Saturday, May 12, 2012


One of my good friends asked a question via Facebook concerning bullying and it got me thinking about all the personal history I have on that subject. Here is what I came up with. 

Some people are naturally appealing to predators. Head down, walking alone, hurrying all the time, nervously hoping not to be picked on. It is like having a huge target on your back. Being "different" and being bullied go hand in hand. It is a mean cycle and I'm not sure which comes first. Maybe you feel different and so people treat you differently. Maybe you get picked on and you are made aware of your differences. It could be a small insult whispered under their breath or it could be something bigger or more public like begin shoved or tripped. No matter what the “attack” is like, it all has the same affect. When you boil it down, bullying is abuse. To make it worse, it is often very public abuse. That makes it all the more difficult to understand why so few others stand up or try to help. 

How do I know about bullying? I lived it. Not just one time. Not just in one place. Not just by one person. I felt like I had been secretly marked. Bigger, meaner people just knew. This was a girl it was ok to pick on. There were plenty of things to choose from. Being a minority (blonde and fair skinned was the minority in my neighborhood,) smaller than my peers, smarter (or at least more eager to share my knowledge,) or less affluent. Those are just a few of the "justified" reasons. I was called plenty more names because of what people assumed about me. Apparently being curvy means sleeping around (despite the opposite.) Being friends with junkies meant (of course) that I was a junkie, too.  Very often, I think I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Usually I didn't have anyone to stick up for me, and I didn't stick up for myself. 

I was bullied a LOT. I don’t want to rehash it all, but here is a sample to make my point.  “Stupid white girl” was something I understood when spoken in Spanish before I was in 2nd grade. In 4th grade a bully got tired of the teachers intervening so she simply followed me home after school to beat me up. Even in high school where I had a handful of friends, there were twice as many bullies to remind me that I wasn’t worthy of any of them. One bigoted teacher announced to the entire class that she would be so happy when I finally moved away (assumedly so her class would return to its former non-white status.) Another teacher announced (again to an entire class) that I would be pregnant before I was 16. She was sure of it. My horrible blunder? I dared to hold hands with a boy. Strangers were just as likely to do something as were people I knew. I was babysitting at a rec center when I was surrounded, harassed, and groped by a group of boys who apparently wanted to prove they were “men.” 

 I have been tripped, shoved, cursed at, lied about, harassed, threated, and yes, even beat up. I thank God this happened before the Internet Age, or I’m sure it would have been online as well. Sometimes it only stopped because I moved or changed schools or jobs (yes this has happened to me as an adult.) Occasionally I went to the authorities, but so little was done it didn’t make much difference. When actions were taken on my behalf, it was often done with an attitude that clearly said I needed to toughen up and stop whining. Not always, but more often than not. Even in the workplace, when I was bullied by a coworker, I was written up for leaving the office outside of my break schedule and she was promoted to another department. 

For a long time I acted like the victim I had become. I put up with despicable abuse by “friends” and boyfriends simply because having ANYONE around was better than being alone. Singularity was terrifying.  Being terrified was exhausting. I didn’t understand the way friends were supposed to treat each other, so I’m sure I inadvertently caused a lot of my social isolation. As an adult I had a string of abusive relationships, not understanding why I seemed to attract the same sort of guy. It was the moment I realized I was within inches of being physically beaten when things changed for me. I left, and took the first step towards changing who I was. I managed to find my spine just in the nick of time. I think it causes me to be a little stubborn sometimes, overcompensating for my historical weakness.
Over the years I began to realize that people will be mean (whether or not they are actually a mean person) and if it wasn't to me, it would be to someone else. The problem wasn't with me. It was with the sad, misguided, ignorant fools who thought they could stand on top of someone else to feel taller. Do I feel sorry for bullies? Absolutely not. I pity them and their small minds, or perhaps their narrow minded upbringing.
Just understanding why things happened didn’t fix everything. It only started me down the path that eventually leads to healing. At first, I looked around at the people who seemed to have it together and I acted like them. If I wasn’t “normal” I would at least ACT like it. Then, one day I decided I was tired of feeling different and broken and waiting to be somebody's prey. I found it in my heart to forgive those who pushed me around and abused me. I realized that back when we were kids, no one else around me really knew what was going on, either, and the "bullies" were either acting the way they thought they should, or acting the only way they had ever been taught.
Not everyone comes to this point by themselves and I do understand it isn’t always as easy at it was for me. I was blessed with the knowledge that regardless of the problems with those that choose to single others out for their enjoyment, I can hold my head high, look anyone in the eyes, and know that I AM A GOOD PERSON. I am worthy of love and respect and I have the right to my personal safety. I can choose not to listen. I can walk away. I can tell people in charge if I feel threatened. I can stay in groups instead of standing alone. I can choose to act like a victim or I can be survivor. Anyone (even bullies) can see the difference. You don't screw with a survivor.
It took the threat of serious physical harm to push me out of the cycle of bullying and abuse.  I am eternally grateful for that moment of insight into the future I was walking towards.   It took a while for me to be able to look in the mirror and value what I see. I still don’t like what I see, and I know that is a lingering scar of past.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Short term plans

