Home

For all practical purposes, the words ‘house’ and ‘home’ are interchangeable. They both bring to mind a place where you live, typically with your family. For me, the word home feels warm – it evokes a sense of coziness that house does not. The old saying “A family makes a house a home” is true – the house contains the family, the love, the spirit which truly makes it a home.

We are selling our home. After 21 years here, we have decided to downsize while the market is good, moving away from the place that gave us shelter and held us together. It’s just a building, but it’s been so much more for our family – it is the place I staked my independence following my divorce. It’s where I embarked on a new marriage with hope and joy. We brought home our son a few years later, adding a third child to our already busy home. He’s lived here all his life and now faces a move to a smaller room in a smaller place that I hope will become a home to him.

When I think about the years we’ve been here, I feel like I have touched just about every wall in every part of this house. We have been actively improving it year after year, adding on, remodeling, redecorating, doing the regular maintenance a house needs. I have loved making my yard the garden I’d dreamed of – and feel connected to it at my very roots. I can walk through the garden and touch my plants, seeing the results of years of work come to fruition. All of this has been a labor of love, with an eye toward ‘someday when we sell, we want it to look good’. And we made it look really good – so good, in fact, we began to question why we wanted to sell. But the fact remains – two of our three children have married and moved into homes of their own. A big house is no longer something we really need. It feels empty and unused for much of the year with our youngest now in college. It’s time to let someone else love it.

The sales process was swift. Houses in our area are being snapped up quickly and within a day of listing, we had multiple offers. We wanted to pass our home on to someone who wanted to be a part of the neighborhood and raise a family here. One couple stood out to us as those people. They told us about their love for gardening and art – they could see themselves here, tending the garden, working in the art studio upstairs. It felt right – and we quickly accepted their offer. What it meant to us was the stark reality that we would really be leaving our home. No more ‘someday when we sell’ – that day was here.

A house contains us – a home nurtures us. All the tears, the laughter, the sleepless nights – every emotion under the sun has taken place here. So much love has passed through this place – so many of my memories are rooted here. It will always be a part of me, in a way no other home has been.

This is the longest I have ever lived anywhere. We moved a lot when I was a kid – the longest in any one place was ten years in our Golden Gardens home in Seattle. Giving my kids a stable place to call home was a big priority for me. I think I learned a lot of resilience moving around growing up, but it was hard being the new kid over and over again.

Starting soon, we will enjoy being condo dwellers for the next few years. We’ll work on building our next home and making the move to Whidbey Island one of these days. For now, we’ll say a loving goodbye to the place that kept us warm and safe and dry all these years, leaving behind the good memories and good karma that has come from the joy, the pain, the happiness and sadness every family shares.

Friday Flash Fiction

Rochelle Wisoff-Fields
Photo Courtesy of Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

This picture has a lot of inspiration packed into it. I made the mistake of reading a couple of entries and now have to see what new twist I can make on the same prompt. I usually don’t read until I’ve come up with my own. Now to let go and see where the creative river takes me.

Word count: 101

Flux

No man ever steps in the same river twice – all things are in flux like a river.” Elmer said quietly to himself.

“What you going on about?” Opal shook her head. “Old coot.”

He looked at the river, knowing his own feet had stepped there, younger feet, back when his world was new.

Heraclitus had it right. His life barely mattered and any impact would wash away like a footprint in the sand, gone before the next foot landed.

“Don’t forget to shut that damn window. You’ll catch your death.”

Nodding faintly, Elmer closed his eyes, hoping for just that.

To see other stories, please visit the Rochelle Wisoff-Fields site here.

© Erin Leary

50 Happy Things for 2015: Bloggers Unite in Flood of Gratitude

Me, at the beginning

Me, at the beginning

Me, today

Me, today

 

 

 

50 Things I’m Grateful For

LIFE
1. For the gift of life itself, thanks Mom & Dad!
2. Being alive – for my health
3. For learning to live with my limitations but not being defined by them
4. Being loved and loving others
5. My senses – being able to smell, see, taste, touch and hear all the wonders around me
6. My heart – for feeling things, for beating every second of every day
7. Freedom to choose my life’s path
8. Being told I could be anything I wanted to be and believing it
9. Taking the time to relish simple and pure moments
10. Safety – I don’t take that for granted
11. My home – and for feeling warm and cozy on a cold night.
12. My garden – for healing my wounds when I need it mostgarden
13. For learning when to say enough; for knowing when to keep trying.

