The Beauty of Living in a Small Town

I kinda, sorta grew up in a small town, and I kinda, sorta live in a small town now.

I say kinda, sorta about where I grew up because, while I did grow up in a small town, it is connected to a metropolitan area of about 500,000 if you add the population of all of the cities that run together.

I say kinda, sorta about where I live now, because the nearest small town is about four miles away.  We aren’t even in a small town.  We are in the country.  I work in another small town, about 16 miles away.

This has been a change for me.  As an adult, I’ve always lived in a fairly populated area.  In fact, my last residence was a condo, so there was someone living literally on the other side of the wall.  We longed for solitude, and we got it.

We have lived here for over four years.  We are in a development, but we were the first to move in.  We had the neighborhood to ourselves for the first six months.  We now have a whopping three neighbors (three houses, to be accurate; so I guess if you count every resident, we have nine neighbors!).

During our first six months, we felt a little vulnerable with no neighbors.  I was grateful to have our mean-looking dog for some protection (she looked mean – we didn’t advertise that she loved everyone, even strangers).

Growing up, my Grandparents lived in the country.  I would laugh about them always wondering about the rare car that came down their road.  “Who’s that?  Oh, it’s Ted.”  It seemed they always knew the car. It was an event, hurrying to the window to see who was driving by.  Because we had so little traffic on our dead end road, we did the exact same thing.  I had fond memories of my Grandmother whenever I would hurry to one of the few windows with a good view of the road yelling, “A car’s coming!  Who’s that?!”

But, we got used to it.  It’s nice and quiet, and now that we have a few neighbors, we feel less isolated.

What I have found interesting has been becoming part of the community that is the small town four miles away, and the small city that is about 10 miles away in the other direction.  I seriously cannot go to Walmart in the small city or the Dollar General in the small town without seeing someone I know.  In a small town, it doesn’t take long to get to know a large percentage of the population, especially if you have school-age and preschool-age kids, who also participate in outside activities.

I started going to the local salon about a year after we moved here, and something happened that could only happen in a small town.   Our diaper bag had gone missing a couple of weeks earlier.  My stylist was asking if I was from the area. I explained where we lived. The stylist at the next chair asked who my husband was. I told her his name. She said, “I cut his hair. Are you missing a diaper bag?” Yep. Small town. Love it.

At around the same time, we attended the Pumpkin Dash in town.  It’s a race for the kids in their Halloween costumes.  Within 10 minutes, we saw at least 10 people we knew.  My son said, “All of my friends are here!”

Honestly, I wasn’t sure I would like this kind of lifestyle.  It’s pretty hard to be inconspicuous, and my introverted nature makes small-talk exhausting for me.  But, the people are genuine and helpful.

Before I had kids, I lived in a city.  Because I worked in HR, I didn’t feel I could hang out with colleagues outside of work.  I had a very hard time making friends there.  Here, I see the same people over and over, so it’s much easier to make a connection.

Small-town life . . . maybe it’s not for everyone, but I love it.

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Save

To Rant or Not to Rant, That is the Question

We hear a lot about how people only post the best things in their life on facebook.  It supposedly becomes a contest about who has the best fake life.  But, I personally don’t want to read people’s dirty laundry on social media.  I made a commitment a couple of years ago to only post positive things because I feel there is enough in the world dividing us.

I don’t think posting about your kid graduating from college and beautiful prom photos, and omitting posts about the argument you had this morning, is a bad thing.  People don’t need to read about how the receptionist at your doctor’s office was rude to you this morning.  What’s the point?  I guess it makes people feel a release to spread the negativity.  But, it doesn’t make your facebook friends’ day any better.  I like seeing vacations and kids’ accomplishments.  I don’t see it as bragging.  I see at as celebrating the positive things – because, let’s face it, life can be hard.  Share away, and I’ll be happy for you.

People also say that “Mommy Blogs” are all about perfection, and the bloggers don’t keep it real.  Okay – sometimes that’s true.  I have never tried to do that.  I’ve made it known upfront that I’m not an expert about anything.  Occasionally, I’ll share a tip about something that worked for me, after much trial and error, because maybe it will make someone’s life easier.

