This blog is a stream of conciousness from my head to the keyboard to the screen. There will be talk of random subjects. If you have delicate eyes, proceed with caution. I like to talk about controversial subjects and sex a lot. So, take heed my friends. This is not a blog for debate, but for love and sharing. If your views do not match my own, love to you, but don't bring the rest of us down. That's all I'm saying.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Keeping My Mouth Shut

I lost my car keys at my mom and dad's house. How and where, I do not know. My sister, brother-in-law, dad mom and I all searched everywhere to no avail. My mom had to drive the girls and I home after we crashed at her house for 5 days so that we could begin the school week at our house. One glitch. Kalyn, my oldest, needed to get to school for choir and her gifted class. So, mom came to pick us up. We  ate at Bread Co (Panara for non-St. Louis folks), mom took Kalyn to school and headed to a doctor apt. Julia and I stayed at the restaurant to do school work. The plan was mom would come back and get us after her appointment, we would pick up Kalyn, and then go to her house with my extra car key so that I could drive my vehicle home.

This explanation was intended to explain why I did not leave when I was so annoyed and I wanted to smack all of the women who were planning the winter party for their kids school. I had no way to leave.

Those of you who know me know that I will, and often do, talk to anyone about anything. I love hearing the opinions of others even if they are so different from my own that it is hard for me to  wrap my head around. However, my button gets pushed when others are not also being open. When what they say demeans others and does not take into consideration other's thoughts and feelings I get super steamed up inside. I am happy to admit that my own point of view is more likely than not flawed and there may be information out there that I am not aware of that would inform me. But, it's my point of view, I am comfortable with it and I have gone to great lengths to make it as informed as possible. I like to think others do this as well.

A second thing about me is that I am passionate about treating everyone with respect, dignity and love. Everyone! It is difficult and damn near impossible sometimes, but who am I to judge anyone? SO know that the group of women that I am about to speak about I feel were making their comments out of ignorance and mob mentality (they might not have made the comments in a one-on-one setting). No, I do not think they are horrible people. Yes, I do think they need to be more sensitive and concerned about the kids they will be hosting at their parties.

Monday morning at Bread Co: There is a group of 8 women discussing the upcoming grade school winter party. They start discussing crafts and games. They talk about things that have worked in the past and things that have been a disaster. I am laughing a bit because I have helped at school parties where both of these scenerios have played out.

Then they get to discussing that a particular craft can't be done because it is a "Christmas" craft. They lament over that for a while. Then another ideas comes up and is scrapped for the same reason. Then someone talks about making "reindeer food" (oatmeal, glitter, ect.) and they all agree that it would be fun. Then one women remembers that the reindeer have to do with Santa and that is Christmas and they all sigh. Then the one has the brilliant idea that it could be "animal food" and they could just not specify the animal. They all get excited again and the one mom says she will try to push it through with the principal, but "you know how she is."

People do not practice other faiths to put a crimp into your party plans. Last I checked  it is perfectly reasonable to expect there to not be religious overtones at the parties found in public schools. This is why I sent my kids to public schools for the time they were there. For exposure to other religions, cultures and ideas and so that the religious education my children do get is left up to me and the house of worship I choose to attend.

To choose to "push something through" when you know what it really is, and all the kids know what it really is, and if some kids don't the kids they do will be sure to tell them, is upsetting. That is blatantly disregarding a potion of kids. That is not ok in my book. In our area we have Jewish folks, Muslims, people who practice Hindu, atheists, Christians (like us) who don't celebrate Santa Clause, and many other religious beliefs. So, frankly, the reindeer food would piss me off as a parent since we don't believe in Santa because I personally feel it takes away the focus of a high holy holiday in my religion. With all the hype and commercials, etc. I am hard pressed to keep my kids focused on the religious aspect of Christmas. I don't need the schools adding to that insanity.

The next order of business was to come up with snacks. They decided to come up with one snack and then an alternative for kids with food allergies. This is hard. I know, I have been there and have many friends with kid with severe food allergies.  So, the conversation, laced with major annoyance, at the food allergy issue was particularly upsetting. It came up that there was a kid in one room allergic to all fresh fruit. They all laughed and said, "yea, right." One woman said, "That kids just doesn't want to eat cucumbers." Another commented that this is how parents make sure the committee buys treats the parent knows their kids will eat. If the kid doesn't like something, the parent just says they are allergic. She has seen this so many times and is getting tired of it.

Again, no one is trying to spoil the fun. We just don't want kids to get sick or die. Let's see, could one be allergic to fresh fruit. Oh yea, now I remember, I have been dealing with this for a year. For almost a full year I could not eat any raw fruits or vegetables, any nuts, and or fresh herbs otherwise my mouth, tongue and throat would swell up. I have an epi-pen I have to carry. Before seeing my naturopath, I was getting 4-6 shots a week with the hopes that in 5 years time, these symptoms would lessen and I would be able to eat some fruits and vegetables that were not cooked. It's called Oral Pollen Food Allergy Syndrome, it's serious, annoying, and can kill you. So can lactose allergies. So can nut allergies. So, please do not be so flip when thinking about allergy issues and the inconvenience it presents to you. Think about the kid that is having to watch his/her friends eat lovely treats and knows if they eat them they could become very ill. That sucks! That is a lot to ask of a grade school kid.

So, now with snacks and crafts decided, they needed to divide up who would buy what. They were talking about a certain item when one mom asked if they could not just get that from the art room. Another replied that no, the art teacher won't let them use any of her supplies. They all scoffed at the idea that she would not share. Did I mention that the one mom explained that she had been given a $500 check for the parties?

I don't know if they have heard, but school budgets have been being cut over the past several years. They might not be aware that arts programs are taking a big hit in this cut so that more time and money can be put toward preparing our children to take standardized tests to justify the money that the school does get (a big reason my kids are now homeschooled). The art teacher not wanting to share supplies with 2-3 classes per 6 grades that are at the school for the 3-4 parties the school has per year is self preservation, not selfishness. If he/she were to give one class supplies, then the supply train would have to be open for everyone. (Spoiler alert: snarky remark coming): I have a strong feeling these same moms would not be happy if there kids came home with crayon drawings on the back of recycled paper as an art project because the art budget was spent on supplies for school parties rather than these women using the school party budget.

So, the planning get together came to a close. Everyone said goodbye and started drifting away from the tables. But, little side conversations of twos happened here and there. Apparently none of these women like each other very much, they didn't feel like their ideas were listened to and they thought everyone else controlled the meeting. It was like being in the halls of my daughter's middle school. What craziness.

I have to say, it took everything in my power not to say something to this group of women. At first I wanted to tell them that I love the idea of a winter party. It includes everyone and leaves no one out. If you live in St. Louis, you experience winter. There are bazillions of great craft and game ideas on line. Save the "Christmas" ones for at home. I put that in quotes because most of the crafts deemed Christmas crafts ultimately bastardize my Christian religious beliefs by buying into the commercial and Santa hub-bub that I try to steer clear of. Plus, it leaves a lot of kids out. Some people will say, well all the kids in my kid's class are Christian. Awesome. But, do they all celebrate it the same way and at the end of the day, public school is secular. Separation of church and state. If I wanted my kid to go to a school with religious orientation, I would send them to one. Not all people feel that way, but I know a lot who do. The other argument is, well there is only one non-Christian in my kids class. Awesome. So, let's have that kid feel left out because it is more important for that class to make reindeer food than to teach the kids that there are lots of ways to believe and we should respect that and there are many ways we can find to celebrate together.

Food allergies, WTF, what do I say. I wanted to scream, "You're right. Fresh fruit allergies are completely made up. There is no way that kid has that allergy. You should force feed him fruit salad just to prove your point and teach that parent who is screwing with your party a lesson. Fruit allergies, what a load of crap!" Why did this conversation take place? Why is sugaring kids up more important than making sure that the safety of all kids is taken care of. Yes, safety. Food allergies are no joke. They can be life threatening. Even if they are not life threatening, why would you be willing to make a kid sick? Again, there are tons of resources out there to direct you on fun, delicious, allergen free treats out there. Use them!

