Feb 19

To Spencer, Who Taught Me How to Love

Even the butterflies love you

Even the butterflies love you

Seventeen years ago today:  I woke up a wife, a daughter, a sister and a friend.  I went to bed that night as a mom…. forever impacted, forever changed.  The following letter is to Spencer on his 17th birthday.  The one who taught me what it meant to be a mother.  The one who really taught me – and continues to teach me, in so very many different ways – what it means to love.

 

So 17 years.  It sounds like such a long time, and yet just as the cliche goes… it’s gone by in the blink of an eye.  It really does seem like yesterday that you were that adorable little toddler, with your cute little glasses and ready smile and ever-present toy tractor in your hand.  You were such an absolute joy.  So happy and carefree, so much fun to be around.

You still are.

Your teenage self is every bit as wonderful as a companion as your toddler self.  You are kind, and smart, and funny, and have one of the biggest hearts of anyone I know.  I think of watching you over the past year, of having the privilege of seeing you mature into a young man.  Seeing your relationships grow, your knowledge expand, your understanding of the world around you deepen.

I think of your surgery… the same exact shoulder surgery that knocked me flat. out. for so many weeks in so many ways… surgery that you handled like a freaking rock star. Everyone said it was because of the difference in our ages (and sure, that likely played a part), but so much more than that was YOU, and your positive attitude.  I never saw you complain, not once.  I never saw you feel sorry for yourself, as much as I knew you were itching to get back out to working on your engines.  You never doubted for a second that you’d heal completely, and quickly.  Like crazy quickly.

I think of the day that I screwed up.  The day that I didn’t handle a conversation the way that I should I have, and went to bed feeling bad and yucky and off-kilter because of it.  I knew that if I didn’t get up and apologize to you, I’d never get to sleep that night.

You were already asleep when I went into your room.  ”Spencer,”  I whispered, before I kissed you on the forehead.  ”Spencer, I just wanted to tell you that I’m sorry.  And that I love you.”

I don’t think you even opened your eyes.  But you smiled, and told me, “It’s okay.  I love you too.”

And that right there is the biggest lesson that you teach me, over and over.  When someone apologizes, you forgive.  When you accidentally hurt someone else, you apologize.  When you love someone you just love them.  Completely and unconditionally.  I’ve never seen you hold a grudge, not for a second.  Never seen you play games with emotions, never seen you turn on a friend.  Your loyalty is real, and it’s inspiring.

I want to be just like you when I grow up.

Happy, happy birthday, Spencer.  I hope you have a great time with your girlfriend today, and I can’t wait to go out to dinner with you tonight.

I thank God every day that I get to be your mom.

 


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Feb 08

The Hard Things

 scrabble

I’m really bad at Scrabble. So bad that on the rare occasion that I dare play with my husband, he doesn’t just beat me. He demolishes me, with double or triple my score. And no matter how many times he tells me it’s a puzzle game, NOT a word game, it still bothers me that I – someone who lives and breathes for words – can be so dreadfully awful at a game that revolves around… well, making words!

I’m bad at chess too, and all my kids who play can beat me easily. I don’t have the attention span required to think two, three moves ahead (to be honest, paying attention long enough to think through one move is pushing it), and I can never remember the rules.

I’m good at baking, but I can’t fry a decent egg to safe my life.

I like sports, but I’m incredibly clumsy. I ran track one year in high school, and the coach was so frustrated at my repeatedly bungled attempts at the high jump, that he finally said, “You know what, this event isn’t for everyone. Maybe you need to think about trying something else.” I did eventually get the hang of the long jump and triple jump, although doing so gave me life-long shin splints, so I’m not sure it was a fair trade-off.

I struggle with math. Once I go beyond the basics, something inside me cries, “Too hard, too hard!!” and a little switch in my brain shuts off. Refuses to even try.

I have a terrible sense of direction. I’ve lived here in Phoenix for over 8 years now, and while I never truly worry that I’ll get lost-lost (mainly because the layout of the city is very gridded, and I know I’ll eventually get to an area/street/highway that I recognize) my track-record outside of my own normal stops is… spotty. The thought of going anywhere I’m not very familiar with, especially without my little sticky note of directions (I tend not to trust the GPS) makes my palms sweaty.

So why am I sharing this list of shortcomings? Because, about a month ago, I started taking a karate class as part of my 40 for 40 list of goals for the year. I always thought it’d be fun, and it is fun. But it’s also really freaking hard, at least for me. It doesn’t come naturally. I keep getting my left and right confused, I’ll start a middle block and some how end up with a high block, and when my hands are finally doing the right thing, my feet forget what they’re doing. I get flustered and embarrassed and I have to work really hard to mentally get past my mistakes.

But I keep showing up, and I keep working at it.

Twenty years ago – probably 10 or even 5 years ago, if I’m being honest – I would have quit. Gone home after that very first class, made some sort of declaration about karate being “not for me”, and never gone back.

