Let Me Put These Emotions in a Glass Box

Yesterday I got an email from our principal at one of our schools, detailing how we can pick up my son’s items from his locker as well as an end of the year “graduation” of sorts before he goes to high school. I read all the details and got inherently sad that his last memories of the school will be from our car window. There will be no trips, no signing of the yearbooks, no ceremonies, no kudos for a job done remarkably well. When I emailed to get some information today, the principal was notably bummed and said as much. You can tell how much our teachers and staff loved these kids, and how they wanted better. It brought me to tears. Then again, it’s been a whirlwind of emotions the past few months.

I keep reminding myself it’s all a blip in time. One day I may have great grandchildren who will read stories about what’s happened this year and they will wonder what it was all like. While for many it feels like it’s been ages since we were doing “normal” things, it’s only been a couple of months. For me it’s been an interesting experience. Someone posted a meme online that asked how many people felt that while 2020 has been rough, it hasn’t been their worst of years, and that thought resonated deeply with me. 2020 has been, for me, while a bit challenging, not terrible. If you’ve followed along on here for a while, you know I love a silver lining. There are many.

While I am saddened by missing people, by loss of activities, and some other realizations about what I will and will not tolerate (and how that will impact some things), I’m actually doing pretty good. Granted, I’m fortunate. My family is healthy and safe. While we lost half an income, I’ve still been able to work. I’ve been blessed by timing this year. Lots of timing that fell into place that allowed us to be ok. Not everyone is doing so well. My neighbor has lost two people to the virus, many people are financially struggling, and the whole thing has been pretty unsettling. That being said, I think it’s important to see the good within the bad, take stock of what IS going ok, and to be grateful.

I am loving having the four of us home as a family. We’ve never had this much time together, and I’m loving it. I am loving being productive at home. The house, as always, is chaotic, but we’re tackling some of the big jobs we’ve been wanting to do for years, so I’m ok with a bit of mess while those are worked on. I’m tackling some bucket list items. I’m working on getting into a better headspace. I’m separating myself from other people’s issues and misery. I think there will be some upheaval coming down the pike, but I’m ok with that. I’m enjoying the simpler life that isn’t filled with a jam packed calendar I have to manage. I’m hopeful to keep that mindset and to cut back on my obligations.

There are happy days, and sad days, but mostly happy ones. What I’ve realized is that with my calmer mindset and a little elbow grease, things are falling into place, and it feels amazing.

To be honest, as I look back, I realize I was constantly carrying a level of stress on my shoulders. Trying to be everything I needed to be for everyone, or at least what I thought I needed to be. I tried to go along to get along. I let people treat me as “less than”. I took the brunt of everything on my shoulders and tried to make miracles happen. The past few months have shown me a lot. I’m no longer interested in any of it, and it’s a freeing feeling. I have what matters, what is needed, and a lot of wants too. I couldn’t ask for better.

I am Not Pioneer Woman, or Am I?

One of the weirdest side effects of this whole pandemic thing is that I find myself doing things like planting fruits and veggies, composting, and getting a tad more outdoorsy. It seems that once work is done for the day, I crave the outdoors, the fresh air, and have found myself to be happiest once I can get outside and move.

In all the hustle and bustle of everyday life, I don’t get a lot of time to be outside. I work in an office/home office, and much of my time is spent indoors working, cooking, cleaning (not as much as I should) and in the car shuttling kids around. Suddenly, with more time at my fingertips, I finish out my workday and crave things I never thought I would. Bike riding, for example. Now look, I am little overweight, not much of an exercise for fun type of lass. Lately however, the idea of going on a long walk or riding my bike sounds heavenly. My bike is probably 14 years old, a bit rusty, and the gears slip a little bit, but I don’t care. I eagerly await sunny days so I can ride after work, even if it’s just a short trip around the neighborhood or into town. Usually I take the girl child with me, and the two of us chatter away while on our bikes. Last night something sort of “popped” in my knee, and I came home to put a brace on it, concerned that I may need to halt on riding for a day or two.

