All Or Nothing

Ever since Hubby quasi retired I feel as though I’ve been running a race. Every day is a whirlwind of running around and at the end of the day I couldn’t even tell you what I’ve done. The only normalcy that has not changed is I make dinner every night. We have a set dinner hour of 5:30 which gives me a few extra hours than I had pre-retirement to decide what to make and do the preparation. This should theoretically be a good thing, but for some strange reason the supposed extra time I have to cook seems to elude me. Let’s blame Hubby for that too, seeing as of late he’s the best excuse for everything that just isn’t working out the way I thought it would.

Anyway, when it comes to dinners, it’s pretty much an all or nothing thing. When there’s a day that Hubby and I aren’t running around all morning into the afternoon or we haven’t worked on projects around the house all day, I seem to spend the entire day in the kitchen. I’ve been making homemade pasta, two to three new recipes sometimes in one meal, experimenting with lots of new ingredients, and really serving some five-star dinner entrees.

When we do run errands or have projects to work on however, I have no desire to be in the kitchen at all. It doesn’t matter if we’ve been gone or working for only an hour or so, that little blip in my routine/schedule is enough to take my ambition or whatever you want to call it away. Thankfully Hubby has been tremendously understanding — too understanding in my opinion — when dinner happens to be just hot dogs on the grill thrown together ten minutes before it’s time to sit down and eat.

I’m not so understanding. The guilt of it all has been weighing on me, so for the past two weeks I’ve been perusing cookbooks, magazines, cooking websites, and favorite blogs for quick meals that require little to no effort, are made with ingredients I typically have on hand, and create the illusion that I’ve done more than just sit on the couch all day eating bonbons (which I haven’t been doing, but again, I just can’t seem to figure out where the time goes and what I’ve been doing, so who really knows).

One such meal was one that I made tonight and was a real hit. Both Hubby and Zeb couldn’t say enough about it and already they’ve both called dibs on the leftovers. Definitely a keeper. Plus, this is one that I think I could vary using different types of meat, cheese, and/or sauce.

Although this is a “sandwich” and Hubby has always teased me by stating “You know you’re in America when you have a sandwich for dinner!” even he thought this was a hearty meal not to be scoffed at. He even commented that if we were to have a sandwich shop or something like that, this would be the one to bring everyone in. I didn’t serve it with any sides other than pickled green tomatoes, but making some homemade potato chips or even a quick batch of french fries certainly wouldn’t hurt.

If you’d like to check out the recipe, it’s on Simply Grateful CookingBarbecue Chipped Ham Sandwiches.  I’m not sure that I’d want to make serving sandwiches for dinner the standard around here, but with sandwiches that can hold their own at the dinner table, I’m willing to relax a little and serve them guilt-free, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

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A Life in Transition

Based on the number of posts I’ve made lately, it’s a wonder anyone actually still stops by my blog. Yet, each day there are a few views and a few visitors, encouraging me to press forward.

It’s difficult to consider blogging when your life turns completely upside down. It didn’t happen in an instant, thus why my consistency has been lagging for months now. No, it’s taken several months for life to finally flip from one end of the normalcy spectrum to the other and now I’m in the process of digesting what, for the moment, is the new “normal.”

Hubby sold his business! After 28 years at what was the “current” business and another 10 years before that in other businesses, he, for the first time since he was 16 years old, does not have a job that consumes him 24/7. It has been a long time coming, something he has wanted to pull himself out from under for years. With the economy as it is, selling a business has been slow and hard. The only plus is that he didn’t have to walk away from the business. He did actually sell it, not for what he paid for it, not for what it is truly worth, but at least it was for something.

Now for the first time since I have known him, he doesn’t have a job — other than finally being home as a husband and father. Funny how for the past 28 years (the amount of years we have been together – 23 married and 5 before that dating) the thought of him really being here seemed an impossibility and now he is here practically every minute.

The transition has been interesting and not surprising — challenging. He is trying very hard not to get in my way or step on my toes, as I’ve been solely in charge of taking care of everything here at home with little to no help from him for the past 23 years. Yet, he is also trying to be as helpful as possible, almost as if he’s trying to make up for lost time.

