Monday, September 9, 2013

Life Is What You Make It

I remember when I was a kid, my Mom babysat, ironed other peoples clothes and did typing so that she could stay at home with us kids. My Dad worked as much overtime as he could to make sure our family's bills were paid and to put food on the table. When we got older and were all in school, both my Mom and Dad worked full time. My Dad would often work 6 days a week,10 hours a day. My Mom would come home from work, change clothes, make dinner, do dishes and check that we had our homework done. On Saturdays, she would do laundry, go grocery shopping and us kids would help her clean the house. This was our routine.

At 18 years old I was sure I knew it all and had everything figured out. I got married and a year later found myself expecting a baby. I guess I was lucky, because I found out when I was a teen, that I knew nothing. My marriage was full of problems. My husband could not keep a job, there was domestic abuse and he drank. Those, believe it or not, were the easy problems in our marriage. My parents sat me down and told me to figure life out fast before my baby was born. I knew that was not the life I wanted for my child, so I left my husband and filed for a divorce.

I got an apartment about a block north of my parents. They urged me to go back to school, get a college degree and a job. They offered to help care for my daughter if I would do those things. It seem impossible and I looked around and saw other single mom's on welfare, food stamps and section 8 housing that appeared to be making out okay. But my parents insisted that I look at the big picture. So I enrolled in college and was lucky to find a full time job there as well.

One thing led to another and at twenty, I found myself in the police academy. I worked full-time as a police officer for many years. While working, I continued to go to school full-time and earned my bachelor’s degree. It was not the easy road but I was trying to build a future for myself and daughter. My parents were my biggest cheerleaders. There were no “party years”, no easy ride. My time away from school and work, for the most part, was spent with my daughter and parents.

When the opportunity to attend Law School came my way my parents urged me to take it. Within months of starting Law School, I got a job at a Law Firm working full-time evenings and weekends. By the time I earned my Doctorate in Law I thought I caught a glimpse at the light at the end of the tunnel. After I graduated, I continued working at the Law Firm and also taught classes at a local college and at a University. I had bought a house, but spent very little time there. By now my daughter was in high school and a girls youth group. She was in the marching band and my social life consisted of attending her school events. My Tuesday nights and most weekend were spent with her youth group. It seemed that I was always on my way somewhere and slept whenever I could grab a few hours. I felt as if I should be doing more. Like I was letting life slip through my fingers.

In my late thirties I re-married and moved to a small rural town in Missouri. My daughter was in college by then. Jumping ahead to my fifties, I am still looking for that light at the end of the tunnel. Yes, I could have done things differently. But then maybe I would not be where I am today and I feel blessed to be where I am at this point in my life. As a daughter, wife, mother and grandma I do the best I can. I have slowed down a bit, but still have a full plate. I have a job, help my husband on the farm and deal with some health issues.

I watch with awe as my baby has grown into a beautiful woman, wife, mother and daughter. I see her doing whatever she can to make a life for her family. She is always on the move. She home schools her kids, is involved in their youth activities, holds down a job, has her own business and helps her husband with his business. I look around at others her age and see a lot of them out at parties every weekend, then complaining about what a tough life they have. Every month these same people scramble to hit all the food pantries, family members, charities and government agencies to help them pay their bills.

Is there an easier way to live? Maybe. We all have to make choices in our lives.It's no one's job to make our life easy, it is up to us to do what we can to help our self. There will always be people standing on the outside passing judgment on our choices. But only we know the path we have walked. In my years I have learned that life is not always fair and that the things that are handed to us usually comes with strings. 

No matter how your life turns out, remember you are the artist and you have control. Don't let the canvas of your life stand un-painted and do not turn it over to someone else to paint. Pick up that paint brush and do the best you can. Then step back and admire the courage it took to paint your picture even if you have no artistic skills, it's still your painting.

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