Update – It’s been a while!

My oldest was looking me up online when she came across this site. “Wow, Mom! You have a blog?” After perusing through the posts she asked why I didn’t do it anymore. Well, crap, kid, shit got crazy! In the last few years we’ve started piano and cellos lessons, started drum lessons, started year round swim team, I got a full time job, the kids have started turning into teenagers (OMG!!), continued playing with yarn, traveled, volunteered, had surgery, and, and, and… Oh! And I started reading again.

So, at her behest, here I am again. That rings of a song, but I couldn’t tell you which one.

music, athletics, and school

When the kids were super young we inherited my great-grandmother’s piano. It was brought to us from California on the back of a moving truck. It was out of tune, had 4 broken keys, and a missing mirror. My kids loved it! The kids who come over for our potlucks loved it. My niblings (yes, it’s a word. Look it up!) loved it. After many years of “music” our middle kiddo decided she wanted to learn for real. A few years later she took up the cello, so she could sit while she played in orchestra, and has been madly in love with both instruments.
Our oldest has always loved music. She would pause in the middle of a homework problem, conversation, or other random time to hand wave through part of a song. I’m not sure how I made the connection but I asked her if she wanted to learn drums. It was a hit!
Not to be left out, the hubs decided he also wanted to learn the piano, so he’s been teaching himself, with the help of the middle kiddo, to play various songs on the piano. Needless to say, the house is full of music!
I don’t play anymore, I just shuttle and enjoy the fruits of their labor.

We’ve always encouraged the kids to do athletic stuff, but never forced it on them. Whatever they wanted to try we would sign them up, and after 3-9 months they would ask to try something else. Never a big deal, we want them to do what they will enjoy. This year they have decided to do soccer (1 kid), swim team (2 kids), self defense (2 kids), and ballet (1 kid). Currently we’re still trying to figure out working the self defense and ballet into the schedule. It’s a little full.
I’m also hesitantly looking forward to playing softball again. I had surgery done on my rotator cuff and labrum almost a year and a half ago. I’ve been working on strengthening it and keeping active with it and I think I’m ready to throw something heavier than a tennis ball. Imagine if I am suddenly able to throw like the kid in that one movie, hold on let me go find it… oh yeah, Rookie of the Year! That would be hilarious!

In January of 2022 I took a full stack bootcamp. It was probably the most difficult 3 months of school I have ever done in my entire life, and that includes high school chemistry. Learning new things has always come pretty easy to me. This was not easy. It wasn’t impossible, but it was definitely not easy. My sister laughed at me while we were talking about it one day. She said it was always irritating when I didn’t struggle over something, so while she felt bad that this was tough, she also felt I deserved to suffer. Gotta love those sisters!
It was because of this class that I got my job, ironically enough, not because of my coding skills. I got the job because I had the push and drive to learn, and to get good at what I was learning. Needless to say I am loving it! I have always loved creating and learning new things, and this way I get t to do both.

Needless to say, things have been crazy, but they’ve been wonderful, and my heart is filled with joy. I hope, dear reader, things have gotten better for you in the last few years. I hope you have had something to make you stronger, something to make you smile, and something that lifts your heart.

In the Last 12 Months

I think we can all say “holy shit! what a year this has been!” and it doesn’t matter what your year looked like, it will be an accurate statement. For some of you, life has brought wonderful changes, and for some of you life has been a whirlwind of ups and downs, and lets be honest, for some of you it’s been mostly downs. We’ve been in the middle. We had two new jobs, a move, ailing parents, healing parents, an accidental death, and tremendous growth, along with a few injuries, in our kids.

It’s easy to find the downs. They stick out like a sore thumb. Pain, misery, and feelings of defeat all blast their obnoxious airhorns making it difficult to look around them, or to even forget them. We don’t like feeling this way, so for whatever reason, our minds focus the most on them as a way of saying “hey, don’t do this any more!”

It takes focus to find the big positives, and even more looking and concentration to find the little positives. We’re not trained to find them, we’re trained to avoid the pain, so that’s what we remember. Worst of all, is that we’re sarcastic and grouchy towards our positives. We diminish them for a variety of reasons. Maybe they weren’t the absolute most perfect thing in the whole world (seriously, give that crap a break. Nothing is perfect so just don’t even go there!) or maybe something could have gone slightly better. But in reality, you’re letting the negatives overtake the actual positive.

Anecdotal time: My husband interviewed for a new job, at the same time that I was interviewing for a new job. I was miserable because I readily agreed to a terrible starting wage instead of negotiating to what I am actually worth. The Hubs, who is our bread winner and has been working and gaining negotiating experience the whole time I have been momming made the exact same mistake. While the past is set in stone, our future possibilities are not. Just because we didn’t ask for the wages we wanted at the time, doesn’t mean we can’t go in later in the interview process and ask for them. And it doesn’t mean that we let the bummer of not asking for the appropriate wages at the time diminish the fact that we got a job interview!

