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Valentine Tears

Today is Valentine’s Day!  A day of love, hugs, kisses and gifts and for some, a day of tears.  Not because the person you are dating didn’t buy you a gift.  Not because your spouse forgot to tell you Happy Valentine’s Day.  Not because your children didn’t show appreciation for what you do for them.  In my case, today is a day of tears because a very special Valentine will not arrive from my Mom.

It’s been 5 1/2 years since my mom died of cancer.  My grief for her is not as debilitating as it used to be.  I can go a month or so without missing her to the point of tears.  But on special occasions like Valentine’s Day, I miss her so much.  My mom always had some special Valentine’s gift for my siblings and I.  It could be something simple like a coloring book or just a box of chocolates, but no matter what, she always had a gift for us.  Even when I moved away, she would send me a care package at Valentine’s with a bag of my favorite candy bars, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups.

When I would call and thank her for remembering, she would tell me that she had to make sure her kids had a special Valentine’s gift from her.  (Yes, she would send care packages to all of her kids.)  Which explains my Valentine’s Day tears.  Memories of her love and care flood me with grief over the fact that she is not on this earth anymore.  Yes, I am an adult and a mother of four, I can go and buy as many Reese’s and I want for myself.  But that’s not the point, the point is that my mom took every opportunity to show me how much I meant to her and I miss the fact that I can’t hear her voice or read a special note that she’s written to me in a card.

I miss my mom today more than others, because it reminds me of how great of a mom she was.  I try my best to be that kind of mom for my kids, but I don’t know if I do it as well as she did.  Yes, I have bought some Valentine chocolates for my kiddos to receive tonight.  Yes, I purchased and helped them make out Valentine cards for their classmates.  And yes, I will most likely pop in during their Valentine’s Day party at school today.  But for some reason, that doesn’t seem like as much as my mom had done for me.  I’m afraid my grief for my mom makes my efforts a little less special for my kids.  But maybe that’s just the Devil trying to pull me down when he knows that I am weak.

So now that I have shared with you the love I have for my mom and the pain and tears that come with Valentine’s Day, I will wipe away the tears and do my best to make this day as special as I can for my kiddos.  So that one day, they too can have fond memories of me on Valentine’s Day.  To all those who find it hard to put aside their grief during this Valentine’s Day, I give you my own words of advice.  Spend a few minutes thinking of the one you lost and remember the great things they did for you.  Then get up and make this day a special day for someone special in your life.  Spread the love that you would have shown to your deceased loved one with someone that needs it most today.  Happy Valentine’s Day to you all!

 

Study Buddy

I’m not sure if I mentioned recently, but I started my online college classes to get my bachelor’s degree in Behavioral Science.  This is the first step to getting my teaching certificate to be a full-time teacher.  I just finished my first 6 week course and I’m about to start my second class.

It has been interesting trying to balance work, family and class work.  So far I have survived and hope it will continue.  I have always been a perfectionist, yet I didn’t realize how bad I was until I started getting graded on my course work.  The first few grades that I received that were not 100% was a little tough on me.  But as time progressed, I was able to rationalize with myself and decided that it would be boring if every grade I got was a 100%.  I needed to get some lower grades from time to time to make it a challenge.  The funny part is that I am the first to tell my kids that I don’t care if they get straight A’s, I just want them to do their best work.  So why did I feel that I had to have straight A’s on my work?  Needless to say, in the course of the last 6 weeks, I have decided that as long as I pass the class, I really don’t care if my grade is an A.

This leads me to my reason for writing this.  My kids have been very good during this first stage in my college experience.  In fact, if it wasn’t for my little study buddy, Ann, I wouldn’t have made some of my deadlines.  My sweet little 7-year-old daughter would ask to sit with me when I was doing my course work.  I told her as long as she didn’t bother me, I didn’t care.  In the end, I am very grateful that she was there.  I don’t do very well when I have to read a big amount of text at a time.  So I would often doze off when I was in the middle of reading some articles.  But my little study buddy was always there to say, “Wake up Mama.” and would even give me a shake if I needed it.  So who says your study buddy has to understand the material you are learning?  My study buddy is in the 2nd grade and I couldn’t ask for a better one!

First Games of the Season

Friday night arrived and it was an exciting place in our household.  It was game night for the 5th Grade Volleyball team AND my first time as Head Coach.  Frank had volunteered to be my Assistant Coach, since the teacher who was at all of our practices would be keeping score during the game.  I was very glad to know my husband would be by my side during the game, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was a little worried that we might end up stepping on each other’s toes.  You see, my husband is a big sports fan and I am not.  I don’t care if the kids win or lose, I just want them to play the game.  My husband loves sports so much that he will yell at the refs that are on the TV when he’s at home watching sports.  I often like to remind him that they can’t hear him, but he does it anyway.  🙂

As I have said before, “God works in mysterious ways.” and this time was no exception.  Having Frank by my side during the volleyball games turned out to be just what I needed.  It was good to have two set of eyes on our seven players.  Seven players don’t seem like a lot to deal with, but when you add the new environment, the ref, the cheering crowd and the opposing team, it all adds up to a big amount of noise and action.  So I was very grateful to have my husband standing by my side during the games.

