Monday, February 2, 2015
I am so tired of the "mommy wars" topic I could scream. Maybe because my oldest is 9 years old and I have been hearing this stuff for so long, maybe because I am a lactation consultant so I deal directly with one of the hot topics on a daily basis, maybe because I think it misses the ENTIRE point. Maybe because commercials like this make it look like women are sitting around talking smack about each other ALL DAY LONG- (not true, it is hard to scrounge up the energy to talk smack when you are caring for little people and sleep deprived.)
The ENTIRE issue is that being a parent is one of our most IMPORTANT jobs we could ever have and there are NO guarantees that we are going to do it right and get the perfect kid. Add this to the modern world where we have so many other responsibilities and the lack of a village to support us, and no wonder we are overwhelmed and can cling to a certain way of being.
I LOVE what Brene Brown says on this topic: "Our need for certainty in an endeavor as uncertain as raising children makes explicit "how-to-parent" strategies both seductive and dangerous. I say "dangerous" because certainty often breeds absolutes, intolerance, and judgment. That's why parents are so critical of one another --we latch on to a method or approach and very quickly our way becomes the way. When we obsess over our parenting choices to the extent that most of us do, and then see someone else making different choices, we often perceive that difference as direct criticism of how we are parenting." Did you hear that?? We think that when someone makes a different choice then we do that they are criticizing us- they are NOT, they are making the best choice for THEIR family in THEIR situation!!
I have been around many many mothers in my life and we do not sit around telling each other we are better than the other moms, mostly we sit around trying to figure out how to survive. We all deal with things that are hard for us. I always say that motherhood is about pushing you to your limits, and then making you go even farther. Everyone feels shamed at some point. Breastfeeding mothers feel nervous and judged trying to feed their babies in public, formula feeding mothers feel judged when they feed their babies with a bottle. Working moms feel guilty when they go to work, stay at home moms feel that they "only stay at home with their kids". WE are ALL feeling judged and uncertain ALL the time and yet no one is really judging us besides ourselves.
The issue is NOT what we feel judged for, the issue is that we feel judged at all. I have some news for everyone. All people are thinking about themselves 95% of the time. No one is judging anyone for longer than a split second because we are all so self absorbed and have better things to do with our time. There are some exceptions to this of course, I am certainly not always perfect, but I try very hard to remember the saying- Until you have walked a mile in someone elses shoes...
I truly believe that all moms GET each other. Can we please just all recognize that we are doing the best we can and PLEASE put this mommy wars stuff to rest!!
Lots of Love,
Friday, January 30, 2015
This morning Reid and I bravely walked into the school bright and early to face the music. We sat down with the teacher who went over what the story was and why she chose to handle the situation the way she did. In a way, I felt better, because she wasn't telling me I had an immoral kid, just that this type of situation will not be tolerated and he needs to learn that now. He didn't say anything as terrible as what I imagined. At 9 years old, he can't possibly understand the subtleties of social correctness or the potential ramifications of his actions but choices were made and consequences are now upon us.
I am hopeful Reid heard what we said and we won't have to address this with him again. He appeared as though he got the message. I trust that he has a beautiful heart- I see it when he plays with his sister. We all do things mindlessly that we come to regret later, so I hope he is able to forgive himself for this.
I have been triggered by this event. I have been in an emotionally sad and hopeless feeing mood all day. I have done my best to sit with this feeling knowing it won't last and also trying to find the wisdom in the situation. Anytime, I feel this way it is demonstrating the areas in which I need to grow.
At some point today, I noticed a hawk sitting on our fence. I took a picture with my phone from inside and it seemed to sense my presence and turned it's head 180 degrees to look at me. I was reminded of Elizabeth Gilbert telling Oprah about her tradition of going on a hike on New Years Day and whatever animal she came upon first was her spirit animal for the year. I decided to look up the hawk as a spirit animal and read this: "The Hawk comes to you indicating that you are now awakening to your soul purpose, your reason for being here. It can teach you how to fly high while keeping yourself connected to the ground. The message for you is to be open to hope and new ideas, to extend the vision of your life."
It felt fitting to see the hawk and read this today of all days. I am learning how to fly high and see with perspective the events of my life. I feel blessed today that I got this visit and reminder. Thank you God.
Thursday, January 29, 2015
For a rule follower who NEVER got into trouble (in school), this is quite traumatic. First you feel tingly, blind-sided shock all over your body. Then as you begin to absorb the situation, you e-mail the teacher back and say "yes- do what you need to do". You tell your child he will not be going to soccer practice today, and please go to your room because I am still in too much shock to know what to do. They do not give you instructions for this in "the manual".