If I’m not riding my bike (I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve dusted that thing off and ridden it) I am perusing kayaks. I’ve wanted a kayak for years. Talked about it, hinted at getting one, but never bitten the bullet because of money, number one, and number two because the thought of having to outfit my car to carry a kayak seemed overwhelming. Last year, while on our trip to the ranch (as well as some other trips) I got on a kayak and loved it. My shoulders and arms got a great workout, I was on the water, which is my happy place, and I loved it. I was able to take my phone in a waterproof pouch and listen to some music as I paddled, and honestly? It was wonderful. I also attempted paddleboarding. Paddleboarding was harder than I expected, but I was able to stand up, before promptly falling in. I got up again, however, and again, and kept at it. It was a challenge, but I found myself enjoying the challenge and the stiff muscles I had the next day. I have been waffling over whether to get a kayak or a SUP, but have been somewhat undecided. I have, however, found a compromise, and am excited that it may work out. Last night my husband put my crossbars on my new car (which I’ve barely been able to drive!) and I felt a bit giddy.

We’ve decided to outfit my car with a bike rack as well, since my car is the biggest. This will allow us to take the kids’ bikes with us if we go places (and our bikes too if we want). I think, to be honest, this is our way of optimistically planning for our vacation later this year. We are hopeful, since the place is in a fairly remote area, that our vacation can still happen. If it can’t, then we are bringing what snippets of that vacation fun we can to our house. Either way, we win.

Outside of my sudden urge to move this old body of mine on a kayak and bike, I have been trying to work in the yard more. Unfortunately it has stayed unseasonably cool here, and we’ve had a lot of rainy days. That being said, my daughter and I tried planting some strawberries from dry roots. We also planted tomatoes, and soon will add cucumbers to our plants. I’ve never been good at gardening….hell I’ve got two plants I’ve successfully kept alive and consider that a miracle. I’ve always said if the judged the ability to mother by houseplants, they would never have let me have kids. I come from a long line of farmers, but I can barely keep a plant alive. It’s terrible. Strangely, we have had some success, perhaps because I am babying these plants like it’s a second job. I have them all in pots and run them in and out each day, so they don’t get too cold over night. I laughed at myself the other morning as I ran across the yard to put coffee grounds into the compost container. Years ago, the house next door went into foreclosure, and it was left empty for about 2 years. I used to mow the grass there and keep things neat. The couple left behind a rolling composter, and I moved it to my yard so they could reclaim it. They never came back for it, so it’s been there. I’ve emptied it for the yard before, but this year, we decided to start using it. As I made my fresh coffee in the morning, I raced out in my pj’s to put the grounds in the composter, laughing at my newfound attempts of trying to do these types of things. So far, however, it’s working pretty well, and I am pretty impressed.

While I miss Homegoods, and Marshalls, miss some of the hustle and bustle, some of it I don’t miss at all. I don’t miss the constant stress, the constant racing from place to place, and feeling exhausted. I’m enjoying this slower life. Sure, I work all day, and it’s been more stressful than usual, but I enjoy finishing up and going outside in nature. I enjoy loading the four of us in the car to go for a walk at the beach. This Mother’s Day, we went hiking. Me! Hiking! I almost laughed myself out of breath at the concept, because I’m so NOT a hiker. I was proven correct when I got winded within the first 20 minutes, but I kept at it, and dare I say, fully enjoyed myself. We wandered in the woods, played by a waterfall and joined together to help each other cross the water bed. We came home tired and craving a big meal, so that’s what we did.

I always wanted to be more outdoorsy, more connected to nature. I’m honestly not sure why I never made the effort to do so. I suppose I got wrapped up in the daily business of life. If there’s one silver lining in this whole mess, outside of the fact I get to spend more time with my core family, is that I am learning to slow down, and get outside. I am hopeful I can keep it up, and spend more time outside enjoying nature, eating fresh berries we grew ourselves.

