Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Rejections Behind the Acceptances

When I was a kid and first started to write the internet did not exist. Social media was over a decade away. I don't even really recall having a computer in our home until after I moved away to college so I did all my writing in little spiral notebooks or on loose leaf papers. I have journals that date back to the fourth grade still logged away in my fire proof safe and a box of six fictional stories I wrote between the ages of 10 and 14. I was terrified to let anyone read them. I let my sisters read a few and my best friend loved to read my journals that recounted real life as a kid growing up.

As I was exiting college not only was the internet now more of a normal thing but social media was born. I am quite fascinated with the tool social media has become for women. Social media has given women a stronger voice than ever I truly believe; it has given many a financial freedom that was never possible to the generation before as women promote and market consulting businesses from their homes. It gave me an audience for my writing.

Over the last few years I've watched women brand themselves for their interests, their communities, and for products that promote confident strong women. "With the rise of mass media throughout the 20th century, the popular image of women in America underwent a substantial change. From Marilyn Monroe to Kate Moss, the body shapes of the most admired models have remained consistently slimmer than that of the average American woman, representing a nearly impossible ideal. This has resulted in a severe rise in weight anxieties and negative body image among women and girls." (Women's Body Image and BMI...100 years in the Us  )Whereas in the 20th Century the mass media promoted the idea of what a strong confident woman in an unrealistic sense that left women with poor body image and low self esteem,  the every day 21st Century woman now has the voice to change that image. And we are! With our products-be it health and fitness programs, clothing, skincare, our worth as community members striving for a better place to raise children, and the list could go on.  You name it, ladies, here in the 21st century we are reshaping a better more powerful, confident image of the modern day woman for our daughters and the future.

However, being that voice on social media also comes with its moments of rejections. I've seen woman after woman put herself out there, but also encounter negativity and rejection for promoting that very idea of reshaping a society of more confident, strong women. I like to think of myself as one of these women who use social media to move forward in reshaping the image of the 21st century woman into a strong, confident woman that is beautiful inside and out and capable of anything she sets her mind to.

My choice of method has been my writing. Like so many other women that I've watched that brand themselves and use their voice to reshape the image of the 21st century woman I have faced my fair share of rejections. However, it's easy for me to hide the fact that there's a lot of rejection that goes on behind the scenes of the successful pieces of writing I share. Like many that promote something specific online I get criticized for using social media too much. I get criticized for being too blunt and honest, I get criticized for just being me as I know many others do as well when they passionately promote the things they care about. To be a voice is hard; to be quiet is much easier. But we also get thanked; people appreciate our honesty, there are people out there that appreciate our voice, and we do inspire other women to find their confidence, their strength, and chase change and their dreams. Our voices do matter and are making an impact.

Not only do I face the criticism from those that know me though, but just hobby writer or not, it also comes with lots of its own rejections from editors. I think I have submitted essays to four Chicken Soup for the Soul books. My essays have been accepted for two of the four. I couldn't be more excited to be a part of these two because they promote the very thing I've spent the last almost four years promoting with my writing: strong, confident women.

I also have my fourth essay about to be published next week with BellaOnline's Literary Magazine Mused. I first discovered Bellaonline when I stepped out of my shell to put my writing out there. They published my very first essay in their Fall 2012 Issue, rejected one, and have since published two more, before they'll publish this fourth one next week. Bellaonline's website motto is "Voice for Women" and at one time was the second largest women's website, and where I've watched several parenting and women websites fold over the years it's been around since 2007 shortly after the birth of social media. However, as much as the editors seem to like my nonfiction essays they pretty much fired me from writing a column for their website. Something wasn't quite a good fit I believe they said.

Writing as a voice for women is actually a pretty tough circle to break into. With sites like Scary Mommy, who though has rejected me a few times, has taken the time to send me a personal email response telling me they loved my piece but it wasn't quite original enough but to please send more, there are thousands of women writing away about the experiences of motherhood and being a woman in today's 21st century world. It's a fiercely competitive place to get your writing seen. Whether it's Chicken Soup, Bellaonline, or Scary Mommy my writing pieces are one in hundreds of pieces of writing speaking for women.

But it's okay I'll take my rejections with my acceptances. I know even if my reach is small it's still an important reach. It still spreads a message that women of today need to hear. It's part of the movement to promote stronger, more confident women for our 21st century world. To any other women out there, who faces the rejections with the successes, don't give up. Your voice does matter. People do hear you. You are making a difference. Go out there and be that powerful, confident woman that I know you can be!


Sunday, December 4, 2016

Living the Fairy Tale

As little girls we imagine our future adult married life as some version of the fairy tale we watch on Disney. There are days I'm on cloud nine and life does feel even better than the fairy tale.

Then the clock strikes midnight. Like every couple of hours. Sometimes it feels like every couple of minutes.

You look down and you're not in some beautiful wedding gown dancing the night away with that prince on your wedding. You're in sweat pants with a tiny hole in the butt you hope no one notices when you walk out to check the mail. Your shirt is covered in sweat because your "prince" thinks the house is too cold yet you're sweating your ass off in the sweltering heat of the house as you work  like Cinderella. There's some other crap on your shirt too. But  you're not sure if it's spit up, you missed your mouth earlier, or if possibly it literally is shit from the last diaper change???

The evil stepmother of the story. Come to find out it's you! At least the children may think you're the evil stepmother with the nagging of them to clean up after themselves, telling them to help out with this and that, and reminding them constantly to take care of their own damn stuff.

In the fairy tale we were suppose to be saved from our life of servitude around the house, but rather we realize we just signed our eternal sentence to household servitude for the rest of our life. More days than not our life resembles Cinderella's before the fairy tale wedding as we slave away over mess after mess.

Where is Prince Charming is this fairy tale life? Charming seems to have forgotten the meaning of charming. Because Prince Charming isn't so charming with the smelly bombs he so kindly leaves in the bathroom right before your longed for few minutes of a peaceful shower or the times he likes to trap your head under the blanket while he passes a little gas. And Prince Charming despite his possible amazing athletic skills cannot manage to toss his dirty clothes into the hamper.

Sleeping together is literally maybe a good night's sleep with no kids in the bed kicking you in the back or putting their butt in your face or sleeping on fresh sheets that finally required emergency washing because a miniature offspring either peed the bed or threw up all over everyone in the middle of the night in which case you were both some warped version of the evil Stepmother and Cinderella all rolled into one.

Or let's be honest rather than kissing prince charming sometimes you catch yourself contemplating those memes that ask you how you would secretly kill your spouse. Not that you would but thinking it is just a way to have a safe place to put your anger.  The swooning is over; now he drives you so crazy you swear you see red. But then you know he's thinking the same thing and wonder what secret method he would use to take you out. So you think maybe if I tell him how I would do it, he'd tell me how he would do it. You know it'd be a fun date night conversation, right?

Until you finally get a night out alone and as you're drunker than you've ever been and feel like you're at death's door you think "Oh, my God, this is how he's going to do it! He drugged me!" He's taking me out before I can take him out!  So as you drunkenly accuse him of trying to "off" you, and turns out your date night was just a memorable disaster for the story books later. You realize maybe the fairy tale was really suppose to be a comedy.