Slowly, you go through the thoughts like, "what will my friends think of me", "what does the teacher think of me?", "should I have NOT given him the sex talk 2 days ago?", "this is why I should homeschool", "what if my child is a sociopath serial killer?"- (ps- this is akin to KNOWING you have cancer when you have any ailment, anytime a child does ANYTHING wrong, you are sure they will become a serial killer!)
You talk to your child who assures you in between sobs/yells/screams that this situation IS NOT as bad as you think it is. You plead with him to tell you the truth as you will be meeting with the teacher and will find out if he is omitting any details. He assures you he is indeed telling you the truth. You assure him you are on his side and release him from his room after clarifying that there are only 4 things he is allowed to talk about in school : school work, soccer, computers, and mine craft.
Meanwhile, the idea of who you pictured your ideal child to be- you know, the idea you concocted while holding this precious little one first in your womb, then in your arms, slowly gives way to the realization that you are the parent to an imperfect HUMAN who makes mistakes just like you do/did. That this journey of parenting is just as much about you and your fear of conflict, imperfection, and judgement as it is about him and your desire for what is "best for him".
When you discuss this with your husband he is baffled by your reaction to the situation. He says very rational things like "Kids get in trouble all the time", "It is a learning opportunity", and "Hopefully, he makes these mistakes before the costs are too high".He is not too concerned by it, we will just speak to the teacher and go by what she and the dean say.
As you stand down the barrel of a parent/teacher conference tomorrow morning, unsure if you can even get through it without crying, you reflect on all of this, mostly about your reaction to the situation (because that is all you have control over), but also because you feel like you are "in trouble" too and as a rule follower the shame of this is the most uncomfortable feeling in the world and has NOTHING to do with your child and everything to do with you.
Friday, January 16, 2015
I have been reading her stuff off and on for the past few years but when I really knew I loved this woman was when I read this article by her: Love Letter to Indigo Girls. I too share an (unhealthy at times) love for the Indigo Girls and they are on their own little planet of music so it is rare I find people who also "get" them. I won't tell you how much credit card debt I racked up in college following them around up and down the east coast, or how many of their songs I learned to play on the guitar, or how I know every word to every song they have written. I have probably seen them over 40 times in concert. They are my church...
But back to Glennon. This article- Perspectacles, was the second time I really fell in love with her. I mean- running water is SUCH a miracle- please read it if you haven't already.
I was so excited to hear she was coming and the tickets sold out before I could get one, so I was super grateful my friend Lisa's friend had some extras. Glennon did not disappoint. She walked right out on stage in this church, immediately took her shoes off and sat criss cross applesauce in the chair. She proceeded to answer questions about her life and her faith while we all watched with rapt attention. I wish I had a recording because I would love to hear it again. I did take some notes on a few things that I loved and wanted to share them here. Of course, I will not be able to get anywhere near recreating her wit. If you ever get a chance to hear her speak- do so!!
The thing that Glennon is known for is her brutal honesty and openness about her past and present. I TOTALLY related to her as she spoke about being an introvert and how she has an inability to make small-talk therefore going WAY deeper in conversations with people who weren't ready for that! Most people are too scared to open up about their issues that make them imperfect, but as Glennon pointed out, by keeping quiet and staying on the surface level of small talk, we go around feeling like we are different and therefore we go around feeling lonely. Deep down where all the joy/shame/anger reside, we are ALL the same. Pain is universal. She even said the first second she starts to feel shame about something, she goes straight to the computer to write about it, it needs to be in the light because only in the light do the "gremlins" disappear. She also said that when she shares her shame, people ALWAYS connect with her with lots of "Me too's". She went on to say that we should all be brave enough to tell the truth about ourselves, but always have the kindness to refrain from telling the truth about someone else. In other words, my work on this earth is on myself, NO ONE else. I don't have the right to tell people about themselves, my job is to be a mirror for others. (not sure if this applies to my kids or not;)
Glennon talked about how she always felt called to write, but how she didn't for a long time because she liked watching TV too much. Once she did actually start writing, she would get up in the morning every day because she said she "knows all the things" in the morning before she gets all the messages from the world. She talked about her cloffice which is where she does her writing (her closet which has a desk in it). I loved what she said about following her dreams as she described writing right next to her husbands underwear, she said "Following our dreams is always boring, unsexy, and hard." I loved this because I always thought following my dreams would be energizing, fun, exciting, and mind-blowing. Not the case... It is a good reminder to find the thing you really are called to do because you are going to need to stick it out even during the boring, unsexy, hard times.
