Friday, May 12, 2017

Teenage Angst

We watched just finished watching the Netflix Original 13 Reasons Why. As a parent and an educator the show left many troubling thoughts in my mind. The show really hit on the drama of adolescents that sometimes I think we as adults overlook as kids just being kids. I'm not just talking about the bullying either. I'm talking about the mean girls, the pressure of sex and relationships, the cocky jocks that think they can get away with anything including drunk date rape, the drinking and smoking marijuana, the identity crisis of adolescents, the sometimes sexual identity crisis.

I've worked with teenagers for over a decade. I tell every group of kids their adolescent high school years are their toughest years until they reach parenthood. I had an easy adolescent experience, so I can only imagine how much harder it is for some experiencing family issues, poverty, some kind of loss, or a host of other struggles that many of us probably know very little about. The struggles- the kids at highest risk for making poor choices or facing an internal battle that could put them on the brink of suicide- are not something that just befalls a particular "kind of student" either, and we need to let go of that stigma of thinking adolescent crisis like mental health, suicide, eating disorders, bullying, unprotected sex, and drinking and drugs is something our kids are immune to. They are all at risk. We can helicopter parent all we want but the truth is we can't fight all their battles for them or even really know what all their battles are.

Too often I think we like to think our own families or kids are immune  to certain struggles, but I cannot tell you enough how much I have seen the kid that seems to have it all together with talent, great grades, positive friend circle, and yes even a great family succumb to the inner struggles of teenage angst. Don't overlook and discount their concerns, their moods, and definitely not their voice when they do decide to speak up.

As parents and a teacher I think one of the hardest parts is to recognize when they're angry and defensive but really they're crying out for help and someone to listen. As a teacher we are taught to try our best to look below their behaviors to try to understand their triggers and real struggle. Behavior is often an outcry to inner pain, but as a parent and teacher trust me I know how easy it is to see their outcry as just being a difficult phase or "typical" defiant childish behavior.

As a writer myself and an English teacher I like to get my kids to write. I would love to give kids more opportunity to write about them in the classroom rather than about literary analysis and a speaker's use of rhetoric because I fully believe in the power of people, particularly kids, using writing as a therapy to manage the tougher moments of life. I'll share this one story but really in thirteen years of doing this there are many more. My second year of teaching I had this class clown in my class of seniors. He drove me crazy with his constant disruption and crazy search for attention. One day I had them do this personal writing and then I understood. He had this older sister that was an all star athlete, great student, going off to a great college and though he himself was popular and an athlete he felt inadequate next to her. If he couldn't measure up to that pressure to be as much like her as possible he sought negative attention since he couldn't steal away her positive attention. I've also worked with so many girls that again were highly successful in the classroom and on the athletic field but the pressure to succeed was so overwhelming they found themselves in crisis situations with mental health issues, eating disorders, and even contemplating suicide.

Here's what I have seen after thirteen years of working with adolescents too. There is plenty of peer pressure with fitting in, but I think we also forget the pressure adolescents feel to succeed and excel and hold up this perfect image which is partially I believe a result of the social media world they now live in. Sometimes as parents and educators we feed that pressure which I think is okay in healthy doses but I've also seen the damage of unhealthy doses- something I know myself as a parent will really have to work on .

As an educator and a parent it's hard to imagine being in either shoes after someone you know and/or love commits suicide. I don't feel that either is at fault in the show.  It's just a painful tragic situation all around. But I think as parents, as educators, and as friends we all need to look for others' silent pain and not be dismissive of their teenage struggles and pain. We may never know when our kind word or our positive attention could be what saves someone else's life. So as always it's better to spread kindness and love than hate and rejection.




Maybe I should start writing TV Show Reviews. Here's my one from This Is Us
 

Thursday, May 11, 2017

The Parent Business of Preparing a Will

While I was home a few weeks ago my sister was updating her beneficiary information on all her accounts now that they have a child. I remember shortly after we had our first daughter how we rushed about finding a life insurance policy and signed off on it all by the time she was probably two months old. First kid, you know, where we were gung ho about doing everything right, even if we're dead. Even though we had been married for about two years I think that was about the time we went back to our retirement accounts and changed our beneficiaries to each other and added our daughter in case God forbid something were to happen to both of us at the same time.

That was eight years ago. We haven't looked at or really put forth much effort to follow up on what would happen if something happened to us. It's not really what you want to discuss on date night or even those rare moments in bed ALONE together. Discussing it at the dinner table while the kids eat just seems like it would ruin their fond childhood memories of "family dinner" for the rest of their childhood.

