Tag Archives: family

Three Hundred Fifty Five: Thanks

“In a stuck moment, it’s hard to see positive forces when obstacles are blaring and fears are looming. This is a good time to be grateful. Not grateful for what has us stuck, but appreciating what doesn’t. Gratitude helps us see our situation is a way that can lessen panic, and could open up our thinking to new solutions.”  – “Unstuck” author

Monday, December 22nd

Today the world starts to get a little brighter, one moment at a time. Solstice one eve behind me, I have been reflecting on change and renewal and it is all met a certain degree of fear and trepidation. Will I ever have what it takes to manifest the life that I’ve always wanted?

It’s a trick question, really. I have the life I’ve always wanted because I’m unbearably stuck on figuring it all out. I overanalyze. I dig. I’m terribly shy but I like to ask other people questions about what makes them tick. I make terrible mistakes and know that I’m feeling my way through this messy experience…and might just grow a bit more along the way.

Today, I was tired. Body, mind, and soul tired. My husband took the kids out for a hike for the afternoon. When they returned, the noise was so nerve-wracking that I ended up yelling at the kids, and making everyone feel miserable. I wasn’t exactly the “Mother of the Year” today. I like to feel sorry for myself in times like this. Isn’t it a pity that I don’t have a babysitter? Why must my husband question me about why I’m talking to the kids like this? Why must I have insomnia? Wouldn’t it be nice if they all could let me sleep again and wake up refreshed with it all figured out? 

I am the number one Devil’s Advocate and once in a blue moon, I turn that on myself for the powers of good to ask better questions. Isn’t it wonderful that we’ve chosen to limit our time out to when we can have family and close friends watch the kids so that they have trusted adults around that we trust implicitly to care for them when we can’t? Aren’t I blessed to have a partner who calls me on my bullshit behaviors that need to be addressed – now, not tomorrow? Don’t I appreciate all the stuff I can get done or silent reflection I can enjoy when I am not sleeping? Why would I doubt my husband and children who don’t just let me sleep the day away because they love me and want to be around me and that my boy calling me “bad mommy” is not a personal attack but the only way that my little 4-year-old son knows how to communicate his frustrations for not being able to play with playdough instead of eat his lunch?

I am thankful for my life. I am thankful for the people I’ve brought into it, whom I’ve kept around, and especially those I’ve created. Sometimes I just need to take those critical deep breaths, sit with my knee-jerk emotions for one extra moment, and find that gratitude when it is most needed so I can respond with something other than anger and frustration.

When could you use a gratitude adjustment the most during your day?

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Three Hundred Thirty Nine: Too Much

“There is a particular kind of pain, elation, loneliness, and terror involved in this kind of madness…The fast ideas are far too fast, and there are far too many; overwhelming confusion replaces clarity. Memory goes. Humor and absorption on friends’ faces are replaced by fear and concern. Everything previously moving with the grain is now against– you are irritable, angry, frightened, uncontrollable, and enmeshed totally in the blackest caves of the mind. You never knew those caves were there. It will never end, for madness carves its own reality.” – Kay Redfield Jamison

“A sick thought can devour the body’s flesh more than fever or consumption.” – Guy de Maupassant

Saturday, December 6th

Tonight I got the call that no one wants to receive. To be more accurate, my Mom left me a voicemail while I was in bed sleeping with my littles. I woke up an hour or so later and called her as soon as I got the message. She had that tone in her voice – scared, sad, and disjointed.

My older brother was in the hospital after ingesting too many sleeping pills. He passed out outside of his apartment and when he came to, he went next door to his neighbor’s house and asked her to call 911. He was taken to the hospital where he was flushed out to remove the medication, and placed under observation in the Psychiatric unit.

My brother has had longstanding struggles maintaining his mental health, and it has been a learning process for my family to be there for him in the ways that he needs. There have been stages of enabling just as there have been stages of empowering. It is a helpless feeling to see a family member unpredictably cycle in and out of control. It is even more humbling to know that we cannot save him, neither from his illness nor from the actions he might take in the midst of it. We have to find new ways of being present with him. Following his cues.