There were many victories that night.  Having all seven players show up for the game was the first victory in my mind.  It seemed to just get better from there.  We won our first game, to my surprise, and it wasn’t an easy win.  Our team would gain some points and then the other team would fight back and catch up.  So it was a true competition, not a massacre by any means.

To my surprise and probably theirs too, my two new recruits had a few good bumps and serves during the game.  In fact, our whole team did and considering the fact that this was the first time the whole team was together, they really did work as a team.  I did my best to talk them up on the sidelines and kept reminding them to “Shake It Off” like the Taylor Swift song goes, whenever they made a mistake and started to get down on themselves.

We walked away from both games that night the victors.  I was pleased and very surprised.  We had only won 1 game last years and that was towards the end of the year.  So to have two games in our pocket at the beginning of our season was pretty sweet.  It was a great way to start out the season and to get my two new recruits hooked enough to stay with the team for the rest of the season.  Maybe this coaching thing will work out after all.  Only time will tell.

Crash Course in Volleyball Anyone?

If you are a Beach Boys fan, you should be familiar with the song “Be True To Your School”.  I don’t know why, but I have always loved that song.  I also know from past experience that our small school community is an awesome group of caring families.  Yet, I was still blown away from the loyalty and willingness that I encountered when I sent out my S.O.S. message.  I asked one mother, who had two children that were old enough, if one of them would be willing to be a stand in for one night.  Luckily for her children they did not have a current sports physical on file, because she was willing to throw them both into the ring with no volleyball experience what so ever.  You gotta love those moms who will volunteer their kids willingly and without their children’s knowledge.  He he he

The next mother I texted had asked her daughter and the daughter was willing to step in because her school needed her.  Her mother had told me that her daughter did not know any of the volleyball rules, but if her school needed her, she would be there for them.  The mother told me that she could tell her daughter was doing it out of an obligation to her school, not because she really wanted to play.  That was a bit of an eye-opener to see a young girl that had that sense of loyalty to her school at such a young age.  That shows how well her parents have raised her.

I had spoken to one of the faculty members earlier in the week who had mentioned that they would have loved for their daughter to play volleyball, but her daughter was not interested.  Well, I decided to send an S.O.S. text to her, hoping that her daughter would stand in for one game.  She asked her daughter again, yes, this mother asked her daughter.  The daughter was willing to try, but she really would feel better if she had someone work with her on what to expect.  So I volunteered to give her a crash course the day before to the game.

There was one other girl that I had spoken to about playing for the night.  She was very eager to try, even though she had never played before.  So I sent her mother a text and got her approval for her to play.  After I had found a second girl that was willing to play Friday night, I got back with the mother of the loyal daughter.  I told the mother that her daughter was welcome to play for our team if she wanted to AND if the mother wanted her to.  I knew that she was a mother of four children and that her girls already participated in gymnastics.  So I didn’t want to put an additional task on her plate.  The mother appreciated my offer, but said that if I was covered for the game, she would prefer her daughter did not add another extra curriculum activity.  I told her I totally understood and appreciated her daughter’s loyalty for her school.

After school Thursday, I arrived with a volleyball in my hand and a plan to give a crash course on volleyball.  I was hoping to use the school’s gym for the practice, however, it was being decorated for Grandparent’s Day.  So I ended up giving the two girls a crash course on the school playground, during a heat advisory.  So the heat was on in more than one way.  It was physically hot outside and I was teaching them everything they needed to know about volleyball 24-hours before their first game.  No pressure!  I decided that if I didn’t die of a heat stroke, then that was a sign that I was making the right move on getting a make-shift volleyball team together.

The crash course practice went pretty well and the two girls were willing to try.  So I gave them the run down on what to expect at the game.  I showed them how to serve and bump the ball.  I gave them a chance to try it a few times.  Then I explained to them that I was not expecting them to be this ultimate superstar on the court.  I was mostly looking for them to be a physical body to help us make a team.  I told them if they hit the ball over the net that was great.  However, if they did nothing more than stand there, I would be okay with that.  The girls were enjoying the crash course so much that they were asking if it was too late to sign up for volleyball.  I told them that they were more than welcome to join the team if they liked playing Friday night’s games.  I left the school that night with a pretty good feeling.  I knew that I had enough players to make up a team.  Whether they won or lost didn’t matter to me, they were going to be able to play the games and that was the most important part.

