Christmas Buzz

The other day we headed up to a mall to wander around for a while. Each of us was looking for something we needed, so it seemed like a good way to have a lazy Sunday. My son looked at me as we wandered around amidst all of the early Christmas decorations and said “I’m really excited for Christmas this year!”. I turned, admittedly thrilled to hear him say it, because let’s be honest, he’s 13 and, well, occasionally unimpressed by things as 13 years old are sometimes. I asked what it was in particular he was excited about. “It’s that feeling you get, you know, that buzz of excitement once you start seeing all the decorations go up. It’s that buzz of things to do.” he responded.

I know it well.

Christmas as a child, for those who celebrate it, always seemed to be a magical day. There is the magic of Santa, presents, food, and festivities. People seem (in theory) to be a little kinder during the holidays. Family comes around.

Christmas for me as a child was my favorite day of the year, especially when we got to celebrate it in England. I always loved it when my parents would take me to “Santa’s Grotto” as it was called. I loved every bit of Christmas. I loved gazing at the ornaments on my grandmother’s little tree. I loved looking out the window hopeful to catch a glimpse of Santa. I loved waking up to presents in a pillowcase ( we did pillowcases in England vs under the tree). While I didn’t get to spend the day with my cousins, we usually saw each other for a little while, and we always spent Boxing Day with each other. That was one of my favorite parts, Christmas with my cousins. When you grow up across the ocean from each other, having that special time together is priceless.

Christmas as an adult can be a bit different. A bit more stressful. Ok, sometimes a lot more stressful. We are the creators of the magic, and each family has their own kind of magic. Every family creates their own traditions. We used to open gifts, get ready, and race out the door. Then one year, all that changed, and we stayed home. I cooked, the kids played with their toys, and my husband got a bit of time to relax. We ate a big homecooked meal, then set out drinks and desserts for family to enjoy in the evening. We always have family over now, and the only recommendation is “come casual! Pajamas encouraged!” The kids really created this tradition, and it’s stuck.

This year, the kids are older and just want a couple of things, which are sort of bigger gifts. My son wanted a gift that is near impossible to find, but I may have found one, so I’m excited. For me, the joy is in the hunt to find the right gift for each person. It’s the care and effort put into the gifts that I enjoy. I love wandering around the mall and seeing the lights and baubles twinkling. I love the buzz of it all, just like my son.

Maybe Christmas can still hold the magic even when we grow up.

Burned out

Some days, I amaze myself with all I get done. Granted, it’s not always pretty….some days things get done by the skin of my teeth, me sliding into the parking lot at the last minute, and there may or may not be some blood, sweat and tears involved. Still, I get it done, or at least, I get an awful lot done. Other days, it’s harder. Sometimes, I just go and go until there is no more “go to give”, and I just sort of ground to a halt.

I’m at a halt. I’m torn between calm focus, vs the choice to turn everything upside down and shake things up. Sometimes you just need to go inward and regroup, and other times, you need to go “whirling dervish” and see where the chips land.

Getting burned out is a very real thing. I know when that feeling hits because suddenly, I just want to stop everything. I am no longer my (somewhat) patient self, and I get real tired of nonsense real quick. My inner dialogue gets more cynical, more sarcastic, and I get a very real urge to shake things up. The urge for a change of scenery is growing, and for the first time in a long time, I’m looking at what our lives could be like if we moved. I wonder what fresh places, fresh starts, and new surroundings would feel like. Then again, I like my familiar. See? ANTSY.

An introvert by nature, I know when the burnout is headed my way. Too much people-ing is a surefire way to make me want to hibernate. The past few weeks, even Facebook is becoming a bit of a chore. This weekend I cut back on it significantly and realized I was a bit happier for doing so. I’ve started hiding people who are exhausting. I’m starting to pay closer attention to the finer details about people. Behavior will always outweigh words. If someone is a garbage human being, I need to step away from that permanently. If someone aligns themselves with garbage human beings, I have to question who they really are as well. I’ve spent my life being far too tolerant of people’s nonsense because somewhere along the line I convinced myself that everyone is inherently good. Sadly, I’ve now learned that’s false, and that some people are just inherently twats, and it’s better to get away from them. When I’m feeling burned out is when I most want to circle my wagons and just keep the tried and true folks around me. Honestly, I should keep ’em circled.