I stand before you a recovering perfectionist. For most of my life, if something didn’t come easily to me, if I couldn’t do it well right from the get-go, I simply didn’t do it. I avoided anything that was hard at all costs, anything that would make me feel stupid, or incompetent, or… human. And you know what? It’s really no way to live. I mean, sure, I did some worthwhile things. I wrote! I made art! I played music! But the things I missed out on… the things I really wanted to try, but avoided because deep down I was afraid of failing? That list is longer than I care to admit.

Some of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done as an adult have been things that were terrifying. Things that took me way outside of my comfort zone.  Things that were – or continue to be – really, really hard. Over time I’m learning to embrace the challenge, stare the fear in its face and say, “You’re not going to stop me this time.”

My kids? They don’t need to learn how to do this. They’ve already got it. When I interviewed them for my blog last year, and asked the question: “Some people think that unschoolers will only learn things that are easy for them, and will not ever challenge themselves. So do you learn things that are difficult, or do you just go for easy things that you know you’ll do well?” Spencer was quick to answer, “I like a challenge!” Right now he’s currently challenging himself with a two-year long small engine repair course that’s going to mean assignments, studying, and formal tests.  And just last week, when Everett and Paxton started a fencing class, their first comments after the class was done were, “That was SO HARD!  And so fun!  I can’t wait to go back.”

They’re not afraid of doing the hard things, and I’m finally, after 40 years on this planet, understanding why.

Because that feeling you get when you finally get that triple word score, or solve that polynomial equation, or smoothly execute the low block – middle punch – upper cut without getting tangled up in your own arms…

That feeling is pretty damn awesome.


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Feb 04

sick days and links

I spent yesterday in bed, caught by what was either the kids’ flu, or my body’s way of telling me,  ”Woman!  Rest! Here, have some body aches and chills and nausea, in case you get any wild ideas about not listening.”

So I rested, watched Party of Five re-runs until I was sick of them (waists were really high in 1994), and let my beautiful 9 year old bring me mug after mug of tea.  As a side note, if you’re looking for a single-cup coffee maker, skip the Keurig.  The Bunn MCU changed.  my.  life.

I also, when I wasn’t dozing off, got all caught up on my interwebs reading.  Here’s a list of some of the best things to grace my screen this week:

perspective, attitude, and poop –  This changed my life too, mainly because I’m forever more going to amuse myself by thinking that the person who’s being awful to me must just be really constipated. A good reminder to keep our perspective.

The Tiger Mother:  race, success, and lessons on the wrong thing - I’m not sure when I stumbled onto this blog, but it’s lovely and interesting.  This was a very unschooly perspective on what’s truly important in life (from someone who’s neither a mother nor an unschooler)

A Note About Philip Seymour Hoffman:  Addiction is Not Selfish - I was sad that such a talented actor lost his battle with addiction this week.  I found this to be a good reminder of what addiction is, and is not.

Russell Brand:  my life without drugs - And so was this, in a very intimate, up-close and personal way.

Online Connections:  Do They Count?  - Spoiler alert:  Yes, yes they do!

I Don’t Have to Be a Mom if I Don’t Want to – An important read if you’ve ever had one of those days when you just want to run away from it all.  Warning:  Liberal use of the F word :)

13 Examples of People Being Awesome in the Middle of the Atlanta Traffic Jam – To restore your faith in humanity. Because, kindness.

And finally, since I shared about depression the last time I wrote, here’s a little animation that does a great job explaining what it’s like, with a hopeful message of recovery as well.

Happy Tuesday, everyone!

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Jan 31

The Elephant in the Room: Do’s and Don’ts When a Friend is Depressed

daisies

I’m not one to brag, but I’ve gotten really really good at something. Like, so good that this week alone I had two separate friends, in two separate instances, tell me what a bang-up job I’ve been doing.  These were not happy conversations either, but uncomfortable ones. Conversations that left me tired and sad.  Yes, I’ve gotten very good at it, and I’m not proud of it.

In the interest of not keeping you in suspense:

I push people away.  I withdraw into a hole, I vanish from groups, I decline invitations, I give vague responses, I ignore my phone, I stop answering texts.  My life revolves around spending time with the worst best friend that I never remembered inviting to the party, but who all too often steadfastly refuses to leave.

It is a sneaky beast, depression.  It is both a liar and a thief, and along with its frequent cohort anxiety, it wraps around you so tightly that you start to lose track of where it ends and you begin.  It suffocates you, it holds you down, all the while making you feel like somehow you chose it.  Which makes you feel even worse.  How broken do you have to be inside to choose that?

Because the thing is, you did not choose it.  It chose you. For a myriad of possible reasons, you’re one of the unlucky ones.   I think it’s that fear though, that belief that people are going to look at you and think you’re causing it, think that if you just chose to you could “snap out of it” at a moment’s notice, that makes it so hard to talk about. That makes it the one thing you NEVER talk about, the thing that you hold so close it’s as if it were a near and dear secret. That makes it the reason – if you’re like me – that you push away even your closest friends, because even if you end up totally alone, there’s something somehow… safer… about being alone.   Because depression lies, and depression makes you believe the lies.

You don’t have to hide it.  You don’t have to be alone.

