Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

Time Travel

Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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I think my daughter’s obsession with Dr. Who is what prompted my husband to ask me the question.

“What period of time would you travel back to if you could?” he asked.

I didn’t give his question much thought.

“I wouldn’t,” I said.

My husband, an avid history buff who thought I shared his interest, looked puzzled.

“I wouldn’t want to deal with being a woman during any time but the present,” I said flatly.

My response may have been a reaction to the fact I had just finished Stephen King’s 11-22-63, in which a man travels back in time to try to prevent the Kennedy assassination. While King’s novel is a work a fiction, he paints a clear picture of how different life was for women even during those relatively modern days. He didn’t so much inform as remind me.

While I don’t have a time machine per se, I have something almost as good. I have a baby book, which my mother used to document the first few years of my life – a time about which I have no memories. When I browse through it, I am not only carried back in time, I am reminded of how expectations of women have changed greatly during the last 50 years.

Take, for example, my birth announcement.IMG_1babybook3

Considering whom my mother was and whom I would become, the announcement could not have been more ridiculous. It featured a toddler in a crown and a sash with the words “Our New Miss America is Finally Here.” I’m quite certain my mother never would have forgiven herself had her daughter grown up with any desire to enter beauty contests. I’m just as certain that the available birth announcements in rural Montana in early 1967 were quite limited, so she probably didn’t have much choice.

Just as she probably had no choice about how her name would be listed in the hospital announcements in the local newspaper. Instead of having her own name listed, she was listed as my father’s wife. She was the one who had endured nine months of pregnancy and the birth, but my father was basically given credit.

baby book 2Now, nearly 48 years later, I don’t even have my husband’s last name, and few people question that. Nor do they question the endless possibilities for my smart and talented daughter who recently leafed through the pages of my baby book with a mix of interest and disbelief.

Apparently, her interest in time travel isn’t limited to Dr. Who, but I’m fairly certain she finds a great deal more potential in the future than in the past.

And that is exactly as life should be.

The Naked Christmas Tree

Wednesday, December 10, 2014
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There is a naked fir tree in my living room right now. Well, it’s not completely naked. A  few lights  are strung around its fragrant limbs, but the lights aren’t on so the tree looks much the same as it did on a hilly farm only days agochristmas tree

My family hasn’t had time to decorate. We barely even found the time together to get the tree. Our days of leisurely trips to the tree farm are long gone. Choosing the tree has become a mission that must be executed with precision to insure we all make our next appointment or activity.

Every time I pass by the living room, the naked tree serves as a reminder of life as it is today: more things to do than we have time to do, the energy and opportunity to do them and an appreciation that the fullness of each and every day.

The unpacked brown cardboard boxes and plastic crates that surround the tree serve as reminders of life as it once was. Most of our holidays decorations and ornaments represent a person, an event, a pet, an interest or a special occasion. Collectively, they  have written the history of my family’s life. Almost every object has a story that we read each December, put in a place of honor then pack away for eleven months only to be taken out the next year and read again.

Our new kitten Artemis, who adopted us a couple of months ago, serves as a reminder that life will be different in the years to come.  In fewer than 24 months, Artemis will be a full-grown cat who may or may not be jumping at the limbs of the Christmas tree and poking her pink nose into the boxes of decorations. My son will be in college and may or may not be participating in the family’s annual pilgrimage to get the tree. And I’ll be older and  shaped by circumstances I can’t even begin to predict today.

There is a naked fir tree in my living room right now, but it won’t remain naked much longer. Soon, it will be decorated, glowing and the center of celebration. After the presents are opened, the cookies eaten and the holiday meals enjoyed, it will stand in my living room for a few more days, but it won’t receive the attention it once did. If history holds true, we will forget to water the tree, and the needles will dry up and start to fall out.

By New’s Year Day, the ornaments will once again be packed up, the tree will be dragged to the curb and the needles will be vacuumed. All that will remain of this year’s Christmas tree will be photos, a few ornaments and the memories attached to both.

Time marches on, and change is a constant. We can’t hold on to the past, and we shouldn’t try. But we can hold on to traditions. They are the architects of memories and the link between the past and the future. They can also be found anywhere we can find family – even in a naked Christmas tree.

A Mother’s Heart

Wednesday, December 3, 2014
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What my brain wants for my children is often very different from what my heart wants.heart

For years, my brain (and therefore my mouth) has insisted that one of my primary responsibilities as a mom is to ensure that my children grow to be independent and self-reliant individuals.

