Running Out of Time

Are we really as time deficient as we think? We all seem to be constantly running out of time, or claiming we never have enough of it.

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Maybe both.

 

A quick Google search will reveal oodles of articles on time management and how to get more done in less time. (Hint: it involves turning off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)

We all think that the modern world is super stressful and that we never have time for anything, but a look back through history tells us of twelve and fourteen hour work days. It tells us Saturday was long considered as much a work day as Monday. Only the Sabbath was taken off, and then it wasn’t a day of rest, but a day of prayer.

I know, sounds like some people’s jobs, especially with all of the connectivity, but it still doesn’t answer why are we feeling so particularly time-crunched now.

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I did some Google research, and I didn’t find a lot of articles out there. So I did a little introspection.

I can honestly say I didn’t feel the same level of stress and pressure before having children as I did after. They are a monumental task in our society, which many people from previous generations have told me was not always the case. I’m not entirely sure why the sudden pressure on parents to perfectly organize, arrange and educate their children, but I can tell you that it’s there.

The days of kids riding their bikes and hanging out have been replaced with soccer camps, computer programming classes, and “enrichment” activities.

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And it only gets worse.

I’ve also learned that commutation between parents and care-givers, whether kindergarten or formal pre-school, is difficult. This adds to confusion and makes everything take longer.

Yet, for me anyway, it’s more than this.

For me, the lack of time stems from me not being able to do all that I want to get done. Mainly, writing and the corresponding social media presence that entails. For a friend of mine, it means not getting to work on her jewelry making. For another, it means not getting to ride her horse.

This is why I feel time pressured. My choices for entertainment are greater than they’ve ever been, and most are instantly available, at the same time that so many other obligations have been added.

How many of us really want to chauffeur our kid to dance class and then watch a room of kindergartners try to master basic ballet steps before carting them home? I think we’d all rather be binge watching something on Netflix. Or reading. Or writing.

For me, the feeling of never having enough time started around the time I realized I had to be social to write books. I mostly love writing, but as you may have noticed, I’m a bit of an introvert. Okay, a lot of an introvert. Social media is hard for me. While writing felt like an unpaid part time job, the social media aspect made it feel like a full time job, on top of kids, a spouse, and a day job.

This is why I feel time crunched.

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About right.

What to do about it?

Well, the kids are non-negotiable. Most days. That means the day job to support them and everything that goes with them is non-negotiable.

Not entirely sure what to do about the writing. I should complete three first draft novels this year. Two are already done, and the third is halfway there. Not exactly the four most romance writers produce a year, so even with as much time as I’ve committed, I’m not quite at the romance author level. And, that doesn’t account for revisions. All of my work needs serious revision.

The logical answer would be to set aside writing, but I’m not willing to do that. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I clearly want to do this thing, and I’ve already put it off too many decades.

So, back to feeling like I never have enough time.

 

How about you? How do you balance family commitments with you professional life and hobbies? When was the last time you binge watched on Netflix? Any real life tips for making a serious hobby work with family and work?

Medical Issues Suck

Of course medical issues suck. When was the last time someone said, “Hey, I suddenly feel better than ever! I think I need to go to the doctor and fix that!”

No, medical issues tend to only go one way, and that’s to the bad. Look, I know we’re all getting older, and this is the way things tend to work. When you’re young and healthy, you have no clue how lucky you are because that’s all you’ve known.

Then you get a little older.

Okay, maybe a lot older.

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You reach the time in your life when not only are your friends getting sick with more than just a summer cold that a couple shots of vodka will fix. (Learned that in college. Who knew?)

It’s also the time when you start having to accept the mortality of your parents and grandparents (if you’re lucky enough to still have them).

A sinus infection sends your grandmother to the hospital because a simple course of antibiotics isn’t enough. Your parents, aunts, and uncles are still talking about the latest sports game, but now they’re suddenly also talking about cholesterol medicine, diet restrictions, and cancer scares.

Yeah, like I said, medical issues are never good.

But I will tell you this. When you do have a medical scare, it puts things into laser focus. What is important to you?

For me, I learned a few things.

  • My kids were the very first thing I thought about. I double checked life insurance policies to make sure they will be taken care of. I want to be there for them, to do mommy daughter things, have long talks, and watch them grow into amazing women. But if I can’t? I want to know they will not suffer financially. A lot of you are like, “Of course you thought about them first. They’re your kids!” But years ago, before we started a family, I’d never have guessed that. People change. I changed after having them, and it was more than mom jeans and baby weight.  (picture of girls hand in hand)
  • My second thought was my husband and how hard it would be for him to have the girls alone. I was trying to think of ways to make it easier on him and failing miserably.
  • Then I thought about my writing and how I’d race to get all that I’m working on finished and published. That this was something I wanted to do, really wanted to do.