Last night, when I shared on Facebook that I was going to be writing about depression, within minutes I had over 100 “likes”, and dozens of people virtually raised their hands to say that they too, had suffered.  People get it. And the ones who don’t?  The ones who may not have experience of their own?  They want to help, too. Desperately. My friends, on those occasions when I’ve let them in, have been literal lifelines to me when I needed them.   Reach out to someone.  Reach out to that person who you know in your heart of hearts will just be there.

If you’re the friend, there are lots of things you can do to provide support…. and lots of (well-meaning!) things that, well… really don’t help.  The list that follows is born of a desire to help people understand, and it is far from exhaustive.  It’s merely a place to start, from my own personal experience.  My top six least and most helpful responses from my friends.  If for no other reason, because it’s beyond time to start talking about this.

If you have a friend who’s suffering from anxiety and/or depression:

DON’T tell them to “cheer up”

Or to “look on the bright side,”  or to just “focus on the positive.”  Having a positive attitude is all well and good of course, but if it were that simple, no one would be depressed.  It’s not something that one can just “snap out of”, so it’s a little insulting when it’s treated as such. Depression is a very, very different thing than being bummed because your favorite team lost the Super Bowl.

DON’T play doctor

This is perhaps the most frustrating to me.  Particularly in this day and age of such readily available information on alternative remedies such as essential oils, herbs, and homeopathics, everyone is anxious to diagnose and treat everyone else.  Please, please resist this urge.  It’s awesome if your best friend’s sister’s boyfriend had great luck with shock therapy, but that doesn’t mean it’s the answer for everyone.  Chances are good that your friend has already heard of all her options (and likely, has tried many or all of them), and if she hasn’t, it’s all readily available on Google.  What works for one person at one point in their journey may not work for another, or even for the same person at a different time.  So your suggestions are, at best, lucky guesses that were either tried already and rejected, already in use, or on a list of things to look at someday when the time is right.  Either way, what your friend needs you to be is just that:  a friend.  Not a doctor.

DON’T play therapist, either

Therapy is such a personal thing.  Some people love it and swear by it, some people hate it and avoid it at all costs.  (I’m the latter)  We all know it’s an option though, one we can utilize when/if it feels like the right decision. When we do make the often difficult choice to open up to you as a friend though, what we’re looking for is someone to listen, not to try to fix it.  You can’t fix it.  I had someone say to me once, “I’m sure if we can just sit down and talk about it, we can get this all sorted out in about an hour.”  I declined the invitation.  It just doesn’t work that way.  And even if it did, it would be something your friend would initiate on her own, with a professional.

DON’T tell them they just need more faith in God

Or that they need to pray harder.  Or that they need to spend more time studying their Bible. Or that if they just trust that God will take it from them, then He will.  It doesn’t work that way either.  God is not a gumball machine, where you just put in a quarter, and out pops your request.   Even worse, if your friend’s depression remains, she could be left thinking that there is something wrong with either her God or her faith, neither of which is the case.  Some of the most devout, faithful, loving people I know have suffered from depression.  Reaching out to God is great (and very helpful!) if that’s your inclination, but it’s not a magic pill.  To imply otherwise is to tell your friend exactly what I spoke about up above… that her depression is in some way her fault, and that if she just TRIED HARDER, and DID BETTER and prayed the RIGHT way, she could choose to be rid of it.

DON’T give up on them

Sometimes when I’ve gone through a particularly bad or long stretch, I genuinely worry that I’m not going to have any friends left when it’s all over.  It’s not a conscious choice to push everyone away, but just an unfortunate side-effect.  The great irony of course is that those times when everything about me is screaming, “Stay away from me.  Don’t talk to me.  NO, I don’t want to go out.  NO, I don’t want to chat.  NO, there’s nothing you can do to help…..” those are the times when I need a friend the most.   Don’t give up.

DON’T tell them you understand

Unless you really do.  Things like depression are very, very individual, and can manifest themselves in a myriad of ways.  I have dealt with chronic depression and anxiety off and on for my entire adult life, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I understand the situational depression brought on by, say, a divorce.  And that divorced person doesn’t necessarily understand the struggles of ongoing depression due to financial hardships.  Or the anxiety and stress that occurs after a traumatic event.  The fact is, we can’t always understand.  But we can be a friend.  We can support.  We can LISTEN.  We can always listen.

DO ask how you can help

Now, keep in mind that a lot of the time the answer is going to be, “I don’t know” or, “You can’t,” but simply asking if you can help goes a long way towards letting someone know that you care about them.  Offering to help is a thoughtful, non-threatening way to say, “Hey, I’m here if you need me.”  A friend asked me how she could help just this week, and though I didn’t have an answer for her (sometimes, there just really isn’t anything you can do other than be there), the sincerity of the question itself helped immensely.

