Realizing I'm at least at half time of my life
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As I watched the television program “Sunday Morning” this morning, I was struck by how quickly the last year has expired. My husband and I had been discussing lately how quickly the last ten years (since we met) have also flown. I think I'm finally at the beginning of my midlife crisis!
There are so many things I want to do with my life. I realized that I'm really on the down side of my life and realistically have been for the last 10-15 years. I'm going to be 59 next year and I'd have to live to be 118 if I was just reaching my midlife now. That's not going to happen! However, I'm a realist, and admitting that not everything is in my control, I will seek to realize as many accomplishments this year as possible and every year thereafter to get the most of my remaining life.
Things I still want to do in my life include publishing a children's' book, seeing every state in this wonderful country, learning to decorate cakes and make fabulous desserts, cooking more and hiking more of the White Mountains. I’ve done very little hiking in my beloved mountains since moving here eight years ago. I’m still learning to use my scroll saw and want to learn intarsia and marquetry. I want to invent all sorts of trivia games. I guess I need to prioritize my weekend activities to get the most of every moment off from work. My “off” time is what keeps me sane as a CPS investigator.
My grandchildren are growing up before my eyes, and I don’t see them nearly enough. I made the decision to move to Pinetop in 2004 and leave my children and grandchildren behind. I wanted to live where there are four distinct seasons. Unlike Phoenix, where there's just hot, hotter and blazing hot, the White Mountains offer all four seasons. While we don't have what I'd consider to be significant snowfall (after growing up in Upstate New York), it is snow. It provides my grandchildren with an experience they can't have at home.
My four granddaughters and their parents came to visit two years ago, and we went up toward the Sunrise Ski Resort and played in the snow. That hill didn't look very steep from the road, but at the top...... Well, I guess I'm just not as adventurous or the risk-taker I used to be. However, I bit my tongue and slid down the hill with each of my grandchildren. It turned out to be more fun than scary as we careened down the hill and tumbled off the toboggan-type snow toys and "saucers." In fact, at the bottom of the hill, I just wanted to lay there and laugh hysterically, but in reality had to jump and run to avoid other fun-seeking grandparents and families.
After the snow play, while back at our house, I showed the girls how to use a plastic box and pack "snow bricks" to form an igloo. I'd never done this before, but it struck me as a fun activity with the girls at the time. The igloo turned out remarkably well, and the girls had a great time. It lasted long after they left and it reminded me of them every time I pulled in or out of the driveway or took out the trash. That was an experience I hope even the youngest remembers, even if only through photographs.
Last summer they all came up and we went to Hawley Lake. The girls were all fishing and tormenting dead crawdads, but they had a great time. We had a picnic and Natalie learned more about fishing from Shawn. The girls and I took a hike to the outhouse with my grandchildren. Kelly’s daughter’s reaction to the outhouse were priceless. Though I'm sure that Nikki's girls have used one before, Kelly's girls are not at adventurous or outdoor-minded and they were grossed out. We all laughed.
It dawned on me at how precious that day was in my life, and I had to document it on paper if they're all to know how much that day meant to me. They may forget it, but I hope I never do as I age. At one point I chose to just sit back for a short time with Shawn and watch the girls, instead of actively participating in their activities. I sat aside, somewhat removed from the action, and just watched. What a special time that was. However, later, Nikki told me I hadn't spent as much time interacting with the girls as I should have. I tried to explain to her how much I truly enjoyed just watching, but just couldn't make her understand. When she's my age or has grandchildren of her own, she'll "get it." The grandchildren were eagerly learning and exploring, and at that moment, I just chose to watch. I knew I was missing maybe 10-15 minutes of actual interaction, but I got so much from that short period of time. I'd try to explain it, but they just can't appreciate that short span of time that I derived so much pleasure from.
The girls and their families had been told since the year before that the upcoming Thanksgiving (2009), they were all expected to come to our house for a special Thanksgiving. Long story short, they didn't come and I didn't visit them because Shawn was in the hospital and I chose not to leave him to fend for himself for the long weekend. Another holiday that could have been very memorable was gone. I don't know how many Thanksgivings I have left in my life, and each one becomes more precious. We don't always get together for the actual Christmas day, so because Nikki's family leaves town to spend time with Sam's parents every other year, I celebrate with the girls and grandchildren either before or after Christmas. It's no less memorable to me. Sure I'd like to see all four of the girls on Christmas morning, but it's just not physically possible (unless one has a sleepover at the other's house on Christmas Eve and I don't see that EVER happening).
There's also summer vacation for the girls. I could just take some time off work and have them up here. It's quite chaotic when all four of them are here, but I love (almost) every minute of it. The girls play so well together that they entertain each other. It's their mothers that don't get along all the time.
Kelly and Nikki are so very different and so alike in many ways. They're both very involved in their children's lives. They've both enrolled the girls in Scouts (except Allyssa and she's pretty much past enjoying Girl Scouts, but participates in soccer). Oh, the Girl Scouts! That's another chapter in my life.