Last week I did what I should have done three months ago, and I finished the financial budget for my household. Flying by the seat of my pants and waiting for the trouble to come is no way to live. Especially when you hate dealing with financial matters as much as I do. I'm "in charge" of the money around here, and not knowing where we stand is a problem I have had all my adult life. There have been times when I felt physically sick just logging on to the bank website to check our balance (or lack thereof.) Things are much better than they used to be, but I still have that lingering fear that makes me want to do ANYTHING other than balance the accounts. I need to just get over it if I ever want to sleep at night without nightmares of losing everything and ending up on the street with my kids.

Anyway, I crunched the numbers and took the advice of someone very dear to me who ALWAYS has her stuff together. I used to envy people like her for everything they can do. Then, I realized - if I want what she has, I should do what she does. So I asked her - How do you keep everything in check and have such a beautiful home and your pantry is full and everything? It turns out it wasn't magic or some long lost relative giving her a million dollar stipend. The secret to her success was finding an EASY way to keep track of her money and making sure she was always prepared for the bills and emergencies that came up. It was that easy? Really?

Now, I have been trying to do just that for a very long time. My computer is full of programs that will track and categorize your spending for you, some that will download them from your bank site for you, plenty that give you pretty graphs and charts of what you have already spent, and I have even tried online versions so that I can log in from any computer. The problem I always have is that if I get behind, I will have days, or weeks, or even months worth of data to enter, or at the very least verify, before I can be sure the numbers are true. I don't typically have the time or enthusiasm to mess with all of that so I would fall behind, get frustrated, try to start over with something that is supposed to be so much easier... then the cycle repeats.

It occurred to me that I don't actually need a pie graph to know how much I spent in craft supplies over the past five years. If I ever DO need to know, my fancy program isn't likely to have all the information I need. I would still need to go back to my online account record or go through my statements and actually look. It felt like I was duplicating all the work the bank was doing and all I got for it was frustration. So, last week I let myself off the hook. I stopped trying to use separate programs to track and report on my spending and I got back to basics with what I know best. I kept it simple and made and Excel spreadsheet.

It isn't as though I haven't done this a thousand times before, but in the past I had been trying to make an easier version of something I didn't really need by making a complicated version of something I knew well. So, I scrapped the fancy spreadsheet I had been trying to keep up with and made an easy ledger. Each month has its own sheet. No colors and special formats. Just date, business name, deposit, debit, and  running balance. I update it as often as I need to. If I get really far behind, I will just start at the beginning of the new month. I If I lose a receipt, I go online and get the info I need. I check my balance against theirs and make sure the numbers meet. Each month I enter in the new balance at the top, update the formulas to automatically subtract or add each entry, and viola! I have my own tracker that is simple and easy to use. I only added one more column to categorize it, in case I ever want to check where my money goes. Suddenly, things became far less scary. The first step of tracking my money was started.

To budget for the future, I just took my list of bills and entered them in on their due dates with an estimated amount until I have the bill in hand. I still have to go in and update it as the bill comes due, but I can at least get an idea of what the next few weeks will look like. I went ahead and planned out the next few months so I can get a rough idea of what the future will hold and I was really shocked to find out something wonderful.

I'm not as broke, poor, and destitute as I thought I was.

