The “More” Train

My train of thought:  this is a pig race... it's similar to a rat race, which is just like a ride on the "more" train.
My train of thought: this is a pig race… it’s similar to a rat race, which feels just like a ride on the “more” train.

So I opened up my laptop Sunday afternoon to finally work on some fiction, only to discover something else I needed to say first.   For days I’ve been trying to root out the cause of my  anxiety.  I traced it to several things, but all paths seem to lead me back to the moment I bought my ticket and climbed aboard the “more” train.

Huh?

Let me explain a little.  Not too much because this is a blog post, not a full autobiography (you can thank me later for skipping details!)  Several years ago, I took my seat on the “more” train.  I stretched my legs and settled in for what I expected would be a luxurious ride.  I convinced myself that a bigger house would solve my problems.  I believed a new location would bring contentment.  I naively poured all my hope for a future into that move.

Sitting on the other side of the experience, I laugh at my naivety.  The “more” train turned out to be a one-way trip to a miserable place where more is never enough.  But I learned something… well, a few somethings, really:  more house doesn’t make old problems go away, it just provides ample space for them to grow; a change of location doesn’t mean a clean slate; and more stuff doesn’t fill the emptiness inside someone.

The “more” train takes you right to the “more” monster.  It is insatiable.  The more you feed it, the more it wants.  And it never gets full.  EVER!  The bigger house and the land wasn’t enough.  New wants kept sneaking onto a never-ending list.  Then came complaints about not having money (well, duh- it’s expensive to feed the “more” monster.)

I’m finding it’s also expensive to get out of the “more” monster’s clutches.  For the first time in thirteen years, I have credit card debt and it’s increasing every month.  I struggle with stress over whether I can escape without being completely buried in debt.  I pray for peace in this regard, although I have no one to blame but myself.

I have faith that one day, I will be permitted to transfer to a different “more” train- the one that leads to more time with family and friends, more compassion, more kindness, more memories that I actually want to close my eyes and look back on.  I want less tangible and more intangible.  The currency of this “more” train is human interaction, not dollars.

I guess the point of this post is to urge anyone tempted by the lure of acquiring “more” stuff to don’t do it.  I can’t stress that enough- DON’T DO IT!  If you think that expensive handbag, the iPad, the Corvette, the new-latest-and-greatest-whatever will make your life better- it won’t.  Sorry, but it’s the truth.  Please, put your wallet away and spend some quiet time contemplating what’s missing inside.

Then, go visit a friend, or volunteer your time for a cause you care about, or just say “good morning” to a stranger and really mean it.

Have a beautiful Monday!  (I sincerely mean that 🙂 )

More “Wisdom” From This Last Week (Part 1)

I had fun with my first post of wisdom gained that I did a few weeks ago. I jotted down notes throughout the week so I could share more useless realizations things I’ve learned.   Here goes:

Not all kids think I’m lame- just the ones I gave birth to

My kids’ friends happened to come over when the kids weren’t home.  (They had gone on a bike ride with a neighbor.)  Since I expected them home soon, I let them hang around.  After replacing a Band-Aid that had fallen off, one of the boys commented that I was “like the nicest mom ever.”  Oh, but I didn’t let it go to my head.  See the next bit of wisdom.

Don’t fall for flattery from 11-year-olds (they will eat you out of house and home)

Woody Woodpecker announced a text message on my phone.  When one of the kids identified the voice, I expressed my surprise because it was  “an old cartoon, from my generation.”  He said his mom watched it and she was thirty.  I laughed and said, “oh, I’m much older than that.”  After revealing my age (41) they proceeded to feign shock and assured me I didn’t look that old.  (Seriously, I didn’t buy that load of flattery, but it was a good effort.)

After the kids had played outside for several hours, I had expected them to go home for lunch.  They didn’t, so I fed them.  One of them ate two Velveeta mac and cheese packs and then asked if he could take some home.  I said no because they were for the kids’ lunches.

I have a feeling we’ll have visitors for lunch again soon.  Just a hunch.

This photo doesn't really have anything to do with this post, but I read somewhere that blog posts should have photos.  Since I break all the other "good blogging" rules- especially the "be relevant" one- I figured I should show you our javelina visitor we had last week.
This photo doesn’t really have anything to do with this post, but I read somewhere that blog posts should have photos. Since I break all the other “good blogging” rules- especially the “be relevant” one- I figured I should show you our javelina visitor we had last week.