I look around at all the jobs I need to do, and frankly, I think it’s time to step back, do some self care, and focus on things that either REALLY need doing, or things that would just bring in joy. Life is too short not to find the joy in the every day. I have a couple of projects lined up for this month. Neither are quite a NEED to do, but both are a WANT to do, so I’m choosing to focus on the wants for a couple of weeks. A bit of elbow grease and some focus, and I think it will help rejuvenate my mood. Of course, there are the “need to do” jobs, and they will get done I suppose, because at the end of the day we all feel better when we can cross some of those off our list as well.

In Denmark they practice a Hygge lifestyle which is the art of finding coziness and contentment in the every day. Candles, books, a fire in the fireplace, comfortable clothes, blankets, and good company. Sounds heavenly, no? After reading up about Hygge (I’ve seen this pronounced “HOO-ga” and “HUE-guh” it sounds like just what the doctor ordered, especially on the cold, bitter days of winter. It also explaines why Danes are noted as being some of the happiest people in the world.

So for me, during this little burnout stage, it’s Hygge, my close trusted friends, my family, and some quiet while I get myself feeling recharged. Whether I’ll go calm, or whether I’ll shake things up remains to be seen, but at the very least, I’m eager to reset myself and start preparing for the magic of the holidays.

Halloween on Halloween, dammit!

Some of my blog posts are sparked by things I see on social media. Let’s be honest, spend some time on social media and you’ll see all the crazies come out to play. Now I have spent significant time clearing crazy out of my personal life, but I must admit I enjoy a certain amount of “people watching” when it comes to the crazy, from a distance, of course, which social media allows you to do.

Now on this week’s episode of crazy watching, we had not one, not two, but TONS of sanctimommies up in arms and ready for action. Why, you ask? Because the weather forecast called for rain on Halloween, and this was simply not acceptable. Their solution? Move the holiday to another day so that their child won’t get dampened by Trick or Treating. Now, this wasn’t a case of “oh boo, it’s raining so I have to find an alternative plan to take my kids trick or treating because I don’t want to walk in the rain. This was a whole MOVEMENT where women called town hall and their representatives to MOVE a holiday for everyone else so their snookums didn’t get damp. Some comments I actually saw: “wet leaves are SLIPPERY!” and “I spent over $60 on my child’s costume!”

Let me preface what I am about to say by saying I am all for a kinder, more inclusive society. I am all for everyone being equal, for accepting differences, and I teach my children as such. Now, that being said, I am concerned that our quests to raise a kinder, gentler group of children mean that we are hovering too much over our kids. In our quest to give our children an easier life than perhaps we had, we are helicopter parenting, trying to remove obstacles, while believing we are being better parents than prior generations, and frankly, I’m not sure that’s the case.

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you’ll remember I ventured out to try to be more of a free range parent on certain levels. I had realized at one point, that things I did with great confidence and ease as a child, my kids didn’t/couldn’t do, simply because I’d never given them space too. In my quest to protect them, keep them safe, and be helpful, I was instead keeping them a bit stunted in some areas, where they didn’t have certain skills because they’d never had to learn them. I am a child of the 80’s, and parents back then were very live and let live with their kids. We rode bikes without helmets, car seats were lacking, and we were outside playing all the time until the street lights came on. I’m quite confident there were times my parents weren’t entirely sure where I was all the time, but they rested easy knowing I knew the rules and would be home on time. Ever watch an 80’s movie with your kids and hear their commentary on it? They think some of what we did as kids was completely implausible because they could never do those things now. Of course, when you know better, you do better, and certain things are leaps and bounds safety wise nowadays. But some things, like kids being outside playing all afternoon, and being street smart in the suburbs aren’t quite as common as they used to be. And I think it’s sad.

As a child, my mom and dad taught me to navigate airports, neighborhoods, and spaces. I was encouraged to explore, read the signs, and I learned to get around where I was. I knew who to look for if I got lost or ran into trouble. There was always a loose plan in place. I am so grateful for that push to be independent and responsible for myself. I have grown up feeling confident I can navigate where I need to go, can handle travelling (despite my dislike of flying I am good at getting myself wherever I need to go). They taught me a love of exploring, and the confidence to feel secure while doing so. It was one of the best gifts they ever gave me.