The whole point is, find the positives, and don’t let the negatives dim the light that they shine on you. A really easy way to do this is to start a gratitude journal. It doesn’t have to be a fancy-shmancy journal listed for sale. You just need a notebook. In that notebook, you’re going to write down three things. The first thing you’re going to write down is what you accomplished today. I found it a lot easier to write down accomplishments as I went about my day. When I was in a grumpy mood at the end of the evening because dinner and bedtime had gone to shit, I had a really hard time finding things that I had accomplished. So if you need to, write those things down in the moment. No matter how small. They matter – all of them!

Next you’re going to write down 3 things you are grateful for. And you don’t want to write the same three things day after day, so make sure you’re looking for the little stuff that you are grateful for, too. This can also be done in the moment, or you can do it at the end of your day. You will find that you are grateful for different things as your day goes on. And you are welcome to find more than 3 things, but if you write them all down now, then when you’re looking for something new to write down tomorrow, you might find it a little difficult. The things you are grateful for can be anything, from the biggest big, to the smallest small.

Finally you’re going to write down 3 things you want to accomplish tomorrow. And again, these can be small, or they can be big. Are you going to put world peace down as an accomplishment? No, of course not. But you are going to put something that you can do, like a load of laundry, or pick up the living room, or scrub the toilet. Maybe you want to start writing a book – Your goal is to write a few words towards your book. Want to start working out? Your goal is to do 5 squats, or 5 pushups, or 5 sit-ups. Take that first step towards what you want to do. Want to run a mile? Well you can’t do that without taking the first step. Easy stuff, smart stuff – not unobtainable stuff because whose side are you on? Yours! And who are you cheering for? You! So make sure it’s stuff you can do so that you can find, and feel the positives as you look back on your day. And honestly, I have absolutely cheated and written down something I knew I was already going to do (like give a ride to a friend) and wrote that down. It’s still something that I wanted to accomplish, and it was absolutely something that was going to help a friend out, which also made me feel good about doing it.

So go out there my friends and find your positives. Write them down so it’s easier to remember them. Don’t let the negatives rule, because it’s the positives that push us forward

It’s Tough

Here’s what I screwed up today: I failed at calmly teaching my kid about fractions and we both wound up in tears, yelling, and interrupting my husbands call with one of the head people at his company (notice all 3 failures there). I tried to make bread and screwed it up twice – the first was that I used an entire packet of yeast in stead of 1/4 tsp because I misread the label and thought that the whole packet was 1/4 tsp, not that 1/4 tsp was the serving amount and that there were actually 24 quarter teaspoons. The second is that I used wax paper to let the bread rise the second time instead of parchment paper and it stuck like glue in carpet. I also messed up the last of the knitting project I was working on. And mind you, I’m writing this at 10 am and this was all today.

Now here is the absolute toughest part – not letting this bother me, and continuing to move on about my day. I really, really suck at this part. I tend to hold on to my feelings of failure and let it bother me for the rest of the day. I try hard, and when I fail at letting the emotions go, I feel even more like a failure and it’s a gigantic snowball of feeling like crap. And then once I start to feel this way it’s even easier to find myself falling into bad eating habits (read chocolate and other junk food), losing my patience even faster at my kids, feeling terrible about my health choices, and all the other things that I feel terrible about comes boiling up to the surface. It’s a really good way to be completely miserable.

How do you go about feeling better? Well, once I’ve beaten myself up for the day, sometimes two days, I finally kick myself hard enough in the ass to get a grip and get back into routine. There are a couple good fast ways to start to feel better. The first is to do a quick brisk walk outside. Not everybody has this option, especially if you’ve got small kiddos at home. If you can do a quick workout that helps, too. You don’t need to change into workout clothes, just pop a couple moves out really fast and take a couple minute pause. Find a counter and do 5-10 leaning pushups, do a 30-second to 1-minute wall sit, and do a couple of squats. Super simple, or maybe not, but keep doing it and it will get easier. If you have the time get a quick cry out of the way so you can bust out those feelings, and then go wash your face so you can get back to it. A lot of times those burst of emotions just need to get out.

If you have a little bit more time then do a full work out and then take a shower. Or just take a shower. Not a bath where you can languish in your misery, a shower. Make it as hot or cold as you like, but get a good shower in – you can also use this time to cry but the shower and fresh clean start is important. This also gives you the time to think of alternative solutions and fresh ideas to help you with whatever problem you are facing. But don’t go off the deep end and make your problem worse by thinking of extreme, unfulfillable solutions.

