Paychecks and Blueberries for Sal

 

“She will call less and less,” my husband casually remarked last night about our College Freshman whose nightly calls warm my heart.  I bit his head off.  “DON’T SAY THAT!,” I yelled back.  Silence.  What was that about, I began thinking.  Everything is off kilter these days because it’s all new:  our first child recently left the nest for college and at 51, I am in a new job, earning more than I have in eight difficult years.  I call them “difficult” because I have never fully embraced my value as a stay-at-home-mother, even though this is what I always wanted to do.

The sacrifices you make when you decide to earn less in exchange for being more present feel mostly unnoticed and under appreciated most of the time.

But that’s the kind of Momma I wanted to be!  ALWAYS available, no matter what.  So when my biggest paycheck of eight years hit the bank account last night, I found myself weighing the value of the money versus the value of being physically present for the household.  Here’s how it feels to me:  in the short term, putting a hefty-ish paycheck in the household account feels better than making sure there is a roast in the oven but in the long term, knowing we raised a young woman who wants to touch base with us often is the greatest payoff possible.  

We are all conditioned to thinking of our investments – financial, emotional, intellectual – in terms of returns.  That’s why I count the number of days I maintain long-term sobriety, because as the days add up, I figure the greater the “return.”  But not if I’m not emotionally sober.  To maintain emotional sobriety, you better be invested in pouring every type of energy and asset you have into living a life worth living.  After all, what’s the point of removing something as pleasurable as drinking red wine if I’m not going to enjoy the benefit of sobriety and that enjoyment isn’t going to spill over into other people’s lives and well-being?  Huh?  In other words, it’s just as important to replenish and nourish your emotional, spiritual and physical coffers as it is to earn money and spend it wisely.  Now I get to do both:  earn money to help support our family and reap the benefits of staying emotionally invested and close to my children as they were growing up.

These days, I think alot about special times with my children when they were young, especially bedtime story reading.  My daughter and I had many favorite books, among them, a 1950’s Caldecott Award winner, “Blueberries for Sal.”

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Little Sal was so much like my Isa:  precocious, daring, full of life and love for new experiences.  Together we would read the story about the Momma Bear and her Cub on the same mountain – but the other side and out of view – as the Momma Human and little Sal – picking blueberries to sustain their bodies through the winter.

My paycheck from the new job felt like a pail of blueberries from the book.  Very gratifying and fun but also a worthwhile investment for lean, cold days in the future.  It felt good and associating it with something so precious from my daughter’s childhood gives me peace of mind that our sacrifices have been worth it.  Especially when she texted back, “Yes I do” this morning when I asked her if she remembered reading “Blueberries for Sal” with me.

“Why can’t a paycheck just be a paycheck and not turned into a dumb pail of blueberries, you weirdo?,” you may be asking yourself.  Because I am committed to living a life worth living.  This is what it means to understand a woman in midlife experiencing an emptying nest and working to maintain sobriety:  a cherished moment of understanding in a three-word text from your beautiful daughter away at college puts everything in perspective.  And all is well with my world.

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February 11, 2016 – Pudgey, Mario, Vanilla and me

My husband snapped this photo last night and emailed me with the title, “Evening Huddle.”  It is a helluva happy huddle!  A year ago, I was way off course and quickly sinking to the bottom of my addiction to alcohol.  My cousin sent me a great article recently that describes addiction as “the opposite of connection.”  Bingo!  Total disconnect – by selfish choice – then by habit – finally without any sort of logic or consent at all.  Just dead.

God and my family have brought me back to life.  In just 8 months, I have been fortunate to have regained my sobriety and focus.  And look at my reward!  A puppy, handsome teenaged son (and daughter, who just celebrated her 17th birthday and is overjoyed with her new ukulele), purring cat, large cup o’ Joe, Netflix and hubby all in one room filled with happiness, a roaring fire and quilts made with love by my Mom.

I don’t know why I steered so far off course in the first place.  It is so scary.  I am one of the lucky ones to have been brought back to a conscious, intentional life.  Yes, I feel pain instead of numbness at times.  AND JOY!!!!  Today, I am just grateful for my happy chaos – I am working with kindergarteners in an underprivileged community.  I have a beautiful family, a Mom I can still call on the telephone as often as I want, an amazing AA Sponsor, a life partner of almost 20 years, and many supportive friends.  Whether our family can afford to take a vacation this year or not:  WE ARE RICH.

