My Dash

Today marks the first day of my freedom….for approximately 30 days to come.  Yesterday morning I submitted my final paper for MNGT 681 – Strategic and International Management, class number eight of 10 and the capstone of my MBA program.  The past seven weeks have been challenging to say the least.  30+ hours of course work, 40+ hours of “work” work, and of course, family.  I have been tired, stressed, stretched to my limit (and my very supportive, amazing, sweet husband has too).  But life keeps on going, even when you take on too much.  Life moves on, ready or not…as mine certainly did.

In the past seven weeks, we lost Jace’s most beloved pet hamster, Butterscotch.  On a rare night alone, my husband and I decided to go out for a little wine and dinner.  On our way home my husband mentioned he forgot that he had let our pet cat, Molly, inside the house.  You see, Molly was once an inside cat, but after my daughter’s cat allergies arose, and exasperated by Molly’s awful temperament and propensity to pee on our bed when she wasn’t pleased with us, Molly become an outside cat.   So, Phil had let Molly in for old time’s sake and forgot to put her out when we left for dinner.  Arriving home, I bolted for the restroom, which tends to happen after a few glasses of wine.  From upon the porcelain throne, I hear my husband mutter, “OH MY GODDDD.”  From the restroom I shouted, “What???!!” To which he returned, “It’s the worst possible thing you could imagine.”  There, left lovingly by my husband’s bedside as a sweet little gift, was Butterscotch, dead.  Molly was prancing around the house as though she was really something fantastic.  I’m not sure if it was the wine or the thought of telling Jace that Butterscotch was no more, but that night I sat in the kitchen and cried for a while.  Jace took it well, and much to my own amazement, in place of Butterscotch, we now have two hamsters, because little sister needed a hamster too.  Our family continues to grow, fuzzy as it may be, Phil, Melissa, Jace, Jera, Rusty (dog), Molly (cat), Oreo (hamster) and Angel (hamster) keep on moving forward.

In other news, my oldest son, Jace, turned nine years old this week.  As absolutely crazy as it seems that I can have a nine-year old (yes, that is half way to 18), in the same breath it seems so right.  When I look at my son today, I see a boy, not the baby and toddler that I used to see.  I see someone with his own thoughts and opinions, someone who is considerate and kind, someone who is quirky in the best way.  I see someone who is gaining an understanding of this world, both its beauty and its cruelty.  He isn’t the same tiny boy he used to be, which in moments makes me sad, but  also so proud.  I couldn’t be prouder of the young man he is growing into. Time keeps moving forward.

Now Christmas in the Hafele house has begun.  The tree is up, the presents are bought (mostly), the month is filled with Christmas-fun plans.  The elves are back….and they’ve multiplied.  We first began with Zart, the original Elf on the Shelf.  Then in year three, Zart went missing.  We then brought in Millie and Willie, one for Jace and one for Jera, of course.  Then in year four, Zart turned back up and we had Zart, Willie and Millie.  Ater my grandma passed away recently, the kids wanted Great-Grandma’s elves to remember her by, so three more elves came to live with us.  Today we have six, you read that right, SIX elves to stash around the house.  Thankfully, I let Jace in on the little secret this year, and he has had a blast helping us to hide the elves for Jera.  As much as I thought it would be sad to tell him the truth about the Elves on Shelf, he has genuinely enjoyed being the giver of joy this year.  Another sign of what a special boy he is.  And every once in a while, Zart hides somewhere special for Jace to find….just for old time’s sake.

img_3403.jpg

My next class begins January 8th, and I plan to enjoy each and every second until then.  And then, when I’m back to the 70+ hour work weeks, I will try to enjoy every moment then too.  I look back at the last seven weeks, look back over the past year and a half in the MBA Program, back at the last 10+ years of working full-time, at the past 15 years of my relationship with my husband…I think back to the time of my childhood, of my parents and all of the love we shared, to my siblings and cousins and all of the laughs…I look back and I’m in awe.  I’m in awe to be where I am today with so many blessings.  I’m in awe that so much time has passed and at times it feels like it’s only been an instant.  I’m brought back to my Pastor’s sermon from last week where she recited the poem “The Dash”….if you haven’t read it, the poem talks about how a headstone marks the date of birth and the date of death, but those dates really aren’t important at all.  What is important, what really matters is the ‘dash’.  What are we going to do with our dash?  How will we spend it?  I hope to make the most of my dash.  That is what I strive for every day.  I hope you do too.