My heart should be grateful that my two teenagers want the same thing. At least, they want the independent part. Their inclination to be self-reliant is a bit questionable based on their expectations that their parents continue to provide them with  shelter, transportation, money and food.

Other than those minor exceptions, they generally don’t express nearly as much need for their parents as they once did, nor do they have much use for our knowledge and advice.

With lingering memories of my own distorted sense of maturity as a teenager, I  usually don’t let my children’s dismissal of my abilities bother me.

I’ve actually become quite accustomed to it, which is why I appreciate when they suddenly recognize they still need me.

Such was the case this week when my procrastinating son realized the deadline to complete a school-related projected was way too close. Not only did he ask for my help and suggestions, he actually listened to me and took my advice.

Despite my insistence that I want him to be independent, I must admit that I rather liked the fact he still needs me, Something tells me, I’ll feel that way no matter how old he is or what he’s doing with his life.

My brain may be spot on with its efforts to ensure my children grow into responsible adults, but I’m pretty sure my heart is also spot on with its efforts to hold them tight.

I’m pretty sure that’s a conflict I took on the day I became a mom. It’s also one conflict that I don’t mind negotiating.

There is, after all, no way I can lose.

A Different Kind of Thanksgiving

Wednesday, November 26, 2014
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Since the beginning of November, I’ve been seeing social media posts discouraging retail stores from opening on Thanksgiving Day.

I get that. Thanksgiving is intended to be a time for families and friends to spend quality and meaningful time together. But whether or not stores open on Thanksgiving, there will always be people who have to work.

I should know. I grew up in such a family and I married into another. Because of that, I am fascinated by the people who are oblivious to the moms and dads who have to work regardless of a special day on the calendar.

Anyone who watches the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade or football games should recognize  all of the people who have to work to make those events possible and broadcast them.

Anyone who expects up-to-date news and information should recognize that reporters and editors are hard at work trying to keep the world informed.

Anyone who  is traveling and needs gasoline or a meal on the way to the family feast should recognize that the clerks and cooks and waiters providing that service probably want to be with their own families.

Anyone who is feeling sick should recognize that health care providers are at work or on call  regardless of the day or time.

Police officers are still on patrol, movie theaters are still open and hotels are available for weary travelers on every holiday.

And for that, I am appreciative. I am also appreciative that this year, my husband does not have to work on Thanksgiving or on Christmas. But he has on previous years, and my children learned to accommodate. In doing so, they received a great gift: they learned that celebrating isn’t so much about the actual date or time but about cherishing special  moments with people we love.

Here’s wishing everyone those moments of celebration this upcoming holiday season.

A New Mom’s List of Thanks

Friday, November 21, 2014
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Next week I will celebrate my first Thanksgiving as a mom. I have many things to be thankful for that don’t involve motherhood, but I thought I would share some of the things for which I am thankful as a mom (list is not comprehensive – I could list pages and pages but I’ll stick to the basics).

This year, I am thankful for:

Epidurals. Ms. “I want to have a natural birth” got the epidural and I have never made a better decision. I think my husband would agree; it was a lifesaver.

Nurses who help their patients with things I cannot even imagine helping someone with. The nurses who took care of me in the hospital were compassionate, caring and generally amazing.

My doctors and AJ’s pediatrician. What can I say about the people who made sure my little one made it into the world safely, made sure I was healthy and now make sure AJ stays healthy? I respect and rely on our doctors more than I can say and I know they truly care about our well-being.

Sleep. Glorious, uninterrupted sleep. This is one of those “you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone” kind of things. Oh how I miss sleeping in on Saturdays. I’m thankful I once got to sleep so soundly.

Only waking up once a night to feed AJ. After waking up every two hours for weeks on end, once a night is nothing. I remember thinking the day would never come. It did, and I was so grateful.

Velcro swaddle blankets. This wonderful invention helped us reach those amazing once-a-night feedings.

Our family and our friends. I am beyond thankful that we have loving, supportive family members and friends that care about and love AJ and us. We were overwhelmed with the good wishes, help and love we received when AJ was born. Chris and I are truly lucky to have such wonderful people in our lives.

Baby Zantac. If you have had a baby with acid reflux, you know this stuff is like gold.

Coffee. Oh how I missed it while pregnant, and although I still closely monitor my caffeine intake, I’m back to enjoying my morning cup.

The “speak to a nurse” option at my pediatrician’s office – a great resource for when you want to know if your baby’s poop is a normal color.

Daycare. AJ seems to really enjoy going to daycare and they take such good care of her. They also love to feed my mom ego by saying things like, “She is just such a beautiful baby!”

