Don’t Panic

I thought that by this time in my life, I’d have a few more answers. Oh, not to the big questions like how to cure cancer or how to bring about world peace. I’m not even talking about questions like “how do I find a way to live on Toblerone, cheap wine, and mass quantities of coffee while still maintaining a perfect figure?”

That question would, of course, have to come after answering the question of “how do I actually get a perfect figure in the first place?”

I could even go my entire life without knowing the answers to “How many roads must a man walk down?” or “What do you get if you multiply six by nine?”

I just want the answers to the small things. I want to understand how other people seem to be able to get through their days without everything swirling into chaos of dirty dishes, unfinished projects, wrinkled clothes and adolescent zits at the age of forty-nine.

I want to know how other people manage to go through life without looking like Pigpen from “The Peanuts” by ten a.m. I don’t get it. I shower in the morning, do my hair and make-up, put on clean clothes. Just like everyone else, right? I even iron my clothes when necessary.

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Oh, look, a Selfie

Okay, that’s a lie. I don’t even know where my iron is.

I’m not even sure I own an iron.

But still, I look normal and put-together for the first ten minutes or so, before all hell breaks loose. Dirt, stains, spills, wrinkles, and random dog hairs just seem to leap onto my body somewhere between the front door and my car. My hairspray fails, my mascara smudges, and my earring back drops into my bra, where I just might find it again later along with tidbits of breakfast and random bits of broccoli from lunch. By the time I get to wherever it is that I’m going, I look like I’ve slept in my clothes.

Sometimes, I look like I’ve been buried and brought back to life as a zombie in them.

I also want to know how other people always seem to be able to manage their money. I never have any. Okay, so I’m not exactly a highly-paid New York Times Bestselling author or a super-successful . . . well, anything. But still, I get a paycheck every other week. I try to pay my bills. I never splurge on luxuries for myself, other than the occasional Toblerone or bottle of $2.99 Boone’s Farm.

So why don’t I ever have any money? Where does it go?  How do other people do this?

I’m sure I spent some of that money on an iron at some point. It’s not like those things cost much, which is a good thing since it looks like I’m probably going to have to buy another one in the near future.

Another thing I want to know is how to be the kind of mom who’s got a handle of everything going on in her kids’ lives. I always seem to be missing some vital information about a band concert or a school party or a science project until the very last minute, at which point one of my children is guaranteed to tell me that I’ve known about it for weeks but simply chose to forget about it on purpose because I don’t love said child as much as I love the other two.

I kind of wish I knew how to be as good at laying on the passive-aggressive guilt trips as my children are. They must have learned it somewhere, but obviously not from me.

I’ve tried the dry-erase calendars and the Cozi family app on my phone. I’ve tried the Google calendar. I’ve tried everything.  I really  have. I simply have to face the fact that I have zero organizational skills and the attention span of a squirrel on crack.

The sad truth is that I’ve never even managed to keep a houseplant alive for more than a few weeks, and yet I’m responsible for three people that I helped bring into this world. It’s a minor miracle that all three are functioning human beings who manage to make it out the door every morning with food in their bellies and clothes on their bodies. If homework is done and no one is crying, it’s like winning the lottery.

I want answers because I’m turning fifty next month and I always thought I’d have things figured out by now. I really thought I’d have my shit together by this point. You know, be a good example. Have my poop in a group and know where my towel is and all that jazz.

I thought I’d have this adult thing all figured out.

At the very least, I thought I’d know where my iron is.

 

This post has been part of Finish the Sentence Friday, hosted this week by Kristi at Finding Ninee. This week’s sentence starter was “I thought by this time in life I’d  . . .”

Follow the link to see what some of the other bloggers have done with it!

And yes, in case anyone caught it, there are several references to Doug Adams in this week’s post. I don’t know why, but his work has been on my mind a lot lately. 

Keeping The Flame

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I once won an award for volunteer work I did to help organize the annual pancake breakfast fundraiser put on my by ex-husband’s fire department.  It’s called the Keeper of the Flame Award, and it’s the civilian equivalent of the department’s Distinguished Service Award.

It’s a tiny wooden plaque with a lot of chips and scratches from being stored in my desk drawer for far too many years before I managed to get it up on the wall. It’s not that I was ashamed of it or trying to hide it; I’m just not very organized about things like hanging plaques and pictures. To be perfectly honest, I’m not very organized about anything at all.

And that is why I am so proud of this particular award.