DO be honest with your feelings

One of the coolest things anyone ever said to me when I was in a really bad place was, “I don’t know what to say.  I never know what to do in these situations.  But let’s have coffee sometime.”  It was perfect because 1)  it was honest, and 2) she wasn’t trying to “fix” anything, and was even admitting that she didn’t know how even if she wanted to and 3) she was letting me know she was available when/if I needed her.  All of that from a simple, “I don’t know what to say.”  If you don’t know what to say, or don’t know what to do, that admittance is hugely appreciated (and greatly preferred over insincere platitudes)

DO keep reaching out

The partner of, “Don’t give up on them,” reaching out to your friend lets her know that you’re still there, and that you’re thinking of her.   Keep inviting her to things (but don’t take it personally if she says no!), text her now and then to say hello, send her her favorite chocolate.  I got a few well-timed “thinking of you” cards in the mail last month – the post-office mail, not email – and the fact that someone took the time to get the card, write a few kind words of encouragement, and mail it made such a difference.

DO offer an ear, and/or a shoulder

“I’m here if you want to talk.”  Seven of the most powerful words you can utter when you don’t know what else to do.  I’ll be honest:  A lot of the time I just don’t want to talk about it at all (see the next item on the list), but when I do, it’s an invaluable thing to know that I have people I can go to, day or night, and that they’ll listen.  No judgement, no advice-giving, no preaching…. just listening.  I cannot emphasize the importance of listening enough.  I think we’ve become a largely self-absorbed society of people, always talk talk talking, and not enough listening.

DO be sensitive to when they do not want to talk

I had a friend several years ago who had a very hard time letting things lie when she knew something was up. “Spill it,” is what she’d say to me over and over, wanting me, harping on me really, to talk about it.  ”What’s going on with you?  Why are you in such a bad mood all the time?”  (As an aside, if you really want someone with depression to open up to you, it’s not a super idea to refer to said depression as “a bad mood.”)  Yes, talking can be a very healing thing.  Yes, it’s important to let them know you’re there for them.   But sometimes – a LOT of the time – what that person needs is not to talk but just to be.  To be with someone safe and familiar, someone who’s going to give them support, yes, but also give them space. When they want to talk, they’ll tell you.

DO continue to act “normal”

While it’s true that there is nothing you can do to help your friend “snap out” of a depression, sometimes it’s good – and welcome – to have a distraction.  Talk about your favorite TV shows, tell funny stories, share your favorite YouTube clips, share your life.

As much as you would like to, you can’t make it go away.  You just can’t.  What you can do though, is soften the edges, provide a safe to fall, and be the one that when the time comes (and the time will come) will be there to listen.

 


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Jan 21

Piercings and Perceptions (Those people are SCARY)

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A few weeks ago, Tegan (almost six at the time of this writing) got her ears pierced. She’d been toying with the idea for at least a year, but was nervous because she knew it would hurt. She talked about it all the time, and asked me lots of questions.  My response was always the same.  I wasn’t going to talk her into it, or talk her out of it.  The only one who could make that decision for her body was her.  ”When you’re ready, you’ll know.   And when you say, “when,” I’ll take you.”

That moment came just a few days after Christmas.  Knowing that I wanted to take her to a skilled, reputable piercer who would use a needle rather than the guns used at places like the mall, I made a bunch of phone calls, and asked some friends who’d had their girls’ ears pierced.  We ended up at a wonderful shop, with a kind and patient piercer who knew just how to calm Tegan’s understandable jitters.  When we came in, the soundtrack to Frozen was playing, and she even had the guy at the front desk put on “Do You Want To Build a Snowman?” just as she was about to pierce, because she’d overheard Tegan say it was her favorite.  How above and beyond is that?

Making it even more of an “event”, Tegan had not just her dad and I in her entourage, but also her grandparents who were visiting from Massachusetts.  She’d wanted to share it with them, and they were happy to come along for the ride.  It was a big, momentous day in her life, one that I was so excited to be able to give to her.  We couldn’t have asked for a better experience, and Tegan is thrilled with her new earrings.

I’m thinking about it today because a friend just happened to share an article about why you should take your child to a tattoo/piercing shop (as opposed to the alternatives) to get their ears pierced.  It wasn’t new information for me, but I read it with interest since ours was such a fresh experience.

When I was done, I read the comments, which were largely made by people like us… people who’d had great experiences, and were happy to share about it.  And then there were a few that stood out, a few that said, (I’m paraphrasing):

I would never take my kids in to a place like that.  People who work at those places look scary.  I wouldn’t want my kids to have nightmares.

I grew up around such prejudices and similar attitudes about people with piercings, tattoos, etc. as well.   I remember once when I was a kid, a woman visited our church with a sleeveless dress on that showed off a cute little flower tattoo on her shoulder.  It was adorable (a million times tinier than any of the tattoos I would go on to get) and I was fascinated by it.   But when it was mentioned later in my youth group, it wasn’t to talk about how pretty it was… it was to talk about what kind of “image” a tattoo is sending to the world…. a tattoo that we wouldn’t have even seen had she not been wearing a sleeveless dress, which, of course, sent its own message.