I share personal insights on my blog, but I am very careful not to disclose too much about people who are close to me.  This might mean that I have to be creative about how I write something, or it may mean avoiding a topic altogether.  I disclosed something about my daughter, that I decided might embarrass her later in life, so I deleted the post.  I’m constantly making judgment calls – sometimes I get it right and sometimes I don’t.

We have issues in our lives that I choose not to talk about on my blog or on social media.  Does this mean I’m not being real, because I continue to post positive things, but not the negative?  I don’t think so.  Others might.  I’ve learned that, no matter what I do, there will be some who judge it as wrong.  I’m someone who hates drama and conflict, but I’ve learned that, when you’re dealing with other people (which we all are), we can’t always control what comes into our lives.  Sometimes we have to make choices that others aren’t going to approve of.  Sometimes, it seems, no matter what choice we make, there will be someone who will find fault.

Do I ever feel like ranting publicly about it?  You bet.  But, I refrain, because I feel the repercussions aren’t worth that temporary feeling of relief.  I’m just someone doing the best I can, and I choose to focus on the seemingly rare moments that are worth celebrating.

 

 

 

Get Used to Disappointment

Do you remember this exchange in “The Princess Bride”?  Inigo Montoya:  “Who are you?”  Wesley (man in black):  “No one of consequence.”  “I must know.”  “Get used to disappointment.”  “‘kay.”

I can so relate to Inigo’s respond here.  “‘kay.”  My memory of the scene is that he kind of shrugs.  Maybe he’s already used to disappointment.

Have you gotten used to disappointment?  I’m realizing that I have, and it’s not good.

I feel like I’ve been in a slump for a few years.  Don’t get me wrong.  We have so many blessings to be grateful for.  Yet, we also seem to have a history of “whatever can go wrong, will.”  God keeps carrying us through the obstacles, but it seems nothing ever comes easily.  I’ve gotten into this mode of bracing myself for problems.

This attitude of enduring has become a bad habit.  Enduring isn’t exactly being joyful.  Having low expectations is no way to live.

This became apparent to me last weekend.  We bought a camper two summers ago.  Even though it was a used pop-up, it was a pretty big financial investment for us.  We used it several times the first summer.  Last summer, we used it twice.  I felt this pressure to get our money’s worth out of it.  It became a job, instead of something fun.

We decided to sell it.  But, it was the end of the season, so we waited until mid-March to list it.  Still, I thought this was probably a little too early.  I was braced for it taking a long time, and for us getting the minimally acceptable selling price for it.

To my surprise, we sold it in 6 days for a price we were very pleased with.  The couple was nice and easy to work with.

Throughout this process, I expected something to go wrong at each step.  I expected to get no real interest, and to have to look for additional places to list it, periodically lowering the price.  When we had scheduled the appointment for them to look at it, I expected them to not show up.  It was overcast and rainy that day.  If they did show up, I expected that heavy rain would hinder us from showing it.  I expected them to back out.  I expected the funds not to go through.

When everything went through and went smoothly, I didn’t know how to react.  While I was thrilled, even when the deal was done, I expected something to go wrong.

I could list all of the things that have gone wrong for us, and you would see, in some ways, it’s reasonable for me to have this attitude.  It’s okay to prepare for everything not going perfectly, but developing the expectation that everything will always go wrong probably isn’t the healthiest of outlooks.

I’m not 100% sure how to correct this.  Maybe recognizing my attitude is the first step in changing it.

My Unglamorous Life

This is something I wrote a couple of years ago.  I’ve suffered loss and additional struggles since then – my own and those of people I care about.  The challenge to be happy in all circumstances has become more difficult.  Thank you to a friend who reminded me of Philippians 4:11:  “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”  KJV

I watched Revolutionary Road the other night. I was enjoying the movie in the beginning. Good performances, and the couple’s last name was Wheeler (my maiden name). . . Toward the end, the movie started to make me mad. Kate Winslet’s character, April, had a pretty nice life. Two beautiful children and a nice home. She didn’t have a great marriage, but it was salvageable. But, she was deeply unhappy because she didn’t get to move to Paris. She thought she and her husband were special, and they didn’t belong in this suburban lifestyle. She wanted more.

