And as for me, I shall go somewhere…

If you have access to news, you’ll probably see there has been a rash of deaths of Americans in the Dominican Republic. Folks looking for a beautiful vacation at seemingly safe resorts ending up mysteriously dead, one woman dragged off the path and beaten within an inch of her life, and people mysteriously getting sick. If I didn’t know better, I’d think they were targeting American’t specifically. I’ve never been to that region, so I’m not really sure what it’s really like. Folks I know who have been there say “as long as you stay at the resort and don’t go anywhere, you’re fine.”

Sounds friggen’ horrible.

Maybe it’s me, but I don’t much care to travel to a resort where I can’t leave, can’t experience the locals and the true place I am visiting. I might as well be visiting Epcot and experiencing the world that way. What good is it to travel and not fully experience the place? If I’m only allowed to stay at the hotel, and have to be frightened of being beaten or killed if I step outside their gates, then I’m thinking maybe that’s just not the place for me to go. It reminds me when I had an apartment I chose not fully knowing the area. Late at night, I sometimes heard gunshots. I remember singing, like Ariel “I want to be…where the gunshots aren’t. I moved to a place I felt safer.

The thing that concerned me, outside of the actual events of these people getting injured or killed, was how some people reacted. “I’ll never leave the US!” many said. “I have everything I need right here in the US!” Some of those commenting had likely never even left their own STATE I saw posted more than once on social media. It occurred to me how boxed in many people make themselves. To have this big, beautiful world, with so many cultures, foods, and places to see, and then to ignore it all, and not even TRY to get out there seems like such an inherent waste to me.

Look, I am far from a world traveler but I HAVE traveled quite a bit in my lifetime. There are many, many places I want to somehow visit in my lifetime. This world has so many beautiful opportunities and places that call to me. There is something different about people who travel to various places. They seem more worldly, often more tolerant of differences, and more open to new ideas. They seem less complacent.

A few of my cousins have set off on some major traveling excursions. I saw pictures of her at the airport, bright, wide eyed and looking excited. Over the next few weeks, I saw pictures of her show up on social media, meeting an elephant, sitting with an African tribe, and beaming with joy in some of the most beautiful photos I have ever seen. Pictures of African sunsets and the people that live there…each picture more stunning than the rest, yet she had LIVED it for a short time. I have no doubt she came back with an expanded mind from all she saw.

My other cousin went to India to work. I’d never much thought about travelling to India, but her experience opened my mind. I began to see how beautful some areas were and wondered why it had never really crossed my mind to go there.

Another cousin just MOVED to Australia. I was shocked. Sure, I packed up and moved 300 miles away from my parents. She moved half way across the WORLD. Each picture, each mention calls to my soul to go there. It looks amazing. I actually think I would suck it up and do the monsterous journey just for the experience.

I know, I know, for most, travel to foreign lands seems so out of reach. I often wondered how I could afford to get all four of us to England last year. I scrimped and saved, carefully watched prices on flights, and gave up a few little things. I stopped eating lunch at work. At $5-10 a day, that EASILY added up to a big monthly payment to put towards the trip. I made my own coffee at home, saving several dollars a week. I put the funds in a special account, not easily accessible, so I wouldn’t be able to pull them out and spend them on a whim. Such small changes made a huge difference.

Are there places in the US I would like to visit? Of COURSE! I have a friend who I believe will always be a part of my girl tribe, but I’ve never met her in person. I’m dying to fly down south to meet her sometime. I have friends around the US that I want to visit, and places I want to see. I want my kids to see new places, and experience new experiences they can’t easily do so here.

When I took my kids to England, they LOVED it. As in, they loved it so much they begged to go back. One child proclaimed they were seriously thinking about moving to England when they get older. They felt a light in their heart there. It is a slower, easier paced life, and they LOVED it. They loved having all their other cousins around, seeing things they don’t see here at home, and trying new experiences. It was eye opening to them. They came home with a fire, and I loved it. Hopefully we can get back sooner rather than later. Time to save those pennies!!

If you travel, find a place you feel safe and you can see more than just a resort. See the locals, the customs, the traditions. Taste the local food. Learn the local language (at least a few words) and make as many wonderful memories as you can. Right now, the Dominican Republic may not be the best place. Hopefully one day things will be better and it will be safer than it feels to many right now.

