Death of a Nemesis

So you may remember that I’ve had a rather love-hate relationship with my lawnmower.  Of all the gadgets I’ve acquired to help me maintain a house, the lawnmower has been the one that has made me curse the most.  Seriously.  And I don’t curse.  (Well, unless you count what I say under my breath as the jump rope keeps biting me when I miss double unders.)

003I fought with my lawnmower every time I did spring maintenance on it, but generally once I got the thing up and running, we got along pretty good.

Until last summer.  The thing just up and died on me with the back yard half mowed.  I probably kicked the thing, thought about saying a few choice words, slammed a door or two, and probably popped a blood vessel from being angry–at an inanimate object.  But there you go.  That’s how my lawnmower affected me.

At a loss as to where to go to get a lawnmower fixed and not wanting my neighbors to be ashamed to live next door to the house with a jungle for 01c73695ec5cb5a4339ebab6f85c8a8c884f018810a yard, I hired a lawn mowing service to mow my yard for the rest of the summer.

And then they had to keep coming this year because my sick little lawnmower was still caput.  But the thing was, I was enjoying not having to mow my lawn.  I didn’t miss struggling with my mower.  I didn’t miss the dirt blowing into my eyes and nose and getting sopping wet with sweat from walking back and forth across the yard in searing heat.  I liked coming home and seeing my yard neatly mowed and edged.

But then I started thinking about all the money I was paying to have my yard mowed when I am perfectly capable of doing it myself, except that my lawnmower had pooped out on me.  My independence won out and I found a mobile small engine repair service to come and smack my ornery lawnmower into compliance.

Only there was no smacking it into compliance.  After an hour in the repair man’s mobile fix-it trailer, he gives me the word.  “I think its had it.”

I felt strangely sad.  This lawnmower and I had gone 9 rounds every spring for the last 10 years, and as mad as that thing made me, it mowed 001my lawn neatly.  So I watched the man put my frenemy into his trailer and haul it away to the lawnmower graveyard.

So now I am lawnmower-less and trying to decide what to do.  Do I continue paying to have my lawn mowed or do I buy another lawnmower, command dominance over it, and spend time every week outside in the blazing heat to keep the grass under the control?

Oh, the trials of being single!

But, seriously, all jest and joking aside, these situations are some of the hardest for me as a single gal.  Sometimes it would be nice to have someone to bounce ideas off and to talk through decisions with.  But that’s not my present reality, so I’m just kicking my options back and forth, arguing with myself, weighing the pros and cons, evaluating my priorities.  Is having more time to do other things more important?  Or is freeing up finances most important?  ARGH….

Talk to me:

What would  you do?  Buy a lawnmower or pay for lawn service?

A Single’s Take on Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day can be an uncomfortable day for me, as I think it can be for most single folks.  When a day is geared towards romantic love and relationships, and you’re single, like me, where does that leave you?  At home, alone, feeling depressed because apparently I’m so ugly and unlovable that nobody wants to be with me?  Seriously, I used to feel that way.  And sometimes, I still wonder what it would be like to be with someone who was totally enamored with me on Valentine’s Day.

But dwelling on those thoughts is really what makes me miserable, not being single.  It’s desiring what I don’t have instead of treasuring what I do have that makes me unhappy.  And what I do have is abundant!

  1. I have family and friends who love me, not in a romantic type of way, but in that comfortable kind of no matter what happens we’ll still be there for you kind of way.  That’s a priceless gift!
  2. I have an entire evening free on Valentine’s night.  I can either choose to lay around home and mope, or I can babysit for a couple so they can continue on with the hard work of making a relationship work.  Time is a beautiful gift.  I want to use it well.
  3. I have a relationship with a God who is enamored with me.  It’s always humbling when I remember that the God of the universe delights in me, that he chose me to be his daughter, that he wants to spend time with me, that his love for me is so strong he let his son die for me.  Just sayin’…no human relationship can match that!

I’m not saying I always do a good job at keeping this perspective.  It’s still hard to be alone on a day that celebrates romance and relationships, even though I’m content being single.  But I’m learning that joy is a choice.  So instead of joining the ranks of single folk sporting black hearts in defiance of Valentine’s Day, I hope this year I can truly celebrate the fact that my friends and family have found the love of their lives and look for ways I can cheer them on in their chosen path of life.