I can only imagine this is exhausting for my parents. My Mom said it was like parenting a child. Perhaps that is the best analogy for her. It is very much not like parenting a child because my brother has adult life experiences and the fallout from years of adult mistakes.

And so I am trying to help from a distance. I’ve sent correspondences to two close friends in Canada – one whom is a psychiatric nurse and the other whom is a friend in the mental health system herself. Already, I have learned gained a great deal more insight into how I can help get my brother the support he needs. What have I got to lose? Well, someone very dear, in fact, so any knowledge gained is good at this point.

If you or anyone you know has been extremely depressed or had suicidal thoughts, call for support. You don’t have to bear this on your own. The phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Line is 1 (800) 273-8255.

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Three Hundred Thirty Two: Family

“Family – an anchor during rough waters.” – Unknown

Saturday, November 29th

Our Friday arrival into a new city was marked by the drama of the gale winds. The rest of the day was thankfully very relaxing. My husband and I walked around the city hand-in-hand and enjoyed, perhaps, one of our best dinners out together at a lovely vegetarian restaurant. We even savored a nap in the middle of the day.

Saturday was marked by a different-but-equally-relaxing vibe – a family day. I woke up at 6 am to find that my brother was texting me. Our partners were both sleeping, so we continued the conversation. At one point, he mentioned snow, and low and behold the ground was dusted with the fluffy white stuff. We kept the banter going until his wife and my husband woke up, at which time we planned to meet up for breakfast.

Breakfast kicked off a day spent together catching up, talking about our families, aspiring for the future – the full meal deal. There is an ease with my brother that I don’t have with many other people. And his wife is the right amount of heart, smarts, and fire. They just moved into a charming character house, and it was the perfect setting for a restorative day with family.

Before we knew it, they were dropping us off at the dock to return home fingers crossed that we didn’t have the same drama on the high seas. The sailing was thankfully uneventful and we were picked up by my father-in-law on the other side. My MIL was hiding with the kids in bed and they popped out once we walked through the door. I jumped into the bed and snuggled my little ones as they drifted off to sleep. Everything feels better when things are good with family.

Do you have any unresolved conflicts with family members?

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Three Hundred Twenty Four: Elders

“Clearly older women and especially older women who have led an active life or elder women who successfully maneuver through their own family life have so much to teach us about sharing, patience, and wisdom.”  – Alice Walker

Friday, November 21st

It was one thing for my husband and I to consider how we would be raising our children…and quite another to learn how our elders would.

We have had financial support from our parents when the times get tough, and it is incredibly humbling to know that your children won’t feel how tight things got when the bills rolled in because your loved ones were looking out for you. We have had extended visits for post-partum support and too-many-to-mention afternoons with Grandpa and Grandma so my husband and I could have a date. There are usually little gifts in Grandmas purse, but there are always hugs and smiles for my kids. There is no way I could begin to even quantify their worth in our lives.

So we jumped at the chance to invite my husband’s mother to an Elder’s Luncheon at my daughter’s school. She kept her morning schedule clear so she could attend, and we also invited my daughter’s Auntie. It was a very new experience for her to eat her lunch with her elder women, pointing out friends and teachers and leading us all to her classroom where she gave us the royal tour. She held her brother’s hand as we walked to the gymnasium to see a performance, and checked back to see that her “girls” were still there.

My mothers’ paths of teaching and guiding my children has not been without conflict or a difference of opinion, but we respect each other enough to work through that. And I am proud that they’ve both learned from observing my husband and I parent. They’ve got our backs, and they’ve got our kids’ backs…and we’ve got theirs. I’m glad to have learned from them that this is just what families do for one another.

What lessons have you learned from your elders?

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Two Hundred Eighty Three: Climb Every Mountain

“Keep close to Nature’s heart… and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean.”  – John Muir

Saturday, October 11th

Despite the fact that my husband works in the Outdoor Equipment industry, we have a difficult time making it out to the trails regularly. There are grocery runs, story times, play dates, big people dates, and other “necessities” of modern-day urban parenting. Today we joined Nature for an unrelenting and memorable hike.