Turns out the fairy tale isn't so glamorous most days. But you also know you wouldn't have ended up you without the influence of the other and when you're both on and on the same team and not trying to take each other out you really are better individually and as a team. Especially when you try to tackle those pesky villains---oh I mean children---- together.

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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Childhood...Rewind..Pause...Fast Forward

They say time with your children goes by in a blink. As I rock the last baby I know this time around that serene quiet moment of a baby snuggled against your chest in which you're his whole world for a moment will be lost before too long in that kaleidoscope of flashing memories that seems to spin faster as time goes on, leaving us torn on our desire to hit the rewind button.

But as I also glance in the rearview mirror at the five year old that now happily chats to me about her day I'm struck by how much I don't yearn for her infancy because with each new age I  just seem to  love her more than the age before. Each age seems better than the last. Will I yearn for the rewind button back to this moment or will I just continue to long for the pause button to savor each age just a little bit longer even though the next will be just as good if not better.

Then I find myself awed by the almost eight year old that can keep with me for two miles and up the hills she use to whine about. I love that somewhere between being my daughter I also seeing the blossoming of the forever friendship we're building that will hopefully flourish in her adult years. I don't want to fast forward yet, but by now I know as much as I may want to rewind or hit pause, the view of watching them grow just gets better and better.

It is a bittersweet experience watching our babies grow and feeling the years slip by. We want to pause the best moments, rewind back to the precious memories of their youth that start to blur together, yet we can't wait for the years to come as they flourish into the wonderful adults they'll one day be.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Thankful for People

We are hosting Thanksgiving at home for only the second time in our almost ten years of marriage, and it's looking like for the first time ever my kids may wake up Christmas morning at home. I won't say their own beds because I've been waiting years for that to happen so unless it's a Christmas miracle that will have to be another year. Shortly after that we'll head up to spend a few days with my husband's family, and the kids and I are flying out to spend a long weekend in January with my family so they'll still get lots of cousin and grandparent time in the months ahead so it's the best of both worlds kind of holiday season ahead.

It's also my last baby's first holiday season so I'm pretty excited about the weeks ahead. As this thankful month comes to close I am once again incredibly grateful for all the blessings I have in my life. Things aren't always perfect, and whether it's been financial struggles or health struggles which have both resulted in marriage struggles these last 9.5 years in the big picture of things they've been so minimal. As I hear of friends about to celebrate their first holidays without parents or even parents about to celebrate their first without their children, I know the people in our lives are the greatest blessing any and all of us have. Unfortunately, we can't and shouldn't take a day of that for granted.

My husband and I have been incredibly blessed with the people in our lives. First and foremost, our greatest blessings are our three children. They each bring something unique to our family dynamic and raising them is by far the greatest adventure of our lives. As any parent knows these years are passing by way too quickly, and we do our best to enjoy these moments of their childhood.

Another great blessing of ours is our families. Though we've spent all this time far from them both, they have been supportive of our choices, our goals, and they always seem to be waiting there in the wings to come to our aid when we need the help. We do our best despite the distance to make them a constant in our children's lives and be there for their big moments and milestones when we can.

The other people that are huge in our lives are of course our friends as we have surrounded ourselves over the years with an amazing support system. Some friends are like family, others are friends we've made through work, the other adults in our children's lives, and the neighborhoods we've lived, and some are friends we made before there was ever a Nate & Ang story and kept in touch with through the years. Some we see in person on a regular basis, some only a few times a year, and some we stay in touch with mostly through social media or phone calls, but they have all had moments of being an amazing support to us in our moment of need through the years.

I could go on and on about the abundance of our blessings with our home(s), jobs, financial security, hobbies, and our health (which is a very huge blessing right there with family), but people and our relationships with the people in our lives really is everything.

So this Thanksgiving I want to give thanks for the people and relationships in my life . God has blessed our life and I thank Him every day for that and the wonderful people He's surrounded us with in this life.


Friday, November 18, 2016

When I See Me in You

We are hitting the three month mark since I went back to work full time with three young children at home. If you follow any of my ups and downs it’s definitely been an up and down experience. Some think social media is the reason for women’s drive to want to do it all, have it all, be it all. However, I think for some of us that drive exists long before we’re aware of social media.

I attended my oldest daughter’s parent teacher conference this week. As a parent I couldn’t be more proud. The teacher gave her raving report of a strong work ethic, with perfection tendencies, a kind heart that is friendly to everyone but respectful of authority, and she's an “own her behavior and mistakes” kind of kid. The girl is seven but I have no doubt the child will succeed in life. But at the same time I watched her walk out onto the basketball court the weekend before to try a sport she’s been bugging me to try for a year now. Just like with the past two sports she’s tried and eventually found success with that first attempt out there she came off the court upset with herself and frustrated and with a  bit of what I considered a poor attitude because well, she’s not that great at it yet. She didn't meet her own expectations. She’s intimidated by older, better kids and self conscious of her own skills.

This girl is so many of us grown successful women at seven years old. That drive, that passion to succeed, to do it all, be it all is present way before we hit adulthood, motherhood, and are ever aware of the window into others’ lives on social media. As I’m giving her a “talk” on the way home in the car after this first attempt at basketball it’s like a smack of reality in the face that I could be talking to myself.

I don’t want to kill her drive or her passion, anymore than I want to kill my own. However, I know all too well as these last three months have shown me once again, that sometimes we can’t do it all, be it all. That realization is blow to our self confidence.  I told her she’s not going to walk out onto a field or court and just be great. She’s going to struggle. It’s going to be hard. And that’s OKAY I told her. She’ll still be great despite her struggles, despite the rough starts, despite the poor game performances sometimes. Just like I’ll still be great; just like you’ll still be great.

But we as women and unfortunately even as little girls we are more times than not our harshest critics. No one sets the bar higher for us than we do ourselves. I think that’s okay, but it’s also okay to realize we have our limits when we reach them. Reaching them don’t make us failures either, and this is something at seven years I feel a sense of desperation for her to know and understand now. Going out there to give our best or try something new, but falling short isn’t the end all be all. There’s so much more to our greatness than that failed moment. Just as I told my daughter  it’s just a moment and it doesn't change all the other great things that make her her. Or me me. Or you you.

So to the mothers or the seven year old girls that watch us I say this:

It is our passion for the things we love, the commitment and high expectations we hold for ourselves, the getting back up and trying again when we fall short of our own or even others' expectations that are the greatest parts of us. That greatness even on the worst days and moments is still there. Don't ever forget that.




Sunday, November 6, 2016

Being the 21st Century Woman of Today

I am raising two daughters in the 21st Century, which after centuries of oppression with our very first woman presidential candidate regardless of your political affiliation, it is indeed a great time to be a woman. However, as much as I am a feminist, all about girl power and women's lib or whatever you want to call it, I often find myself asking what do I teach my daughters about being a 21st Century woman.

