So, I have this “real job.” It’s actually a pretty cool one and it came to me in a pretty amazing way. But that story is for another time. For now, the point is just that I’m super happy to be able to support myself and my kids with a pretty flexible schedule and to do it mostly from home.
I’m blessed beyond measure and I know this, but just to clarify, it’s not all sunshine and roses. It takes some creative arranging and discipline (which has not always been my strongest gift) to manage getting the job done and dealing with kids, homeschooling and single mamahood / rural farm girl living with a petting zoo full of animals.
I’m not complaining~ I’m just saying…
Anyhoo~ one of the things that my job requires is monthly trips to the office, which is 175 miles over a winding mountain road to the small coastal town where the company is located. At first, I found myself whining, which was lame, I know, but still I was thinking...
“Oh my gosh~ I have to drive over to the coast every month. How am I gonna figure out what to do with the kids and their transportation and activities and the animals? Waaaahhh, blah, blah, blah."
In the midst of my complaining (side note: I almost referred to my complaining as wanking, because for years, that’s what I thought it meant. But, I was informed by my teens that it has a very different meaning. Oops….That explains the strange looks I’ve gotten when using that term in public. Learning all the time indeed…..) So, I was inspired by something the lovely and wise Marie Forleo said about re-framing our thinking.
I realized “What the heck am I talking about? I get to go to the coast every month....”
Can someone please explain to me what exactly is the deal with misery and company? I get that complaining is infectious and addictive, but what really surprises me is when misery is an expectation~ when people actually seem to resent others who don't appear to be as unhappy as they should be.
I first noticed this crazy concept a few years ago when my family had been going through some fairly public hard times. Aside from the rocky patch we were in, my offspring and I had been working on our Explore All 50 States Dream for a couple of years.
At one point, we had put together this Pacific Northwest Adventure~ it would take us through Big Foot territory to the Redwoods, to see friends on the Northern California coast, up the entire coast of Oregon, along the Lewis and Clark route, and to visit friends, family and cheesy tourist traps in Seattle and Portland.
We didn't have a lot of time or a huge budget, but with some crazy planning skills and flexibility, we had an amazing 9 day adventure with pouring rain, washed out roads, cheese and ice cream galore and sites that were both historical and hysterical. We slept in tents, in yurts and on couches, and ate out of an ice chest. We saw people we rarely get to, laughed until our bellies ached, got a break from our troubles, continued working toward a big dream, and all around had a wonderful time.
Then, we got home and I posted the pictures on Facebook. Oops.
But, that's what most people do when they have happy things to share, right? Thankfully, most people were happy to see us smiling and having fun, but there were a few (there always are) who felt we should not be enjoying ourselves quite so much. At least not publicly under the circumstances. (.........)
Ahhh, the madness of Christmas has passed, and it’s time to exhale. Oh, and celebrate if you made it through the season without punching anyone!
For me, the week between Christmas and New Years Eve typically features a couple of traditions. And by traditions, I mean variations on a similar theme~ I’ve never actually managed to do the same thing twice exactly.
The first thing I like to get going is a big old clean out in the form of Boxing Day. I once looked up the actual meaning of the holiday, but unfortunately, I have since sort of forgotten.
Back when I wasn’t working as many jobs and could focus more efforts on being a homeschooling mamacita extraordinaire, I would have looked up the history of the day again, maybe even had a nice little family lesson about it.
These days, I'm just acknowledging that I'll likely forget again by next year anyway, so what really matters for me personally is my own version of the day that has evolved. That’s kind of my stance on holidays in general. Everyone does it a little differently, and that’s OK.
In theory, Boxing Day happens the day after Christmas. In reality, for me at least, it happens over the course of a few days~ like Boxing Week.
The deal for us is that my family and I go on a crazy rampage through the house, gutting cabinets and drawers and finding all sorts of stuff that we no longer want or need, and box (or bag) it up to go away. The main thing is that lots of "stuff" leaves our lives, and that makes us feel lighter and more free. And that’s a good thing. A really good thing.
The process isn't always easy (OK, it probably never is easy because it involves actual work in addition to letting go, and is mixed in with house cleaning~ this is hard stuff, but it's worth it, I swear.)
As I head into Boxing Weekend here in the Zesty household, I'm doing what I can in an attempt to make it through without tears. Here's my Game Plan.
1) I'm Trying to be Prepared.
That means plenty of caffeine for me and plenty of snacks for everyone.
