“Auld Lang Syne” to My VERY GERIatric Year

I’m pretty sure that “Auld Lang Syne” is a New Year’s Eve drinking song intended to pay homage to times gone by (like I care–it’s always been an opportunity to drink, so I’m “in” regardless–as long as I have the energy to stay up till midnight on NYE, that is)…..and life in general, while not perfect, has been pretty darned good to me.  My life is blessed.  So yeah, I’ll drink to that.  Auld Lang Syne.

But 2018–I ain’t gonna miss ya.  And don’t let the door hit ya in the backside on your way out.

For the most part, 2018 was filled with lots of joyous occasions.  My daughter graduated with her bachelor’s degree and decided to pursue a master’s degree; and yes, that warranted a celebration.  (BTW, a celebratory trip to Cabo San Lucas was an awesome idea!  All-inclusive is the ONLY way to go as an overweight, mumu-wearing German who loves to eat and drink!  And I’m quite sure my supermodel-sized daughter who loves pina coladas would agree.)  My son celebrated a work anniversary and got to return to his old stomping grounds to live.  So yes, we celebrated that, too, once we got him moved, cleaned his old digs, and got him settled in again.

Also during the year, I attended weddings galore!  As my kids have aged into their mid-to-late twenties, it seems like most of their former high school and college classmates, teammates, roommates and friends are getting engaged, getting married, having babies….you know, the things you do after you graduate and start “adulting”.  So 2018 was definitely the year for weddings and showers.  Really!  I must have gone to 15-20 showers/weddings during 2018, and they were fun and blessed occasions!  I loved them all!  And when my adult children comment, “Mom, just because you’re invited to fifteen weddings doesn’t mean to have to go to fifteen weddings, so why do you go to them all?”  And my response is:  “My darling (my Schmucker DNA) albeit dumb (their dad’s DNA) children, someday YOU, too, will be engaged and getting married and I would HOPE that someone attends your shower and/or wedding just as I have attended your friends’ showers and weddings.”  And like the smart arses they are, they roll their eyes and walk away. (Okay, maybe that’s the combination of both parents’ DNA.)

Toward the end of 2018 as I was getting ready for yet another Saturday wedding, I had a geriatric moment that evolved into a major medical event for me (relatively speaking, as this healthy German rarely gets physical ailments).  I was putting on my shoes when I felt my lower back muscles stretch and immediately found it impossible to stand, sit, or lie down without experiencing major pain. It was excruciating pain–worse than childbirth (okay, I did have epidurals with each of mine). IT HURT BAD.  And then, two weeks later, when the back pain finally subsided, the pain radiated to my left hamstring, my left ankle, and then my left foot.  IT HURT REALLY BAD. And I couldn’t sleep, and slumber is so very special to me. After an xray showed no obvious damage, the subsequent MRI indicated a bulging lumbar disc.  As it turns out, the bulging disc pinched my sciatic nerve, and now–three months later–I still can’t treadmill without either: 1–making a lot of irritating noise because I drag my numb/weak left foot now, or 2–falling down and making an arse of myself in front of the other uncoordinated fatties at Planet Fitness. In addition to the physical pain from sciatica, I missed THREE Texas Tech home football games and Saturday tailgating opportunities.  OUCH!!! THAT HURT THE MOST!  Homies:  This girl loves to tailgate/watch sports. And I missed THREE Saturdays of that. THAT pain was unbearable. Despite the fact that Texas Tech football had a disappointing year as far as wins and losses go, the tailgating never disappoints. And I missed half the season. PAINFUL.

But you know what? I worked through the pain–and I got through it. And I’m a better person because of it since I’ve come to realize that getting old isn’t for sissies. I’m gonna need to beeeyatch up for this geriatric season of my life. And I’ll admit, my friends and foes alike will tell ya I’m a big enough beeeyatch to get through it.

It’s all about the attitude, right? I’m gonna be the best geriatric ever…

Auld Lang Syne. And cheers to celebrating old age. Let’s remember our friends and family members who were denied the opportunity to grow old!

 

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Breakin’ Even — and Breakin’ Through

Today marks a special day in my life.  Today I celebrate my 13th year, 9th month, and 26th day as a single person after having spent 13 years, 9 months, and 26 days as a married person.

Today I’m breakin’ even, and I’ve come a long way in almost fourteen years, baby.

youve come a long way baby

Hebrews 13:5 (NIV):  God says: ….“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

And you know what?  He didn’t.  Good days. Dark days. In-between days. God sustained me.

Divorce may have deprived me of the financial resources and the lifestyle to which I had become accustomed.  Divorce may have also robbed me of my pride, my confidence, my social circle. At least for a while. But divorce taught me some really good things, too.  Divorce taught me to be content with what I have (and it isn’t much–but it is ENOUGH).  Divorce has taught me that I am stronger than I ever thought I was.  Divorce taught me to be the encourager in a world of cynics. Divorce has taught me to be GRATEFUL: I am grateful for the love of family, for the love of friends, for my boss and my coworkers, for those individuals who reached out to me in some way–even though some of them didn’t even really KNOW me–to express to me their sadness over the break-up of my marriage and my newfound status as a single mother.  I’m appreciative that they provided a shoulder to cry on even though I ugly-cry. (REALLY ugly.)  Many of those same friends never even knew me as anything BUT a single mom…. Those friends are now my tribe.

And you know what else I’m grateful for? I’m grateful for the 13 years and 10 months of marriage that I did have because to me, up until the time it abruptly ended, it was a happy marriage! I didn’t realize at the time that it was so miserable to my now ex-spouse.

I’m grateful for my two adult children.  They are the best darned things to come out of my marriage!  I’m so proud of them.  Thank you, Jesus!

I’m grateful that I’ve realized–FINALLY–that I’m never gonna get that apology I thought I deserved.  Or maybe I will.  But I’m not waitin’ on it.

I’m movin’ on regardless.  I’m breakin’ through.

 

rejected redirected

 

 

 

 

It’s finally YOUR turn!

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Your college graduation is a mere two weeks away.  Where did the time go?

To my daughter, Bailee–I am soooo very proud of you and all you’ve accomplished during your childhood, your adolescence, and then your years as a college student.

I’ve been a mom for a quarter of century now, and while I’m so very excited about the opportunities that await you as a young adult and college graduate, it’s a bit scarier than I had anticipated.  I spent the first twenty years of motherhood attempting to mold you and your brother into respectable, contributing-to-society adults (obviously I had to try harder with your brother than I did with you!), and now that the time is here for you to officially be on your own, I feel tremendous pride.  But I’m also a little fearful.  Girl, this is new territory for me, too.  Adulting can be so scary.  Even when you’re an OLD adult.

Regardless of my own apprehension, here are some of the things I hope you have learned during your college years:

If you don’t already love yourself, learn to love yourself NOW.  You have too many wonderful qualities to stress about the ones you may feel you lack.  Every day, work on improving yourself.  Baby steps. And while NONE of us will ever be perfect, we are still PRETTY DARNED AWESOME.  You. GIRL.  You’re awesome ALREADY.

You were born to royalty.  You are the child of a KING.  And the King loves you.  Always.  No matter what.

Your mother loves you, too.  ALWAYS. No matter what. I have always and will always have your back.

Don’t let anyone (man/woman/friend/coworker) repeatedly disrespect you.  You are smart; you are beautiful; you are a child of God.  Don’t disrespect others, either.  You can be honest and sincere without being disrespectful.  (HOWEVER, if an “old” — as in my age….ha! — man ogles you and then gropes you in public, that IS disrespectful AND perverted on his part.  Call him out on it. Embarrass him in public. Most of all, remove yourself from that situation A.S.A.P.  I’m proud that you’re mine when you react as I would…minus the kick to the groin and the profanity…)

Be kind.  If you have NOTHING ELSE to offer, offer a smile or a handshake.  A little kindness goes a looooooong way.

The only person responsible for your happiness is you.  Sometimes finding real joy requires stepping outside your comfort zone. — Be brave enough to do it anyway.

Life is short.  Don’t settle.  Always expect the very best that life has to offer.