 

You know what I didn’t think about at all? My day job.

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Maybe not that strange, but definitely worth considering. Makes me wonder if it’s not fulfilling enough, challenging enough that I’d miss it, or if being a corporate cog means you really do it just for the financial security.

The challenges haven’t changed my need for that day job to support my family, but it has made me take a hard look at career advancement. Is it really something I want? Is a promotion, that means more money but more hours, really better than what I have now? I don’t have answers yet, but the questions themselves are worth asking.

 

How about you? Ever have a medical issue that made you really take stock of where you are and what you’re doing? Did it help realign your priorities? Maybe it made you realize your priorities were fine all along?

Sounds of Silence

Be careful what you wish for because sometimes the sounds of silence are deafening.

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I have mentioned it a couple of times in the past how my oldest child corners me in the car and peppers me with questions. Some of them very difficult. Sometimes I dreaded the ride.

Since she started kindergarten this year, that car ride has been reduced from approximately 10 minutes to less than one. I now drop her off with a woman very near us who watches kids in the morning before they head off to school.

At first, I thought this would give me some time with my youngest. A few minutes in the morning for us to bond. She’s more reserved than her sister, and sometimes this can mean her sister overshadows her. However, my youngest daughter is NOT a morning person.

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Yeah, about like this.

 

So, while the occasional squirrel gathering nuts, dog being walked, or goose parade gets a comment, most mornings it’s just quiet. I’ll ask her questions, try to sing to her, and all I get is either a grumpy grunt or, “Walk away, momma!” That is her general response for leave me the heck alone, and is said in an angry, crabby toddler voice.

So, I let her have her quiet time.

Maybe once I get used to this, I can use the time to think through plots, characters, and story arcs. Or maybe I’ll use it as time to plan my day. Or maybe I’ll follow her lead and just use it as time to wake up.

Life so seldom works out the way you think it will. Who knew I’d miss questions about how big the earth is, why is the south pole colder than the north pole, and why boys don’t say excuse me when they fart?

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But I do.

Kids are amazing, wonderful, horrible creatures that consume your writing time and make you worry. They are expensive and infuriating. And they’ll make your heart melt when they give you a card out of the blue telling you how much they love you.

It’s a wild ride, tumultuous and full of the unexpected. Like missing fifty questions in the morning.

 

How about you? Ever gotten an unexpected break from something and found you missed it more than you thought you would? Or maybe you think I’m crazy, and you were totally relieved to get a few minutes of peace?

Special Flower or Weed?

I have repeatedly heard children called flowers. Each one unique and special.

Whoever coined this phrase either never had kids or is a grandparent who has forgotten what having small children is like.

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My toddler is not a flower. She’s a weed.

Oh sure, she looks cute with her little pigtails when she smiles up at you. Her giggles of delight could make angels sing. But two seconds later, she’ll have found a crayon in her sister’s room and be coloring all over your walls while you’re making dinner, totally ignoring the toys you gave her to entertain her.

I had always thought coloring on walls was an exaggeration. I never did it as a kid, and neither did my sister. My oldest daughter never did it. My youngest? Not once, but twice so far.

Thank god for magic erasers.

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You can get them here. In bulk. Highly recommended if you have a weed in the house.

I was also spoiled by my first child when it came to potty training. I read the books on how to potty train a child, and DH and I applied them. They worked! We had a total of two accidents, and DD1 was potty trained.

After a solid week of intense training, DD2 was no closer to be trained than when we started. We showed her the books and what she was supposed to do. She just grinned at us. Or stomped her foot and shouted, “No!”

I’m telling you, weed. A spiny one at that.

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Oh sure, some of these stubborn traits will serve her well later in life. I can see her stubbornness propelling her to CEO of her own company. I will probably be less worried about her succumbing to peer pressure as a teen as she isn’t a “pleaser”.

But right now, I need to be able to make dinner without my house getting trashed.

They don’t make playpens she can’t climb out of, so we must now jealousy guard all writing utensils.

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Okay, not legal playpens.

I should’ve bought stock in Pampers with how long she’s been in them. Okay, that’s not entirely true. She gets pampers at night because I don’t want to be woken up to do laundry when there’s a leak. During the day, she gets whatever generic brand Target carries.

Yeah, I’m mean. But that’s the way I roll these days. Maybe if she’s a little uncomfortable once in a while, she’ll be more apt to learn. Gotta make it her idea . . .