However, between my sister putting her affairs in order for her newborn son and our upcoming trip alone without our kids, we managed to address the issue that we really should have wills and updated beneficiary information with who is custodian of the kids and their funds if something were to happen to us. I think it's one of those things you'd prefer to avoid for as long as possible. The weird thing it's not even the thought of "oh my God, I don't want to die!" but more you hate the thought of your kids growing without you, even more the thought of both of you where their whole way of life as they've known it would be so completely changed. I think we managed most of our discussion through an actual email. It's Pens Playoff Season so if I approach any topic that is not hockey right now I won't have to worry about my last testament because talking during an intense hockey game will be it!

However the email discussion ended something like this, "I'll agree to that should we kill each other...I mean go down in a fiery crash over California, I mean crash into the ocean and get stranded on a deserted island and I have to eat you to survive....  But ya hopefully we live to a ripe old age...  I don't feel like going to sleep forever yet... got shit to do!" So when approaching the discussion of your afterlife plans should you both perish at the same time make sure it's not during a time that will end your life sooner than expected and have a sense of humor while tackling the discussion and task!

Unfortunately, on a serious note though, I've seen too many people around my age pass unexpectedly including a coworker's dear friend from the flu this past year. So this past week we did the adult thing and updated our life insurance and retirement beneficiaries to now include all of our children with a custodian guardian if something were to happen to both of us at the same time. I get now why parents say they're worth more dead than alive.  Then we each drew up a Last Will and Testament at this great site called the Legal Depot. It was easy and super user friendly. If you don't have one yet or a lawyer friend it's a great way to draft one. It says we only need a witness signature but will probably have it notarized when we go have our beneficiary papers notarized.

I then told my husband and my mom that God forbid if something were to happen I now have all of our important papers in what I called the Dead Folder. Preparing your last testament and desires were something to happen to you is not one of those most pleasant adult experiences, but with three little kids we were probably way overdue to take care of having it all updated and current to our wishes.

Do you have a Will that states your desires should something happen to you? Are your beneficiaries up to date? Does someone know where to go to access your funds for your children should something happen to you?


 
 
If you missed the past happier blog posts
 
 
 


 

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

This Blog and Me: Hobby or Work

My blogiversary is today. Five years ago this week I hit publish for my fist "public" writing. Those first few posts generated a whole whooping 30 average page views for the first year or so. My mom, whose creative outlet hobby was sewing, had told me for years I needed a hobby to put some of my time into. I think she knew without trying to be pushy that I needed something that was my own at a time when it's so easy to lose yourself in those early days of motherhood.

I wrote because it felt really good to write again. It had been fifteen years at that point since I had wrote on a regular basis. Within a year I decided to try something I always wanted to do- get something I wrote published so I started sending short pieces off to publications. Editor Lisa Shea of Bella Online gave me from first opportunity with my Bettis and Us Story and The Lost Crooked Christmas Tree published in their literary magazine and to write some articles for their adolescent page on their website.  From there I wrote a biweekly column for a new site called Mommy Hotspot that unfortunately after about six months ended up closing down.  As I was coming up on  my second year I had a handful of things published with these two sites and editors. Unpaid things though. Writing is kind of like the starving artists gig. Not that I was doing this for money, but now that I had reached my goal of getting published it seemed to really be considered published I needed to have some paid published work. So two years after I started writing,  2014 would be the first year I actually made money from my writing. I got an email from the Chicken Soup for the Soul editor to publish a story in their upcoming book about motherhood. I also completed my first book project- which was just a collection of my best blog posts from the first two years- to sell on here. I also generated two payments for running ads on my site and was compensated with free products for product reviews.

But here's what always happens. I get great momento going and then I get busy with life and my real job so my hobby here gets put to the side for a while. This is a business I've learned where you have to have consistency and constant engagement or your readers move on. For a year or so I was really active in the mom blog community and made some virtual friends that I'm actually still connected with, but just as I drifted away from the community some of them drifted away from blogging altogether. I've also been active in different writing groups, but again networking consistently with people is big in gaining and keeping readers. All of that takes A LOT of time on top of the writing. That part is the work, and so I keep coming to this point where I tell myself I do this because it's a hobby I love- not because it's work.