 

 

 

FAMILY & FRIENDS
14. For my parents again, for being wonderful examples of how to live a good life
15. For my brothers and sisters – my first tribe and my support system
16. For my children, for being my heart and soul3 Amigos
17. For my first husband, for the gift of our two oldest children
18. For my husband, for staying the course and working toward true partnership; for our shared history
19. For my very best friend in the entire universe (the world just wasn’t big enough), Lori. You know why.
20. For my dear friends who hold me up and smack me down when I need it most. Thank you all.
21. For the family I’ve created along the way – those people who are a part of my life and history
22. My pets. My life is enriched by them daily, in spite of the shedding, the puking, the scratching – they are true and loyal and pure love
23. For my memories – all the people who have come and gone from my life, leaving behind their imprint, some large and some small. My life is better for having known them.
24. For our family reunions each Labor Day – they are an anchor in my life and my story
25. For becoming more compassionate with age and knowing how much each of us carry with us as we go through life

EXPERIENCES
26. My upbringing in a chaotic, action packed household – it shaped me and made me resilient.
27. My education and love of learning – I can’t imagine what I’d be like without that
28. Spending four years at Stanford. What an amazing place and what amazing people I met while there. I am still pinching myself about that time.
29. My time as a mother – something I thought I wasn’t going to be very good at, but the single thing that has made me a much better person.
30. My work – my accidental career in technology, as an entrepreneur, and mostly as a mentor to others. I have enjoyed it more than I ever imagined.
31. Living in the Northwest surrounded by some of the most beautiful places in the whole world. How lucky is that?
32. Learning to arrange flowers – who knew this would be a passion?
33. My recommitment to being a writer and the courage to say it out loud.
34. Travel – what a joy that has been – seeing the world, being in places I’d only dreamed of being.Slano
35. Sports – I can’t go through this whole list without that! They are a central part of my life experiences, as a player, as a coach, as a fan.
36. Reading – this is my daily vice; I can’t imagine a world without books to read.
37. Helping others. Nothing makes me happier than when I put others first to be of service.

MISCELLANEOUS

38. Coffee…it is a daily pleasure
39. Chocolate…no longer daily, but still something to savor
40. Creating things – food, art, a garden – these are the small creations that make life a joyIMG_00000425
41. Seeing the sunrise or sunset and being reminded that beauty is everywhere
42. Taking the time to walk barefoot in sand or grass and remembering the miles I ran barefoot as a child
43. Seeing a smile on a relative’s face who has become the spitting image of my grandmother or aunt who are no longer with us
44. Continuing to learn and stretch my mind
45. Relaxed moments of companionship, whether with people, a good book, or my furry friends
46. For the rain and the good it does the earth
47. For the sun, which is so welcome after the rain
48. For the ground, for what grows is both beautiful and essential to life
49. For believing that miracles can happen and that sometimes the impossible can be achieved.
50. For Life. I’ve now come full circle.

Thanks to Dawn Quyle Landau at Tales From the Motherland for initiating this!  You can find other bloggers’ posts here.  To participate, follow these rules and then click on the Blue Frog Guy below.

If you’d like to join in, here’s how it works: set a timer for 10 minutes; timing this is critical. Once you start the timer, start your list (the timer doesn’t matter for filling in the instructions, intro, etc). The goal is to write 50 things that made you happy in 2015, or 50 thing that you feel grateful for. The idea is to not think too hard; write what comes to mind in the time allotted. When the timer’s done, stop writing. If you haven’t written 50 things, that’s OK. If you have more than 50 things and still have time, keep writing; you can’t feel too happy or too grateful! When I finished my list, I took a few extra minutes to add links and photos.

