Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Button Trouble

Recently I scored an awesome thrift store find. I found a vintage, early 70's era Irish wool coat.  Not just any wool coat but a "North Dakotan by Straus" Irish wool coat.  I had to purchase it because it was
A: only $10,
B: so heavy it would surely keep the bone-chilling, face-freezing-off North Dakota cold from my skin 
C: it had an amazing and immaculate faux fur collar 
D: My size, which apparently is the same as a 1970's man (?!?!)

It was all a sign that I needed this coat.  It is a double breasted style of coat and I realized after a week I had been buttoning the coat like a female does, right over left.  After realizing I could button it the proper way, left over right, it just felt so weird! Buttoning for me has always been right over left and this just felt akward and uncomfortable.  This feeling jarred a memory for me that happened a few years ago with my son.

My oldest has always fought me over wearing dress pants or jeans.  He would come out dressed for church in a shirt, a tie, and a pair of sweat pants. We would go round and round, tears ensuing from his hatred over "pants that button!"  Really I just assumed he was being lazy or that his sensory issues made him sense the jeans too tight and uncomfortable.  But mostly I just assumed he was being lazy and didn't want to go through the work of buttoning and zipping his jeans.

Then, one day I was helping him get dressed and was standing behind him tucking in his dress shirt. I went to button his dress pants and had a huge "AH HA!" moment.  As I buttoned his pants, I imagined being left handed as he is.  I then imagined being 6, and not having the greatest coordination and trying to button my pants.  I challenge you to try it sometime.  Buttons are made for right handed people.  The dominate right hand manipulates the button through the hole that is mearly held by the left hand.  If your dominate hand is left and your right hand lies there like a dead fish because you are 6 and frustrated, stranded in the boys bathroom because you don't want to be the "baby" who can't get your own pants buttoned, you would fight tooth and nail to wear sweat pants every day too!

This small experience was eye opening for me.  I think often times we attribute adult characteristics to our children; laziness, manipulation, carelessness etc.  While sometimes these are natural characteristics I guess, I think if we took a step behind our kids and saw things from their perspectives their behaviors may make much more sense.  Are they careless or are they exhausted from nightmare filled sleep they aren't able ot recall that is not allowing them to get quality rest?  Is their falling grades because they don't care or because they are consumed by angst from the kid that just won't leave them alone?  Is their behavior resembling a rabid weasel because they are are naughty or because the chicken nugget and fries from their 11am lunch is long gone and their blood sugar is 12 when they get in the car after school?  

For the most part, I don't think young children's behaviors are ulterior or manipulative but moreso reactionary to things happening around them and to them.  Sure there are those times where they may look right at you, and proceed to deliberatly dump their water on the carpet or grin devilishly at their sibling as they shove the last Oreo in their mouth.  But more than not if we can step to the side, or behind them and see situations from their perspective, their behaviors may make more sense. And really isn't that what all of us really want? To be heard and understood?  And to score vintage goods at the Thrift store.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

2014 and 40

2014 brought my 40th year. 40. I am not sure what it is about that number that acts as a reset button for many.  But I guess in some ways, for me, it has.  This past year isn't exactly one I would put on repeat if had a choice.  In late February my brain broke, as I've just come to call it, without (despite no less than 5 well-educated opinons) real explanation and that in itself allowed for a lot of time to sit back and reflect.  I realize I've grieved this year, not the loss of a human, but of ideals we hold onto forever.  The grieving and eventual acceptance of certain things has brought about a sense of calm.  

I grieved the idea of a perfect family, where everyone returns "home" and stuffs themselves full of Mom's cooking and all the cousins play monopoly quietly and politely.  The adults converse of politics and stocks over spiked egg nog, as Andy Williams voice fills the home.

I grieved the loss of the perfect children, those who always remember to say please and thank you, and go to bed precisely when asked. Who complete assignments and remember to hand them in on time and practice piano without asking.  

I grieved the loss of the body that is firm, unscarred and perky.  A body that moves painlessly and quickly.  It is tan and unwrinkled; it is youthful.

40 brought me to acceptance.  I think many may interchange acceptance with approval but it is not.  Some very wise and beautiful people helped me come to understand acceptance for what it is this past year, and it is just that: to accept.  It is like the bow of a present.  You can not get to what lies underneath or the intent of the giver or even the gift without first taking off the bow.  You may think the bow is hideous and squashed or uneven, torn or tattered, but it is still a bow.  And you still have to look at it, and even touch it and deal with it before moving on.  By accepting a sitution, circumstance, or event you have paused to look at the bow.  You have paused to take a deep breath, acknowledge what is or is not in your power and then move forward.