I looked at my own life and thought how much April Wheeler would hate it. I live outside of a small town and work at a dirty old steel mill in another small town. It doesn’t get much more unglamorous than that. But, I am happy. I have my moments of grumbling, but overall, I am happy. I am extremely grateful for my children. I am grateful for the moral support and companionship I get from my husband and other friends and family. I am grateful to have a job where I work with nice people, generally feel appreciated and have the flexibility to attend my son’s school events. I am grateful for my country drive everyday. I think the cornfields, hay bales, old farmhouses and country churches I pass everyday are beautiful.

I couldn’t help but think that if April Wheeler could not be happy where she was, eventually she would be unhappy in Paris too. I’m not saying it’s wrong to have goals or want something different. But if your focus is on what you don’t have, instead of the blessings you do, you can never be happy.

Another Year Older. Am I Any Wiser?

No, it’s not my birthday.  I just had my one year anniversary as a Blogger.  What have I learned?  What have I accomplished?  Has it been worth it?

What have I learned?  A lot.  And nothing.  I’ve learned that blogging is extremely time consuming.  I’ve learned that, with my type of blog, it is very difficult to make an income.  I’ve learned that writing can be therapeutic, and perhaps that was the point for me from the start.

I have not learned how to create the level of traffic I would like, while maintaining a full-time job and mothering two young children.  I’ve learned that I have no idea which posts will be popular and which will not.

What have I accomplished?  I’ve been asked to write for an online magazine, and I’ve been featured as a guest on a number of my peer’s blogs.  I’ve managed to help some people by being open about my struggles with anxiety, the challenges of parenting, and facing aging as an older mother of young kids.  I’ve made real friends and started my own blogging group.  I’ve figured out how to share my personal experiences without sharing too much about the people close to me (I think.  No one has expressed upset with anything I’ve shared anyway.  Although . . . come to think of it, I have later deleted a couple of posts that seemed questionable . . . ).

Has it been worth it?  Well, let’s think about what the cost has been.  There is a financial cost to a blog.  There is a time commitment.  It’s definitely cost me hours of sleep over the last year.  The writing part, while time consuming, is not as demanding as the promotion and networking.  It’s cost me my peace if mind, at times.

What have I gained?  Some confidence in my writing.  I’ve been given some affirmation that sharing experiences and thoughts can be beneficial to others.  I’ve learned that I am capable of creating something fresh, new and unique.

I’ve decided to renew the blog for another year.  So, I guess that means I have determined it is worth it.

Am I any wiser?  While I’m open to ideas and advice, I’ve found that not all advice works for everyone.  I’ve learned to accept that what I write about is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea.  That’s okay.  In some ways, through trying different approaches and different positions, I’ve come full circle.  My instinct from the start was that I had something worthwhile to offer, and I feel that’s proven to be true.  So, perhaps, so far, this little adventure in blogging has simply confirmed what I already knew.

Roller Skating is not Like Riding a Bike – And Being Cool is Uncool

I’m sore.  I suspect the soreness will escalate to stiffness by morning.  My husband suggested we take the kids ice skating.  I told him I would come along, but I never could ice skate, and with hardware in my back now – it really doesn’t seem like a good idea.  I would be on the sidelines.  Roller skating on the other hand . . . I’m all about that.  Plus, the kids have been asking for roller skates, but I told them they needed to at least try it before we would consider buying them.

So, we went to church, then out to lunch, and then on to the roller rink.

My husband and I did not meet until age 35.  However, we are only three weeks apart in age, and grew up about 90 miles from each other.  It’s nice to be able to relate to each other, having grown up in the exact same era, in the same region.  Last year, I bought my son suspenders.  My husband said he only had one pair of suspenders.  I asked, “Were they Mork suspenders?”  “Yes.”  “I had those too.”  I don’t care who you are.  That is funny right there.  Unless you’re too young to understand the reference.

Anyway, we both thought we were pretty awesome skaters in 1980, which was probably about the last time I went roller skating.  I didn’t think it was very popular anymore, but everything old is new again.  The parking lot was full, and the place was packed.  Who knew?  We all got our skates on, and I thought it would come back to me, the way riding a bike did after not riding for many years.  Some cliches are true.  But, no.  Being on roller skates at age 45 felt very uncomfortable.  Having two falling kids holding each hand was not helping the situation.