My point being, please don’t lock yourself into a mental box and think you shouldn’t travel. You SHOULD. It will make you a better person more often than not. It will open your eyes to so many things, and give you experiences and memories that will last a lifetime. Eat cheaply, save pennies, have a tag sale, whatever you can do to save a few bucks. Instead of buying that new outfit or new item you’ll be donating in two years, invest in yourself and invest in TRAVEL.

Advertisements

I’m Totally Not Ready

You know, there are moments in your life that seem to take forever to arrive, and then suddenly they are upon you and you think…”I’m totally not ready! How am I not ready? I had all the time to be ready!”. Yep, That’s pretty much where I am at on this cold, overcast day.

Last week I wrote about choosing joy, and doing things you WANT to do. As soon as I wrote it, I missed out on a party I wanted to go to because my back went out. The irony of it was that I had just told a friend how grateful I was that I’ve had very little back pain in a long time. It took me bending SLIGHTLY to get shampoo whilst in the shower, and next thing I know is searing pain up and down my back and hip. It hasn’t been quite right since. Now, I’d like to say that the reason that all the things has crept up on me this week is because I’ve been a little gimpy, but the fact is, I’ve been overtired, sore, but also pretty busy. Now my total procrastination is catching up to me.

Today was the last day of school. I picked up my little one from school only to have her jump in the car and burst into tears. I thought someone had hurt her, and I was ready to pounce. The truth was, she was sad to leave her teachers, school, and friends behind for the summer. This, coming from a child who in years past complained about how she disliked school. She always loved her teachers, but she never much enjoyed school. I think mostly because she found it a bit hard and challenging. This year, she moved forward quite a lot, and seemed to really enjoy herself. So much so that she was sad to leave. This made me happy. I’ve always felt education is key to more opportunities, and I had always hoped she would find her niche in school. Despite some hard changes this year, she did really well and I’m proud. The town recognized her efforts in helping me with the Closet project, which I thought was really awesome. I think it added to the positive feeling she felt about the year. We started the year with most of her old friends getting pulled out of school. She made some wonderful new friends. She also got bullied a couple of times. Surprisingly, she turned the situation around (despite hauling off and kicking one of the bullies) and even making good friends with them. I’m so proud of her, but I’m not ready for her to go up a grade. It feels like it’s going too fast.

Which leads to me to something off topic, but so be it. During the redistricting, I got into a debate with a gentleman who had an opposing view. We had a bit of a heated conversation. He wanted the redistricting, and I didn’t. So be it. He approached me at the end of year party to thank me for all I have done at the school. I told him that even though things didn’t swing as I had hoped, I wanted to make the very best of it for all of the kids. I also told him how impressed I had been by his and his wife’s frequent presence at the school. They had stepped up and stood by their word, and I admired it. We ended the year with a hug and a joined goal to continue to make the school the very best it could be. I wasn’t prepared for the sunshine and happiness moment, but I am sure am glad it happened. It ended the year on a really nice note. He’s even agreed to join in and help me next year, so that’s pretty awesome!

Aside from kids growing up (which I doubt I shall ever be quite prepared for), I’m also trying very hard to get used to continue my “free range” parenting idea. I am trying to loosen the reigns on the kids more and more. The boy child goes off with his friends more often than not, and he seems much happier. He has been great with checking in, being where he is supposed to be, and letting me know when he is going from place to place. I have a tracking app on his phone so I do periodically check it to make sure where he says he is. The better he does, the more freedom he gets. Even the little one is doing well. Both kids are enjoying added responsibility and freedom. They also know it can be taken away if they don’t follow the rules. It’s a work in progress. Compared to me hovering over them all the time, it’s been a positive experience to let them spread their wings. I notice they are much more street smart now as well. It’s not easy letting go and allowing them to go off on their own but as I remember from childhood, it’s SO important. I still remember when the little one went to her friend’s house and I thought I lost her. It was terrifying. Yet I remember the cops’ words to me “You are doing the right thing…you HAVE to let them roam and do things so they learn to be independent”, so that’s what I am trying to do. I’ve heard comments about it, sure, but I’m doing what’s best for us. As a child, I flew across the Atlantic by myself, navigated numerous airports, and never blinked an eye. I’m not at that point yet with the kids, but I remember the confidence and happiness that independence brought me as a kid. I felt so comfortable in my own skin knowing I could travel half way across the world and navigate the process by myself. I want that for my kids too.