My coworkers. Going back to work was made much easier by the warm welcomes I received.

My husband who gets up at night to change diapers, takes out the dog at 6 a.m. and who tells me I have a beautiful voice when I sing lullabies off-key (which is always).

My mom friends. I’m so glad I have good friends who I can spend hours talking to about stroller brands and baby fingernails and the best way to get a baby to take a nap without them wanting to poke their eyes out (or if they do, they hide it well).

Google. HOW did moms survive without Google??

Smart phones. Again, HOW?

Mommy blogs. There is nothing more therapeutic for me than to read the honest and wonderful stories moms around the world are sharing. It’s so helpful to know you are not alone.

And of course, I am most thankful for my healthy, happy, wonderful baby girl. She has changed my life in a million ways and I’m thankful for every one of them.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Words of Wisdom

Wednesday, November 19, 2014
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Years ago, in what seems another life, I used to work with adolescents. During that time, when I had no significant parenting experience, I considered myself a champion of youth. I thought young people should have seats on boards of directors for nonprofit organizations and that adults  needed to really listen to what they had to say.

I like to believe that still hold those values. I also know that I’m not the champion I once was – and that’s not because the focus of my job is no longer youth.

It’s because I live with two teenagers.motherhood

Since my children are quick to point out how I, a professional woman with a Master’s Degree, am generally clueless about anything of importance, one might assume I am in awe of how much they know in comparison.

I’m not. At the same time, I know I don’t often give them the credit they deserve.

When my son mumbles at me under his breath, I often forget about  his ability to make a whole room laugh with a facial expression or wry comment.

When my daughter snaps at me for asking her a question, I tend to ignore the fact that she’s often lost in a book or absorbed in learning.

And when I get anxious about the mistakes I make as a mom, I definitely don’t give my kids enough credit for setting me straight.

Thankfully, they do it anyway.

Last Sunday night after a very busy weekend, I found myself already ramping up for an even busier work week. In other words, I was starting to stress myself out. And when I stress myself out, I tend to stress  out everyone around me out as well. Or, in the eyes of my  children, I can be incessant and annoying.

So it was for my daughter, for whom I made several suggestions about things she should be doing. Nothing I said was necessary or even important. In reality, I was putting some of my own issues onto her shoulders, and she knew it.

“Mom,” she said. “I’m the one living my life. Let me do that.”

She was right.

There are times when parents have to interfere in their children’s lives, but that wasn’t such an occasion.

She wasn’t making a decision that affected her health or her future success. She had a perspective that I didn’t, which is exactly the reason I used to be such an advocate for young people.

They might not always be right, but adults aren’t always right either. Adults might have more experience, but sometimes that experience keeps us bogged down in all the reasons something won’t work instead of getting excited about testing the possibilities.

Most importantly, the potential of our young people is only limited by the opportunities adults provide them to grow and learn.

And those opportunities often mean that we moms have to let go of our strong desire to steer the direction our children take in life. Instead, we have to trust that even though our kids may not always know where they want to go, the responsibility of finding their path lies on their, not our, shoulders.

My kids have taught me that being a good mom sometimes means I need to stop providing advice and instead need to listen to them. When I do that, I can hear them say  they need a mom who allows them to fall, make mistakes, struggle and discover that sometimes the best path in life is the one that isn’t mapped out years in advance but is one that is blazed by experiences.

My daughter may only be 13, but I have no doubt that’s exactly what she meant when she told me that she, not me, is the one living her life.

Hopefully, I can follow those words of wisdom.

Turning the Tables

Wednesday, November 12, 2014
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My daughter was sharing her latest insights and opinions with me, but apparently I didn’t react appropriately.

“You’re thinking about writing about this conversation into a blog, aren’t  you?” she said accusingly.

Actually, I wasn’t. Instead, my sudden and unusual silence was a result of my worry about our cat, Skitty, who is staging a hunger strike after our recent adoption of a new kitten, Artemis.

“No,” I responded. “While I love listening to your thoughts and opinions, I wasn’t thinking about writing about you or this conversation.”

“You better not just be saying that,” she said.

I wasn’t.

I’d had a tough week and wasn’t in the mood to write about much of anything, particularly about the conversation we were having. But, based on Kendall’s adamant protests, I promised that I wouldn’t write about anything she said or did.

I admit I may be breaking that promise (slightly) right now, but that’s only because I have to give credit where credit is due and Kendall is quite the inspiration to me.

