Tuesday, December 31, 2013

2014: A Look Back

I am not usually one to make New Year's resolutions. Instead, with my birthday being at the exact midpoint of the year, I make a list on that day of what I want to accomplish before I turn another year older. And, much like those goals made by many on January 1, I pull my list out after a year and shake my head at the plans I let go unfulfilled. So, I decided to try something different. I am going to envision what I want my life to look like at the end of 2014 and pretend it is so. Manifest my own destiny in a way. It's like "The Secret" phenomenon peddled by Oprah several years ago -- visualize what you want and it will come true.

With the house quiet as both kids fell short in their valiant efforts to make it to midnight (eastern or central time), now seems like a good opportunity to reflect on the year that has yet to happen.


What an amazing year it has been! With all the wonderful moments that took place in 2014 it is going to be hard to let this year go. But, we need to make room for even greater moments in 2015 (like me turning 40 . . . yikes!).

Ian started kindergarten (!) this year, which means the Moore Trio has officially transitioned into a new stage of our family's life together. And no more day care payments for me! While I was not one to get teary when Catherine started school a few years ago (it probably didn't hurt that she walked right to her seat, started talking to the new kids around her, and didn't even notice when I left), seeing Ian sitting at that desk and meeting his new teacher was a bit emotional. He's my baby. A chapter is closed. He's doing so well, though, and is proud to step onto that bus with his big sister every morning and show off how well he is reading when he comes home at night. He played both spring and fall t-ball this year and his game has really taken off. I think I see a varsity shortstop position in his future! He has come a long way this year in growing out of those little boy tantrums and replaced them with more language and thoughtful expression. His confidence and maturity make me proud.

Catherine, of course, is in complete control of this third-grade business. I am in awe of her on those rare occasions that I am able to visit her at school. She is friends with everyone and is so outgoing. The complete opposite of how I was at her age! She knows she is one of the "smart kids," but encourages others to learn and never flaunts how easily school comes for her. Like her brother, Catherine also has grown up quite a bit in 2014. She is still navigating a world in which she wants to be a preteen but she isn't quite there yet, and is getting better at finding her place and being comfortable with it. I was just at her most recent piano recital a few weeks ago, and I'm so excited that she is playing Mozart! She has become more patient with herself when it comes to practicing piano, as she has a tendency to get frustrated when she doesn't understand something right away, and that has made a world of difference. She started playing softball this year and she likes life in the outfield. It's been a lot of fun watching both kids play.

We enjoyed our trip to Disney World in October. I told the kids we would go there one time, and this was it! We certainly made the most of the adventure. Catherine loved getting on all of the scariest rides that her height would allow and Ian got over his fear of humans dressed in plush costumes for some great pictures with Mickey Mouse. He also would tell you that the water rides were his favorites. I think this was the perfect age to take them. They were old enough to be somewhat independent and helpful, which I need when it's two on one, but still young enough to be completely enthralled by the magic of it all.

Whether traveling to the Magic Kingdom or sitting and watching a movie together on a Friday night, my time with the kids has gotten even better with the resolution I made and kept to put away my phone during family time. I knew that I didn't want my kids' childhood memories to be scattered with images of me staring at a small screen or sending text messages when we should have been enjoying conversations and laughter without interruption. This change has been one of my favorites of 2014 and a lot easier to do than I thought.

But what about me? Did I accomplish the personal goals I had set out for myself? Yes and no. By March I had gotten rid of those ten pounds that had crept on over the past couple of years. Eating only a limited amount of meat that always comes straight from that CSA through which we also now get much of our produce, drinking at least 100 ounces of water every day and getting to the gym at least three times a week even if it meant taking the kids there after a full day of school once in a while helped. The kids actually both told me multiple times this year that they were glad I was exercising and taking better care of myself because they were worried about me. With a stronger body, I was able to get back into running as I had resolved to do and finished several 5k and 10k races as well as the "Middle Half" in October (with a personal best time, thank you!).

I'm still hit or miss with my pledge to sleep (or at least be in bed and resting if sleep won't come) seven hours a night. There are many nights when I put myself in bed with lights off by 10:30pm and I feel amazing when the alarm goes off at 5:30am the next morning. It's been nice to take a half hour after that solid night of rest to read, pray and quietly prepare myself for the day before the kids get up at 6:00am. There are still times, though, that I slip back into old habits of sitting on the couch watching TV or surfing the internet until 1:00am because I want to avoid the quiet of bedtime and the racing thoughts that inevitably come. I know my problem with sleep is a lifelong issue, so I am pleased that this resolution has been at least partially met.