I came to terms that any flame of hope of a "perfect" family was extinquished with a last breath on a snowy morning 11 years ago.  The reality is my Mom's death fractured our family.  And with any fracture, they can heal but scars can remain.    The truth is she was a self-admitted poor cook and we really only looked forward to her green bean casserole, and no-one even likes egg-nog.  I've accepted that we are far from any Normal Rockwell painting, and that is really ok.  I've accepted that "family" comes in many forms and sometimes, oftentimes, family comes in the forms of a red-headed italian or a full-of-love banker or an opinionated stressed-out CPA.  And I've come to accept that family can be established from the entity from which we are born as well as those relationships which we choose to be around.  

My kids are who they are and instead of being so worried about raising good kids, I've decided to accept they are good kids.  Perfect? Heck no. But they are not little asshats either.  The oldest will almost always forget to say "thank you" but is the first to cheer for everyone and anyone in any competition.  He is clumsy like a black lab puppy but is emotionally jarred when he witnesses someone being cruelly or unjustly treated.  My middle would rather chew on glass than admit she was wrong, yet has this uncanny ability to say exactly what I need to hear, when I most need to hear it; she tenderly gives self-worth building statements that are far more profound than her mere 7 years on earth should produce.  The youngest has a hugely annoying habit of burying socks in the dirt pile and a far too great of a desire to go commando, but his comedic timing is on par with those that actually made SNL funny in the day.  They are not perfect, nor do I want them to be.  And I've realized that as I look around at my own home and note what I love and bring me comfort are those things that are weathered, flawed, aged and have a story.  This is what I want my kids to grow into; loved pieces that are not perfect but what stories they will tell!

And my body?  I'm at the point I can look back fondly at my 20-something body, like one does about a great summer memory.  It was good, it was fun, and it will never be again.  I can also look forward to those Greatest Generationists that have maintained their health and strive to be like them.  I've come to accept it will always be a little squishy, it will be beautifully flawed from surgerys that gave rise to my 3 precious gifts and I am ok with that.  I'm at peace because it still works.  I can still move and play with my kids.  I can dance with my husband.  I can still ski behind a boat and watch my kids cheer when I cut a wake and erupt in laughter when I wipe out.  It still works, and for that I am not only hugely accepting, but grateful.

I've come to realize the beauty of acceptance.  I am grateful to those who guided me along this learning process, because it really is freeing. As i close this year with a heart full of love and gratitude, I wish you all a very beautiful, happy and healthy 2015!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Infrequently Asked Questions

So the other day, my fellow blogger over at Is there Cheese in It  tagged me to answer some really important questions! So here goes...

1. What made you decide to get into blogging?

I kept having these amazing essays write themselves while on my long runs while training for half marathons and eventually my marathon.  It may have been the lactic acid delirium, but I thought I was profound and witty so I decided to put them on paper... or at least on the web.

2. How has it impacted your life?

mmmm.... It has helped me put in some kind of record, things I would eventually want my kids to know about life, love and leggings if I were rammed by my goat tomorrow and suffered a head injury or something.  I am not as regular as I would like to be, but the reality is I know I can't force the word... they come when they come, in a rapid-don't-bother-me-I-need-to-get-this-recorded-now-despite-it's-2:30am-now form.  The comments and statements from a variety of people (ages, moms, retired people) has boosted my self confidence a bit.

3. How do you manage to work blogging into your schedule?

WHat schedule?  Ok, ok... usually somewhere between 10pm-1am.  I am a night owl thru and thru and when I get writing, the walls could be burning down and I don't care much. I need to get the words out.

4. What's your favorite non-blogging "me-time" activity?

Stepping over the big chunks on the kitchen floor, frantically searching for matching socks at 8am, and upcycling existing clothing into funky little girls clothing.

5. If you could be anything in the world, what would you be? (Could be a profession, an inanimate object, an's the limit!)

One of my spoiled rotten cats. They spend the entire winter (Which here in the great white north is like 9 months) camped in front of the fireplace.

ANd then there was another set.....

1. If you had to listen to a song on repeat all day today, which would you choose?

Oh this is tough....and I can't answer honestly... but I will say I have listened to Taylor Swifts 1989 album about 35 times in the last week and a half. Don't judge.

2. If you wrote a book on parenting (that evil genre), what would the title be?

Welcome to Chaos! Check your sanity at the door.

3. What is your spirit animal? 
 Which animal likes to eat? A lot? All day long?

4. What are three of your favorite words?

Douchebaggery, asshat, gigantor

5. Disneyland - Yay or Nay?

Hell yes!! We just took the fam there for the first time last May and it was fantastic!!



  1. Thank you for taking me up on this challenge! 

    I would totally prefer to do my reading on a sunny beach with an adult beverage as well, maybe we should plan a trip together. We can tell people it's a highly exclusive blog conference and make all our friends think we're moving up in the world. :-)

  2. Haha. Love this post. Grilled cheese sandwich would totally be an excellent spirit animal. Speaking of, I had grilled cheese sandwiches (yes, plural... I'm currently 9 months knocked up) and tomato soup for dinner last night, but I may just have to pull a repeat and have the same for lunch here in a hot minute. But with more cheese on the sandwiches this time, I tried to be reasonable with my cheese allocation last night but that was a dumb decision and I was slightly disappointed with the result.