To join us for this project: 1) Write your post and publish it (please copy and paste the instructions from this post, into yours) 2) Click on the blue frog at the very bottom of this post. 3) That will take you to another window, where you can past the URL to your post. 4) Follow the prompts, and your post will be added to the Blog Party List. Please note: the InLinkz will expire on January 15, 2015. After that date, no blogs can be added.

Please note that only blog posts that include a list of 50 (or an attempt to write 50) things that made you feel Happy or 50 things that you are Grateful for, will be included. Please don’t add a link to a post that isn’t part of this exercise; I will remove it. Aside from that one caveat, there is no such thing as too much positivity. Share your happy thoughts, your gratitude; help us flood the blogosphere with both!

May your holidays be filled with happiness and gratitude!

http://www.inlinkz.com/new/view.php?id=592585

 

Flash Friday Fiction

Image

Picture courtesy of Randy Mazie

So many angles, so little time.  Here’s one I’m sure others may try…..

Word Count: 98

Once a Goat

– I miss you

– You miss me taking care of you

– No, really – I know I did you wrong, but baby, you were always it for me

– Now’s a great time to tell me all this.  Once a goat, always a goat.  That’s what my mama taught me.

– I should have been true to you.  I know I deserved it.

– I should have done worse.

– But, honey, now that you’re gone – do you think you’d consider changing me back?

– I don’t reckon I will.  No, sir.  I don’t reckon I will.

Please check out the links to all the other Flash Friday Fictioneers, which can be found here.

© Erin Leary

That’s Charisma, That’s What That Is

When my daughter was about 8 years old, something her younger brother did struck her as asking for trouble.  She watched him do this thing, like reaching for the last piece of pizza and spilling his milk as a result.  Shaking her head, she pronounced “That’s charisma, that’s what that is.”  We all knew she meant karma, but the way she said it made it an instant part of our family vernacular.  Whenever someone does something that sets them up to get a swift kick from karma, we mutter “That’s charisma…”

Karma is a part of Buddhism and Hinduism, among other eastern religions.  The underlying principle of Karma is that it brings back the results of actions to the person performing them.  Good actions equal good karma.  Bad actions, bad karma.  Simple, elegant, and self-sustaining.

So it’s nice when Karma (with a capital K) comes out to play nice.  In a post from late last year, I was bemoaning the piling on effect of some not so fun events that were going on in my life. It felt like I was on the receiving end of a pretty severe crap storm, even though I felt in my heart that I had worked to sow good energy in the universe.

For the most part, I play the long game.  A short term win that sows bad karma is not my style.  I look for things to balance out over time – but when it comes with a big fat sign that says “Universal Payback Ahead”, I sit up and pay attention.  To wit, my tale.

Karma

Following our separation as we headed into divorce, my soon to be ex took possession of our joint savings account as well as the two savings accounts we’d set up for our children.  There wasn’t a lot of money in any of the accounts and I wasn’t going to fight it.  His logic then was that I wasn’t trustworthy enough to manage the accounts for the kids, therefore he would do it.  I told him that as long as he used it to help pay for college, I was fine with him taking stewardship of the funds.  That was in 1995.

The big issue last fall was around his unwillingness to pay his full 50% share of the kids’ college expenses.  After child #1 was done with school and child #2 was a senior, he informed me he wasn’t willing to pay me back in full.  He hid behind the one paragraph clause in our divorce paperwork and parsed it down to the bare black and white legal language of 50% of tuition only, no books, no fees, or other charges.  In addition, he capped it at the state school tuition level, which meant our daughter’s private school tuition was a problem.

After the dust settled on this dispute, he ended up paying more than he wanted to but less than what was his true 50% share.  His relationship with both kids was damaged and is still not repaired.  The cost to him in trust was steep – I’m not sure he really understands how much damage was done.  I stood up for the kids and stood my ground, knowing that this wasn’t really about money but about control and making me pay for the hurt I’d caused him.  After 18 years of being divorced and working be a good co-parent, the damage to me is complete.  I have no desire to have any relationship with him.  I consider his final payment our last real need to communicate.  I wish him well, but I don’t need to try anymore.  He forfeited my goodwill with this move.