My sisters (their aunts) and I are career moms. Two of us have master degrees and the other went to trade school and now runs her own business. We were three girls raised by traditional 20th century parents in the Midwest in which the dad worked and mom stayed home (at least the first ten years when we were little before she reentered the workforce part time and eventually went full time as we entered our teenage years). With neither of them having a college degree they did not push college on us at all. They didn't discourage us but there wasn't a lot of stress or emphasis on a future career. Even though I have never outright asked them I often imagine the thinking of the time was something along the lines that because we were girls the social expectation was we'd marry, have kids, and be home as many of the women they were friends with at the time also stayed home and did not have any, if much,  post secondary education. Even my dad's two sisters with college degrees stayed home the first ten years or so, living the 20th century traditional family lifestyle, and I believe they were the only women I knew growing up that had college degrees.

However thirty years later than when my mother was home raising three girls the expectations are so different; life is so different. As much as I love being a 21st century career woman myself and admire and look up to the amazing 21st century career women my friends and classmates are, a part of me sometimes wishes I hadn't been so ambitious, that I was contend living a more simple life because I also know others here in the 21st century living life like my mother use to. Some didn't accumulate college debt, they get to be home with their babies all day or work part time jobs that are just jobs, and they don't carry half, if not more, of the family financial burden. I envy them in way; their life is simple in a way I often wonder is easier and more content than being the  21st century career woman. However, I also believe there are pros and cons to every choice.

The beauty is in today's world is they have a choice to be 21st century career woman or the more traditional 20th century woman. But I also know either way they'll face moments of feeling like it is not enough or feeling like they're not enough. They will doubt their choices, second guess if they've done the right thing. The guilt will swallow them at times and though the mommy wars of the 21st century may appear to be about if the working mom or stay at home mom has it harder the real mommy war will be within themselves about whether they should model their life after the more traditional 20th century woman or the supposed 21st century superwoman. The road is hard either way.

So how do I raise them to be a 21st century woman of tomorrow. How do I teach them there are many different ways to be the successful woman of today. Our career and $$ and everything attached to our career is not the only thing that can make us a successful  woman of today, right?  The more they balance won't necessarily mean the more successful they are in this world, right? Because sometimes it feels like that's the message of what the successful woman is.

Whether that's correct or not, I'd rather teach them doing what makes them happy in this new world of competition and social media generated mommy wars is what will make them successful. Because they live in a time of choice it is their choice to decide what the successful woman will look like for them. I want to teach them dedication to their family, being true to themselves in the choices they make, standing up for or representing the right things in this crazy world of ours today can make them just as successful as the roles they attach to their name. I want them to know that success and happiness looks as different for each of us as the color of our hair or eyes or anything else that makes us who we are.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Birthday #5: How is it so?

Wow, baby girl, I can't believe it's been five years already since we were blessed with your arrival into our family. You have been momma's girl from the start. You are so much like me, and though it's kept us close these first five years I pray every day that continues to be the case as you get older.

You have been my baby girl for five years now and though I know in some ways you'll always be my baby girl, I know at five years old the "baby" you is slipping away and it's time for me to let that go. As sad as I am to say good bye to the true baby girl years, on the other hand I am so excited to watch you grow into the amazing young woman I know you'll be if the amazing little girl you are is any indication.

You have been a know what you want and not afraid to ask for it and ask for it and ask for it kind of kid since the first night you were born. That stubborn streak runs deep in you; yet you have the most giving and sometimes softest heart. You'll stand your ground even if it means getting in trouble at times, but the thought of hurting  your brother or sister or disappointing us breaks your little heart.  Even though you're the little sister, I know in the years ahead you'll be there for your big sister and look out for her as much as she'll look at for you as you already speak up in her defense and will do whatever she asks if it means making her happy. First you let her cut your hair years ago and now you'll willingly give her all your money when she wants to buy something if I didn't stop you.

As the second girl I worried so much about you feeling like you're in your sister's shadow but you have totally created your own path, little girl. You are so unique, beautiful, creative, and amazing in your own ways and the two of you together are quite the pair. I have no doubt you will always carve your own path.

We are so proud with how easily you have stepped into your role as big sister this past year. You adore your little brother and are such a loving, caring big sister. You are the perfect middle piece to the Glenn five piece family puzzle. We are so blessed to call you our daughter and sister. Five is a big milestone as you will begin school within a year and leave these early days of your childhood behind. As you enter into that new world I hope you always keep that smile of sunshine on your face, that heart of gold that only wants to help and take care of others, and that stubborn streak that will help your thrive in your individuality.

Happy 5th birthday, our baby girl, Nakenzi Grace. Love you!

You will always be my sunshine!
Age 4
Age 3
Age 2
Age 1
About 6 months

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

When it All Comes Down

There are days I can write you this beautiful story of motherhood; there are moments my life does feel as picture perfect as it seems, but then there are other days. There are days we are making it. As mothers we are on it, the balls are perfectly juggled, and we feel like the superwomen that we are. There are days we fake it until we make it. It's not pretty but we get the job done. Then there are days we can't even fake it. We max out on our capabilities; we hit the wall and the crash is shattering to our sense of self. That perfectly constructed mask that was hiding our fake it until we make it shatters at our feet and the truth of what we're really capable of is bared to all in an honesty others will either judge or relate to.

On one hand I want to pretend this past month or so never happened, but on the other I know I owe it to myself, to my daughters who may one day find themselves in a similar situation, and to you-the women and mothers that have come to expect and appreciate my honesty. Unfortunately, too often we find ourselves in a dark corner we're unsure how to escape at first. Somewhere between mid September and mid October I backed myself into a dark corner I didn't even realize at first I was in until I felt trapped and helpless in an odd way I've never encountered before.

I came back to this working mom gig high on positivity in mid August ready to tackle the year head on. I was going from before sun up at 5:30 am until past sundown around 9:30 pm and even the hours in between 930 pm and 530 am with a baby that was waking up 2 to 3 times a night. My husband would complain that I never came downstairs anymore to watch a show. I couldn't. By the time I tackled that teacher, mom, housekeeper list there was no time left but to crash if I wanted a few straight hours of sleep before the baby woke me up again and again throughout the night. But it was okay. I was rocking this. It's like I was high on adrenaline at first or something. I wasn't sleeping but I wasn't tired. Besides my thirty minute workouts with a girl or two at my feet and sometimes an infant on my belly while I did crunches I wasn't squeezing in much time for me, but it was okay. I was like the energizer bunny.

But I should have known. I'm up then I'm down. I should have seen the crash coming. But somehow it all still blindsided me.  Let me tell you. It laid me out in a way I've never experienced before. Not only did things start crumbling and falling apart at work, not only was I dropping the ball at home and fighting with my husband, but it felt like it all eventually just came down in a epic figurative crash. Whenever my moods switch from the highs to the lows anger is usually the emotion that manifests itself the most. It was there but nothing compared to the tears and the sadness and hopelessness I experienced this past month. It was the most awful feeling ever. I wanted to quit everything. I wanted to quit my job, quit our life here and go home. Everything we had worked for over the past ten plus years I was ready to just walk away from it all.  I had never felt so overwhelmed that me, miss overplanner and organizer, had no idea where to start. I didn't even want to start. I just wanted to curl into a ball and lock out the world and all sense of responsibilities. Making lists to organize everything put me in a panic mode because it just seemed like there was no way I could do it all.  I remember crying on my way out of Wal mart and thinking the only thing worse than feeling like this would be the pain of losing someone you love. Then I thought it is like I lost myself but I'm still here to mourn my own loss. I couldn't handle it all. The disappointment in myself at realizing I had reached my own limits left me feeling just as hopeless as the daunting tasks that lay ahead of me.