Finally, thank your art teacher for helping your kids with math and science rather than bitching because they do not freely hand over supplies that you have a budget for anyway. It has been shown over and over that kids who are exposed to the arts, in all it's forms, score higher on tests and are better at math and science. It teaches them to think outside the box and be creative in their thinking. Think of any uber successful business mogul in any field, they have not played by the rules. They have pushed limits, thought differently, and colored outside of the lines. Thank the arts! Read some bio material on Steve Jobs if you need more info.

In conclusion. Respect all, love all and give each and every person the dignity they deserve. Don't merely tolerate. Tolerating people is a horrible thing. It's not enough. These women were tolerating the kids that weren't celebrating Christmas in their way, they were tolerating the kids with food allergies and they were tolerating the art teacher not giving up her supplies. They are reluctantly working around these "obstacles" rather than looking at the great things they could be doing that would show love respect and dignity to all those kids. Challenge yourself to do this everyday with every person. It's not easy, I struggle with it all the time, but it's the standard I attempt to hold myself to. Try it. let me know how it goes.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Where to Start

Where to start?

This is my question on a daily basis in so many aspects of my life.

Homeschooling: Where to start? Are we sticking to a schedule today. Which of the four versions of the schedule will we use if we are using one? Do we have an adventure to go on today? What learning will take place? Can I justify this deviation? Do I have to justify this deviation?

House Work: Where do I start? What needs to be done? Do I feel like doing that? Does it matter if I feel like it? Is there something I should have the girls helping with? Will I start feeling resentment if no one else is helping?

Family Relations: Where do I start? Do I need to spend more time with my kids, Blaine or by myself? Do I need to break up the fights between the girls or do they need to work it out? If I feel that Blaine is on the girls, do I step in or let them figure boundaries out on their own? I won't even touch the extended family issues, that's a whole other post.

Friends: Where do I start? I have such anxieties when it comes to relating to people, how do I overcome that? My friends are all so diverse, how do I find time for them all, can they come together to events, when do I find the time to hang out with them? How do I enjoy my time with them without over thinking how I'm dressed, what I am saying, and every other action I display?

These questions go on and on and on. Do other people's heads spin like this? It can make it hard to get out of bed and get going especially on days where there is schooling, cleaning, family and friend events all taking place within a 24 hour period of time.

If you do not have anxiety issues, this is what life is like. There are moments of reprieve. Good days where my head will settle a bit and bad days when tears flow freely due to the level of anxiousness about the events and accomplishments that have to happen in a given day.

Please keep this in mind as I relay the following information. I have taken celexa for anxiety and depression for the last 10 years. I have always been very open about this and have always been an advocate for the ability of meds. to stabilize whacky brain chemistry.

I started seeing a naturopath a few months back. I have exhausted all resources and medical doctors trying to figure out why I am always so tired (generalists, endocrinologists, rheumatologists, chiropractors, etc.). I was sleeping 10 hours a night and still needing to nap several times a week. Western doctors kept chalking it up to depression, which was wrong. I just knew in my gut it was wrong. I know what it is to be depressed. That was not the issue. So, on to the naturopath.

We were trying different medications and my system could not handle them while still taking the celexa. So, it became necessary to stop the celexa in order to get to the underlying adrenal issues that were messing up my serotonin levels. So, within 2.5 weeks, I titrated down and stopped taking the anti-depressants.

The next two weeks were hell. No one tells you that there is a significant period of withdrawal. Well, I'm telling you there is. I had the following symptoms starting 36 hours after taking my last 10 mg. dose: migraine, "brain zaps" (it feels like an electric jolt going through your brain), loss of balance, inability to regulate emotions, uncontrollable crying, nausea, reflux, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, periods of extreme anger, insomnia, difficulty finding words, trouble with short term memory and I have little to no memory of the first week.

I looked on line to see if this has happened to other people. I found spotty information. Apparently it does not happen to everyone and there are many physicians that say it does not happen to anyone. The drug companies have termed it "discontinuation syndrome." They also do not subscribe to "withdrawal." It doesn't look good for the company or their drugs.

So, where do I start? I asked this each day. How do I put one foot in front of the other. How do I get through this? Is it worth it? THIS SUCKS and not only does no one know how I am feeling, half of the medical community denies that this is happening to me. There are no recommendations other than go on another anti-depressant that might be easier to ween off of.

What the hell? I have a life to live. I have things to do. I do not have time for this.

It is now 16 days after my last dose of celexa. I have been wondering how to relay this experience to people who might have wondered what the hell was wrong with me the past few weeks. Why was I ignoring everyone? Why was I bitchy when I did speak? Why were my eyes red all the time? Where to start. And also to let people know this can happen. Be ready for it. Consider it before starting a drug, any drug.

It is amazing the transformation that has occurred in the last 16 days. I have energy. I actually feel good. I still have some brain zaps, but they are not making me loose my balance or giving me headaches. I have a clarity that is wonderful. I was able to start this week with all those questions in the beginning peeling off and letting me go.

Even 4 days ago, I didn't think I could get through this, but I did. Knowing I got through hell like I went through makes me feel like I can get through most anything. It was like a rebirth.

I know this is not very coherent. Is is rambling. It is how my brain has been for a long time. Now that I am reborn I feel ready for so many new things. That insane list of question in the beginning has been replaced by just one:

Where to start...

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Homeschool Starts Monday

It is an experiment in the making. I don't know how it is going to go. What I do know is I love my kids and I see their spirit, spontaneity, creativity, and spunk being squished out of them each year. There is very little room for those attributes in the current school system. These are not things measured on standardized tests, so the teachers are not given the time to cultivate these gifts. And they are gifts. 

We are not lacking for smart people in the world. We crank them out. What we are lacking is creative people. People who can think for themselves. People who can make a leap and do things differently. There have been many articles, interviews on NPR, and shows concerning this topic in recent months.

The school systems have gotten so bogged down in accountability that they are scared to death not to test the crap out of the kids. News flash: the kids don't give a crap about the tests. They know it has no effect on them. Many do not even bother to do anything but make designs with the dot. There are obviously those that try. My point is it is not a good measure of what kids do or do not know.

Should teachers be accountable? Hell yes. Are tests the way to do that? I don't think so. However, I can't offer an alternative at the moment. I do know I am ready to move beyond what is on the test and not look back. I will teach my kids what they need to know and even more importantly, what they want to know. They will be wonderful, smart, caring, well rounded and socialized individuals. We will be able to look on these years and say we did it together.

teachers are fighting the good fight. They are working their asses off and do what they can. The parameters they have to work within are shrinking by the year. Arts, music, physical education, and elective classes are being cut. We are loosing kids. It's not the teachers, it is the system.

On to our decision:

This decision has been a long time in the making and now it is done. Since Kalyn started kindergarten, seven years ago, each and every year I would start debating about not sending her to school the following year right after Spring break. That's when things would take a drastic turn for the worse.

I started asking about homeschooling and reading about the pros and cons years ago. I always felt it would be a good fit, but didn't know how people would react. I have gotten over that.

I also hesitated because Kalyn was such a challenge I didn't know if I could help her in the way her teachers did. She would do fine at school and then fall apart at home.

Socialization comes up all the time as a reason to keep kids in school as well as the standardized curriculum the public school can provide.

I was afraid to be lumped with crazy zealots who pull their kids from school to protect them from the immorality and crack whores (I think that's what the zealots do).

Could I have my kids at home all day, everyday and keep them engaged, prepared and not fighting?

All these things and so much more have been keeping me from taking the leap.

Well, I leapt.

