Saturday, August 27, 2016

"I'm OK By Myself"

When I was young and single my mother used to tell me I was "libre y en Tejas" or "free in Texas." She especially said that to me when I would call late at night to tell her I was spending the night at a friend's house. After she died and after my divorce I had this Texas charm engraved with the word "libre."

The thing is though, I have never been truly libre. I lived at home until I got married at 27, like a dutiful Hispanic daughter, I was married for 14 years and after my divorce I had 2 children. Then a year and a half after my divorce my father moved in. In other words I have lived with a man, except for that short year and a half, my entire life. If you add the fact that I have lived with my children since my divorce then I have never lived alone. Never. Even the summer I did an internship in Florida in 1991 my mother's stipulation was I had to live with someone so I rented a room from two older ladies.

The hilarious part about it is that I am not the kind of person who has to live with someone or needs to have someone in her life. I enjoy being alone and I have never had a problem doing things alone in the past. I've traveled alone, I've gone to concerts and I eat out alone. I was reading my journal from 1992 recently and I had so many entries where I did things by myself. I'd go to Fitzgerald's to hear a band play if I wanted to and I usually ran into friends there. I'd go to parties alone as long as I knew the host. I once traveled to Spain and back. I was with friends in between but I stayed by myself in my own pensione and had some nights out alone.

This past Friday my ex-husband picked up the kids right after he got out of work. That meant that I didn't have to rush home to get them packed and ready to go like I usually do when they go over to his house. I had plans to attend a lecture performance that night and I realized that I could go straight from work and I even had some extra time before it started. The event was at the Byzantine Chapel at the Menil. I'd wanted to try the Bistro Menil but I always have the kids in tow. This time I had nothing to hold me back. I stopped there first and ordered a glass of wine and a small appetizer, some ahi tuna. Everything was delicious and I wrote a rough draft for this blog while I sat at the bar.

When I was finished I drove over closer to Byzantine and found a parking spot on that block. The lecture performance wasn't exactly what I had expected. It was more of a reading than a lecture and the girl was really really young. I enjoyed it none-the-less but more than anything I thoroughly enjoyed being out by myself. It was such a liberating moment. It's not that I can't do that if I want to, it's simply that I don't do it any more. Not like I used to when I was young. I felt so free. So libre!

After the lecture I met up with some friends for margaritas and I finally saw my friends' company. It was much needed ME time and a wonderful night. As I'm getting older my priorities are shifting. I get so much pleasure from those stolen moments without the kids or my father.

I wrote last time about becoming an empty nester and preparing for life after kids. Part of that preparation is getting out again.  I want to have more nights like the one I had on Friday and I will. In the words of Morrissey, "I'm OK by myself."

Sunday, August 21, 2016

My Three and Six Year Plans

A couple of months ago it really hit me. My daughter is leaving our house in three years. Tomorrow she starts her sophomore year of high school and that only leaves us three years. Three years is nothing!

This means that I have six years left with my son and provided they both go out of state, or at least out of the city, I will be alone. I will be an empty nester!

A few days after that realization hit me I wanted to do something after work and I asked my daughter if she wanted to order pizza for dinner.

“I can do that?” she asked surprised.

“Sure,” I said, “Just go online to either the Dominoes or the Pizza Hut websites and see who has the better deal. Use your credit card and order it for delivery.”

After texting me a couple of times she managed to get it all done and to figure out the tip. I was at a happy hour with co-workers and I told them what was going on. They praised me for raising a good girl that would check in with me first before making a final decision on the purchase. But I was also reminded that at fifteen it was time for her to learn some of these life skills.

I am at a point in my life where I need to make a three year plan and a six year plan. The three year plan is about making sure my daughter knows all the things that she needs to know before going off to college. This includes driving, self-defense, how to manage a checking account, grocery shopping, to name a few things. It also includes all the things we have to do to get her into college, like researching scholarships and applying for those that are a fit. Of course the most important thing, keeping her on track between lacrosse and her academics to make sure she does excel in school, on her SAT and then applying to colleges.

The six year plan is a plan that includes both my son and I. First and foremost we have to get him through the dreadful years of middle school. He has to do well in 7th grade because those are the grades that will be considered in his high school applications. We need to find high schools that are a good fit for him and we need to apply to those. I live in the City in the Houston Independent School District so Magnet schools are the only way to go. Thank goodness those applications will be happening a year before my daughter’s college applications.

On top of all that, he’s interested in joining some sports teams while he’s in middle school, like football and cross country. I want to encourage his interest in pursuing sports because I feel that they will keep him focused and busy.