Why couldn't I cope this time? Why couldn't I manage all the balls this time? Even enough to just fake it until I made it? I had been a working mom for seven years. I had coached and finished grad school on top of working full time when my oldest was a baby, I had taught a college course two nights a week when my second was a baby, and now finally with the third baby we could financially make it that I didn't need to pick up those extra commitments and I was more overwhelmed than all those times before. What was wrong with me? Not only were my emotions consuming me in a different way than I was use to but even with the baby finally sleeping through the night I couldn't sleep through the night and often found myself awake from 2 or 3 in the morning on, and as great as I had been about working on losing weight four of the last five pounds dropped off in a week from a complete loss of appetite because my stomach was too tied in knots to even think about eating food.

After a month of everything unraveling like a dropped ball of yarn I just lost it in the middle of the day. I couldn't take the frustrations, helplessness, constant crying, and overwhelming emotions that felt like a tidal wave consuming me lately and found myself in the OB office undergoing a post partum depression screening. It appeared I had moderately severe post partum depression. "It's not the baby necessarily though," I said. I loved my baby. I had waited and prayed for him for over two years. Yet I was only spending two hours a night with him; I needed that break from the crying that followed a day of kids that all needed something from me throughout the day so too often I felt guilty for counting down until I could send him off to bed.  I had quit breastfeeding as it was just one more task I couldn't keep up with, and with him being the last baby saying good bye to that bond saddened me more than it did with the other two. Wasn't post partum depression about not loving your baby? I loved my baby; he was my baby boy I didn't know I always wanted.

Yet I knew I could not tolerate his neediness now that I was back at work the same way I did all spring and summer when I had all the time in the world. His high pitch scream grated on my last nerve lately. Somewhere between the increased demands of work which everyone was feeling not just me, the demands of a house after being gone ten hours a day, the disruption of staying on top of everything with the sudden trip out of town for my grandfather's passing plus just the emotional drain of that, the most needy baby I've ever encountered, and little girls wanting to know why I couldn't come eat lunch with her or be a parent volunteer like other mommies just all pulled me in so many directions I eventually just mentally collapsed from it all. I had maxed myself out, and somehow I didn't see it coming until I was so down I knew I had to do something fast or I was going to take everything and everyone down with me. Everyone said I did the right thing by going to the doctor's about not feeling myself, but you don't understand. There is no way I could cope like that for long.

I  have a whole new appreciation/understanding for people that suffer from severe depression and anxiety. There were moments in the last month that were suffocating. To go on like that for months or years, seriously, people, that would be torture. I attempted to manage for a  month on my own like I had done in the past with exercise and writing but I knew I was quickly spiraling in a whole new direction that required more intervention that what I was capable of giving myself.

Maybe we all need to lose our shit every now and then. I still struggle with feeling like I couldn't do it all, be it all, manage it all, but as many others have told me sometimes we just really need to unburden ourselves for a moment. It's okay I realized. I don't have to carry it all. All the time. Yes, may we be strong women but the reason we need to know strong women is so when we're down they'll help carry us and in turn we'll do the same for them when they need it. Lucky for me I have some amazing friends that have been great to talk to through all of this, and of course I think their support more than anything is what is helping me bounce back.

After a month for the first time since September sometime I am starting to feel like myself again. I put myself through some quick professional and friendly talk therapy and medicine to hopefully kick this sense of not being me. So I write and I share this for all of us. For anyone who has, is, or may find themselves in a similar dark corner and I pray your stay there is short lived and you get the support and help you need as quickly as possible.


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Trip to Crazy

Everyone has a breaking point, even superstar-working mommies.  We are the mommies who are depended on for everything. From sunup to sundown us working- mommies wear many hats. We are the master of juggling many balls all throughout our day. We take care of the kids, make dinner, clean house, do the laundry, play chauffeurs to our kids and run them all over God’s creation to their evening activities. Even as our husbands help when and where they can  in their eyes we got it together and can handle everything.  And why wouldn’t they think that? In the past we did have our shit together and were capable of channeling our inner-superwoman and secret superpowers.
Then the day of reckoning comes, the day we are diagnosed with BSCS also known as Bat Shit Crazy Syndrome.  The stress finally gets to us and we have a meltdown at work, at home, or most embarrassing  at the supermarket because you can’t remember what kind of milk you usually buy while your kids run circles around you feet playing “Ring Around the Rosie.” And the gloves come off - your inner superwoman is exhausted and is going on a one month hiatus and screw everyone who has an opinion that does not match yours.
During this month hiatus we realize several things: First, this expectation to be perfect and the juggler of all balls is an expectation we bestow upon ourselves and we CAN take it away and let the balls fall where they may. Second, it’s time to ask for help- there is nothing braver  a woman can do then to reach out  for help in the midst of totally losing her shit.   Help comes in many forms:   spouse, sisters, friends, family,  therapists, physician, even that creepy old cat lady who lives next door who is surprisingly insightful on your trip to bat shit crazy. Lastly, the thing we realize is that it is all going to be okay- it does not feel like it right now as you are  sitting in your pajamas on the couch in the middle of the day, watching reruns of “Married with Children,” and eating a whole gallon of ice cream.
In the end it has to be okay because there is no other way that is acceptable to you, this is God’s plan for you right now. I am sure if you could talk with Him he would tell you that you will come out of this stronger on the other side and be thankful for this gut wrenching period of your life. Once you are in remission and are no longer experiencing  active symptoms of BSCS  (remember Bat Shit Crazy Syndrome) you will realize that what you perceived as failure is not failure, but a lesson learned in how to keep going when the going get tough, and the reminder that you never quit. Sure, you may have taken a short flight to cra-cra island, but the flight is round trip and many other mommies are on that flight right now, a few may even be flying the plane. Stay strong ,  you are one of the toughest, bravest women I know and failure is not a word that you know.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Hold On

On the drive home from Pittsburgh last week as I got the call that my grandpa had passed we were passing through Happy Valley which I still believe is one of the most beautiful drives east of the Mississippi. You could see it storming to one side of the valley and the sun shining on the other side, and you can see where the two met. It really was a spectacular sight. For every dark storm there is a light waiting to break through right beside it. When I arrived at my aunt's house that first day, exhausted from traveling, mourning the loss of a great man, and surviving on eight hours of sleep in the past two days I passed out on her bed under her sign that read, "Don't wait for the storm pass but learn to dance in the rain." As always when I share my struggles I also hear yours, which entrusting me to your own dark moments is a humbling thing as I know how hard it is to admit our weaknesses, our failures, and our struggles. It's so easy to think we're alone; when really in reality we're not.

So to those of you that have trusted me with your recent struggles and those that hold theirs close to their hearts here we all stand somewhere in our own valley with the dark storm of our lives to one side and the light of the brighter days ahead to the other side. We know every dark moment passes. That the storm doesn't stay forever. Whether it's the loss of someone we love, struggles and burdens of our jobs or finances, trying days or months with our teenager or infant, struggles in our relationships, or the battles with ourselves it shall all pass. We will all get through these moments that seem to consume our lives at this very moment in time. Though we're not on top of that hill overlooking Happy Valley where we can see the light ahead that will push that storm away it is there for each us.