I started realizing that perhaps my child would not need to be in therapy if she felt successful and not threatened throughout the day. Perhaps my younger one's day would start if I didn't have to wake her up at 6:30am, calm her from her tantrum of not being awake, not wanting to go to school and being pissed she had to leave and go somewhere she did not want to be. Maybe I know my kids better than anyone else.

Kalyn is a challenge, but that can be good. She questions things, does not take anything at face value and has a staunch code of justice and equality. Isn't thins something that should be nurtured? I don't think it can be in the schools. Not in 45 min. per class period. Not when teachers have to get through teaching 100 kids per day in a systematic way so that the scores on the tests prove they are doing a good job. I feel she was falling apart at home because there were so many feeling that there was no time to express that once she got home she just burst. Jules tends to do this preemptively in the morning.

My kids are very social beings. They are not going to all of a sudden become anti-social. I am not locking them in a box, I am educating them. Part of education is learning to live in the world. What makes a better practice of those skills: 1) being able to go out in the world on field trips, banking, shopping, visiting with people of all ages (including peers), hearing differing viewpoints all within the school day or 2) Hanging out with peers, talking with peers, getting advice from peers, playing with peers, learning with peers, doing things that only your peers do? I think this is such a narrow scope to work in. Have you noticed how narrow teens viewpoints are? Could it be because they have no other point of reference aside from this peer group who is not always equipped to give the most sound advice?

People who homeschool are not crazy zealots. (OK some may be, but there are crazies in all groups). I have spoken to several people who homeschool. Some do it for religious reasons (how is this different from the Catholic school behind me), some do it to increase academic rigor (same as sending the kids to a pricey prep school), and some do it because they love their kids and want to be with them and share in the growth and learning that happens at this time in life. Most do it for a combination of these reasons. All families run things a little differently.

As far as my abilities, why should I question them? I have taught over the last 16 years. I have had kids from pre-school through college aged in my classes. I have taught grade level through learning self-help and daily care skills. I have had up to 12 in a class with 4 different versions of a lesson plan going on. In Nevada I averaged writing 20 lessons per day when you counted the 5 different classes I taught and all the different versions of the lessons I had to write to accommodate for all of the ability levels.

So, we start Monday. I'm excited. I am busily getting our space together, getting lessons mapped out and getting our schedules straightened out.

Here's to everything! Cheers.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Parenting Re-visited

Blaine and I enjoy being parents, in theory. However, lately it has not been so joyful. The kids have been acting in ways that make me question our decision not to beat them with sticks. I don't think this would help or change their behavior, but I'm going bald from tearing out my hair in frustration.

So, after church on Sunday, which was somewhat of a breaking point with dealing with their behavior: individually, together, toward each other, toward us and life in general (it's a whole gestalt thing), we announced we would be having a talk.

Blaine and I sequestered ourselves in our room and told the kids we would be out once we had collected ourselves. They knew we were not happy. So, it was a wonderful moment of them looking at us and then at each other and thinking, "oh no." (That only lasted for a second because as soon as we shut our door, they started fighting again).

We made a list of all the things they are doing that, frankly piss us off. It was actually a much longer list than either of us anticipated.

I would never approach kids, or anyone with a list of things I don't like or things not to do. It's counter productive and just begs people, and kids are people, to go on the defense and not be able to hear what you have to say.

Our kids are wicked smart and do not like to be pandered. For example, when Kalyn was 2 1/2 and was not brushing her teeth, I made a sticker chart to mark tooth brushing with promises of rewards at certain intervals. She promptly yanked it from the wall, tore it into pieces, threw it at me and informed me, "I don't need a sticker chart." How dare I have belittled my 2 1/2 year old with something as trivial as a sticker chart? Did I think she was 1 or something?

So, you see what we are working with. It is like survivor around here. It's not just parenting, it's outwitting, outplaying and outlasting the young ones of the tribe.

Forever ago I bought "The Family Virtues Guide" by Linda Kavelin Popov (published by Plume, a division of the Penguin Group, 1997). It's an amazing book. I've used it to teach Sunday School and for parenting a long time ago. There are 52 virtues in the book. Each has a quote from a spiritual text that exemplifies the virtue. Then they discuss why we should practice this virtue, how to practice the virtue, what success will look like, what the need to work on it will look like and it gives great questions to discuss the virtue. Each virtue chapter is ended with an affirmation.

Blaine and I decided to pick 4 virtues and stress those for the next month. We will use the language of the virtues for correcting and directing kids with what to do. The first 2 days have worked well and if nothing else have given a more positive spin to things.

I read our church newsletter yesterday. It was interesting because the letter from our pastor was about just thins kind of thing. Thinking about our actions in terms of virtues. So, I feel we are on a good track. If nothing else, the beating with sticks will continue to not be an option.

Below I will list the virtues we chose, the spiritual quote that goes with, the rule in our house that specifically is being addressed, and the affirmation. Feel free to read on, or if not interested the summary of this blog post is this: I was going to put my children to the streets to fend for themselves and this new approach has given them a stay, not a full pardon, but a stay.

"He who finds the right path does so for himself; and he who goes astray does so to his own loss; and no one who carries a burden bars another's load." - Al-Qur'an 17:15
        - Keep all of your things in their proper place
I am responsible. I give me best to all that I do and keep my agreements. I welcome both praise and correction for my actions.

"In every aspect of life, purity and holiness, cleanliness and refinement, exalt the human condition and further the development of man's inner reality. Even in the physical realm, cleanliness will conduce to spirituality." - Selected Writings of Abdu'l-Baha
      - Eat all snacks in the kitchen and clean up your mess
I keep myself fresh and clean. I put my things and my life in order. With God's help I am able and willing to clean up any mistakes.

"A man is not an elder because his head is gray...he in whom truth, virtue, gentleness, self-control, moderation, he who is stedfast and free from impurity, is rightly called and elder...is called respectable." -Dhammapada 260-263
     - Listen to your parents. Stop talking when asked to do so.
I am respectful. I treat others and myself as we deserve to be treated. I show courtesy to everyone. I learn from the wisdom of my elders.

"Are not five sparrows sold for two small coins? Yet not one of them has escaped the notice of God. Even the hairs on your head have all been counted. Do not be afraid. You are worth more than many sparrows." -Luke 12:6-7
     -Ask others for help and respect in an assertive way.
I am assertive. I think for myself and do what I feel is right. I tell the truth about what is just. I know I have the right to be treated with respect.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Insanity is not a four letter word

I have not posted in a long time because I have been in a fog. A fog filled with craziness and fatigue, sadness and what felt like complete mayhem.

I didn't think I wanted to write about it here because it was too much. It revealed too much. It was too personal and those few people left who find me un-insane might change there minds.

Then this morning I thought: Fuck it! I don't care. This is who I am and mental instability is part of it. It's not all of me, it just feels that way sometimes. But, the fact that I have not been able to participate in life in a normal way (normal for me) for the last 3 months is a big deal and needs to be addressed.

During these three months I feel like I have hurt people and let people down. I felt like if I could open up and let people know what is going on that my actions, or lack of them, might make more sense. Maybe even to me. When I'm in these states it's hard to know what I am doing and how to change things.

Just to let you al know, I feel much better now and am getting back to my usual crazy self rather than my not fun insane self.

I joke about, and make light of my mental state, but it is truly a fragile and delicate thing. I don't remember when it has not been that way. My first memories of wanting to go away and not be here (they weren't explicitly linked to death or suicide at that time) was when I was around 4 years old. So, this is something that I have been dealing with for a long time. I have never know how it is to not be like this. I have been on and off of meds. and in and out of counseling since college.

Enough background. Let's talk about now. I will, perhaps,  expand on the past at a later date.

I tend to be ok and well monitored by my meds. I officially have social anxiety and depression. When things are not going well, my social anxiety is what flares up.