Don’t expect to be successful in “saving” someone who doesn’t really want to be saved.  (For example, PJP.)  You’ll just lose a part of yourself temporarily.  The best parts.

Be nice and respectful to your parents/your grandparents/your family members.  Be nice and respectful to your family members even when they don’t deserve it….  But again, don’t tolerate disrespect. Remove yourself from the situation instead.

When the time comes: Marriage is a covenant and your spouse will be the best thing that ever happens to you IF YOU MAKE THE EFFORT TO MAKE IT WORK.  Again, NONE of us will ever be perfect.  A successful marriage is intense work. But commit to becoming a better spouse every single day of your marriage. Commitment is like that.  Nothing of great value ever comes easy.

On the other hand, never be afraid to be alone.  There’s a huge difference between being lonely and being alone.  Solitude can be a wonderful, liberating thing.

Exude gratitude.  I want you to have many days when you fall in love with simply being alive.  Every day that we are alive is indeed a blessing.

Surround yourself with people who inspire you and want ONLY the best for you.  REAL friends will be among your greatest blessings.  Value and cultivate those friendships.

Find your passion and do that as much and as often as you can.

Become a dependable and efficient employee.  (“Hard work never hurt anyone,” Grandma Drerup always said when she was alive. And she was as SMART as she was hardworking.)  Hard work is cathartic for the soul–and cardio for your heart.

Volunteerism is UNDERRATED. (It can be highly social, too.) Do it often.  Do it well.

Financial stress is inevitable during some periods of your life.  Just do the absolute best with what you do have, even if it’s a pittance by your standards. Pray for guidance in making good fiscal decisions for yourself and your family. In good times and in bad.

There will be times when you feel young and energetic and excited about what God has in store for you.  There will be other times when you are stressed out and anxious because you are unsure about what He is trying to reveal to you.  Don’t look to social media to answer your questions; Instagram or Twitter or SnapChat won’t be of help to you.  Instead, look to Jesus.  And be patient with His timing.  And while you’re waiting on His divine wisdom, aspire to become a better person.  Become the type of friend that you’d like to have.

In short, this is what I hope you have learned through the years:  Have faith in God. Be committed in marriage. Remain dedicated to your family.  Exhibit an awesome work ethic. Be patient. Be kind. Be a reliable and consistent friend. Have integrity in employment, in your relationships, and in your finances. Enjoy the day-to-day successes while making long-term memories.  Don’t be so hard on yourself in your temporary setbacks, and be a blessing to others as much as possible. As should be the Red Raider way, STRIVE FOR HONOR. EVERMORE.

As you start your real adult life and proceed from this point, here are the things I hope you’ll always remember about me, your mother:

Becoming a divorced single parent was not the life I chose; nor would I choose it for anyone I love; nevertheless, I hope I was able to be the very best single parent that I was capable of being.  I know I made mistakes; yes, I have some regrets; and I know I was hard on you and Carson, but I did the very best I could while my heart was breaking.  I was simply trying to manage.

While I couldn’t contribute as much FINANCIALLY as your dad could after our divorce, I would hope you’ve realized that my blood, sweat, and tears for you and your brother were just as valuable as the monetary contributions.  And while I didn’t win the award for Parent of the Year (and I cannot lie; that hurt, too), I had your back the entire time and kept your best interests at heart. Every class assignment for which you requested help. Every class registration. Every college application. Every re-worked resume. Every job application and cover letter. Every successful and every failed relationship. I had your best interests at heart.  Every time I told you “NO” when you wanted my “YES”, I wanted only what was best for YOU.

The deepest lessons I’ve learned were learned during the deserts of my life.  I did things I shouldn’t have done. I said things I shouldn’t have said. I’m sorry.  But I learned a lot… Divorce taught me that when things didn’t work out as I had planned for them to work out, that I could muster the courage to start over.  It took the collaboration of my family, my kids, my friends, and mostly our Father in Heaven, but I learned to start over.

I hope you see now that it took tremendous courage for me to be single and to stay single when every childhood dream of mine included a blissful marriage and fulfilling employment and beautiful, intelligent, and loving children.  I had to create a new version of myself after my marriage failed.  And I LOVE the new single version of myself better than I ever thought I would.

Since 2018 is my “break-even” year (I have now been divorced from your dad as long as I was married to him), I have had a tremendous revelation:  I consider my greatest success in my life to be MY KIDS.  You really ARE my joy. Every single day.

I am so proud of who you’ve become.

Today I look back on these past few years with the best of memories….though those same years started with the absolute worst years of my life.  My heart was still aching from your decision during your senior year of high school to live with your dad.  You have NO IDEA how much your decision hurt me.  It hurt ALMOST as much as the rejection of adultery and divorce.   At the time, your desire to live with your dad made me doubt my capabilities as a mother.  I was MAD at myself for allowing you to do it…. At the time, anyway.

In hindsight, however, I think your decision to live with your dad was the absolute BEST thing that could have happened to you, to me, and to your dad.  Although my brain was telling me that you were doing it for financial reasons, that didn’t keep me from resenting your decision.  At the time, anyway.  But today I see that my daughter learned to be free-thinking and independent in the years since she left my home.  Today I see that my daughter learned to stand up for herself.  Today I see that my daughter is a lot LIKE ME…not only who I used to be, but who I am now.

Bailee, I want you to have a good life.  I want you to have a life you LOVE and the life you’ve always dreamed of.  But I also want you to know that if things don’t work out as planned, don’t quit.  Simply begin again.  Repeat as necessary.  Have faith in God and you will be fearless.  Like me.

Wreck ’em.

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The Rules of Life as I’ve Observed Them (in no particular order, BTW)

  • When it seems that all the world is crazy, remember that God still sits on the throne. He is large and in charge.
  • Never piss off an overweight German. (Oh–Did I mention I might be German?)
  • Don’t go to Hobby Lobby between Halloween and New Year’s expecting fast and efficient service.  Better yet, don’t go at all between those times. You’ll be a happier person.
  • Don’t be a martyr trying to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved.  You’ll just end up losing yourself.
  • Kindness is still free, so sprinkle that shit everywhere. Even if you don’t like them, be kind anyway.
  • When you can’t figure out why someone acts the way they do, just remember that not everyone was raised how you and I were raised.
  • If someone “can’t find the time” to spend time with you, they aren’t trying very hard to spend time with you. Find someone else who will make the time to spend with you.
  • If you date someone who avoids their own domestic chores at all costs, and you expect him/her to change if/when you marry them, you’d better enjoy doing those domestic duties all by yourself. Or have enough money to hire it done.
  • Life is short. Live a good life while making wonderful memories so that when you die, the memories that others have of you will be good ones.
  • ALWAYS be nice to your parents. One day you’ll expect similar treatment from your own children.
  • Don’t trust a fart if you have–or feel like you MAY have–diarrhea.  Just.don’t. (Merely an observation.)
  • The only person responsible for your happiness is YOU.
  • Don’t be afraid to be single and to stay single.  We should all rather be with NO ONE than be with the WRONG ONE. Remain confident that God intends some people to stay single!
  • If you ask for someone’s opinion, allow them to give it.  But after they’ve given their opinion and you disagree with THEIR opinion or you think THEIR opinion was “too harsh”, don’t be an idiot by expecting them to ever give their honest opinion to you again.  Duh.
  • People will change. Relationships will fail. Financial stress will happen. Physical well-being will diminish. Employment will become monotonous…..  Someday you’ll want to quit.  But faith in God and in His timing should NEVER cease. He’s there for you. Always. Call on Him. He’d like that.
  • Choose to be educated rather than opinionated. There’s a difference.  BIG difference.
  • Even when you’d like NOT to go, get up. Dress up. Show up. – Work. Meetings. Weddings. Funerals.
  • Never EVER be afraid of starting over.  Repeat as necessary.
  • Be nice to the pizza delivery man. Be nice to the custodian. Be especially nice to the bartender who prepares your drinks while listening to your stories – he/she may have to call your Uber. Or the cops. He/she gets to choose.
  • Life will never be fair, but it’s still pretty damned good anyway.piss off

 

“Congrats!” are in order. Or are they?