Sometimes bad housekeeping is a good thing

As we ate dinner on the patio one evening, I kept my eye on a wasp hovering near by.  (This means I had my butt barely balanced on the chair so I could dash into the house.)   It went into a vent cover that was near my husband.  I stared for several minutes but it didn’t come out.  “Oh, there better not be a nest in there!” I said in a near-panic.  When I crept over to the vent and peeked in, I saw the wasp tangled in a web.

Spider webs aren’t just for Halloween…. I’m  happy to have another excuse for leaving them up year-round!

The AZ Motor Vehicle Division operates by computer, not reason

Ah, a government agency.  What could possibly go wrong there, right?  Well, I figured after over a year of living in our new location, I’d get a new driver’s license with the correct address.  When my online attempt failed, I called the MVD.  I explained that the message said I couldn’t get a duplicate license because my photo needed updated in 2011.  I told them how I had done it a couple months prior to the due date after receiving the notice in the mail. Apparently, they put in the computer that it was a duplicate with no indication of a photo being taken.

According to the MVD, my driver’s license photo is from 1998.  If that were the case, I could see my photo being used in an upcoming anti-drug use campaign – as a shocking “after” photo of a 25-year-old who made bad choices.

I knew that hour at the MVD office was one I’d never get back, but I had no idea that, years later, I’d discover it was like it never happened.

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Life really stepped up its game in educating me, so tomorrow, I will post a follow up with more things I learned.  What have YOU learned this week?  I’d love to read your observations (funny, frustrating, or anything in between.)

Bits of “Wisdom” I’ve Gained In Last 7 Days

Doing laundry *can* help settle the mind – but I still don’t recommend it

I wanted to write a post on Sunday to publish on Monday, but my thoughts bounced around like caffeinated squirrels.  (Judging by the activity level of ‘normal’ squirrels, I can only imagine ones on caffeine would be hard to follow.)

Writing didn’t happen because of many things:  anxiety over Monday’s dental appointment, not feeling good (after two weeks of tonsillitis), remembering things I have to do since school has started, and deadlines at work that put me on the computer for a couple hours Sunday night.  As I folded laundry, though, the idea came to me to write a post as scattered as what I feel – with the common thread of “wisdom” I encountered this past week.

Thank goodness I didn’t have to iron clothes to find peace!  (I don’t iron.  Ever.)

There has to be better therapy... like chocolate!
There has to be better therapy… like chocolate!

Sometimes it’s best not to try to understand

Conversation on the first day of school:

Me:  “Why don’t you just wear your sweat shorts and t-shirt to school since you have P.E. first hour?”

Older son:  “I’m not going to school looking like a slob.” (said with his ‘are-you-an-idiot?’ tone)

Me:  “You’d only have to change once, and you’d just have to wear gym clothes on the bus ride.”

Older son:  “And recess, too.”

I didn’t say anything else, but did laugh when he came out of his room wearing a different t-shirt and sweat shorts, which he planned to wear all day.  I do not claim to know what made these clothes not “slobby”.

Risk is Relative

Or is that, ‘relatives are risky’?  Oh, never mind.  Conversation with my dad after he spent many hours cursing at working on my computer:

Dad:  “I think your network card is bad.  A new one is $179, or they have a refurbished one for $22.”

Me:  “I’m not spending $179 on a 4-year-old computer.  But refurbished?  I don’t know… seems risky.”

Dad:  “You take a risk buying a new one, but the refurbished is only a $22 risk.”

Perhaps these principles of risk apply to other areas of life; something this risk-avoidant person needs to keep in mind.

My kids can be empathetic (if you’re covered in fur)

My older son put his cat on my lap while I worked at my desk.  Sammy didn’t want to be there so she headed toward the desk top.  She slipped and dug her claws into my thigh as she slid toward the floor.  I shrieked in pain and grabbed her by the scruff of the neck to pull her back onto my lap.

My son ran back into the room.  “What happened?”

“She slid down my thigh,” I said between clenched teeth.

“Oh, Sammy!  Are you okay?” He asked as he bent down to kiss the kitty.

Don’t worry about me.  The blood dries quickly and maybe scars aren’t forever.

Maybe they'd care if I "meowed"?
Maybe I’d get empathy (or sympathy) if I “meowed”?

What about you – what unexpected things have your discovered recently?

Oh, if you came here looking for some fiction, I’ve got a couple of ideas for a story to post later in the week.  I know, ideas aren’t the same as written stories, but I’ll work on that the next couple days 🙂

Moments

Life is made up of teaching moments and learning moments.  As a parent, I see many teaching opportunities.