This summer Blaine was having a hard time, our finances were having a hard time and my kids were having a hard time. So, all of that going on for 2 months straight, with no break in the action sent me over the wall. It was hard for me to breath, leave the house, care for my family in their state, and take care of myself.

I had a friend, Dqniel come into town for business. He came in two days early and stayed a day late to see me and the family, I didn't see him. I had another dear friend come in from Portland who I haven't seen in forever. I finally got up enough umph to get out for a short while and I got to see her for about 10 min., in a large group, where I couldn't really talk to her.

I feel sad and guilty and bad about these things, but at the time, there was nothing I could do about it.

I was in charge of co-directing VBS (vacation bible school) at my church. By the time that rolled around, I was in complete panic and shut down mode. I did very little to help and was so thankful that everyone else was able to pick up the slack.

The other day the finances hit a wall we haven't seen in a long time. I had panic attacks and had the fight  of all fights with my husband. It was the first time I had ever cursed at him. We don't do that. We argue, but we don't attack. I cried for 2 days about the state of things. I couldn't breath. I couldn't eat and just wanted to sleep.

But, I am the one who puts everything together. The one who cooks, cleans, does laundry, is looking for a job, takes care of the kids schedules, monitors homework, teaches sunday school, runs the youth group, organizes the women's retreat, helps interview new pastors, watches other people's children, helps my siblings and mom, listens to friends' issues, runs all the errands, volunteers at both of the kid's schools, is the girl scout camp mom, and now, takes care of finances.

There is no time for panic attacks and there is no one to talk to. I am that person, and talking to myself doesn't work all that well. Who do I go to? My friends come to me. I hear what they are dealing with and it is enough for them to deal with what is going on in their lives. My family? I can't have them judging my husband or me. A counselor? There is not the financing available for that. I still owe money to my daughter's counselor and she was just asking when her next appointment is scheduled for. (Remember, my kids are not so very stable).

I have just hit a wall. So, if I have not called you back. If I have been in  a state when you have seen me. If I have not helped you in the way you needed. If I have not seen you when you have traveled across the country to see me. I am sorry. Sometimes I break down and just can't. I can't.

I've re-grouped at this point. I am getting my act together. I am taking it slow, but it is working. Things are getting out of panic mode which is good. I am trying to evaluate where I am and what I need to be doing. I'll get it figured out.

So that is me in a nutshell. (Hey I'm in a nutshell. How did I get in here. Where did such a big nutshell come from). See, my sense of humor is even back : )

Have a good day. I know I will.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

On Belay?

What do you do when someone you love is hurting? Do you jump in and take over the situation so they are rid of the pain? Do you step back or shy away because you don't have words or actions that seem up to par to deal with the issues at hand? Do you listen intently, with love, and let that person fight their fight?

I used to rely heavily on one of the first two methods. I wanted to be the one to "save" the person. "Fix" the situation. "Heal" the pain. I don't like using "quote" mark, but in this case it is appropriate. I was not saving, fixing or healing anything. If that person would not let me take over, or I didn't know what to do, I would just sit and do nothing. No calls. Nada. It wasn't that I was mad. I just felt so ineffective and overwhelmed. I would shut down because my method of handling things was not of use to the person I so desperately wanted to help.

In both of these scenarios I was getting in the way of that beautiful person experiencing life and fighting for themselves in a way that only they knew how. I was keeping my dear one from learning all they have to learn in this life in order to be ready for the next battle. In other words, I was mucking up the order of the universe.

To sit back and just listen is so difficult. It does not come easily to me. It is something in which I have had to diligently work. I'm getting better. I find myself biting my tongue a lot and reminding myself that it is not my fight. There are times I even have to go to Blaine or my mom, and tell them to look at me and tell me it is not my fight to fight. Hearing the words aloud helps.

I have been thinking about this lesson I had to learn. I experienced this learning mostly through the ordeal of helping a friend leave an abusive relationship. I could not do these things for her. I could not rip her out of her house or demand she leave. Oh, I tried to do that. But, it did not work.  With the help of my dear friend Jill Farmer, I discovered that I had to let my friend be strong, make her own decisions and let events unfold in her time. I took a step back and let her do her thing and you know what? She was amazing. She did it. I held her hand, but I did not push or drag. I was just there for support. Listening is all she really needed. She is a stronger woman from having fought that battle on her own. (Please look up Jill Farmer. She is a dear friend, an amazing certified Life Coach, and an invaluable resource on how to get unstuck in life. Click on her name to go to her website).

I have been thinking about this lesson lately because I have several people I love who are in pain at the moment, emotionally or physically. I want to jump in and take over, but I am instead choosing to be an ear, a shoulder, a meal ticket or whatever else that person needs for support rather than trying to fight their fight.

Here is the image that was conjured in my mind this morning as I was thinking about a particular person that is on my heart: I am not the lead climb, I am the belay.

Blaine works for an action sports photographer that specializes in big wall climbing. (i.e. The people Corey takes pictures of climb big ass mountain walls, using mainly their fingertips and toes (big wall climbing), are the best in their field. Corey, therefore, also has to be an amazing climber because he has to get to where they are on the wall, with 30 lbs. of camera gear and shoot amazing photos). I hear and see the photo stories of these epic adventures all of the time. They are currently climbing in Alaska, above the Arctic Circle.

Here is the dynamic of a climb: You have your lead climber. The one that is going up the wall. He/She is the one that is attempting to ascend the route. Then you have the belay. This is the person, below the lead climber, that has the ropes in hand and lets out slack when needed. They are also the person that stops the climber from falling if he/she slips or lets go of the rock. Then you have a whole support team that is there to pull up supplies, document the event through photos and videos, ground crew, production and editing support back at the office, sponsors to pay for the trip, etc. It is a major production. All these people work together to get that one person to the top of the rock. But, ultimately, it is all up to the lead climb. No one can scale the rock for them.

I know you see where this is going. Your friend approaches you for help, asks you to belay. You agree. Everyone ropes up, clips in and gets ready for the climb. But, not before assembling a whole crew for backup. Now, you're ready for the climb. The friend asks, "On belay?". Your response is "Belay on." Your friend, "Climbing." You, "Climb on." This is climbing protocol. It is your way to tell your friend, I have your back, I am here to catch you if you fall, I am connected to you, I am here for the duration and not going anywhere. But, my friend, you have to make the climb.

You have to choose the route, where to place your hand, where to place your feet. If you slip, or choose incorrectly, I will stop your fall. But, you will have to climb back up. I can not do it for you.

This is the relationship between the climber and belay, me and the person I love who is battling right now.

Oh, did I mention that the belay has to be anchored in and solid? If the belay is on shaky ground, unsure or not anchored properly, when the climber falls, it is no good for either one of them. In order to be effective and help the led climb get back into position after a fall, the belay has to be strong and stay put. They can not fall or stumble with the climber. This part is important for me to remember.

So, next time a friend approaches you with a rope and says, "On Belay?" Make sure you are on solid ground, make sure your ground crew, office crew and sponsors are lined up before you rope up and clip in. Remember that it is not you ascent that is being documented. You are part of the support. You are there to shout encouragement and stop catastrophic falls. Once all these things are in place and you are in the right frame of mind, then you can say, "Belay on."

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The Monkeys Are Back

My head is all abuzz like the bees in the clover. (Re-read that. It was awesomely poetic and awesome. Just read it one more time. Yea, that was good. Too bad this long interlude has completely ruined it).

This is a happy week and I have a lot running in my noggin. Yes, the monkeys are back and swinging around. So, I am going to make a list of all that is up there in an attempt to quiet my thoughts and put them in an orderly kindergarten like-line. OK, maybe 1st grade line. Kindergardeners are still a bit squirrely, but I definitely do not want a 4th or 5th grade line. They have given up on lines by then and good for them. I never made my students walk in lines. It's seemed fascist, or at least completely unnecessary.