Happy holidays and a merry Christmas to all of my readers.  I pray that you are filled with the sacred spirit of this season and that your dash is everything that you were created to be.

Advertisements

2, 4, 6, 8…Nah, 2.

This week was hell-ish. I began my eighth MBA course, Strategic and International Management. I had the stomach flu. And then my husband had the stomach flu. And then my daughter had an asthma flare that landed her home from school for two days. It’s the month following quarter-end, which involves all of the work-fun that one could conjure up. We had Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts. My dishes were unwashed. My laundry is completely out of control. I was in tears at times from the amount of overwhelmed that was me. And I was absolutely, positively sure that I did not want any more kids. Totally sure.

You see, our son is turning nine next month. Our daughter is five. My husband and I are in our mid-thirties and we had agreed that we don’t want to be having babies in our forties. We’ve hit this now or never moment. For a minute, we wanted more. If you have children, it’s impossible not to wonder who number three would be. Would they be reserved and laid back like our son? Or kind and dramatic like our daughter? Or would his little nugget be someone completely new and original? 

Then months went by. I finished another class and started my current class. Life went up and went down. We got good news and we got bad news. We had moments that we couldn’t take a single extra stress for fear of completely losing it. 

And I changed my mind. Because maybe things are exactly perfect the way they are. Other families never had choices. Children just came, one after another and there wasn’t a lot of time for thinking. But things were never like that for my husband and me. It was always a choice, and then we had to try to have a baby. It was fun, but it was also stressful and sad at times. 

I felt certain last week that it was time to move forward to the next stage of our lives. Then today as I was folding my mountains of laundry, Knocked Up was playing in the background. I watched Kathryn Heigl give fake birth and I cried. My heart squeeezed in my chest as I watched a comedy about becoming a parent. I hesitated. Can I really go the entire rest of my life and never have that experience again…the miracle of having a child?

Having my children, the actual grueling process of giving birth, is the absolute most amazing experience that I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve never felt stronger, more sure of myself, more comfortable in my own skin then when I was bringing my babies into the world. Can I really not ever feel that again? There are no words that can describe what those moments meant to me. Perfection comes close.

I still think two is the right answer for us, for our family, for who we are and what we want. I’m sure I’ll have other moments. Moments of mourning what might have been. 

I’m curious from my readers…when did you know you were done having children? Did you have moments of temporary insanity after you decided your baby-making days were done? I feel my common sense returning…in the form of needing to stop writing and get started with putting laundry away, putting away the groceries my hubby just brought through the door, getting bathtimes started, getting this supper thing done. 

Two is totally enough. Totally. 

But how can you help but reminisce about these moments…

The World Would Sing

I’m not musically inclined. I can’t carry a note or play an instrument. But I am the person that hears a song everywhere she goes. Music has always touched a special place in my soul, and I tend to remember my life moment by moment…song by song.

A  newsline broke across my screen this afternoon, “Tom Petty Rushed to the Hospital Full Cardiac Arrest”.

As long I can remember, Tom Petty’s music has been the backdrop for so many moments in my life. A trip through one of his many albums and I travel back in time…

…to the girl I was at 14, having my heart broken for the first time

…to the girl at 16 rolling her windows down and hitting the open road with that growling guitar and unmistakable voice as my only passenger…

…to the women in her early 20s making questionable life choices but having SO MUCH FUN…

…to the young woman dancing around her kitchen with her toddler doing her best to teach her babe what real music is about…

…to the the woman who can be too serious, too stressed, too busy but can’t help but smile every single time a Tom Petty song comes across the radio and who quietly thanks God for the little unexpected gift…

Horrible, unspeakable things are happening in the world today. The tragedy in Las Vegas…there are no words. The illnesses we are all experiencing within our families and among our friends. The destruction from hurricanes, earthquakes and fires. I’m scared for the world I’m leaving behind for my children. 

In this life, music comforts me in my most difficult moments. Music has carried me through heartbreak, through betrayal, it has held be up as I learned to cope with death, and gave me solace after a miscarriage. There were good times too. Dancing, singing (off-tune), laughter. Tom Petty’s music has a way of helping his fans to transcend the heavy troubles of this world; he is a remarkable lyricist. A true poet.

Tonight my prayers are full….for those suffering in the world. Prayers of thanks for another evening with my sweet husband and children. I pray for Tom Petty and his family, for his fans. I give thanks for all of the times that his words brought me comfort, joy and excitement. 