So–my X got married last weekend.

After 13 years as a divorced person, I thought I had most things figured out. Like how to re-string the weed-eater.  How to change the filter and the spark plug in the Toro mower.  How to sell and buy a house in a crisis situation (divorce does that, y’all).  How to transfer your Visa credit card debt to Mastercard with a lower rate of interest (life does that and divorce exacerbates that, y’all). How to argue with health insurance about their coverage of an accidental injury (thanks, dodgeball and C-Barb).  You catch my drift…..  Anyway, I’m confident I still have things figured out.  I’m mature and fairly intelligent, right?  So like, am I supposed to be upset about my X’s remarriage?  Am I supposed to be grieving?  Mad?  Tearful?  Regretful?

Well.  I’m not.  Not one freakin’ iota.  (“Iota” was one of my Grandma Drerup’s favorite words, and the older I get, the more I act like her.  Grandma D would NEVER say “freakin'” though.  That’s totally MY adjective and I own it.)  It’s ’bout time the X found someone who wants to be with him the way I once wanted to be with him.  And I say once because I can assure you I no longer desire to be with him.  Plus, I know where his “thing” has been since our marriage and subsequent divorce, and there’s NO way I wanna be a part of that now.  His new wife–if she’s concerned about her health–may need a vagina transplant before she’s Medicare-eligible.

Now–I’ll admit that throughout my 54 years of life I have been far from perfect as a spouse, as an employee, as a child to my parents, as a mother, as a friend.  Some of my most imperfect moments have been out of anger or loneliness or fear.  Mostly fear.  I did some really bad things, y’all.  I still have moments, even days, of complete and utter failure.  However, I was NOT the spouse who decided to commit adultery and ruin a marriage, break up a family, and destroy reputations.  He gets to own that.  4-ever.

Honestly, my X is a much better person now than he was when we divorced.  (However, he’s still not the ethical and kind person and friend that I married.  He changed A LOT during our 14 years together.  I did, too.  Satan had far too much control.  Lesson learned!)  He’s become a better and more-involved parent.  He has an improved understanding of how much kids really cost since my daughter decided as a senior in high school to live with her dad.  (Instead of griping about paying child support, X learned that money for kids doesn’t go nearly as far as he thought.  And as painful as my daughter’s decision was for me to accept, it was a lesson he would’ve never learned if she hadn’t decided to live with him.)  My X is also a much NICER person to me when he’s in a relationship.  I would venture to guess that “nicer” applies to everyone he encounters and not just me, too.  Single is NOT his forte.  He really NEEDS to be in a relationship to be happy.  TRUTH.

Perhaps as you read this, you’re thinking:  “Wow.  She really needs to forgive him and quit being so bitter.”  My response to you would be that I HAVE forgiven him (finally!), but I will never forget the tough life lessons that infidelity and divorce have taught me.  “Trust, but verify.”  Hey–the School of Hard Knocks rendered me their valedictorian.

In all fairness, I REALLY do enjoy my life now.  My adult children make me very proud to be their mother. Seriously, it was soooooo difficult to love them and support them and raise them when my heart was literally broken in two.  But they have inspired me with their successes in school/college, in relationships, in LIFE.  But I also want them to know that FAITH in God and His timing, COMMITMENT in marriage, DEDICATION to family, WORK ETHIC in employment, and yes, FORGIVENESS for those who have wronged them: these things are all important!  If I have taught them nothing else, I hope I have taught them this.one day it just clicks

So here we are. Thirteen years after I filed for divorce from him and after his countless relationships, ten moves, six vehicles and four jobs later (yep; I counted them all), the X is madly in love with and now married to someone who will make his world a better place.  Been there, done that.  Ain’t going back.  But no, I won’t be congratulating him on his recent marriage.  And I won’t be congratulating him on the next one, either.

 

 

 

 

RIP, Uncle Gene

My sweet Uncle Gene has died.

Most of you who know me well know that I HATE to get up in front of people for an impromptu speech. I’m not much of a speaker. I like to TALK, but not necessarily speak. And really it’s not a good idea–EVER–to put me in front of a microphone, especially in a church, without a script, because I have a tendency to cuss. (Sometimes.) Last night at the vigil service for Gene’s memorial, we were called to share at church, but for reasons above (^^^), I didn’t share. Nevertheless, I do like to WRITE, and last night I started to put a few things about my family/death/dying into perspective.

My paternal grandparents, Joe and Amy Schmucker (still “Popo and Grandma” to me) lived simply and lived well, and while I miss them, their lives were full. Their natural deaths after long lives were relatively easy to accept. They were in their 90’s after all…

When my uncle, Jim Schmucker, a Vietnam veteran, finally succumbed to cancer five years ago, again it wasn’t a surprise….in fact, death came somewhat as a relief because we had watched him suffer as a quiet warrior for a long time. He was ready to be pain-free and to meet his maker. We still miss him, however…

Then, when my aunt, Bea (Schmucker) Hoelting passed away, again we were somewhat comforted to know she died quietly after a long, contentious battle with Alzheimer’s….. I know that heaven is a much better home for her, although we do miss her, too.  But at least she isn’t battling that dreadful disease anymore.

When my Uncle Gene suddenly passed away earlier this week, it startled me. It shook me, really, maybe because his passing at the relatively young age of 65 with only a few health issues was a wake-up call to me that tomorrows are NOT guaranteed–although my oblivious self may often assume that tomorrow will always come around…

So tomorrow we bury another Schmucker, another of my dad’s younger siblings. Gene was too young still, but I am grateful for the role model he was to me.

These are the things I remember about my Uncle Gene:

He worked hard.

He LOVED hard.

He was humble.

He fiercely protected and honored his family.

He wasn’t much of a talker–maybe because IF Michele Schmucker (his wife) and Mary Lou Schmucker (his sister-in-law; and both of them being my aunts) sat together at family reunions, NO ONE else really had a chance to talk–but daaaaang, Gene was an awesome listener.

Gene had a very soft-spoken and dry sense of humor–maybe that’s a Schmucker thing.

He LOVED sports. Maybe that’s a Schmucker thing, too.

He also loved his Texas A&M Aggies–but we blame the Wilhelms for that personality trait. (Wreck ‘Em!)

He took great pride in each of his children’s successes–grandchildren too–and he was saddened and prayed about each of their setbacks as well.

I will miss him; however, I find tremendous comfort in knowing that I have another “Schmucker angel” in heaven to intercede on my behalf. Perhaps some of you don’t need as much heavenly intervention as I do, but I find solace in knowing that my uncle “has my back” even in heaven.

Gene was devoted to his family, but he didn’t accumulate great wealth or notoriety in doing so. He lived modestly and simply; yet he lived well. His life was full. His greatest blessings were his family, and I believe we’d all be better and wiser people to be more like him. After all, in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count; it’s the LIFE in your years.

I am a better person to have known him, and I miss him already.

Rest In Peace, sweet uncle of mine.

Thy Will Be Done

solo

“Still single?”

Yes, I am. Don’t rub it in.

I try not to get discouraged.  I really do.  But let’s face it, God probably isn’t going to give me someone if I’m not PRAYING that He gives me someone, and I haven’t been faithful about praying for a partner.

Do I NEED a partner?  By this time, I’ve become accustomed to being alone, and I’ll tell ya, it’s not so bad.  I don’t have to tell anyone where I’m going, how long I’m stayin’, when I’ll be back, and other than the dog needing to eat every now and then, I’m not accountable to anyone/anything.  If I don’t wanna cook, or if I want pizza for breakfast, or if I wanna mix the colors and prints with the whites in my 26-year-old Maytag washer, then I can.  I.CAN. That’s what I enjoy the most about “empty nest” and being single.

You can accuse me of being selfish, and maybe I am.  But I didn’t have the luxury of being selfish when my kids were at home.  We had school, Scouts, sports, church, movies, StuCo, FCA, birthday parties, family reunions, meetings . . .  and it was usually MY responsibility to get them there.  I don’t regret how busy we were in those days, and it was my choice to do so.  But now it’s also my choice to be alone. And MOST of the time, I like it.