See the monkeys have completely taken over. In line you fools. One at a time. Present your idea and then back to the trees to eat bananas and groom each other!

These thoughts are in no particular order. Just random items running through my head. Well, maybe I will list them chronologically since the first thing that happened is the reason for my giddy, happy week.

1) Blaine and I had a long talk on Sunday afternoon. I had written a few times back about the division of labor in any partnership. I was feeling as if the work I do around the house, to keep the family running, and in service to others was not being acknowledged as work.

I added up the hours I spend weekly at the kids school, teaching gymnastics, volunteering at the church, making dinner and then added .5 hours in for just daily house stuff. It added up to 35.5 hours. (Sometimes 45.5 hours if I have more than one church meeting).

The adding of the hours was for me. I really started to question myself about my value in the family. I think this is common among stay-at-home parents. Especially stay-at-home parents who do not have a spotless house (I am part of this group).

I feel that my spouse questions me about the state of the house sometimes. Like it is my responsibility to clean up after everyone. It is not! I keep the family schedule, drive kids around, help with homework, bathe smelly children, prepare and clean up meals, I will clean the home, but not pick-up everyone else's crap, and I wash and put away the laundry. That is the extent of my household duties. I am here to run things. And I expect help in the form of chores from the girls and lawn and trash service from Blaine.

It was an amazing talk. I feel like a weight has been lifted off of me. We are on the same page. He does value what I do and felt badly that I was questioning his feelings based on some statements that were misunderstandings on his part or mine.

This has lead to a great week.

2) I said screw the dishes yesterday morning and decided to start the day by sewing a quilt I am working on instead. I have now decided to start everyday with something fun and interesting rather than my first house item. It just sets a happy tone for the rest of the day.

I always forget how much I like to sew. I am not particularly great at it, but I love it. I warned the lady who I am making this quilt for that I am in no way a perfectionist and I would rather fudge and mess around with things than ever remove a stitch and have to re-do something. I like the quilts to turn out lumpy and stretchy so they look like they have been in use for a while and people are not afraid to use them.

Anyway, I think I will start each morning by quilting, writing, drinking coffee and watching a show on HGTV.

3) I took the girls shopping yesterday to buy pants and shorts for my big girl. Nothing fits her right now. It was time to buck up and clothes shop, which I hate!! My hatred is based on the fact that the money aspect of it stresses me out so much. We had several years where there was little to no money for clothes. We used grocery money, relied on hand me downs and the gifts of clothes that always come from the grandmas each season. Our finances are not in that spot anymore, but the feelings and memory still linger, and it make it difficult to enjoy clothes shopping. (It's the same reason I have a phobic relationship with the phone. I know it is not collectors calling, but the memories and feelings are there and make me cringe every time the phone rings. That's why I don't answer the phone folks).

So, we started at my favorite place, Goodwill, and we scored!! I was so happy. 2 pairs of jeans and 3 pairs or shorts (all Gap or Old Navy), $3 each. She also found two great accessories for her new room, $4 each and a cute tank top, $2. I found 3 pairs of super cute summer sandals with little heels, 2 brand new($8, $6) and one that looks as if they had been worn once or twice ($6). I bought a beautiful linen curtain, silvery/gray, for the new house $4 and 3 purses at $3 each. 2 of them will be embellished and use as gifts.  My little one also got a little Old Navy skirt $3, and a brand new top $3. Score!

Then we went to Khols and restocked my big girl's tank top stash. He belly was beginning to threaten to pop out from under her current ones. They were all 2 years old and have served their time.

So, I got over my shopping fear and we did great!

So, onto Tuesday. I have a project that popped into my head this morning, but I am going to wait to share it until the idea is a little more formed. But, I am super excited about it!!!!

OK. I think the monkeys have retreated, for now. Have a happy day and go find something to make you happy. If you are a stay-at-home parent, you are awesome and your work matters! If you are a working parent, you are awesome and nice work providing for your family in such a great and necessary way.

Now, onto sewing, or maybe this new project. I better decided first before those two monkeys start fighting it out. That will just lead to the flinging of poop and no one wants that!! Seriously my house is messy enough and god know, no one else will clean it up!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


I know that traditionally religion is one of the topics not to be discussed in polite company, along with politics. However, I disagree. I love to talk about religion. I love to hear how other people wrap their head around this world and their place in it. I find more often than not, that requires bringing up religious ideology and beliefs.

I think that it depends on the spirit in which the discussion happens whether it is a positive or a tense conversation. Is it entered in with an open heart? An open mind? Are you happy that that person is walking their chosen path, or are you secretly hoping to convert them to your ideals? These thoughts, whether part of the discussion or lurking in the back or your subconscious, makes a big difference on the course of the conversation.

I have found that I learn so much about a person and their perspective on life when I sit and enjoy every detail of their beliefs, even including the belief that God does not exist. Appreciating and understanding other view points does not have to change my own, but sometimes it does. I feel I am all the richer for that experience.

Religion, much like culture, is so interesting to me. I love to listen to other ways of knowing and thinking. I love to hear the different traditions and where they stem from. I love to discover differences and am no longer surprised by the vastness of similarity.

I have/have had friends of many faiths: Christian (in all it's forms), Jewish, Buddhist, Bahai, Muslim, Agnostic, Pagan, Atheist, Hindu, and lover of all things without any title or specific church. All of these people have enriched my life. They have all given me information on how to be a better person and how to deepen my own spiritual life.

While there are certainly many people who choose their spiritual path in adulthood, I think most people follow the path set by their parents. It's convenient. It's what you know. It's probably the instruction you received growing up. There is nothing wrong with that. It's what I have done.

I am Christian greatly by default. That is the religious tradition I grew up with. There were many years that I struggled with that path. It felt too narrow. I did not like all of the damnation for others. Especially in light of the fact, very few of my friends were Christian, and I never truly believed that they were going to hell (I still don't). So, I left the church.

I started practicing the Bahai Faith, a beautiful religion, and did for 3-4 years. Julia was dedicated at the Bahai Learning Center on Lockwood, in Kirkwood. My mother baptised her at the ceremony. It made her feel better about us not being at the Christian church. It was very special. That religion taught me so much and I will forever be grateful and love the people I know from that tradition. But, the fact that I was not practicing the tradition of my family was tearing my mother and I apart. Within the Bahai faith, discord is not good. Harmony is important.

Kalyn had been going to preschool at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church (GSLC) for three years. It was close to us, reasonable in price, and I loved the spirit in that place (if you need a preschool look it up, it is still fabulous!!). I went to speak to Pastor Tom about my delima. I asked him three questions: What do you think about other religions? How do women figure into your church? What is the church's stance on homosexuality? His answers made me realize that the church I had grown up in was narrow, the Christian faith was not. So, I went back to the Christian church.

I found, in that house of worship, a home that believed what I did and was open to ideas and ways to strengthen it's congregation that might come from divergent paths. Don't get me wrong, it is a Lutheran church that follows Christ, but they did not mind that I thought other religions were equally right in their ways. They welcomed women into all levels of the community and infrastructure. They openly accepted gays, and most recently are allowing gays, who are ordained, to serve while in a committed relationship.

I found a place where I do not have to, after a sermon,  explain to my children "well I know you heard that, but that is not what our family believes," like I have at other houses of worship. My husband, who does not subscribe to any organized religion, is always welcomed and greeted and accepted for who he is at Good Shepherd. My father-in-law, who is Jewish, is also openly welcome. We have families at the pre-school that are not Christian that come to our community event because they know we are just happy to see them and will not try to change them, or point out why their path is the wrong one.

This is why I participate so much in my church community. It gives me a sense of belonging to something greater than myself. I can be myself. I know that any of my friends or family members can join my family for events and I do not have to worry about a revival happening around them in hopes of converting them to our way. I know I can listen to sermons with an open heart and mind, because they are being delivered with an open heart and mind. I participate in service projects because they are meant to help all people, not just Christians or people willing to convert.