I decided somewhere along the way that I wanted something different for my own kids.  That I didn’t want them to see people for their clothes or their hairstyles or their body modifications, but for who they are as people.  I want them to assume, first and foremost, that most people are good.  That most people are kind.  That most people will treat them as respectfully as they’re treated in kind, no matter what their outer packaging looks like.   In fact, one of the reasons I keep my dreadlocks even through those moments of “I’m cutting them all off!” desperation, is that they open so many doors for acceptance.  It’s rare that we don’t have an outing that finds us talking about dreadlocks with all kinds of different people.  Pierced, tattooed, modified, dreaded, shaved, dyed… all those people that moms like the one up above find “scary”… making friendly conversation and sharing kind words with strangers.  Just like… well, just like the regular people that they are.  Subsequently, there are few things that shock my kids appearance-wise.

That’s not to say though, that there’s anything wrong with a child being unsure or afraid of something he’s not familiar with.  Not at all.  Just a few months ago, we were at a museum when Tegan saw someone with some startling differences, things this woman was born with, that really scared her.  I couldn’t fault her for feeling that way. How I could I?  She’d never seen someone who looked like that before.  What I could do was remind her, and myself, that it’s all just external.  Just packaging.  That beneath the exterior, we’re all the same.  We’re all beautiful.   Worthy of kindness, respect, and love.

So my response to those who wouldn’t want to expose their kids to those “scary” people would be this:

First, some of the nicest people I have ever met have been at tattoo shops.  Truly.  I’ve only had wonderful experiences at every single one of the shops I’ve gone to.  My theory is that the artists who are tattooing and piercing are following a passion … people who follow their passions are happy … and happy people are nice people.  Let down your guard, and let yourself see it.

And second, kids take their cues from their parents more than from anyone else.  If we continue to avoid people who are “different”, they will continue to believe that “different” is scary. If we stay far away from the guy with the long dreadlocks, scoff at the guy with the coaster-sized gauged ears, and silently judge the girl with tattoos all over her neck, our kids will learn from our example.  It starts with us.

It’s okay for kids to be scared or unsure when they’re first faced with someone who looks “out of the ordinary.” It’s not okay for us, as parents, to perpetuate it.

 


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Jan 10

40 For 40

Today, I turn 40.

 

This is 40

This is 40


I haven’t done New Year’s resolutions for a long time (although some of what follows will definitely sound resolution-ish) but I do so love a list of goals.  This year, as I approached 40 and my brain started tickling with all the new things I wanted to experience this year, I decided that a “40 for 40″ list was in order.

It’s a year of celebrating me.  Of self-care.  Of creativity.  Of honoring the 40 years I’ve been on this planet.  40 years is a long time, and yet…. God willing, sooo much life still ahead of me! So much to do and see and try and taste and experience.

40 is also the year that I let go of the last few holds of perfectionism.  The need to DO ALL THE THINGS, and do them all “right.”  To that end, if I don’t do something on the list, it’s okay!  If I decide I don’t want to do something after all, that’s okay too. Maybe it’ll get added to the 41 for 41 list.  Or maybe it’ll get replaced with something even better.  I have no doubt that it will all work out exactly the way it’s supposed to.

And without further ado, my list (and my commentary):

 