My thought is that all those years are gone and at this point don’t matter. There is no “making up” for anything. We did what we had to, what we thought was right, what had to be done at the time. Now we need to move forward, not dwell on the past. Trouble is that I am so accustomed to not having anyone to turn to for most things around here, that having him here is awkward at best and cumbersome at worst.

I thought when everything was done, and the papers were finally signed, life would somehow fall back into place. That my routine and every day existence would somehow pick up where it had left off prior to all the time I had to spend helping Hubby get things ready for the sale. But, no. Nothing is the same. Well, the kids lives are still basically the same. They go to school, have their own activities, come and go as they have. That part of my life is still the same as well. I get up and get them both off to school, but when they are gone, when I would normally have the house to myself so I could plan my day and do “my thing,” I have Hubby to contend with.

The first week it was fun. It was nice to have someone here all the time to chat with, someone to share my morning coffee with, someone to run all my errands with. That was the first week.

By week two I was beginning to look for excuses to run up to the grocery store by myself. I got up early so I could have some time to myself. I went to bed a little earlier than he so I could read or unwind in peace. Heck, he had only been sleeping at home two nights a week for over a year and only four nights a week prior to that for the past five years or so. It’s definitely a change dealing with someone whose sleep schedule is going to bed after 11 o’clock, closer to midnight, when I have typically gone to bed between 9 and 10 o’clock for the past four years or more.

Then there’s the issue of filling in the time. Hubby isn’t without responsibilities. He has an online job that he works several hours a night, six days out of the week and he has an eBay business where he sells various items. These “jobs” however do not fill all the time that he has available and him going from having no time to all the time in the world — not an easy transition.

I’ve been trying to understand his position. I have accepted that he needs to get out of the house and do “something” every day since his “retirement.” Unfortunately though, my life cannot become his. This is the case for two very important reasons.

First and foremost, I don’t want to become dependent on him and then have it all taken away. Being as independent as I am today was not an easy place to get. When we were dating and after we were first married, it took me years (yes years!) to come to terms with what our lives were like. I had a predetermined idea of what married life should be, and what I got was absolutely nothing like it. Not having a husband around for the most part was hard on all of us. It took me a long time to establish a home where everything and everyone had a place and when Hubby was home, he had very little to worry about and very little responsibility. He had two other priorities that came before me, the business and his parents.

Second, this is supposedly not a permanent change. I have suggested he take at least 6 months, but he can take as much time as he needs, but eventually he plans on either going out and finding some sort of job or perhaps some years down the road we might venture into a business that will be “ours” rather than his. The business was really his parent’s business, but for the past several years his father’s involvement has been limited and for the past 10 months nonexistent. A new business would be something we do together and I would truly be a part of, not just helping out when he absolutely needed it.

So because of these reasons, and many others, I am hesitant in becoming used to how things are and having him here. It’s still a lot like a dream — not a nightmare-type dream, but something that doesn’t seem real.

Anyway, by week three, which was this past week, things started getting a little strained. The main problem is that Hubby has never been home enough to know exactly what I do, how long I spend doing things, or realize that things don’t just happen without me actually having to do the work.

Did you know that hanging clothes outside on the line actually takes a lot longer than just throwing them in the dryer? Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather when Hubby pointed this out to me, but then I wouldn’t have that wonderful fresh outdoor scent, now would I?

Did you know there is far more to changing the carpet in a room, than just waltzing in, unrolling the carpet, and tucking it under the floor boards? Yep, you have to repaint the room (which is what was necessary to remodel our office), move all the furniture out, remove the old carpet, then put in the new carpet, and yes, you do have to move all the furniture back into the room as well. Go figure! When was all this done before? Well, before Hubby got involved, of course.

Did you know that dinner doesn’t rear it’s ugly head magically without me having to spend sometimes hours on my feet in the kitchen over a hot stove? Hubby certainly didn’t and him telling me that he doesn’t like to see me spending so much time in the kitchen really wasn’t comforting. I like to cook — didn’t he know that, isn’t it obvious?

Did you know that they sell cans of beans, vegetables, and fruit at the grocery store? Really? And here I thought pressure canning my own was the only option. What planet have I been on all these years? The things you learn…

Did you know a dog needs to be let back in the house shortly after you let her out? Hubby didn’t. Well, that is only of course if you ever want to see your dog again. I suppose the hope that she’ll somehow figure out how to let herself back in is always a possibility, but I’m not willing to wait for that to happen.