Another thing I am not ready for, yet mentally so ready for? Vegas.

I have packed nothing. I have to do all the jobs around the house, prep father’s day gifts, mow the grass, and pack. Nothing has been done. I’m a slacker. I was going to come home from the year end beach party and do some jobs before heading out to another party, yet here I am, writing. I feel like I want to sleep for a week, yet I am gearing up for a week of very, very little sleep. I’m not ready for anything.

The nicest thing about the Vegas trip? Well, there’s a few things. The first is the daily countdown email I get from my friend each day. I haven’t told her, but it makes me laugh every day because I can FEEL her excitement about this trip, and I am just as excited. I will miss my husband and kids terribly. That being said, there is something so cool about being responsible for just myself for a few days. As a parent, I am constantly responsible for the health and well being of multiple people and animals in our household. To be able to just be responsible for myself temporarily is just a strange sort of luxury. I am excited for our planned events. These include, but are not limited to, a Cirque show, Riding dune buggies in the desert, ziplining, swimming through a shark tank, and one truly amazing fancy dinner. Doesn’t all of that sound amazing? I swear, I am so incredibly lucky to have such awesome friends. That being said, we are cramming tons of things into just a few days, and I’m struggling with the fact that I want to do ALL the things, but I am getting old and I love sleep. Look, 10pm you will usually find me laying in bed. I love bed. I love sleep. They are my favorites. You can’t go to Vegas and sleep it away though! I gotta be ready to hang. I did take the day after come back off work though. Wasn’t planning to, but I have the time and frankly, I am gonna need a recovery day.

I’ll fill y’all in on how things go, what I loved, what I liked a little less, and much more when I come back.

I think when I come back there will be some life changes going on. I’ve got that antsy feeling. Sometimes when that feeling hits, I make a small change or two, and sometimes it’s a huge change. Then again, I could spend a week away and come back feeling right as rain. I got the itch to shake things up.

I may get suddenly inspired to write before I go, but if not, see you all on the flip side.

Mother’s Day

Another Mother’s Day is in the books, and I am flat out exhausted. Yesterday was insanity and I managed it purely fueled on caffeine and mom power. My daughter had her annual gymnastic show, which meant a rehearsal at 12, show at 7pm. We arrived in plenty of time for rehearsal, me with a large black coffee in hand. After rehearsal we stopped to visit my husband at work, then headed home to get my son. My son asked he could go hang out with his friends at a park a few towns over. Due to some circumstances I’ll write about later, I said yes, but that meant a 20 minute trip out there. After dropping him off, I took the little one for lunch. That’s when I realized she didn’t have black underwear to go under her leotard. She refused to go commando and declared doing so “so gross, mama”. We then raced 20 minutes to the mall to track some down. Do you know how difficult it can be to find black undies for girls?

Once we arrived at her favorite store, we found the undies, and somehow came home with two bathing suits for her as well (damn you, sale! Damn you!). Then it was a race to drive the 20 minutes back to get the boy, before getting everyone back home, cleaned up, dressed, hair done, and back for her show.

After the show, we grabbed food with family and came home to collapse. That was the plan anyway, and the kids did crash out, but the husband and I had way too much fun being silly with Snapchat filters, and before I knew it, it was 2 am.

I awoke to a little face smiling at me, wishing me a happy Mother’s Day, cuddles and giggles. I opened gifts, and I headed up for a shower. I had to take a few minutes to allow myself to think about my own mom and grandmas. I miss them all terribly and this year, Mother’s Day has been a little harder on that front. I allowed myself a few tears before deciding to do something the kids would love today.

We have sort of started a Mother’s Day tradition, but this year it POURED with rain. Anything outdoors was out of the question. Also, fancy restaurants on Mother’s Day are, as any server will tell you, often hell on earth. I headed downstairs and looked at everyone. They all wanted me to choose today’s plans. Personally I hate being in charge of plans but I felt a little better knowing I actually had something in mind.

“Honestly? I want to go to the diner for a laid back lunch, and then how about we go Go Kart Racing? And to the trampoline park?” I said. And it was on like Donkey Kong.