So in 2015 I slowly drifted away from those networking groups. I quit "searching" the web for readers more a less cause that's kind of what you're doing in those groups. I just wrote on here but didn't really pursue paid publications or any publications really. I didn't look for ideal ads or products to showcase on here in hopes I'd make a little commission. Just as I was finally making money I went two years without making any. In 2015 I only had one thing published which was with Bella Online's literary magazine again with my Roots and Wings story. With 2016 though I decided to start searching for new places to get published. I came across Tribe Magazine, Red Tricycle, and Lose the Cape which all offered the possibility of actually getting paid. I even got a reply from Arianna Huffington about having a piece about America and the election I sent in getting published on the Huffington Post, except unfortunately as I learned from others in a writing group I was still somewhat active in, they had horrible follow ups to their emails so even though I agreed to let them publish it the official editor never followed back up. Though two of my pieces with Red Tricycle were one of the top three posts for the week on their social media page I have yet to reach their 50,000 page view requirement to actually get paid. So even though all three have published my work I made very little from them.

However, the editor of Chicken Soup-which is the highest paying publication I've found by far anyway- accepted a second piece of mine at the end of 2016 for their Jan 2017 Curvy and Confident book so here I am in 2017 and for the second year of the five actually making money off my writing.

Out of curiousity I created myself an expense/income report and here's what I've found in regards to making money with my writing. After five years I have written almost 500 posts/articles/essays and with the income I've made I'm averaging around $2 a post. LOL. Obviously the majority of those generated $0 but you write about 25 hoping one will get published and out of about every four that do you hope one of those actually pays. My income has come from the following things: paid publications, book sales, running ads on the site, and writing product reviews. I've made over $350 from book sales and have about 30 books for another $150 of profits I'm hoping to sell in two upcoming vendor sale events in May and June so book sales are my biggest money maker with 120 books currently sold with hopefully over 150 after these coming up events. My second big money maker is over $400 with paid publications. Then comes ads and last product reviews which come in at a little over a $100 and a little less than $100. I'm not getting rich over here by any means! LOL. But it has helped with the traveling budget a little.

I go back and forth on how much "effort" to put into this site/writing hobby of mine. It's not the writing part that I'm unsure about. It's the "work" part of networking in a blog community, writing groups, and searching and pitching articles and essays to publications. To be successful money wise at this I've learned writing is really only half the work. Right now I throw my posts up on twitter and facebook and never network with outside groups, yet those whole 30 whooping page views are now in the triple digits without much "work" on my part. Sometimes I think how if I'd be more active in the blogging and writing groups I could double or triple my views and exposure, but then I remind myself I do this as a hobby, not as work.

But on the other hand I would love to invest in attending a blog conference to learn more about moneytizing my blog or I'd love to take a writing course with Chaunie Brusie - who you may not know but I've bet you've read her stuff if you follow Babble or Huffington Post Parents. God knows I'd love to invest in an editor too. Yes, believe me I know I need one. I always cringe when I read back through these posts and catch the abundance of errors I seem to make during my zillion interruptions or late night postings like now.

For now I'm pretty contend writing on here, writing for Chicken Soup for the Soul, and I'm excited about a second book project I'm working on called Letters to a Daughter where I plan to include pages in between the six chapter topics for moms to write to their daughters about the following topics:

From Your Mother to Your Friend
From First Love to Marriage
From Playing House to Finding You
From _______ to Happiness and Success (ideas for the first part of this title???)
From the Playground to Finding Your Tribe
From Self Doubt to Self Worth


I've seen a lot of bloggers come and go in the five years I've been doing this. Some of the ones I've connected with I miss and for the others I try to continue to learn from them. I don't plan on leaving the blogging world anytime soon. This is my writing sanctuary now just as those spiral notebooks use to be from the days of my childhood.


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Sunday, May 7, 2017

Making Life Cleaner with Essential Oils


I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to try out the craze about essential oils. As someone that has never been a fan of chemicals whether it's in our cleaning products or medicines we put in our bodies, I was definitely willing to try an alternative. Small confession here- since I've had kids and an abundance supply of baby wipes in my house that is pretty much what I have cleaned with when it comes to wiping things down. But this forced me to think about where I do use chemicals in my cleaning and my windows and my floors are where I’m the most guilt of this. My floors are the big chemical danger in my house because my kitchen floor with a baby I feel needs to be mopped constantly. With a clean damp mop I can just spray the thieves cleaner on my floor and mop up all those baby messes that seem to happen on a daily basis lately.

I also got the chance to try out the cleaning power of lemon oil. This time of the year I always attempt "spring cleaning" with scrubbing off all the marks that my three kids have decorated my walls with over the past year. Since I hadn't really tackled that chore yet I put lemon oil to the test of scrubbing off those old crayon and other marks. It did take the crayon off pretty easily. The only thing I found that it didn't really take off was nail polish. How bright red nail polish ended up sprayed all over my hall floor is apparently a true mystery in my house.