I’ve had a couple of serious relationships since my divorce in 2004, and for one reason or another, those relationships just didn’t quite work out.  Maybe I was too busy with my kids; maybe I was attracted to men who couldn’t (or just wouldn’t) commit; maybe I was too independent, too bitter, or too unattractive to keep a man; perhaps my professional and financial obligations scared the men away.  Regardless, I’m still single.  And while some of my happily married friends lament my single status, I’m not so sure I agree with them.

I married in 1990. Had kids in 1993 and 1996. Commuted 100 miles a day for 2 years while I continued to be a wife, a mother, a volunteer at church and at school, and a committed employee.  I divorced in 2004 while I continued to be a mother, a volunteer at church and at school and in my community, and I was STILL a committed employee for my bosses.  My children graduated high school in 2011 and in 2014. My oldest became a college graduate in 2016 and I expect to have another college graduate in 2018.  I’ve been busy. I haven’t had a lot of TIME to be lonely.

As my parents have gotten older, they’ve become less healthy. I’ve been blessed, though.  I still have both parents with me despite some health scares from my dad.  Since Christmas of 2015, my dad has suffered a heart attack, a mini stroke, had a pacemaker inserted, and two days after his pacemaker procedure, he suffered a major stroke.  He’s been to cardiologists, neurologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and he’s still going to a speech therapist.  My parents have been married for 56 years, and although I know it couldn’t have been easy, I’m sure they would say their marriage has been WORTH it, and my mom has been an excellent caregiver for my dad. But no matter how much they love each other, SOMETIMES you just need a break from each other and sometimes you need someone to run a little interference. Time alone can be good for the soul.

What I’m sayin’ is that perhaps being single isn’t for everyone, but I THANK GOD that it hasn’t worked out with anyone for me just yet. The fact that I’m not in a committed relationship with anyone means that I can spend some quality time with my aging parents and I don’t have to worry about neglecting “my significant other”.  Because there isn’t one.

THY.WILL.BE.DONE.  BTW, God’s will is NOT the path we walk, but rather how we walk the path.  Sometimes we all need that gentle reminder. Walk your path with integrity.

“Yep . . .  Still single.”  And I WILL make the most of this time alone.

A letter to my son as he graduates from college

CBarb at Cowboy Stadium for Tech - CopyWow.  You’ve made it!  You’re a college graduate.  And although college graduation didn’t come without its struggles, it was certainly worth it.

Seriously, I never thought I’d see this day.  Not because I ever doubted your abilities, but because I doubted my own parenting skills.  I didn’t know if I would have the patience or the strength to see you through it.  If only I had known then what I know now….

You’re probably aware that I have never been patient.  Maybe it’s in my DNA (the Schmucker side; not the Drerup side). I wasn’t patient in high school and I wasn’t patient in college.  I was ready to move out and move on.  I was, however, somewhat patient in my relationships.  I waited to have a serious relationship until I graduated from college, and when the first serious relationship didn’t pan out for me, I started seeing your dad.  Looking back, maybe your dad was too young to be married then (he was only 22) and I was getting impatient (there’s that vice again) about having kids.  I was 27, and I was getting the itch to become a mother before I turned 30.  We got married, were happily married, and you were born two years after we said our vows.  I was 29½ when you were born.  See?  I had been fairly patient.  Being a mother was such a blessing, but I had so many doubts about my skills. I just wanted to be sure I was doing it right. Whatever “right” parenting was.

As a newborn just home from the hospital, you refused to sleep much and you cried.  Sometimes you cried a lot.  I thought it was something I was doing wrong or not doing at all.  It turns out you were a bit colicky as an infant.  When your stomach was upset, you cried.  When YOU cried a lot and couldn’t be immediately comforted, I cried, too. I was new at this parenting thing, and I was nervous that I was doing everything wrong and that you’d grow up to be one of those spoiled, over-indulged, over-stimulated, enabled brats who would never be happy. (Yeah, you were only an infant.  But I still worried about it….) But once you outgrew the colic, I realized that you really were a good baby.  When you were so little, people wanted to hold you, but I was hesitant to let others hold you.  You were mine, and I wanted you to like me the best.  I wanted to be your best “holder”.  I was your MOM.

When you were 8 weeks old and my maternity leave was exhausted, you started daycare in Lubbock.  The first day that you were scheduled to be there, I went in, dropped you off,  AND THEN I CRIED ALL THE WAY TO WORK.  I shouldn’t have, because you loved daycare.  You liked being around all the other littles. You enjoyed socializing even before you could walk. You found those social skills early on.

When you were 6 months old, your dad started working for United, so we moved from Lubbock to Amarillo. You started daycare in Amarillo, and again, you loved the social interaction there. I worked in an office just upstairs from your daycare, and I could watch you on the playground area from my office.  It was an ideal situation for me as a working mom. I felt so blessed to be your mom. Later on, we moved from an apartment to a rent house, where we had a yard.  You had a puppy. You had a mini-pool.  And you learned to drive the motorized Jeep at the age of 2 ½.  You were such a boy in all the things you loved:  dogs, cars, dirt/mud, trucks, balls, swimming pools, airplanes…..and food.  ALL food.  And you could shit like a big man from the time you turned 2. —O.M.G.–  You were difficult as hell to potty-train because you were too busy to take a break from playing. When others chastised me because you were almost 3 years old and still not potty-trained, I told myself that I shouldn’t be in such a rush for you to grow up. You were my son, and I wasn’t ready for you to grow up just yet….I wanted to make your toddler years last a while. I wanted to enjoy you as a little.

And then your sister was born, so the need to have you potty-trained became more of a pressing issue.  Eventually you learned.  I think it was the red cowboy boots that we used to bribe you into success.  But, hey, it worked. Plus, since you pooped like a big man even then, it probably was an inconvenience for you to sit and play with your cars and trucks and planes with a big ol’man-sized turd in your britches….so by potty-training you, I did you a favor; and realistically, we couldn’t afford to have two kids in diapers at the same time. Your timing was just right. You were gonna grow up with or without my consent.

So—your sister was born, my maternity leave with Bailee was over, then your dad was transferred to Dumas with United.  We were happily married, and we bought a house in Dumas, and for the next 20 months I drove back and forth to Amarillo every weekday.  Because as much as I loved being a mom, I thought I was a better mom when I wasn’t doing it ALL DAY, EVERY DAY.  Being a fulltime mom was too stressful for me.  You were a good passenger in those days because you were fascinated by all the trucks on the commute, and there were plenty of them.  Your sister didn’t much care for the trucks, though, but she was still an infant, and for a while, you were able to entertain her long enough to keep her in her car seat.  When you were almost 5 years old, I quit working in Amarillo (and stopped commuting 100 miles every day) so I would be able to enjoy you as you started kindergarten in Dumas. I had loved my job in Amarillo, but I certainly didn’t want to miss your growing-up years in Dumas.  You were already growing up waaaaay too fast for me. I wanted to miss NOTHING as your mother.

From the very beginning, you loved school.  You have always loved school.  You became fast friends with Clark, Harrison, Ricky, Sara, and Kaitlin.  After a half-day at kindergarten, you’d go spend the afternoons with Kelly Gerber, Rylan, Reghan, and Annie while your dad and I were still at work. You were definitely 100 percent boy, so you’d find trouble every now and then, but nothing major. Your teachers at Hillcrest found you to be energetic, social, fun, and ornery. I recall being called to school to meet with your principal, Mrs. Ledbetter, on more than one occasion, with the funniest time being when you accidentally (?) dropped your hot dog in the Hillcrest cafeteria and “wagged” it inappropriately in front of you as you picked it up to put it back on your food tray.  (I’m pretty sure this may have paved the way for Mrs. Ledbetter’s retirement.)  Or maybe it was the pissing incident in the Hillcrest bathroom floor drain. Not sure.  If it wasn’t a school day, you’d invite other kids on the block to come to our house and play, or they’d invite you to play at theirs.  Either way, your days in Dumas were full of fun and “boy” things. Your playmates LOVED you.  You completed kindergarten through 4th grade at Hillcrest with tons of friends along the way.