Lunch was delish, simple, and laid back. This particular diner came very recommended by my brother and sister in law, and their recommendation was spot on. The go Kart place we went to was HUGE. There is the racing downstairs and a trampoline park upstairs. My son and I went to do racing, while my husband and daughter did jumping. My son had a gift certificate for the place from my dad and step mother for Christmas, and for Mother’s Day, all my races were free! It was honestly a blast!

We topped the whole day off with ice cream and headed out for the long drive home. I’m tired, sore, but absolutely content. I’m so very lucky to have my husband and kids. While mommin’ ain’t easy, it sure is worth it.

She’s Got Another Project

Every now and again, something touches my cold, dark little heart and warms it. Or, sometimes it digs in my eyes and makes them leak a little. When this happens, I am often pulled into one of my “projects” as they have come to be known in our house. As cynical, grumpy, and sarcastic as I am, I am almost an eternal optimist. After all, I am a mom. When you’re a parent, if you worth the honor of being called that, since so many deserving people aren’t, you have to have an optimistic view to a certain extent. We have to raise strong, kind, independent children to live in a world that frankly, is pretty messed up. Part of that optimism is living in one’s own bubble probably more than we should. After all, everyone has their own problems, their own responsibilities, and it’s easy to wrap oneself up in that little bubble because let’s be honest, you can only focus on so much at a time. Most of my projects and stepping out of my bubble happen when I probably don’t need it to.

Some of my attempts to help others have backfired horribly. So horribly, in fact, that it became a source of amusement for my family, sort of a shaking one’s head and chuckling at how bad things went. There was the time I stopped to help a blind person navigate a busy parking lot. I almost got hit by a car and ended up in a loud argument with the driver. I tried to feed a homeless woman, and then went to give her my gloves and hat out of my car since she didn’t have any and it was brutally cold. Stupid me locked myself out of my car and had to use the last moment of my cell battery to call someone to come get me. In the meantime, I was stuck in the snow with a homeless woman who turned out to be mentally ill, telling me stories about people getting cut up with an ax. Not my most comforting moment, for sure. Of course, she had my hat and gloves at this point, and I was super cold. That being said, we had a nice chat, despite the ax murder conversation, and I still think of her to this day (I didn’t see her around much after that afternoon). There was the time I helped the woman hospitalized with what turned out to be cancer by feeding her cats and looking after them. She had neglected to tell me she hadn’t changed their litter box in months, and I had to navigate and clean an entire floor of a turd minefield. I came home and wanted to light myself on fire. After getting everything cleaned, I looked after her cats and home, making sure to turn lights on and off, shoveling the snow, and a team of people helped get her furnace fixed and oil put in. When I headed in for surgery last year, the woman who took over was positively mental, and started harassing me. She ended up moving away after the state was called in and she was accused of elder abuse.

Last month, I found out kids at our school didn’t have coats, right before a polar vortex that slammed the country. I dove right in, collected over 150 coats in 4 days, as well as hats, gloves, scarves etc. This spiraled into a bigger project, where our kids in need can get items they need for free from our “kindness closet” which is currently being set up in the school. I am overjoyed by this and am so proud I got to help.

The other day, I got a call from my neighbor, who said her coworker had dropped off some supplies for the kindness closet. I went over and there were bags all over her porch filled with brand new huge boxes of ziplock bags (great for toiletries, and singling out new underwear or pairs of socks for if little kids have an accident), feminine products (some of the kids don’t have these at home, sadly, and the nurse has been buying them out of her own pocket). There were also some coats. Lastly, there were bags and bags of books. It appears the doner has kids and cleared out all their bookshelves, and by the looks of it, the family loves books. I wasn’t sure what to do with those, as they were out of the realm of my project. That being said, I was grateful to have them, as I was sure I could find a home for them.

I loaded up the car with stuff for the closet, including my cart. I have a little collapsible wagon that has been a godsend to me in my endeavors with the coats and closet. I load it up to the brim and head in the school easily (although navigating the multitude of security doors is no joke dragging a heavily filled wagon sometimes). After I dropped the items off, I wandered down to the library and met with the librarian. I asked if she would be at all willing to take used books as a donation. Her face lit up and she said she ABSOLUTELY WOULD. She asked why I was donating them and I explained I was “the coat lady” as a lot of the staff knew about the coats but didn’t know who I was, and that someone had generously donated books that I wanted to find a good home for. She and I had a chat about how exciting the closet was going to be for the students, and I headed home to get the books.