    1. Sarah - You can never have "too much" cheese! It is one of the essential truths of the universe! Especially when you're pregnant! Enjoy your extra cheesy grilled cheeses ;)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Jesus and Bill

I don't know a lot but there are a few things I know for certain. I know if you mistake a salt canister for sugar canister, your cheesecake will taste, well, salty.  I know if the stars align, and both Congress and the Pope allow you to plan you a girls day, you will awaken that morning to the warm feeling of vomit from a child in your bed.  I know that Transformer toys require a PhD to transform. 

Yeah.... right......

 I know that being human is very very easy, and being Christlike is very hard.

A couple weeks ago I listened to a great sermon about forgiveness.  The overall message was that Christ tells us to forgive seven times seven, or essentially endlessly.  I found myself thinking, "But what about...." and "Yeah, but...." or "What about forgetting? Do I need to forget too?"

That is the thing about Jesus. He was a pretty cool dude. I mean, he loved and loved, forgave and forgave some more.  He did everything that is completely counter to our natural human behavior.  We, as humans, can be so primal.  We get mad, we react. We are wronged, we want revenge.  We are hurt, we blanket ourselves in that hurt, keeping it wrapped around us like a Snuggy for all to see.  Imagine if we strive to be more Christ-like, or less goat-like...

Yes, I said goat-like. Stick with me.  I know not everyone is Christian, or even a believer in any higher power, but everyone believes in goats.  They are real, you can touch them, you can hear and even smell them.  I've learned a lot by watching Bill, my goat.  If he is mad, he bellers and hollers, and will even honk at me.  If he is jealous he will butt the dog.  If he is lonely, he will prevent me from leaving by cutting off my walking path.  If he does not want to walk, he will.not.walk.  Bill and I share similar emotions, but I do not have to share his behaviors.  Thankfully I have a brain that is bigger than a walnut, and I can choose my behaviors. But, that is the tricky thing about being human. We really have to WANT to act higher, better, more Christ-like (or less goat-like.)  The desire has to be strong enough to override the natural tendency to act impulsively like Bill.  

Learning to respond to life, like Jesus (not like Bill) can sometimes be very difficult.  It may require retraining yourself from very old behaviors that you have had since you were a child.  It may be painful as you process some events that formed your behaviors.  It may depend upon you evaluation of things you have always known as "truth" because that is what you were told.  It may require establishing healthy boundaries and a large amount of self-awareness, but it can be done.  If my walnut-brained goat can be taught to answer me when I call his name, we as humans can learn different behavioral responses.  
And why does it matter? I mean in the end, we will always be sinful humans and Bill will always be a goat, right? Because of the pain, that is why.  Bill, in his impulsiveness, doesn't intend pain, but a goat hoof to a foot hurts.  Because him refusing to move, because he, is exhausting.  When we react primitively to hurt, jealousy, or being wronged, it creates more pain. Pain to us and pain to the wrong doer.  It perpetuates and grows and is exhausting.  And it matters because we are flawed, we are human, and we mess up.  But by striving to be more like Jesus (less like Bill) maybe the book of what is acceptable behavior can slowly be rewritten.  Because the journey that comes with attempting to be a better human being is worth it, to yourself and to others.

We are better than goats. We are.  We may not all be as amusing as them, but we are better.  If you can not ask yourself "What would Jesus do?" then ask yourself "What would Bill not do."

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Unspoken Threat Among Us.

There is a sweeping danger that is going unspoken of, with nearly no attention drawn toward it. There is no one dumping water on their heads for this cause or putting jello down their pants to raise awareness of this threat.  Many do not realize that me, myself, am a casuality of this danger, and I now realize it is my duty to raise awareness and possibly create a solution for this evergrowing problem.  The threat I am referring to is Driving with Kids.

Driving with Kids begins silently.  In fact, one may even forget they are present in the car, until you are reminded of their presence by the sound of a watery, liquid laden explosion followed by ear-shattering crying.  The jolt of the smell and the sound can startle a sleep deprived mom out of her semi-comatose state resulting in her realization that she has sat through 3 green lights and the horns she was hearing were not her personal tribute of 25 or 6 to 4 by Chicago.

A Mom's head is in grave danger in Driving with Kids.  The back of a Mom's head is the target of shock and awe between flying sippee cups, Lightning McQueens, pacifiers, bottles and Thomas and his damn friends.  Her vision is equally at risk.  She may experience great visual field impairments by floating Applebees balloons, flung scarves, mittens and hats, and sunglasses that have previously been used as a teething toy.