Dumas was so good to our family.  We all had so many great friends and neighbors there.  But as your fourth grade year ended, United promoted your dad to Amarillo, and we begrudgingly left behind our home and friends in Dumas to move to Bushland, America.  We knew very little about Bushland at the time, except that the school was excellent, it was small and the homes were on rural acres, but it was close to Amarillo and nearer to some of our other family members. Regardless, we embraced the move, and you started fifth grade (“middle school” in Bushland) and your sister started second grade at the elementary school.  During our first year there, there was a vote to build a high school in Bushland (which your dad and I both favored).  The vote passed, and immediately the construction was begun for Bushland High School.  You found quick friends in Brandon Winters, Hunter Smith, Chris Key and Doug Steinkruger, who all lived in Prairie West, where we lived, too.  We loved living in Bushland.

Meanwhile, you became interested in sports at Bushland, surrounded by the likes of Chance Cornelius, Chay Gerber, and James Faulkner, and later, Sterling Kiper and Brett Wilhelm and Tate Rhodes. Until the move to Bushland, sports had not been very important to you.  Suddenly, as you started 6th grade, football/basketball/baseball were almost all you could think about.

But then the divorce happened.

As much stress as parenting gave me, becoming a suddenly-single parent gave me even more stress.  I was completely blindsided by what happened in our marriage, and I apologize that you and Bailee had to suffer along with me.  Your dad had worked so many hours with United and had been gone so much during our marriage that I should have become accustomed to doing all or most of the parenting myself; however, the financial ramifications of the divorce were much more burdensome than my time limitations.  I was also making less money at the time of our divorce than I had made since very early in my working career.  I was never MORE WORRIED about parenting than I was then.  I was terribly concerned that I wouldn’t be able to provide the love and financial support as a single parent that I was able to provide to you while I was married to your dad.  As bad and dark as the divorce years were for me, I can only imagine how much darker they were for you as our child.  I was ill-prepared to be a single mother and I had not adequately prepared you or your sister to live within a split parenting situation. (Really.  I had no idea that our marriage was about to end.)  I am sorry.  I am beyond sorry. Divorce forced you and Bailee into adult situations before you could be expected to do adult things.  I was merely coping on a day-to-day basis the best I could, and I didn’t do it as well as I would have liked.  As painful as our split was, however, I learned some very valuable life lessons from it. I hope you did as well.

In hindsight, your dad became a much better father after our divorce.  For that, I am thankful.  I believe that I also became a better parent after the divorce, although I still worried that I wasn’t parenting you as I was supposed to. For the many times since the divorce when I failed to be a good role model to you, I am sorry.  I made some very bad decisions out of anger and spite and even loneliness, but I hope that you NEVER—for one minute—doubted how much I loved you and your sister.  I have always and will always want nothing but the absolute best for you!

Moving out of our Bushland house and moving into a tiny house in Amarillo may have crushed my spirit at the time, but I was/am so blessed that Superintendent Lemons allowed you and Bailee to continue to attend Bushland schools.  From 2004 until your high school graduation in 2011, each year became gradually easier for me.  During those years, you prodded me to recreate who I was as a parent and as a person and you helped me to become the best single mom version of myself.

And then, your successes in junior high and high school football, baseball, track, Student Council, and academics convinced me that we had done the right thing in allowing you and Bailee to continue to go to school in Bushland even though the traveling between home/work in Amarillo and school in Bushland was a hardship for me.  What I’m saying is that YOU and YOUR SUCCESS as a student allowed me to find the version of me that I really liked. Once I saw that you and Bailee were going to be okay, I was okay, too.  And I admit that we could not have been successful without lots of cooperation from your dad. I may never, ever again like your dad as a person, but he did step up as a parent in the years since our divorce.  Again, I am thankful that your dad also wants what is best for YOU.

In those dark years, as I was still mourning the loss of my marriage and feeling sorry for myself, one day I looked up and you were well on your way to becoming a man.  The night before you turned 15 and got your driver’s license was the first time I had cried in several years.  I was sad that you were already old enough to drive. But what a relief it was when I didn’t have to drive to and from Bushland so much.  Your driving was a tremendous help to me in parenting.

Where once there was a tall, skinny, carefree middle school student, now there was a tall, thin, thoughtful young man who was looking for approval. (And I probably didn’t voice that approval to you as often as I should haveAgain, I apologize.)  Yet, as much as I wanted you to stay my little boy a while longer, I knew your transition to an adult was inevitable.  And you have rocked it, Carson.

Just think about the successes you have experienced as a student athlete in Bushland!  We followed you to state in football.  We followed you to state in baseball (twice).  We followed you to the regional track meets in 2010 and 2011; we saw you become a Class Favorite and a homecoming king candidate, a Student Council rep;  and now  I see the spirited, full-filled socialite that you are today.  We made so many awesome memories together during those “dark” years—the years that I thought I would dread.    As it turned out, I was TOO BUSY to dread them!  I couldn’t be prouder of who you’ve become during that time.

You graduated from high school, didn’t get immediately accepted into Tech, but you worked hard and got in due to your academic successes at WTAMU.  You admitted while you were at WT that you liked college far more than you ever thought you would, and this made me sooooo happy….I KNOW you wanted to be at Tech for all of your college years, but your discipline and work ethic did get you there–just not as soon as you wanted.  Maybe my expectations of you as a student were unrealistic and you thought I was too regimented about your college experience.  I wanted success, and I don’t regret that I pushed you harder than you wanted to be pushed. And I know you grew tired of me staying on your ass about going to class, getting your assignments done, studying, finding part-time employment to supplement your social funds, spending too much money on beer and concerts, etc.  But I also know that college years are likely to be the BEST years of your life, so I’m happy that you wanted to experience all of it.  I HATED that you had to take Business Calculus II five times, but I don’t hate that you learned patience, discipline, and persistence in the process.  All these things you learned while struggling with Business Calculus II will serve you well in the future (marriage, parenting, employment).  Hell, Carson, I learned patience from you through your hard classes.  And in the end, it may have been all the prayers we (me, my family, my Bushland friends) said that got you through it, but the fact remains that you DID get through it (and with a B)! And while I’m sad that you had to tolerate Marty for so many semesters, in the end, you passed his class, and you graduated, and neither of us off’ed Marty in the process.  See?  It was ALL worth it.

Now as you graduate from college, I’m looking forward to your future.  I anticipate great things for you in your career, as a husband, and as a father.   You’ve come too far to only come this far. 

I wish for you employment success and relationship success.  I want you to be financially comfortable.  I wish for you a long and happy marriage when the time comes, and profound happiness as a husband and father. I hope you’ll become a man of faith, a man of commitment and discipline and awesome work ethic and family values.

Time has a wonderful way of showing me what really matters, and it doesn’t matter that I was a single, stressed-out, financially-strapped mom.  Time has shown me that I’m probably happier as a single person than I could have possibly been married to your dad.  (But it took me ten years to see it!)  Time has shown me that you’re a success despite the bad experiences of your parents’ divorce. You refused to feel sorry for yourself. Again, I’m sorry it happened, but I’m thankful that your successes as a student and young man picked me up time and time again. Time flies, and my cup runneth over.

Thank you for being who you are.  I couldn’t be prouder that you’re my son and that I’m your mom.  I will always be your #1 fan.

Congratulations, and WRECK ‘EM.

Always,

Mom

THIS is a TEST. It is ONLY a TEST.

For-I-am-ConvincedRead this, BFFs:  Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.

I repeat:  Every single thing that has ever happened in your life is preparing you for a moment that is yet to come.

I am the Prairie Purist, and this is my story.

Let me provide some background:  I was raised by two exceptional parents, Dan and Ethel, on a farm in the Texas Panhandle.  My dad was a farmer, and then a County Commissioner, and is now retired.  My mother was an energetic, fulltime stay-at-home and work-your-tail-off mother and housewife until my youngest brother entered elementary school, at which time she re-entered the workforce.  At that time, she went to work near our home, where she worked for the next 30 years until her retirement just a few years ago.  Before starting fulltime employment outside the home, however, she was a dedicated wife and nurturing mother whose purpose in life was to be a loving spouse and to raise happy, God-fearing, hardworking, and dedicated children.  And so, I wanted to be LIKE her.