Because this was a presentation put on by a church, a lot of the discussion centered on faith. Glennon called herself a progressive Christian and a Jesus Freak. She spoke a lot about her understanding of God and her relationship to a loving God. She said she is an atheist to the God who is vengeful and discriminatory. She spoke a lot about how since she feels she is forgiven, she therefore knows everyone else is forgiven and she doesn't have to be judgey, just love everyone as they are. She spoke on her doubts as well and how some days she isn't even sure if all this God stuff is true. Whats she said she knows for sure though is that NO human can know everything about God. And so those people who think they know everything about God, are NOT the ones she wants to be hanging out with and yet she tells a story about how she has been called to love these people as well.
Her overarching message though was the one that is also tatooed on her wrist. "Be still". Sit in your pain for just a bit longer before reacting. If we all accepted, embraced, and shared our pain, it could dissolve and the world could become a more peaceful place.
There was not one thing I heard last night that I didn't wholeheartedly agree with. Seriously, this woman is making earth a better place. I aspire to be more like her.
Thursday, January 15, 2015
I have been feeling kind of bored lately. I am a project starter- really good about starting projects with more zeal and enthusiasm than most people can handle. I dive into things, learn everything I possibly can about it, then eventually OD on the particular object of my attention and move onto another. Right now, I am in the middle of my debt free project, and I can't do more than I am doing other than keep working extra when I can and be patient. Other than that, my job at the hospital is rewarding, I get to be home with my kids during the week, my marriage is pretty amazing, my family is close by and supportive, our finances are on the right track, I am exercising regularly (thanks again to Erin;), and eating pretty well. On paper, I should just sit here and glow in the perfection that is my life right now. And yet, a recurrent emotion is boredom. This is maybe the first time in my adult life that I haven't had an active project such as planning my career, having a new baby, getting pregnant with a new baby, planning for the birth I want, creating my own business, figuring out how to manage my anxiety, starting another new business, figuring out my spiritual beliefs, starting another new business, starting a new exercise program etc. (my husband LOVES this trait in me;).
Currently, I am in maintenance mode and in a holding pattern. Life goes by everyday with bits of joy, bits of frustration, small wins, small losses and I sit here trying to feel contentment and yet not wanting to get complacent, because I also have the tendency to be lazy and sit on the computer all day wasting away the hours while the house gets messy only then to have a panic attack later that same evening when it is not spotless!! But regardless, there are many moments of contentment and just as many moments of feeling like there is more I should be doing. At the same time I realize THIS IS IT!! Life is now, if it were to change tomorrow God Forbid, I would look back on the relative monotony and sameness of each day with fondness. Brene Brown talks about how parents who have lost children long for the normal times when their kids are slamming doors and screeching at each other. I can totally see this.
I came to the conclusion today that sometimes your spiritual work is done in crisis and craziness- I have been there (see previous blog post). But perhaps in the boredom there is more spiritual work to do. I think I am in a place where I need to lock in some good patterns (Steven Furtick's phrase). I need to lock in exercise, lock in patience, lock in contentment, lock in prioritizing quality time with my family, lock in eating healthy, lock in gratitude, and lock in spending our money wisely. It is time for me to set the patterns that will allow me to succeed when my next project comes to me. This is also a time to find the things that are not working in my life and alter them. Little negative grumblings like complaining, making excuses, and judging myself and others can be replaced with better thoughts or habits such as action, generosity, forgiveness, gratitude, and loving kindness. There are other things I also need to release and work through like my tendency to censor myself for worry of what people will think about me and my INTENSE fear of conflict.
It is also a time for me to reflect on my life and what I want to do with it. A time to think about how I want to stretch myself and face my fears. For instance, I came to the conclusion this week that I need to go on a medical mission trip one of these days, that would get me RIGHT outside of my comfort zone which is a good place to grow.
Perhaps these down times in life are there to allow us to get good at leaning into the present moment and to get good at the life skills that will serve us when the shit hits the fan. I do know for sure that trouble will find all of us eventually, but the better prepared we are, the less it can completely unseat us. For now, it is my intention to continue to find joy in everyday, be aware of abundance, and enjoy more of the same:)
Thursday, January 1, 2015
I am where I want to be in about 99% of my life. I am very much a goal oriented person which means that instead of focusing on the 99% of my life where I am content, I focus on the 1% where I would like to see change. I thrive when I am working towards a goal, and I think this has been a great benefit to my life- I am very driven and I get what I want 99.9% of the time if I work hard enough. There have been some instances in the last few years though that have highlighted the danger of this way of being. If you really want to check yourself on this, go into sales for a bit.