Bump, Set, Have Fun

Yes, volleyball season has started again and it has consumed the Williams’ household.  My two oldest kids, Marie & Patrick, are on their school’s volleyball teams.  But that’s not all, I have signed up to coach the 5th grade team.  Which means my two youngest are being drug, sometimes willingly, along for the ride.  Oh, but that’s not all, Dad has gotten into the spirit and has agreed to not only be the assistant coach for my son’s team, he has thrown his hat into the ring to be the assistant coach for the 8th grade team too.  I guess he got tired of standing along the line at the games.  (That’s a little inside joke, because last year he was a line judge at the kid’s games.)

This is not my first year of helping with volleyball, but in the past I was the assistant.  Which was perfect for me, because I really am not a competitive person.  In fact, I have no real sports ability what so ever, which is why I was always the student manager when I was in high school.  However, as my favorite saying goes, “God works in mysterious ways” and I found myself in the position as head coach of the 5th grade volleyball team this year.  Okay, not a problem.  I can do this!  I have many returning players from last year.  I just needed to be the adult that was responsible during the practices.  Or so I thought.

We started out with 7 kids signed up to play and out of that 7, only one was a brand new player.  We did our best to get practices going, but inevitably a couple were always absent from one practice or another.  That’s fine, I worked with the ones that could make it.  Then it happened, three days away from our first official game, I find out that two of my players can’t make it that night.  That’s when I go into the recruiter mode.  I have a team with 5 players and one of them is brand spankin’ new to the game.  Technically, we could play with 5 players, but we would have to give up a point every time the absent player was up to serve.  That’s okay, the kids would still be able to play.  But what if one of my players became sick the night of the game?  We couldn’t play with four players.  We’d have to forfeit.

Instantly, my personal goal was to make sure that this team would be able to play their first game, not as a coach, but as a mother.  My son and his teammates really wanted to play and I wanted to make sure that was going to happen.  So as soon as I heard about my absent players, I started sending text to parents that had qualifying students.  I couldn’t get just anybody to fill in at the game, they had to be in the right age limit and have a physical on file.  Otherwise, I would have been sticking my 8th grade daughter on the team, even if she had to play on her knees to make it fair.  Heck, my two little ones had been at every practice and could bump as well as some of my players, so I would have gladly suited them up and had them play if I could.

However, I had to abide by the rules and make sure my players were legal players.  We are playing in a Catholic league after all.  So like I said, I started texting parents and asking students if they wanted to step in for at least this one game.  Never in my wildest dreams could I imagine what would happen next.

Miss Me?

I hope my followers have missed me as much as I have missed them.  I can’t believe that the last post I wrote was in January.  What have I been up to?  Living life and napping…a lot of napping.

I was busy substitute teaching for the first 5 months.  Then I was placed under house arrest with my kids for the last two months.  Okay, I wasn’t really under house arrest, but spending the summer with my kids can make you feel like it.  Hehehehe

But the kids will be going back to school next week and maybe I will get back to blogging again.  As long as it doesn’t interrupt my napping schedule.  🙂

Getting Organized

I have taken one step closer to being organized in my house and I’m so pleased with myself that I just have to share it with you.  Laundry has been a problem for me ever since Marie was born.  Which means that when a new addition came into our household, I got more buried by laundry.  I know what you are thinking, that my dirty laundry was the worst part of my problem.  Well, you are wrong.  It’s my clean laundry that has been my worst nightmare.

I keep my washer and dryer very busy every day, yet I never have the time or space to fold and put away the clean laundry.  So what ends up happening is a mountain of clean laundry ends up sitting on top of my dryer to be rifled through every time someone needs an article of clothing.

The photo below gives you a little bit of an idea of how my laundry room used to look.  Trust me, there have been times when it looked a whole lot worse than this.

Before

You will notice the variety of things I have stored on the shelf above the washer and dryer.  This really had become a catch-all for anything that didn’t have a designated home.  It also was a place to put things that I didn’t want the kids to get a hold of, like golf balls and paints.

But then I finally got a clue and over the weekend I created the following work area.

20160110_153911

Notice that all the things have been removed from the shelf and I have replaced them with a basket for each family member.  I am reusing the orange tubs to collect the unmatched socks that always show up in the clean laundry.  The best part is that I can see the top of my dryer again.  Isn’t it beautiful?  I think it is.  I know that this might not last forever, but I’m going to do my best to keep it this way.

 

2015 in review

It’s been a great year!

There were a great number of things that happened in 2015.  Below is just a few things that come to mind:

I got to see One Direction in concert with my kids, sister and niece.

I got to substitute teach at more schools in a variety of subjects.

I got my book “Baby Steps of Faith – Marie’s Story” self-published on the Kindle Store.