My mother and father were classmates in high school and were wed to each other when they were 21.  They have now been married for over 54 years, and I am proud that we were able to celebrate their 50th Anniversary a few years ago.  Along with my parents, we (my three brothers, one sister and myself) became a close-knit family.  Our lives revolved around farm work, household chores, community and school activities, our Catholic Church, and sports.  We were all relatively close while we were growing up (save for the occasional conflicts that arose during our teen years, usually due to sports competition or choices of boyfriends / girlfriends that didn’t meet the other family members’ approval) and still today, we like to spend time with each other and our families.  Growing up, we even shared many of the same friends and were in the same social circles on nights and weekends.

In our small German Catholic community of about 300 people, we grew up among a multitude of aunts, uncles, and cousins.  Family, school, community, and the Catholic Church were the hub of our small, but extremely busy, community.

If you can’t tell, I absolutely LOVED my childhood in my small town, where we were taught daily by our parents through their examples in living about the value of hard work, personal responsibility, and commitment to family.  Our Catholic faith was also central to our lives.

My mom and dad enjoyed—and STILL enjoy—a very happy and fulfilling marriage although they have certainly weathered a few crises during their many years of marriage…as have MOST marriages.  During my childhood, I’m sure the IRS would have classified my family as “Lower Middle Income” or even “Lower Income”, but we all THOUGHT we were wealthy.  As children, we rarely had to do without anything we really NEEDED because my parents were proficient at saving money and being frugal.  They were excellent stewards of their financial resources.  (Apparently, however, I missed out on the “frugal” DNA.) My parents had integrity, and they inspired me, my brothers and my sister to work hard, to be honest, and to always pay what is owed in a timely manner.  Their examples to us were outstanding!    While dad was the primary bill payer and decision maker, he consulted with my mother, who is a budgeting and financial genius, in implementing those decisions.  In this way, my parents could squeeze 12 cents out of a dime!  They respected each other’s role in their marriage, and they complemented each other in their partnerships in farming and raising children.  Due to their combined talents and mutual interdependence during their marriage, they were able to save and put all five of their children through college, although neither of them had been a recipient of a college education themselves.  Again, I wanted to be LIKE them.  It all seemed so perfect.

Although my dad is a big man and carries a huge stick (and yes, I did acquire the Schmucker DNA in these areas), he worked long hours as a farmer, so my mother was the disciplinarian and the enforcer.  (For those of you who know my mother, Ethel, she may be small in stature and considerably sweet in nature, but she was a mighty commando when it came to discipline!  By the way, I am NEITHER sweet NOR petite like her. And I am okay with that!)  We were all scared of whatever social punishment Ethel might dish out.  As a teenager, of course, I thought my parents were overly strict.  However, now that I am the parent of two young adult college students, I TOTALLY get where they were coming from.  Communication was the key in their parenting.  We typically sat down and shared AT LEAST TWO MEALS AS A FAMILY EVERY DAY (and perhaps you can tell by looking at my diminutive frame that I rarely missed one of these shared mealtimes!)—so our meal times provided an opportunity for communication and for planning our daily activities for the days ahead.

Of course, my siblings and I were all raised Catholic, and Mass on Sundays provided yet another opportunity to be with friends and cousins.  Sunday nights were CYO nights, and we rarely missed a meeting or social activity.  Attending daily Mass at least twice during the week was also commonplace for my three brothers, my sister, and me as teenagers.  Mom and Dad made weekday Mass and CCD classes a habit for us.  We were also fully engaged in school activities.  We were all involved in sports, school clubs, and in UIL academic competitions, and my parents rarely missed any of our activities, even when all five of us were attending school.  I knew I wanted that same dedication for my own family, when I had one….

My parents were experts at ensuring that we were not idle or bored during our summers, so our summer months were usually spent working.  Each of my brothers drove tractors or trucks for my father, and my sister and I were domestic help for my mom or farm laborers for my dad or for local farmers.  We earned extra spending money by babysitting, usually for our younger cousins.  And some of my best memories from growing up on the farm are from having grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins gathered in our home, cleaning fruits and vegetables after a substantial harvest, and canning during those hot summer months.

As you might surmise, I didn’t date much during high school.  (Let’s face it.  I was related to most of the town, so the boys there were my cousins.)  I was content going to school, playing sports, planning my future, and envisioning college life and a career.  However, I did have big dreams about marriage and a family. I dreamed of a perfect husband, perfect children, a perfect home…..just like what I had enjoyed during my growing-up years.  I tell you this NOT TO BORE YOU, but to provide a little background about my youth.  Perhaps most people would have been bored with this life, but to me, it was PERFECT.  It was what I had always wanted for myself.

I graduated from high school, left for Texas Tech University, and never moved home again. I visited often; but my home for the next few years would be Lubbock.  I wanted to make good grades in college, and I wanted spending money for my social activities, so I worked 25-30 hours per week while attending college.  I continued to go to the Catholic Church, but I’d be lying if I said my attendance was consistent during my college years.  I was in no rush to graduate or to get married because I was “living MY perfect little dream” at college.  I had a multitude of friends, male and female, and never felt the urge to marry or start a family as long as I was still in college.  I didn’t date much, but it didn’t matter to me then.  I was enjoying college life and a social life.  In short, I loved my family.  I LOVED Jesus.  But I also liked to party, eat, drink, and cuss a little….

After cramming four glorious years of college into five fun-filled years, I graduated from college, had accepted a job in Lubbock, and continued to live the dream.  My life was full.  God is good.  Things were almost perfect.

As I started my new career, I also started dating someone that I had worked with in Lubbock.  He, too, was from a small city, a farming community, and he was part German, and he was Catholic! I thought he was the perfect man! We fell head-over-heels in love, and after dating for a year, we were engaged.  I believed he was everything I ever wanted, so we were eager to tie the knot, to have our perfect children in a perfect house and perfect yard and live our perfect life together.  We attended Engaged Encounter, and seven months later, we were married.  It was a big and tremendously fun wedding.  I was 27 years old, and life was great!

I was working fulltime at a job I loved; my perfect man was working retail fulltime; we enjoyed the same types of sports and hobbies; we attended Mass together on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation.  We certainly weren’t rich, but we were enjoying married life.  God is good!

Two and a half years into our marriage, our son, Carson, was born.  He was the perfect child….for all of 5 seconds.  My husband took a better job, and we were transferred to another city.  My wonderful boss allowed me to transfer to the new city with my job, and we found an outstanding daycare for Carson.  God is good!  My husband worked a lot, and almost always on Sundays, but our family immediately became members of the Catholic Church in our new city.  I was one of the Leaders of Teen Life at that time, and I loved it.  We may have had minor struggles in our marriage from time to time, but we always managed to work through them.  Marriage was work, but it was certainly worth it!

And then our second perfect child, our daughter, Bailee, was born three years later.  About that same time, my husband was again offered a better position within his company.  This required another move.  Although I was hesitant to move because I felt I had an almost perfect life already, eventually we decided it was best for our perfect little family to do so.  And so we moved.  My husband became a retail store manager; he was working 55-60 hours a week, and he was making plenty of money and being well compensated for the fine work he was doing.  I was able to continue to work at the job I loved because I made a 100-mile roundtrip commute every weekday with a 3-year-old and an infant in tow….  Again, we became members of the Catholic Church in our new city.  I eventually became a CCD teacher, and Carson started CCD classes there.  My husband worked most Sundays, but when he was home, he went to Mass with us.  We were busy.  We were tired.  And financially, we were making more money than we thought possible at our age.  Again, we had the perfect house….the perfect family, and fortunately, we had surrounded ourselves with lots of good Christian friends!  God is good!