Driving with Kids can create a myriade of symptoms for a Mother.  Some examples are:
A: Her brain feels as though it is in a blender
B: Her desire to have 3 more arms so she can multitask the specific song selections of "Everything is Awesome" "Let it Go" and "Who let the Dogs out?" from the iPhone
C: An overwhelming curiousity to see the actual strength of duct tape
D: Sudden knowledge of the entire Frozen movie dialogue, in French. And Spanish.
E: Her acceptance that children never run out of words, to say, at the same time.  Ever.
F:  Torn shoulder muscles from reaching behind her, while driving,to retrieve a pacifier from under her own seat

Prolonged driving with kids can result in tremors, twitches, and rocking silently in a corner, while sucking on her thumb.  

Little is known about the permanent affects of Driving with Kids, but research has shown the following to have reduced some of the symptoms:
A:  Wine, Beer and/or Whiskey
B:  The ability to pee and poop, alone, with the bathroom door locked, at least once a week.
E:  Completion of one People Magazine or US Weekly in one sitting.
F:  Chocolate, cheesecake or chocolate cheesecake.
G:  Any show on TLC or HGTV, except for Honey Boo Boo, which is contraindicated.
F:  Transferring driving duties to the Father.  However, studies are suggesting that males succumb to the affects of Driving with Kids 96% faster than females.  Proceed cautiously.

It is known that Driving with Kids can last years.  Currently, the estimated affects last between 14-16 years, but can be replaced with a secondary condition called Riding with Driving Kids.  More research on this area is pending, but early reports are this condition brings as severe of symptoms as Driving with Kids.

It is time to raise awareness.  Millions of women are struggling with this debilitating condition, and are too afraid to reach out for help.  I am hoping by stepping from the dustbunny laden shadows of my own world I can help others come forward.  There is strength in numbers.  While we will never eradicate Driving with Kids, knowing others share our struggles strengthen us all.  To Moms everywhere, behind the wheel, I raise my to-go mug of coffee to you.  Stay strong and keep on keeping on!  

*Disclaimer: This is called satire. Please don't get up in my junk about it being sexist or making light of texting and driving or anything like that. It is written in jest (kind of) and meant to make you smile. Enjoy!*

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Life didn't end with Bad Hair.

The days are shortening, and the evenings are starting to feel a bit like autumn.  The skies of the prairie are starting to take on the harvest technicolor we are blessed to have here in North Dakota.  All of this signals the return of the Great American Drama, also known as School.

I recently did a little "research" on Facebook, asking friends who have known me for at least 20 years, their perceptions of me, back in our school days.  One of the beauties of social media is the ability to stay in contact with people I met 35 years ago.  My intent of asking for feedback was to see if the perceptions held of me were similar to those I had of myself, or completely different.  I was delighted to see my friends play along and generously obliged me with feedback.

The unscientific data resulted in many descriptions, including kind, outgoing, smart, athletic and determined. More than one person mentioned my great laugh and that I was funny.  I was also described as an "includer" and "maternal."  Some of the people who responded knew "of me" and some of them knew me well.   I'll be honest, I was kind of shocked by these perceptions.

I found the responses hugely interesting, because the reality is I felt incredibly insecure and as though I didn't really fit in any particular group.  I felt more comfortable talking to teachers than most classmates.  I was in band, but played percussion, so I was "one of the boys." 
7 to 2.  Us girls were slightly outnumbered by the boys, but we ROCKED those painter caps!

I was a skater and golfer, but didn't view myself as "athletic" because I didn't play the big-gun sports of volleyball or basketball.
Sweet rolled jeans!
A Senior Picture back in the day when they didn't look like soft porn...

 I was smart, that I knew; however intelligence doesn't always rate high on the list of things high-school guys look for in prospective dates.  I really didn't view my GPA as more than a way to get $100 out of my older brother since he bet me I couldn't graduate with a 4.0. 
Bad Fashion & I were BFFs.
I made the hugely unwise decision of chopping off my hair into a cut usually reserved for phy-ed teachers.  This occurred at the same time most of my class was killing the ozone with Aqua Net hairspray.  I learned the hard way that if you cut your hair during puberty, it will take eons to grow back, so I couldn't rock the big hair that didn't fit in margins of year book pictures.  

We couldn't afford the latest trends of clothing, so when others sported their "Coke" rugby shirts,


Girbaud jeans, I did not.  And in High School this seemed to be, in my mind, the stuff of what fitting in was all about.

I had often wondered if the discomfort in my own skin may have actually come across as being aloof or haughty.  My 'research' apparently disproves this concern.  It also shows that my own self-perception was really distorted.  I want to make it clear that these internal conversations stemmed from no comments or interactions with people, as we today would call "bullying." Nope, it was just that annoying little voice in my head whispering negative crap to me.

My senior year I got involved in theater.  If there was ever a place to be accepted, it was the "pit," as the locker bay behind the theater was referred.  I don't know if universally, theater is the land of misfit toys, but it was in 1991-1992 at MCC.  And it was glorious, and freeing, and wonderful. I just wish I had discovered this refuge of beautiful miscellaneousness earlier in high school.
Just a tiny portion of Pit Dwellers. Beautiful girls who became fabulous Women!