Sure, my OLD budget said we had enough money for everything, but I could never trust it. Not when my actual statements were so far off. Looking at just the In and Out for each month, it actually looks like we will be able to do what we need and still be able to do a little bit of what we want. I can't even express what a relief it was to see this with my own eyes. It is as if the Universe put a comforting hand on my shoulder and said, "Relax. It will be ok."

What this means in real terms is that I don't have to worry quite so much about not having a full time job right now. Sure, if I get a freelance gig I won't turn it down but with summer vacation only a few weeks away, I was really starting to dread leaving the kids alone when I do start working. Now, I know that my kids should be old enough to be at home by themselves if I were to work outside the house. After all, I was younger than all of them when I started staying home alone and I am fairly certain they wouldn't burn the house down or anything. However, they are USED to me being at home. The kind of transition we would all go through would be pretty extreme, and having that happen right as they are left alone all day, every day... well, I just don't see any good coming from that. If it HAD to happen, I am sure we could make it work. If we don't HAVE to, though, I would rather put it off until they were back in school.

Besides, we have SO MUCH scheduled for this summer already. I would have to tell any employer that I would need to take off roughly a third of the time between here and September. What boss is going to be happy with that? On top of that, I don't think I could physically handle the stress of working, worrying about the kids, and trying to get everything done I need to do. Weekly appointments with Dr The Mann? Forget it. Home cooked meals instead of take out? Not a chance. Regular sleep every night? Not going to happen. My body is just starting to become strong enough to handle BEING AWAKE during all the daylight hours. Starting a job right now would be another exercise in futility.

I do know that without another income, the summer months will be tight with five mouths to feed breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. However, I've learned some pretty good tricks about stretching things and shopping wisely, and how much money is saved simply by planning meals and shopping for them weekly. I also have a really good weekly plan I created a few years back that is full of activities, crafts, and even outings that all cost little to nothing. When I used this plan a few years back, the kids had an AWESOME time and they still talk about how much fun it was. We have pictures and crafts still hanging around and they all proudly talk about things that they learned and places they went that year. I'm going to pull it out, dust it off and try to polish it a it to reflect my kids older ages and new interests.

So, my short term plan is to have a fun, loosely structured summer at home with my kiddos. This may be the last summer that they all WANT to hang around with Mom, so I am going to make the most of it. Also, so that I don't go completely crazy myself, I have SCHEDULED IN writing time for myself, no less than three times a week. I'm hoping to post something here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and if things go well, I will have some really great pictures to show off as well.

I will need lots of prayers to get through it all. I know that the best laid plans never last beyond the first 30 seconds of battle. While I don't anticipate this being an all out war, it will be a bit difficult to keep on task and make sure the kids don't fall over and die (or kill each other) from boredom. I will attempt to post the original schedule in a day or two but, as I said before, I know it will need to be tweaked.
I am asking all of you for any suggestions you have to update my summer schedule with. Anyone who is in the area is welcome to participate in the activities and field trips. Maybe we can have a At Home Summer Group or something. I'm sure I will have at least one of my nephews here most of the time, so any ideas you have that will interest boys and girls who are somewhat geeky will be appreciated.

Deb "At Home" Lollar

P.S. Just to keep all of you informed -
The Most Awesome Spike and her hubby Walrus are visiting for Memorial Day
School lets out around here June 1
Devo's Heart cath is scheduled for June 5
July 25 we will all (hopefully) be taking a week long vacation out of state
At this point, we don't have a date for the Lollar Summer Party but I think it will be sometime in late June or early July.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The To Do List of Guilt

I love my To Do list. A neat row of things to remember, things to take care of, and errands to run. When I get each one done, I cross it off proudly, knowing I am one step closer to having all my ducks in a row. When I have scratched off all the items on my list, I can relax and take a few minutes for me. I reward myself for good behavior and the proof of my work is right in front of me.

No, seeing a clean house and a smelling dinner cooking on the stove aren't reminders enough for me. Half the time I turn around after finishing one chore and the last one is already undone. If I didn't have my list I wouldn't have proof that anything at all had been finished. I know DH comes home some days and wonders what the heck we've all been doing. It wasn't this way an hour ago! I swear! If it weren't for the To Do List I'll bet he would think I'm just acting crazy.