As I laid there last night on the floor of my son's bedroom from 1 am to 3 am as I tried to will this child to sleep and prayed to God to give me strength to handle this boy he entrusted into my care, the well of tears gone from too little sleep for too many days on end, I remembered. 

I remembered another little girl that screamed for hours on end in the evenings that no one could handle but me, and I held on. I held on to that baby like we were each other's lifeline to the other side of that dark moment. I remembered the dark days of my marriage when I would cry myself to sleep, wondering what we were doing, where we were going, but I held on. I held on with everything I had because more than anything I believed in the potential of who we could be. I remembered the anxiety that we were going to slip into financial disaster, but I held on and kept pushing forward, knowing we were working hard for better days ahead. I remembered the feelings of dread that would twist my stomach about the work days ahead in that year I faced extreme burnout, unsure how I could make it to the end of the year, much more decades more in the profession I chose for myself but I held on. I remembered the dark days that followed the passing of my uncle, my grandmother, and my other  grandfather but I held on. I held onto the memories and the momentos that reminded me they may not be physically here anymore, but they're around and always in my heart. I remembered the heartache of lost babies I briefly carried but never met, but I held on. I remembered the months of fear for my unborn son, but I held on. I held onto my faith and belief that he would be fine. Now in this moment with you, my son, I will hold on. I will hold on as we make it through these trying days of your infancy.

As I laid there again on his floor, holding his hand through the crib,  just two hours after I spent almost two hours getting him back to sleep I thought of all of us, trapped in that storm of our life at this moment.  So for all of us I say. Hold on. Hold on to our belief in ourself. Dig deep and hold on to our strength that will carry us through. Hold on and find something to dance for in the middle of the storm. We will get through this. We will come out the other side.


Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rockstar to Falling Star

I mentioned the other day that I can go from rock star to falling star like the flip of a switch. My emotions swing from pretty high to pretty low pretty quick as well. I would say that's the case these days but I've probably been that way for a long time. I feel that being a negative, cynical, borderline depressed person is a genetic trait I have to focus on overcoming on an almost daily basis. Because of that certain people or types of people can easily rub on me the wrong way and bring on that angrier, negative side of myself I work so hard at controlling. Certain stressful situations also makes this internal battle sometimes a daily war with myself.

A friend of mine posted this meme the other day about how everyone has a chapter in their story they don't let others read. I found it incredibly fitting for myself because as much as I'm an open book with my writing on here and in general I mentioned how I have two unread chapters, but because they involve others' personal situations and stories I don't share them. They're not my stories alone to tell. Unfortunately, if me and them could ever get to a place to fully confront those stories together it'd possibly have the potential to change mine and their life for the better. But it's really hard to see the flaws in ourselves and to confront those flaws so all I can do for now is work on myself. However knowing those stories I think would clarify this sometimes daily struggle I have with myself.

I don't even remember what actual event lead me to claiming rockstar status the other day. Maybe it was another one of my essays making it to the final selection rounds of Chicken Soup for the Soul's upcoming book. I think there's one more round of cuts before the final essays are selected though I had to return a contract already the other day. It could have been my excitement of hopefully getting published with them again or maybe it was sticking to my workout goals these first six weeks back to work. Or maybe it was the two compliments I got at work with my yearbook class. But whatever it was I also added that I knew how easily I could go from rock star to falling star. I hate failing. I take it hard. I remember that ball player that would cry over losing the big game. I know we win some and we lose some. I know we succeed. I know we fail. However, 35 years old or not I still hate to fail (think that s why I took that depressed, struggling year back in 2012/2013 so hard) and  I am a sore loser.

I knew I was hanging by a thread heading into this week. The baby doesn't sleep much at night. My grandfather is down to what we believe are his final days, and though we said our good byes when I left in August and he thanked me probably a half a dozen times for bringing the kids up to see him three times while I was home it's still more upsetting than I thought it would be. Some of it I think is hearing how much he's suffering here at the end. He's so ready to go. I know it's hard on my dad to see him like this, and that breaks my heart too. I know my aunt doesn't want him to go, and she's his little girl so I can't blame her. Pretty sure I'll want to hang onto my dad down to his last miserable moment even though he always tells us he really doesn't want to live to be too old because you're not living at that point. But I just want my grandpa to have peace at this point. Besides his little girl he always made my sisters and me and my cousin feel like his little pride and joys. We won't ever forget that. There's another meme that floats around saying something about how it's not about what you do but how you make people feel. So thanks, grandpa, your support of us always made us girls feel special. But, please, I know you're angry these days about your situation, and I know you love my dad so much. Please, please in these final days make sure he knows it. And one last request when you get to the other side and you and Grandpa M are sitting around similar to that picture of you two that will forever hang in my hallway capturing you two in your better days come pay your namesake a visit. I didn't know when I named him after you two he would have your stubborn personalities so please convince him sleeping at night is a good thing, and even though I maybe deserve a stubborn, sometimes difficult child or two like myself I could use the break.

On top of the baby and my grandpa,  sickness has started going around my house and my observation was this week. I just did not have a good feeling headed into it. It was with my worst class. I haven't seen a group of students this unmotivated since I left my old school three years ago. Pretty much the conclusion of the observation was I need to own my students' behavior. Them wanting to be on their phones, them thinking there's no point in doing class work because of the new grading system, them just not giving a shit about their own grades or learning is on me. This reminds me of when Kenz was a screaming, colicky baby and it felt like everyone thought I as her mother should know how to make it stop. Now years later I see it was just her personality coming through. Now I face the same thing with Lincoln and his sleep issues. All these I should do this or  I should do that. They're well intended but more times than not I can tell you it's just who he is. All kids even as babies, trust me I can attest to it with all three of mine, have their own personalities. Yes as parents and teachers we can guide them, but kids have a mind of their own. I have to work hard as it is to control my own behavior, but the expectation that I can control a kid or anyone else's is pretty limited.

Just like I can't make the people in my two untold chapters confront their own flaws to move forward I can't change the behavior of other people. I can't change who my students or are who my own children are. I can't even fully change who I am- overly emotional at times even though I can put on the tough bitch mask in person like no other (most of the time), hot tempered, impatient with waiting but overly patient with tolerating others poor behavior.

So I know for those of you that are so wonderful at supporting me in my crazy emotional roller-coaster ride that is just me in general that I have been all over the place with being up and down and back up then back down so sorry for the crazy ride, but as always if you want real that's what you're going to get from me.  I like to think I know myself well, and I knew going into this year it would be tough, but I was going in with a positive attitude. As the weeks have passed it's like one thing after another wants to chip away at my goal of positivity to the point that I feel like I first went from sprinting in motivated excitement towards some invisible finish line, to hobbling as the stones of defeat were cast, to now army crawling my way to that invisible line. The defeat this week hurt.

I can put on the mask which usually involves sarcasm or misplaced anger at someone, but here is where I've always let myself be me.  For those that can't take the emotional pendulum that is me sorry but not sorry. But more times than not people appreciate my candor, my willingness to be open and to share the reality of struggling. Because my story is not yours and yours is not mine but we all struggle. Sometimes it feels like every day is a fight. A fight with ourselves to be who we envision with who we are in that moment, a fight with being who everybody else thinks we need to be verse who we are, a fight to get over the failures and the let downs and get back up and move forward.