It also helps to have supplies like separate bags or boxes because not all the stuff we're getting rid of goes in the same category, and I don't want to re-sort. Some stuff we give away, some we throw away, and some we recycle. Sometimes I'm amazed at the perfectly good things people throw away. On the other hand, no matter how much I hate contributing to the landfill, I'm aware that nobody wants stuff like ratty old socks and undies. I still occasionally have to remind my Boy Child that these items go in the trash, not the donation box.
2) I'm Trying to Set Limits
Sometimes I set a mental time limit~ like a 20 minute boogie in my room, or sometimes I aim for a particular space~ like one kitchen cabinet. Other times, I get all crazy and want to keep going until the trash and recycling cans are packed to the rim and my car is full of donations.
Speaking of crazy, sometimes (OK, maybe many times) I turn into a highly caffeinated she-banshee with some sort of attention deficit / anger management disorder when tackling large projects. I'm hoping that this new self awareness of the fact that I lean towards craziness when in the midst of such things will help keep my scary parts at bay.
I'm also thinking of pulling out my Sacred Space Clearing Kit to get me in the right frame of mind.
That brings me to #3.
3) I'm Trying to be Understanding
Some years my kids are more on board with the process than others, and one kid is a bit of a pack rat. I have to work around and respect that. It’s a delicate balance sometimes, and can require strategic timing and phrasing.
It can also require some serious attempts at understanding, especially with things like “collectible” cereal box or gum wrapper collections that might be accidentally mistaken as garbage or recycling.
In any case, my own stuff and the general accumulation of bits and pieces in communal areas usually give me plenty to work on and get rid of. When the kids see clarity happening elsewhere, they often jump in.
Oh, it's also important to remind myself that during this process, things often look much worse before they look better. I have to have faith.
Hopefully, my home will feel a little more like a Haven when I'm done with this madness. I'm sure it will at least feel a little less cluttered going into the New Year. Now if only I knew how to accomplish that with my mind.
In any case, wish me luck~ I'm going in!!!!
I know that it's the most wonderful time of the year and all, but somehow, this holiday season has been a bit of weird one. And I know I'm not the only one feeling that way.
Friends who always have family professional looking photo cards made or do holiday letters just didn't get it together. Those that did seemed to squeak in last minute.
Family members who normally finish their gift shopping by October 31st are calling me three days before Christmas to ask what my kids would like.
And I really knew something was up when even kids (who are most likely about to be bombarded with more gifts than a third world village will see in 3 years, and are probably well aware of this fact) are lamenting throughFacebook about their inability to find the Christmas Spirit. It's a sad, sad situation.
I don't know exactly what's up with the world at large this holiday season, but I know that for me, it's a different one. It's the first time I'll juggle post divorce logistics with kids. It's the first Christmas without my sweet Grandma, who really was the glue that held together a whole section of my family. And just to keep me on my toes, there's a massive pile of BIG LIFE STUFF that all needs to be negotiated and dealt with right friggen now.
These things are cumulatively not very conducive to a Happy Holiday Spirit. My tendencies first lean towards the urge to punch someone in the throat, but when the extreme fatigue sets in, I'd rather curl up in a ball and cry. Notice that I said urge. I know, I know...Actually punching people is wrong. And since it's Christmas Eve tonight, there's just too much to be done and no time for crying about it.
So, what on earth is one to do in order to make sure they don't become that woman who flipped out at the mall and started throwing things and screaming at everyone? (For most of us, I'm guessing that this is probably not the bit of fame we are seeking.)
Here's what helps me stay semi sane during the holiday season (and keeps me from any punching of throats or other body parts)
It only takes a minute, and in all honesty, many of us spend more time frantically complaining about how hectic life is than it would take to just calm ourselves down and make a game plan. So stop. For just a minute. And breathe. Shut your pie hole, close your eyes and breathe. (I tell myself this all the time. I'm not just being rude to you all..)
Seriously, a wee bit of time invested in getting centered pays off in huge dividends with the prevention of angry eyebrow wrinkles.
I can't even tell you how much the gift of laughter means to me. Seriously, there are a lotta times when you have to either laugh or cry, and if you followed step 1 above and took a minute to breathe, you might just realize that some situations are pretty darn funny.
For example, many people are stressing right about now over the upcoming holiday gatherings, and they do it every year~ not about the food or decorations or gifts~ but because they know they will have to deal with relatives that they feel are crazy, weird or just plain unpleasant.
I could tell you that your relatives really aren't that really bad, or I could tell you the alternative truth. We all have crazy relatives. There is no perfect family.
Whenever possible, I just try to laugh about it. I mean, think about the Griswold's or the Costanza's. If your holiday festivities don't include a metal pole, an official airing of grievances or wrestling feats of strength, well, then...your laughter may evolve into gratitude, which is really kind of deep stuff, don't you think?