Quite a few years ago, I remember telling my niece, "Just get through High School. Just survive. I would NEVER ever do High School again!"  Her sweet face looked at me with sheer bewilderment.  "Really?!!" she exclaimed.  I realize now, more than ever, that these precious beings, teens and pre-teens can not see beyond the chaos that is their world.  Their worth is dependent on the labels they wear or their number of "Likes" or "Retweets."  Their value depends on achieving thigh-gap and looking flawless like the airbrushed facades in magazines. 

I want to take them all, the walking vessels of hormones and angst, pull them close and whisper, "It doesn't matter! NONE of it."  I was filled with self doubt in a time when my constant movement wasn't recorded on social media.  I didn't have to worry about my number of "friends" "likes" or "shares."  My own insecurities stemmed from my interactions which I, more or less, had control over in a real world, not from instances that could be created in a cyber word. 

For the teens I love, this terrifies me.  I want them to know that none of that stuff matters. It doesn't matter now, and as "research" shows, it won't matter in 20 years.  What will matter is the stuff of character and attitude.  What will matter is how you made someone feel and not the bling on your buttocks.  Your laugh will take you further than your model of car.  I want young men to understand that masculinity is not determined by the number of girls they "got with" over a weekend, but from integrity and respect they show to others.  I want them to know they shouldn't trust that naggy little voice filling their head with negativity, because it's usually a liar.  I want them to know that this, the time when EVERYTHING is important, it is just a blip. A single yellow dash on the curvy highway of life.  It is just a moment.  Just survive and get through it. Just breathe and know that all those insecurities you feel, everyone else is feeling them too. Trust me on this.  Your self discovery is just beginning and 20 years from now you will be amazed where the highway has taken you.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

My Summer of Everything and Nothing

As summer starts to wind down and the days become slightly shorter, I find myself in hives and palpitations seeing the displays of overpriced backpacks, not-the-right-colors crayons and every glue except the required one at Target.  I am just not ready for the grind to begin yet.  I run into people I haven't seen for a few months and the usual "How has your summer been?" or "What have you been up to this summer?" is inquired.  What have we done? Everything and nothing. I'm not sure how to explain it.

Going into this summer, I really did not want the kids to be scheduled to the Nth degree with activities. After the spring we had, I just wanted very little structure. I wanted to them to sleep in, and stay up late. I wanted them to be kids.  Selfishly, I didn't want to sit at the ball diamond for 2.5 hours a day, 4 days a week with the third wild wheel (the 3 year old) in tow, spending our retirement on ring-pops at the concessions.  With the Good Doctor's new schedule, I wanted to be able to play on the pontoon on a Wednesday, if he was off, and mostly, I just wanted to be.

I've been asked if I have given up writing, or have been training for any races. The reality, it most days I wasn't sure which day it was, since there has been just a beautiful lack of any schedule this summer.  Thus, that was usually my reason for missing the deadline for the local paper.  I haven't been running. Not for any real reason, other than I am still battling a tendon issue, but I haven't been inactive either.

I have spent countless hours in our yard.  It is sizable, and the reality is we inherited a lot of maintence to catch up on when we moved in here five years ago.  I have spent time breaking a sweat doing the kind of manual labor that leaves one utterly exhausted, sore in the haunches and shoulders,  salt covered but joy-filled at the end of the day.  I have torn back thorny bushes.  I have broken soil, by hand, to sow seeds and plants.  We got a new family member, an Alpine Goat named Bill, who has attachment (as in he thinks he's a human) issues, so I have pounded fence posts.  I have trimmed, pruned, raked and mowed.  I have helped the Good Doctor rebuild our deck with a lot of sweat and some tears, when he stepped on a screw.  (Not a nail... a screw...)   And through all of this I have thought and thought and thought.

There is something about doing this kind of work that makes me feel connected, in the moment... alive. As I trim the unruly bushes, I discover pines underneath that have been growing despite fighting for sunlight and nutrients.  
The unruly bushes are drug to either the goat, who feasts on the tender green leaves, or to the firepit, where the dead branches will provide us with warmth, light, toasted marshmallows and laughter.  It, we, are all connected.

I have had a lot of time to practice letting go this summer.  Being outside for hours means the 2 bigs are pretty much on their own inside.  The little is usually by my side with a clipper, cutting things I wish he wouldn't.  The bigs have learned a lot more self reliance this summer, and although self reliance may look like a pile of ICEE wrappers or an apple core, I take joy in the fact that they took it upon themselves to NOT come 2 acres out in the yard to ask me to get them something to eat.  They have had to  learn to play with each other better, and work together more without me in constant sight.   I have realized if I am going to play gardener, yard keeper and chef, there will not be time to play housekeeper.  I am SO lucky to have a husband who gets this.  We will have guests over for amazing meals, on the DECK. My outside will be inviting and welcoming, my bathroom will be relatively clean, the rest of the house? Nope. Not gonna happen.  I've come to accept and appreciate that those who come over, really don't care about the way my house looks.