I read a lot about addiction and recovery now.  If you are looking for inspiration, motivation, or just curious about people’s stories, I encourage you to check out 2 of my favorites:

RecoveryHeroes.com 

SheRecovers.com

You can be as public or private about your struggles as you like.  I have deliberately talked about mine because it helps my healing and accountability.  More poignantly, talking about it helps me live in the present and experience the joy to the fullest.

Go hug your mess!

 

 

3 Things I Learned Over Breakfast With My Son

Mario Saddle Bag 0124151041 0124151034 0124151026 Pre Bowl Game RallyLately, my husband and I have become concerned that our 14-year-old son could be “lost.”  The things he used to care about haven’t seemed to matter anymore.  When we try to talk to him, we HOPE for a monosyllabic answer but only get caveman grunts.  Other parents have told us this is not unusual.  But for our vibrant Mario, it is.  We’ve tried patience and kindness – no changes.  So now we are trying tough love – there is a tiny glimmer of hope.  But today, I tried something brilliant:  Breakfast OUT, just the 2 of us!

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As long as it does not conflict with Mario’s sleeping or Jayhawks Basketball schedule, he can usually be talked into sharing a good meal – especially breakfast.  I seized my opportunity this morning while hubby is away performing “Dance Dad” duties with our daughter.

“Mario how about a quick, greasy, grubby breakfast this morning at one of Mom’s favorite divey restaurants, ” I beckon.  He rubs his eyes and hangs his enormous apelike arm around my shoulder and grunts.  This is more or less acquiescence. Before the mood changes, I quickly throw the first sweatshirt on from my closet and off we go to Dagwood’s.

0124151026He is pretty quiet at first, but when breakfast is served, suddenly we are BOTH 14-year-old LINEBACKERS.  “Jesus, Mom!” Mario laughs as I greedily hover over my food and pick my French Toast smothered in powdered sugar up with my hands, fold it and inhale in one gulp.  “Calm down!”.  I become Chris Farley from the SNL scene with David Spade and Adam Sandler, “BACK OFF!  I’M STARVED!”.  We begin laughing hysterically and fortunately, because it is Dagwood’s and we don’t see any snoots from Johnson County, nobody cares.

Mario starts talking.  Immediately, he goes to football and his most recent season with his beloved Coach Pat.  “We killed every team in the league,” he reminisces – but not in a braggy way.  “The Johnson County Moms would be clapping politely for their sons,” he recalls with a smile, “and the Missouri players’ Moms were like, ‘Come on, D’Anthony!  Get your head in the game!”.  He was always afraid his loud Mom would go to a game and get into a “Mom Fight”!  I draw a deep, happily reassured breath and tell him, “Mario, do you have any idea how cocky I am going to be when you play D1 football?”.  He doesn’t even flinch.  “It’s not that hard, Mom – no big deal.”  But there is a flicker in my son’s eye – I see that he wants something and he cares.

I thought to myself, “My teenager who has been on a hormone-induced journey away from us is on his way back.”

I change the subject back to food, since my understanding of football is extremely limited.  Like the Food Critic from the movie Ratatouille, just the sight of French Toast transforms me into a happy child again.  I tell my son, “Mario, in the summertime growing up, Grandma Rhetta made stacks of French Toast a mile high, “(he has heard this story many times and does not comment that I grossly exaggerate the height of the French Toast stack every time).  “We would grab pieces of it, shake a bunch of powdered sugar on it, fold it, and stuff it in our mouths!  Then we would go play in the pool all day while Grandma Rhetta made homemade ice cream.” I am sharing with my son and he is listening.  He is definitely not lost.

So 2 miraculous things have occurred between myself and my son over this simple greasy-spoon breakfast:  he has shared what he cares about, I have shared what I care about – and for a few cherished moments, we are One.

Mario Saddle BagThen in the car on the way home, Mario shares the most shocking evidence that he is far from lost – he is HOME and he is FINE.  He tells me, “I remember the day Dad stuffed me into that bag on his Harley.  How old was I?”.  Uh- barely 1, Mario!  He is telling me he feels connected to our family and he has shown me, in one simple Saturday morning outing, that everything is going to be okay.  This has been my 3rd sign today.

Even though he is back in his dark, musty “teenaged boy cave” just upstairs – and we are worlds apart again – I know I have my son back.  And yes, I WILL be the LOUDEST, most OBNOXIOUS college football Mom on the planet – he can count on that!  I am looking forward to more breakfasts.