So this week I failed. I feel like I failed at my job, I definitely failed as a housewife as the dirty dishes in the sink can attest to that, I'm not doing very well in the marriage department at the moment, my uncharacteristically crying seven year old and my four year old putting baby food in her brother's eye and not having a six month old sleep through the night might be indicating I'm failing motherhood at the moment too, and I even failed at being the damn tooth fairy this week.

I worked too hard to get in a better mindset and get my confidence back so I have to let this go. It's just a moment in time. It will pass, and there will be better days ahead.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016


I'm a month into being back to work. A month into conquering the new me, and I feel amazing. Maybe I use the word amazing because I know what it feels like to feel the complete opposite. I know what it’s like to feel defeated and like you keep getting kicked while you're down, which in all honesty is usually yourself tearing yourself down because you feel overwhelmed, like everything is never enough. I've had those moments here and there in the past month, but they've been short lived where before they've consumed me.

Sure it's been hectic busy at times. When is it not at this time of the year, but wow, my energy level has been a huge lifesaver. I can be pretty go go as it is, but I like my sleep, people. I do crash pretty hard by 10 almost every night, but I'm up at 530 after at least one middle of the night feeding with my son. It's go go go all day long until about 9, but I'm good. I got this in a way I haven’t in a long time. I'm not frustrated with it and taking it out on everyone in the house every night because believe me there was a time I was like that. In fact I did something tonight the old me would have never done. If I don't get my workout in shortly after work it's not going to happen. However at 8 after the baby went down and dinner was cleaned up I thought I'm not going to pass on that workout; I am going to get it in tonight right now. And I did. The old me would have fallen back on some excuse and pushed it off for another day.

Not only is my energy level higher but I even feel like my mind is more focused and not so foggy. My husband always claimed I must have adult ADD or I call it mommy brain. Even though I can be scattered brained here and there my head does not feel like there's a ping pong ball rattling around in there all the time like it used to feel like. I'm focused, I'm organized again, and I have my plan whether it's  about me and working out, work, or family activities and household responsibilities and I get it done. I’m feeling accomplished in a way I haven’t felt as a working mother possibly ever.  

I'm a ball of positive energy that I have not been in a long time. My husband would probably tell you it was from sometime before we had kids, and he's probably right. But I worry when my mindset will slip, when the feelings of frustrations and being overwhelmed will consume me again. When will the ball drop?  Will that crazy, angry, negative girl come back? See depression runs in my family. If I ever sought the official medical diagnosis as my family has pushed me to do I would be the third in our family of five. Even though I did eventually seek medical attention for mine a few years ago besides discovering my thyroid issue I never pushed it any further because I have very strong feelings about being medicated. It took multiple blood tests before the doctor convinced me I really needed medication to get my thyroid under control.

However, when I saw the negative toll my negativity and anger had on my children and marriage, I knew I couldn't just hold onto my stubborn resistance. It was give in and seek anti depressant medications or change. So as anyone in my family can tell you I have quite the stubborn streak so I went for change.

It would take what I call a whole trifecta transformation: spiritual, mental, and physical change. I wanted a natural change. Even though I have always been a believer in God and said my prayers I started to add in a few prayers for myself. Because frankly I needed help. So oddly at first the idea of asking Him for help in becoming a better person was about like the thought of asking my parents for financial help. I’m independent and I can do everything myself is my attitude, but over the course of the past few years I really grew my relationship with God. I have no doubt He’s played a more active role in my life these past few years. I sought his help and He answered.

For the physical transformation I knew I needed exercise back in my life on a regular basis again. I'm not a beach body coach and heck I don't even follow the programs like I should, but I love the videos. Even though I’ve implemented multiple changes over the past few years to change my mindset and get here, I do believe they are key in the final results. All I've done is commit at least three days a week to the videos and cut soda and other sugars out of my life. I tackled my physical health with exercise which as I've always shared has had a huge mental health benefit to me. Seriously exercise is the greatest free therapy there is, people. It does amazing things not just for your body but for your mind too. I think the exercise and better eating habits have been huge for my increased energy level, positive mindset, and just clearer head.

There were so many changes I put into place in the years since I started to realize what my angry, negative attitude was doing to those around me but I really feel like it's been in the last few months that I've seen the final transformation of feeling that even though I'm not completely where I want to be I'm confident I'm on my way to her. I’m in such a better place physically, mentally, and spiritually than I’ve been in a long time. I think all three of those are key in transforming myself to a happier better me. It all started with knowing I had to change and taking action to make it happen.


Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Why I Understand Holden Caulfield

It's childhood cancer awareness month incase you didn't know. If you also didn't know childhood cancer only gets 4% of government funding. Children are fighting for their opportunity to live at this very moment. Every day children lose their future and their life to childhood cancer. Every day a parent faces their worst nightmare as they watch cancer steal their child away. Somebody's child out there isn't going to get to live.

Have  you ever watched someone die from cancer? It's awful. It's heartbreaking. It's slow and painful for them and those feeling helpless beside them. Trust me. It's not something you'd wish on your worst enemy, much more an innocent child. I can't even begin to imagine how that haunts you for the rest of your life. Yet I know people going through that very thing right now.

My students are reading Catcher in the Rye right now and finding themselves drawn into Holden Caulfield's lost, depressed world. So many I know don't like Holden because they find him whiney and pathetic. But I never have because he's not just the lost boy of some Peter Pan Neverland world who selfishly doesn't want to grow up. He is a lost boy just existing and too jaded to really live his life. But unfortunately his Neverland is Hell, a world where he's suppose to figure out how to live when fate in the form of cancer took away one of the people he loved most, his brother. He's unsure how to move on with his life, unsure why he got to live and his brother did not.  His innocence and childhood were stripped away from him when he watched what cancer did to his younger brother. You don't easily recover from that. You don't just get over that. You don't just need to grow up and move on from that. He, along with every child, and sibling of every child, that faces cancer, are forced into a hellish adult world an adult hopes to never be in. He wants to be the catcher in the rye because he's seen the hell that exist on the other side of our childhood innocence, and he doesn't want anyone to experience that anymore than any other adult does.

Holden is living in a hellish world where he has to figure out how to live after cancer stole his childhood innocence and left him in shattered pieces much like the shattered window on the night of his brother's death. So I get Holden Caulfield, and I don't think we should be so quick to judge him as whiney and pathetic because coming out the other side of cancer is no easy feat.

I'm personally tired of reading about real life Holden Caulfield's, siblings watching their young brothers and sisters fighting and sometimes losing their battle to cancer. Spread the awareness that it's Childhood Cancer Month and we need more funds for our children!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

I Have to Be Enough

I'm into week 3 in this back to our reality thing but this week is the true test. My oldest started school on Monday which meant the return of the dreaded nightly homework, but it was also the start of soccer season which is followed by gymnastics and basketball season in the winter and then softball in the spring and girls scouts all year.