He sings, “Yeah, the world would sing if I were king. Can I help it if I still dream time to time.” Tonight, Tom, the world sings with you.


Some Days You Just Have to Say WHATEVER

Some days are better than others. Some days grind at your will to stay a sane, practical human being. Today has been a day (and by today, I mostly mean the last three hours of my life) that has made me want to throw my hands up in the air and say “WHATEVER”. You know what kind of “WHATEVER” I mean…for those of us that don’t use four letter words….”WHATEVER” tends to summarize the effect that this mom is D-O-N-E.

Tonight this is what I made for supper. We have switched to a vegetarian diet (nearly vegan when possible), and I put a lot of energy into trying to feed my family something healthy, fresh and delicious. Tonight’s meal was stuffed sweet potatoes…a mix between sweet and savory. It was good, really good. I know because I ate it. My family however reacted as though I had served them poison. “Sweet potatoes?! I HATE SWEET POTATOES!” they say. Who hates sweet potatoes??? Weirdos.
6000 – 3746 ….this is the math problem that brought not only my son, who was performing the work, to tears, but this piece of arthmitic also had my daughter crying. She can’t be in the vicinity of someone having a bad day and not one-up them. I waited through two melt downs as Jace resisted listening because he just needed to play after a long day at school. I stared at my daughter as she squealed in distress because her brother touched her with his toe. 

Tonight I wanted to say “WHATEVER”….don’t eat….go hungry….don’t learn….who needs subtraction. I wanted to run away (fast!). But I didn’t. We got through every grueling bite of sweet potato. I watched as Jace held his nose, tilted his head back, swallowed hard and then chased his putrid potato with his drink. 

Now I will get up and wash the dishes and I will scrape my husband’s full dinner into the trash (he consoled me for his refusal to eat the food I cooked by apologizing to me that he didn’t like my “yam thing”). 

I can’t help to think back to Sunday morning. I sat in church and listened to my Pastor say that we’re all created in God’s own image. She told us to look at the people sitting next to us and we are actually looking at God’s creation, His creation in His own image. I looked over and saw my children. In that moment I knew without a doubt that she was totally and completely right. These crazy, whiny, emotional, picky-eating children. These loving, caring, funny, sweet, little creations of God. 

They were made by God in His own image just for me. They’re all mine. Every day. On the good days. On the not-so-good days. Every single day they are my gift. So I’ll get up and do my dishes, we’ll read bedtime stories, I’ll tuck them in and I’ll be thankful. I’ll be thankful that I didn’t say “WHATEVER”. I’ll remember that they need me to guide them. They are my responsibility, but even more than that, they are my gift. I am incredibly and bountifully blessed. And instead of saying “WHATEVER”, I’ll say “Whatever He asks of me.” That’s the trade. My children are a gift and it’s not supposed to be easy. So even on the bad days, I’ll do whatever I’m called to do….because I get to be called “Mom”.

An Open Letter to My Children 2017

Wow…what a year we have had.  It has been one year since I wrote the original An Open Letter to my Children 2016 and we’ve seen great joy and unbelievable hardships.  We’ve succeeded and failed….we’ve grown together.  I find myself in a new year (that isn’t so new anymore…already) with an eight- and five-year old, and again, I don’t know where the time went.  I try earnestly to tell my children exactly what they mean to me, exactly how I feel, every single day.  But I know these words fall flat on their tiny little ears, because there is no way they can yet understand the joy of being a parent.  Someday when they have children of their own, they will truly know.  Until then, I will continue to write to them, so when they gain perspective, they can look back and remember who they were at this point in time, who they were in the world and who they were to me.

To Jace:

Jace, you are eight years old today.  What an amazing eight-year old you are!  You are growing into yourself more and more every day.  You are learning what you love, what you don’t, and how to maneuver everything in between.  I was having a bad day last week.  I was struggling completing a school assignment and you noticed.  You didn’t have to notice, but you did.  That is who you are…you see people.   I had to leave the house to complete my assignment and dreaded coming home to dinner dishes.  I walked into the kitchen and there you were….standing in the center, wash rag in your hand.  The dishes were washed, dried and put away.  The counter tops were cleaned.  You did it all by yourself without anyone asking.  In that moment, you shined.  The kindness in your heart radiated.  You brought me joy….immense joy that I have a son who is so caring, kind, dedicated and hardworking.  You make me so proud.  Over the past year, you have changed in some ways but you’re still the same in others.  Scary movies are still your favorite.  You still love steak although I’m trying my best to convert you to a vegetarian.  The look on your face when I mention the word “cabbage” is priceless but you eat everything I cook.  You’re figuring out friendship.  Girls still get on your last nerve (thank God).  You love baseball…LOVE BASEBALL.  You won the baseball tourney this year and you were so happy.  You love to swim and run.  You have started speaking for yourself with more confidence.  You have your own style and opinions.  You went to Disney this year and loved all of the thrill rides, always questing the fastest and most exhilarating experience possible.  You love dirt bikes and classic cars.  You don’t love to read but you do it to appease me.  You helped me build and plant our garden this year, and you loved every moment of it.  You just a cool kid.  The best.  You’re a great friend.  You’re an awesome son.  Thank you for all of the love, joy and beauty you brought into my life over the last year.