As I look around my house, I guess I have to admit that my resolution to keep every room organized and guest ready at all times may have been a bit too lofty to achieve. Blame it on the aforementioned decision to sleep more. But the kids and I did work together to develop a family chore chart and I can tell that they feel more invested in the notion I often share with them of the three of us being a team. Each member of the Moore Trio is essential and unique in his or her contributions to making our family as happy and awesome as possible. They like having their rooms in order and knowing that there is a place for everything and I've stayed ahead of the piles, both of laundry and papers that seem to accumulate over an average week. So, I'll declare this resolution to be a work in progress with our efforts headed in a positive direction.

I still am not reading as much as I would like. Part of the problem is that I bring a book to bed with me most nights but I'm nodding off after five pages. I have made a conscious effort to open a book in some instances that my first instinct was to crash in front of the television. But, I still am overwhelmed by the number of books I want to consume and don't see how it will ever happen. When I was in middle school, one of my best friends had a t-shirt that read, "So many books, so little time." Now, twenty-five years later, I get it. I will continue to make more time for reading a priority in 2015.

Along similar lines, I can look back on the number of blog entries for 2014 and see that I have written more than I did last year. That is really important to me. I'm glad that I have made this creative outlet a priority for myself, as I first promised to do when I set up this blog a year and a half ago. And, I'm even more excited that I finally have a solid outline and a substantial amount of writing done for my first book! Maybe I will have my work in print and bound when I'm forty like I have dreamed. Since I plan on self-publishing, at least for this first effort, I know my development of a comprehensive marketing plan for getting the finished product out to an audience will pay off. I can't wait to see what I'm able to write about regarding this major life goal when 2015 comes to a close!

So, yes, 2014 has been pretty amazing. I spent time with fantastic friends, got healthier and stronger, made some great memories with my children, concluded another year at a job I love (did I mention I got a raise??!!), got back to Maryland for the first time in several years, cried a little but laughed A LOT more and watched the Terps shock the world by winning March Madness and earning a spot in the national championship game in football (seriously, who saw that coming . . . guess moving to the Big Ten was a good thing after all). I finally have a functioning garage door and gas fireplace for the first time since moving in here three years ago and I got around to hanging curtains in my bedroom!

And, what about those midterm elections? No one predicted that would happen! Shocking.

Here's hoping for another great year in 2015! Cheers!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

TV Personality Suspended. Free Market Advocates Support the Rights of the Network. Oh, Wait . . .

I've never seen an episode of Duck Dynasty. But, I'm familiar with the premise and that the individuals featured on the show have become extremely popular. I also know that one of the elder statesmen of the program made some comments recently in an interview with GQ magazine regarding homosexuality and his own (very descriptive) preference for the female anatomy, and this has led to his indefinite suspension by the A&E network.

A&E made a business decision and now we will see what happens. Will the network regret the suspension as millions of Duck Dynasty fans decide to boycott any of the programming A&E offers (and we all know the sacrifice that comes with foregoing Bad Ink and Shipping Wars)? Will A&E find legions of new fans for its ideological stand?

Let's take ourselves back in time about a decade. It's 2003 and Natalie Maines of The Dixie Chicks proclaims that she isn't exactly a fan of then-President George W. Bush. The backlash from country radio is instantaneous. Stations across the country refuse to play The Dixie Chicks' songs. Gatherings are held so that people can be outraged together as they stomp on CDs and burn them. The future earning potential of both Maines and her two fellow band mates undoubtedly was forever altered by one sentence Maines uttered in an interview.

All of you who are now decrying the end of free speech for Christians due to Phil Robertson's suspension, I wonder if you also were standing up to the radio stations and yelling, "Hey, you better play 'Cowboy, Take Me Away'! That young woman was just exercising free speech. You can't hurt her livelihood because of that!"

It's the same thing.

I think Natalie Maines said something stupid. I think what Phil Robertson said was incredibly stupid as well. And, as I hope my fellow free market thinkers would agree, there are consequences to your actions. The consumers will decide if they still want your product. 