Talk to me:

How will you spend Valentine’s Day this year?

When Your Sister’s a Grandmother

I generally don’t mind telling people my age, at least I didn’t until I turned 40.  I didn’t like turning 40.  I mean, I remember my mom turning 40 and being embarrassed to tell anyone her age because 40 was next to ancient and of course, none of my friends would have parents anywhere near as old as my 40 year old mom, right?  But I did okay pretending I wasn’t 40 until I went for my wellness check (you know, that one that you’re supposed to get every year) and walked out with a referral for a mammogram.  Wow.  Just like that my age reached up and smacked me in the face.  No denying it now; I really must be 40.

But I gradually adjusted to being 40, and then my sister invited me to her stepdaughter’s baby shower.  I nearly choked.  My sister was about to become a grandmother!  A grandma, a nana, a granny.  And she’s two years younger than me!  Isn’t a granny supposed to be an old woman?  Smack.  My age reached up and smacked me again because if my younger sister was taking on the title of grandmother, that must mean I’m really getting old.

The baby shower was cute.  My baby sister, cake decorator extraordinaire, created the cutest caterpillar cake01036c3597a98bf4491fd9b1b1bfc687f8e401e2a2 for the Very Hungry Caterpillar (you know, that cute children’s book?) party theme.  And then my niece had her baby, and poof, my sister is a grandmother.01b6aff84eed08000b36b45f4ea16c92ab142fa948

 

So I’m seeing adorable pictures and videos of this little baby on Facebook, thinking to myself how cute my sister’s granddaughter is.  But then I find my thoughts taking a dark turn.

Aging, I’m sure, is probably scary for most people.  I try not to dwell on the what ifs of life because why worry about things that may never happen?  Still, I find myself thinking about the what ifs anyway.  Maybe it’s because I’m single?  I find myself thinking about my mom and grandma who both had dementia and died in their early 60s.  They each had children to take care of them when they couldn’t care for themselves.  But I don’t have children or even a spouse.  My stomach knots in fear when I think about that.  I think about being unable to work.  How would I take care of myself?  I have no one else in my life to depend on.  I envision myself in a seedy cheap nursing home that no one ever visits.  See what I mean when I say my thoughts take a dark turn?

So I’ve been thinking about finding a healthy perspective in being single and well into my 40’s now.  I refuse to live in fear of things that may never happen, but how do I keep from doing that?

  1.  I live by faith.  My faith is important to me.  And as I’ve thought about aging and being single and alone in my older, vulnerable years, I’ve come to the realization that if I truly believe that God loves me, then I have to believe He will take care of me.  Period.  I don’t have to figure out how He’ll do it, I just need to have the faith that He will.
  2. I do what I can to prevent chronic illness.  I don’t think that living by faith and taking care of myself are mutually exclusive.  I think I also have a responsibility to live wisely.  To that end, I do things like run, lift weights, and eat a healthy diet to lower my risk of developing heart disease and diabetes.  And I try to keep my mind active by reading and learning new things to lower my risk of dementia.
  3. I save for the future.  I have to admit.  Sometimes I just want to hoard all the money I make so that I can pay for my care when I can no longer care for myself.  But that kind of fear and attitude limits generosity, and I don’t want to rob myself of the blessing of giving.  So I save a portion of each paycheck and contribute routinely to my retirement fund, but I also try to give to causes that are important to me.
  4. I redefine what my age means.  What I mean is that we tend to lump people sometimes into categories based on age and say what someone of this age should or shouldn’t do.  And of course, there are developmental milestones that are common to people in similar age categories and there are well researched guidelines about illness and aging, but I refuse to let my age dictate what I can and cannot do.  At 40, I lost 63 pounds.  I became a marathoner at 43 and a two time marathoner at 44.  I can deadlift and back squat more than my body weight which I’ve never been able to do in my life.  I’m learning a new subject matter with kids who weren’t even alive when I graduated college.  Bottom line, at 44 I’m healthier in mind, body, and spirit than I was at 21.  Boom!