Now we have parents who are afraid their child will step on a wet leaf.

I have to ask myself, what will these children do when they grow up and enter adulthood? Will they call out of work because leaves are slippery?

If you’ve been a reader of this blog a while, you’ll remember that my first foray into letting the kids roam the neighborhood with other kids resulted in my daughter going momentarily missing. She had simply gone down to her friend’s house and gone to play in their back yard. I didn’t know that, however, and panicked when I couldn’t see her. I called the police. You know, I got some snide and nasty comments by some people locally for “losing my daughter”. Folks love to judge, right? But you know who I DIDN’T get a harsh word from? The police officer who came to help me find her. She was found moments after they arrived, and the cop pulled me aside to tell me I had done the right thing. He told me to not let the one bad experience change my mind, and to continue to let my kids play out in the neighborhood with their friends. He told me the police are seeing a trend with all the overbearing parenting that is causing kids to not function as well if their parents aren’t there. “If a parent is late picking up their kid, the kids are melting down and panic stricken.” he said, because they aren’t used to not having the parent right there all the time. He advised that kids don’t have the same street smarts, and aren’t as independent and responsible, which causes them to get into deeper issues as they “follow the group” because that’s all they know. I’m still learning to navigate some of this free range parenting, and I’m finding that there are ways to meet in the middle.

I look around me and see that there are two sides that are vastly opposite. One side, sadly, has parents who simply shouldn’t be parents. They aren’t involved, don’t care to be involved, and frankly, are really just shit parents. Then you have the opposite side, parents who will fill out their teen’s job applications and do follow up calls on their child’s behalf on a job interview. What we are left with from both extremes are non functioning adults.

Now, you may think I’m taking it a bit far, but honestly, some of our youth are going to struggle. The world is often a pretty harsh place. While in many ways it’s getting better, by the same token, people soon grow tired of dealing with entitled, babyish, non functioning adults. When your coworker has their mom call them out sick, or can’t come in because it’s raining…how long is that person going to be employed?

When we have to discuss moving a holiday because it might drizzle, we have a big problem. When kids can’t go outside in the rain for fear of a wet leaf, we have a problem. When people are so determined that their child not get their costume (THAT THEY WILL WEAR ONE DAY, MAYBE 2, OUT OF AN ENTIRE YEAR) wet that they call town hall and demand the day get postponed, I have to question our sanity as a nation. The level of tunnel vision and self entitlement is strong, and kind of frightening.

We need to teach our children that life has challenges, and that they need to problem solve to ride up and overcome those challenges. You know, like….carry an umbrella.

Happily, Halloween was celebrated on Halloween this year. Common sense prevailed, and the weather actually broke to give us a few hours of dry time. We had a house full of people as usual, family and friends coming together to haunt the neighborhood, give out candy, and make the night a little extra special. I always say Halloween is my husband’s holiday in the family, because it might just be his favorite. Yet I too have a deep love for the traditions we’ve started, and the plans we’ve made to go even bigger next year!

Even a little rain won’t dampen our fun!

My Prince Charming

Not long ago I read a couple of articles about romance and love. Both articles, set up almost as a letter to younger women stressed that as we get older, romance isn’t always about flowers, candy, or sweet words. Romance is in the little things. It’s the small gestures in our daily life that our partners do to show that we matter and that they want us to be happy. The articles got me thinking, and I thought I’d write a little something myself.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I married an amazing man. Nobody is more surprised than I am that I got so lucky to have found him, because I dated some real jerks before I met him. My husband is one of the most caring, generous and thoughtful people you could ever meet. He’s quick witted, and gleefully pokes fun of me daily in a good natured way. He is a man who stands by his word, even when he’d be perfectly justified in changing his mind. He always goes the extra mile to make sure his wife and kids are looked after. I’m proud to be his wife.