I also recently learned I can use my peppermint oil to lay out on cotton balls to keep ants away. With it being spring and summer on the way those pesky little ants sometimes grace us with their presence on our countertops and rather than using those poisonous trap things, cotton balls dipped in peppermint oil appears to keep them away.

My other favorites out of the samples I tried was the Frankincense and Lavender. Unfortunately, it didn't magically knock my five year old out cold at her actual bedtime. She was still poking her head in the bathroom at me way after her bedtime, but I rubbed the frankincense and lavender on my temples for a few nights and I did feel like I got a better, more sound night of sleep, especially considering sometimes I let the stress of the day or anxiety of what's left unaccomplished on my to do list to intrude on my sleeping too much.

I was also sent an oil called "stress away" and one made by my great consultant called "stress free mama" so of course being the high strung mama I am I had to give these a try. The first week I had a fantastic week at home and work. I wondered how much was due to using the oils and how much was just due to the fact that it's May and this is usually one of my less stressful times of the year. However, the second week was not so great. Work was stressful with organizing a group project I had classes completing and running SADD week, and I was definitely grouchier at home. However, because I had so many things on my mind I was more inconsistent with making sure I applied my stress relieving oils on a regular basis. Really I think I need a longer stretch of time to see the benefits on these helping me manage my day to day stress.


With only a few weeks to try out the oils there is still so much I don't know about the amazing benefits of them. Two people were willing to share their longer, more in depth experience with me though. Here's what Dottie Wilson and Nicole Negley had to say about their experiences with oils.

"I have been using oils for about 11 months now. They have benefited me and my family's lives by helping us sleep better. I also feel less stressed with my oils. I use them to clean and feel totally comfortable cleaning around my children with something that is free of toxins and completely safe! I find that Thieves is the most useful because I use it for cleaning every single day! Thieves Vitality is great for immune support and that is super important to me!"

"I have been using essential oils for 4 months. Frankincense, Lavender, and Lemongrass help me to maintain healthy emotional balance. Panaway and Copaiba are very soothing to use after my daily five miles walk/run. My husband uses Cinnamon Bark in a carrier oil for digestive support. I diffuse Purification in my diffuser to freshen the air; and also in a spray bottle as a linen spray and air freshener.  So far, I find Frankincense useful for the reasons stated above. Panaway and Copaiba are AMAZING - also for the reasons stated above. Thieves Cleaner allows me to clean without toxic chemicals and saves money. I'm still learning about essential oils, and look forward to trying the HUNDREDS of other products that Young Living provides. Also their grapefruit and cinnamint lipbalms are the BEST! They aren't waxy or greasy. They are the perfect consistency for a lip balm and smell divine. They're also VERY reasonably priced - making them great little gifts for family and friends!"

Something with this trial review that you can't just get with any essential oil kit that I found incredibly valuable was Megan herself. She's a former teacher, and she attacks educating her clients about the benefits of essential oils the way a teacher diligently attacks getting her students the best results possible. She knows her stuff when it comes to these oils; she is wealth of information. Her pleasant, friendly personality shoots down any hesitancy you may have about asking questions or for explanations. She is active on social media at The Daily Diffuse, sharing daily tips on how to get the maximum benefits from your oils. She also offers FREE Facebook Live classes frequently to educate you on the benefits of essential oils. She's offering her next Facebook Live class on May 21 at 8:15 and if you can't catch it at that moment you have throughout that whole week to catch it. If interested in joining the next class just let Meg know you'd like to attend and she'll extend you an invite through facebook. If you don't want to wait for the class though you can learn more about essential oils here.



If you'd like to order a kit to check out essential oils for yourself follow the directions below and let Meg know you signed up from this review post and you'll get a $20 rebate back from her.

1) Go to www.youngliving.com
CLICK "become a member"

2) Enter my member number in BOTH sponsor and enroller section: 3786300
Or simply copy/paste this link in your browser to have it done for you:

https://www.youngliving.com/vo/#/signup/start?site=US&sponsorid=3786300&enrollerid=3786300

3) Choose Wholesale. Please make sure you choose wholesale, because only wholesale members are eligible to buy the kit. If you sign up Retail you cannot purchase a kit. As a wholesale member, you also earn a 24% discount if you ever want to order oils again. Occasionally, people are hesitant to create a wholesale account because they think it means they are signing up to sell something, but please rest assured that is NOT the case. As a wholesale member you are never, ever required to buy or sell a single thing. If you don't like your oils, you never have to place another order after you receive your starter kit. I have a slight feeling you will fall in love and that won't be the case though! (Think of it like a Cosco membership)

4) You will also get to choose between 4 different diffusers during check out. It comes standard with the Dew Drop or Home Diffuser, which most people love! Let me know if you need help choosing one!