3) Let Go
It's not gonna be perfect. That's just the way it is. But, it probably can be pretty darn nice. If you let go that is.
I'm super guilty of NOT following my own advice on this one, and doing a mental freak out about all the things that aren't the way they used to be, should be, or could be. *** But when I'm giving myself (and other people) all sorts of grief about what isn't perfect, I'm missing out on all of the ways things are awesome.
It's ridiculous really, and it never ever helps. What does help is figuring out what really matters and putting the energy I have into making those things happen in the best way I can.
My kids probably won't remember if every gift wasn't right or we forgot rolls, or have to skip crafts because I have to work. But they will remember if we were happy or not.
So, what matters to me this year is loving up the people around me, including myself. I'm still going to hustle and do what I can to pull off some holiday magic, because that's just what I do. But, I'm also going to give myself and everyone else a break, and know that whatever it is, is good enough, imperfections and all.
In the words of the ever wise Dr. Suess:
"And he puzzled three hours, till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before!
'Maybe Christmas,' he thought, 'doesn't come from a store.
'Maybe Christmas...perhaps...means a little bit more!
Wishing you all the happiest of holidays!!!!!! Breathe, Laugh, Let Go and Enjoy!!!
I recently did a little flipping out. OK, maybe this isn't news because I kind of have little flip out episodes on a semi regular basis, BUT they are usually internal and aimed at myself (although the people in close proximity may witness them and wonder, but anyway....)
External flipping out is usually reserved for people who are in some way or another causing me a large amount of grief, but the flip out episode I'm referring to here revolved around a friend that I normally find very enjoyable, and have no desire whatsoever to flip on. That's what was so weird about it.
It started off as girlfriendly chit chat, and somehow rolled into a conversation with deep and penetrating questions about all sorts of future stuff. The kind of stuff that I really have no idea about, and very little control over. The kind of stuff that I get heart palpitations if I think about too intensely. Big Stuff.
And that flipped me out.
I'm not sure exactly why, but somehow the whole conversation had me feeling (and possibly sort of acting) like a wild caged animal. I know that Dear Friend didn't mean to make me feel trapped with her inquiries. She just has a mind that wants to be prepared for any potentially problematic outcomes, to have a master big picture plan with fine details on the far off horizon.
But, the reality seems to be that there are some things you just can't be prepared for. The far off horizon has so many things that are not in the least bit in my control that it's quite honestly terrifying.
I probably freaked out because I'm just starting to get used to this idea that a whole heck of a lotta things are not in my realm of control by any means. Like, not at all.
I can only (and barely) control my own actions, and life is complicated and full of all sorts of other people and problems. No matter how much I want to wrangle them into my way of being, there's only so much I can do.
If there's one thing I've learned in the last couple of roller coaster years, it's that I really don't have any idea of exactly how the details of the future will unfold. But even so, things usually turn out pretty freaking well.
Some days, gratitude comes easily, and other days....well....not so much. We all have those days of dirty dishes, work deadlines, bickering children, vomiting cats, headaches, broken tail lights and a big pile of bills, and it's kinda hard to remember when you're grateful for in the midst of all that.
But,one thing I know for sure is this:
Whatever you focus on tends to be what you get more of.
It's not just the hippie woo woo people who think so, either. It's just the way it works~ If you think about the truly happy people you know, I'm guessing they don't sit around wanking about their miseries for too long.
Knowing that focusing on the good stuff really does help you get through the sucky stuff is one thing, but that doesn't mean it always comes easily or naturally. For those of us who have slightly more brittle exterior tendencies, it can take some serious effort. Like much of parenting and life in general, theory is one thing, reality is another.
If the gratitude isn't flowing freely on it's own, that's when it becomes a conscious choice~ you have to actually do the work to switch your own mindset.
Sometimes just writing a list of everything I'm grateful for helps, sometimes affirmations help, but sometimes, I need to get a little more specific in my thought process, especially when it comes to the really big and important stuff ~ like parenting.
In case you too are in the mood to analyze what in the heck you have to be happy about in your parenting life, here's a journal page I made to get the process rolling. You can download the PDF below.
If you prefer not to use an entire ink cartridge on one project, I don't blame you one bit. So, I made a not so colorful version (Just the questions, no pretty background) to print out, you can get that here.
I hope you enjoy the journal questions, and as always, if you like my stuff, please "like" my facebook page as well, and share it with a friend or five!
And please share in the comments below what you are thankful for, especially on the days when there seems to be less to give thanks for.