Being goal oriented means that you are busting your butt to the best of your ability to make something happen. Unfortunately, the timing of when the thing will happen is never in my control- and sometimes when my lack of control in timing becomes highlighted, it can break me down.
The most recent illustration of my lack of control is with our financial situation. We have been chipping away at our debt. We incurred a larger than average amount of credit card debt during the great recession, and when you couple that with our lingering student loans (that is good debt right?), car payments, mortgage and HELOC it is down-right frightening. Hey- we are living the American Dream;). The credit card debt accrual was very gradual and mostly due to a decrease in Erik's income during the recession. We needed stuff, or kids needed to play soccer, sign up for boy scouts, etc. we would just put it on a credit card and deal with it later- unfortunately the "later" was not coming. It all happened in steps and was gradual and in the mean time nothing was changing in our lifestyle (which by the way is not extravagant- we lived with one shower in our house for years!!). I do look back and think my ignorance was a blessing because I think if I had been aware of our financial situation back then, I would have been TERRIFIED!!
January of last year, I realized we needed to get back on track. We made an attempt to pay off our debt before and had paid Erik's car off before having Anna, but having her (which was NOT the best financial plan but certainly the best LIFE plan), put our financial aspirations on hold. We did manage to avoid going further into debt during that time, but we didn't get rid of much of it. January 2014 came and we went hard core first paying off a small credit card, then paying off our van and now focusing on our larger credit card. We paid a total of [$XXXXX- ask me if you want the real number- I am happy to share if you are on your own debt free journey] toward our debt in 2014!!! I find it INSANE that we make enough money to pay that much toward debt, that we have that much debt, and that this amount is a large proportion of my salary!
In 2015 after we pay off the large credit card we have 2 student loans and our new car to pay off. Then on to our emergency fund. If you are curious what we are doing, we are following the Total Money Makeover by Dave Ramsey. By the way, we are not even talking about our house in this equation- it is currently underwater and a lost cause for now- we are just making our regular mortgage and HELOC payments.
We have been aided in our quest to become debt free by the grace of God, Erik got a new job with CSX in 2013 which greatly assisted us from an income stance. In January of last year, I also decided to start picking up some extra nursing shifts at night to add to our income.
The problem with deciding to throw all your extra income and your energy into your debt is that life continues to happen in between. During 2014, our paid off car (Erik's 2006 VW Jetta) started to give us trouble. First it was a transmission issue totalling over $2700, followed by 4 other issues in the next 5 months.We paid almost $4200 all together in car repairs from March to August. Now, this was just getting silly. Here I am working extra NIGHT SHIFTS- becoming exhausted and missing nights with my family, all to end up putting that money into car repairs for the car that is supposed to NOT have car payments. The final straw was the morning the car broke before I needed to go to work. We were all officially over it. We ended up going against Dave's recommendation and getting a loan for a new Honda Civic. Let me tell you, it is normally a fun and joy filled event to buy a new car. Not this time- a car payment is the LAST thing to help you on your journey to becoming debt free. We did lots of research and attempted to look for used cars, but in the end a new car was the best deal and felt the most reliable. We also got a great interest rate. Still, I was a bit depressed. The kicker was also that this happened the SAME month we paid off my van. Grrr...
We also decided to enroll Anna in school so I could work more shifts and not inconvenience my family, so this added a monthly expense.
In October, my father in law passed away. We felt strongly that we should take the boys to Kansas for the funeral, but this was also a large and unexpected expense. We are so very grateful that we were able to be there and have that special and yet sad time with our family.
And then, Christmas- not unexpected, but still a joyful and EXPENSIVE time.
So back to my main point. Being goal oriented requires a certain degree of inflexibility, but being inflexible causes you to forget how far you have come and only focus on how far you have yet to go. I spent a lot of time ignoring how much we have accomplished and focusing on what I was unable to accomplish and allowing it to ruin my mood.
So what did we accomplish in 2014? As mentioned before we paid over [$XXX, I am happy to share if you are on your own debt-free journey] towards the debt we have which included 2 accounts. We managed to pay over $4000 in car repairs in cash, and paid for an unexpected flight/trip, while not accruing anymore credit card debt. Plus Christmas for the second year in a row will be paid for in cash. This is not to mention the kids activities we were able to provide for them, healthy (most of the time) food, clean water, air conditioned air, heat in the winter, shelter, some fun trips with family, a safe home, safe vehicles, family time together, new friendships, and just a really blessed life. My perspectacles are on and I am so grateful for what we have been able to accomplish in 2014.