For instance, earlier this week, I had a discussion with my younger son about Christmas presents.  He wanted to get his brother a gift that cost $15, and he also wanted to buy something for my husband, me, and his grandparents.

He’s seven and doesn’t have $60.  He was upset because he didn’t have enough money to buy everything (I can relate to that!)

I explained that while it is sweet to want to generously spend, thought isn’t measured in dollars.  I told him that if he paid attention to what people like, he could find gifts for a couple of dollars apiece.  I could’ve given him examples of things I liked, but I wanted him to figure it out himself.  Thought.

12-19 Presents

Last night, when I got home from work, they had finished wrapping the gifts (my husband took them shopping.)  I’m curious to see what my little one decided I would like, but part of the fun is the waiting and wondering (and watching him try so hard not to blurt out what he bought) 🙂

Tired from a long day, I really wanted to just relax, but my older son said he needed to take cookies in for a class project the next day.  (He’s been into the last-minute things lately.)  He’d bought break-n-bake cookies so I figured it would be easy.

No.  The cookies had to be shapes (but not trees or Santa.)

12-19 Cookie CuttersI came into the kitchen to find he’d smeared the sticky dough on a cookie sheet and gummed up the rolling pin.  I got out the parchment paper and flour and had him clean up the pan.  All the while, I grouched about how I was tired, had a headache, and just wanted to relax.  In between grumblings, I showed him how the flour kept the dough from sticking.

“This dough really isn’t made for rolling,” I said with a frown.

“I know that now, Mom.”  He shrugged.  “Live and learn.”

Live and learn.  His words cut through my crabbiness.  The best learning involves mistakes.  I used to accept that better when I was younger, but somewhere along the way, I decided efficiency proved to be easier.  How silly to think I’d completed my learning phase.

Cookies in the oven, I wrapped my son in a hug.  “I’m sorry I was cranky with you.  I’m tired, but shouldn’t have taken it out on you.”

Live and learn.

My son’s wise reminder was a proverbial light bulb moment that showed me mistakes are part of life, and learning is a lifetime challenge.

I hope I learn something else today.

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I’ll spend the next couple days trying to catch up on blog reading and comments, but I won’t be online next week.  Just a heads up that I haven’t disappeared… only taking a short break (which will be filled with lots and lots of baking 🙂 )

Start-Up – The (Sugar) Highs and Lows

For months, we have gathered, sorted, stacked and organized – all in preparation for The Big Day.  The day arrived, and I’m happy to tell you that we survived our weekend community garage sale.  {Heaves a big sigh of relief}

My kids were looking forward to the big day, too.  They wanted to test their skills as budding entrepreneurs by selling lemonade and doughnuts.  My older son planned it all out – he would do the lemonade and my younger son would sell the doughnuts.

“How much will you charge?” I asked them

“25 cents each,” my older son said.

“Will that cover your expenses and give you a profit?”

He gave me a blank stare.

Yes, we had some work to do, but it’s the fun kind of work – so unlike cleaning the bathroom and mopping floors, which I detest.  (This is an obvious statement to anyone who has ever been to my house.  Since most of you have not (to my knowledge) been to my house, consider yourselves lucky to have been spared the trauma.)

My older son made a list of expenses (cost of lemonade, ice, cups, doughnuts, etc.)  He figured out the cost per doughnut, and I explained that he would have to charge more than that to make a profit.  I explained profit as the money they got to keep, so he decided to charge $1 each for a doughnut and cup of lemonade.

I wanted to stay out of their business, but I wanted them to have a little business.  “Well, $1 each would turn a nice profit.” I said.  “Would you pay that price?”

“No.  It’s too much money.”  He paused.  “How about 50 cents?”

Now, schooled in price setting and profit margin, it was time to tackle advertising.  He made a sign with their prices and even drew pictures.  I gave him one piece of advice:  don’t badger potential customers; ask once and say thank you even if they decline.  The advice I gave to my younger son?  Don’t touch the doughnuts with your fingers – use a napkin.

They learned that a start-up takes planning and money.  They experienced the kindness of strangers, as some donated but didn’t take anything.  They discovered that sometimes debt can be forgiven (and parents aren’t always mean.)

They lost money in this venture, but the learning experience was priceless.  Besides, “eating the loss” was easy when washed down with some lemonade 🙂

Boys were excited to have "losses"

Matthew 6:12 – Forgive us our debts, as we have also forgiven our debtors.

Philippians 2:4 – Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.