After entering all your info, make sure you write down your login information. Log out and log back in for practice! You'll need to remember your info. For future purchases! If you ever forget it, let me know and I'll help you get that information!

5) upon ordering a kit, I’ll provide you with a reference app. I can either PayPal you money for the cost of the App, or mail you a check. Let me know ASAP so you can start researching! Please refer to this app when you have usage questions about your oils. The Guide section is amazing. It contains usage suggestions for just about anything you can think of! There is also a section where each of YL's oils and supplements is discussed in great detail.

6) I am also part of the YL Essential Families group. We have a very active Facebook page that is a wealth of oily info. I will submit the request to have you added to the group. We also have a great website. I also have a smaller group for my oily friends that I'll add you to.

7) I will send you a welcome email that contains some helpful links and info on when you should expect to receive your kit. I will also send you a 3 part welcome email series, covering topics such as diffuser recipes, using oils in place of toxic cleaning products, and the Essential Rewards program. I typically send you one email a week for the first month.





      

Friday, April 28, 2017

To Be or Not to Be....Done Having Babies

My newsfeed lately is blowing up with all these newborn babies as friends welcome their latest additions. For several of them it's their third or fourth addition. My own sister is about to enter her second trimester with her fourth! Then my memory feed keeps popping up with all these flashback memories of bringing our baby boy home last April, and I just got our photo album of those days in the mail today. Even as exhausting as those first few days after a baby are and as much as your body aches and weird stuff is going on with it, there has just always been something magical about welcoming that baby into your family and home those first few days and weeks.

Last year after we had our son I said we'd have to make a decision if he truly was our last baby about a year from then which is technically about now because if we decided to go for four the plan was to start trying again this summer. Shortly after he was born I was really leaning towards a fourth. The girls are close in age but he's 4.5 and 7 years behind them so it just seemed like it'd be nice for him to have a little sibling close in age. Of course I loved the thought of him having a little brother so it'd be the two girls close together and then two boys. I've always wanted a large family, and though originally our plan was three after he was born I was seriously considering four. The thought of being done having babies just made me kind of sad that phase of my life was possibly over.

Wow-I almost just talked myself back into considering four just now with writing that?! But no. My thought of four actually switched to a confirmed three probably not too long after we considered four. I told our doctor when she asked if we were having more that we must be getting too old for babies because they are A LOT of work! And we're tired. I love my little boy and would not trade him for the world. I don't want to rush him to grow up but I really enjoy my girls being older and independent now. I'm kind of looking forward to that with him.

 As much as I listed my reasons I considered four last year here are my reasons we're sticking to a firm three and closing down the Glenn baby making factory. It is officially going out of business as long as there is no accidental unplanned production.

1. No need to upgrade our vehicles or find room in our house.

2. I can finally permanently have my body back!!!

3. I never have to give up drinking ever again.

4. The countdown to sleeping through the night has officially begun. Between the three of them do you think I'm maybe down to the last five years yet????

5. It is soooo much easier to go do things from a trip to the ball field to a trip across the country with older kids rather than babies.

6. Babies NEED sooooooo much from their mommas. I NEED sooooo much more me time.

7. As the kids are getting older my husband and I may finally get more time for each other again for date nights and more trips alone like our upcoming Hawaii one (but that baby making factory must still stay closed).

So, yes, we are saying good bye to the baby phase of our life. In fact I've spent the past week pricing all of our baby stuff after eight years and three kids to sell it in two upcoming yard sales. I do kind of have mixed feelings on this.  Sarcasm aside- even the crazy sleep deprivation this kid has caused at times- I am trying to soak up and enjoy his littleness as much as I can. I will sit and hold him and it does sadden me at times that he is the last and that any moment I could be experiencing the last of the last with this phase of our life as parents. I know there are great things to come as he and the girls continue to get older though so I will just have to support others' baby making factories and hold their littles to satisfy any possible baby urge I may experience. As we shut these doors to this phase of our life it is with happy memories that I look back on it but with excitement that I look ahead for the post baby part of our life to come.