I only fell once . . . but as I was going down I had flashbacks, and realized my last two of three falls as an adult ended in my seeking medical attention and wearing slings.  Why had I thought this was a good idea?

I saw my husband fall, and I loved him a little more in that moment.  You see, as uncool as I think skating is nowadays, there is something about it that brings out the showiness in people.  It does take some skill, and you can move pretty fast, so maybe that’s it.  We were in the center of the rink, which I thought was reserved for little kids.  But, there were people showing off, because I guess they got bored with going around in circles.  They were skating backwards and through and around people very fast.  From my perspective, they were just clogging up the area and causing hazards in a space that was supposed to be safe for learning.  I was starting to get kind of angry about it.

I have one teenage kid in mind, who thought he was pretty cool.  I did not think he was cool.  I thought my husband, forgetting his pride to fall down trying to teach his kids to roller skate was very cool.  Cooler, because I know when he was that kid’s age he was into being socially adept (one of the slang definitions of cool, according to dictionary.com).  Now, I think, the cooler you try to be, the more uncool you are.

 

 

 

 

Save

Make the Effort to Notice

I’ve mentioned before, I try to read the Bible every morning.  Lately, I have been reading 2 Kings.  Sometimes, I find it really fascinating.  Sometimes, I find it rather boring.  The history of the kings of Israel starts in 1 Samuel, with Saul.  I’ve continued to read these books in order, because I have become interested in this chronology.

I’m no Bible scholar.  I’m sure I miss some important information.  The names of some of these kings are very hard to pronounce, even in my head.  There were many ungodly kings, who caused Israel to sin.  Many of them were killed – sometimes by their own sons.  That usually gets my attention.

Hezekiah, one of the kings of Judah, stands out.  He did what was right, in the eyes of the Lord.  Later in his life, Hezekiah became ill and was dying.  2 Kings 20:2-6 (New American Standard Bible)  Then he turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD, saying, “Remember now, O LORD, I beseech You, how I have walked before You in truth and with a whole heart and have done what is good in Your sight.” And Hezekiah wept bitterlyBefore Isaiah had gone out of the middle court, the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “Return and say to Hezekiah the leader of My people, ‘Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David, “I have heard your prayer, I have seen your tears; behold, I will heal you. On the third day you shall go up to the house of the LORD.  “I will add fifteen years to your life, and I will deliver you and this city from the hand of the king of Assyria; and I will defend this city for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.”‘”

This passage stuck with me.  I mean, that’s pretty significant – God sending a message to Hezekiah, through the prophet Isaiah, and extending his life for 15 years.  I read it a couple of times over two days, because when I returned to it, as often happens when I’m finding where I left off the previous day, I re-read a paragraph or two.

Here’s where things get weird.  A couple of weeks ago, I began helping to cover for someone in another department, who was on vacation.  I sat at a desk that was shared by a few different people.  On the first day, when I was training, I didn’t notice a plastic cup that was holding some pens.  I noticed it the second day, and I saw that it had a cross on it, which I thought was nice.  The third day, I noticed it had tiny lettering below the cross, and realized it was a Bible verse.  I took a closer look.  It was part of the verse 2 Kings 20:5.  I think it was from the NIV:  “I have heard your prayer and seen your tears; I will heal you.”  This bothers me a little.  It’s taken out of context.  God was making this promise to a particular individual, in a particular circumstance, which is not how it’s presented here.

But, that’s not what I want to focus on.  I was floored when I saw this, because that very morning was when I read that verse for the second time.  If it had been Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.” (KJV) or Romans 8:28  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”, I wouldn’t have thought too much of it.  I see these verses pretty often, and I draw on them often.  But 2 Kings 20:5?  That is not one that is quoted often, and to see it after just reading it two days in a row, when it stuck with me for the first time?  That is odd.

I don’t believe in coincidences.  I pray most mornings for God to let me feel His presence.  We have to look for those things.  I learned a long time ago, that I have to quit talking so much and keep my eyes and ears open to see and hear His presence.  When I witness something like this, I can’t ignore it.  If this is God, allowing me to feel His presence, how does He orchestrate such a thing?  Like so many things with God, it is beyond my understanding.  But, that doesn’t make it any less real.