Then came the phone call. A gentleman (who clearly enjoys his work) called last week with some surprising news.  He works for the department of revenue’s unclaimed property division.  He called asking for me.  He said he needed to find my children as they had some money in unclaimed property accounts.  I figured it was a refund or rebate of some sort, but he said it was a lot of money.  I’m thinking maybe $500 or so.  He then tells me that it totals over $20K.  At that point, you could knock me over with a feather.

It turns out that the savings accounts that were set up for our 2 kids when they were young ended up being abandoned by their father at some point.  He set them up as United Trust for Minors Accounts (UTMA) after our divorce.  Somewhere around 2001 after his second move, he lost track of them.  The statements went to an old address and after 3 years of no activity and no updated address, they were transferred to the unclaimed property division.  They have been collecting interest for the past 18 years and the little bit of money in them has grown substantially.

compintThis was money that he could have used to help offset their college expenses on his side.  I assumed all along that he had done so.  To find out that he not only forgot them but abandoned them altogether is like a gigantic green arrow flashing “Karmic Payback Here” – hard to ignore and a thing of beauty.  The best part is that since the accounts are UTMAs and the kids are no longer minors, the money is all theirs.  This windfall will help them get started in their adult life and will allow them to pay off student loans or put away some money for a down payment on a home.  After all, this was their money all along – money given to them for birthdays or Christmas that we thought they could use better when they were older.  For it to find its way back to them feels like a big cosmic win.

Just when I began to feel like a patsy for taking the high road and not asking for child support when I had the kids full time, Karma came through.  It felt like a gift from above to have this land in our laps.  It came without any strings, no need to fight for it. Perhaps the best stewardship he could have provided was to forget it along the way.  That way, it was there for the kids when they needed it.

Interestingly enough, his 50% share of the college costs that I’d covered was about $21K.  The timing of the universe providing almost that exact amount to the kids seemed to be a very clear indication that this was a result of Karma leveling the playing field.  I am downright giddy about it.  It helps me let go of any lingering bitterness or frustration at feeling taken advantage of.  I’ve let go of that feeling, as I made the decision to make our divorce not about money, but about doing what was right for our children.  By staying true to that aim, I know that in the long run I am much richer for it – not in money, but in my relationship with my kids and in my peace of mind.

Now that’s charisma, that’s what that is.

Playing Fair

Image

I am a big believer in playing fair.  I think it has to do with being a middle child.  I was never the first or the last in my family; things had a way of being evenly handed out and I was content.  The world, however, doesn’t always play fair.  I have felt on the receiving end of a pretty severe cosmic crap storm for the past 5 years.   I hold the hope that the tipping point has been reached and the scales will once again come back into alignment.

There’s a reason my icon on this blog is a Weeble™.  That is because when I get knocked down, I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down….   Yes, that’s a song lyric.  Yes, it’s one of my anthems.  A couple of recent blows have me wondering who decided I was the cosmic punching bag again.  One is in the form of a mental health professional who seems to have lost her mind.  The other is a trip down memory lane through my divorce and parenting plan that I thought I’d never have to take.  Both are minor bumps in the road compared to real problems, like losing people you love.  They are annoying just for that reason – why do little things like this rear their nasty heads just when you think it’s safe to think all’s well?

The therapist issue isn’t even my own.  It’s someone my son saw his junior year in college for a brief period.  She billed four sessions to my insurance from January to March, and the company I work for changed carriers.  I provided her with the updated information but those bounced, too.   There was a new step in place that was needed that I was unaware of.  All of this happened after my dad died and just as my mom was diagnosed with weeks to live.  I wasn’t focused on insurance at the time – I was focused on caring for my family and dealing with my own grief. That was the main reason my son was seeing her – he was also trying to figure out how to deal with his loss and what it meant to him.

So rather than work with him or me on this, she sent the account to collection.  I have been trying to unravel this over the last 11 months and have finally made some headway.  Because of HIPAA regulations, since my son is an adult, I don’t have access to any of his records, including billing for this.  I’m caught in the no man’s land of being the insurance holder but having no visibility into the account.  So far, I can’t get the therapist to respond to any of my emails, voice mails, regular mails, or even a certified letter from my son requesting his treatment records.  How can I help fix something when I can’t see it?