So my sister’s a grandmother.  I’m happy for her.  Ecstatic for her, actually!  Her granddaughter is adorable!  And my sister is one hot 01b081889bf5e374d83d7c8bf45097f6d22a8ef07dgrandma!  But I’m also happy for me, single at 44, headed straight for 50 in a full on sprint.  As long as I have breath in my lungs, I intend to explore life and all that it offers within my physical ability.  I have no intention of sitting back and letting age and marital status stop me before I try, whatever the outcome.  What I’ve realized is that you’re never too old to make healthy choices and to find the adventure in life.  Hey, God doesn’t put an age requirement or limit on people He can use, so why should I let age limit me?

Talk to me:

What did you call your grandmother?  What do your grandchildren call you?

What’s something you think you’re too old to do? 

Being Single at Christmas

The holiday season is kind of a hard time to be single.  For a lot of us single folks, the holidays are filled with the pain of lost families and traditions because of divorce.  For some of us, it’s filled with the pain of unfulfilled longing, of wanting and waiting to establish our own families and traditions.

If I’m not careful, I find myself falling into a well of apathy this time of year.  Sure, I have friends and family who invite me to spend Christmas with them, but I always feel like a fifth-wheel.  Not because of anything they say or do, but because of this persistent feeling of being “less-than” because of my singleness that seems to rear its head at the most inopportune times.

And being a hospital based nurse, I spend a lot of Christmas holidays at work, as I will this year.  Having to work on Christmas intensifies this urge to be apathetic about the holiday.  I mean, why get excited about a day that will be just like any other day of the year, right?

But that’s the error in my thinking, right there.  Christmas is not about a day; it’s about a person.  It’s about the birth of Jesus, about God incarnate, about the ultimate gift of sacrifice, about our salvation.  And whether I’m at work or gathered around a Christmas tree with family, that fact doesn’t change.

So over the years, fighting this singleness induced temptation to apathy, I’ve discovered a unique gift in being single at Christmas.  I see people scurrying about, stressing out about getting presents for everyone on their list, going into debt to get just the right gift, spending hours cooking and baking, working frantically to make Christmas day perfect.  Me?  Because there’s no one I’m “obligated” to buy gifts for and there are no expectations on me to prepare a traditional Christmas celebration, 007I get to sit back and just enjoy the holiday, taking in all the good things this time of year offers.  I just get to soak in the Christmas music, revel in the Christmas lights, stare at my nativity scene and think about what Mary and Joseph  must have gone through.

Being single has taught me to truly celebrate Christmas.  I’ve learned that celebrating is not about the food, the decorations, the gifts.  It’s a heart thing.  It’s giving glory to God for his selfless act of giving.  It’s being thankful that Jesus was born to be our savior.  Sure, I love the parties and gift giving and all the traditions, but whether I’m alone or with people, true celebration is in my heart.

So I’m thankful for the gift singleness this year.  I’m thankful that I get to take care of people on Christmas day instead of being the one needing to be taken care of.  I’m thankful that I have ears to hear the Christmas music, eyes to see the sparkling lights, and a heart to love Jesus with.  I’m thankful that celebration can happen whether I’m in the midst of a 12 hour shift, alone in my house, or surrounded with friends or family.

From my heart to yours, have a very happy, blessed holiday season!

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Girl vs. Lawnmower

I have married friends who tell me sometimes how easy my life is, you know, being single and all.  They’re probably right most of the time.  My fur baby is happy with his daily scoop of catfood, a string or a stick to play with, and fresh litter for his box.  Yep, I guess I’ve got it pretty nice.

055Except for those times when I have no idea what I’m doing, which as a single, female, mechanically challenged homeowner is frequently.  I’m not at all handy so when it comes to things going wrong in the house, I’m either duct taping it, living with it, or paying to have it fixed when it finally gets on my last nerve.

Right now I have tons of dry wall patches in the bathroom from having some cracks repaired.  Oh, and that patch in the hallway where the plumber had to cut a massive hole in the wall to change out the leaking bathtub faucet (I decided after letting it drip for a year, I should really do something about it.)  But painting isn’t difficult; I just need to do it–which is the thing about being single.  Everything falls on my shoulders.

But the one thing that continues to whoop my tail, even after almost 9 years of home ownership, is the lawnmower.  It remains my number one nemesis.