I'd like to say I've rocked these past three weeks and I'm some supermom superstar but honestly it's had its high and low moments.  One minute I'm all energetic and positive I'm going to rock this working mom balancing act this year and in another moment I want to just throw in the towel and say who am I kidding.

There are  the moments like my oldest's first day of school that no one is there for and she comes home almost in tears wanting to know why neither of us put her on the bus for the first day like so and so's parents. Or why when I randomly put notes in her lunch all the time last year didn't I on the first day of school (mom fail right there due to a massive headache I had the night before that required her to pack her own lunch). Or why again as if there weren't enough failed moments in that first day that I had to drop her and leave her at soccer because her sister had practice at the same time in a different place and her dad was going to be another 20 minutes before he could get back into town from work.

The simple matter is it's hard. It's going to be hard. I know that. I think I've accepted that. I'm a teacher in her summative year of evaluation with crazy changes to implement in the school year that have left my head spinning a bit. Hard. I'm a mom of two little girls in activities all year that need a lot of my time and attention. Hard. I'm a mom to an infant. Seriously hard. I spend two hours a day sitting in traffic commuting to work. Sucky hard. I have a house that has shit that breaks like the water heater, laundry hose, and dishwasher ALL in the PAST week that requires our time to clean up and fix or have someone leave work early for the repair man. That's  on top of  not having any family around for back up when the kids are sick  or freak accidents like the sitter's water going out this week too that require someone to leave early or take off. Frustrating hard sometimes.

These are my situations but everyone's motherhood story I've learned is hard. They're all different kinds of hard; we have different situations and different goals that make each of our hards unique in their own way.  Maybe the first time, four years ago, when the balancing of  it all got really hard I wasn't ready or expecting it. I know at this point in my motherhood journey it's going to be hard regardless, but I also know this time I can choose my hard.  That s what I have to remind myself when I'm frustrated and doubting my capabilities of what I can really accomplish this year. I can either drag my feet and throw in the towel that this year seriously has the potential to kick my butt or work hard to stay focused on my goals, focus on the positive rather than the negative each day, shake off the bad failed moments and know that the next day is a new day. Perspective I've learned in the years since I struggled through this whole post baby motherhood balance thing is everything. I've worked hard in the four years since I lost my way  to change my thinking, to change my mindset. My mindset has the potential to be the everything in either finding success or failure this year. There will be tough moments. There will be disasters. There will be shit that goes wrong. But I can't let it be everything. I can't let the frustration get to me, to interfere in my goals.

I headed into this year determined I would have the so called All. After the birth of my second when it felt like the bottom just fell out of everything- motherhood, career, marriage, money I wrote a whole chapter in my book on the myth of "Having It All", the idea of the modern day woman having and exceling in it all at the same time with family, career, marriage, health/fitness, financial stability and progress, pursuit of personal hobbies and goals. Four years and a third baby later though I was convinced I could prove that girl of four years ago wrong. I could balance my three kids with a career I enjoy again. I could make more time for my marriage again with adding back in date nights and even trip getaways. I would make working out every week a priority in my life again. We could continue to pay down debts and increase our savings and even financially plan to have the summers off together again.  I'd make the time for myself to write and even pursue some publications again. This was the year I kept saying I'd prove to myself I could have it all at the same time. But here I am at only week 3 and I'm doubting that question of can we really have it all at the same time? What does the true reality of that look like? So will I master the whole having it all this year?  All I can do is give it my best shot. I'm sure it's going to have some highs and low lows probably but I'll give it what I got.

The hard truth is it's impossible to make everybody happy, and even though I wish my give a damn button was broken as much as I claim it to be, honestly the being pulled thin and not meeting everyone's needs gets to me and makes me feel like no matter what I do it's never enough. The simple fact is it has to be enough. I have to be enough. I am enough and I have to know that this time.

                       But these three faces make all the hard totally worth it. LOVE them so much.



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Baby's Love

My oldest is 7.5 years old and my youngest four months. The other day as he was looking at me with that look of complete awe and trust that a baby gazes at you with I thought how different it was than the looks I receive from his sister these days. The seven year old that now calls me out for being on my computer or phone too much, who tells me I’m bossy for telling her do things around the house. She sees my imperfections and daily mistakes now. I’m no longer perfect in her eyes like I once was and still is in my son’s young eyes. She knows the truth that I am a flawed human.

He doesn’t know yet that sometimes I’m tired and out of patience and in those moments the not so best sides of myself come out. She does though and she tells me she doesn’t want to be a mom because I make it look too hard and stressful. He doesn’t know that sometimes I get distracted and miss things, but she does and reminds me that it’s not very good of me to not pay attention to what she’s trying to show me. He doesn’t know that I’m not perfect, that in truth I’m full of many flaws, but she knows because she tells me how I’m a horrible cook and makes sure I know all the things I don’t do very well.

It wasn’t until I saw that wondered look of love in a baby’s eyes that I forgot how much I missed it. It wasn't until I saw it again that I realized how truly fleeting it is. All too soon he’ll know I’m not perfect either. He’ll know I make mistakes daily.  He will see the truth too that I am only human but for now he looks at me like I am his whole world.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Reasons to NOT Travel with a Baby

I write all the time about how much I love to travel and how I love to include our kids with us. I don’t really plan to change my ways even as crazy as traveling this summer has made me. I’ve decided a person that decides to travel the country frequently with their children, particularly as babies must be a really special person. Like the special kind that is not in their right mind. However, I am very dedicated to my values of traveling and making the time and effort to see family so I braved this crazy trip across country with our three month old, and I can now tell you why maybe you should NOT travel with a baby. I’ve put my sanity to the test to test this theory so I’m an expert by all means so please heed my warning.

First of all a baby cries A LOT. And when you’re all stuck in a car or a small living space like a hotel room there is no escape from the ear piercing siren horn that is your beloved baby that you definitely love but suddenly completely understand the phrase, “I love you but I really don’t like you right now.”

Second, because your baby cries A LOT rather than strangling your child because at one in the morning it almost seems like a good solution you and your spouse instead attack and insult each other. Which let me tell you solves everything. NOT. But again, not in your right mind in the first place when you decide to travel across country with a baby.

Third because your baby cries A LOT,  when it occurs in those trapped in the car going 70+ miles down the highway moments your options are either drive everyone off a cliff and end everyone’s misery or trust the two younger children in the back to “take care” of the baby by feeding him. When they basically dump a whole bottle of precious breastmilk all over the baby try really hard not to lose your shit. They’re only four and seven. What did you expect? It’s just breastmilk. Breastmilk! You know that stuff they call liquid gold!

Fourth, when the baby is actually not crying and testing your last nerve there’s the crazy amount of extra stuff you have to pack to haul a baby around the country. It has to have its own special bed, the playpen. However, it will make sure you know it does not appreciate you hauling a special bed across the country as it lays there night after night and screams at you to get it out of that damn foreign contraption.

Fifth, it pees and poos a lot. But I will say is better than traveling with a potty training traveler which I have done as well and don’t recommend either but that’s a post on peeing on the side of the road for later. At some point you’re going to get peed and pooped on maybe to the point where you’re not even sure if the wet circles on your clothes are pee, liquid poo, or a combination of both, and your only hope because everything is packed away is that the car AC will dry it quickly.