I am sorting through it using every angle I can find, but it has taken a toll.  There is nothing worse to me than being told I owe someone money when I always pay my bills.  I have been trying all along to work with this person to get it resolved and it feels like she has opted to take the lazy route and throw it over the fence to a collection agency.  I keep writing them telling them I dispute charges, which have changed from about $800 for 4 sessions to now $3,800 with no explanation why.  I won’t pay that – he has insurance and it will be covered.  I won’t be intimidated into paying more than I owe.

So then there’s my ex-husband.  There are a couple of defining moments in my dealings with him during our separation and post-divorce.  One moment that is crystallized in my mind: we were standing in the garage of our old house, having moved out there to continue our rapidly escalating conversation so the kids wouldn’t hear.  I wanted to have a clause in our parenting plan to provide for post-secondary education for both kids.  It was a given that we would want them to go to college and we would pay.  I wanted it included so that years from then, when they were ready to go, we knew what we would be committed to.  He said to me “But what if they turn out to be jerks?  I don’t want to have to be responsible to pay for them then!”  I remember looking at him with horrified wonder – how could any parent ever feel that way?  They were our children! Unconditional love is something that is hard to define, but in that moment, I knew I had it for my two kids and that his was based on something else.  It was very telling.

Another moment came after the divorce, when we shared time with the kids 50-50. He was explaining to me that he didn’t want to become a “Disneyland Dad” to the kids.  I asked him what that meant and he said it was a dad who always took the kids places and bought them things to stay connected.  He didn’t want to have to compensate the kids for not being there.  After all, the divorce was my fault.

I think I can safely say that neither of those two things happened.  Our kids have turned out to be wonderful human beings who are interesting and flawed and funny and challenging – just like every other human on this planet.  The short story is that since the year 2000, I have supported the kids living full time with me and have outspent my ex by a factor (which I was forced recently to calculate) of 4:1.  They both opted to live with me full time when they reached 6th grade because it made their lives easier.   I didn’t ask for child support since it might mean my ex would insist that the kids had to live with him 50% of the time as the support order required.  I wanted them with me and didn’t need his money, so it was an easy decision for me.

In those same 12 years, he has contributed about $270 per month to reimburse me for medical or educational costs for the kids that we were to share.  He considers that his “child support” and feels he’s done his part.  He told me in August that he wasn’t willing to pay for all of our eldest’s college costs and was opposed to paying his full hare of our daughter’s because she chose to attend a private school without consulting him, and the tuition was higher than the state school level that is outlined in our divorce agreement.

I finally had had enough.  I heard my parents in my head telling me to fight it on principal and defend the kids.  I hired a lawyer and had three goals in mind:  1) Not be bullied by him, 2) shine a light on his cheapness and his failure to do anything remotely resembling 50% of their support, and 3) make him squirm.  It wasn’t about the money necessarily – I paid a lot for the attorney, but it was something I absolutely had to do or I would have felt resentment over allowing him to once again, guilt me into paying for something that he really owed.

The issue was addressed through mediation recently, and I was able to achieve my 3 objectives.  At one point in the mediation process, the mediator leaned forward and asked me “So, has he always been such a cheap S.O.B.?”  I had to answer yes.  It was one of the main reasons we were no longer married.  Objective #2, check.

The cost to him has been high, not in money, but in respect and his relationship with his kids.  Neither one wants to have a relationship with him at this point.  It will take time for them to heal from this and it will really be up to their father to try to undo the damage.  Both kids heard his message loud and clear – his money was more important to him than they were.  He would rather pay an attorney than pay for their books and fees.  In the end, it was pretty clear who had turned out to be the jerk.  By trying to save a few dollars, he lost what has real value – something most parents can’t even put a price on.