So, anytime you want to talk religion, come my way. I would love to hear your thoughts, where they come from and how they guide you. If you are hurting, sick or otherwise need help, I will pray for you, because I so believe in it's power. If you ever want to join us at church, no matter what your background is, feel free. There will be no conversion happening. Hopefully just a calmness of spirit and happiness that I find when I walk through the church doors.

On the other hand, if you belong to a cool place that has classes, services, invite me! I would love to come and experience what makes your spirit happy. Is it at a church, a mosque, the synagogue, the park, an NPR lecture? They are all beautiful places with information for living a good life.

So, today be happy. Acknowledge your spiritual self in anyway that speaks to you. I will end with a favorite quote I have heard lately. "Namaste" is a word that roughly means: the divine in me acknowledges the divine in you. So, on the note, have a happy day and "Namaste Bitches!"

(seriously, that is the quote I was talking about, it's freakin' hilarious.)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Fair is Fair

In a relationship, any relationship, how do you figure out what is the fair split of crap that needs to be done? This can be in a work situation, family, connecting with friends, etc. How is this decided.

I would like an unbiased third party arbitrator to help me figure this out. I am thinking specifically in my marriage/family life.

The third party would be impartial, and would be able to just look at the hear and now. I think that is another complicating factor in this situation, past memory. It is difficult t think about past situations and want the present to remediate previous imbalances. It can't. It's a silly notion. The present is the present and this is where we should dwell and focus on. That can be flingin flangan difficult. A third party would know nothing of previous times and would be able to focus on just right now.

Just as a side note, this is in no way a public, or otherwise, dig on my husband. We do the best we can splitting things and finding ways to make things seem fair. It's just difficult and, at times, unclear if what we have come up with is cheating one party or the other. We have always openly discussed these matter and continue to do so. Noted: this is not a rant about my husband, he's lovely.

So, back to the arbitrator. I want someone to sit down with us and make a list of everything each person in my family does. Work. Taking out the trash. Scrubbing toilets. Going to school. Running children. Keeping the family schedule. Paying bills, Yard work...... You get the point. And I want them to assign a point value to each item that reflects the amount of time and effort it takes to perform each of these tasks. That will give information on how much "work" we all do to keep the family going.

Then, the all knowing, all fair arbitrator will figure out how much time we all get to do the things we enjoy. Reading. Sleeping (yes, I enjoy sleeping and this is quite the source of contention in our house at times). Art activities. Hanging out with friends. Cycling..... These things are also necessary to keep a house in order and running smoothly. If people are not feeling fulfilled, they will not be able to do the work portion as willingly or without bad feelings. Fulfilled workers are happy workers.

Now then, the arbitrator, who is ever kind and all knowing, will look at the numbers and figure out who needs to shift their work load and who needs to shift their fun time so that everything is fair and even. This sounds so simple. Where do I sign up for such a service. Is there an app for that?

Here is where I think it gets messy. What is considered work and what is considered play? In some cases I think there may need to be a third category. Let's call it purgatory. It's a neutral area. It's not necessarily work, but it is not necessarily play either. Here are some examples:

1) Taking the kids to gymnastics/activities: It's not work, I don't have to do anything but, I am not necessarily doing what I want to be doing. I am not having to clean or fold anything at the moment, but I may have to make small talk with random people, not fun. Or, there are days when one of my friend's are there and I can chit chat with them and that is awesome. So, it is a case by case situation.

2) Freelance meetings. Blaine gets out of the house. He often gets to go to a coffee shop (something that is forbidden on a regular basis because of the cost), and talk with cool people about cool projects. Well, it is technically work. It is a freelance gig. But, this is "fun" work that he gets to pick and choose. He gets to drink coffee, a favorite activity at our house, but he is also generating income or cool things in trade for the family.

3) Church committee work. As most of you know, this takes up a lot of my spare time. I love it, but it is also a lot of work. At the moment I am in three leadership positions with various activities, and have three other commitments that are more low key. I enjoy these things, but I also do them because I think that it is so important to do community service work, and this is a great outlet to fulfill that important piece. I am at meetings/activities for 2-5 hours a week. How does this time count? It is enjoyable a lot of the time, but it is working for the greater good.

4) Family commitments. There are a lot of these in my family. Some of my best memories are of spending time at my grandma and grandpa's on Sunday afternoons with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins. I am blessed to have tons of family in town and be able to provide a small glimpse of this to my kids. But, it is a time commitment. Blaine works all day, every day, and I run all day, every day, so our weekend time is precious. I do not think extended family time is wasted time, but I know we all have things to do and it is not always easy to have 4-6 hours of Sunday or Saturday afternoon spoken for.(No, really, there is no dropping by for an hour. Have you met my family? We can't hardly say hello in under an hour.) I love, adore, respect, crave and desire this time, but it is time.

So, who can fulfill this task? Who can decide what is work, play and purgatory? How should they be measured? How do we equalize these things? How can you get an unbiased, all knowing, third party arbitrator. Would everyone even agree to the outcome?

There are days that I feel I am doing all of the work around this place. There are days that Blaine feels he is doing all the work around this place. There are many days that we feel the girls are doing negative their share of work around this place. I think we are all right, some of the time.

I will post the name and number of anyone that I can find. I will also offer my services as I do this work for my parents all of the time. It's weird I know, but I am impartial and blunt with them. They're both crazy, so it is easy. It's like arbitrating between the Mad Hatter and The March Hare. Don't worry, I'm not telling you anything that I have not clearly told them.

Have a good day at work, play and in purgatory.  Think of ways to measure these things. Let me know what you come up with. Good luck and God speed.


Thursday, March 31, 2011

When is Enough, Enough?

I have been having to grocery shop rather judiciously lately due to monetary constraints. I am learning to be a coupon wizard, but still suck at it. (I am going for a tutorial at my friend Kim's soon, she's a complete coupon geek. And yes, this is a compliment.).  So, I basically rely on purchasing just what we will need for the next week, no extras, stick to the list, etc. Then once the food is home, I become a tyrant about what people eat and when so it does not mess up the overall weekly food plan.

No big deal. This works. I make sure everyone has ample for meals and snacks and well then lovely. I have done this, at times, for as little as $40 for the week. It becomes a personal challenge to which I find myself rallying.

Here is the issue: What kinds of foods should I get? Where should I shop? Processed food is cheap, but not so good for you, and processed foods differ in their ingredient lists.

For example, I bought mac-n-cheese at Aldi's for 33¢. The Trader Joe's mac-n-cheese is 95¢. It's freakin' mac-n-cheese, what's the difference you ask? Well, the ingredient list on the Aldi's brand is 3-4x longer than on the Trader Joe's brand (they are owner by the same company, FYI). So, is it worth paying more to have less crap in a box full of crappy processed food?

Another example, again Aldi's vs. Trader Joe's, white bread. Trader Joe's white bread is $3.00ish while the Aldi's brand is 83¢. This is a big difference when you are talking about having $40. However the list of ingredients is vastly different. VASTLY!

When Blaine and I were both working, I bought all organic, because we could. Our shopping was done at Whole Foods and/or Trader Joe's. (don't judge me, their food is stupid expensive, but amazing) Now, we are having to be more restrained with our food purchases. I am having a dilemma about the best way to go about this.

There is no question that doing all of the shopping I can at a store like Aldi's is the most cost efficient. But, what am I giving up health wise by serving very processed food? What if I just use some of this food intermixed with less processed? Does that make a difference? Is it better to shop at a mid-range store like Schnucks? In light of the fact we are a vegetarian/vegan family, Trader Joe's is less expensive on a lot of our stuff than the larger chain stores.

I worry about organic vs. non-organic, very processed vs. less processed, fair market vs. standard (particularly coffee), etc. When is enough, enough? When do I just go buy food and stop worrying so much about it?