The Buzz Continues

Thanksgiving weekend is finally over, and I am positively buzzing with energy, which is surprising really, as I may have a bit of a stomach bug. Mentally, I’m in a great space, which also is surprising as I’m once again learning that I need to pay a bit closer attention to actions and less to words. Regardless, I feel like I’m going to come out of all of it just fine.

The weekend started with my daughter and I doing some baking and cooking for the holiday. She’s one of those kids who at the end of the day, really just wants to hang out with the adults she loves. It doesn’t much matter what she is doing, she just wants to help and be involved. She enjoys helping me cook, and I know it will serve her well when she gets older. I didn’t have much desire to learn how to cook when I was her age. Then I moved, my mom passed away, and I really learned how to do most dishes after I got married. My daughter will be ahead of the game. Even my son is learning to cook and happily will make a meal. After we finished, we packed up our goodies and went to celebrate Thanksgiving with family and friends. It was a laid back day full of amazing food and loads of laughter. Occasionally after dinner, a few of us will do a little late night shopping, but this year I had to bail because I had packing to do, as well as some jobs around the house to prep for the weekend.

Friday, the kids and I headed up north to visit my dad, stepmother, and her family. After the married, this became a bi annual tradition. We also get together over the summer as well before the kids go back to school. They have truly become family and it’s always a good time filled with food, wine, and fun. This year the huge group of us went to see Frozen 2, and then topped off the night with a Christmas parade. The little town we were in is really quaint and beautiful, and the crisp air made everything just perfect. We all headed back to the house to allow the kids to run and play (there are 7 in total now) before we had dinner.

It was lovely to see my dad, as I haven’t been able to see him much this year. Even when we met up in the UK for my grandfather’s funeral, it was a busy time for both of us and we didn’t get a ton of time to spend together. This weekend, he seemed much more relaxed than the last time I had seen him and we had some really good conversations. I felt lighter and refreshed after having talked with him. I’m truly lucky to have him. He always has my back and is certainly a calming force.

The weekend trip was filled with great food, delicious wines, and great people. The kids had a great time and got along really well, being silly and joking with each other more than usual. The quiet and peace allowed me to mull over some things.

For starters, I took a little time to pause and mull over some changes that need to be made. My focus is on my little family of four, and my feeling is we need to make choices based on what’s best for us. Not everyone will like it, but I always feel that people who love you want the best for you. I feel the time is coming to start moving and shaking and getting things in a better place than they were. The chips are landing in just such a way that I am excited to finally be able to make some changes to really improve our lives. It’s exciting, and I feel light weights are being lifted. Each small step leads towards an end goal.

After coming home mentally refreshed (although physically not feeling so great), I was able to do a little Christmas shopping. I love Christmas shopping. Well, let me refrain, I love online shopping. The stores kick in my anxiety this time of year. I was able to pick up a few needed items for the husband and kids, which made me feel elated, some of them I am really excited about giving. I’m really trying to budget myself and pace myself out this holiday season. I’ve found that Christmas doesn’t really work well with my procrastinating nature. I’m terrible at pacing myself, and always end up stressed out, trying to tackle a million projects at the last minute. There is always so much to do in December. This year, I’m setting myself a goal to do a few things each day, so that I can spread the work out over a month. I’m already tackling my list, bit by bit, and it’s got me feeling excited for the season rather than stressed out. Again, small changes towards a bigger goal.

Now that I have my mind in a great place, it’s time to start making other changes too. It’s refreshing, and I feel much less stressed with each step I take. I have a good feeling that within the next year, I’m going to feel some big weights lifted off my shoulders. I’m ecstatic. I don’t know what it is about this time of year. It’s cozy and comfy, but it also feels like a hibernation that prepares us for the changing year ahead. I’m hopeful to get a head start on what’s to come. I know I’m mentioning change, and haven’t specified a whole lot of what change will be coming, but I’ll expand upon them as time progresses.

For now, it’s time to circle em up, look after the ones who look after us, and focus on betterment of not only myself, but my little family as well. After all, winter is coming.

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!