I still have about 7-8 hours left in this drive across the country at this point so I’m sure I could come up with about five more reasons why to NOT travel across country with a baby but I think you get the idea at this point that I would NOT recommend this particular experience.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

These Two

I have to take a moment to recognize my two daughters. I want them to know this summer was about more than just their baby brother. You ever look at your kids and realize you're actually quite impressed by them. These two continue to amaze me every day so yes I'm going to brag on my girls if you don't want to read any further.

They have made juggling three so much easier than I'm sure it usually is. I always say God sent my oldest first because he knew with no family around we would need this girl, and her little sister at just four years of age I think pitches in even more than she did at four because she follows her sister's lead.  As my oldest told me the other day she's going to be cooking us dinner before too long, and I have no doubt. I had to leave in the middle of making our olive oil with basil sauce and tomato pizzas the other day to nurse the baby, and she with the help of her sister they finished the pizza and put them in the oven so by the time I came out they were cooked and ready to eat. With so many meals being prepared throughout the day with all of us home I've come back again from having to take a break to feed the baby to finding a completely cleaned up kitchen with surfaces wiped down and dishes loaded in dishwasher and even occasionally washed by hand (with a little extra water on the floor but hey who am I  to complain). The girls started this summer helping with just putting their clothes away; they now sort laundry and know how to operate the washer. They decide one day to wash all the clothes in the laundry room for me to leave a nice huge pile for me to fold (but again who am I to complain). They've fed the baby, they've changed the baby (unless it's poo then Mom!), they've dressed the baby.

I wish I could explain the relationship these two have. It simply amazes me. I hope they know watching their love for each other is one of the greatest joys of my life as a mother. Now together they've turned that love and devotion on their little brother who just completely adores them in return.  They have so much love to give and it's one of the things I am most proud of as their mother. The world unfortunately will do its best to steal that from them, and I hope they know their love and compassion can be one of their greatest gifts to the world so I hope they never lose it.

Their imagination and creativity gives me a laugh almost every day whether it's playing school, barbies, horses and ponies, or house with their dolls. They always have a "story" their "characters" are living.

They are so smart. They will just share some random fact with me. Something I don't know like why cats have whiskers. I'll ask where they learned it and they'll just reply with a "from the books we read from the library" like duh, mom. They just soak everything in and remember EVERYTHING it seems like.

I want them to know they are going to do great things. Even in those tough moments, my girls, come back to the love in your heart, the creativity that makes you unique, and the smarts that will lead you to think for yourself. These three things will guide you to great places.

I cannot express how much I have loved watching you grow this summer. You really do give me so much love and joy. Don't ever forget that.

Check out my recent published essays and articles in other magazines and websites this summer

Home is Where the Work Is on Tribe Magazine

10 Things I've Learned in my Pursuit of Happiness on Lose the Cape

A Mother's Wish: I Hope you Always Dance

A Mother's Harshest Critic on The Red Tricycle

Make Momma's Happiness a Priority on The Red Tricycle

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

The Emotional Pendulum of Returning to Work

My emotions with returning back to work full time after being home with my children so much for the past five months are all over the place. I was really hoping I'd start to get bored from being home so much and be sick of my kids that I'd be more than ready for the break from them that working offers.

They definitely have their moments where they drive me crazy but I'm not sick of them or dying for a break from them. With three kids and my own agenda with working out and enjoying my personal hobbies like reading, writing, and (digital) scrap booking there's been little time for boredom. To say being home with this has been enjoyable would be an understatement.

I know my older two need to get back to our "normal" with their school, activities, and routines. But even though this is my third time it's still so hard to face leaving a baby when you go back to work. I loved my job last year. I'm super excited for new things I have coming up this school year. It's the knowing I'll be leaving him for ten hours a day that kills me. This is where that hour commute each way hits me. I love the school I've been at the past two years but it takes me away from him for at least an extra hour or so a day. But then I remind myself with the other two, more so my first  I had a second PT job 5-10 hours a week (my second was a year old before I went back to doing PT work after school) so at least I don't have that making going back to work harder for me this time.

Of course I always ask myself what about staying home. First it's always never been a possibility because I bring in half of our financial needs and with going into thirteen years on the salary scale with a Masters +30 degree as well as the extra stipends I get for other school projects I do I make too much money to not work. I've done the math. Even with a part time job that paid at $30 or so an hour and with no daycare costs we'd still lose half our income. Plus it'd setback my retirement goals, and those are kind of important to me.

Obviously money is the first thing I consider when it comes to my choice but the other is knowing myself. I need productivity in my life on an almost daily basis. I also crave to feel a part of something and feel like a contributor. At seven years into this working mom gig I know flaws and mistakes and all, I'm still a good mom. I'm not perfect by any means but I've also learned I don't have to be. I know now that I can be a good mom and a working contributor on different levels. Being a working mom makes me feel like I contribute productively on many levels. I'm contributing as an employer but also due to my job on a larger societal level. As I stated before being able to equally financially contribute on a family level is important to me. I understand in homes where one parent stays home they work out a contribution balance that works for them, but as someone who's had to pay for her own things the majority of her life having to depend on someone else financially would kill my perception of my own self worth. Whereas other girls/women may struggle with self image and worth due to appearance or weight for me it's more linked to my contributions and the productivity I accomplish. I need to be busy; I need to be doing. Modeling the balance of motherhood with a career and my own personal goals/ambitions to my girls is important to me. The world is so different today for women than it use to be generations ago, and I want them to know they can pursue their own ambitions one day too.

God knows I've considered other ways to be home more and still financially contribute and feel productive and a part of something, but I've invested 16 years (counting undergrad studies) into my career. Right now I'm happy in it again which is HUGE. I can't just abandon everything I've put in to get here where I am. However, I have to have a good year career wise this year because I already know from experience if I have a bad year that is when the guilt of not being home with my baby will consume me. If it's a good year and I'm happy I can manage the guilt. I know all too well the first two years away from your baby is when the guilt is at its worst ( after that I feel they benefit from my absence at work). The good news is this time our life is more together than it was when we brought the other two into our family. I won't have to pick up extra work throughout the school year, and I should be able to enjoy my summers home with them again.

I'm headed into this school year with mixed emotions. Excitement because I'm excited for what I'll be doing in and out of the classroom at work. Sad because it's always hard to leave your baby, and I'm going to be leaving him as he hits that seperation anxiety stage (at least I'm not the one dropping him off). And anxious because I worry about balancing it all and not feeling overwhelmed, and I want it to be great a year professionally and personally but worry I'll get in my own way at times.

Working is important to me. As much as teaching has drained me at times, whether it's the workload with the grading or at times the behavior of the kids or even their sometimes crazy parents, I take a lot of pride in my chosen profession. I, just like every teacher I know, really can make a difference whether it's through one child that just needs to connect with that one adult or through the lessons we pass on how to go out there and make our world a better place.

But I am also incredibly grateful for these past few months to be home with my children. Maybe that's why I didn't burn out of it like I kind of hoped I would. I knew it was a rare opportunity to thoroughly enjoy them in a way I haven't been able to in years, possibly ever. Maybe it's a good thing I didn't burn out because I can go back knowing I made the most of my time with them.