She may not believe me, but I remember how sensitive and easily embarrassed I was when I was 13. I also remember thinking that the only thing more embarrassing than my mom sharing stories about me was having to endure her behavior in public.

Even now, my children sometimes ask me to tell “grandma stories.” They laugh at tales of  grandma trying to ride the school bus home after leaving her car for repairs, her argument with a theater manager after trying to sneak in her own popcorn or her plunge into an irrigation ditch after being “chased” by horses on her way to a board of education meeting.

But I also know that my children will have similar stories about their own embarrassing mother.

While I didn’t fall into an irrigation ditch last week, I did fall into a creek during what was supposed to be a simple walk to the park with my German Shepherd, Rodney.

The problem was, I couldn’t get to the park.

The road from my neighborhood to the park had been closed for construction of a new bridge. A highway sign indicates a detour for moving vehicles, but that detour isn’t safe for pedestrians. My determination (also known as my obsessive-compulsive personality) was not going to let the lack of a bridge prevent me from getting to my destination.

At first, I thought I could easily cross the creek. There were, after all, large rocks spaced in strategic locations across the approximately eight foot span of water. Unfortunately, those rocks weren’t stable, and my ginger steps across them weren’t enough to keep them, and me, from rolling.

As I plunged into the creek ,  I fell on my left wrist - the one that I hadn’t fallen upon, shattered, and had surgically repaired last winter when I was “determined” to walk Rodney during a snowstorm.

After popping my wrist back into location, I did what any embarrassing mom would do.

Realizing I was already soaked, I decided I might as well continue across the creek. When I fell again, and I recognized that my nearly 5o year- old body had to find an easier route to the park.

I didn’t.

After slogging through mud and getting caught in the arms of bushes with thorns, I gave up and walked home covered  in wet, muddy pants with bloody scratches on my face.

To me, my appearance was that of a warrior.

To my children, it was that of a pathetic middle-aged woman who can’t act normal.

I understand their feelings. I remember the horror at the sight of my own mother, dripping wet in her checkered, red and white seventies era pantsuit after falling into the irrigation ditch.

But here’s what my own children don’t  understand about me and what took decades for me to understand about my own mother.

Embarrassing our children is a good thing because we have to teach them that behaving within the normal parameters of societal expectations never changes anything. We can never find an alternative path across a creek if we aren’t willing to take risks and look a little silly. We can’t inspire others if we are never willing to take on our own fears and challenges. And we certainly can’t tell our children to pursue their own happiness if we can’t demonstrate that being true to ourselves is where the path to happiness starts.

I, like my own mother, may be an embarrassment, but I’m fairly confident that a willingness to wear that description with pride is a job requirement for being a mom.

At least, I know it is for me.

 

Being Present

Friday, November 7, 2014
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I went back to work this week.

My last day at home with AJ was Monday, and we had such a special day.

We did the same things as we did in previous weeks, but this day was different.

I made the conscious decision to be as present as I could be – to not worry about anything and simply enjoy spending time with my baby. For someone whose hobbies include making lists and organizing anything, this was a quite a challenge. I didn’t plan an agenda, I didn’t have a list of chores, I didn’t even worry about what was for dinner. And, maybe more importantly, I didn’t pick up my phone (except to snap a few photos) and I didn’t get on social media. It was wonderful.

I spent the day savoring little moments and observations – the curiosity in AJ’s eyes when looking at my hands, how her smile is already verging on flirtatious, her determination when trying to roll over. We played, cuddled, “talked,” and simply enjoyed each other’s company. Her little personality shines through more each day, and I watched her figure out the world. Unlike many days of my maternity leave, I didn’t worry about things like crying or naps or what time we needed to be home for her to eat.

I really think AJ could sense my mood and it wore off on her. She didn’t cry at all and was all smiles all day.

It was an ordinary day, but it was one of the best days of my life. This might sound like an exaggeration but I promise you it is not. I will cherish the memories of that day forever.

Not every weekend or day off will be like my last day at home. Bills won’t pay themselves and the dishes and laundry will pile up. Errands will need to be run and chores will need to be done. Responsibilities must be met.

But I learned a valuable lesson Monday – sometimes we need a “pause” day. A day where we pause our busy lives and make the effort to be completely present, physically and mentally. A day where we put all our worries aside, turn off our phones, and enjoy what we love most in life. These days will without a doubt end up as the best days.

Spending Time

Wednesday, November 5, 2014
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Like many Americans, I looked forward to an extra hour of sleep last Sunday morning.