When we first met, my husband used to write me cards all the time. He often brought flowers. We kind of stopped with a lot of that stuff once we got married and had my son. Life got BUSY. His romantic gestures changed over time. Some of them are a little throwback to when we first met, but now romance is me finding my favorite candy bar purchased for me and tucked away in the fridge as a surprise. A hidden card tucked in my suitcase when I had to travel across the Atlantic for a funeral, telling me that he knows I do a ton here and he will do his best to cover for me while I’m gone. Romance is knowing the little things that bring me happiness and doing them without me asking. After my mother died, my artist husband did a beautiful drawing of my mom and framed it for me. It was his way of bringing her closer to me, and that picture now holds a proud place in our living room. Romance is him cooking dinner on his day off because he knows I’ve cooked all week. Romance is him showing up at my job with a coffee just the way I like it on a tough day, or a surprise lunch brought home while I’m working on a project. Romance is coming up behind me to give me a big bear hug and a kiss on the neck. Romance is making sure the car has gas before I leave for a trip. Romance is a surprise text with a meme that only the two of us would find funny that leaves me rolling with laughter.

Sometimes, I am in awe of the little ways my husband finds to spark joy with our kids, too.

His work schedule makes it tough for him to be around a lot. He works from mid day until midnight. It’s a sacrifice, and at times it’s frustrating for all of us. There are some things he simply can’t attend. Yet often, he finds a way to show up, often unexpected, which makes it even more awesome. One day, we knew he would have to miss my daughter’s gymnastic show. She was really upset but kept a brave face. I almost cried when while sitting in the stands, I saw my husband walk in with a bouquet of flowers for her, arriving just in time to see his little girl perform and hand her some beautiful roses. He found time to show up to soccer practices and football practices. One day he knew I was at the school unloading some heavy boxes and he raced over to help me.

I’m shocked on a daily basis that such a nice guy puts up with a pain in the ass like me, and also why I get so enraged when people try to take advantage of his kind and generous nature. It’s one thing to mess with me, but if anyone messes with my 3 it’s a whole other ballgame. This car has no brakes so to speak. Then again, I know he feels the same about me as well.

Marriage is the day to day. It’s the big picture while managing all the little fine details as a pair. It’s not just the happy, floaty times, but the down and dirty times too. Marriage is getting through the times that make you angry or sad. Marriage is joining hands and knowing it’s the two of you against whatever life wants to throw at you, and knowing you’ll come out of it on the other side gripping the other one’s hand, stronger together.

Romance looks different than it did 15 years ago, but I’ve gotta say it looks far better than I could have imagined.

I’m a lucky girl, who finally got her prince charming.

Damn you, picture day.

Tomorrow is picture day at school.

I hate picture day with all I am, and all I will be.

Each year, I spend a ridiculous amount of money for school pictures, of which I give away just a couple. It just never occurs to me to carry around pictures of my kids to give away. It almost seems like a bit of an odd tradition, considering we now have cell phones with amazing cameras where we can take spontaneous, candid, amazing photos. Still, I shell out a stupid amount of money for my children to force a smile and inevitably not look quite like themselves, and me to get documented proof of this. Yet that’s not even why I hate picture day.

Picture day is a day where we break out of school uniform, and somehow that makes it seem a bit more special. On top of that, I have a young daughter who loves clothing and fashion. Her style can best be described as Vegas with a touch of redneck. She loves all things sparkly, bright, and leopard print is an ultimate favorite. She also loves cowboy boots and flannel shirts. Things don’t have to match with her, and growing up if she was allowed free reign on her clothes she would look like she stepped out of a carnival. Add to that the fact she is stubborn and strong willed, we have had our fair share of disagreements when it comes to picture day choices.

This year, I decided to cave a little. I wanted to be the awesome mom. I wanted this year to go smoothly and to make that smile on picture day a bit more genuine.

I decided to step back, and allow my little girl to go pick out an outfit from the store. Her choice. She was beaming as we hopped into the car.

An hour later, I was consoling her and wiping away tears.

What set out to be an awesome bonding experience where I could allow her to express herself (and also I could learn a bit about what her style really is before the holidays roll around) turned out to be rather defeatist and upsetting.

