My own permission

This is nothing new.  You’ve heard me say this before: there’s too much.  Once again, I find myself in the position of trying to figure out how to cut back, stop the train, do less, focus on priorities; in a nutshell, I’m too busy.

My weekly schedule is definitely full.  I’ve been around long enough to compare and I know that I do more than many.  I work full time, manage a family of five with my husband, have a large extended family, mostly-regularly attend church and try to be involved, try to read, try to exercise, try to see friends, and try to write.  I’m a do-er of many things and a master of none.  Most of the time I’m just doing enough to scrape by until the next moment.  All of that is what you see from the outside.  Inside, my brain and my soul are even busier.  Constantly thinking about everything that I’m not currently doing, questioning how I am doing things, trying to remember all of the details so we never drop a ball.  I’m rarely just present, and it’s exhausting.  I’ve accepted that it won’t ever stop. But I might possibly, maybe, be getting better at realizing when the stress gauge is getting dangerously high and making changes before, instead of after, everything blows up.

I’ve had some success in the last six months with this blog.  Even though the numbers are modest, I have more followers of my blog and social media space than I imagined I would at this stage.  I’ve had three posts syndicated on other sites.  I got enough positive reinforcement, and truly enjoyed the process, to be excited and want to come back to more writing.  Right now, this just isn’t the best time of my life to keep it going.  Some of you do just as much, and more than me, and still run a very successful and amazing blog.  I have a lot of respect for what you do.  That pace just doesn’t work for me right now.

So, what I’m putting the breaks on is this – my writing.  I’m not happy about it, but I am at peace with the decision.  From your perspective, not much will change.  I haven’t been writing much lately anyway.  But what changes for me is my internal turmoil.  By writing this post, I’m giving myself permission to release the stress.

As I started getting more into blogging this year, I was really happy with the things I was learning and the progress I made.  But for someone like me, who isn’t a full-time writer, blogging takes consistency.  The more you write, the better you become at sharing your voice.  The more you post, the more people read your work and give you feedback to help with continued improvement.  Facebook gets your writing to more people’s newsfeeds.  Followers click on your content more often in Twitter.  More begets more.  Even though I haven’t been writing, I’ve been consistently stressing about the lack of consistency.  Feeling stressed to write, feeling stressed to share content, feeling stressed that I just can’t find the time for any of it.  So with an officially  communicated time-out, I can let all of that go.

You will still see me around every now and again during this hiatus.  If Iuntitled-design-1 have the time and something to say, I’m going to write.  When I see content from other people that I want you to see, I’m going to share it.  I still have too many funny stories happen in my family that will need to be told. Continue to follow me on social media to get notice if I happen to write new posts and to catch little doses of the craziness that is my family.  And one day, I hope to be back here, consistently writing and connecting with all of you once again.

 

No one is unaffected

“Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.”

In the wake of the fatal shootings of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and five Dallas police officers, I have seen this quote popping up throughout social media.  (Usually attributed to Benjamin Franklin, though I have also seen that challenged).  For the last 24 hours I have been following the news updates, reading emotional, painful posts from friends and strangers alike, and continually coming back to this quote in my mind. It doesn’t sit right with me.

When taken very literally, yes, I am unaffected.  I am a white, middle-class, heterosexual woman who works as a corporate professional and lives in a country where my religion is practiced freely.  I have not been forced to flee from my home.  I do not live in poverty.  I am not hated for the color of my skin or the sex of the person I married.

But this is where that translation ends.  I may not fall into any of the categories that threaten my immediate safety, but I am affected.  Please understand, I do not for one second think that my emotional outrage is on any level of comparison to those who are living in actual fear and danger.  But those people living in actual fear and danger are my Continue reading

High-tech convenience is making my life harder

I’m probably somewhere in the middle of the scale of my generation when it comes to using the best/fastest/easiest inventions to make my life better/faster/easier. I refuse to put a DVR player in my minivan, but I do have a cable TV system that I can control with voice commands.  I use an online grocery delivery service, but I won’t buy Lunchables.  I use a coffee mug to drink my coffee instead of disposable cups, but I use K-cups to make that coffee.  I’m as amused and impressed as the next guy when new ideas to improve convenience are marketed to the masses, but I always have a weird twinge of guilt, like I’m cheating by taking the easy way.  I don’t know why that is.

