Monday, January 18, 2010

It's ME time

17 January

Alone time is something that I don’t treat myself to, and hadn’t had any of until this morning. At the urging of a new friend, I’ve been instructed to leave the house once a week and depart from the rigors of life as a mom, if even for a short time. Skeptical, I agreed and began the assignment this morning.

My husband is entirely supportive of my having “me” time. We discussed and agreed on the best, or at least a good, time for me to have this time alone, and Sunday mornings won. For one thing, it’s his day to “wake up with” the kids. Now, I generally am the one who is woken by one or the other monkeys stirring, or coming into our room in the morning. So really it’s his morning to get out of bed with them and begin their day. This morning was a great one, starting at 5:50AM. I was woken from a pretty good sleep to the sounds of, “Daddy….I have bleeder coming out!” coming from the next room. Poor Fred has suffered nose bleeds for a while now, and he had a pretty good one this morning.

I got him settled and cleaned up, laid a towel over the stains on the sheets so that he could lay back down for at least a short time. He rocked with his Daddy for a bit before they agreed that he would just read a book in bed. I, then, laid in bed listening to him turn the pages and talk about the book, and sing whenever it popped into his head. Daddy has that desirable ability to fall back asleep, which he did, so I pulled out my iPod Touch and checked my Facebook page, played a little Scrabble, and tried to pass some time in hopes of being able to drift off again. Nope, didn’t happen.

I think my husband got out of bed some time between 6:30 and 7AM and got the kids dressed and downstairs for breakfast. I, then, got out of bed and hopped on the computer for a bit to look for the hours of some places I’d considered going to this morning during my scheduled alone time. 8AM-10AM is a great time for alone time, but, there isn’t much open at that hour, especially on a Sunday. Book stores (my first choice), closed. Library, closed. This left breakfast places and coffee shops. I don’t want to go somewhere and spend money I don’t really have to spare on breakfast alone, and I don’t want to go spend a ton of money on coffee which I could make myself at home for a fraction of the per cup cost. Yes, finances are tight and if I’m going to treat myself to time without the family regularly, it can’t add up to a small fortune.

OK, so venue chosen, I finally prep myself for public presentation. Well, I basically spruced up enough to allow myself to be seen without looking like a homelss person. Ponytail, contacts in the eyes, jeans and a sweatshirt, and I was all set. Here I go!

I chose a local Panera and grabbed a few dollars from a little jar which I keep spare singles in so I could get a coffee. I’ve been to Paneras over the years, but never alone and just to sit. So I grabbed a book, hoping to get a few pages read if I found a comfy enough spot at the restaurant. See, I guess I still see restaurants as places where you go, you order, you eat, and you leave. The whole coffe house, hang out at Starbucks was big when I was in college, but, that just wasn’t my bag. Plus, I didn’t really start to drink coffee ’til I was a junior in college, and by then I was quite happy with my seat at the library. It was there or the Shoneys out by the highway when we pulled all nighters, but getting a ride off campus wasn’t always the easiest thing to do, and nothing was close to campus.

Anyhow, I was a little nervous, I have to admit. Unlike some people, I’m not that confident in doing things like this alone. I enjoy being with others. On top of that, places like this tend to intimidate me when they make it impossible to order coffee by name. It’s almost like being in a foreign country. Actually, it reminds me of trying to order tea with cream and sugar in New Zealand. I distinctly recall standing in a bakery in Queenstown, NZ trying to figure out how to order a tea with cream and sugar. I had mastered ordering pies after meeting a Kiwi on my flight into Auckland who not only showed me the sights of the city, but, introduced me to the variety of pies found everywhere in the small country. I’m part English, have been a tea drinker all my life, and couldn’t for the life of me figure out this half white, half and black, whatever it was that they called it. I just wanted a tea!!

I digress. My hesitation at ordering coffee in commercial, or even local, coffee places is based on my own insecurity, but, suffice it to say I don’t generally enjoy having to learn how to order something as basic as a coffee. This is one of the reasons I opted for Panera. They offer coffee. And it’s good. And I can refill my cup. Enough said.

As I drove from my house, I felt a little strange. I’m not used to doing for me. This is a common thing among women, among moms. We get so used to doing for others that we lose sight of what it’s like to do for ourselves. I focused on this as I got out of my car. Donned in the only pair of jeans that fit me right now (which were hand me downs), my Eastland shoes my mom got me at least 8 years ago, my husband’s old sweatshirt, I realized how little I’ve done for myself over the years. I can’t even tell you the last time I shopped for myself. Part of this is due to lack of funding for such an operation, but I have always had a hard time spending my money, especially on ME. Ugh, it’s so annoying. Now, I have likely painted a picture of some perfect candidate for the show What Not to Wear, but I assure you it’s not that bad (wait, don’t they all say that???). My point is, I neglect myself, and as I walked into the place, I was glad I had taken on this assignment for me time.