One year I was leader to two different troops because Nikki and Kelly were at different levels in Scouts and no one would lead the troop. The year before, I had led their Brownie troop with a co-leader. But the following year, Nikki was old enough to leave Brownies and go to Cadettes. It didn't take me very long at all to make the decision to lead two troops. How could I consider leading one troop and not the other? I jumped headfirst into the two troops. It was much more time-consuming than I'd ever imagined, thinking up things to do with the troop or planning events or trips. What was I thinking when I got into this? However, I have Girl Scout photos to remember the fun we had in both troops and I'd even kept a Girl Scout scrapbook which contains my weekly newsletters to the parents about what the troops were doing. I didn't know it at the time, but that scrapbook will "jog" my memory for the rest of my life.
I even wrote a short diary of taking 30 teen Girl Scouts to Los Angeles, which is another story entirely. Looking back, it's really pretty funny to read, but it's really how it all happened. I thought of (some of) those girls as my own, and when one was injured, I acted like her mother and almost passed out from the sight of the blood gushing from her mouth after she fell out of a top bunk bed on her face (and implanted her braces in her lip.
Here we are at the beginning of the year and I want to spend more time this year with my girls and their girls. That, unfortunately, probably means my travelling to the Valley more often, as it's impossible to get Kelly to drive to the White Mountains alone, and Nikki's not always available to drive her, with her own work schedule and the girls' Scout and soccer schedules. Kelly volunteers at school for Vanessa's class, but obviously when school's out, she's "off." Besides, last Thanksgiving, my daughters got in a huge argument and one of them left two days early. It broke my heart. I had to remain as neutral as possible and it was difficult.
I long to be retired, because that's what it'll take for me to have the time to accomplish all my goals. I have so many hobbies to pursue. I've regularly collected "the tools of the trade" for so many hobbies. Cake decorating, wood burning, carpentry, mosaics, wreath making, sewing crafts, jewelry making, flyfishing, birding, gardening, making bird houses and the list goes on and on. I'd like to have some sort of business to sell my stuff. There's lots of websites to do this or I could have my own. Oh, and I have dozens of books about anti-aging, but unfortunately for me, I haven't dragged them out so they're unread and unused. Therefore, I've been wrinkling for years. Maybe this year will be different.
I have my "space" upstairs over Shawn's shop, but it's unfinished. However, I've built several temporary bookshelves in an effort to get all my wonderful books out of boxes so I can actually lay eyes upon them and read whatever strikes my fancy at the time. I tend to bring down boxes of books to the house because every time I go up there, I find so many things I want to read about (without climbing the stairs again) and I drag them into the house. Not that I have any place to keep them downstairs, but they remain within reach under a table or beside my bed or in a box in the spare bedroom.
I've watched four grandchildren come into the world and grow to be beautiful young ladies and I’ve remarried to a wonderful man who treats me like I deserve to be treated.
I've done some pretty unusual/adventurous things in my life, most of which occurred after my divorce after 22 years of marriage. I've gone to "cowgirl camp" at a ranch in Wickenburg and attended "Becoming an Outdoor Woman" put on by Arizona Fish and Game, which is yet another story. I've come (very) successfully out of a bankruptcy (again brought on by my divorce). I've obtained two degrees (Associates and Bachelors), learned to ride a motorcycle (and bought two), won an election, served on the Town Council, learned some archery and participated in a match or two (without Shawn because he doesn't do it). I've participated in pistol shooting competitions with my husband. I've become interested and am learning about flyfishing (and just bought a one--girl pontoon boat. That's another story.) I've made a lifestyle change moving from Phoenix to Pinetop.
After I earned my Bachelors of Social Work degree, I completely changed careers after 30 years as a legal secretary (making very good money) to be a lowly social worker. I wanted to "make a difference in children's lives." When I first moved to Pinetop, I was going to "change the world." I began working as a supervisor for a social services company. Then I went to another organization where I taught foster and adoptive parents how to become licensed. I also made home visits to foster children and worked with teens in foster care teaching them life skills to help them become successful adults.
I then moved to Arizona Child Protective Services where I worked in ongoing services. I had to go to six weeks (270 hours) of training in Phoenix. That was fun because I could see Nikki, Kelly and the girls occasionally for dinner.
After that training, I was qualified to work with families, finding them services and overseeing their progress, in order for them to get their children back after CPS had removed them for abuse or neglect. That job just frustrated me, so when an opening became available for an investigator, I switched over.
Now I love my job. It's different every day and I never know what I'm going to come up against each morning when I go through the door. I spent one week a month being "on-call" from 4 PM to 8 AM Tuesday through Friday and then all weekend and then evening hours the following Monday night. Only the highest priority reports come in during on-call time. I've gone weeks at a time and not had a single call (knock on wood....). Other times, I have had to go see an injured child at the hospital or a substance-exposed baby was born. Children are considered safe while they're in the hospital, but I have a two-hour deadline to see them initially.