The books were in multiple bags on my neighbor’s porch. I now had to be a porch pirate and go grab them. I got really nervous someone would call the police because there has been so much package theft recently. I half expected to have the cops show up and knew it would be awkward explaining what I was doing. I shuffled back and forth with bags and bags of books, loading up my car. I then went upstairs and emptied my daughter’s bookshelves of all the books she had outgrown. There were a ridiculous amount of books. I’m a huge fan of reading and have always told my kids, “you may not always get a toy, but you may get a book”. I really try to encourage reading. I ended up making two trips to the school to drop off books.

When I showed up, the librarian had me go into a room with a counter. There were kids in the library and they came to help unload the books. They were chatting excitedly. “I can’t WAIT to read this!” “Look how beautiful this one is! Look at the pictures!” “I want to read this one FIRST! One girl was mesmerized by a pop-up book, opening and closing, her lips moving slightly as she read the words. She looked up and told me she loved that book. I was overjoyed. Seriously. These kids were just so happy and grateful. These books made them excited about reading. It was awesome!

The excitement on their faces must have warmed my cold heart again, because now that I’m not the “coat lady” I’m turning into the “book lady” for a while. I was out last night picking up and messaging people about donating books.

Now here’s the thing. Where is the bad part of such a project you ask?

The bad part is getting my bubble burst. When I was in the school, unloading books, the librarian and I got to chatting. She is clearly, like me, a lover of books. She also loves the kids. She confided how super excited she was to get the books, and kept picking up various ones to admire them all. She commented “I can’t believe this! This is so awesome! This book alone is $16 new!”. The reason for her excitement? Her annual budget to buy books with is VERY low. over 500 kids in the school and her budget is about $3k. Now, three grand sounds like a lot of money, but when you think of it, it really doesn’t stretch when you need to buy supplies and books for over 500 kids. She also lost some funds this year despite the BOE moving tons more kids into our school (I’ve talked about our redistricting in prior posts). She has to be so selective, so careful, to get as much as she can for those kids, but while staying in a tight budget. This issue was made more complex by the district moving a whole lower grade into our school, so much of the budget had to go to buying age appropriate books for those kids. I also learned, sadly, that some of the kids in the school, don’t even know their letters. This hurt my heart. Most of the kids came in from other schools, and I can’t fathom how the kids were pushed ahead from Kindergarten and first onward not knowing these basic skills. It’s as if they are being set up to fail.

I am a firm believer in the power of books. I can often tell a frequent reader from a non-reader by looking at how they express themselves. Frequent readers often pick up really good vocabulary skills, spelling and grammar. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t foolproof, as you can see by my blog. I make mistakes all the time! That being said, reading opens up new worlds and opportunities. You can learn to do just about anything by reading and researching it. Reading is a game changer. Seeing kids being passed from grade to grade without those basic skills is heartbreaking. It only gets harder for them, and frankly, the system is failing them. School will become a hardship, and those kids are more likely to struggle and dislike school. This may cause more to drop out early, or not go on to next level.

This has been bothering me to no end. I hope the kids being in our school will get the help they need that they may not have gotten before. I am hoping that some of the books taken in will be helpful to those that need them.

My son and I discussed this later in the evening, when I explained my sadness over the situation, and my frustration that our schools are struggling to get the supplies and books they need. He mulled it over and said he’s going to talk to his guidance counselor about setting up a school to school tutoring program between the middle and elementary school. They do this with another school in town (my son has been a part of the tutors) but he wants to extend it to his sister’s elementary school as well. Both children sorted their bookshelves and packed up bags and bags of books to donate.

I couldn’t be prouder.

At the end of the day, they are learning a valuable lesson here. They are learning they can make a difference. Even kids can make a difference. Small steps make huge changes. I think they are also seeing that while we don’t always have money for everything they want, they have what they need, and they are growing more aware that needs are what is important. They are seeing that others don’t always have what they need, and they are trying to find ways to help those people and make a difference in what ways they can. Sometimes, we don’t have the money or items to help, but others do, and they are willing to donate those items if you are willing to do the work. If you’re willing to coordinate, collect, and drop off, people will HELP you. If you ask the right questions, you will get the answers you need.