In the midst of the business of life, with the added crazy of the holidays looming, I love seeing people actually thinking about Thanksgiving. And by that, I mean the actual act of giving thanks, not just taking a day off work in America, and over stuffing ourselves (even more than usual, that is.)
I'm seeing people posting daily lists of gratitude on Facebook, and while some skeptics might say that those are just another means of feeding our public displays of narcissism, I think that any means of getting people to quit bitching and focus on positive stuff is a good thing.
So, yes, I think I'll join the bandwagon. No, not with daily posts, I just can't handle that kind of public commitment and pressure. But I think I can manage a weekly roundup of gratitude. This week will be in the form of pictures of some of the things that really do make my life better. Next week, who knows what I will do, because I just don't plan ahead that well.
Presenting Thankful Thursday.Here are some of the reasons that I am so very blessed.
Fall brings with it so many things that I love, like the changing of leaves, the chance to wear boots and to eat cool weather comfort food. It also brings along things I really have absolutely no idea what to do with. Like schedules and football.
Sports in general are something I just never have gotten into as a player or a fan. Sure, I tried to play on the school basketball team in 6th grade, but I was on the “B” team, which everyone knew meant that we sucked but the adults wanted to make us feel better by letting us play anyway. They gave us our own team of other non-talented players, but everyone knew it was a pity team. After that, I realized that athleticism was not one of my God given talents.
Watching sports has always been baffling to me as well, and while I’ve had friends who would argue over their favorite teams, I never could bring myself to care about watching grown men throw balls around.
When pregnant with my first child, I remember a seasoned mom telling me that children were born their own independent persons with preferences and personalities that might make no sense whatsoever to us. At the time, I joked that it would be hysterical if my kid turned out to be a jock. I think Mother Nature likes little jokes like that.
It wasn’t that child, but eventually the Universe did give me a little athlete in my Boy Child. When it became obvious that the kid loved to throw balls and play sports, despite my non sporty nature, I signed him up for some low key, non competitive sports, hoping someone else could guide him since I was "B team" material. We started with baseball.
I really wanted him to play just for fun, enjoy the game and all of that, so I thought it was a good thing that some of the leagues didn’t even keep score.
Of course, just like when I was a child, the kids know what’s up. They wanted to win and they kept score on their own. They were often wrong about the score, generally thinking they did much better than they actually did, but at least they had good self esteem, right?
We've all seen her....the exhausted mother in the grocery store with her crying children, her messy clothes and hair and looking like she's about to start crying herself. If we're honest, most of us have probably been that mom as well.
I can remember clearly being in that position, where you are too tired, your usual coping skills are a distant memory, and it feels like everyone in the world is judging you.
When I see that mom these days, I usually want to go give her a big hug and tell her that really, it's gonna be OK.
But since many people find it alarming to be hugged by random strangers, I instead usually just offer a smile, one that I hope lets her know she is not alone and that it will get better.
Parenting in the younger years seems to lend itself to the most to public meltdowns by all family members, but really,at any stage of parenting, most of us are gonna have days or weeks where we can use reminders that the hard times will pass, that we haven't ruined their kids, and that we're doing a good job.
As woo woo as it sounds, I really think happy thoughts make a huge difference in life.
I've shared Happy Thoughts cards that I've made here before~ positive affirmations you can print, cut out and post around places to remind yourself of the things you need to hear.
But lately, every time I see that frazzled mom, I realize that she's probably stretched too thinly to seek out those happy thoughts for herself, and she needs them most of all. I've also been thinking what a wonderful thing it would be if those of us with some happy thoughts to spare, could get a few of them to her.
So, I made a new set of Happy Thoughts, and these are meant to share. If you print and cut them out, they should end up roughly about wallet size, so they're easy to carry with you. You can get the full sized version by clicking below.
When you see a parent unloading cranky kids from car seats, stick one of these on her windshield. Hand one to the mom who has a crying kid hanging on each leg and another throwing all of the groceries out of the cart. Your friend with the angsty and experimental teen could probably use the love. And the mom who has well groomed and well behaved children? Give her one too because you never know what's going on underneath the shiny exterior.
I hope you'll take on the mission is to spread a little love and happy thoughts. It's quick and easy, and it might just make all the difference in the world. Even if you don't do the cards, at least give the smile. A mom who's feeling the love is going to be able to do a better job in her parenting work, and have kids who in turn are nicer~ and the ripples of happiness continue out into the world.
So, what do you think?
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Whatever you do, go out and spread some happiness today!