What I do know, though, is that some of the conveniences I regularly enjoy are also finding sneaky ways to make my life harder. Continue reading

Dresses, spiders, and laundry; little moments with big lessons

I like to think I am not reinforcing gender stereotypes with my kids.  Even so, I have to constantly remind myself not to say and do the same things I have been subjected to throughout my own lifetime of fighting pink, dresses, and heels. I learned pretty early on that this is a lot harder to do now that I have both a son and two daughters.    Even though I know that I want my kids to be who they are and do what they want, and I feel very strongly about that in my own life and family, I’m realizing it may not always be obvious to my kids.  I also recognize I have to be consistent from now until, oh, forever in how I model this, otherwise it just gets confusing.  Living with me has to be confusing enough as it is, I don’t have to make it worse.

So, even though I do rely on hubby to kill spiders, I somehow have to model that it’s not because I’m a girl, it’s because SPIDERS ARE CREEPY AND EVIL.  And hubby isn’t afraid of that awful squish sound.  Not because he’s a boy, but because our fears are different.  Spiders.  Blech.

So what can I do every day to avoid teaching the wrong lessons?  (the stereotypes, not the spider extermination process)

Well, when Bear and Goose wear dresses and anyone tells them they look beautiful, I have to remember to also tell them they are beautiful when they are wearing mismatched outfits they picked on their own and are dirty and digging in mud.  I have to tell Bean that he is handsome both when he is dressed for church as well as when he is a sweaty mess.  I have to compliment their appearances at a much lower frequency than complimenting other parts of who they are.

When Bean wants to help me cook, wash dishes, or fold laundry, I need to find the patience to let him.  Hubby does all of these things as much or more than me, and is already a great example, so I have to be ok with the six-year-old version of helping.

When my daughters imitate me and throw a purse on their shoulder and wave bye-bye, I can’t say “are you going shopping?”, I have to challenge myself to come up with something other than the easy comment.  So far I have asked if they are going to the library, to work, to the doctor, to play, to the museum, and for some reason I have to think really hard to say something other than shopping.  Why is that?  I don’t go shopping, why would I even say that?  The point is, I’m looking for more creative activities to suggest than what a girl and a purse are stereotypically assumed to be doing.

(Also, just to be snarky, anything that would normally be a “princess” something I choose to use “queen.” If you’re going to aspire to be part of a royal family, at least shoot for the leadership role.)

When it is time to split resources and have one parent outside playing with the kids and one inside being productive, I can’t always default to being the productive one, even if it soothes my overwhelming need to “catch up.” I need to be the parent playing and running around just as much as hubby needs to be the one being productive, because we are equal partners in this circus and our kids need to know that, too.

I recognize these are all small moments in the thousands that go by every day. I’m trying to focus on the little things now before they get older and the little things turn into big things that are hard and confusing. I may get it wrong more often than I get it right, but thankfully I have kids to be the first to point that out. At least that means they know what the right thing is, and they will never ask me to get rid of the spider.

 

When it straight up breaks down

Parents do countless things on a daily basis that can only be explained by “because I am a parent.” We accept a constant barrage of stress, illness, sleep deprivation, fear, guilt, and running our lives around what is best for our children. That is a short and bleak picture, and nowhere near comprehensive.  There is, of course, all of the reasons we wouldn’t change it for anything in the world because we love those little buggers with a power indescribable.  But this post isn’t about all of that.  This post is about what happens to me when that parenting self-sacrifice, that maternal instinct, straight up breaks down.

Thankfully, it doesn’t happen often, and when it does, I can usually look back and see the progression, understand the unlucky combination of events that leads to this point.  But hindsight is only helpful for understanding; I have not yet mastered the ability to realize I am in it while it is happening.  So here I sit in a coffee shop, with a husband at home who has (mostly) lovingly kicked me out of the house to recover, to gather myself, to find the sh*t that I lost. It is cold and icky midwest spring weather outside, so I won’t hit the trails. I hate shopping. I am in no place to talk to any of my friends who would love to listen.  So this is my default.  Sitting with the quiet buzz of grown-ups around me as I drink hot drinks without fear of little hands. I am calm, but it isn’t the watching a sunrise kind of calm, it’s the dumbfounded what just happened? calm when you can’t even gather the energy to shake it off and move on.

Our lives are hectic even on most good days. The last few weeks of my job have been intense.  All three of my kids have been sick  in an alternating and overlapping fashion for three to four weeks.    Hubby and I have not been sleeping enough because when kids are sick there is always overnight assistance needed, on top of late evenings and early mornings.  For the last three days, I had been home with sick kids, trying to work, and hanging on tightly to the tiny sliver of candle I have been torching at both ends for too long.  Yesterday, the candle just disappeared altogether.