This past winter was too long and too stinking cold to be inside. Plus, I had about 6 weeks of staring at these walls, wondering what lay ahead in my life, to continue to sit and look at these same walls.  I have not been able to get enough of the outside.  The wind rustling the leaves, my daughter calling to the mourning doves and having them answer her with their sad song.  I've needed to feel dirt on my hands, and smell the dampness of the evening as dusk settles around us.  I've wanted to lie on our deck, holding my youngest under a blanket, and count the stars as they fall to Earth.  I've let the belly laughs of a 3 year old wash over me as his big brother pushes him, in a way only brothers do, on the tire swing.  I've found myself in awe that I can smell the sunshine in my line-dried towels when I finally get around to folding them, 3 days later.  I've needed to just be. 

The grind and schedule of school and activities will start again soon.  The checklists, the homework, and the fundraising.  The days will consist of mostly "shoulds" "need to dos" and "requireds."  The drama that accompanies elementary school relationships will once again have a daily matinee and  anxiety will probably accompany it as the oldest moves to a different school.  But for now I will do my best to milk every last hour from this summer before the routine starts again.  It hasn't been a summer of amazing adventures and trips, but one of presence, love and observation.  Those are the things that are not easily captured on film, but more so in the heart and soul.  My hope is not just captured in mine, but in those hearts of those I love.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Learning about Happy

Tonight I had the rare pleasure of some great adult female conversation.  We sat on the deck, sipping adult beverages, with minimal interruptions of truly important things like "THE BOYS ARE TAKING THEIR SHIRTS OFF!!" and "I NEED MARSHMALLOW MATIES NOW!!" and "No, you can't play Wii (for the 7,365th time.)" 

Somehow, as women's conversation often do, the discussion turned to that of relationships, particularily failed ones.  I was suprised to find that we both, at one time in our lives, had thought, "Go ahead, just hit me and then I can walk."

My friend is an educated woman.  She is extremely well read, intelligent and compassionate. I consider myself the same (except for the book part, most of mine are written by Suess.)  Yet her admission to having this thought did not surprise me in the least.  I told her I knew exactly from where that wish, to be physically harmed, stems.

Many moons ago, I was in a relationship with a guy.  He was a few years older than me.  I spent over 4 years with this individual, most of it being long distance. My first red flag should have been that every summer I returned from college we started to bicker and fight.... mmmm.... Did I love him? Of course. Looking back, was it a healthy relationship? Absolutely not.  I can see that now, but the reality is, I think I always knew it wasn't good.  Sure there was some verbal stuff, and his startling increase in alcohol intake... But it wasn't necessarily bad, I mean, he didn't hit me or anything....

That's the funny thing about relationships, especially when one is young, and still really trying to figure out who oneself is, how can be known what is wanted out of a partner when one don't know what is desired out of oneself?  How can you know who will compliments your strengths, or empower you, when you don't really know yourself?

What I did know is that I was never really all that happy with him.  I wasn't unhappy, but I wasn't happy.  And this is the most tricky thing.  I KNOW that a person doesn't make you happy and happiness comes from within. I knew that then also. However, was my unhappiness enough reason to end it? No. In my mind it wasn't enough of a reason.  Because it's not like he hit me.  I never felt like I was one of those girls who HAD to have a boyfriend, and so I wasn't afraid to be alone, I just didn't really feel like my reasons for ending it would be valid, and worth the pain I knew I would cause him.

After college I moved 5 hours from him to start my first nursing job.  I knew just a handful of people in that city.  I wouldn't trade that move, and that year, for anything.  It was the first time I wasn't Allen's daughter, or Mark, John and Steve's little sister.  I wasn't XXXXX's girlfriend.  I was Diane, RN.  It was a fresh start.  I allowed myself to really observe people's reactions to me. I allowed myself to hear their words, their compliments, their criticisms.  I started to see myself through the eyes of people around me (smart, funny, pretty), and not through my boyfriend's eyes (mediocre looking, not as smart as him,only lovable by him.)  I observed how people treated each other, and the qualities couples with long-lasting relationships possessed.  I learned that varying opinions didn't have to be labeled as "dumb" or "stupid" as I previously had been so used to hearing.  My job in an extremely busy Critical Care unit allowed for a lot of people watching, especially how people interacted in times of high stress.  

It was a time of metamorphosis for me.  I had my first apartment, my first real, very demanding, job. I had a paycheck and bills. I then had a cat.  I spent many evenings those first months renting movies, movies that I wanted to watch (that someone else would say were stupid) with my cat.  Some may view this as depressing or sad.  For me, it was life-saving.  

A few months after my move, I drove the 5 hours home to see him.  I stood in the same room with him, chatting with his family, and he didn't make eye contact with me for 15 minutes.  I had a lightning bolt moment of clarity when I thought, "I would rather be alone, in my apartment, watching movies with my cat, then here right now."  That weekend was filled with fighting, yelling and bickering.  At one point, he was in my face, pushing on my shoulders and I just thought, "Hit me, and then I can just walk."  The relationship ended shortly thereafter.