These kind of neurotic thoughts also occur about throwing away food vs. composting. It stresses me out. Who should I give hand me downs to? Does it matter? Should I give them to people I know or Goodwill? Where is it they do the most good? When giving opportunities come up (ex. filling boxes to send to Haiti) is giving one item enough or do I need to purchase the whole box of items that need to be shipped.

I am consumed with trying to make things safe, better, fair, and logical for my family and the world. Sometimes the stress of it seems crazy. Then I feel like a tool for worrying so much about all of it.

We have a friend that just got back from Africa. Their local driver died on that trip while bathing in the river. He died. There was no emotion about it from the local people around them because it is the norm. They see it everyday. Death is part of their existence and I am freaking worrying that I just put carrot scraps down the disposal rather than in the compost pile.

I am comparing mac-n-cheese boxes because I am afraid of the quality of food my family eats. My family, who eats three meals and two snacks a day. I refuse to shop at Wal-Mart because of their business practices and I only buy second hand clothes because all of the major clothing companies use sweat shop labor.

I feel like such an asshat sometimes at getting hung up on the things I do. But, at the end of the day, there I am. What is worth worrying about and what isn't? Which of these things that I obsess about will make any kind of real difference for my family or the greater good? Will any of it?

I am going to be creating a grocery list after I finish typing this post. I don't know where I am going to shop and I still don't know if it actually makes a difference or not. However, I will try to keep in mind that no matter where I go, I'm crazy hella lucky for the choices I have.

The when enough is enough answer might be realizing that my intentions are good, always, so I need to breath and relax.

Friday, March 4, 2011

What Do You Want To Be When You Grow Up?

What is your answer? Do you have one? I don't. I don't know many people who do. I want to know how a person comes upon this answer. When are we there, at that magical place of knowing what we want to be doing and doing it?

Part of the problem is defining what constitutes being grown up. I struggle with figuring out if it is an age, a state of mind, a position or point in life or something one just decides. I also wonder if any of these thoughts or answers come easily to anyone or if it is something that we all struggle with.

I had one of those out-of-body experiences while dropping my children off at school a few weeks ago. Maybe you have them, too. As I was walking into school, each child holding a hand, I looked down and thought: who the hell are these children, why are they calling me mom, why I am at a school and walking in with them, what is going on? I dropped them off at their classrooms, giving them each a kiss before they disappeared into the doorway, and I walked out of the school in this same frame of mind. I walked over to my minivan, got in and then was questioning if I was old enough to drive, if I remembered how to do this, if I had practiced enough.

As I drove away from the school thoughts were spinning through my head: these were my children, this was their grade school, this is my minivan that I have had for 7 years and I have been a licensed driver for 22 years, and I was driving back to my house where my husband of almost 14 years was in our bed. It was a shocking revelation. This experience happens every once in a while to me. Is it partially because I don't feel "grown-up" ?

I was very focused on becoming a teacher since I was little. I think it was the only thing I ever had in my head to become. I started thinking about special education in high school and went into college knowing that is what I would do. I added psychology as a major to give the option of being a school counselor at a later time. I knew what I wanted.

Once I started teaching, which was hard work, but came very naturally to me, I wanted to focus further. I got my grad. degree in multiethnic education. I taught off and on some more. I was pretty sure I knew what I wanted to do.

I got a job in Nevada teaching severely impaired students and thought, this is it. Now I know, once again, what I want to do. The job I got with this same population in St. Louis was awful. I mean spirit breaking bad. (I'm still trying to puzzle out what went so horribly wrong at that job). So, at this point, I don't know that I ever want to return to the classroom. I now have no idea what I want to do.

Is this an age thing. When you are young an idealistic, you have clearer vision because there is not so much to cloud it? There is little responsibility, moderate expectations, generally no kids, sometimes no significant other to answer to/with. Is this what makes it easier to declare what you are going to do?

How do we find that drive and passion again?

When we decided that I was going to be staying home to run the family full time, one of my goals was to start sewing all the beautiful things I have in my head. I have books and magazines and inspiration journals that I have been dying to dig into. My idea is to make a lot of beautiful items and sell them.

I have not even spent one day in my studio space this school year. I am afraid to cut my cloth, use my beads, make things, try to create. What if it doesn't work? Then those thoughts and dreams were for nothing. I will once again be at a loss of what to do, what I want to do.

Will I ever feel grown up? Will I ever find that elusive niche that is exactly what I want and should be doing? Does anyone? Will it happen when I get older? Maybe when my children get older. I don't know.

Some days these thought weigh on me and some days they don't. Some days the reality of what I have to get done through the day (laundry, cleaning, taking care of kids, fulfilling my volunteer commitments) feels like an anchor that will never allow me to find what I really want to be doing.

I have used psychologists, life coaches, friends, family, energy healers and even a tarot card reader (I adore Charlotte Dodge) to help me decipher the answer(s) I am seeking. They all have said that my creative energy is stuck. I need to create.

I have the answer. I'm reluctant to try it because I do not want to fail. Teaching used to be a great creative outlet. That is gone, at least for now. I have a whole studio filled with beautiful things waiting for me. I'm scared to dive into this next outlet.

Maybe letting go of the fear of failure is how we reach the point of feeling grown up. Perhapse it is when we trust in ourselves and our ability to do what we love, or at least what we are doing, and let go of looking to others for judgement, accolades or approval that we emerge as grown entities. Maybe this is why we feel more invincible as younger people, we don't care what others think. We are egotistical and self-possessed and maybe this is not all bad. Once we get older we become aware that we are not invincible and that ego does not always serve a person well. But, maybe it does.

Today I am going to spend 30 min. in my studio making something. I am going to coax my creative energies to start to flow once again. What I will make, I don't know, and I don't think it matters. I am going to make it with no one and nothing in particular in mind. I will not be afraid of failure and maybe I will catch a glimpse of what I will be when I grow up.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I am Awesome

This post is nothing more than a list of ways that I think I am awesome. After all the heartfelt and wonderful notes I got yesterday to cheer me up and help me feel "normal" I decided that I needed to look at the positive side of things. Blaine and I decided at about 5:00 yesterday to stop being sad and start being awesome instead, true story (blatantly stolen from Barney Stinson of How I Met Your Mother).

This came about after my fit yesterday and Blaine declaring that he was about to start a revolution or have a massive breakdown. I obviously started chanting, "Revolution, Revolution." But, I did admit to him that there was a morbid curiosity about what the alternate event would look like.

We had a great talk last night. I think both of us will have a more positive day today. The girls went off to school in good moods today, neither crying, a first for us in a few weeks. The sun is shining. Dishes are done, laundry is in, e-mail is checked. It will be a good day.

So, here is my list of great things I do. I encourage you to make a list, too. And not just for you as a little exercise. Publish the thing. Send it out in e-mails. If you have the money, hire someone to sky write it over your house. Today is celebrate your awesomeness day. Do it. Don't apologize for being proud of yourself.

We so often are apt to share our flaws and faults with others. It is easy to do. I feel like sharing all my good traits, and get ready there are a butt load of them, will make me look like a self important ass. Well, I am willing to take that chance. Awesome self important ass it is.