  1. Start gauging my earsMainly because it’s just something I always wanted to try.  So I did, a week ago today.  I’m a tiny little 14 gauge right now, and plan to go up to 0.
  2. Get another tattooThat’s done too!  Thanks to my lovely friend Erika coming to visit at the last minute. Tattoos are always better when you go with a buddy!  It made tattoo #5.
  3. Take a karate class - Another thing I always wanted to do.  My class started on Wednesday.  It is fun and fast paced, and so much harder than I thought it would be!  It made me feel so clumsy and uncoordinated, it’s amazing I can put my own pants on in the morning.  I was telling my sister, who is taking the class with me, that it’s a good thing I waited till now to take it.  The old me would have been too intimidated, too embarrassed to go back after my muddled first attempt… but the current me is shouting, “YEAH!  A challenge!!”  I can’t wait to learn more!
  4. Go back to school - I’ve taken various classes over the past several years, took a nutrition program, earned my RYT to teach yoga, etc.  Earning a degree has never held any importance for me (and it still doesn’t), but ASU recently expanded their online offerings, and I found something called Healthy Lifestyle Coaching which combines fitness, nutrition, yoga, anatomy… all those things I get super geeked about, all in one major. And well, given the fact that I get a ridiculous discount since Mike works for them, I just couldn’t NOT do it.
  5. Put on a successful conference - I’m not gonna lie.  I’m nervous.  Possibly as nervous as I’ve ever been about anything.
  6. Draw something.  Hang it on my wall.  - I took art classes all through high school, and a few in college.  I liked painting, but I loved drawing and sketching.  Pencil, charcoal, pen and ink… loved.  I’ve missed it.
  7. Knit a project from start to finish – I taught myself to knit a few years ago, but got bored before I actually completed anything.  Thought it’d be fun to pick it up again.
  8. Get back into doing a handstand – even if it’s against a wall.  My shoulder’s ready. And, 
  9. Learn the scorpion pose – They worked on this a bit when I was in my teacher training a year and a half ago, but my shoulder injury dictated that I sit it out.  :(  Fast forward through surgery, and a L O N G recovery, and I was never able to work on it.  I’m ready for that now, too.
  10. Sit down at the piano, and practice and learn a new song  -  One song, any song. And not just the intro.
  11. Get back down to my drivers license weight – Okay, so, I am the first person to tell you to ignore the scale, don’t focus on numbers… that you should gauge your progress by how you feel, how strong you are, how your clothes fit, etc.  But.  There’s something powerful about having a specific, concrete goal (such as do x number of pushups, or run x number of miles) rather than a general, “get healthy.”  Well, too many pushups blow out my shoulder.  I only run when chased.   But I can control my weight.   Some of the 20 or so pounds I’ve put on over the past few years are due to a changing metabolism for sure… but much was also due to injury, depression, less activity, ::cough:: too much alcohol, and just plain not taking care of myself the way I should.  I won’t beat myself up about the past.  My body has – mostly – served me well exactly the way it is. But I’m ready to do something else with it now.
  12. Finish my parenting book  - It’s time.
  13. Take myself on a date to the movies – Once upon a time, I would have been way too self-conscious and embarrassed to do something like that by myself.  But last year, I accompanied Mike on a trip to Chicago for business, and needed to keep myself occupied when he was busy at his conference.  I went to two movies by myself, and I LOVED IT. Seriously loved it. Like, “Why on earth haven’t I been doing this all along??” loved it.  So I need to do it again.
  14. Spend an afternoon drinking coffee and wandering around Barnes and Noble – Because books.  And coffee.
  15. Re-read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance - I was in my early 20′s the first time I read it, and am curious how my 40 year old self will relate in comparison.
  16. Read Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking - I’ve only fully embraced my introvert self in the past few years, and have been recommended this book over and over.
  17. Read The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Just because everyone’s always shocked that I’ve never read it. So I put it on my “see what the fuss is about” list.
  18. Paint a picture – Hang it on the wall, with my drawing.
  19. Take an overnight trip by myself – I just need to decide who I’m going to visit!
  20. Take an aerial silk class – Because it’s awesome
  21. Learn how to make a really good homemade pad thai – Because it’s delicious
  22. Get some new eye makeup and learn how to use it –  I’m 40, and have no idea how to use makeup.  I’ve been a mascara and lipgloss girl forever, if I can be bothered to use that much.
  23. Spend a day at the zoo, just to take pictures – my favorite place to play with the zoom
  24. Get rid of all my clothes I don’t love/don’t fit – My drawers are stuffed, and I wear just a few favorite things.  This makes no sense?
  25. Hike at least 20 new spots in the valley - It’s sort of criminal that I live here, surrounded by all these great views and hiking trails, and I barely venture out of the house unless it’s in the truck to go off-roading. And, bonus, this is one my family can enjoy with me.
  26. Make a blogging schedule, and stick to it… whether it’s once a week, every day, etc - I try to give up blogging sometimes, but it keeps calling me back…
  27. *Don’t* do Nano, and feel good about skipping it - For the past 4 years, November has meant I was writing like a crazy woman, trying to get in my 50,000 word novel before the month ended. I loved it and hated it and got a lot out of it… but this year I’m focused on other things.
  28. Go to a concert – Christina Perri is coming to Tempe.  I’m a little bit obsessed with her.
  29. Sew something – Finish it.
  30. Make myself a chain mail necklace and/or bracelet – So far I’ve only made them as gifts, but I really love doing it.
  31. Aim to do yoga *every* day… but feel no guilt if I skip it - I need to do this if I’m going to be successful at #8 and #9
  32. Go back to a paper planner, and do this with it. I’m on week two so far, and loving it!
  33. Actually cook/bake/create some of the things I’ve pinned on Pinterest – Because there’s too many cool/delicious/fun things on there to let them just languish away on the interwebs.
  34. Get Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese and work my way through it  - Don’t care that’s it’s all carbs and dairy.  Sigh. Garrett of Vanilla Garlic.  I’m a little bit obsessed with him too.  
  35. Get some Earth Boxes and grow some vegetables.  Try not to kill them – I’m sadly the only one in the family who was not blessed with a green thumb.  I kill Christmas cactuses.  I kill things that are supposed to be impossible to kill.  I’m not going to get crazy, but surely maybe I can grow some tomatoes.
  36. Do the purging challenge at least for one month http://www.theminimalists.com/game/ - DO IT.
  37. Take the Personal Trainer test - I’ve had the book for at least a couple of years now.  I just need to study it.
  38. Find a really perfect pair of jeans and a really perfect hoodie – Everyone should have jeans and a hoodie that they really love and feel great in.  I don’t currently have any that fit that criteria.  :(
  39. Ditto for a skirt - I’m not a skirt person.  But I think it’d be fun to be one sometimes.
  40. Pay off one credit card – Because, ugh.  Enough already.

 

And there’s my list.  Phew.  I can’t wait to cross the next thing off!  Happy birthday to me.


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Jan 07

Bedtimes, Limits, and Baby Steps

tegansleeping

 

I recently received an email that asked a couple of great questions that really spoke to a larger issue, one that gets brought up a lot.

 

There are two things I’m wondering if you can help me understand. I’ve read your posts on no tv limits and no bedtime. At what age did you begin that with your kids? I’m wondering if that’s something I should consider starting now for my 3 yr old, or if I should wait until she’s older. What are your thoughts there?