Did you know that lint actually collects on the carpet and needs to be vacuumed several times a week in order for the carpet not to become obscured by a thin-film of white that forms a low rising cloud when walked across? Why yes, yes I did. But, did you know we actually have two vacuums to remedy this particularly tricky situation and they can be used by both women AND men (if it bothers you that much, that is)!

And my big question to Hubby:

DID YOU KNOW THAT THE TOILET SEAT CAN ACTUALLY BE PUT DOWN WHEN YOU’RE DONE? AND EACH AND EVERY TIME, NO LESS! The wonders of modern technology!

Yep, a challenge. And this is only the beginning. I have only lost it emotionally with him twice so far (seeing that in writing it seems a lot worse than I initially thought), but have vowed to do my best to not let it happen again. Patience is something I need to practice and with the hope of spring being just around the corner, I think we’ll be okay. With spring I can get outside, leaving him inside, and have a little free time. Of course he has made it a point to tell me over and over again he is here to help. Please! Please no. Go to the gym, work on our taxes, spend some time with the kids –anything but help.

So a new chapter in our life begins.

I can’t say for certain that blogging will once again become something I can find time to do on a more consistent basis, but when I can, I will. Today I finally completed a post I started back in March on Simply Grateful Cooking called https://simplygratefulcooking.wordpress.com/2016/04/02/tomato-vodka-cream-sauce/. Check it out if you’re so inclined.

For now, I’m off to the kitchen to make dinner while Hubby heads down to the basement to workout. This way, dinner can magically appear and the illusion will continue, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.

 

Bitter-Sweet 18 – A Mother’s Struggle

My baby girl turned 18 today. It has been one of those bitter-sweet days. I am always happy to watch my daughter growing into a beautiful woman, yet seeing the little girl in her disappear is more than difficult.

It was not so long ago that she was whining to me, “Zebbie’s touching me” or crying because it was time to come in from playing outside. I remember so clearly her first steps, her first words, and her first tooth. These firsts continued through her first doll, her first lipstick, her first curling iron, and her first pair of heels. All of these firsts were taken in stride and I enjoyed them right along with her. We shared every moment together — I’ve been very blessed in that way.

Today, however, Grace had a “first” and for the first time I could not share in her joy. The sorrow in the realization that my baby was no longer a baby hit me with such vengeance that it took all the strength I had just to get through the day. I am fairly good at concealing my emotions, so Gracie was none the wiser, but as I revisit today’s events, my heart continues to break.

I’m not sure why today things hit me so hard. There have been lots of milestones, huge milestones, yet for some reason nothing compared to me taking Grace to the Secretary of State to apply for her driver’s permit. I know that most parents go through this when their child is 15 or 16 and by 18 their child has been driving for years, but Grace had no interest in driving. She was content to have me drive her wherever she needed to go and I was all too happy to comply.

Setting aside the fact that we saved money on driver’s training and the additional insurance costs, the time spent together while driving her wherever she wanted or needed to go these past two years has been priceless. We are close to begin with, but her dependence on me to get her where she needed to be and me having the responsibility of getting there on time brought us somehow closer. There was a mutual respect. She may have needed me, but knowing these days were numbered I did my best to make the most of them while I had them. There were some days I hated the fact I had to leave the house four or six times because I had to take her to college, pick her up, take her to work and then pick her up again, but my frustration was short lived. Somehow I always managed to come back to “this isn’t going to last forever.” Sometimes that was thought thankfully, but mostly with an aching in my heart that I knew was only going to get worse.

For weeks Grace studied the book we picked up from the Secretary of State, preparing for the test. Each night we’d sit in my room, me writing in my journal, Grace reading her manual and quizzing me on the newest things she learned. It was rather humbling when I’d get an answer wrong. It’s been a long time since I took a written driver’s test and I began to wonder if I had any business out on the roads myself. In the end we both learned quite a bit.

The whole while she studied, I enjoyed blissful denial that she was ever actually going to drive. We’d gone out to parking lots several times for her to practice. This was actually fun. Grace was so nervous that she laughed and talked the entire time. At the end of each driving session, she was emotionally and physically exhausted. I was glad to be there to give her moral and emotional support, but happier that I was able to share the experience with her.