I am so excited for 2015 when we can chip away even more!! In the mean time though, my intention for the year is to focus on gratitude and relationships with my friends and family. I intend to focus on being flexible with life, and not having a temper tantrum when what I want doesn't happen and my goals are not met in the manner in which I have deemed appropriate. God has always provided for us and it hasn't always been in the way I would have chosen. So I guess this year, instead of listing all of the things I want to happen, I will be quiet and follow my heart doing what is mine to do, I will resist the urge to trust in my own power, but trust that what is meant for me will come in the right time as it always does. Amen:)
Friday, October 10, 2014
(this was our "no kids" look)
Erik and I returned this week from the trip of a lifetime in Paso Robles, California. We were childless thanks to the amazing support of our family. We went for one of my Best Friend's wedding so we were also with all of my other best friends as well.
This trip was wrought with anticipation and anxiety (from me only, not Erik). Having not ever having left our children for this long before and flying across the country made me feel nervous to be separated from them. I was also worried about what would happen if Erik and I both died (we are so rarely together alone that this doesn't come up much). Anyway, I am a bit type A and a planner so in my head I had to have all of this worked out.
The trip was AMAZING, perfect company, perfect location, perfect events, just wonderful- oh and we didn't die!!. I truly enjoyed myself and had FUN. I tend to be a content and peaceful person, but all-out happiness and fun is something that tends to feel elusive to me (I am working on it;) Being a parent is rewarding, enlightening, and occasionally enjoyable, but there is always the undercurrent of anxiety about the heaviness of raising humans that zaps the fun and happiness out of my day to day life. To have a chance to let loose and know that my children were well taken care of and not my responsibility for 5 days was just such a release.
I am not a drinker, it often ends badly for me so I have just abstained for most of my adult life for fear of regret. On this trip I drank wine (and lots of it- I mean we were in California- it is a rule!). Not enough to feel miserable, but enough for me to RELAX, actually the fact that I drank wine is because I relaxed, (relaxing is not something I am normally very good at). I enjoyed peoples company, I laughed until I peed (thanks 3 kids;). In essence, I felt care free. Not drinking, for me, has been about fear of losing control I guess. So I actually feel that it is part of my evolution as a relaxed person to have some drinks here and there!!
As we returned home and back to our "real lives", I am struck by how hard I make everything at home. I don't have to be so serious. I can relax at home. I don't have to make myself busy. I don't have to live from my fears. I will admit, I am keeping track of ebola, but really there are a bazillion other things to be scared of as well- your brain with the aid of the news, just decides which thing it will focus in on today. All you have to do is look back in time and realize- now it is global warming, but in the 80's it was acid rain. Now it is Ebola, but 3 years ago it was H1N1. Now it is the fear of pesticides in our food, but in the 20's it was not having enough food. Now it is ISIS but in the 80s it was Russia. Fears are replaceable, it is my mind that chooses to latch on to a particular fear and clutch to it with all it's might with the thought that somehow being fearful can allow me to maintain some control over my circumstances. Fear is NOT true!!! And guess what? Control is an illusion!!
I have a crazy statement to make- I AM GOING TO DIE!! Hopefully, not today, but one day it will happen. It is unlikely that I will look back when I am on my death bed and think- "gosh, it is so awesome that I was so careful and fearful about so much stuff and never let anything bad happen to myself". No, my life review will be highlighting the moments that I looked into Erik's eyes for support during my labor with Anna, the times my daughter snuggled up in my arms, the time that Ryan told me I was beautiful, when Reid gave me that rare spontaneous hug. Like Dori in Finding Nemo expressed "Well, you can't never let anything happen to him, then nothing would ever happen to him." The same could be said about ourselves and how we parent our children. I hope I don't have any regrets, but I can assure you any regrets I have will be for the things I missed out on because of fear.
I believe we are placed on this earth to let our light shine. We need to notice our fears as they arise but then also let them know that we are not going to cater to them. We need to see our fears for what they are- a reflection of the fear of the child we used to be. We need to give ourselves a hug and say all is well. Tell your fear- "I got this". Fear is not adding value to our life. We have a limited number of days on this earth, what a gift to ourselves (and really the entire world) to live each one in a state of openness and peace:) What a gift to be present in your everyday life instead of waiting to find happiness when...
I pray for the strength and courage to live without fear, and that by doing this, my children can learn this lesson too. And so it is. Now we can all go sing Kumbaya:)