You see, folks, she’s built like I was when I was a kid. As a little kid, I was short, stocky, and I had a little belly. I was solid. I envied those tall, lithe girls who could fit in anything and always looked stylish. I never grew that tall and frankly, I’m still a little stocky. Now, full disclosure….I’m about a size 10-14 depending on the brand and the item. I like to joke I’m a potato body. I suppose they call it an apple body. I have big boobs, a bit of a pooch, and sort of a flat butt. My legs are pretty thin, and I’ve always gotten compliments on them, but if you ask me, they don’t quite match the top of me. Now add to this the fact I barely hit 5’3. For the most part, I’ve come to terms with my body and am actually quite amazed at all it has accomplished and gone through. There are moments, however, when I get frustrated at how difficult it is to DRESS this body, because sometimes what I like is not what this body looks good in.

My daughter is petite, has a little belly and is solid. She has a little round butt I would have loved to have had when I was a kid (and would still love to have as an adult!) and of course, puberty is around the corner. Her body is strong and fierce. It does splits, handsprings, cartwheels, and balances on a beam. It stands tall in the stirrups and holds a sense of confidence on a horse. When she sits in the saddle, the horse relaxes as they feel a tiny, solid and confident little person up there. She has long, curly blond hair with streaks of the summer running through it, greenish blue eyes, and a huge smile. She is all the things I wish I was when I was her age.

Yet when we went from dressing room to dressing room, trying on all types of items and sizes, my girl felt like her body didn’t fit in. The jeans all were too long. The shirts were cropped and boxy, which weren’t flattering. If it fit in one place, it didn’t fit in another. And my sweet girl began to cry.

“Mama, I’m fat” “I’m too short, and too fat”.

And my heart shattered into a million pieces.

I try to be very careful about how I speak about myself to my kids. They often make fun of how short I am, and both have outwardly said they hope they get my husband’s height. I have always been quite unbothered by being short, and tell them so all the time. In fact, for me, I’m happy being short (except for the fact I have to find an evening gown and NONE are cut for short people). I’m usually ok about my body, and I always promote being healthy and strong over being skinny. Of course, I have had my bad moments. I got really hard on myself the other week after gaining some weight, and when I said something my husband jumped on me about it, reminding that she hears me and I shouldn’t say things like that about myself anyway, but certainly not in front of her. I sat down and had a long conversation with her about it. I explained I was upset with myself because I wasn’t treating myself well, and wasn’t being as healthy as I should. I regret my initial failure though, because I’m sure some of it stuck with her.

The girls on tv, in magazines, online and everywhere around her, well they are all sort of typecast as tall, thin, stick straight girls. Everywhere she looks, and even in the stores, the world is telling her that tall and thin is in. It’s no different that being a grown woman. The clothes are all for taller people, skinny people, and really not cut for me. She tried on item after item, and nothing made her feel great. She cried. We talked.

I explained that she is beautiful and strong. I went over all the amazing and difficult things she can do with her body. I explained how I wish I had her butt, her long beautiful hair, and her strength. I also explained how her body is gearing up for changes, and that the next year or so might get a little frustrating clothing wise, but she’ll find her element. We also discussed marketing, and how companies photoshop people.

She thanked me for taking her. She thanked me for the shirt she picked out, and we planned her outfit together. I think she was happy. I’m just sad that what could have been a great experience was frustrating, exhausting, and sad for her, as well as me.

Side note, I’m hardly on Instagram but I did find a cool page called (I believe) @beauty.false. The page shows you the unphotoshopped version and the photoshopped version of people. It’s pretty eye opening that what we see isn’t even what we are really seeing.

Now where can one get short length jeans for a young girl?

In the meantime, I hope that the positives of today outweigh the negatives, and that my girl has a big, real smile on picture day. I think she’s beautiful just the way she is.

Grief and ramblings

I’ve sat down many a day and mulled over what to write. I feel a sense of writer’s block and nothing seems to flow as it usually does. I’ve been out of sorts the past few weeks. Death will do that to you. It brings on a flurry of emotions, and I’ll be honest in saying that I usually prefer to keep the physical part of grief to myself. That being said, sometimes when you don’t know what to write, you just have to start someplace, be honest, and see where the old brain takes you.

I realized the other day how grief when you’re a parent is a different ballgame. At least for me it is. I have so many responsibilities that there simply isn’t time for me to have a meltdown, or a big deep cry. I’ve also become fairly distrusting of people’s motivations over the past few years and prefer not to let people see me sad. I don’t need to give people fodder for gossip. I think it’s important for my kids to see my grieve, but sometimes when I am in the thick of it, I know that my tears will bring questions, and sometimes I’m not always ready for those questions. Sometimes I need to just process my own feelings before I am ready to handle my feelings with everyone else’s feelings layered on top, if that makes sense.