 

First, I would caution anyone – at any stage of unschooling – against making any extreme changes all at once.  (Ie: Kids have an 8:00 bedtime their whole lives, and mom one day announces, “From now on, no more bedtimes. Stay up as late you want.”)  Such a drastic step rarely goes well, causes stress and chaos, and makes it far too easy to slip into a mentality of “anything goes,” which is the antithesis of thoughtful unschooling.  Instead, say “yes” more often.   Take baby steps.  Make gradual changes.  Follow Sandra Dodd’s advice of “read a little, try a little, wait, watch.”   Think of the goal of having a happy, peaceful, respectful relationship with your kids… not of giving them total freedom (which doesn’t really exist anyway.)

A few days ago, I read a post from a well-meaning and frustrated mom who’d recently started unschooling, and had done away with a set bedtime for her very young – 3 or 4 year old – daughter.  The girl was literally staying up all night, until 4 or 5 in the morning.  She was making noise and making it difficult for others to sleep, and she was (understandably!) exhausted and cranky the next day.   The current situation was clearly not working, for anyone involved, but mom was confused about what she should or should not do about it, because “unschoolers don’t have bedtimes.”

ALL kids, unschoolers or not, need sleep.  ALL families, unschoolers or not, need to work together to respect everyone’s needs if the household is going to operate as one cohesive, peaceful unit.

We don’t have set bedtimes – for any of our kids –  but sleep and the nighttime routine are definitely one of those fluid, ever-changing things that we often have to re-evaluate.   Most nights, I don’t know when the 16 and 13 year old go to bed, because I go to bed before them. They’re usually happily playing on their computers, and/or Skypping with friends when I say goodnight.  They go to bed when they’re tired, and sleep as late as they need. When our schedules change for whatever reason, they use their alarm clocks, and/or go to bed a bit earlier each night to get re-acclimated.  The 9 year is usually up when I go to bed as well, although I will often ask him to either play more quietly, or go to bed to read/watch TV if he’s being too loud for others to sleep.   He sometimes has issues with volume control when he’s playing Minecraft and Skypping with his friends, so we talk a lot about respect for others who are trying to sleep (particularly his dad, who has to get up for work at 5:00 AM).  As for the five year old, we’re actually working with her on this.  Within the past several months, she wanted to keep up with the “big kids” and started staying up later and later.  Which actually would have been fine – her favorite late night activity is usually coloring, which is completely quiet – except that her body wasn’t allowing her to sleep in in the morning, so she just wasn’t getting enough sleep.  So we worked with her on getting to bed earlier… doing quiet things, reading books, laying in our bed with us, etc.   These days, she’s staying up fairly late, but she’s started sleeping later as well, so she’s well-rested.  We all got a bit off our routine over the holidays, with all the activity, people visiting, etc.  So we’re currently finding our way to back to normal. Assessing, evaluating, making changes where they’re needed.

And television?  It’s a great tool and resource, so yes, I wouldn’t arbitrarily limit it any more than I’d limit books or blocks or art supplies.   If your house is fun and happy and interesting, television becomes just another cool thing that your children could choose or not choose in any given day, no matter their age.  If it’s been previously limited, just move slowly.  :)  ”Sure, you can watch another show.”  ”Of course, I’d love to watch Strawberry Shortcake with you.”  TV watching, like anything else, goes through ebbs and flows.  Sometimes they watch a lot, and sometimes they don’t watch at all for weeks at a time.

 

One other thing, we do a daily quiet time where she plays in her room for while. She’s an introvert and will happily play in her room on her own for hours at a time, much longer some days than we typically request of her for quiet time. It’s seemed to work well for her and gives her an opportunity to recharge and play in her own space without her little brother getting in her way. After reading more about unschooling though, I guess I’m questioning that, thinking maybe we should just all her to choose how and where she wants to play during that time as well, instead if restricting it to in her room. Do you have an thoughts or insights on that?

 

I’m a huge introvert, with a busy life and four kids and a husband and a house to take care of…. so the idea of spending hours alone in my bedroom sounds positively dreamy to me.  It sounds like your daughter really enjoys it, so I think it’s great that you’re facilitating that for her. There’s no need to require it though.  Some days she might not want it or need it.  Some days she might want to play with her brother, or just talk to mom.   I’ve found that my kids and I will naturally come together and move apart multiple times throughout the day…. sometimes playing together, sometimes working on our own things but in the same space, sometimes in our own space completely.   And while there are certainly times (especially towards the end of a busy day) when I’ll say something like, “I just need a couple of minutes to catch my breath and have a sip of coffee”, I pretty whole-heartedly disagree with the advice that’s often given that advocates “taking a break” from your kids.

We’re all a team, choosing to spend time together.  The years when they are young and needing and wanting lots of attention from mom go so fast,  (So fast.  SO.  FAST!)  so I do my best to embrace them. At the end of the day, what I really want is for my kids to know that mom was there. And the fact that you’re searching, and asking questions, and evaluating tells me that you want the same thing. :)

(Want me to answer a question in an upcoming blog post?  Send it here.)