To Jera:

Oh Jera, child, you are a tornado.  You leave a path behind you, and you are memorable in the most beautiful way.  We can never (and I mean NEVER) see your bedroom floor.  You leave a path in the bathroom…in the living room…on the front porch…you are constant movement and thinking.  You have fallen in love with art this year.  You have three or four drawings waiting for me each day that I pick you up from the sitter.  You love to draw our family and on each drawing you write “To Mom, Jera”.  You love music, and your dad and I smile when we hear your little voice carrying through the house from your bedroom as you play, from the bathroom as you bathe, and even from the toilet…you sing ALL the time.  You love Trolls and Moana.   We took you to Disney this summer and you refused to ride a single ride because you are afraid of anything fast, dark or high.  ‘It’s a Small World’ was a thrill ride for you. You love animals of all kinds.  You have a special tenderness with animals, and I see something special in the way you handle them.  You are incredibly smart, and I cannot wait to see what Kindergarten brings for you.  You love your family and don’t like to be away from us for any length of time…which should also make Kindergarten interesting.  You still give the best hugs….and kisses.  You are the most loving child.  You love tea parties and playing with your various little dolls.  You love using your imagination.  Your favorite food is beans, which makes me laugh.  You have gotten into the habit of whining when things don’t go your way…and I am anxiously awaiting for that phase to end.  You have started using the word “literally” in nearly every sentence, and when I hear it fall out of my mouth as well, I know where it comes from and it makes me smile.  You are kind. You are so beautiful, on the inside and outside.  You have so much energy and potential.  Everyday with you is an adventure.  Thank you for keeping life interesting.  For always being ready with the unexpected.  For keeping me on my toes.  Thank you for your love.

Love,

Your mom

If you haven’t, take a moment to reflect on your family today.  Write it down.  It will be gone tomorrow, and the moments you think you’ll always remember will fade away into new, exciting growth and development.  Live in the moment.  Don’t think about tomorrow.  Focus on your family.  Love too much today.  Happy Sunday!

Just Say No

Good, great and beautiful Sunday morning! I love mornings in general, but Sunday mornings? There is just something about those precious few peaceful hours that makes all the world right.

Life continues to be absolutely crazy. A week ago, I finished my fifth MBA course marking my half way point in the program. Then Monday, I rolled right into my sixth class with Computer Information Systems…no rest for the wicked they say. I’ve taken on some new professional challenges, determined to continue growing and move forward with my skill set and work experience. 

We’ve had golf camp, art camp, VBS, baseball and Cub Scouts. After a sedentary year of adjusting to being back in school, I’ve started running again with my sister (see the photo below…I made her run in the rain and then take a makeup free picture 😲…she thinks I’m trying to kill her but she’ll thank me later!). And finally, I’ve started reading again (for fun!). I’ve decided to go back through the classics that I “cliff noted” my way through in high school and to try to actually appreciate them this time. I just finished Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (absolutely fantastic) and am now reading To Kill a Mockingbird.


I feel a shift within myself. There are no more hours in the day today than there were a year ago. But today I feel more productive and happier and thankful for the energy to do all of the things I’m passionate for. This change, these happy moments with my children, with my husband, in my career, in my schoolwork, they haven’t been without a cost.

I have learned little by little to start saying no. Let me clue you in to the fact that I hate saying no. I want to do it all. Be involved, support all good causes, be a strong leader in my community, church and work… But in order to be happy, in order to be content, in order to be the Christian, wife, and mom that I am designed to be, I have learned that I have to pick and choose where I am spending my time very wisely. 