As for me, I learned a harsh lesson myself in all of this. Folks often hide that they are struggling. Sometimes you have to ask the right questions to find that out. I didn’t know our school was struggling because frankly, they are doing what they can and didn’t advertise that fact. They are so focused on doing what they can and I don’t think they normally ask parents for help in that way.

Our schools need help. I don’t think it’s just my school. I think MANY schools have needs that most of us don’t even consider. Unless you personally are deeply struggling, it may not even occur to you how deep the need is. I admit, I was blissfully unaware that some of the things I am now learning about were issues. I assumed things were fine. I assumed wrong.

Creating Happiness

This year I started off super antsy. After coming out of a year where the family and I took an amazing trip back to England, I came eager to travel some more. I always come back from England, where I was born, feeling nostalgic, yearning for a simpler, more country based life, and feeling a strong pull to go back. January has felt like it’s been 85 days long already, and I found myself starting the month off NEEDING change in whatever form I can get. I need some change, and I need things to look forward to. It brings me happiness.

I’ve always been a firm believer that one CHOOSES to be happy. As someone who grew up struggling with depression and anxiety, I had to make some solid life changes. It had become so bad I was in a very dark, sad place. I woke up one day and realized just how bad it had gotten, and knew something had to change. Depression is much deeper than a simple attitude shift, trust me, I know. That being said, the first step for me in learning to manage and come out the other side of depression was to find ways of changing my mindset. The first thing I needed to realize was that I can’t always change a situation, but I can change my mindset about how to deal with it. I can choose how I look at things, or research things to learn to see things a different way. Once I started choosing and really trying to look at things from different perspectives, I noticed a break in the doom and gloom. It helped me to start the process of managing things much better.

My mom once told me…”no matter how bad things get, someone is always worse off than you”, which helps to keep things in perspective sometimes. I remember my dad recounting a story of when my parents when to a huge business dinner in NYC. The dinner was a big deal, and mother, despite being in terrible pain from a degenerating disc in her spine, was determined to go. She needed a cane, and was struggling to walk. My father looked at her, struggling, and said “maybe we should just go back to the room and forget the dinner….you don’t have to put yourself through this”. My mother turned and said “I’ve been looking forward to this dinner for ages, and remember, no matter how bad things get, there is always someone who has it harder, or worse off than me. I can do this!”. Just then the elevator door opened, and inside was a man who only had one leg. My mother glanced at my father and proceeded to head to dinner. She knew that happiness is realizing what you have, that things could always be worse, and being grateful that your struggles are your own. Someone once said if everyone threw their stuggles in a bowl, most of us would all grab our own back. Frankly, we don’t know what others are dealing with, and at the end of the day, struggles are often minimal when you see what others are struggling with. I am an oft repeater of “silver linings!” Even when things are bad, one can usually find a silver lining if they look harder enough. Even if it’s a small one.

But I digress.

Winter is a tough time for many, especially those with depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. While I don’t struggle like I used to, I do make a conscious choice to plan things to look forward to. Why? Because on a bad day, I can look at my calendar and despite the busy chaos, I can see a vacation, a trip, or a school event I am happy about. This reminds me that happy days are ahead. I am excited to go visit my dad soon. This usually also entails not only a happy time with him and my step mom, but also a dinner out with my close friends I don’t get to see very often. Always fun. I am excited about a family vacation I have planned. While it won’t be cheap, it gives me a goal, something to work towards, and something exciting to share with the husband and kids. I have a few day trips planned, one just by myself, to spend a day wandering and sight seeing. There is a school field trip I am chaperoning, which made my daughter beam ear to ear when I told her.

These trips and events keep me looking forward in a positive manner. I LOVE my job and what I do, but I have stressful days like everyone else. On those stressful days, I remind myself those extra hours or that hard work is earning me money towards a vacation. When I am cleaning the house (which admittedly I’m not great at….have you seen the title of my blog?) and I find change people have left everywhere, I am at least excited to put it in the vacation fund. When January hit and stomach bugs and flu arrived at our house, I console myself that we’re getting it out of the way now and will be healthy again hopefully for the happy events planned. Having something to look forward to brings happiness.