If A&E made a bad decision by suspending someone on its most popular television show and it loses millions of dollars as a result, so be it. If Robertson finds even greater celebrity and voice for his opinions as a result of this incident, so be it. That's market forces and consumer influence at work.

Phil Robertson still has his freedom of speech. The government is not putting him in jail for comparing homosexuals and terrorists in the same breath. He is still free to stand on any street corner and proclaim his views. He can give a hundred more interviews and express his love for the ladies and, thanks to our freedom of the press, it can be published.

Instead, Robertson's private sector employer decided that he no longer represents the network in a way that reflects its beliefs. A&E does not want to be forced to condone behavior/words/actions it finds offensive. If you have a problem with A&E's rights in this instance, then you also better stand on the side of President Barack Obama and the federal government in Hobby Lobby's fight not to have to fund contraception with its company's insurance policies. Do you agree that private entities have the right to make these ethical decisions or not?

If you embrace Phil Robertson's philosophy and choose to end your support of A&E as a result of this suspension, go forth and boycott. I'm all for that. Use the influence of your dollars to make a statement. (Anyone see how long those lines were at Chick Fil-A in support of its owner several months ago?) But don't lament the end of the First Amendment. We still have the right to say whatever we want. And that is partnered with the right of others not to like it.

Monday, December 9, 2013

One Year to Go

In the first days following my divorce, one of my very best friends--a woman who has sat for hours and talked me through many, MANY difficult moments but who also makes me laugh until my stomach hurts every time I'm with her and who was by my side when I gave birth to my son--said to me on several occasions, "You know you'll be remarried in five years." She was certain of it. I can still picture her looking me in the eyes and saying it. At that time, when I was just trying to get through one hour at a time, five years seemed too distant to comprehend. So, I just nodded my head in agreement.

Although this friend of mine is one of the wisest women I know, I'm afraid she likely was wrong on this one. With the four-year anniversary of my divorce papers being signed by a judge coming to pass last week, saying "I do" by her forecasted deadline is not going to happen. I'm hoping she didn't put any money down on my imminent nuptials in Vegas.

I've been on two dates in the past four years. Two. One was with a guy who spent a lot of time talking about his awful ex-wife. Fun. The other guy said during dinner that he lets his kids play lots of video games during the summer because it's easier than listening to them whine about being hot. Done. I'm not sharing this information about my lack of dating to embarrass myself and make the declaration that I'm "un-dateable" and destined to be single forever. I don't think either of those things is true. I think I'm rather fun and smart. And I believe that if I did not have children, or at least did not have them all the time, my social life would be different. I'm just not sure how having a boyfriend (which seems like such an odd term for someone in her late-thirties to type) or even just dating is supposed to fit into my life. Where is the time for that? Where is that supposed to fall on the list of priorities?  How do I get to know someone who would need to be in my life for months before I would consider introducing him to my kids? I have friends who have become divorced or widowed since I returned to single life who already have found new relationships or remarried. So, I know it must be possible. 

The first year and a half, I understandably had no interest in dating. I was pregnant and then caring for a newborn, in addition to a preschooler, and the notion of making sparkling first-date conversation after not sleeping for weeks and running around with two kids all day seems absurd. Besides, regardless of post-natal circumstances, I knew that I would not want to date anyone for a least a year to allow myself time to process what had happened in my marriage and also out of respect for the transitions that my daughter already was facing. She was suddenly in a single parent home with a new baby brother. Boom. That's a lot to handle.

Since that time, life just kept moving. Days turned into weeks and then months. I got up, got kids ready, went to work, got kids home, made dinner, put kids to bed, cleaned the house (kind of), slept for a few hours (kind of). Repeat. It became all too easy for that grown-up part of me to disappear. There is office Sarah and there is mom Sarah. That's it. (With the occasional night out with the girls thrown in for at least a bit of balance . . . I do have some fun!) To an extent, I suppose I've let that happen. And I'm not alone. I've met other single moms who go years or even decades going through the motions and not realizing how quickly so much time has passed. My kids have quite a few friends at their schools who live with single moms and we've had conversations about the feeling of just treading water through each day.