 

How about you? Any guidance for someone living with a weed instead of a flower? Tricks to help them morph into a flower? Or perhaps just some potty training advice when you’re trying to train a weed?

Hulless Barley

What is Hulless Barley, you might ask?

Here’s a pretty good look at it:. Not pearlized barley, mind you, though this is what most of us think of when I say barley. Hulless is quite different from its processed cousin, both in taste, texture, and fiber content.

I came across hulless barley back when we were really trying to add more whole grains into our diet. I really like it. To me, it tastes faintly sweet and nutty. I can take or leave rice, but I actually will eat hulless barley without butter or other toppings.

But then, our local grocery store stopped carrying. Yes, I could drive across town and get it from the organic store, but let me tell you about shopping with a toddler and preschooler in tow.

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So, yes, we make one trip to one grocery store per week. My husband and I make the grocery list together, and one of us goes on a mission to acquire the groceries while the other stays home with the kids. It’s sort of like a mini-mission impossible: get out of the house without either child noticing and going into a fit of tears because mommy or daddy is leaving.

Of course, if you ask them if they want to go to the store, the answer is always no. If you take them anyway, there is a price to pay, and I’d rather them cry at home than at the store.

Anyway, we gave up on the hulless barley and moved on to other grains.

Then, my love of Amazon reminded me I could check there.

Lo and behold, while Amazon didn’t sell it, one of their third party vendors did. On prime, no less, and their with shipping included was less than what I’d been paying at my local grocery store. You know I hit that Buy button.

So, we made it with stir fry the other night. Yes, that’s right, barley instead of rice. Delicious. And really good for you. Then, I had it the next day in my lunch. But, I’d forgotten what eating such a high fiber food when you aren’t used to it does to you.

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Moderation. I won’t forget again.

 

How about you? Any whole grains you like? Perhaps something new and amazing, or something you’d like to warn the rest of us about?

The Lunch Lady is a Chemical Engineer

No, I’m not joking. The lunch lady at my daughter’s school is, indeed, a chemical engineer.

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I was shocked. Chemical engineering is hard. Damn hard. She graduated from a good school. Had a terrific job at a Fortune 100 company. Then, she and her husband (who is also an engineer) decided to have kids. She went back to work after their first child was born, but she didn’t go back after their second child and has no intention of returning to her old job.

Why?

She can’t work and do all of the things she needs to do with kids. That includes finding care for them during the multitude of school holidays and over the summer, getting them to and from school (school by us starts after most people have to be at work, and gets out long before most people are home), and getting them to the myriad of activities that require a day time chauffeur.

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My first thought was what a waste of human capital.

She is smart and well-educated. She was doing some cool work on batteries I barely understand, and there is so much more she could have contributed.

But an antiquated education system designed during an era when women didn’t work outside of the house has created a paradigm where a chemical engineer puts aside four years of grueling college work and another six years of industry experience to serve lunches and chauffeur kids around.

Think about that for a moment. Doesn’t it feel like such a waste?

Yet, I am starting to understand as I struggle to find .

Our VP of HR hires a nanny during the summer even though her kids are all in elementary school. As she said, it was the only way to get them to all of the soccer camps, ballet camps, and various other summer activities that suburban children are expected to attend or risk “falling behind”.

Yeah, already worried about falling behind in elementary school. Because if all the other kids are in soccer camp and yours isn’t…  You get the idea.

I have no idea what a good solution to this is. I like to delude myself and think that there are people out there working on it, but I fear there aren’t.

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That for some reason we’re content with this waste of human potential. I’m not even sure why we’re okay with it, just that we seem to be.

Maybe I’m just more aware of it as out little ones become school-age. I’m already seeing the issues as we have to cart DD1 to dance class, tumbling, or swim lessons. I recently received the school schedule, and counted 21 days off that the kids have that do not correspond to a normal work schedule. So, yeah, gotta find some kind of care for those 21 days.

I wish there was a magical place I could drop my kids off in the morning, pick them up there in the afternoon, on every day I have to work. They would be educated, get the activities that they need, and the socialization. This magical place sends me a monthly bill, and all is well.

I suppose we all have our dreams.

 

If you have kids, how do you handle all of the activities, especially if they are during work hours? Any kid chauffeur services I’m not aware of?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Practice, Practice, Practice

My daughter was recently in a dance recital.

She had begged to get to take a dance class, and knowing how much work she needs on her gross motor skills and coordination, we agreed to let her attend.

There is a huge recital at the end of the year that parents are required to attend. A four hour recital, but I digress…

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After watching her dress rehearsal, and that of the group before and after her, she came back out from back stage and proclaimed that she was the best the dancer out there. I smiled. It’s not uncommon for children her age to be quite full of themselves.