I really had to come to terms with the fact that me, an educated woman, was wishing for abuse.  Wishing for a physical mark to explain, what I couldn't put into words.  I know that as my wings had grown and my desire to fly, stronger, the more he was trying to shut the cage door.  I can't explain his reasons, for that is his story.  I just know my side. I now know the happiness I wasn't feeling was because of the lack of support, encouragement, and friendship.  It was the lack of feeling respected and equal.  It was the terror of committment that he continually and firmly expressed driving me to wonder why I was wasting my time, and why I wasn't worthy of a committment.

Tonight my friend and I discussed "being happy" in regards to our young daughters.  How do you teach them that someone will not be responsible for their happiness, but not being happy is also a sign of a troubled relationship?  Maybe the key is to teach them all the things that happy, and more so, healthy relationships consist of: support, encouragement, respect (of her ideas, her body, her time, her opinion) friendship and laughter.  Maybe it is teaching her what unhealthy relationships feel like: condescending, one-upping, nasty, manipulative, abusive, negative and dramatic.

Happy is a complicated word.  But ultimately a choice.  I think the more I experienced the qualities (support, encouragement, respect) that nurtured me, in that first job, the more I realized what was lacking from him.  I learned that, regarless of what he said, people would and did like me.  I learned that I really liked me and was happy with me... the me that wasn't with him, the me that was watching movies with my cat. Alone.  And I chose to be happy.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Challenges of Unadvised Performance and Investments

In my past life, when I used more of my brain and much bigger words, I was a Critical Care Nurse.  I had responsibilities, used critical thinking and decision making skills and even if someone died on my watch, I got a paycheck.  I was subject to peer reviews, feedback, giant boxes of "Thank You" donuts from families and validation for the work I performed.

Boy has life changed.  I chose almost 10 years ago to stay home with my curtain climbers. This is where I WANT to be and my calling for now.  I do not miss working outside the home, but what I do miss is the feedback that comes with having a "real job."  

They do not send along manuals with those sweet smelling creatures we bring home from the hospital.   And they stay sweet smelling for approximately 9 minutes, from my experience.  Parenting does not come with many "Standards of Care" that most professions possess.  Short of "Keep them alive, don't let them play on the highway or with knives, lay them on their backs and don't put plastic bags in their cribs" the directions available to take in your parenting styles are as numerous as Kardashian faults.

A friend and I recently sat discussing parenting dilemmas we are experiencing with our 9 year olds, for over an hour.  Eventually I said, "You know, I would bet my mother rarely wasted hours on end worrying about her parenting!" If she had a friend "to visit" over coffee, we were outside playing.  I would imagine as long as no one was breaking bones or windows, parenting was successful.  I know I am probably oversimplifying the parenting generation of the 60's and 70's, but I think for the most part, most parents were on the same page.  Their world did not revolve around ours, the kids'.  It was not a child-centered world.  We were spanked, we ate lead paint, and we were to be seen and not heard.  We had a couple racks at K-Mart or Sears to pick from for clothes, not entire stores.  We had a couple hours of TV to watch, not dozens of channels.  Our parents had bridge, gossip, Communists and Soap Operas to discuss, not which method of positive reinforcement to use, which apps to allow on smartphones, and how to control a Minecraft addiction.

Now we are bombarded with "Styles" of parenting. Do I want to be a Helicopter Parent? A Free Range Child Parent? Use Dr. Spock? A granola-crunchy, no dye, gluten, casein, high-fructose corn syrup or taste parent? Do I want to never lie to my child? (Tell me how that works with Santa and the Tooth Fairy....) Do I let them cry themselves to sleep or CoSleep? Do I want to spare the rod and spoil the child? Should I make sure I control them and show them I'm boss? Should I never say no, because it may damage their soul forever? The styles go on and on and on.  I don't think our parents realize the assault of opinions regarding Parenting we are under.  And this doesn't include the competition of Parenting that can exist either. (Thanks a lot Pinterest.)  I know what I want the end product of my childrens' upbringing to be, but there is no clear navigational beacons to get to that point.  I want to give them pieces of what I had growing up, blended with pieces I wished I would have had.  But the reality is many times I feel like I'm floating in a boat on an ocean of parenting buzz words, wondering if today is the day that will be extracted from my kids' subconscious minds after a mere 2 years in therapy when they are in their 30's.  

We are so quick to brag up our kids. Their grades, their looks, their successes and wins.  We crave the feedback and accolades.  However rarely do we post on Facebook: "My daughter said I was the worst mom EVER!" or "My son said he hates me, and I ended up in a puddle of snot and tears in my bedroom." But we should. We need to.  However with honesty come vulnerability.  