You would think that with all the girls being older now, that things wouldn't be so messy and crazy like they were when they were babies. Not so. The messes are just more sophisticated. When they were toddlers, I knew when they ate and what they ate and if there were things left out afterwards, I knew it was my own fault for not putting it away. Now, I can walk into a room and the remnants of no less than FOUR MEALS will be strewn across the room - the same room that I yelled at them for eating in not two hours before. I am assuming they have the memory of a goldfish and the appetite of a lion. Nothing else can explain this.

Some days I am so busy and I don't end up finishing everything on my To Do List. Heck, there are times I don't even TOUCH my list. It doesn't mean I haven't been productive. I've just been doing the thousand OTHER things that aren't already on my list. But even though I've been busy and I end the day feeling exhausted, I still have this nagging guilt about all the things I HAVEN'T done.

On the surface it sure seems like the lists are the problem. All those unfinished tasks, just sitting there, staring my in the face as a reminder of what I haven't done. It's more than a little depressing. If I've been busy shouldn't I feel proud of my accomplishments? Well, yes. Sure. It doesn't always work that way. The reason I keep the lists around is that there are just some things that are so very important that I must not forget them but no matter how important they are, I WILL forget them without some sort of reminder. I have TONS of reminders.

The calendar is where I keep appointments, pay days, and bill due dates. The dry erase board is where I keep the tasks that I need help with - the bigger things like, "Fix the hole in the fence." It is also where DH keeps the most important five crafts that he is working on. It helps me to know what he is working on so I don't accidentally clean up his mess while he is in the middle of it. The cork boards are where I keep reminders for the girls. I have a morning and evening routine to help them remember what needs to be done so I can do less nagging (supposedly.)

My favorite is the spiral notebook, which is where I keep my ongoing list. As I finish things, I cross them off. As I think of things, I add them on to the bottom. When one page gets so full that I can't tell at a glance what needs to still be done, I flip to the next page, write the new date at the top, and rewrite all the items that still need to be done. In my heart I know I won't get them all done in one day. I constantly have to remind myself that finishing them at once isn't really the goal. Reminding myself that there is something important to do - THAT is the purpose. It kind of gives me purpose too.

Take this week for instance. It is only Tuesday and already it's gone down the toilet. By this time last week, I had already cleaned all the living areas of my house and I was starting on the bedrooms. This week I'm looking around at the scraps of paper on the floor, the half finished cans of grape soda, the shoes strewn throughout the house as though one got up and went exploring without its partner, all the STUFF that got left around during the weekend and I just can't bring myself to even add "tidy living room" to my list.

I know it sounds a bit like a sulky, pouty child. "I already DID this! Why do I have to do it again?" I certainly admit that sulking is a small part of it. But it is only a part. The rest of me is ignoring the scattered disaster on purpose. Really. It is all part of my plan to raise decent children into responsible adults. I'm just sitting quietly for the moment, waiting until the time is right and then I will SPRING on the girls in all my Mommy glory and they will FEAR ME! They will clean this mess up so fast, I will forget there was ever a cereal bowl left on the dining room table!

You see, if I put this stuff on MY list, then I am actively taking the job away from the girls (who made the mess in the first place.) I want them to take care of it, and not just because I'm sick to death of doing it myself. I want them to take responsibility for their own actions, understand that leaving things down will make a mess that SOMEONE has to clean up. Since there is no one in the house name "Someone" they will just have to take care of it themselves. Deep in my heart I know that raising them to be aware of their own messes and conscious of the necessity to take care of it will make them better adults and better able to care for themselves in the future.

Now, actually following through with this is something I am not 100% great at. Most of the time, I do leave the girls' things exactly where they left them and then I go through the Seven Levels of Nagging to get them to put their things away. Or I trip on them and throw them as far as I can out of sheer frustration. Occasionally (okay more than just occasionally) I wait until most everyone is out of the house or otherwise occupied OUT OF MY FACE and I take care of it myself.

That's what happened last week and quite honestly, it will probably happen again today. Doing the dishes and vacuuming are not on my To Do List, but I have a fix for that. I'll do as much as I can without falling over from exhaustion, and then I will add what I have done to my list. So I can cross it off.