Now, I’m a fairly stubborn (maybe prideful?) gal and hate asking for help.  So when I bought a house, I told myself I was not going to rely on others to help me take care of it.  I was going to learn to do the things I need to do to maintain a house on my own.  I decided to start with tackling lawnmower maintenance.  I had my new mower blade and a new air filter, and I got up bright and early one Saturday morning, sure that I could change the mower blade, the oil, and the air filter, AND have the lawn mowed by noon.

Well…After an hour of trying to get the old blade off with a pair of plier things I found in the garage, I wound up with several bloody knuckles and the mower blade no where closer to being off.  So I gave in and called my big brother (love him!) who came over and loosened the blade for me.  Unfortunately, the new blade I had so confidently purchased was too big.  So off for trip #1 to Home Depot for a new blade.

I returned home, screwed the new blade in place, feeling immensely proud of myself.  Unfortunately, I then discovered that in the tools my brother left for me, there was not the right size wrench to undo the oil thingy (you know, so I can dump out the old oil).  So off for trip #2 to Home Depot.  The salesman tells me I need a socket type wrench.  I tried to tell him I don’t think that will work since the nut I needed to loosen was in a groove on the deck of the mower.  He was insistent, though, and since I had no idea what in the heck I was doing, I trusted him.  Only to find that, indeed, I was right, and the socket would not fit into the groove to loosen the bolt.

Trip #3 to Home Depot.  My blood pressure was rising.  I’d been hours already trying to get that stupid machine taken care of.  I avoided all sales people, found the wrenches, but wasn’t sure if I needed metric or standard size wrenches.  Promising that this would be my last trip to Home Depot that day, I picked them both up.

Thankfully, I found the wrench that fit the nut, loosened and removed it, only to have dark, dirty oil flood the garage floor.  I was beyond frustrated, but bound and determined to get the job done, I cleaned up the mess, and proceeded to replace the oil.

Changing the oil filter was a piece of cake compared to everything else and finally at 12:00, I was ready to mow the grass.  I took the mower outside, yanked the starter cord a few times, but nothing happened.  Haha, gas!  I hadn’t filled up the gas tank.  Unfortunately, the stupid thing still wouldn’t start.

I was just plain mad now.  I marched inside, slamming doors, throwing shoes, and yelling at the walls, since I’m single and there’s no one else to yell at, you know.  My poor cat was cowering under furniture.  I decided breakfast and a nap were in order, and an hour later, inspired by the sound of my neighbor’s lawnmower, I decided to try again.

This time the mower started, but it sounded like it was chewing rocks.  One pass down and back, and I found the mower blade laying in the grass.  Sigh.  I screwed the blade back on, torking it with all my might, and at long last, the yard was successfully mowed.

Years later, I can look at my first lawnmower maintenance experience and laugh, but still that machine bites me.  This year, I completed all the maintenance activities in about 20 minutes.  I had to get a little MacGyver like to hold the mower up so I could change the blade, but it worked!

003As usual, the mower wouldn’t start right off.  I yanked the starter cord hard, and suddenly that thing recoiled so hard, snapping me in the jaw, bouncing off my chest, and landing with a snap against the mower deck…while I heard the unmistakeable clatter of the blade hitting the driveway.  Oy!  Not again!  But yes, I had put the blade on upside down.  Way to go, girl.

So being single is sometimes hard in ways people don’t see or understand.  It can be frustrating to get things done when you’re just not skilled in doing some kinds of tasks.  But on the other hand, there is a strange sense of satisfaction in conquering something as mundane as lawnmower maintenance.  I only hope one day, I can do it on my first try without walking away in a limp, bruised, or bloody.

What do you do when things break in your house?

 

Remembering Mom

It’s easy for me to get bogged down in feelings of inferiority on Mother’s Day.  When the ideals of marriage and motherhood are held up as the standard of womanhood, it’s easy to feel a lesser woman on that day, being single and childless.  It’s an awkward day for a single gal.  I mean, what do you say when someone says, “Happy Mother’s Day!”  to you.  Ummm, thanks, I guess.  Somehow I don’t think having a fur baby really counts as being a mother.

030But one thing I’m working hard to do here On the Other Side is to find a healthy perspective in every situation, awkward or otherwise.  So instead of wallowing in inferiority on another Mother’s Day, I choose to celebrate the woman my Mom was and to embrace the challenge to be the woman she raised me to be.