Sometimes the no’s are obvious and sometimes they’re painfully difficult. Some of my no’s were easier than I imagined. I say no to TV today. I say no to social media. The truth is that I  have better places to spend my time, and when I’m focused on television or social media, I losing time on something I find more precious. You may be reading this blog via a Facebook link thinking “what a hypocrite, ” but let me tell you that these are not hard no’s. If my day is done, and my husband has settled into bed to watch a good murder mystery, you better believe I am by his side. If my child has done something adorable (as children often do), I will make a post on Facebook to share with my friends and family. But gone are the days of spending an afternoon on a Netflix binge or blindly scrolling through a Facebook feed while sitting with my family. I’ve turned off all notifications to my cell phone and try to leave my phone put away any time that I know my focus should be on my family, work and/or school. So of all my no’s, this was an easy one. This no has brought me many moments of great joy and peace.

However, there have been other no’s that hurt my heart. I had to resign from some volunteer work; volunteer work that I know is important, that is vital even. But I saw myself swimming…drowning in commitments that I could not follow through. My joy in life was slipping. I was missing out on too many tuck-ins with my kids, too many opportunities to grow mentally, emotionally and/or physically. Right now, at this point in my life, I have to make difficult choices. I am happier today for the no’s I’ve forced myself to say. I am a better wife and mom. I can feel God’s joy in my heart because I am taking moments to just sit in his peace. I can share that joy with my family and friends. That is my number one responsibility in this life. 


When was the last time you had a moment to sit in God’s peace and love? Are you making quiet time to just be? It’s difficult. It’s one of the hardest things in life for me. I also believe it’s one of the most important. Saying no isn’t always easy, but the rewards are exponential. Make today a joyous day. Say no to the things that aren’t on your priority list (and if you don’t have a priority list, make one). Say yes instead, to the things that bring you peace and joy. Here is a list of my “insteads” since I’ve started to say no: a walk with my kids, a bike ride, a run, planting a garden, reading a great book, listening to my favorite podcast, dancing with my children, coloring a page with my daughter, washing my dishes, sitting on the front porch with my husband…the list will continue to grow. I am so thankful. I’m wishing you the best of days over this holiday weekend. Happy 4th of July from my family to yours! 

Am I Raising A Cheapskate???

My household has been rolling through some changes. As time moves forward, as I spend more time in the workforce, as we buy nicer cars, clothes and homes, I’ve truly come to realize the value of a dollar. I have never been and am not naturally frugal, and unfortunately probably wouldn’t even qualify as frugal today (although I’m trying!). However, my goals and concerns are changing. 

Everyone likes nice things, but I must say those nice things just aren’t as important to me anymore. As I grow and make realizations about money and budgeting, I try to share this cost-conscious mind-set with my children. 

My daughter is five and, for her, “money ain’t a thing.” (Hope you enjoy that Jay-Z reference…I’m a child of the 00’s 😏). She was excitedly talking about the next enormous, ridiculous thing she wanted…it’s hard to recall if it was a horse, helicopter, or mansion. She thinks big. What I do remember very vividly is my son looking at her skeptically and saying, “Do you know how much that costs?!”

 

That was a moment for me. Is it okay that my eight-year-old is thinking about the cost of something instead of dreaming of the biggest and best? I wasn’t sure if I should be proud or a little sad. There are times I wish we didn’t have to worry about budgets and discounts. Times I wish we were in a position to give our children everything they want.

 

But in that moment, and as I reflect now, I choose to be proud. I talk candidly with both my children about money, about spending money and saving money. They earn money for “work” they do. When they choose to spend, I make them put an equal amount of cash into their savings accounts. I’ve even had them begin to choose between big birthday parties or big birthday presents, we don’t do both. I want them to realize the value of not only the tangible things in life, but also the value of experiences. 

My kids don’t suffer for much. We’re extremely fortunate in the fact that they don’t always have what they want, but they do have what they need. I don’t take that lightly and am very grateful for that. I also talk with my kids about this fact. There are people, there are even children, who do not have what they need. We are fortunate to live the life we do.


Today, as I continue to learn about how to make the most of this life, financially and otherwise, I will continue to talk to my children in an honest and frank way about the important money choices we make. I’m interested to hear from my readers if this is something you work on with your kids. What have you found that works? Do you talk about money with your children? 

Also, let’s talk budgets and savings!!!  What works for your family? My family has recently gone sans-satellite and cable and switched to streaming tv only (saving $70 every month). We’ve read and studied Dave Ramsey and are fans of the cash envelope system.  Where else can we improve? I’d love to hear all of your money-saving tips and tricks!

I’m wishing everyone a wonderful Sunday!