These Days

Steve is working on the bathroom remodel; there’s crashing and banging and sawing and drilling and hammering and swearing filling the house.  Hayden is doing her nails and otherwise prepping for homecoming while her music volume constantly increases to cover the crashing and banging filling the house.  Anna is drawing a “Welcome October” picture for me in my bullet journal.  I told her a simple sketch would be sufficient, but she is an artist, and nothing for her is ever sufficient; it must be perfect.  And, I am researching a new book idea.  There are two dogs at my feet; one because she is always at my feet when I am in my office, and the other because she is terrified by the banging and crashing filling the house.  It’s raining.  That will ruin the homecoming pictures.  Otherwise, it’s a pretty perfect Saturday in the fall.  There’s spaghetti sauce in the crock pot, simmering away, filling the house.

Steve and I just celebrated our ninetieth wedding anniversary, and I wonder, so often, how it is that we got here, to this place, these weekends, that I so dearly love.  Sometimes it feels like such a long ride, and other times I think we are still at the beginning.  We are the among the lucky ones, I know this.  We’ve had plenty of bumps and bruises along this journey, we’ve suffered some great losses, but we have never faltered, we have never doubted our love for one another.  Many of our friends have divorced or almost divorced, a few of those divorces quite shocking, and each time we wonder how it is that a marriage can get to that point, each time we are so thankful that we don’t know the answer.

I know I sound a little, or maybe even a lot, self-righteous.  But, I truly know that our success so far has as much to do with luck as it does with our hard work.  I know that it could all fall apart tomorrow, that some unforeseen event could shake us, some minute shift in the universe could rock us to our core.  I know how blessed we are to have these moments, this family, these Saturdays.  I take none of it for granted, and I do, I honestly do, wonder how we got her so relatively unscathed.

Because these days?

These days are the days that sustain me.  These little days with my little family.  I am such a lucky woman.







A Joyful Noise

So, this week is Spirit Week at the high school; five days of dress up and mayhem leading up to Homecoming on Saturday.  Tuesday was holiday day, and the Seniors dressed for New Years Eve, and ran throughout the building at 12:00 in the afternoon blowing noise makers and yelling, “Happy New Year.”  This perk of being a Senior is apparently quit startling to some of the underclassmen, freshmen especially, but is a tradition everyone in the know greatly anticipates and joyously awaits.

It got me thinking.

Why can’t we be so joyful about every milestone in our lives?  Forget sweating the small stuff…why don’t we celebrate with complete abandon?  I want to run through the halls of my home and scream and praise my family for everything we do!  Made the volleyball team?  Yay, you!  Suffered through the pain of getting your braces tightened?  Hip hip hooray!  Got an A on that AP Psych test you studied for all week?  That’s awesome!  Congratulations!

Okay, sure, I already do that, I already praise those things each day, but I’m talking bigger and better.  I want my kids to more than hear our praise, I want them to understand that every single day is a gift, and that they should be proud of what they accomplish in that day, in the manner in which they celebrate that gift.  There’s too much stress in the world.  I want them to focus on the goodness they see and they create.

And, I want them to do it with noise makers.


At least there will be time for coffee

So, um, some things have happened since I last posted.

  • I started that job, and even though I was underpaid, I felt as though I was getting some great job experience.  I loved the people I was working with, and enjoyed going to work every day. It was part-time, which we hadn’t really considered, but it was working out perfectly with the girl’s schedules.
  • Mother’s Day came and my family surprised me with an overnight trip to Maine–my happy place.  We stayed in the same motel that Steve and I stayed in the weekend he proposed to me on the beach.  The weather was completely uncooperative, rainy and windy and damp and chilly, but we managed to have a great time anyway.
  • While we were in Maine, I received a new job offer for much more money and stability.  My experience level was not exactly equal to that of the job expectancy, but the doc told me he was happy to train me, and that he didn’t expect me to learn everything or feel comfortable in the position for about a month.
  • Because the new doc was in a bind to fill the position, I agreed to leave my part-time job without giving them the customary notice.  I was uncomfortable with this, but did it because the new position was such an advancement for my career, and not being available to start immediately was a deal breaker.
  • The part-time boss could not have been more gracious or understanding, and wished me what felt like a very sincere “best of luck.”
  • That was a week ago.
  • Today, new full-time boss fired me because of my lack of experience.  Which he was completely aware of from the go.
  • WTF?
  • He told me he loved my work ethic, my quick learning ability, and my “tiger spirit” but, he felt the office required someone more experienced.  When I reminded him that he had expressed the opinion that it would take a month he said he had underestimated the ability of the rest of the staff to compensate while I was training.
  • Again, WTF?

Bottom line, I went from no job, to two jobs, to no job, in the span of three weeks.  I’m feeling a little sucker punched, a little bruised and a little shy at the moment.