I didn’t want to go. The morning was starting our productive. With husband to dress and distract the kids, I culled our collective closet and removed too-small worn-out wardrobe pieces. We folded three loads of laundry and put them away. I was feeling that the world would operate much smoother if I stayed home and continued the clean. He was going to take the kids out for a hike and offered to give me the day to stay at home and do whatever. When he started looking up mountain hikes I started mentally preparing myself for changing out of my pajamas.

The most convincing argument to go was knowing that a hike would take me two hours outside of the city. Two hours away from schedules and neighbors and gas stations. Yes, let’s go! I thought I was preparing by bringing the child carrier, a bottle of water, two power bars and rain coats. Mountains are not governed by consistent logic or prep lists. The air was humid but dry and we were only chilly if we sat in the same spot. The loop was supposed to be easily hiked by youngsters, so we wouldn’t be sitting still anyway. The kids were slow to start but quickly got into a groove on the trails. We couldn’t see the neighboring peaks in all the fog, but I asked my daughter to breathe in the clouds and feel the cloud magic fill her body. The narratives kept her moving forward and engaged with the hike. We rounded a corner and walking in the clouds quickly turned to striding in the snowfall.

At some point I realized that I was quite happy to be helping my little ones work through their feelings of dread of hiking in the rain. All the other problems that had been vexing me were far away and I was handling the circumstances of the moment.

What activity is your surefire stress reliever?

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Two Hundred Seventy Two: Stresstember

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.”  – Attributed to both Jim Goodwin and Sydney J. Harris 

Tuesday, September 30th

It’s a lot to take care of my family as one-by-one they all become sick. I know that I will likely pick up what they have because we live in a small space together. We are constantly touching the same doorknobs, sneezing in one another’s faces and snuggling with one another when we need comfort. It’s where I ultimately want to be, but sometimes it all adds up into one big ball of stress.

I heard another Mom refer to this month as “Stresstember” and I think I will adopt that one from now on. Between the return to school and the sudden collection of viruses, it starts to feel pretty hairy around our house. The grey skies set in and it is hard to even muster the energy to do what needs to be done.

I chalk up that some days (err, and months) are just like this. Streaks of weirdness dabbled with moments of love and beauty, but on the whole days that leave me exhausted.

How do you feel when you transition from one season to the next?

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Two Hundred Sixty Eight: Priorities

“You need to make time for your family no matter what happens in your life.”  – Matthew Quick

Friday, September 26th

I had a school social scheduled for tonight, but it was becoming clear that the only people I’d be socializing with call me “Mama”. My husband still hadn’t kicked the dizziness and ill feeling that had plagued him all week, so it was time to set family first.

Part of the reason I am so involved with my daughter’s school is to have time to socialize with other adults, especially adults who understand what it is like to be a parent. While I was disappointed to miss this event, I didn’t regret my decision for a moment. Family always comes first for me, and I have a strong one because of that belief.

I was living in a travelers’ hostel when I first met my husband. I was in a dorm room with a woman I had befriended named Terry. She felt that I was spending too much time with this man I had just met (haha, coming from a woman I had just met.) I kept her comments at a distance and followed my intuition with this new relationship. I knew that I could trust this man and that faith has pulled me through the tough times when it is hard to remember why I love this person as much as I do.

All this aside, I was not reading into the years of trust and honesty between us. When someone I care for is sick, I take care of that person.

Do you like to care for others when they are sick?

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Two Hundred Forty Eight: The Perfect Storm

“There’s always another storm. It’s the way the world works. Snowstorms, rainstorms, windstorms, sandstorms, and firestorms. Some are fierce and others are small. You have to deal with each one separately, but you need to keep an eye on what’s brewing for tomorrow.”  – Maria V. Snyder

Saturday, September 6th

This was supposed to be a fun jam-packed Saturday: a community meeting in the morning, my daughter’s belated birthday celebration in the afternoon, and a visit with my folks as they passed through town in the evening. Then the storm hit. The perfect storm. The perfect shit-storm, that is.

My poor girl had been up all night Thursday with a fever, so I set her up with an impromptu bed on the couch and slept on the floor beside her. I decided it was best to keep her home from school Friday. I also canceled the party so not to send germs home with the goodie bags for ten other children.

