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.

 

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.

 

 

Still somewhere in the middle

When I started this blog four years ago, I was in a very different stage of life.  My first child was two years old, making a shift into a stage of being more independent, and leaving me a few minutes of time every now and again to think straight.  I realized I had been so entrenched in the cycle of parenting, a full-time job, and household and family management that I had spent virtually no time on myself.  As I usually do, I bit off way more than I could chew and tried to jump back into everything at once.  My blog was a way for me to share that experience, my successes and failures, and in the process I learned that I really enjoy writing.

Fast-forward a few years, and I am in a completely new, yet similar, situation.  My twin daughters are two years old, my son is finishing up first grade, and that cycle of parenting, full-time job, and household and family management is a lot more complex than it used to be.  I learned a lot about parenting and about myself in the years before my daughters were born.  While the parenting part today is like hovering in the eye of a tornado on a daily basis, I knew over the past few years that this day would come when I could think again.

I am nowhere near out of the small-child segment of this life.  Twin toddlers are a force to be reckoned with.  Finding the time to prioritize my son and husband while the girls turn on the gas burners and climb on a chair to grab the knives is not easy.  Yet I know that even while I balance everything, I have to find time for myself because everyone around me benefits.

The content of my blog posts early on was following my experiences as I parented and started to get back into other hobbies.  Because parenting and family are still where I spend most of my energy, I expect most of my posts will reflect that.  But I want to try some new things as well.  Product and book reviews, current events, and finding inspiration in what others are blogging are some of my immediate plans.  Most importantly, I just want to write, and spend more time interacting with those of you who come along and share your thoughts with me.

I know you’ve been here before.  You’ve transitioned from an all-encompassing stage of life, whether it be parenting or something else, and you looked around to figure out what comes next.  How did you stick with it?  What cautionary tale can you share to keep me on the right path?  I need all the help I can get.

Thanks for joining me here in the middle.  It’s cozy and I think I’ll stay awhile.

12 Things I Learned In 2014

The end of the calendar year inevitably brings many retrospectives, lists, and best-of’s.  I have not been posting much in 2014, with most of my focus spent on two not-so tiny twin girls and their big brother.  So this list of things I learned seemed as good a way as any to summarize where I’ve been.

I learned, in no particular order because my memory could never chronologically sort these, that:

1) I love instant win games.  Not the lottery type, because you have to buy a ticket specifically for the purpose of winning, but the type that says “Hey, you bought something anyway or are a member of our group, please enter for a chance to win!”  I didn’t win much more than some fries and a free movie rental this year, but the chance that I could makes me feel like a kid in a candy store.
2) Raising twins is just as hard as I thought it would be. Sometimes in life I fret and worry over something that ends up being smooth and easy.  This would not be an example of that.
3) If you enjoy photography like I do, especially the editing and printing part, do not wait a year to process your pictures.
4) Losing a pet plain old sucks.  My first and only dog so far died abruptly in May, after 11 years of trailing after my heels and being awesome.  It still doesn’t feel right around here.
5) Even at this stage in my life when I have seen a few rodeos and am responsible for the lives of three little people, I am still susceptible to fan-girl tendencies.  Exhibit A: The Divergent Series books.  See also Theo James, acting in the movie interpretations of said books.
6) Sometimes the hardest part of having twins is having a five-year-old too.  Poor guy had his whole world change pretty abruptly.  Sometimes he wanted to love them too much, sometimes he wanted more of his own attention, sometimes he was just plain old tired of the crazy here.
7) Related to #6, mommy guilt is the worst.  I’m doing the best I can, and because of that, I compare and second-guess and stress and worry that it’s never good enough.  I know I’m not alone here, but it is still the worst.
8) I read a lot of young adult fiction this year. I figured out that I could navigate my e-reader while pumping during my nursing stage, so I was able to read a lot of books in 2014.  When I looked at my Goodreads year in books, I saw a whole lot of dystopia and escape from reality.  Why?  See #2.
9) Having twins, while being a lot of hard work, is a gift from God in so many ways.  One that I’ve reflected on a lot this year is the fact that a hard pregnancy and a crazy first year has made me SO very ok with being done growing our family.  This could have been a difficult time of my life, having to transition from family growth to family stability, but instead, I thank my lucky stars that I am moving forward.  Next time I get to enjoy this stage is when they are my grandchildren.  Minus the whole pregnancy and nursing thing.  Sweet.
10) I am happiest when my personal email inbox doesn’t require the use of the search bar to find what I need.  Which never happens.
11) I am of the age, along with being a grown-up and parent, where current events make my heart hurt.  Everything is more.  More evil, more dangerous, more overwhelming, more sad, more enraging, more frightening, more divisive.  Stories of children in harm’s way bring me to my knees.  Growing up we just didn’t get it, why adults argued over politics, and read the paper every day, and cried over bad news half a world away.  I get it now.  Lord, have mercy.
12) Parenting young children is my most important life’s work, but I miss things.  I miss pondering, creating, exercising, remembering, sleeping, blogging, gardening, relaxing, watching, cooking, organizing, baking, decorating.  A lot of “-ings”.  I know from having my first child that this changes, and I have about another year before I start getting more consistent time for those “-ings”.  Halfway there.