We live on a nearly empty road in the country.  It’s part of a development, that hasn’t really developed.  But, we do have street lights.  When it’s dark, the screens in our windows make the lights look like a row of crosses.  Depending on how clear it is, the moisture in the air, who knows what else, they can look extremely brilliant at times.  I’ve tried a few times to capture this on film, but I haven’t had much success.  This is the best I’ve been able to do.

It’s more powerful in person.  As distorted as this is, hopefully you still get the idea.

God does speak to us in all kind of ways . . . through His word, song, images, events . . . if only we make the effort to notice.

 

 

 

Save

Save

Save

Seven is the New Thirty

There was something about my son turning seven that I dreaded.  Doesn’t it seem like there are some ages that just sound so much older than just a year or two before?  Six still sounds like a little boy.  When you think of a 7-year-old boy, you think of a kid with a mind of his own, maybe even an obnoxious one (I do, anyway).

Maybe it’s because age seven is the first age I remember rather vividly.  I remember snippets from when I was younger than that, but my seventh birthday party seems like it was yesterday.

So, I dreaded it, but, of course, it came anyway.  And what changed?  Nothing.  At least not overnight.  Sure, he’s changing. But, he still likes to sit on my lap.  Only, now, he’s often reading the books to me, instead of the other way around.  I really enjoy seeing his reading improve, and watching him laugh when he reads a funny book, as he did tonight.

When he started school, I wondered how long it would take for him to be too cool for his Mama.  I was cautious of giving him too much affection in front of his classmates.  Last year, when I asked if he was too cool for me to give him a hug in front of the approaching school bus, he said it was okay.  I still have my baby!

Last year, I helped with his Valentine’s Day party.  I wasn’t sure how he would be with me there at school.  It was only kindergarten, but still, he was becoming more independent.  As I was talking to his teacher about what I needed to do, he walked up behind me, hugged my legs, and said, “I just love you.”  I was like the Grinch.  My heart grew three sizes that day.

I’m helping again this year, and he says he wants me to.  He still loves his Mama.  I know he always will, but surely there will come a time when he’s too cool to show it.

Still, much like my own 30th birthday, which I frankly dreaded for years, age seven wasn’t the dramatic change I expected (to read more about that, see my post Is There Anything Good About Getting Older?).  You would think I would learn.  As I’ve said before, I’m a slow learner.

 

Save

Save

Save

Have You Forgotten Your New Years Resolutions Yet?

A month ago, people were talking about setting goals and not setting goals.  I admit, I was thinking about it too. There is something about a new year that makes you feel you can accomplish anything.  That little sign on my way to work that I described in my previous post, Humility Prevent Humiliation,  says on one side, “New Year.  New Beginnings.”

The one that is top of mind for me and many others is losing weight.  The goal should be, eating healthier and getting in better shape.  I want to do that too, but it’s mostly vanity.  I have some things working against me.  I broke my back when I was younger.  The hardware in my back makes it almost impossible to develop any muscles in that area of my back, and that makes it tough to strengthen my core.  I used to do crunches, but they made my back hurt and frankly probably aren’t good for me anyway.  Planks, yoga, or squats while holding some weights are probably the best way to go.  Here, I have no excuse.  I’m lazy.

Having two kids at an “advanced maternal age” is not helping my stomach.  On top of that, I have an umbilical hernia that I have yet to have surgically corrected.  My days of bikinis are long behind me.  But, if I lost 20 lbs., that would surely make me feel better about my stomach.

But, it’s so daunting.  I know, I know.  I should make a lifestyle change.  Not just diet to lose weight.  But, I like pizza and tacos and cake and potato chips.  Let’s not forget chocolate, french fries and Chinese food.

I like diets that tell me exactly what to eat so I don’t have to track carbs, calories or points.  Have you ever tried a low-carb diet?  Talk about misery.  I love meat, but I need bread or crackers or something to feel full.  Between feeling hungry, tracking carbs and depriving myself of much of the food I really like, I focus on the diet ALL THE TIME.