My mom died on May 2, 2009, just a few days before Mother’s Day.  That makes the day a bit hard for me as well.  Death.  It’s the stinky part of life, right?  But to see Mom suffering from Parkinson’s disease and dementia was infinitely harder than letting her go, knowing death for her was ultimate healing.  I know one day I’ll see her again.

I don’t know how I could ever begin to list all the things my mom taught me, but there are a few things she did so well that I am still working to perfect in my own life.

  1.  Make the simple special.  My mom was a master at making something so simple feel really special.  After a long day of running errands, Mom would pick up a loaf of raisin bread, a package of bologna, and a box of Bugles.  Then we’d head to the park for a short picnic or sometimes have a “car picnic”.  It was such a simple lunch (believe me, it tasted much better than it sounds!), but it was such a treat.  Same with peanut M&M’s.  Mom would buy a bag on sale, stash it away, and on a random evening, she’d pull out the bag of chocolate and dole out 10 M&M’s to each of us.  I could make that chocolate last for hours!  I hope that things I enjoy never become commonplace.
  2. Find pleasure in the little things.  Mom got such enjoyment from things I take for granted.  We could be driving along, and she would make such a fuss over the beautiful flowers along the road–flowers that I didn’t even see.  She’d watch birds and squirrels playing and laugh at their antics.  Or the next door neighbor’s little dog.  She got a kick out of watching that little dog run and play in the grass.  I hope I can take a lesson from Mom and see the small, beautiful details in my everyday life.
  3. Take pleasure in giving.  My mom loved giving to other people.  Even when Parkinson’s and dementia robbed her of her ability to read, write, and make crafts, she would get so excited when I would help her make a card to send to someone.  I hope I can always be excited to give to others.
  4. Treasure scripture.  Some of my earliest memories of Mom are of seeing her sitting on the edge of the bed, open Bible beside her.  Mom’s Bible was tattered and underlined in all different colors, sure signs that she spent much time with it.  After Mom got sick, I would read scripture to her.  She especially loved the book of Isaiah.  She would sit beside me on the couch, and I would read chapter after chapter from Isaiah.  Once I thought she had fallen asleep.  She was sitting so quietly with her eyes closed.  I stopped reading, and Mom’s eyes opened.  She wasn’t sleeping at all; she was just reveling in the word of God.  If I could just learn to treasure God’s word as much as she did…

So on this MMom 001other’s Day, I remember my mom, Susie.  I still have so much to learn from you.  Thanks for being my mom.

The Gifts of Singleness

Recently I had the honor of attending a beautiful friend’s wedding.  Believe it or not, I do own something besides running and workout gear!

001Weddings make me think a lot about my singleness.  Many times weddings are a bittersweet event for me.  Even though I’m entirely happy and content being single, there’s a part of me that is sad that I’ll most likely never have that childhood dream of walking down the aisle in a gorgeous dress come true.  I feel sad that I’ll never be able to add my stories to those of other women of marriage proposals, wedding mishaps, and motherhood.  If I dwell on that, I’ll eventually convince myself that I’m less of a woman because I don’t have those shared experiences.

So I shift my focus, instead, to what singleness brings to my life.