What did you learn in 2014?
May the next year bring you all the “-ings” you wish for, and maybe a few that are unexpected as well.

 

It’s all in the eyes

There are times when I catch a glimpse of these eyes looking back at me from a mirror and it startles me.  You probably don’t see it, but since I’ve been staring back at these eyes for more than three decades, I notice the changes.  Sparkle.  Dull.  Bright.  Bloodshot.  Baggy.  Lively.  Exhausted.  I see it all.

I have so many blessings.  Some days I can choose to look at all of my busyness as managing an overabundance of blessings.  Many days I am much less optimistic.  No matter how I choose to look at it, I am tired.  Not just long-weekend of college all-nighters tired, but something rivaling the first three months after birthing a newborn tired.  The kind of tired that comes from trying to do it all for too long.

But I’m also tired of feeling this way.  My usual reaction to long stretches like this is to try to fix it all at once.  No patience to do it right.  So this time, I am going to systematically attack it. I am not going to try and get sleep, work less, relax more, exercise more, stress less, and spend more time playing, cooking, and reading, all in one day.  Small goals this time.  Once I accomplish one, I will be better equipped to accomplish another.

I’m starting with rest.  As much as I am tempted to move straight to the other more fun fixes, I am being smart enough to realize it just won’t work without rest.  So, next week, I am setting a time to try and leave the office no matter what is left undone, and I am setting a time that my body needs to be in bed every night. Neither of those sound like they should be very hard for most people, but since I have not been able to accomplish either for about four months, they may not be very easy for me.

We all have to start somewhere.  I choose Monday.

Little Victories

My mom is staying with us for three weeks.  It is admittedly some work to arrange the house and schedule ahead of time to accommodate a guest for that amount of time, but it is a welcome change.  It is 1:00 on a Friday, the groceries are put away, a loaf of banana bread that I baked is cooling in the kitchen, lunches are eaten, my son is sleeping, and I’m sitting here with music, a cup of tea, and my blog.  Win!

Visits like this one mean that my camera is never far away from my side.  Since our camera is on a slow, sad journey towards the electronics recycling bin, I imagine I am going to be frustrated with many of the images that I take. But I have started saving for a big-girl camera (one that is so cool it has an extra lens), so I know that better picture-taking days are ahead.  In the mean-time, I am excited to tell you that a picture I took several years ago when the camera was still new has been posted by someone other than my family.

The Norwegian Embassy in Washington, D.C. publishes a quarterly magazine with  articles about current events in Norway and in the US.  For the fall issue, they requested “readers to send in photos of places or things in Norway that inspire them.”  Since I have spent a lot of time vacationing in Norway with my family, I had a lot of pictures to consider.  I will save you the suspense, I did not actually get published in the magazine, but they did include my picture in an online gallery of reader-submitted photos.  I’m pretty sure that they probably included any photo sent in that was of good enough quality to post online, but I’ll take every little victory I can get.  The photos aren’t numbered in the gallery, so I’ve posted it with this blog for you to enjoy, but I would recommend spending a few minutes on the gallery, there are some beautiful images there, and I’m proud to be included among them.

 

A different kind of church

Sunday mornings have never been about sleeping in around my house.  Except for instances of college, illness, or vacation, Sunday mornings have been up-and-at-em time for church.  Today, both my husband and I are under the weather.  Not enough to stay in bed, but enough not to bring our germs to church.  Which is good, because since my son is feeling just fine, staying in bed is not an option anyway.

So after breakfast today, I went out for a walk.  It’s a sunny, cold morning, enough that I could cover my bed-head with a hat, but not so cold that it was unpleasant. I haven’t been exercising much lately because of my work schedule, so it’s just as well that I wasn’t up for a full jog today.  With some good tunes in my headphones, turned down just low enough to hear the birds, and some alone time to hear myself think, I got to spend some time churching in a whole different way.  I missed seeing my church family today, but sometimes it’s good to change it up a little and see things when it’s quiet.  Happy Sunday, all.