Take this opportunity, no matter how small it is, to start over. It won’t be a completely fresh start, it won’t be a total do-over, but it is a new beginning. Grab this new beginning and do your best. The emphasis here is best, not be perfect. Nobody is perfect, nobody will be perfect, and holding yourself to that standard is only going to make you feel worse when you don’t accomplish what you feel is perfect. So just stop. Lower that standard to best and you won’t be nearly as miserable when what you accomplish is incredible in other people’s eyes, but not perfect in your own. Let that shit go.

Now go take your moment to acknowledge that you feel like crap, wash your face, and do your best for the moment. You got this!

Finding the Normal

While we all are trying to find our new normal in this time of uncertainty, I am looking for the little bits of old normal to bring strength and courage to our household. This afternoon we were given the official stay home mandate. As we’re coming up on 2 weeks of the kids being permanently home it was a stressful thing to hear. To say that life has been difficult and that we’ve all been on edge is laughable. I know there are some families out there who would describe their last two weeks at home as the definition of a shit show. It hasn’t been easy. But here is where we look for the little tidbits of pleasantry to help bring peace and a sense of balance to life.

When I woke up yesterday I heard the birds chirping their good mornings, and the sunrise was a blaze of raspberry red. It was a good reminder that spring is coming, along with all the freshness it brings. Despite what is going on in the big world, there are all the little things patiently waiting to be discovered again. The smell of fresh brewed coffee, or a warm cup of tea; The green shoots of grass poking out of the soft earth and the new buds on the trees; Seeing the house sparrows flit around our yard and the robins perched on our fence. I remembered that I am looking forward to smelling the blossoms of the crabapple tree living next door to us.

My other favorite bits of joy include fresh bed sheets, the smell of clean laundry, the smell of warm bread, a clean mirror, a quick set of body weight movements (squats, sit-ups, and pushups), sitting in the sunshine, reading to a kiddo, and popcorn. Funny little oddities that can bring a moment of joy to cherish.

We got our seeds out yesterday and made our planting timetable. We’re going to try and do the square-foot gardening method this year, as opposed to following the row planting directions on the seed packets – cross your fingers for us! Today we got to the planter beds to sow the early start seeds and enjoyed the smell of fresh tilled earth. It was fun to play in the dirt and look for worms. It brought a sense of control to an otherwise out of control time.

So while you’re busy trying to wrap your head around all the big that is happening in the world, don’t forget to enjoy the little things. Because without the little things to bring focus, the big things only seem insurmountable. It’s the little things that get us through. One of my favorite sayings is the question “how do you walk one thousand miles?” and the answer of “one step at a time” – Find the little things my friends, and enjoy them for the small packets of joy that they are.

I refuse, I refuse, I refuse!

My husband and I went to a holiday cocktail party the other day. One of the dresses I currently own probably would have worked, but most of the people we were mingling with were upper level management type folks. Since the hubs is looking for a new job with said peeps, we decided to go dress hunting to see if we could find a more sophisticated looking cocktail dress.

I say we because, I will tell you, I am not a girly girl. I can put on mascara, but not without scratching my eye at least once. I don’t even own lipstick. I have to hunt down my cherry flavored chapstick if I want to give my lips color. So with my husband home and my girlfriends all at work, he came with me for moral support. I don’t do shopping. I especially don’t do pretty dress shopping for a fancy, but not too elegant, cocktail party at whiskey distillery. The whiskey, by the way, was really good!

Some of the dresses I tried on were a bit more flattering to a woman’s curves than I was use to. We started half-joking about wearing a body suit of some sort underneath to flatten out the lingering loose skin and not-a-six-pack abs that I have. Once we found a few dresses we both liked we looked  for body flattering under garments.

Now here is my disclaimer. I am not what anyone, myself included, would consider overweight, fat, chunky, or any other unflattering description that women use to describe themselves. I workout, not regularly, but often. I eat healthy, but I also enjoy the food and the company I’m with when I eat. I don’t overeat and I don’t do sugar or a ton of fiber-free carbs. Am I as toned as I would like to be? No, but I also don’t workout as regularly as I should to be that toned. Do I still have some flabby areas? Yes. But, again, I have a body that I am comfortable with. I don’t struggle with body image. I’m strong enough to pick up all of my kids, in shape enough to run (okay, jog) a 5k, and I can keep up with the 5 little rascals who run around my house every afternoon.

The first undergarment I tried on was like super tiny panties. My loose skin / tiny amount of flab hung over like a muffin top that would make Martha Stewart’s pastries green. The second one I tried on was like wearing granny-panties underwear that came all the way up to the bottom of my bra. It squished everything out the leg holes. So the third one that I attempted to wear was like a swimsuit that had legs attached. Now imagine it was a swimsuit that was 5 sizes too small. I could barely get the darn thing on, and I’m really not even sure I even had it on correctly. I couldn’t grab enough of the fabric to try and wrestle it around to what I thought might be the correct position.