After making the lengthy commute each weekday for almost two years, Carson was nearly 5 years old and would soon start kindergarten.  We knew that the long commute would be extremely difficult once our children started school, and we realized that I needed to find a job closer to home.  As luck would have it, and because my husband and I had made quick friends from his employment and from my Mass attendance and involvement at our church, I started working in our new city just as Carson started school.

And so—Carson started kindergarten, my perfect daughter (Bailee) was enjoying a wonderful daycare, I was working a new job in our new city, which I really, really enjoyed, and my husband was working more and more hours….  God had blessed us, and life was good.  I was on top of the world!  Or so I thought.  My husband was working so many hours and serving on so many community boards that we rarely saw him.  Although I certainly was NOT a perfect mother, I compensated by becoming the best mother and the best civic and church volunteer that I could be.  I wasn’t much of a wife to my husband, but he was so busy and rarely home so I didn’t think he cared, and plus, my volunteerism was great for his business….  We had a few minor issues that we had to work out in our marriage, but nothing major, plus we had made many dear friends in our new community, and although we were busy, God was still good!

Fast forward five years:  My husband is working long hours, I’m working fulltime, being a non-perfect mom to my perfect children, we’re extremely active in our community, and I’m very busy with our church and church organizations and with Carson’s and Bailee’s school.  Again, my husband is achieving great things at work, and thus is offered another  promotion—in another city.  Despite my hesitation to move again and to find employment, schools, and a new home again, we decided together that it would be best for our perfect little family.

And again, God blessed us!  We found the perfect house, the perfect yard, and the perfect schools in a rural community, on the prairie, that reminded me of my growing-up years on the farm.

Although I didn’t find a job immediately, I was able to serve as a substitute teacher at the elementary school until I found fulltime work again.  My perfect spouse was working more and more hours; he was serving on more and more boards. He LOVED his job and his employees!  On his nonworking days, he was spending more and more time socializing with his co-workers.  To compensate for his absence, I spent more time volunteering at the schools and became an officer of one of the Altar Guild circles at our church; Carson and Bailee and I started attending CCD classes and the Youth Mass, and then I started working fulltime again. The kids had started some youth sports activities through Kids, Inc., and although it kept us all busy, we loved it! Again, we were very fortunate that we had made many good and Godly friends in our new community and at church.  God had been very good to us!

One year after our latest move, I attended an ACTS (the Catholic version of a “Walk to Emmaus”) retreat.  Although it was a wonderful spiritual experience for me at the time, I felt an increasing distance between me and my husband afterward.  I could sense that things were no longer “perfect” between us.  He was detached.  He was confrontational if and when he would communicate. Suddenly, he no longer enjoyed his job, where he had been for 11 years.  Likewise, at work, he was being questioned about an “inappropriate relationship” with a teen-aged female employee.  He told me, and I accepted his explanation, that some of his employees were jealous of him for mentoring this young employee at work.  He merely felt sorry for her, he said.

Six months later, he called me while I was working and told me that he had quit his job.  JUST.QUIT!   JUST LIKE THAT.  He was tired of being harassed at work, he said, and would try to find replacement employment immediately.  I believed his version of events, and I was extremely exasperated with his longtime employer.  We immediately started working together to find him a different job.  Financially, I knew it would be difficult for him to be unemployed for a while, but I continued to believe that God is always good, and that my life had always been DARNED NEAR PERFECT, and we would get through this, too.

A week after my husband had “quit” his job, I received a phone call at my place of employment from the young girl that my husband had been mentoring.  “Mentoring” did not even begin to describe what they had been doing.  And he did not quit his job. He had been fired….

My perfect world was only starting to crumble.

We immediately separated.  I was immediately bitter because I had been lied to.  He told me I had been aloof as a wife for several years and this is why he had sought out the affair.  I felt betrayed!  He was blaming this on me!  The Passion of our Lord and the Sorrowful Mysteries of the rosary came to mind:  Although my pain is nothing relative to the pain of Jesus, I felt somewhat like our Lord must have felt in Gethsemane when Judas Iscariot handed him over. Like Jesus, I HAD BEEN BETRAYED!  Could my grief be anything like the agony our Lord felt in the garden? 

At that time, reconciliation was NOT an option, as my husband had no remorse for his actions, and he would continue the affair for several more months into our separation.  At the beginning of our separation, he said to me (and it still feels like a knife being plunged into my heart):  “People go through divorce all the time.  You’ll get over it.”  I couldn’t breathe.  ……I already felt damaged and betrayed, and these belittling comments were wounding my soul.  Lord, could the pain of these words be anything like the scourging you took for me at the pillar?  

I knew then, and I know now that it takes two to MAKE a marriage, but it also takes two to BREAK a marriage.  I thought to myself: “All I ever wanted was to be a good wife and a good mother. WHERE did I go wrong?  Was I so busy creating what I thought was a perfect life by taking care of myself, my kids, and my home that I didn’t pay enough attention to the needs of my husband?” As in the third Sorrowful Mystery of the rosary, I envision Jesus, bleeding from his massive wounds already and being fitted with a crown of thorns and the intense suffering that MY sins caused him.  Had I created a crown of thorns for myself through the sin of omission?  Had I disempowered my spouse during our marriage? 

For those of you who are happily married, I certainly applaud you.  I commend couples like my parents who have been married for over 50 years and have weathered many storms and many heartaches.  I soooo wanted that for myself in my perfect world.  Now, though, I feel somewhat slighted that my parents made marriage look so easy.  It was obviously NOT easy for me.  It was the hardest thing I had ever done in my life.  I had failed as a wife. But as hard as marriage was, divorce was even more difficult.  I felt as though I was being forced to carry the burdensome cross of divorce after 14 years of marriage.  …………I can barely tolerate my own grief, and it is nothing compared to your pain, Lord. Forgive me, Jesus; I’m such a wimp but I don’t WANT TO SUFFER LIKE THIS!  Lord, Lord, I beg you!  Please take this divorce and this suffering away from me!   Yes, Jesus, I only think MY cross is too heavy to bear, but you are carrying that heavy cross for me.  FOR.ME.  You are already beaten, bleeding, with broken bones and fighting for every breath…yet you continue to carry that cross for me, and you still LOVE ME in spite of it. 

After 10 months of separation, our divorce was finally heard.  It was an extremely contentious time during those 10 months.  Despite having the “German Amazon” DNA from my dad’s side of the family, I lost 40 pounds.  I couldn’t eat.  I couldn’t sleep. I was emotionally and financially drained.  It was all I could do to take my kids to school, to go to work, to take my kids to their sports and to church. I had to fight off depression for the only time in my life.  Although I prayed a lot during my sleepless nights, I felt defeated.  I was embarrassed.  I continued to question God about what I had done wrong. My marriage was over.  My perfect life was done.  ………Lord Jesus, You were betrayed. Convicted to die. Beaten with whips. Spit upon. Laughed at and humiliated. You were stripped of your clothing. They broke your bones, they pierced your side with a sword, and they cast lots for your clothing.  They crucified you, Lord.…. I say “they”, Lord, but I did that to you, too. Yet you never quit. Your spirit was never broken. You died on that cross for those of us who convicted you and then killed you. You sacrificed your life for ME by freely accepting death on a cross and then being put in a tomb. ………I’m not good at this “redemptive suffering”, Lord. I didn’t sign up for this!  Dear sweet Jesus, I don’t want to feel this type of pain….

And so, I was divorced.  My marriage was over.  I was a single mom.  A divorced Catholic. These were the LAST things I ever wanted.  Being from my small town where marriages lasted forever, I thought I was immune to infidelity and divorce.  This was NOT part of my perfect world….