  1.  Amazing friends.  Birds of a feather flock together, right?  I’ve found that to be true, especially as I’ve gotten older and remained single.  Believe it or not, being over 40 and single is easier than being 29 and single.  When I was in my twenties, all my friends were getting married and having babies.  I felt very much like an outsider, and I had very few friends my age who were single.  As I’ve gotten older, we long term singles, or single again peeps, have found one another, and they have become my life line.  Sure, life experiences aren’t the same, but we all get what it’s like to be single at this stage of life and that creates a bond.  And if I wouldn’t be single, I probably wouldn’t have met these people.  They are a gift of my singleness.
  2. Flexibility and spontaneity.  I’m discovering just how much I value flexibility and spontaneity in my life.  On one hand, I get frustrated when people think that just because I’m single I don’t have responsibilities and/or a schedule to keep (duh, who else is there to keep the house going?!), but truthfully, the ability to be flexible and spontaneous in my schedule is wonderful.  I’m not tied to anyone’s schedule but my own.  Maybe some see that as selfish, but I look at it as a gift of singleness.
  3. Solitude.  Yes, I love solitude.  I’m an introvert, so being alone is necessary to recharge my battery.  Solitude gives me an opportunity to quiet my body and my mind, to reflect on the day, and to listen to God.  Yet, when solitude turns into loneliness, I have a group of friends to run with, my CrossFit peers waiting at the gym, friends a text or phone call away.  If I’m alone and lonely, it’s usually my fault.  So yes, solitude is a gift of singleness.
  4. Adventure.  As if navigating life without a life partner isn’t advertuous enough, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to Australia, Egypt, Uganda, 156Yosemite, Death Valley, the Sandia mountains of New Mexico, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, Hollywood and to train for a marathon.  Sure, I’ll admit all those things could be done married or single, but if I had the hopes, dreams, and desires of someone else to consider, would I be willing to spend the time training to run 26.2 miles?  Would I be willing to travel to countries that have been in the news due to vIMG_0658iolence?  Would I have the money to fly to another hemisphere?  I don’t know, but for now, I thank God for the time, resources, and ability to experience his amazing creation.  They are a gift of singleness.

So while I’m so incredibly happy that my lovely friend has finally met her soul mate and has become a Mrs., I refuse to be sad for what I may never experience when there’s so much out there left to see and do and so many friends to meet.  May I never fail to recognize the gifts that are in my life RIGHT NOW.

 

Single Does Not Equal Broken

So I’m single.  I’m over the hill and have never tied the knot.  I don’t have kids, unless my four footed fur baby counts.  My cat, Sunny, is the sweetest thing ever.  Sometimes I think about getting another cat, but being single, I don’t want to become the crazy cat lady all the kids on the block talk about.

IMG_0455

035Look at all that cuteness!

I struggled with being single for a long time.  My mom was the greatest mom ever, hands down.  She died 6 years ago, and I miss her terribly.  This is one of the last pictures I have of her.

Mom 001When I was younger, I never pictured myself as a career gal.  I just thought I would be a mom and a homemaker like my mom.  But then I turned 25, and I was no where near close to getting married.  It was because there was something wrong with me; I was sure of that.

I would pray half heartedly that God would let me be content in my singleness, but deep down, I desperately wanted to get married.  I was really afraid that God’s plan for me would be singleness, so I prayed for God’s will to be done, hoping that His plan would be what I wanted–marriage.  Then, birthday 29 rolled around, and I was no where closer to getting married, but my nursing career was in full swing.  Funny how life works out.

Birthday 30 came and went.  I was still hopelessly single, but as least I had a healthier self-esteem.  I found myself sincerely wanting what God wanted for me, and to that end, I began praying sincerely for contentment in whatever marital status I found myself.  One day, I realized that I was totally and completely happy, single and all.  Funny how life works out.  (Did I already say that?)

Well meaning people tell me, sometimes, to hang in there; the right one will come along.  I used to cling to those words of encouragement, hoping upon hope that they were right.  But now, those words just make me cringe.  I mean, it’s like people think I’m not complete, or can’t be happy, without a Mr. by my side.  I get introduced sometimes as “Juanita, one of the singles” as if my marital status, or lack thereof, is the most important thing about me.  Some people joke about single people being single for a reason or single for a season.  It makes me feel like singleness is a disease to be cured.

Don’t get me wrong.  Singleness is an important part of my life.  It affects how I make decisions.  It affects where I go and when I go there.  I have a feeling, though, that marriage affects my married friends the same way.  In my quest for health, I struggle with how to live a contented single life in a culture that elevates romantic relationships.  Sometimes I think maybe there IS something wrong with me now because I’m satisfied being single, especially being single on the other side of 40.  But I know that’s not true; contentment, in any circumstance, is a gift to be treasured, and being single does not mean I’m broken.

So I smile at being introduced as a single and try to let the comments of eventually finding the right one roll off my back.  If it happens, great; if not, that’s great too.  I know who I am.  I’m Juanita, child of God, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, nurse, runner, Sunday school teacher who just happens to be single.

So here’s to being content in whatever phase of life you find yourself!  May you find joy and purpose in your here and now, married or single.