That’s not to say I like the practice of changing clocks twice a year.steve jobs

The extra hour of sleep wasn’t actually an extra hour in my life. It was simply a debt that had to be repaid for the hour taken from me this past spring. And I resent that lost hour, especially since I’m never been able to find enough hours in the day,

I think I inherited that trait from my mother.

We both feel better about ourselves when we are being productive. Because of that, we often put too much on our plates.

We just load those plates with very different items.

When I was very young, my family lived in a tiny house on an Indian Reservation near other families with fathers who also worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs. My mom, who has always taken great pride in ensuring that no speck of dirt survives more than a week in her house, was burdened with two small children who thought life should be messy and did their best to live up to their beliefs. Mom would spend the day busy cleaning, cooking and doing chores. When my father would arrive home, she would ask him how other women got their chores completed early enough to play cards and socialize while she never seemed to get ahead.

Dad never had the nerve to say that my mom could play cards and socialize if she  really wanted to do so. She was choosing to use her time in a different way.

I can’t imagine spending so  much time doing housework.  Just as my mother didn’t have time to play cards with the neighbors, I don’t have time to clean my house. I tend to spend too many hours at the office and doing volunteer work and writing and walking my dog (which I try to pretend is a chore.) The reality is, like my mother, even though I complain about never having as much time to relax as other people, I’m actually quite happy being busy.

But I still need to ensure I’m not so busy that I’m wasting time.

Time, like any other precious resource, has to be budgeted.

When I was  in graduate school and working full time, I thought I didn’t have any time. I couldn’t let go of my need to ensure every paper I wrote was perfect and that I aced every test. I couldn’t understand how some of my classmates, who were also working full time but also had children, were only concerned about getting by. I never wanted to “just get by.” I wanted to be perfect.

My last year of graduate school, I got pregnant with my son, gave birth in April and graduated in May. When I graduated, I had as much pride in putting the letters MOM behind my name as I had in putting the letters MSW there.

Nine months of pregnancy during the most demanding time of my life taught me that no one can do everything perfectly. The more thinly we spread ourselves, the fewer things were are capable of doing well.

No one has unlimited time, and how we spend it speaks as much or more to our character as how we spend our paychecks.

I was thinking a great deal about how I spend my time this past weekend – not just because of the “extra” hour but because senior night was celebrated during the last home football game at my son’s high school. As parents proudly escorted the senior football players and band members onto the field while the announcer talked about each student, my eyes welled with tears.

Next year, I’ll be escorting my son onto the field, and I’m already wondering how the time went by so quickly. I’m wishing I had more and worrying whether I spent the time I had as his parent wisely.

But for the moment, all I can do is treasure every moment and remember that time, unlike money, can’t be saved. It can, however, be wasted or spent wisely.

I simply hope that years from now I’ll look back at this time and pride myself in making some very good investments.

Something Really Scary

Wednesday, October 22, 2014
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Halloween is quickly approaching, but I don’t need a special occasion to be frightened.jack o lantern

I get a little bit scared every time I publicly share my thoughts, opinions and experiences in writing.

And yet, perhaps like people who watch scary movies and choose to visit haunted houses, there is also a part of me that must enjoy the fear because I keep putting myself out there.

Putting together a string of words can feel magical, but knowing that others might read those words can be frightening. With every sentence, I am giving a small piece of myself away.

When I write, I want my words to be informative, emotional, persuasive and possibly even entertaining. Those same words also reveal the truth about whom  I really am, and that is very, very unnerving.

Take, for example, the topic I actually considered writing about this week – my worst  trait as a mom.

I’m certainly not a helicopter parent nor do I think my children are superior beings about which I constantly brag. But I do have a have a tendency to get completely neurotic when I think either of my children will have to deal with the same issues I did as an adolescent.

My constant struggle as a teen to be true to myself without being a social misfit, which I often was, has taken a toll on my own children. I want them to have a strong sense of self and the confidence to question the status quo, which they both do. At the same time, I worry every time I see their peers going in one direction while they step in the other.

When I say worry, I’m not referring to a brief concern. I’m referring to my need to talk about the issue incessantly until I drive both of my children, and my husband, absolutely crazy. At that point, I just try harder to explain that I don’t want them to fight the same battles I fought.

Despite my efforts, no one takes my babbling seriously, which is what compels me to take to the written word. After all, there must be some other mom somewhere whose emotional turmoil of adolescence is impacting her children decades later. Or maybe not.

Which is why I decided I should write about something completely different – like Halloween. Only, when my fingers started across the keyboard, my brain went in a completely different direction and the words tumbled out anyway.

Scary, isn’t it?