdoor kitchens and water features. I need it when we pass on an activity that sounds fun but is too expensive right now. I need it in moments when I’ve forgotten that all of those things come at a cost that has nothing to do with money.

We CHOOSE this life. We choose to be close to family even if means we’re far from some cultural experiences. We choose to travel less so we can live more during the 51 weeks of the year we’re not on vacation. We choose to live without some extravagances so we can spend less time at work and more at home.

This doesn’t mean we aren’t sometimes wistful for the things we must sacrifice in order to make these choices work. But it does mean that we are acutely aware that ALL choices include sacrifice and some we are not willing to make. So, for now at least, we choose the simple life.

But ours doesn’t have second breakfast. 😉

Day 11/Post 10: Reevaluating Goals

There used to be a t-shirt on the UU bookstore website that I loved. It was a dark shirt with light lettering that read:

Oh great, another effing life lesson.

I found it hilarious in it’s simplicity. And I agree with the sentiment. Whether you believe that everything happens for a reason or that it’s all random chance I think we can all agree that sometimes we’re weary of learning these lessons.  But, even if we don’t want them, ready or not life lessons will present themselves.

It’s been a little over a week since the GED program I was working for closed (sorry if you’re tired of hearing about this, it is interconnected with so much else in my life right now). In this short amount of time it became quickly apparent that I had been working too many hours. Jace, at fourteen, still needs me at home much more than I realized.

He is capable of feeding himself in my absence but he eats healthier foods when I’m here to prepare them. He’s certainly found plenty of things to keep himself busy but while I’m here he emerges from him room several times a day just to talk for a bit. Sometimes it’s just to say hi, sometimes to tell me about a project, and sometimes to have discussions and ask questions about the things on his mind. If I’m working on or watching something that catches his interest he’ll often join me. He’s expressed that he likes having me home more. That it’s fun hanging out with me. How long will this be true? Am I wasting this last bit of time that he’ll both need and want to spend a lot of time with me?*

This is not to say that I’m not going back to work; I am. But I’ll be rethinking how many hours I’m willing to take on and how many days of the week I need to be home with no plans . My old job didn’t seem overly demanding, only 18 hours a week plus commuting, but those hours were spread out over four days. And I have other responsibilities that take me away from home; activities with Kya, grocery shopping, errands for our small business, etc. With somewhere to be every week day, even if only for a few hours, it was nearly impossible to develop a rhythm to the time I had at home. I look at it now and see how glaringly obvious it is that this schedule conflicted with what I know about his needs.

I can also see that this newly established schedule, with so much time at home, isn’t good for Kya or myself. We’re both bored. We both want more time out in the world, doing things, interacting with people.  This is why I laugh when people think we choose radical unschooling because it’s easy. At times it’s the polar opposite of easy and meeting everyone’s needs (mine included) feels like a juggling act that I haven’t trained properly for.

No, we definitely don’t choose this path because it’s easy, but it is forgiving. When I see that we’ve traveled a bit off course it isn’t too difficult to steer us back on track. And because I’ve always tried to be up front about it my kids are generally accepting of my human imperfection at this point. This time is no exception.

Jace tells me that he didn’t really realize how much he missed having me around either, we were both a bit blind to it while we were in it. We were able to talk about it and think about how best we can make sure everyone’s needs are being served as I go forward and look for a new job. Who knows if our plans will actually be balanced when put into practice but, as it turns out, I really am grateful for this lesson and will hopefully be more mindful of any pitfalls ahead.

Thirteen

My girl turned thirteen over a week ago and I still haven’t written a proper blog post about it.

Though we did have a fabulous photo shoot. Because, priorities.

Though we did have a fabulous photo shoot. Because, priorities.

 

It’s not because I’ve been too busy or haven’t tried. It’s because our relationship is so easy. I enjoy our dynamic so much and am extremely grateful for it on a daily basis. It just doesn’t make an ultra exciting blog entry.

I could talk about all the parenting choices I’ve made that have led up to this super easy relationship but I know that would be inaccurate and unfair because my effortless relationship with K is in stark contrast with the effort-ful (I know, I just made up that word, so what.) relationship I have with J. Don’t get me wrong, they are both great relationships and fill me up in different ways. It’s just that I know I can’t take all the credit for K being an easy child. She just is.

I also thought about writing about her interests. Always the artist this year she developed an interest in painting.

She hung up her dance shoes and decided to try another art form...

 

I’ve tried that a few times actually. But when I read it back it either comes across as inadequate or, worse, bragging. Like one of those parents. Which ultimately diminishes how fabulous she really is because then you only see me bragging, not her true personality.

Always the silly girl.

Some of that true personality shining through…

She really only pretends to be sassy for the camera.

Always.

I also tried capturing the things I want to hold onto in our birthday photo shoot but that also fell short. Because while I can capture some things…

20130604_271

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

20130604_33but it doesn’t tell the whole story. These pictures don’t show how she used to be afraid of dogs and now loves them more than anything. Or that when human characters die in movies, TV and books she’ll might say it’s sad, but when it’s an animal she feels it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can tell you about her love for fashion, pop music and teen TV dramas. I can remind you that she drug me to a Taylor Swift concert (where we had a fabulous time),

Yes, I'm wearing T.Swift headgear. Shut up.

Yes, I’m wearing T.Swift headgear. Shut up.

But then I also need to mention that she enjoys a Duck Dynasty marathon and embraces redneck culture with her dad.

I was not a part of this purchase.

I was not a part of this purchase.

20130604_239

When her uncle saw these pics he asked if she was barefoot because she’s a hippy…

20130604_182

… she told him she’s not a hippy, she’s a redneck. A well dressed redneck, but still a redneck. 😉

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t also embrace the geek culture that I love. Buffy and Doctor Who marathons are a favorite of ours.

And a Disney/Doctor mash-up would just be enough to send us over the edge.

And a Disney/Doctor mash-up would just be enough to send us over the edge.

And I guess that’s what I love most about my funny, compassionate, insightful, smart, beautiful girl. She has more confidence than most people I know and as a result knows that she doesn’t have to be one thing. It’s perfectly okay to be an artist, a pop-culture fashionista, a redneck AND a geek. Most of us are not one thing even though the world would like us to be. I love that my girl seems to instinctively know this and refuses to limit herself.

20130604_162b 20130604_7 20130604_127b