Thursday, November 21, 2013


It's Sunday night and I am having my  "customary" (as of 3 weeks ago, so, like, newly-minted customary) bachelorette evening where I walk the dog, do some chores, eat a rather lonely-looking dinner and then try desperately to savor my "alone" time. In my mind, during this time I spend free from the bonds of motherhood I should look very free-spirited and comfortable in my alone-ness but more often than not I look like an idiot staring into space as I try to decide what to do with myself. There are so many things I want to do that I don't know where to start. Then, of course,  I think "let me check my email one more time while I decide," and suddenly a whole hour is lost to mindless clicking and tapping on pointless links and photos of dogs.

But not tonight. Tonight I am seated in my living room with the gas fireplace warming my feet and my adorable dog curled up next to me. I am ready to be a writer and express my thoughts and feelings using beautiful language and grammatically correct sentences that flow along the page. My leftovers have been eaten, my kitchen has been cleaned up, my home feels serene. It's time to write.

The problem is, I can't seem to find the proper avenue to follow that will lead me into my mind and allow the thoughts and feelings to flow in an organized yet melodic fashion. I hesitate to address what's really on my mind for fear that instead of producing one ounce of creative expression all that will come out is a whiney, self-absorbed accounting of how sad and lonely and frustrating it is to be a SINGLE MOTHER. In truth, the term "single mother" may be trite and inaccurate used here. I am not truly single; I am still married, it's just that my husband is not currently living with my daughter and me. And I have not been abandoned and forced to provide every single second of care and guidance to my daughter. My husband remains quite attentive to our daughter and therefore we end up spending time together several days a week. But I have moved closer to the single end of the relationship/living arrangement spectrum than I used to be and the knowledge of this movement is constantly on my mind.

The real issue is learning to live as the only adult member of my household which I haven't been since 1996. And it's not as simple as going back to living a single lifestyle because now I am responsible for the care of my child and my dog so I'm not the least bit free to pursue my own whims and interests whenever I want. Yet I no longer have a partner to talk to, upon whom I can unload the tedious and mundane details of each day. And that feels weird.

Despite the emotional distance that had taken up residence between my husband and I, he still occupied a very definite space in our home and now with that space vacated I am unable to navigate my way around the empty holes. I can't quite fill them all myself as there simply isn't enough substance to me to take up that much space. My daughter and I only occupy so much of our house. What is to be done with all that emptiness?

I never intended to use Facebook to announce my separation from my husband, oh-so-casually drawing everyone's attention to the minor fact that my relationship status mysteriously changed from "married" to something else that inadequately describes what is truly going on. But I do want to write about it and so inevitably I am (partially) baring my soul to the world (actually only about 5 people but "world" will do here) by posting this on my blog. Is it too much? Do I reveal too much? Of course, I know deep down I have revealed almost nothing. Being prone to a touch of the social anxiety, though, baring all can be terrifying and regrettable so I have to obsess over every word and hope my self-expression is genuine but still filtered enough that I don't sound like a psychopath. In the end, however, I am really just creating a story in which I happen to be the main character.

I know the story would be a lot cooler if the dog could talk and crack funny jokes all the time so if I can work that into the storyline, I will. Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 4, 2013

30 days of giving (stuff) (away)

So I have seen many people on Facebook doing "30 days of gratitude,"  whereby they post a status update each day stating something for which they are grateful. This is done in honor of Thanksgiving this month, obviously. I am all for expressing gratitude because I think there are so many things, gigantic and minute, to be thankful for, that mostly get overlooked until we are forced to really take a closer look at the abundance in our lives. But rather than risk repeating others' sentiments, I thought of something a little different. For the month of November, as a way to demonstrate my gratitude for the bounty in my life, I am giving stuff away; I call this 30 days of giving. Clever, huh?

I have all kinds of ideas about stuff to give away. And, okay, I didn't initially conceive of this challenge as a heartfelt way to honor Thanksgiving. I really just had some junk taking up space in my house and I gave it away via the Freecycle Network and it was so great to get rid of some stuff that I thought, hey, I can do this every day! I can't guarantee I will be able to give one item away each day, but I do think it will be easy to give 30 items away in the month of November and I'm not even going to cheat and give away a pair of Martha's old snow boots and count that as two items. I already have a bag of kids' clothes ready to go and I'm counting the whole bag as one item. Generosity is the goal here. Also, clearing out some closet space.

Conveniently, as of today, the fourth day of November, I have given away four items:
  • 1 box of ceramic tiles left over from tiling a hallway in our basement (left by previous homeowners).
  • 1 box of slate tiles left over from tiling the front porch (also left by previous homeowners).
  • 1 old door, dragged home by me from someone else's garbage and intended to be used for something very cool and crafty (I don't know what exactly) several years ago (alas, my crafty dream was not to be realized).
  • 1 wooden bench with a hinged lid for storage, purchased for an old apartment I lived in in Boston, circa 1999. 
All four of these items I gave away through, which, if you've never heard of it, you should look up because it is a very handy way to connect your unwanted stuff to the people who may want or need the stuff and it keeps your junk out of the landfill and it generally makes the world a better, happier place. The first three items I posted as offers, but the fourth item, the bench, I gave away to a woman who placed a wanted ad looking for a bench to use for photo shoots. Do you see the balance and harmony of this? She needed a bench and I owned a bench (unwanted). We both walk away happy. And it conveniently gets me to four items given away in four days. Beautiful.

But I don't want to limit my giving strictly to my secondhand belongings. I can give my time and energy. I am already planning to give several monetary donations on November 14th, Minnesota's Give to the Max day. And I won't cheat there either and count each dollar as a separate item. I can give someone a ride. I can give someone coffee, bake cookies, buy someone lunch. What else can I give this month? If you have ideas, send them my way.

I should clarify a few things that won't qualify as "giving:" advice (especially unsolicited), compliments, a piece of my mind, the time of day, something to cry about, a shout out, a speech, a kick in the butt. I'm sure you can think of some more. There has to be some value to what I'm giving and although I happen to think I have some really valuable advice for countless people I know (as well as those I don't know), I can do that any time of the year and my advice might not necessarily be perceived as a gesture of generosity.

So, okay, let the giving begin. I have much to give, as I have been blessed with many things, both tangible and intangible. And instead of complaining about all that is missing from my life, I am going to focus on what others need that I am capable of offering. Give thanks. Or just give.
A symbol of my life: a veritable cornucopia of gifts