I approached the counter after seeing that they did have some flavoured coffees on tap. Whew. I don’t inherently like the taste of coffee, and I pretty much have a little coffee with my cream and sugar. Then I realized that they have some appealing breakfast options which would not break my small bank (pocket). Another sigh of relief.

I ordered, grabbed my cup, receipt, and square “your order’s ready” contraption and found a booth to sit in. The two comfy arm chairs (yes, only two, grrrr) were taken, so I opted for a booth, figuring I’d move to a table if the place got real busy. Luckily, it didn’t, at least not that I was aware. I say that because, as I’d mentioned, I brought a book. Not just any book, some might say. I brought with me my borrowed copy of Twilight. The rock I live under isn’t big enough to shelter me from the phenom that is this book series. I also am witness to the craze every day in my close-knit online community of moms that I’ve been part of for the better part of my daughter’s life. A coworker of mine read the books and lent them to me on a “return them whenever you’re done” basis. I was an avid reader as a kid until high school when reading was assigned, not just for fun. I think that’s really when I lost my childhood interest in reading. Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t read an occaisional book for fun, not like I did as a kid. I brought the book with me figuring that I’d look less silly being in a restaurant alone if I had my nose in a book, and if it didn’t hold my interest, I’d leave and find something else to do and somewhere else to go.

So, I entered the world of Twilight this morning. I’m learning about Fords, WA and the strange people that live there. As I sat reading the book, I peered up only a few times, seeing the other patrons order their morning fare and find that just right spot to enjoy it in. Watching people order their food and look for a seat can be entertaining at times. At one point, a younger couple, I’d say in their late 20’s, came in and got their coffees. They looked over the layout of the place, then she took one for the team and roamed the aisle, examining the seating for that just right spot for her and her male companion. It didn’t take her long to come back and shake her head, indicating that nothing in that direction was suitable. I peered out of my booth after they turned the other way and noticed that most of the booths were empty, as were the two-seater round tables further down. I don’t know what criteria they had for their just right spot, but, apparently they weren’t met in that direction. I didn’t bother to see if they stuck it out at the front of the restaurant, I just went back to my book and experienced Bella’s first day at her new high school.

A nice couple in their 40’s or 50’s sat in the booth across the aisle from me with a newspaper and a book. They had coffee and I don’t believe either of them uttered more than a few words the whole time they were there. In fact, at one point I looked in their direction and saw a father daughter team in the same spot. Either I was engrossed in the book or they were really stealth, as were the father and daughter. Hm. The father and daughter were dressed nicely, probably for church or something, so I could tell that they weren’t out just giving mom a break. It was really cute, and you could tell the little girl, probably around 7 or 8, was proud to be out with her Daddy carrying her purse and wearing a pretty skirt with party shoes. Does anyone call them that any more, ‘party shoes’?

I wasn’t expecting the book to read as easily as it does. I’d been told over and over how easy a read it was, but, usually when I hear that it turns out to read like The Oddyssey, anything but what I would call easy. This, though, really is easy and I flew through 60+ pages that I read this morning. Having only gotten through roughly 4 chapters, I will reserve any review of the story itself, but will admit that I’m enjoying it and can envision carving out some time to read it throughout the coming weeks. Not sure it will take me that long, but, my reading time is scarce and once it’s dark outside, an open book is as good as NyQuil for me.

My morning out, alone, was refreshing. As the clock rounded 10:00, I saved my page with a napkin, got my coat on, and topped off my coffee before heading to my car. I wasn’t leaving quite yet, I had one thing I wanted to do first. Barnes and Nobel. At a play date the kids and I went on yesterday, a great responsibility chart was recommended by the hosting mom. This thing is just what I’ve been trying to come up with myself for my kids (and myself). I spent my time on me and now I had to do something that would make me feel better, even if it’s kind of for someone else. I knew these cost around $20, and that’s really all I had on me, so I only was able to buy one today. I’ll get the second in a couple weeks after the next pay day (or I’ll get it online for less!). Honestly, despite the fact that I spent money, it made me feel better to get the chart, knowing that I could begin to apply the responsibilities and impending rewards with Ethel as early as today. This made me feel almost as good as treating myself to me time!

As I left, I felt relaxed, not worried about my day, and actually looking forward to time with my kids and husband. That hasn’t been the case for the past couple months, though. Funny how a mere couple of hours out of the house can recharge me. Even if it’s just for today, I’m happy to have had this time to read, drink coffee, and people watch. I look forward to doing it again next week, and more often as time goes by.