You’ve been there, right?  This isn’t just me?  Absolutely no gas left in the tank but no choice but to move forward.  I got Bean to the bus on time.  I fed my daughters.  We played,  we cuddled, we did all of the things we normally do.  But I was on autopilot.  I was letting two toddlers run the show, and thankfully they had no idea.  I desperately looked forward to their nap time so I could just catch a few minutes of rest.  But then they didn’t nap. They jumped and squealed and had a grand old time, and I laid on the couch with a blanket over my head, wanting to drown out the noise but knowing that I had to keep listening for the sounds of danger.  By the time I gave in and got them up, all patience, all creativity, all selfless powers of motherhood were gone.  I was physically there but that was it.  I muddled through until hubby got home.  I ensured safety but gave no more.  I only talked when necessary.  I was a broken mess.  Once the kids were in bed I stared at the tv in silence while hubby avoided me. At some point I gave up and mercifully ended the day, passing out within seconds once I went to bed.

So right now I am out of the house and recovering because I have a very understanding partner who is living through the same events and has kept it together.  We seem to balance our breakdowns, a yin and yang of crazy if you will.   Today it is my turn, and another time it will be his.  Perfect parents with stars on their report cards aren’t the only ones who earn perks like a few hours to think in solitude.  We all need a break, and the helpers who can and do provide that break are extraordinary heroes.  Every day with kids is a new adventure.  After a few hours to myself, I’ll be better prepared to jump back in and not only tackle, but enjoy, the next round.

 

 

A fond farewell to the woman who wore my wedding dress

For almost 13 years I have been indecisive about what to do with my wedding dress.  I didn’t really want to keep it at first.  I was six years away from being a mom. The thought of paying the kind of money it takes to correctly store that sort of thing for someone who may or may not exist, and then may or may not want it, was silly.  But I couldn’t bear to get rid of it, either.

Today is a totally different situation, but the feelings are the same.  I’m a mom, I have daughters, and I still can’t bear to get rid of the dress even though I hate the amount of money it takes to clean and store. But I finally made the move, and took the dress this morning from the back of Goose and Bear’s closet and handed it over to a perfectly helpful dry cleaner who specializes in this sort of thing.

I guess the process of finally completing this task after so many years was a bigger deal than I realized, because I found myself in a daydream of memories on the way home.  The woman who wore that dress and somehow managed not to spill anything on it anywhere, a feat I currently fail to accomplish ever, feels like an alternate reality version of me.  I remember the day, I remember our life then. But it almost doesn’t feel like mine.  Everything was new, exciting, and simpler, even though mid-20’s me might not have agreed.  We spent a lot of time planning and looking towards the future, the constant “once we get THIS (house, better job, kids, yard, dog, etc.) then we will be able to relax and enjoy” mentality.  I regret that we wasted that simpler time stressing about the future.  But we did.

It is a bizarre feeling to realize that the life I am in today is the one I had spent so much time looking towards from the other side.  I am currently living “THIS”; we have the house, the better jobs, the kids, the yard.  (We had the dog for almost 11 years, who sadly died when my toddlers were babies, and we aren’t quite ready to start that again). But I’m in it, I’m the me I was always planning towards.  Have I lived up to expectations?  I don’t know, that’s probably a whole other blog series.  But whatever I am, I’m living and not just hoping and planning.

IMG_20160312_143634470As for the dress, I didn’t try it on.  I know that three-kids me had no chance of zipping up a dress that wedding-day me wore perfectly.  Strange as it may sound, though, I had to touch it again.  It honestly looked a little foreign once I pulled it out of the closet and studied it for a few minutes under the plastic cover.  It’s a far cry from yoga pants and a 10-year-old fun run t-shirt with a reminder of someone’s breakfast on the sleeve.

But once I felt the fabric again, somehow that  touch assured me that dress was mine, and it was me who wore it and me who existed in such a different time of life.   I just hope that one of my kids decides to use some part of that dress so I didn’t spend the money just to have a really expensive epiphany.

Aside

Managing life when your kids are sick: A working parent’s survival guide

  1. After being woken up 23 times by a sick child overnight, have a cup of coffee and try to come up with a mental list of all the productive things you need to get done over the next few days.
  2. Go off on a tangent wondering if there is some philosophical connection between your current mental state and Dory from Finding Nemo.
  3. Forget all of the productive things.  They aren’t getting done anyway.
  4. Repeat.