My blog has had great activity also. (see the stat report below)

 

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 23 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

 

I would like to thank everyone for reading my blog and I hope that some of my posts have made your life a little bit easier.  I look forward to the great things that 2016 has to offer for us all.

Happy New Year!

Free Book Offer – Act Now!!

In the spirit of Christmas, I have decided to make my book “Baby Steps of Faith – Marie’s Story” free for a limited time.  So please spread the word and help me get the word out.  I won’t get any royalties from the free book offer, but I will hopefully get my book read.  That is my main goal…to get Marie’s Story out.

This is a perfect time for those of you that have read my blog while I was originally writing the story to get a complete version of Marie’s Story.  You should still be able to get my book, even if you are not in the United States.  So check it out.  Merry Christmas to you all.

 

Free book offer runs from Dec. 26th to Dec. 30th on Amazon.com

 

Free Book Offer

One for the Record Books

It has become a family tradition to help decorate and ride on the school Christmas float in the Williams’ household.  We have done it for at least four years now.  There is normally a handful of students that ride on it, along with some parents and the nuns that teach at our school.  It’s always a lot of fun and I’m glad we do it.  However, this year’s Christmas Parade has to go down in the record books as the most memorable to date.

We have had some unusually warm weather lately for our area.  Normally it’s pretty chilly after the sun goes down.  But last night we were riding in the Christmas Parade and it was in the high 60’s, with a chance of rain.  In fact, there was a few times while we waited for the parade to start, that it started to sprinkle on us.  Thankfully, we had some umbrellas and ponchos, just in case.

As the Christmas parade began, things seemed like every other year.  The kids and I were sitting on the float, waving and yelling Merry Christmas to the spectators.  The only difference was, that this year, Frank was riding on the float too.  We had a live nativity scene on our float, so we were all decked out in costumes.

We made it up to the spot where the local broadcasters were filming the parade.  They announced our float and we all waved and spread our Christmas cheer to the people viewing at home.  Things went well, until we got a little bit further down the parade route.  Then things got a little intense.

First, it started to sprinkle.  Then it started to rain.  Okay, we had umbrellas, so we continued to do our best to wave at the spectators that were being pelted by the rain.  Then came the real downpour.  What do you do when you are riding on a float in a downpour?  You continue to wave and wish people Merry Christmas, as you laugh in disbelief at your circumstances.

What came next was definitely not expected.  The wind picked up, which made the rain start hitting us at an angle.  But hey, we had umbrellas.  That is, until the wind caused our umbrellas to flip-up in the wrong direction.  So picture this, we are riding on a float, waving at spectators, as rain is hitting us at an angle and our umbrellas look like bowls on top of poles.  Couldn’t get much worse, right?  Wrong!

As we round a corner, the wind catches two of the small Christmas trees we had sitting in the corner of the float and starts bringing them down beside me.  I didn’t know what to do.  Do I catch the trees or do I continue to hold the umbrella that my two little kids were hovering under?  I decided to continue to hold the umbrella and let the trees go down.

By now Ann, my youngest daughter, is crying and I’m trying to calm her down.  It didn’t help the situation when the ambulance that was following us in the parade decided to turn on their sirens.  Yes, there was one moment during this whole event that I was thinking this was really becoming a true nightmare.  A float ride from Hell, if you may.  Then it happened, the must unexpected and memorable moment of the parade.

Right around the time the two Christmas trees fell over, I glance up at the nuns that were sitting across from me.  What I saw was awesome.  Two of the nuns, who are probably in their early 30’s, were huddled next to each other.  They were holding an umbrella that had flipped up into a bowl and they were laughing their heads off like they were teenage girls.  It was great, seeing them laughing at the unexpected situation.

It was at that moment that I realized that this float ride was a good example of life.  There will be times in your life where you think things will go smoothly.  Then, out of the blue, the rain will come along.  A little rain doesn’t seem so bad, but when the rain gets harder and you’re not as comfortable as you started out, then you have a choice to make.  You can either crumble under the pressure of life or you can throw your head back and laugh.  Your reactions will not make the circumstances change.  The rain will most likely continue to fall, whether you laugh or cry.  However, how you react to the situation will make a difference in how you feel about your circumstances.  What difference does that make?  A big difference.  Your attitude or reactions to the difficult situations life brings you makes a difference of how happy you can be in your life.

I am happy to report that the rain and wind died down before the parade was over.  By the time we were rounding the last corner of the parade route, we were thanking the rain drenched spectators for sticking it out with us.  I have a feeling that Ann will never want to ride on a Christmas float again.  Her memories will most likely be full of fear and misery.  However, the only thing I will remember about this year’s Christmas parade will be the beautiful sight of those two nuns, having a ball in the middle of a rain storm.  So will I be riding on next year’s Christmas float?  Heck yeah, even if there is a chance of rain.