When I didn’t agree, she asked me directly if she was the best.

I told her “no”.

Harsh, maybe, but I then explained that while she’d done a good job of going to class and listening to the teacher, she hadn’t practiced outside of the class. Her friend, who happens to be a year older, had gone home and practiced every night. It showed.

I told her if she wanted to be really good, she’d have to practice more than once a week.

She was not happy with me. She argued that she didn’t have a partner to practice with at home.

I agreed with her, but told her she could still practice her parts. She could always use a stuffed animal as a stand-in for her partner, like her friend had.

My daughter was still skeptical, but as we talked some more, she decided that maybe next year she would practice more. Which means she wants a second year of dance…

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I know this sounds harsh, and this next bit may sound like a deluded parent, but DD1 is very bright. A lot of things have come very easily to her because of it. She’s not yet in kindergarten, but she’s reading at a 2nd-3rd grade level. Why? Because she wanted to read, was determined to read, and had taught herself to read by the time she started 4K. She was one of two children that could read at the end of her 4K year.

We encourage her love of reading, of course, but she’s the one that practiced and practiced. That pushed herself, especially when she saw some of the cool books out there that she wanted to read without help. She’s starting to eye up early chapter books as she saw a few of those that were My Little Pony.

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This one, to be exact. Which, of course, features Twilight Sparkle.

Her math skills have also came easily to her so far.

We practice a system of rewards for good behavior. She had six behavior points and knew she needed fifteen to get the treat she wanted. She was able to devise that she needed nine more behavior points to get the reward without any help from me.

Also, if you send her to her room and tell her to count to one-hundred before coming out, you must specify she must count by ones. Otherwise, she’ll count by fives or tens to get out faster.

So, yes, I’m glad she’s got drive and some natural gifts in these areas. I’m also not upset that she isn’t naturally gifted at dance. I’m glad she still loves dance and wants to be good at it. I want her to have to work for it, to have to practice for it.

I want her to see she won’t always be the best at something just by showing up. But I want her to have fun along the way.

She’s my Type A child. She’ll push herself hard, and I want her to learn that it’s okay to not always be the best. That it’s even okay to fail as long as she tried her best.

I bit of wisdom in there I should perhaps practice as well as preach…

 

How about you? Ever had something come easy? Something come hard that you really had to work for? Did the extra practice make you the best? Were you proud of your accomplishments even if you weren’t the best?

And Another…

Order from Scholastic Book Club.

Yes, my daughter came home the other day with yet another Scholastic Book Order. These things seem to be quite prolific.

If you’re not familiar with them, this is a pamphlet of books your child gets through school. You can then order your kids books, sometimes at a discount, and the school gets some free books in return.

It’s a win all around. Or, it’s supposed to be.

My house is filled with books. Book shelves are overflowing. Book bins are so stuffed, they are too heavy for DD1 to slide back into place.

Mountains of books.

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Looks about like my daughter’s room. Or my living room some days.

 

So, I inwardly groan when she brings home another book order with half the books circled. Okay, maybe not half, but darn near.

Does she really need more books? Shouldn’t all the ones we have at home be okay?

I mentioned my daughter wanting so many books during water cooler talk at work, and the other parents told me to be happy.

One mom had to force her kid to sit down and read for half an hour a night. Her son hated reading, and it was a battle that she dreaded. He’d actually take most punishments over being forced to read, but she didn’t want him to see reading as a bad thing to be endured, either.

Another mom told me to encourage DD1’s of reading any way I could. It would help her in everything. Her daughter had struggled with reading, and despite tutors and extra help at school, it had taken her to eighth grade to read at grade level.

I felt a little sheepish.

Of course my daughter reading is an excellent thing. I do promote it. And they’re right. I should rejoice when the book order comes home and she’s so excited to read she wants “them all”. The fact that my pre-kindergartner is reading Fancy Nancy by herself is a source of pride. I even let her stay up a little later on nights we open up a new books so she can pour through what we read together and learn the new words in it.

It was a reminder to count my blessings. Sometimes, the glass is half full. And yes, I am going to let her have the books she wants. Most of them, anyway.

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How about you? Did your kids love the Scholastic Book Club? How did you feel when the order form came home? Did your kids love to read? Hate to read?

8 Steps to Out with the Cold

It’s that time of year. Time to move the heavy winter sweaters to storage and start bringing out the spring and summer gear.

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This feels like a Herculean task this year. First, I have to get both of my little ones situated. Then I turn to my own closet, but the steps I follow are pretty much the same for all three of us.