Tomorrow is another day

When we were first pregnant, we decided that I would stay home with the children.  Our checking and savings accounts took a hit, but we were lucky enough to be able to accomplish that goal for sixteen years.  Sixteen fabulous, no regret years.  I wouldn’t change a minute.  I loved being home with my girls.

Now the girls are both teens and old enough to be self-sufficient for a couple of hours after school, and, with the loss of elementary school volunteerism a couple of years ago, I am bored silly at home all day.  I need a job because we are looking down the barrel of college applications and I want to contribute financially to the household, but mostly I need a job because I need a reason to get up and dressed every morning.  I need a job because it is time.

My English degree qualifies me for pretty much nothing except substitute teaching (which is great, but horribly inconsistent) or Poet in Residence here at Chez Smith.  I didn’t want to do the retail/minimum wage route.  I’ve done that, plenty of that, and I wanted to do something more career oriented.  When asked at parties what I do, I wanted to be able to call myself something professional; I wanted letters after my name.

So, we made a plan.  We decided that we would hold off my working for one more year while I went back to school to earn a certification in Medical Billing and Coding.  Okay, it wasn’t exactly that well defined or that simple, but that was the ultimate goal: one year (one gigantic student loan) and a CPC certification.

My family made sacrifices and I worked hard in school.  It was not nearly as easy in my late forties as it was in my early twenties, and there were times I felt unable to continue.  There were plenty of days I have never felt more stupid in my entire life; there were lots of tears, but, always, every single time, my family rallied around me, boosted my spirits, and carried me through.

I finished school in December and I have had one job interview.  One.  One interview that actually went quite well, but I didn’t get the job, so how well could it really have gone?  I have a brand new spiffy resume that I send out (almost) daily and the school sends my resume as well;  I can’t even get an interview.  This entire job search is so depressing, so demeaning, and I find myself taking every rejection, every ignored application, personally.  I foolishly thought I would complete school, ace the CPC exam, and fall into a fabulous coding position immediately.  I did my part.  I got the initials after my name.  Where is my payoff?

I’m not the only one having an issue finding a job, but that is of little comfort.  There simply are not as many positions out there as we were lead to believe in school.  Some days I try to be all Zen about it and tell myself that everything happens for a reason and I will find the perfect job when the timing is right.  Other times I want to punch that zen part of me in her fat zen face.  Today is a punching day.

Tomorrow is interview number two.  Two is a good number, right?

Thoughts About Prom that Probably Deserve Separate Posts

My junior prom dress was purchased in Florida while on vacation visiting my Grandma Dutton.  It was a pale pink, Southern number with sleeves I wore off the shoulder and a hoop skirt.  It had a bow in the back and little bows all around the bottom.  It was the most gorgeous dress I had ever seen.  It was 1984 perfection, and I had to have it.  I couldn’t begin to tell you what was spent on that dress; only that it was, at the time, a boatload of money.  And, since shoes, a shawl, pearls-both necklace and earrings, and a hoop to go under the skirt of the dress were also purchased, I suspect my grandmother helped to pay for it all.

At my grandmother’s insistence, I paraded that dress all around the retirement community she lived in, and I remember all of the little old ladies squealing with delight at the sight of me.  The phone tree was a buzzing that day.

The dress was temporarily lost with the rest of our luggage on our flight home from vacation, but it made it’s way back to me in time to accompany my poofy hair and my horrible vacation tan lines while standing proudly next to my terrified date.


A few weeks ago, over Easter, I was shocked to discover that my parents still had the dress stored in the same basement closet where our cat had kittens when we were kids.  I pulled the dress out enthusiastically, at half past midnight, from where it was stashed between letterman jackets and cross country skis, with Hayden at my elbow, and demanded she try it on.

She gasped when I handed her the hoop for underneath.  She tried her best not to bust out laughing, but she couldn’t help it, she’d never imagined such a thing let alone been asked to try it on.  By her nostalgia crazed mother.  In the literal middle of the night.

The dress fit her.  Almost perfectly.


It was a completely surreal moment.  I wish two things here: 1) that either of these photos had a decent background, and 2) that I had photographed her from the side because seeing my baby in that dress, that full circle moment, caused two distinct thoughts/emotions/epiphanies within me:

  1. My baaybee is wearing my prom dress.  *sob*  Blah, blah, blah…
  2. Holy cats!  I was skinny in high school.


Prom is a much bigger deal now than it was when I was in high school.  Of course, there has always been pressure on the girls to find the perfect dress.  But, now, there is tremendous pressure on the boys to create the perfect promposal.

Prom. Posal.

Gone are the days of walking up to the girl you like in a study hall or the cafeteria and simply asking her to accompany you to the prom.  No longer good enough.  Now, the boy must propose a date to the prom.  And, that’s not all.  Nope.  It has to be a grand gesture; or, at the very least, it must be unique, it can’t be repeated, copied, or in any manner related to any other couple’s promposal.