Not only do I plan the event, I plan little, simple things about it that bring me joy. Some of these revolve around food. That probably explains why I am working on losing some weight….10 pounds down so far! For example, the trip to NYC I have in mind. I am already planning and excited to go to Tea and Sympathy for dessert. Why? Because they have one of my favorites there. It’s a British tea shop, and their rhubarb and custard reminds me of being a kid in England. When visiting my dad I always go for fajitas at my favorite place. It was a place I used to go to with my mom. While the food is delicious, the memories it conjures up are happy ones spent with my parents and friends. Happiness is a feeling, and being as sentimental as I am, I always lean towards it.

Looks like it’s going to be an exciting (and yummy!) year!

Getting Ready for the UK

So we’re in the 24 hour mark.  I can’t believe our big vacation is upon us!  I, like usual, am in chaos.  In all honesty, I’ve done a lot.  Picked up all the little things we need but often forget before a trip.  Travel bottles for shampoo/conditioner, small toothpaste, a luggage scale, snacks for the kids, earplugs, etc.  I put the travel alerts on my credit cards, notified the cell phone company, did all the check ins online for the car and the plane.  I bathed the dog, made sure we had food and supplies for the animals, had keys made for the house sitters, and made sure I have my GPS preprogrammed for the trip (it was WAY cheaper to have the rental company ship me one to use rather than deal with it over in the UK).3

I’ve also answered the same questions from the kids 80 bazillion times, so much so that I just typed out an itinerary for my daughter to follow so she knows what’s happening when.

I’m pooped.  

I still have to drop the dog at the sitters, drop off keys, feed the kids and get them showered, and then begin the packing.  Oh yes, and tidy the damned house.  Did I mention I am working tomorrow morning too?  Why NOT work right before a major overseas trip when you have tons of stuff to do?  I am rethinking my choice there.  

Packing isn’t horrible, it’s just SO time consuming.  Why? Because I have to sort through everything, pack it, and then start unpacking when I realize I’m being ridiculous and don’t need all the masses of stuff I have packed. It’s a process, that’s for sure.  Wellies? I need those.  I also need my heels for a party, and shoes to wear each day, but do I need more than one pair for daily use?  And so it begins.  A suitcase piled with shoes.  One that my husband will gaze at with lifted eyebrow before telling me I am being ridiculous.  I will realize he’s right, and begin to sift and rethink everything.  Before you know it, it will be late, so late, and I will cry from being over tired, as if I’m a little kid again.  He will tell me to go to bed, and I will gratefully do so, only to frantically get it all done in a few minutes before we leave for the airport.  I’m a last minute kind of girl.

I’m thinking it might be a good idea to get off here and go get stuff done, don’t you agree?  See you all soon!

She Can Do It All, Until She Can’t

wonder

I grew up the daughter of parents who never made me feel I couldn’t do something just because I was a girl.  I was taught I was equal to men, could hold my own, and to be fiercely independent.  I lived in a two parent household, and my parents stayed happily married until my mother died.  Of course, there were some stereotypical roles that fell into place.  My mother was a stay at home mom, and my dad worked to support the family.  My mother cleaned the house to spotless perfection and looked after me, dinner was on the table each night at 6, and she was the arranger of all the plans.  My mom was the glue that seemed to hold us all together.  My father traveled extensively for work, sometimes even for weeks at a time, and my mother was always the figure in the home who held down the fort.

With that being said, my mother always made it clear that she had been the primary breadwinner before we moved to the US.  I knew she stopped working to look after me, and also because it made more sense financially.  She always told me to make sure I was ok on my own if I ever needed to be, and to make sure I always had my name on the house, cars, and other assets as well as my husband.  She’d had friends who had gotten divorced and ended up screwed because they hadn’t looked out for themselves as well.  In other words, while my parents lived in many ways an old fashioned set up, I was always taught to be a modern, independent woman who could look after herself, and why that was so important. I also learned that I could be a good wife, a good mom, and that there wasn’t anything I couldn’t do just because I was a girl.  Women in today’s society are told we can have it all, the career, the family, the home, and all that comes with us.

We can.  Many women do.  But sometimes, it’s really hard.  Like, really, really hard.

