When I was a little girl, around 5 years old, my neighbor and I played what we called Ed and Honey… my dad’s name was Ed and he called my mom Honey. We were married by his older sister in a ceremony on our adjoining driveways. I wore a vintage gown of my choosing from all of the boxed savings in his attic. The ceremony was short, with our neighbor friends in attendance. We rode off after the “I Do’s” on his faithful Saint Bernard, Heidi -We were the only two Heidi would let ride her. He had a playhouse in his backyard, and that was our little home. Ed would go to work and I, Honey, would stay home and do whatever I thought I was suppose to do as a stay at home mom. It’s a game that lives with me now and has always been such a vivid childhood memory. Aren’t those wonderful?! And, while the years were filled with other such memories of a different variety, I always wonder why that is so dear to me.
Could that have been the beginning of the path that I envisioned for my life? My mom and dad were so important to me…my dad was the love of my life. I was such a Daddy’s Little Girl. I wanted to have that for my family. My mom stayed home and took care of us and the household, while my dad went off to the office everyday. This must have been the path my mom envisioned for herself. Living in a small town, wonderful neighbors and family friends. The kind of town where everyone knows everyone and all of the kids took over the neighborhood until each respective bell rang, which meant it was time to go in for dinner. She was a generous volunteer, at school, church and in the community. All of this, until my father died at the early age of 56. What that truly did to my mother, I may never know. But, one thing is for sure, it turned her world upside down. This was an abrupt ending to the only life my mother knew at the time, the only path.
From since I can remember, my biggest dream was to be a mom and be able to stay home and raise my children. To experience everything that happened to them. Be there for the good, the great and the not so great. Watch them accomplish and let them fall, only to help them get right back up. What a wonderful and fulfilling job. There wasn’t anything else that came to mind that meant as much to me. When it came time in my life to start a family, I was fortunate enough to be able to live out that dream…to follow that path.
I volunteered at school from the time my oldest was in preschool until they all went off to high school, and then still kept involved as a chaperone or other needed assistant. One time I figured out that I had volunteered in just elementary school for 14 years! I loved all of those years. Not just the involvement in schools and sports activities, but the vacation planning, talking about their day when they got home from school and all those meals I prepared…some well appreciated, some not so much. The hurt, the joy, the laughter, the simple time we spent as a family. Not all of it was pretty, but we got through those times too. This was all part of the job…I will admit that I threatened to quit my job a time or two, but no one would accept my 2 weeks notice! And then one day…my world turned upside down. Not the same way as my mother’s, but leaving me just as helpless. My path came to a dead end, with no sign of which way to go. At 50 years old, things started spiraling out of control. I was heading for a divorce, losing everything I had. All I could think of at that moment was that I had a family to keep together. How would I do that?
Asking for help is not one of my strongest skills. But, what I discovered in those moments was that the ones that come to help, don’t do it because you asked, they do it because you need it, they want to, no strings attached. Hard as it was to accept, I had no choice. I had one more left at home and I was determined not to let her down. Boy had this path taken a sharp turn and I had no idea what direction. It was quite curvy and unmarked for some time, but I knew it was there somewhere. I would kick the stones out of the way, move the branches to discover my new direction. As much as I wanted to find it right then and there, it took time to get from that tiny footpath to the paved road ahead. I was not the only one that had to find a new path, discover a new direction. My children were faced with it too. They may have been the angriest for having it all stripped away and not knowing anything about how to get it back. It was my job to take care of them, not let them down. How would I do that, and how would they forgive me if I couldn’t? The only one I could focus on at the time was the one still at home, the youngest. She needed food, a place to live and someone to make her feel safe. How would I do all of that, when I had no idea where to start?
That’s when you do what you gotta do… After being at home all of those years, I had nothing to bring to the work force. The only thing I had done consistently for over 20 years was cook. I wouldn’t call myself a chef, but I spent countless hours in the kitchen, and love it as I did, it seemed like the only place to start. I had a lot to learn about the commercial cooking world, but nothing was going to keep me from learning. There was no time for formal training, so I had to take what I could get. I would go from job to job, 2 or three at a time, to learn all I could…and to make ends meet. I had family that took us in, dog and all, for far longer than anyone should have been expected to do. But never a complaint. My main goal at that time was a place of our own.
I hated the hours spent working, away from my daughter, feeling like I wasn’t always there for her. She seemed to grow and mature in a way I hadn’t expected. She never complained, she wanted to help and, as it turned out, I depended on her as much as she did on me. Her high school years were not what they would have been in our former life, but she may have become a stronger, more independent woman because of all of the bumps. We had a roof over our heads, still with a little help from family and friends, until one day, I was able to take us out, find a new place to settle and it was all our’s. No one was helping. I could provide for us a place to live all on our own. A place where my older two could come and stay and make it a home…our home. They were both on the college path when our world changed. Not sure how to take care of them, I had to let them figure some of it out on their own. Not easy for a mom. There were many struggles, many resentful feelings and many roads that led nowhere for each one. But, as we have to do if we want to survive, we find that next road. I admit I know it’s hard at 20, but it can be done. Their college paths went in all sorts of directions, struggling to find their focus, the funds to make it happen and just where was the best fit. After many paths, dead ends and uncertainties, they both found their way. Stronger, more independent and able to understand life’s dips and curves. They both came away self sufficient and able to work out life’s hard roads and unmarked paths. Who knew?
I think one of my biggest struggles has been defining success. I didn’t think I could stop until I was successful. But what is that exactly? I thought it was reaching the top, making lots of money, always concerned about what others thought of my career. Maybe a carry over notion from my previous life? Probably. But as I have moved along in various directions, whenever I come back to cooking, I find myself in a happy place. It’s creative, rewarding and I just think it’s fun! Is that success? I’m beginning to realize that it is. Some days I think…”if only people knew how happy I am while doing this”. Isn’t that where you want to be? Most definitely. My work is still evolving and I continue to learn new things as I go, but my passion for healthy cooking, a healthy lifestyle and, most of all, spending any time I can with my kids has never faltered. Still sorting things out and trying to find my way, the road is more clearly marked now. I have a purpose and a reason for it all. I sometimes wonder where the former path would have led, what that life would be like now at this age. Then I realize I would never have learned as much about myself, my capabilities and the world around me.
I’ve since moved to a place where I knew no one and nothing about the area. There are no ties, past memories or anyone that knows my story. I am me, still winding up and down a path to somewhere great. I love all of the hills and valleys and know that I am the only one that can change that path. My children are such wonderful adults, and I’m not sure what their former lives would have made of them. They even recognize how much they have accomplished. I will always wish I could have taken better care of them in those moments, there are more things I would like to do for them now as well… a mother’s plight. One thing is for sure, they will always know how much I love them and that no path, marked or unmarked, is too tough to get through when you believe and know you can.
What are your path changes? Did they come abruptly or were they planned? How did it change your life, or is it still evolving? Every path leads us somewhere new. Enjoy the journey.
Until next time…
Embrace your age…it’s who you are!
Cinnamon Apple and Walnut Quinoa Salad
Cooked and Sprouted Quinoa
Sweet Apples, Cored and Diced
Walnut halves, toasted
Sweet Potatoes, chopped and baked
Mix all ingredients in a salad bowl.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Maple Syrup or Honey
salt & pepper
Whisk ingredients together and mix with salad.