I still believe in playing fair.  It’s part of who I am. I am back to standing upright and am hoping that no more wobbling is in my future – at least for a while.  I would truly appreciate a period of calm, an even keel life.  And if that happens, I will change my icon picture from my Weeble™-y self to something more serene and balanced.

Until then, I am going to practice my resilience and my deep breathing techniques.   Ohmmmmm……

Bad Carma, or My Daughter’s Short Career as a Car Thief

My son, Trey, was admitted to the ER a few years ago following a doctor’s appointment.  He was diagnosed with a blood clot in his leg and needed to be treated immediately.  I went to the hospital to pick him up and we left his car there.  The plan was to go back the next day to retrieve it.  My daughter, Laurel, volunteered to help me, so I left work early to get home and pick her up, then return to the clinic to get the car.  Because I’d left early, I still had work to do.  I was on a conference call (hands free!) at the time we drove to the hospital.  Our plan was to get to the parking lot where he’d left it, drop Laurel off by the car, and have her follow me home.  She had been driving for about a year and half by then and was very capable. 

We made it to the clinic parking lot about 3:30, and I was talking on my call at that time.  We drove around the lot a couple of times to find the car, and when we did, I thought that it must have been a busy day at the clinic because Trey’s car was parked pretty far out on the edge.  We nodded at each other, and she got out.  In my distraction while on the call, I waited long enough to see her get in to the driver’s seat, but didn’t wait for her to back out and follow me.  I knew she’d be fine.  I figured I’d see her at home.  Not my best mother moment.

When I got home, Trey said Laurel had called him and she was freaking out because she thought she was in the wrong car.  No way, I said – I saw the car – it was yours!  She’s crazy.  He said she was convinced it wasn’t his, but she wasn’t going to try to take it back, that she said she was coming home.  We both watched from the upstairs window to see what would show up when she arrived.  As she pulled up in front of the house, I looked at Trey and said that’s not your car.  I was stunned.  It was the same model, same color, it even had the roof rack like his, but it was not his car.  Oh no.  His key was able to open and start someone else’s car.  How strange is that?

Laurel came into the house and burst into tears.  She had driven most of the way home gradually coming to the realization that she was driving someone else’s car.  It was cleaner than Trey’s.  The radio station was on AM.  The skull and crossbones air freshener wasn’t hanging from the rear view mirror.  Finally, she realized that the seat covers Trey had on his seats were not there.  She was convinced the police would be on her tail, helicopters would come swooping in and she’d be in big trouble.  She really was freaking out.  I told her I would take care of it.  I took the key, grabbed my purse and headed back to the hospital.  I understood how Laurel must have felt – it was very unnerving to be driving a car without the owner’s permission. 

I decided to try to reach the owners to let them know what had happened.  I found their registration in the glove box and called directory assistance only to find out they were unlisted.  I then called their insurance company.  I gave the service person the name and account number and she asked what she could do to help.  I responded “Well, this may be the strangest call you get all day…”, and explained the situation.

Once she had the crazy story clear, she said to wait a minute.  When she came back on the line, she had the owner’s wife with her.  I assured her that both her husband and the car were fine (in that order) and then explained the tale of mistaken car identity.  I explained that I didn’t want her husband to come out of the clinic and think his car had been stolen.  She said he was at work on the medical campus and wouldn’t be off until after 5 p.m.  He wouldn’t even notice it was gone.  I felt relieved by that and told her that I would re-park it as close to where we found it as I could.  She said it would make a funny story to tell him over dinner that evening.  We all got a good laugh out of it and I drove the rest of the way without worry.

I kept imagining him coming out to his car that evening and thinking, “I could have sworn I was parked one space over….It feels like the seat has been moved…the radio is off – I left it on…the mirror is wrong, too…” Very Goldilocks and the Three Bears.  I suppose I could have left him a note, but that would have taken all the fun out of his wife’s story that evening. 

I called my daughter to let her know that the car had been safely returned and her career as a car thief was over.  As I was talking to her, I walked toward a blue Subaru wagon and was about to put the key in the door, certain I had found Trey’s car at last.  I looked in, just to be sure, and once again, it was someone else’s car.  I guess it’s an easy mistake to make.