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Jan 02

Front Doors, Turning 40, and My Goals for the New Year

frontdoor

 

This is my front door.  It’s still bearing its little dollar store wreath, and it’s still surrounded with Christmas lights. With life being… well, life… they will likely still be there in April.

Why am I taking pictures of my door?

Well, I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  I don’t do New Year’s themes, or choose a word or intention for the year either (another thing that seems really popular).  My love affair with lists however, remains unabated and strong. I’m turning 40 soon.  In 8 days in fact.   And as I was adding to my growing list of things I wanted to do/try/start this year, in honor of turning 40, it occurred to me that what I really needed to do was to make my list exactly 40 items long…. one for each year I’ve been alive.  And thus my “40 for 40″ list was born.

I will share the list in its entirety soon, but today I wanted to share just one thing.

I decided to participate in this planner/art journal/creativity challenge called The Documented Life Project (want to join me?  It’s not too late!) and the first week’s creative prompt was door-related.  I’m still waiting on my Moleskine book from Amazon, so I can’t draw, sketch, ruminate about my door in there.  So I’m sharing it here instead.

Most meaningful front door of my life.  I “found myself” behind this door.  We brought home the child that would complete our family through this door.  We started a whole new life for ourselves in Arizona behind this door.

I’m going to turn 40 behind this door.

Doors, opportunities, and adventures.  Happy New Year!

 


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Dec 31

2013 Top Ten

Before I get into my list of my most read posts of the year, I have to briefly talk about November and December, two of my best months for my blog EVER, for entirely different – but related – reasons.

First, November.  November was my all-time greatest month in terms of page hits.  That is just really really cool.  It means you’re not only reading my stuff, but sharing it as well.  I read a lot of articles, blog posts, etc in the course of any given day, and only deem a small fraction worthy of passing on.  So the fact that you’re reading my words and choosing to share them with others is a huge, huge compliment.  Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

And December…. In December I had a nervous breakdown.  I’m kidding. (No I’m not) I decided I needed a break from blogging, and more than that, a break from all the constant negativity aimed my way on my Facebook page. So I temporarily unpublished it.  Which meant that my hits for December then reached a low that I haven’t seen for a long time.   But something else happened too.  People reached out to me, and for the first time in… months? years?  I received nothing but kind words.  Support.  Encouragement.  Understanding.  It was exactly what I needed, exactly when I needed it.  So thank you for that too, from the bottom of my heart.

Now for the list!  These were my most read posts of the year, from greatest to least number of hits.  In the interest of full disclosure, it’s actually my top 11 posts, minus one that I just didn’t want to give more attention (not because I’m ashamed of it or regret it or anything… but just because I didn’t want to shed more light on something negative.  It needed to be said so I said it)

I really like this list this year, because it covers a multiple of topics.  We’ve got unschooling, parenting, Christianity, body shaming, apraxia, and even something as silly as Facebook.  I get a lot of, “I think you should stick to writing about xyz” comments, but I have opinions about (and therefore like to write about) all kinds of things.. so it’s nice to know that many of you read and appreciate hearing my take on those other things as well.

 

1.   How (and why) I opted out of being the meanest mom in the world

2.  Child Abuse Cloaked in “Christian Discipline”… Another Death at the Hands of Pearl Followers

3.  Does Unschooling Mean “Anything Goes?”

4.  My Response to “Please Don’t Help My Kids”

5.  Just Wait Till Your Kids Are Teens

6.  I Am Not a Christian

7.  Unschooling, According to the Kids

8.  10 Facebook Behaviors That Drive Me Crazy

9.  What is Apraxia?

10.  That Girl Needs To Lay Off the Cheeseburgers

Did you have a favorite in this list?  Which one?  I would love it if you shared it with your friends too (even if you shared it before.)

Thank you so much for reading and sticking with me this past year.  Have a happy and blessed 2014, friends.  I can’t wait to see what it holds.


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Dec 14

Hands

You know how sometimes you can hear or read or see something a million times, and it doesn’t really affect you until you hear or read or see it exactly at the right time? That happened to me yesterday. I put on some Christmas music after I posted my “Keeping it Real” post, and the first song that played was the song Hands, by Jewel. I think I heard the words for the first time in my life. What an absolutely beautiful song. Exactly what I needed to hear, exactly when I needed to hear it.

 

If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all OK
And not to worry ’cause worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these
I won’t be made useless
I won’t be idle with despair
I will gather myself around my faith
For light does the darkness most fear
My hands are small, I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
Poverty stole your golden shoes
It didn’t steal your laughter
And heartache came to visit me
But I knew it wasn’t ever after
We’ll fight, not out of spite
For someone must stand up for what’s right
‘Cause where there’s a man who has no voice
There ours shall go singing
My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
I am never broken
In the end only kindness matters
In the end only kindness matters
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
I will get down on my knees, and I will pray
My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
My hands are small I know
But they’re not yours, they are my own
But they’re not yours, they are my own
And I am never broken
We are never broken
We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s mind
We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s heart
We are God’s eyes
God’s hands
God’s eyes
We are God’s hands
We are God’s hands


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