The first time I heard the term "brittle woman," I immediately felt a twinge of panic. Perhaps it’s the same hypochondriac tendencies that make me think I too might be a victim of parasites after reading an article about them, but I think there may be something more to this connection.
Apparently, there is an epidemic of brittle women in America. Danielle LaPorte writes about the brittle woman hearing her spirit say “I miss the softness of you.” And all I can do is wonder,when was I ever soft? Is there even a cushiony downy layer anywhere in me? I don't know because I've had this hard exterior for as long as I can remember.
My father says he has a picture of me at 2 years old standing in front of his parents house in Colombia, and I was soft then. But since I have no memory of it at all, and I was probably still in diapers, does it even count?
The only time I can remember my being semi- soft was when I had babies in arms, was pregnant or breastfeeding. Those were my softest times, warm and fuzzy and snuggley~ but they were brief in the scheme of things and seem so so far away. A five year span out of a forty two year life, and a decade behind me.
Was that really the only time when I was soft? If so, that's rather sad.
So, I started to over think the meaning of soft, like I over think so many things~ Gentle and feminine is the type of soft I'd be aiming for, although in the back of my head, I think of soft as equating with weak, and my shell hardens another layer because I do not at any cost want to be weak.
I suppose that being vulnerable can turn out beautifully, at least in theory and in romantic novels, but in real life I know that it can also just open you up to pain, make you look and feel like a fool, and leave you disappointed and rejected.
When someone doesn’t return an email or a phone call or put any effort into getting together, how do you not feel rejected? The positive lifestyle articles all say “Don’t take it personally” but it feels so very personal. It’s your heart after all.
Somewhere along the line, probably around puberty, I began to put on armor against the world and became what my one younger brother called “kind of a bad @ss." He mentioned this first when I told him that my husband had left and asked for a divorce. Little Bro meant it as in “You’ll get through this” and “You’re strong” and it came with a bunch of other encouraging metaphors on finding my superhero powers, rising like a phoenix and all that, but the one that stuck with me these past 10 months is that I’m “kind of a bad @ss.”
At first, it made me laugh, “A bad @ss? Really? Me?” Then, it gave me strength to get past some of the scarier, tougher parts of being suddenly single, as in “F- yeah, I’m not just gonna be OK in life, I’m gonna kick butt and rock this!”
But then, after reading about brittle women, I wondered again “Do I really give the impression of being so hard?” It baffles me when people think I’m actually a tough and / or bad girl. Apparently, they've never run with the actual tough and bad girls, because I have and I can tell you, compared to the real deal, I’m a freaking wimp. But I guess in the circles I choose to run in, I can seem a bit hardened compared to the rest of the crowd.
I've also wondered how this played into my relationships, including my divorce. While it doesn't matter whether my faults came first or his any more than it matters whether the chicken or the egg came first, it does matter for my future relationships. I want to go forward better prepared than I was the first time, to be a better partner, and a less hardened person overall.
The trouble with that is it means letting down walls, walls which are tall and thick and solid rock hard, and have protected me for years. In the process they’ve kept out both good and bad~ things that might have been wonderful along with things that would’ve surely hurt much worse if not for my protective shell.
A good friend gave me hope the other day when she reminded me that I do have a soft side when it come to teaching childbirth classes and working with mothers and babies. My Dad pointed out that I'm funny and tell good stories, even if they are laced with sarcasm. So, I must not be entirely brittle. I'm more like peanut brittle~ overall hard, but also a bit salty and nutty with a hint of sweetness. I may shatter under pressure, but I could also crack a persons tooth in the process.
My good friend also pointed out that while self analysis and improvement is a good thing, to some degree, girls like us may need to accept and embrace our inner bad @ss. People who love me will also love my salty side, as long as it doesn't cross the line into mean or bitter. It is after all, a part of my personality, and it's true that I'll probably never be the sweetest person in the world.
So, maybe my goal will be to see if I can at least soften up to nougat form (in which I can be sweet, salty, soft-ish and still yank teeth out if need be. Seems like a good compromise to me.)
I'll be working on it, and hopefully the people around me will feel the difference. In any case, it will surely be better to have laugh lines than scowl marks, right?
What do you think about brittleness, vulnerability, softness and weakness? Do you think there's a brittle epidemic? If so, what can we do? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.
And if you like this post, be sure to share with a friend and "like" it on Facebook too!
Who is Zesty Mom?
I'm an Artist, Writer, Funschooling Facilitator, Empowered Living Advocate, Wanna-be Organic Gardening Foodie, Travel Loving Life Explorer, Former Goat Herding Chicken Lady, and Full Time Mamacita Extraordinaire to a Couple of Cage Free Kids.
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