These undergarments made me cry. Ugly cry. I began to doubt myself and the “shape” that I was in. These undergarments accentuated everything society deems a flaw on the female form. Then, I got angry. I was angry at myself for doubting my comfortableness with my body, and I was angry at society for allowing women to live with the pressure of needing to have a “perfect” body. I have had 3 children and I enjoy food and I refuse, REFUSE!!, to be judged for that.

Let me tell you right here, right now, that you are perfect! You don’t need pounds of makeup to be pretty. Accentuate that beauty that you already have. You don’t need to lose tens or hundreds of pounds to have a perfect body. You are already perfect. And maybe you should lose some for health reasons, but those should be the only reasons. Please, please!, do not let society dictate to you what you think your body should or should not be. It’s not their body, it’s yours for you to do with what you want. Granted, everything we do do to our bodies has consequences, but those consequences are ours, and not for society to dictate.

It took me many minutes before I was ready to checkout with my husband. Once I was able to stop angry crying and tell him what was rolling around in my head, his words were kind and supportive. One of the many reasons I love him so much. They were along the lines of “I know you’ve struggled with the way you’ve viewed your belly in the past, and you’ve worked hard to not let it bother you, but I think this attitude is the healthiest of all”

There are many things to be judged on, but not this. This ceaseless judgement by society about the way we look says a lot about the way we view ourselves individually. I see you, and I will not judge you for the way you look, but for the way you treat others. You are awesome and loved for you!


P.S. For those of you that are looking for determination to make a difference in your health, I strongly recommend Betty Rocker. I love her workout videos, she always has a modification for those of us that can’t always do the move. I also love her encouragement, and the few recipes of hers that I have tried. And, I was not paid to say any of this, she really is awesome in my opinion!

Find Your Village

This last weekend we had our monthly potluck. This month our theme was Foods of Africa. There was so much delicious food! We had jollof rice, barbecue from South Africa, briouat from Moracco, and a tasty grilled chicken with lemon sauce.

I started the monthly potluck because I missed my friends. Before we all had kids we would see each other in a regular basis. A few of us lived downtown near each other, more of us worked downtown, and we were all willing to drive the little distance it took to get to the party. Once kids came into the picture attendance rates plummeted, mine included. We began to only see friends at birthday parties or random events spaced far and few between. When we did see friends at these events it was a quick hug and hello before the hosts ran off to attend to their extended family that had joined the celebration. As a stay at home mom, I missed not only my friends, but the adult interaction that comes with going to school, work, and community events.

It was a slow go at first. I made the potlucks be the first Saturday of every month starting in the early evening. That way people would be able to have the majority of their Saturday to do whatever they needed to, and then they could come hang out with friends for the remainder. For the first two potlucks my sister was the only person that came. She very kindly asked me if I was sure these people were my friends. I assured her that yes, indeed they were my friends, and gave her her the oft misquoted line from Field of Dreams: If you build it, they will come (really the quote is he will come).

After that, more people showed up. The goal wasn’t ever for everyone to show up every month, although, the more the merrier. The goal was to have something every month that people could attend if they could. Every month the invitation includes the line “As always, if you make it, wonderful, and if not, we look forward to seeing you next time.” I never wanted anyone to feel pressure to make it. I wanted people to feel that they weren’t alone in whatever they were going through. There are some people who make almost every single potluck. We have some people that have never made it; and we have the people in between. Heck, just this last year I have only made it to a few.

The potlucks are loud, crazy, and chaotic. If everyone shows up we have 16 kids under the age of 15, plus all of the adults that belong to them, and a few adults with no kids. It’s rare that we get everyone and there have certainly been months when only a few people have shown up. But the most important thing is that we all get to hang out, reminisce, and let the kids run around without the added stress of hosting a celebration with various family members judging.

Every month the potluck theme is different. Some theme’s only lasted once. Other themes are waiting for an old theme to drop off before being implemented, like seafood.

  • January – Breakfast foods
  • February – Asian foods
  • March – European foods
  • April – Italian
  • May – Mexican foods
  • June – Halfway to Thanksgiving
  • July – Grilled foods at a pool or park
  • August – It’s too F’ing hot to cook (bring food from the store)
  • September – Desserts
  • October – African foods
  • November – Halloween’s last hurrah
  • December – Comfort foods

It’s not a perfect village, but it is one amazing group of people. Find your village. It won’t be perfect. It won’t fulfill everything you need in a social setting, but it will help you realize that you aren’t alone. There are others going through some weird crazy stuff. It’s not just you.