However, at the lowest point in my life, at the time that I felt the LEAST loved and the most vulnerable to Satan, my best friends and my Catholic community showered me with love.  These friends, family, and neighbors were Jesus’ hands and feet to me during my most difficult struggle.  My friends and my family helped me move from my old home and establish a new home—one I could afford as a single parent.  My church friends offered fellowship and forgiveness.  My dear, sweet mother, who probably worked 30 years without ever taking a sick day for herself, yet knowing that I was financially broken after the divorce, offered to give me her SS retirement check each month, which to this day, the thought still leaves me tearfully humbled.  I know I was the subject of many, many prayers, and friends provided daily inspiration and motivation for me during that time.  The list goes on and on….. After the worst storm in my life, at the point of my life that I became the most broken and IMPERFECT, GOD became the most present to me!  Only God can turn a mess into a message, a test into a testimony, a trial into a triumph, and a victim into the victor!  It is through the sadness of divorce that my blessings became so evident, just as the sadness of Christ’s death helps us to realize the joy that the Resurrection brings.  In the Paschal Mystery, three days after Jesus died and was buried, He was raised from the dead with a new and glorified body. Our Lord was resurrected! And Lord, just as I felt my perfect life was twisted and destroyed beyond repair, you enveloped me with love and with the opportunity to begin my life anew.  

Think upon these song lyrics by Casting Crowns:

“Who am I, that the eyes that see my sin

Would look on me with love and watch me rise again?

Who am I, that the voice that calmed the sea

Would call out through the rain

And calm the storm in me?

Not because of who I am

But because of what You’ve done.

Not because of what I’ve done

But because of who You are…”

(from “Who Am I?” by the Casting Crowns)

And thus, in the Paschal Mystery, forty days after the Resurrection, the risen Christ ascended to the Father in Heaven.  Through the Ascension and the Exaltation of Christ, humanity has been given the unbreakable promise of everlasting life with God.  

Yes!  The Resurrection. The sweetness of the Resurrection!  After a slow and painful death of sorts, I’m still in the Resurrection stage of my life. I’m still creating a new life for myself.  However, IF anything good came from my divorce, it was that I worked much harder to be a good mother to my kids.  And although it wasn’t automatic and of course, I wasn’t immediately thankful for it, my ex-husband also became a better parent to our children.  Since my divorce, I have had many friends and acquaintances confide in me during difficult times in their marriages.  I have become a much better listener.  I have more empathy now, and so I am hopeful that my non-expert advice has helped them in their relationships in some way.  And as you can see, the 40 pounds I lost during divorce have rediscovered me.  It has taken me ten years to get to this point, but I no longer feel shame for being a divorced Catholic.  A single mom.

In hindsight, I have spent a lot of time reflecting about the last year of my failed marriage, and things have begun to make sense to me…. It was during my reflections that I discovered why my own ACTS retreat was not the ultimate experience I had so eagerly anticipated.  …….I have learned that while I was attending my ACTS retreat, this was also the weekend that my ex-husband’s extra-marital affair had escalated.  I now know that God’s timing was perfect for my ACTS retreat.  It was one of many of God’s tools for getting me through my struggles.  Following divorce, I struggle with financial matters.  After infidelity, I struggle with trust and with self-esteem issues.  Constantly, I struggle with forgiveness of those who have hurt me.  Slowly, I have learned that being a follower of Christ doesn’t mean I am shielded from bad things happening to me; it means simply that Christ will provide me with the tools to overcome the bad things that might occur.  Therefore, with God’s help and with many tools available to me for my growth as a Catholic, I am finally getting past my divorce.

My children have both graduated from high school, and they are thriving in college and in life.  I still work at a job I love, and I have grown to love my single life and my independence. I date a little, but dating in your 50s is way different than dating in your 20s, and I’m pretty sure Dan and Ethel (and Carson and Bailee) would be embarrassed if I started trolling senior citizen centers and nursing homes in search of a husband.  SO–HEAR ME, SISTERHOOD (Brotherhood, too)—whether you are single, married, divorced, or widowed:  THE MOST IMPORTANT THING I HAVE EVER LEARNED ABOUT MEN IS THAT THERE IS A MAN WHO DIED TO SHOW US HIS PERFECT LOVE.  He gave us His all, to show us that we are CHERISHED and we are BEAUTIFUL.  His name is Jesus, and He is the ONLY ONE who can satisfy the longing in our hearts for true love.  Jesus is the only perfect man I’ll ever find.  He’s all I need.  ………….. You see, ladies, our Lord loves us NOT BECAUSE we are perfect to Him, but because HIS LOVE IS PERFECT.

And so, I still love Jesus.  But I still also like to eat, drink, party and cuss—a little.….Okay.  Maybe a lot. And while I occasionally have moments that make me feel extremely broken and bitter, I know that it is through the struggle of divorce that my faith in Jesus and in myself was restored.  And so I repeat:  Every single thing that has ever happened to me is preparing me for a moment that is yet to come.

Or, to paraphrase:  Romans 8:28: We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.

I am called. And I DO have a purpose.

DSB – The Prairie Purist

In the Beginning…

Some of you have asked me to start a blog.  I’m not sure why…..Perhaps some of you are always thinking like me but don’t say it like I do.  Chicken shits!  All of you.

I am calling my blog “The Prairie Purist” because I tend to call it like I see it.  “Pure” in no way is meant as an adjective for my language.  That would be total torture for this cynic.  I’m keeping this shit real.  That’s why it’s called a blog.

I know this totally surprises some people, but some of my thoughts are unexpressed verbally… (Thank you, Ethel, for giving me some couth.) …And so God created blogs.  I don’t expect I will have a lot of time for this blog, and I haven’t committed to regular blog postings.  However, there are those times when I have totally meaningful and sometimes totally meaningless (albeit funny) things to say and no one to share those things with.  Perhaps that’s a disadvantage of being single.  (Oh wait.  No.  I didn’t share much with X during our marriage because he was too busy sharing his body parts with other people.)

Last night, Daughter and I made chocolate-covered strawberries and even some chocolate-covered cherries for Valentine’s Day.  Not to share with our boyfriends because hers is allergic to strawberries and obviously I don’t have one.  A boyfriend, that is.  BUT THE POINT IS that I had forgotten how much fun we could have in the kitchen…just Daughter and me.  Bonding time.  Daughter (who has supermodel DNA acquired through viewing all those cheap girly magazines that her dad keeps under the cushions and mattresses at his house) even ate two huge chocolate-covered strawberries and annihilated those monstrosities in record time.  I was soooo proud.  The perfect combination of Schmucker/Drerup DNA makes me love people who love food.  I’m just special like that.  It was an awesome moment with shared cooking/dipping and eating with Daughter.  It tickled me.  My muffin top overfloweth!

Back to Valentine’s Day:  As you know, I’m not a lover of this holiday for people who are in love.  (Although it IS a good opportunity to eat sweets. Nom Nom NOM.)  Maybe it’s the romance that escaped me in my youth–or even in my marriage.  But I choose to partake in the V-Day festivities regardless.  I’m happy for couples who are truly in love.  I’m happy for people who can actually tolerate each other day in and day out and stay married.  That commitment stuff is HARD WORK!  That wasn’t in MY cards.  Growing up in a wonderful home with parents happily married–and still married today–makes me appreciate the sanctity of marriage. The shared responsibilities.  The shared decisions.  The shared pride when your kid does something so totally awesome that you feel blessed to have contributed to his/her DNA.  Perhaps someday I will have that again in my own life.  In the meantime and in several years since the end of my marriage, I have grown to appreciate being single.  (Note that I said “I have grown” to appreciate singleness.  It certainly wasn’t automatic and the idea of being single was forced onto me at a time when I didn’t want that for myself.  So at first, I was mad.  Some days I am still bitter.  Nevertheless, “alone” has been good for me.  And I am good at “alone”.)

When I knew my marriage was over, I sat my elementary-aged Daughter and middle school-aged Son down in the living room and told them what I knew at that point:  That I was filing for divorce, that I had moved their dad out of our home, that I would sell the house but wanted to keep them in their current school district, and that someday, BUT NOT FOR AT LEAST THREE YEARS, I wanted to marry again.  That was in 2004.  It is now 2014, and those “three years” passed by ever so quickly.  Maybe because I had really good meds.  But really, it’s because I still refuse “to settle” like I did the first time.  I have a great life.  I have a great job.  I have great kids.  But a great marriage?  Not so much.  I settled.

Here’s to being single. For NOT settling. To being happy.  And for having a mother who raised me to be independent.  And to LIKE IT!

Happy Valentine’s Day.  Choose to LOVE something today.  Even if it’s being single.