I have zero organizational skills. I am not a good planner. I’d like to blame it on ADHD or whatever, but the fact is that I am not good at planning events because I am a disorganized mess and a terrible leader. It just took a while for me to admit it to myself.

I have great ideas.  I just suck at following through on them.

During the years that my ex-husband was an officer with the local fire department, I constantly fought for control among the other spouses. That sounds crazy, but there is a definite hierarchy among firefighters’ wives in a small town; since the officers who outranked the Big Guy were divorced, that made me sort of the highest-ranking spouse and therefore in charge of planning all department family events. At least, it did in my own eyes. The other wives didn’t really see it that way.

The year I won the award, I made a complete ass of myself. The Big Guy and I both behaved like a couple of control freaks about the pancake breakfast fundraiser. We called in his family and our close friends to help, and I was relentless about hounding local businesses to donate supplies, and we did everything we could to effectively close out all other members of the department when it came to the planning and execution of the event. We made our own team because I guess I thought we needed to prove some kind of point.

I didn’t do it for the right reasons. Oh, sure, I wanted to raise money for Great Lakes Burn Camp, which is still one of my favorite charities.  But I wanted people to be impressed by all of my hard work. I wanted a bit of recognition. I wanted that Keeper of the Flame Award, by golly, and I wanted to sing and dance the night I got that sucker.

The Big Guy got the Distinguished Service Award that same year, but not for his work with the pancake breakfast.  He got it because he was one hell of a firefighter who went beyond what was expected of him the night a fellow firefighter’s house burned to the ground. My guy basically worked two trucks that night, quietly rushing around behind-the-scenes and keeping everything going. He didn’t “pack up” or do anything that drew attention to himself; he just did what was necessary because he is the ultimate team player, not because he wanted recognition or kudos for his hard work.

I didn’t deserve my award, but I’m proud of it anyway because it helped me understand that I sometimes need to step back and let someone else be in charge. I need to accept the fact that I am not a good leader or planner, and that the best place for me in some cases is behind-the-scenes. I function better as support rather than administration.

When this town pulls together to plan a fundraiser or some other campaign, the planning is better left to those who are actually good at it. Somebody’s got to bring cookies and coffee to the planners; somebody’s got to sweep the floor afterward. Somebody’s got to be willing to shut up and leave the recognition and praise and Keeper of the Flame Awards to those who know how to be in charge.

So when my town rallied around my friend Sarah this week, I shut up and started cooking. You see, almost every time there is a fundraiser or special event in this town, Sarah is involved. Whether rallying the neighbors to bring food to my family after my accident, planning a blood drive to honor her late father, or putting together a spaghetti dinner to raise money for the family of a local boy with cancer, Sarah is a master of seamlessly orchestrating events to help others. She doesn’t do it because she needs a spotlight; she does it because she’s a good person who just happens to be really good at that sort of thing.

Last Saturday night, Sarah’s little red car was hit by a police officer speeding to assist another officer. She spent days in ICU and very nearly lost her youngest son, who is finally awake and snapchatting friends from his bed in ICU but who also has a hell of a long road ahead of him. He had to be airlifted to the hospital from the accident scene and then spent several days in a medically-induced coma, and Sarah’s little family will never be the same after everything they’ve been through this past week.

She needs a car. She needs money for the hospital bills and for all of the time lost from work. It’s time for the girl who always gives to be on the receiving end for a while.

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One of my co-workers stepped up and put together a fundraiser dinner four days after the accident, and the response was astonishing.  The local pageant organizer stepped up to arrange a bake sale at the event, hosted by our local beauty queens; a preschool teacher set up the silent auction that took place during the dinner.  I stressed and worried about ways I could help, wondering what great plans I could come up with that could equal the efforts of these women.

Then I looked at my Keeper of the Flame Award, and I stopped worrying about myself. I made food for the event and I used my Facebook page to spread the word. And now I’m using my blog to call attention to my friend and her need for help.  That’s what I can do, and I do much better than I could have done any of the planning and hard work that it took to put all of it together.

So this post is for all of the planners out there, all of the leaders, all of the Keepers of the Flame who know how to step up and take charge. It’s for Christy, Ronda, Katie, Jessica, Sarah and all the people like them. But it’s also for the people like me, who struggle to know when to step back and let others do what they’re good at.

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This is a Finish The Sentence Friday post: “I once won an award for . . . ” hosted by Kristi from Finding Ninee, Allie from The Latchkey Mom, and Allison from Godanskermom. Please take a few minutes to check out what some of the other bloggers did with this sentence!