Hayden and a group of friends had planned to attend prom together, sans boys, and have fun dancing the night away.  Slowly, but surely, those friends began to receive their promposals, and the group was diminishing rapidly.  She was playing it cool, but I could tell that she was getting anxious, perhaps wondering if she was going to be the only one remaining, perhaps frustrated that the friends were changing the plan.

And, then this happened:IMG_2450

Many, if not most, promposals happen at school in front of crowds.  This would have horrified my Hayden.  Instead, he chose the weekend under the guise of hanging out with friends.  Perfect.

His name is Justin.  He was waiting for her when they pulled up.  He gave her flowers-roses and sunflowers, her favorites-and he defaced his father’s truck in order to ask her to the prom.

She’s no longer playing it cool; it’s exactly what she wanted all along.


Two years ago, because Anna wanted/needed a bigger bedroom, we did a renovation of sorts to our home.  We decided to give her our room, and then enlarge the bedroom in the attached in-law apartment (that we had been using as an office/catch-all space) since it already had it’s own bathroom, to create our new “master” bedroom.

My brother-in-law flew in from Florida for a week to help with the renovation which included:

  • extending the our new bedroom into the laundry/mudroom area
  • creating an new laundry alcove
  • moving the plumbing for the washing machine
  • reflooring the laundry/entry area
  • painting our new bedroom
  • painting Anna’s new bedroom
  • painting Anna’s old bedroom which was to become my office space
  • moving all furniture to the new rooms

Due to timeframe (and budget) restrictions we were unable to redo the bathrooms although we had hoped to loop those into the process.  Nonetheless, all of the above went smoothly, and as planned, and we have been quite happy in our new digs.


In theory, the new, cozy, office was supposed to be my space to write.  A quiet place where I could close the door, tune out the world, and spend time writing the great American novel.  I chose the paint color, and created a love wall of the girl’s artwork.  Steve built me an incredible new desk which I filled with special treasures, things that make me happy, and we moved in a bookcase and filled it with inspiration.  It was perfect.

In the beginning, I didn’t mind when we moved the futon into the office; I thought it would provide a nice place to sit and read.  Little did I know the futon is the gateway furniture to a guest bedroom.  I’m okay with guests sleeping in my office, really, I am.  I enjoy having people here, and it makes more sense than asking them to sleep in the living room on the couch.  I want people to be comfortable in my home and, to help that happen, I can easily share my space.


About a year ago, my sister-in-law hit some hard times, and she asked if she could come and stay with us for a few months.  Of course, we said she could come, and, naturally, with the futon and all, the office was the logical place for her to occupy.  Although, I will readily admit to a feeling a tinge of loss, I was very much okay with her having my space.  It was the right thing to do; it was a lesson for our children on compassion and giving what we have of ourselves when someone is in need.  I was sad cleaning my personal belongings out of the room, I was, but that sadness was tempered by a sense of thankfulness that we had the space, and ability to help her, and it dissipated completely as soon as she moved in.  She stayed the few months she needed to stay, and the office was her space while she was here.

Since then it has never felt like my space again.  And, I don’t know why.  We’ve moved my stuff back in, I spend time in here, but it’s not the same.  Not that it matters, of course; I don’t even know why I’m writing this or how I got off on this tangent.  In the big picture it is simply a room, much more than some people have, and it is a selfish sadness to crave it for myself.  Yet, I do.

Perhaps it is because so much of my life is chaos these days?  Perhaps it is because job hunting is terrible and frustrating and demeaning and self confidence draining?  Perhaps it is because my girls are both struggling with things beyond my ability to fix?

Anna is having a hard time in school.  The overt bullying has subsided, mostly, but all of her relationships have been affected, and she can’t seem to figure out where she stands, can’t seem to get her swagger back.  I know some of that is quite normal for her age, and comes with the territory of being in middle school, but so much of it is a direct result of being bullied, and I hate it.  I hate watching her struggle to navigate her new reality.

Hayden, as I mentioned a couple of posts ago, is having horrible stomach issues; her IBS is flaring which makes her anxious, which makes her IBS flare up.  Lather, rinse and repeat.  She’s stressed and trying to figure out how to lessen that stress, trying to determine which activity that she loves she should let go of for now, until the rest is under control.  She is so sad about it all.  It breaks my heart to see her struggle.

I guess, maybe, I’m just desperate for something I can control.  The office is the one space in this house that is supposed to be mine, and only mine, and I should be able to have the only say in how it is decorated, how it is arranged, how it is utilized.  I want to feel safe here.  Like everything will be okay with my family because, out there?  Out in the real world?  It’s not so easy.