Who knows what 2014 will bring? I'm open to all possibilities. Maybe my situation will be much different at this time next year. I'll start chatting with a single guy from high school or college on Facebook (I need more than one hand to count the number of people I know who are in relationships right now due to Facebook reunions). Or a friend will say, "Hey, there's this single dad I know . . ."  Or, perhaps it won't be that I find another relationship until the kids are older. Or maybe I'll pitch a new reality show to Fox entitled "Help! Find Me a New Man Before I'm 40!" Something catchy like that. Or maybe I will be single for the next fifty years and I will travel and enjoy wonderful friends and write a best-selling book or two. We'll see. But the point is, for now, the one forecast for my personal life that I remember being told to me so vividly during a period that now otherwise seems so (thankfully) far in my past and dim in my memory banks will not be proven true. And that's OK. I know there's a plan for my life, and it's unfolded in a pretty fantastic way so far, even though some curves in the road made that hard to see sometimes.

While I am thinking of it, my dear friend is rarely wrong and probably met her error quota for the decade. I should ask her opinion on the upcoming BCS Championship game . . .

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Our Otis


Otis came into our lives about a year and a half ago. He had spent many years loved by a family who no longer could give him the attention they knew he deserved and I offered to give this wonderful ten-year-old Collie/Sheltie mix a new place to call home.

The kids were so excited and proud when I surprised them with their canine brother. It didn't take long before Otis was engaging in indoor hide and seek, curling up under the piano bench while Catherine practiced and finding his way to the kitchen within 2.6 seconds of any sound possibly related to the availability of food. I loved to walk in the door from work and have him waiting eagerly with his tail wagging. I loved how he would curl up by my bed every night. I loved that when the kids were playing outside he would stare longingly out the window until we went out to join them. And I tell you, that handsome dog had an amazing smile.

On Thanksgiving morning, I took Otis for a five-minute walk up the street while the kids stayed in the warm house in front of a cartoon. Then, in an instant, our family changed.

Otis loved to bark at and chase anything with wheels -- school buses, trucks, cars, bicycles. His previous owner, a co-worker and friend of mine, said that Otis was born with this passion. His instincts drew him to the chase. He loved it and refused to let doggy training school take this passion away from him. This apparently had made for eventful walks his entire life. It always worried me, but with attention and a strong leash we were able to take long walks and stay safely clear of physical danger. At least that is what I thought.

As we walked about a block from my home, Otis stopped to sniff something of interest in my neighbor's yard. A pick up truck rounded the corner and, to my surprise, Otis didn't seem to care. Whatever had his attention in the grass was more appealing. But then, at the last second, Otis bounded full force out of the yard and right toward the street. I hit the brake button on his retractable leash, but he was not to be stopped. His speed and power broke the mechanism within the leash. He was struck and gone instantly. The whole event seemed to take a split second and two hours all at the same time. I just knelt on the street and held him. Several days later, the moment still seems surreal.

I am so sad and filled with "what ifs." What if we had gone for our walk a half hour earlier instead of after I had a cup of coffee? What if we had headed back to the house as soon as Otis was done taking care of business instead of letting him explore outside a bit? What if I had had a different leash? What if, even at his senior age, I could have somehow found a way to keep him from chasing cars? But those questions really don't do any good. I can't change what happened.

Otis was so very loved and given lots of hugs and attention. He was a beloved part of our family. His absence is palpable and I imagine it will be for a long time. Ian seems to be OK, but then I was clearing papers out of his backpack last night and found a paper on which he wrote that he was thankful for his dog. So, I know that he must miss him. Catherine has moments of tears and then a determination to remember the happy times.

First Walk -- July 2012

A good friend came over and helped me find a final resting place for Otis in the woods near our home. We will be planting flowers at his gravesite and the kids and I will visit him here. We will tell stories about him and look at pictures. I try to tell myself that he spent his last moments doing what he loved. He did not suffer. That hasn't really made it any easier yet. I tell myself that he had more than a decade surrounded by people who cared for him, and that's a good thing.

It probably will be a little while before I can consider bringing another dog into our family, although I imagine that time will come because we all loved having a dog in our lives. I just want to honor Otis for a while. I know how much Otis added to our home and I'm so glad we had the privilege of knowing him.

Otis, we love you and hope that you are running through sunny fields filled with cats and rabbits and school buses and garbage trucks and kids playing tag and chasing every one of them without harm.