  1. Is It Damaged – Anything damaged that isn’t easily repaired (or that I’m willing to pay a tailor to repair) is turned into rags. No one is going to wear it. If it is easily fixed, it must be fixed now. If it isn’t fixed now, it’s never going to be.

2. Does It Fit – If it doesn’t fit me or the toddler, the garment in donated. If it doesn’t fit DD1, it gets boxed up and the box is labeled with the size and the appropriate season. This makes it so much easier when I bring them out for DD2.

3. Has It Been Worn – This is really only applicable to me versus the kids. But I try to look long and hard at what’s being taken down to storage. Did I wear it a lot that year? Maybe not at all? If not, why not? Was there something that bothered me: the style, the cut, the color? If so, I donate it. My taste is probably not going to change in a couple of months. This year, I am giving my big heavy sweaters a second chance. It simply wasn’t cold at all this winter, which is very, very odd. Other things, though, I was ruthless on.

4. Will the Child Wear It? – While DD2 is getting a lot of hand-me-downs from DD1, there are certain things she simply won’t wear. I donate them. Mornings are hard enough. I don’t need to add trying to get kids into clothes they hate.

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5. Create the List – If there is anything I am donating that clearly needs to be replaced (say a ripped winter coat), I make note of it so I will replace it rather than forget.

6. Repeat – Once this is completed for everything going into storage, I then have to take stock of everything coming out of storage for DD2 and me. I go through everything, pair up outfits, and make a list of what we need. This is especially critical so there are no orphans (you know, that pair of plaid trousers you had to have only to realize it matches nothing in your closet. Not that I’d know anything about that…).

7. Take Stock – I now need to take stock of what everyone needs to make it through the season, but especially DD1. She’s not getting any hand-me-downs, so I have to buy most of her stuff new or through consignment sales. I want a solid list of what she needs so I can hunt it down.

8. Shop – The joy of online shopping! Yes, I do most of my shopping online, even for the kids. I buy at a handful of stores, so I know their sizes. It’s not like I’d have them try on clothes if we went to a store, anyway. I’d love to say I’m a shopping pro, but the truth is, I’m not. I know there are ways to shop resell shops and save a lot, but that takes time and time is something I don’t have. My favorite places to shop all have free shipping and I can return to the brick-an-mortar store for free. Some even have free shipping on returns.

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As you can imagine, this is a huge undertaking, and I have to do it twice a year. Still, there’s a lotta things I have to be thankful for. The two amazing kids I do this for is a start.

I really envy my husband on this. Khakis and polo shirt. All year. *sigh*  Add this to my list of things I envy.

 

How about you? Do you have to switch clothes out for the season for you or your kids? How do you do it? Any tips for shopping for kids? I don’t shop after season sales because my kids growth spurts are too unpredictable right now, but there has to be others for busy moms.

 

 

 

 

Shark Attack

Ahh, the car ride into daycare.  I’ve mentioned it before, and boy how my daughter likes to spring the big questions on me when I can’t wiggle away. It’s like she knows exactly how to make me squirm and delights in doing it.

So, we’re in the car, and she waits until I’m pulling out of the driveway.

“You’re married to daddy, right?”

“Yes,” I say. I’m thinking this is going down the path of discussing her friend whose parents are divorced. My daughter still struggles with wrapping her head around it.

“So, you’re a girl and you married a boy, right.”

“You don’t get married until you’re a grown-up, but yes.”

“Boys can marry boys, too, right?”

I pause. I’m in new waters, and the sharks are circling. I know everything I say will be twisted around and retold on the playground. “Why do you ask?”

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“Bronson said so.”

“Well, Bronson’s not wrong.” For once.

“That means girls can marry girls.”

I pause again, feeling like the sharks are getting closer but still not knowing what to do or where this is going. “Yes.”

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“Well, I’m going to marry a girl when I grow up.”

I pause again. “Why is that?”

“Because boys are gross. Did you know Bronson farts and doesn’t say excuse me?”

I’m thinking, yeah, that doesn’t change much with age.

“What do you think, momma?”

“That Bronson should say excuse me.”

“I mean about me marrying a girl.”

And the shark just ate the surfer. Yeah, I knew something was coming, but I didn’t know until the moment the jaws closed.

I take a deep breath. “I want you to marry someone that loves you, is good to you, and will always be there for you. If they do that, I don’t care who they are.”

“I love you, momma.”

“And I will always love you, sweetheart.”

And at that moment, I realized everything I said was true.

 

How about you? Anyone ever spring a hard or unexpected conversation on you? How did you respond? Do you ever feel like your children, nieces, nephews, or whomever are baiting traps for you? Ever fall in? How did you get back out?