Once the girl is in college I start all over again with the boy on the life skills that he will need to know for college three years later. Of course he will have the advantage of watching his sister prepare and will hopefully learn some of those too along the way.

I have to have a six year plan for myself. I can’t lose sight of me because it’s very easy to do that when you are in the thick of high school and college applications with your kids. Between lacrosse games, football games, track meets, school programs, and dances, I’m sure I will lose sight of myself if I don’t keep that in mind.

So how do I do that as a mom? That’s part of what I need to figure out when I’m making this six year plan. My plan has to include my personal and professional goals and what I want to accomplish at this time in my life. Where do I want to be in six years once they are gone? What do I want for myself?

Most people think that it’s only new moms who need to work on not losing themselves. I think that it can be just as hard for a mom with teenage children because of the amount of activities involved in their daily lives.

On the plus side, teenagers don’t need me as much as a baby did. Teenagers can order pizza for dinner and they are caught up in their own social lives and activities. I don’t have to watch them 24/7 like I did when they were little but I do have to be aware of what they are doing. Teenagers are okay if I leave them alone, together, for a couple of hours in the evening to go have dinner or drinks with a friend. However teenagers will keep me busy when they have something going on.

So just like when they were babies I have to follow the same advice on some things. I can’t forget to take time out for myself. I need to go to book readings or to listen to lectures. As a single mom I have the advantage of having weekends alone when they are with their dad. I need to have dinner and drinks with friends.

I need to make a new vision board of all the things I want to accomplish in the next six years. Because six years are going to fly by and before I know it they’ll both be gone and I’ll be all alone in the nest.
I know that as a mother my life will truly never be the same as it was before I was one. I know that when they are in college I'll worry about them and how they are doing, but it will be a new-found freedom in so many ways.
One of my friends who has five years left with her girls has said that she's letting her company know that in five years she'll be ready for any expat assignments. I've been thinking something along the same lines. In six years I may be open to taking a job assignment in another city, either with Hearst or another newspaper in another part of the country. There are so many possibilities, so many options in six years. I feel like the world is going to be my oyster again for the last half of my life and that is a good feeling.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Creating My Own #WIN

I've been thinking a lot about life lately for a couple of reasons besides you know, just life.

This is LIFE

It all started when my sister came to visit from LA a couple of weeks ago and we finally started going through some boxes I brought to my house THREE YEARS AGO from my dad's house, after we cleaned it out and threw away stuff. My other sister who lives in Houston came over to help us sort through them because she's really good at organizing.

There were two boxes that belonged to our sister who passed away 21 years ago filled with pictures of hers and pictures of her friends. They held her memories book from high school, her wedding album, work ID cards and other mementos. As we sorted through these I got really sad, like I often do when I think of my sister's very short 42 years on this earth. This time though I looked at those two boxes and I told my sisters that it made me so sad to think that our life can end up in two boxes that people have to sort through and that nobody knows what to do with your stuff.

One of the photos we found in the other boxes was my sister's (the organizer) prom picture. We talked about her prom date and other friends. She told us that she had heard that one of our old guy friends was sick. We were surprised and that led to a phone call and she placed it on speaker. He answered and told us he was in the hospital but that he was getting out that day or the next. However, he was going to have to go to an assisted living facility because he didn't have anyone to help take care of him. We looked at one another in shock and dismay.

This all led to me going to visit him first then my sister who was closest to him went to visit him at home and has been helping him ever since. She was once in love with him when she was a teenager but they both married other people, twice... Now here is he is very close to the end of his life on kidney dialysis and she is helping to take care of him. So many missed opportunities in life...

So all of these things make me think about life, my life, my kids' lives... my happiness, my reality, my responsibilities.  A friend gave me the venn diagram above and it's such a great synopsis of life. It's so hard to find that #WIN. When we end up in one of the other spaces we do what we can and we try to be happy and that's where most of us are.

As I'm making changes in my life this year and concentrating on my three words, Clarity, Liberty and Healthy, I am trying to work a lot harder on remembering that people pray for the things that I have. Two brilliant healthy children, I OWN (or paying) a house, I just paid off my small mortgage, I've had a rich full life and I've travelled more places that many people. The list can go on, which is why I know that I have a lot of things to appreciate.

In addition to making changes, like running and eating better, I'm also working on positive thinking and believing more in affirmations and in the power of the universe, without sounding too new agey. I'm practicing gratitude, reviewing my vision boards, visualizing, making affirmations, meditating, making a positive list and other things. These are all part of my clarity and liberty words for the year. I want to create my own #WIN.