The day my grandfather died was a weird mix of emotions. The usual grief of losing someone was there. The grief of losing my last grandparent, and knowing that it was sort of an end to an era. The knowledge that with his death would eventually mean the sale of his house, which made me sad too, since I had a lifetime of memories within those walls. I felt sadness for my dad too. He lost my mom and now both of his parents. There was some relief on his behalf, as I know he wouldn’t have appreciated how that last month went for him. Death often feels rather undignified, and my grandfather was a very dignified person. It was a veritable onion of emotions, and I wasn’t quite ready to start peeling the layers. I knew I wanted to go to the funeral, so I allowed myself an hour or so to try to get composed and set off to work, since I didn’t have much vacation time left. I arrived, started to cry, caught myself, and headed home. I stayed pretty stoic and held it together quite well through telling the kids, and navigating arrangements.

Each time I started to get upset, I’d rein it in. I had a job to do, kids to look after, a husband. I had friends going through their own troubles. And through all of it, I held it together. Life is just to busy and I have too many people to be responsible for than to fall apart.

I started to crack when the hearse pulled up outside my grandfather’s house. I pulled it together quickly. I decided I would try to grab a few moments with his casket after the church service. I made it through the service quite well. I held it together even when I learned I wouldn’t get the chance to have a few moments alone with my grandfather to say goodbye due to a lack of communication on my behalf with the FD. I held it together at the gathering after. I allowed myself a quick few minutes to cry when I stepped out of his house for the very last time.

There really hasn’t been any proper grief that I’ve allowed myself.

I remember that when my mom died, I went into a type of shock and into survival mode. I was a new mom, with a new husband, a new home, and I went back to work. My world crashed down and I had to stay strong to keep everyone else ok, and keep myself above water. I allowed myself just a few minutes to privately grieve here and there. I managed. That being said, I felt like the grieving process dragged out for ages, where perhaps if I had allowed myself to really feel it in it’s entirety up front, I’d have processed it better.

I need to have a good, old fashioned, soul cleansing, ugly, red faced, boo hoo sobbing cry.

Sometimes a good old cry can work wonders.

On the brighter side, my trip had some really lovely moments. I spent time with family. I learned that certain people in my family will always show for me, and I felt really loved. I stayed with my cousin and the two of us had loads of laughs. I got to hold baby puppies and pet older dogs. (If you’re having a bad day, go look at some baby German Shepherds and listen to them grunt, it’s adorable and will brighten you right up.) I got to see and bring home my great grandparents’ marriage license, as well as numerous other pictures and documents. I brought home a suitcase from WW2 that belonged to a little Jewish boy my great grandparents took in during the war. I learned to cook some new dishes. I walked outside in the freshest of country air. I had people come up to tell me they went to school with my mom, and how amazing they always thought she was. I had folks come up to tell me what a fantastic person my dad is. I worked on our family tree. I got to call my husband and kids and hear that they were doing ok, but that I was missed a lot. I got to meet family at the pubs for pints of well poured Guinness and old stories. I got to go to my mom’s grave, and catch out of the corner of my eye a beautiful sunflower growing out of the top of a building, making me feel comforted and happy. I had late night chats and hot cups of perfectly brewed tea to combat the chill.

In other words, I felt at home, surrounded by family who have known me my whole life and love me, plus I found a lot of happy, joy filled moments during a sad time.

Having family on two continents means that my heart is always split between the two. I always feel like something is slightly missing, but also feel that regardless of which place I land in, I am at home. I feel at home walking the streets of my town here in the US, but also feel perfectly at home walking the fields of a village 3000+ miles away.

In summation, my grandfather, who had admittedly and vocally grown rather tired of this life, has passed. Perhaps he is back with my grandmother, perhaps death is all there is. Regardless, he is not suffering, and for that I am thankful. A trip caused by a sad loss was also filled with joy and laughter, because life is always a balance of the two. If we do not experience sadness, how do we truly appreciate joy? And lastly, I need a good cry once in a while. Grieve the loss, but celebrate the life.