Parenting doesn't come with Peer Reviews, but that is, hands-down, what I miss most about my "real job."  I wish I could get a quarterly review from my peers that says something like, "Great job on keeping the processed food-stuff to a minimum, but you could work on your shouting.  We find your chore chart highly effective, but you need to monitor your tendency to cave to their relentless begging."


Too often, the only feedback we get, here in the trenches, is not glowing.  It is the stink-eye from the woman in the grocery store when there is a meltdown over the wrong Lunchable available.  It is the 30-something single man in front of you in the airplane groaning because your 3 year old has discovered the tray table.  It is the well-meaning advice from loved ones that you appreciate, but wished it was served with any heaping side of accolade.  

There exists no skills checklist in Parenting, and many days I don't know how the hell I am doing.  Somedays I feel like a rock-star, and many I feel like I just suck at it.  A close friend who is a few years ahead of me in the trenches assures me this means I am doing it well. I don't know, but she has paid a lot of money and done a lot of years of schooling to be a councelor, so maybe I will trust her.  

When I am floundering in a sea of self-doubt in my parenting, it is my Mom I miss the most. She stayed home for years with us, and let us all live.  I just wish on those days when I want to hide under my bed because my daughter is on her third meltdown by 9:30am over breakfast choices, the dog has eaten the pile of poop left in the yard by my 3 year old, I can't sufficiently explain WHY, to his liking, my 9 year old can NOT play 6 hours of video games, the 3 year old has locked the keys in the car, and my daughter has yet to let me comb her hair in 4 days, she was still here.  She could say something. Anything.  She would get it.  

THIS is my life.  The Skull & crosswrenches seem so appropriate.

The reality is, being a Mom is who I am now. It is most of my identity. I am not a teacher and a Mom, or a Physician and a mom, or an exotic dancer and a mom. I am a Mom, with some hobbies.  And that is probably why I fret and worry and stress about how I am doing.   I don't have a lot to fall back on... 

"My children grew up to be a serial killer, a professional Hobo and a Cougar's boytoy, BUT I cured cancer, and created an app to remind Mothers to put on pants, so all is good." 

Nope, that isn't going to happen.  My current work is with investments that are long term. As with any investments there exists a risk of it all crashing down, and market analysis of the last 9+ years shows steady growth with some hills and valleys.  And definately a lot of Bear and Bull activity...  I am staking everything on these 3 investments, and I know that they and more so, their characters, are going to be the legacy on which I will hang my pride... hopefully.  

I sure hope so!!! Kids=ulcers

Monday, June 2, 2014


The child who wakes up covered in puke is exactly the child whose entire bedding set got washed the day before.

The day that your husband has put extensive effort into getting dinner reservations and babysitting lined up BY HIMSELF will be the day that a pregnant woman will come in for her appointment, in preterm labor.  And the night will then consist of corndogs and Blues Clues with a 3 year old.

The one day in a million that you all are ready for church with ample time to spare will be the morning that the youngest steps in a pile of dog shit, and gets into the car, and climbs all over the drivers seat ...before anyone notices.

The one full can of paint that you forgot to tightly seal will be the can that is tipped over by the three year old... on the newly laid kitchen floor.

The kitchen chairs you painstakenly strip and stain will be the exact item your son decides to use as a teething toy.

The rescue dog that you adopt and treat to a day at the puppy spa will be the dog that rolls in cow shit the very next day.

The 30 year old  collectible John Deere tractors (still in the box) are exactly the toys a three year old will stack a chair on top of a table to retrieve and remove from their boxes.

When your nephew asks  "Do we need to take this along?" regarding the bucket filled with tire jacks and tire changing tools, and you reply "Nope!" will be the exact bucket you need when the trailer blows a tire less than 15 miles from your house... in sleeting rain and 40mph winds.

The wallpaper you decide to paint over, for fear of finding paneling underneath it, will be the exact wallpaper your toddler decides to pick at and peel off chunks... in several spots.

We call this style Modern Toddlerism with a hint of Destruction

When on a nature walk with your toddler, the one thing laying on the ground, a dessicated racoon poop, will be the one thing he mistakes for a cheetoh... and eats.

The only household chore that will be copied with zealousness by a toddler will be cleaning the toilet, and walls, and floor... with the toilet brush.

The night you decide to stay up way too late gluttonously watching a Hoarders marathon (in an attempt to feel better about your own house) will be the night before your children will wake up a two hours earlier than normal.

The day you forget to put away your inhaler is the day the 3 year old decides to freshen the bathroom with an "albuterol air freshener."

If you are born a night owl, you will marry a morning dove, and birth only morning doves.

If you wait for 10 years to buy your first home together, the zipcode in which you wish to purchase said house will be declared a Natural Disaster Area due to flooding. Mortgage companies don't particularily like Natural Disaster Areas.

And finally, the expensive vet-prescribed dog food you buy is refused by the same dog that prefers to eat cat poop and dead deer carcasses.

I is smart.