My parents were still slated to come through town, but even those plans had been rocked by drama. I’d received a strange text from my uncle saying that my parents needed to call me. My mom’s health yo-yo’s, so I figured that her back had gone out and they’d had to return home early. My imagination went the distance. I received a short voicemail that said they were in the middle of a rather crazy Minnesota storm and had lost power. This also concerned me so I tried texting again. And so the cellular debacle continued. Flights hadn’t been canceled, and they were safe where they were so I would see them Saturday. My parents’ flight number wasn’t showing up on the internet when I googled it, so I tried texting my uncle again and he confirmed that they were at the airport. What was happening?

I received a call from my Dad (at exactly the time he said his plane would land) letting me know which doors of the airport to pick him up at. Wow. They were here! My kids were over-the-moon to see their Grandma and Grandpa and I was excited to see my Mom and Dad. My Mom had been on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to reunite with a long-lost brother and had some sweet memories to share with us. The storm had come through their spot during the visit and my other uncle had insisted that my mom text me to let me know about the storm. My panic ensued and that started off the rash of unnecessary texts and calls.

We weathered that circumstantial storm and at the end of it all, I had my parents and my family with me (including a little girl on the mend.)

Are you good at keeping perspective of the bigger picture when “storms” hit?

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Two Hundred Thirty: Work Stuff

“I didn’t list listening as one of my skills, probably because I didn’t hear what the interviewer asked.
” – Jarod Kintz

Tuesday, August 19th

Today I sat in as part of an interviewing team for a teaching position at my daughter’s school. The Garden Educator position, to be exact. As a parent, I volunteer for the garden efforts and weasled my way into the process so I could have a say. The first thing that struck me was that this felt like work.

And that’s okay. I’ve been out of the work force since 2009 and with each passing year it will get progressively more difficult to re-enter. I like to think of myself as a go-getter and when I was a new mom, I let motherhood take over me and eventually left the workplace to pursue it wholeheartedly. There is no better career decision that I have made than to leave the workforce, especially when the economy was tanking. I was blessed to be able to leave it willingly during a time when I already could no longer concentrate on my tasks at work. I was terrified that I would lose my identity; after all, most of my day was spent working and I wasn’t necessarily leading a well-balanced life at that point. I was left holding my young baby while emotionally hitting gravel. It was painful and liberating…and I had the time to figure it all out.

Family time has been cathartic. I have eaten dinners with my husband and children almost every evening. I have spent the earliest years of my children’s lives with them at home and in our community, and I’ve taken an active role to educate them at home until they start kindergarten. I’m not only envisioning the life I want, but I’m building the life that I want.

Back to the interview, here I am in a work-like atmosphere with colleagues and a small group of job-seekers who are looking to join my team. Yikes! It felt good not only to be that productive but also to help shape the future of a program that is already thriving and in transition. In other words, my penchant for idea generating, volunteer management, and fundraising would be well appreciated and put to use this year and that builds a whole lot of promise and satisfaction into this part of my life.

Where are you in your career cycle?

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Two Hundred Twenty Six: The Generations

“Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.”  – George Orwell

Friday, August 15th

I remember as a child telling my brother – I six and he fifteen – that I was smarter than him. And I really believed it. I’m sure I had moments growing up where I felt that my knowledge and experience was more relevant than my parents’. How connected could they be when they were working day-in and day-out, grumbling about the price of groceries, and lacking a passion to make a real difference in the world? They didn’t understand what my generation was going through, and there certainly was a disconnect between us even though we got along fine.

Payback’s double, right? Now I have two children entering interesting and perplexing developmental stages. My six-year-old knows she can say “no” and uses that power liberally; she has agency and she isn’t afraid to use it. My four-year-old watches his sister for cues on how to act and what to say. I know the only way through this is with patience, love, and more patience. It seems unfathomable that repeating myself endlessly will actually make headway with these little ones.

In some beautiful way, it is the passing of the baton. We are in the relay of life and as I take on a different pace I see my children starting to catch up to me. Running. Sometimes stomping. One day I’ll feel a breeze and won’t know quite what it was until I look ahead and see that they’ve passed me and leaped over to a new track entirely.

I give thanks for these flawed days of muddling through it all together.

When all is said and done, what brings the most meaning to your day?

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