I hesitated to write this, because it’s hard to be vulnerable.  Usually when I admit a vulnerability, it gets thrown back at me.  That being said, I am who I am, and unapologetically so.  I own my mistakes, I own who I am, both on my best and worst days.  The other week someone tried a jab at my parenting when I “lost” my daughter.  (More on that in a future blog). Yet still, I owned it. At the end of the day, I am bluntly, without apology, or explanation, myself.  With me, you know what you are getting.  My filter isn’t very good, and my face will say my thoughts anyway.

So with all the things.  The work, the parenting, the house, the jobs, the peopling, the endless obligations that have stacked up….it’s gotten to be a bit much to manage on my own. My husband is always supportive of me in everything I do, but he works long hours and our schedules are opposite, so much of the stuff around the house and scheduling the kids falls to me.  I am trying to hold all the pieces together of the life puzzle and I ran out of hands.  I’m left tired and drained.  They always say on a plane to put your oxygen mask on first so you can help others.  I have been doing the reverse and I ran out of air. The more I couldn’t focus on a few things, the more everything started to spiral where it got to be just a bit more to manage.

This week I hit a wall.  I’ve only had it happen a few times in my life, but this week was one of them.  This week something snapped.  The year of yes came to a crashing end and I just wanted to say no. I looked around and for all I was doing, it just wasn’t amounting to what it should.

And I stopped.

I cried a little, I’ll admit it.

And then I did what I hate doing the most.

I asked for help.

I hate asking for help. I always think it’s an imposition.  It feels like I am failing at something, and I sort of hate that.  The funny thing is, I always encourage others to ask for help, and always am willing to help others.  I suppose we are always hardest on ourselves, right?

I’ve suffered from depression since I was a teen.  I went through some very bad times with it, went on medication, until I finally got it under control.  The fact is, I will likely always have it, but for the most part I rarely suffer these days.  I haven’t been on meds for it for years, but I do stay very mindful of when it feels that it’s starting up.  Yesterday I realized I need to stop and breath.  I looked around, and realized I needed to ask for help to ease the burden of things for a little while.  I called my dad and said I wanted to come visit and have a mini vacation.

I had an honest chat with my family and the response was amazing. I said I am overwhelmed, and they stepped up to ask how in turn they could each help. That’s family. Even the little things stack up to help.  This morning, my husband offered to run the kids to camp and returned home with a coffee for me.  He called from work to check in, just to make sure I am ok.  He knows that usually, I keep it all together, but when I am struggling, he is there to check in…just to make sure I am hanging in there and to see if I need anything.  The reminder that he is there to back me up and lift me up if I fall is a great source of comfort.

The next week or so is going to be busy.  Much to plan, to do, and to coordinate.  That being said, I will be pausing to breathe more, saying no when I get overwhelmed, and asking for help if I need it.  I will try me best to take care of me a bit better than I have been.  Maybe I’ll even use that gift certificate for a massage my aunt sent me.  Seems like a perfect time to use it.  Rest and recharge amongst the chaos, so I can minimize the chaos.

Yesterday, when I felt my worst, I looked around at ALL the THINGS that needed doing, and I felt like a failure.  My mom had always made things seem so effortless.  I look back and realize how much I took for granted.  I realize I looked at her and she made it all seem so darned easy.  I came home from school to find my laundry done, the house clean, a meal on the table, and I never really comprehended the amount of work that went into making all of that happen.  I also realized she would have told me that while she was a stay at home mom, I work full time.  I have less time for some of the things than she had. I know she would have reminded me of the times when she seemed short with me or stressed that she too struggled with getting it all done.  She would also remind me that sometimes, you just have to go and take a nap and figure it out later.

When you grow up and you watch your mom do it all, you think you can too.  There is a big push on social media and the media in general to be the mom who can be perfect.  Everyone portrays themselves to be super moms.  They post and pin and they present the perfect outside image.  Their immaculate houses, their vacations, their endless smiles.  The fact is, I’m sure there’s a lot of women who feel they too need to pause, take a deep breath, and escape from it all for a few.  To not have ALL the THINGS in their heads and to do lists every moment.  So I’m waving to those ladies, from my yard that needs weeding, my house that needs cleaning, surrounded by all the jobs I need to do but have no time to do them in because there’s only so many hours in a day. I hear you. I see you. I’m one of you too.