For the last couple of years, I’ve been doing diets that specify what my meals are and allow me days when I can eat whatever I want.  My problem is consistency.  Whatever excuse I can come up with (some legitimate, some not so much) to take a couple weeks off, I will use it.

Okay – all of that said, I’m going to give myself a break.  I am still 8 lbs. down from where I was at my heaviest (other than pregnancy or the months following having a baby) two years ago.  That’s certainly better than gaining it back, or gaining it back and then some.  While that sense of renewed energy I, and many others, had at the new year has worn off, each day is a new day, so I won’t give up.

While those weight related goals are not bad to have, maybe there are some more important goals to set.  Goals that are good for our well-being and our souls.  Some can be immediately met.  Give to that charity you’ve been thinking about forever.  Go to church this Sunday.  Start reading that spiritual or positive book that’s been collecting dust.  Others take a longer commitment, maybe even a lifetime commitment.  Stop gossiping. Stop lying.  Read the Bible every day.  Make an ongoing effort to make my spouse feel loved.

I’ll focus on gossip for a bit.  In the past, I had no shame in talking about people behind their back, as long as I didn’t get caught.  As I’ve matured, I’ve realized how damaging gossip is.  Besides hurting your relationship with the object of gossip, it potentially hurts their relationship with others, and it damages your reputation more than you realize.  Scripture has a lot to say about gossip.  Here’s a harsh one.  Matthew 12:36 (ESV)  “I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak,”  This one is a little gentler:  Proverbs 21:23 “Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble. ”

I bite my tongue a lot.  But not always.  Sometimes I’ll find an excuse to gossip.  “I have to work out this problem with this person by talking about it to someone else.”  Another excuse might be that this someone needs to know what this person is really like.  But, do I need to be the one to tell them?  What if I gave the person the benefit of the doubt, and gave them the chance to be at their best?

But, over the long-haul I’ve been improving.  As happens so often, the lyrics of a song keep running through my mind.  This time, it’s Matthew West’s Day One.  (We saw him in concert in December.  He was fantastic.  If you get the chance, don’t pass it up).  Here are some of the lyrics:

Well, I wish I had a short term memory
Wish the only thing my eyes could see
Was the future burning bright right in front of me
But I can’t stop looking back

Yeah, I wish I was a perfect picture of
Somebody who’s never not good enough
I try to measure up but I mess it up
And I wish I wasn’t like that

Every morning, every morning
Every morning, mercy’s new
Every morning, every morning
I will fix my eyes on You
Every morning, every morning
Every morning, mercy’s new
Every morning, every morning
Sun’s coming up, the beginning has begun, yeah

I improve.  I stumble.  I think I’m on a trajectory of cutting this destructive behavior out of my life altogether.  While I have the attitude of taking this change seriously, and not giving myself a pass for bad behavior, each new day brings new hope that I will be better than the day before.

 

 

 

Save

Why I No Longer Express My Political Views on Social Media

I have pretty strong political opinions.  I can back them up with sound reasoning.  But, sound reasoning doesn’t do much in the political climate in the United States these days.  Knee-jerk reactions are the norm, it seems.

I can be guilty of that myself.  A few years ago, I was discussing a political topic with someone on the opposing side.  I initially made the mistake of assuming she agreed with me.  It became apparent pretty quickly that was not the case.  She asked something that surprised me.  “Why do you feel that way?”  I had a good answer, but I felt humbled by her question, because, while she disagreed, she seemed like she was actually listening to my answer.  How rare!

It was around that time that I started noticing how the media did their best to keep political and racial tensions high.  I also noticed the posts on facebook – how emotional and divided they were.

I had realized during the previous election that there really was no good reason to post political opinions.  But, I did it anyway, because it felt good.  This election cycle has upped the ante as far as emotions.  With today’s inauguration, my facebook feed is full of political opinions, on both sides.

But, I didn’t stop posting my opinion because I realized it was futile to do so.  I stopped because I decided I needed to do my part to heal some of the division in our country.  What’s that saying? “Be the change you wish to see in the world”.  While I’m not ashamed of my political views, I have committed to positive, non-divisive, statements on facebook.  Has it made a change in the big scheme of things?  Probably not.  But, I’m sure it’s decreased some of the negative feelings of a few of my facebook friends.

Save