For 18 years I have had Grace practically all to myself. Sure she has had friends and spent time with other family members, but I’d have to say I have spent the most time with her by far. I home schooled her till she was 15. Then we enrolled her in community college and I have driven her to and from there for the past three years. We chose her classes together, we go to enroll together, we buy her books together, and I even go with her to find her classrooms before the first day of class. She has done volunteer work or had jobs now for the past four years, but I drove her wherever she had to go. She was away from me, but I still had that one last string of dependence because she needed me to get her where she needed to be, be it school, work, play, or friends. I was needed.

Today was the first step towards a part of her independence that leaves me feeling empty, when I should be rejoicing for her.

Driving to the Secretary of State, Grace was nervous. She kept worrying about failing the written test. She put her hand on the arm rest between us and I took it. We held hands the rest of the drive, giving us both some much needed comfort. As usual, the Secretary of State was busy. They were serving number 6 and we were number 29. After a 30 minute wait, Grace and I went up to the counter and Grace was handed her test. Moving to the testing area, she left me standing at the counter not knowing what to do with myself. Is this what it is going to feel like when she no longer needs me?

Collecting myself, fighting back the tears, I returned to my seat in the waiting area. From there I watched as Grace read through the questions, marked off her answers, and flipped to the next page. Twenty minutes passed in an instant, my eyes hostage to her every move.

Test in hand, Grace met me back at the counter and we waited while her test was checked. Too nervous to watch, Grace turned her back to the woman and took my hand. I squeezed it tight, not letting go till we got the word, “You passed!” The smile on Grace’s face said it all. I hugged her, kissed her on the top of her head, and told her, “I never had any doubt.” Doubt is one thing I never have when it comes to Grace, when she puts her mind to something, it’s typically a done deal. Five minutes later, with a freshly printed permit firm in hand, Grace and I were driving home. No, Grace did not drive home, we were on too busy a thoroughfare for her first time out on the road.

All the way home Grace texted friends, sharing her good news. I sat quietly as she read the conversations to me as they happened. Grace shared her plan to have her license in exactly 30 days, the minimum number of days required to drive with a permit by the State and how she planned on doing all the driving she could from this day forward. It was wonderful being a part of her joy, although the lump in my throat was growing.

Once home I asked my husband if he’d take her out driving around the neighborhood for the first time. This was just one first I could not bring myself to do. He looked at me sideways, saw the unmistakable look in my eyes, and agreed. Grace ran to her room, grabbed a pair of sunglasses, and jumped back in the car, this time in the driver’s seat.

Standing in the driveway, I watched as Grace cautiously pulled out of the garage, careful not to take off the side mirror in the process. Reaching the street, she backed out onto the road for the first time. Shifting the car into “Drive,” they were off. I stood there, staring, watching until the car was out of sight, frozen. I couldn’t move. Eighteen years of firsts flooded back to me. Eighteen years of baby bottles to pop bottles; dress-up clothes to formal wear; face paint to make-up; board books to novels; Barney to Teen Wolf; rompers to mini skirts; jump rope to weight training; Gym-boree to Forever 21; Disney to MTV; swing sets to shopping malls; and car seats to driving.

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Snapping myself out of my self-pity moment, I paced back and forth until the car rounded the corner 15 minutes later. Slowly the car made its way back to our driveway and Grace ever so slowly pulled into the garage. Meeting her as she got out of the car I asked her how it went. Shrugging she said, “Okay, I was really nervous.” Turning to my hubby I asked him how it went. He shrugged and said, “Okay.”

Not exactly the answers I expected. Later, after hubby left for work, I asked Grace if she wanted to try driving to softball practice where she coaches an adaptive league. She winced and told me she’d rather not and wondered if I would drive. She wanted to try driving more around the neighborhood possibly tomorrow. I gave her a long hug, grateful for the momentary reprieve from an independent driver, and told her that sounded good.

Change is hard, especially when it comes to children. Watching them grow, witnessing their struggles towards independence is as bitter-sweet as it gets. Although I know that with every change I face as my children spread their wings and prepare to leave the nest, there will be new things to enjoy and experience with them, some things are harder to accept than others. Today marked the beginning of the end of an era, thankfully though it looks like Grace might depend on me a little longer as a chauffer and I might be able to hold onto my baby for just a little while longer, and for this I am — Simply Grateful.