My list:

- I recycle everything
- I strongly subscribe to reduce, re-use, recycle, in that order
- I compost
- I have a vegetable and herb garden in the summer and fall
- We buy organic when money allows, unless said organic product comes from outside of the country, then we buy the closest to home
- We buy local produce to support farmers and leave less of a carbon footprint
- I buy most things second hand including furniture, clothes, shoes (I know you are not supposed to), art supplies, decor, etc.
- I am an animal rights activist
- I do not wear leather or other animal products
- I do not used health, beauty or cleaning items that have been tested on animals
- I eat a vegetarian diet
- I am a member of World Wildlife Fund, Access Fund and PETA
- All our pets have been rescue animals
- I do not declaw my cats
- I let the neighbors dogs out twice a week
- I have taught my kids to love and respect all of nature
- We do not kill bugs we find in the house
- I am a good parent
- I spend a lot of time with my kids
- I volunteer once a week in each of my childrens' classrooms
- I am genuinely interested in my children, how they feel, what they think, their interests, etc.
- I discipline my children in a fair and consistent manner
- I am a good wife
- I listen to my husband and value his opinion
- I go along with my husband on his adventures how ever wacky they seem to other people because I know he has a passion for life that makes things exciting and fun
- I am a good lover
- I tend to my husbands' wants and needs
- I am passionate about my marriage and love my husband more than anything in this world
- I am a good family member
- I belong to a huge family and value every member and think they are all part of the greatest family ever
- I am a good teacher
- I am patient and fair with my students
- I strive to learn new ways to do things and value new perspectives when there are challenges
- I am a lifelong learner and crave knowledge of any kind
- I am creative and can picture how to create things out of random materials
- I make beautiful quilts
- I teach Sunday School, run crafts for youth group, am a committee member for Feed My Starving Children, helped run an awesome women's retreat, will be leading and awesome vacation bible school, am doing a great job on the committee to find a new pastor for my church, and enjoy meeting with two women in nursing homes to give them communion
- I am smart and hold three degrees
- I am a complex and interesting person
- I value diversity in all its ways of being: religion, ethnicity, race, culture, sexual orientation, gender, ways of thinking, ability
- I am a good friend and listen when people need to talk and am there to help when people need a hand

That is my list for this morning. Some people might feel that some of the items on my list are superfluous and those people can suck it. (oh, also, I have a great vocabulary and use curse words a lot, it's a talent). There are many other things about me that are good, but I feel happy about this list. Make yours. Share it.

Have a good day!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Is this normal?

I feel in limbo this morning. As always, trying to figure out what I need to do, what I want to do, what I should do, etc. Why do I find myself in this spot all of the time. Is this normal? Do other people feel this way?

I think it is exacerbated by the fact that Blaine works at home. So, I see him working all day and I feel like he is judging what I am or am not doing. He worked upstairs yesterday while I laid on the couch in a migraine haze. By the end of the day I felt so guilty for not helping with dinner, dishes and kids baths.

He doesn't sit around and judge me, by the way. We have discussed this. He was the one telling me to go and lay back down when I tried to get up and help yesterday, too. Even though he tells me all is OK, and I hear him and see him acting as if it is OK, I still have a hard time accepting that is how he really feels. Is this normal? Do other people feel this way with their significant others?

We have hit a streak in the mornings when at least one, if not both children go off to school in tears. Yesterday it was my older girl, this morning it was the little one. While the older one has been in therapy for quite a while, the younger one is not, yet. It is being discussed. She is displaying this crazy anxiety marked by hitting, throwing and temper fits that well precede her age. When my big girl hit this, I struggled with it on my own and finally enlisted the help of a counselor. After 2 months of weekly sessions we finally started to get things under control. Is this where I am headed with my second child?

I have spoken to teachers, pediatricians and consulted the counselor we are currently using, the behavior of my children is not in the range of normal. It just isn't. So, thank you for telling me that all kids do this, but I am here to tell you that my kids act this way to a degree that is beyond my parenting, teaching and psychology background. Other than staying calm and using the tools I have learned from the professionals that I have consulted, I am at a loss with my kids a lot of the time. Is this normal? Do other people feel this way about their children?

I have guilt about not working. A lot of guilt. I don't know why. It was a family decision for me to not work this year and it has been very positive. My house is better, not always put together, but better. Blaine and I are better together. He has fewer things around the house that he has to add to his daily to-do list, and that is good. We are eating at home, together, more often because there is energy to do the grocery shopping, cook and sometimes : ) clean up dinner. I am able to help in each of my children's classrooms on a weekly basis, make sure homework and chores are done, help a lot more at church, and we don't spend the weekends cleaning. I added up the hours I volunteer/work each week outside the house. It equals around 2, 9-hour work days.

I still feel this guilt that I am not doing enough. That I should be "working." I feel embarrassed to say I stay at home now that my kids are in school. I think nothing of it when other people tell me they stay at home, regardless of what the age of their kids are. To me, it is the way homes have run for years and I am in awe of families who have 2 working parents that keep the house together. My family had a hard time with this. Me at home make sense for us. So why do I feel bad about it? Is that normal? Do other people feel this way about staying at home?

I am so insanely blessed. I mean that. I am not trying to talk myself into believing that, it is true. We always have what we need. We always have enough money, food and clothing. I think this is partially because I really believe this with all of my heart. There may be times when there is no money in the bank, but I know more will come and in the meantime we know so many people we can borrow from if it is an emergency. I may look at my cupboards and think they are slightly bear, but no one in my family has ever had to miss a meal. It may be mac-n-cheese with the cheese powder and water, but food was there. Clothes can always be altered to fit. We might not be able to get new stuff, but the old stuff can be re-arranged. With my kids eclectic clothing style, this method has fit well.

Now, we do not have the issues of having to stretch things how we had at one point. We have a great house and plenty of what we need. But, I still feel depressed sometimes. Why? I live around family. I have friends. We have plenty of everything we need. We can even go out to eat, do fun things, splurge on occasion. My kids and husband are smart, healthy, beautiful and kind. I have meds. that help keep my chemistry in alignment. So, why do I feel out of sorts? Why am I ready to crawl back in bed? Is this normal? Do other people feel like this about their blessings?

I am so worried about being a disappointment to my husband and family. I worry about being a failure as a mom, friend, family member and spouse. I don't know what that would look like exactly, but I'm afraid of it non the less. I have a list in my mind of all the things I should do in order to not fail and I get overwhelmed by it. I don't keep a reasonably clean house. The laundry is only caught up sometimes. My kids are well behaved and happy sometimes, but not always. I do not know how to help them and do not keep my cool often enough. I do not call family members, send birthday cards, and visit as often as I should. And then I feel bad and/or embarrassed about it which keeps me from doing those things even more.

I am so lucky with my life. I should breeze through things. It is easy for me to get done what I need to. In theory. I am not deprived of anything. I am educated. I have an exceptional family. All good things are available to me. So why am I on the couch in tears not knowing what to do about the day ahead of me? Is this normal? Do other people feel this way?

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Monkey Mind (A Fat Story)

My mind is jumping all over the place this morning. It's a little thing I like to call "monkey mind". (borrowed from "the Accidental Buddhist"). Here are a few of the things racing about in the noggin flinging excrement today (come on, that's a funny monkey reference):

- I just wrapped up one committee commitment, I'm ramping up another, one more week of one, starting a new one today and in the middle of another that has a 9-12 month commitment.
-My kids are in wacky land right now. I blame the change in the weather, it seems the most victimless thing to blame.
-I have friends and family that I need to catch up with as I feel like I've been out of the loop for a couple of weeks for some reason.
-This couple day a week gymnastics teaching just seems to get in the way as it hits on random times and is so infrequent it doesn't seem like a real part of my schedule.
- My whole house is in messy chaos right now as I am coming off a week of uber PMS and 4 days of brother/sister-in-law and nephews being in town.

In other words, I am a mom. You could insert many monikers into this last sentence and I am sure it would work just fine, i.e. dad. I don't want anyone to think I feel moms have the corner on monkey mind, or monkey business for that matter.

With all of this  swinging from vines in my head, there is one incident my mind keeps going back to. I think this incident shows my masterful self control as a parent, no kids were smacked, my keen timing, I let things unfold as they did, and the awesomeness of my daughter, which I will take credit for at this time.

The kids were eating dinner at church youth group last night. They have music, craft and then dinner before the lesson time. It's awesome. I run the craft and so I am always late to dinner having to clean up before I join the kids. I usually sit with my little one and so my big girl asked me to sit with her and told me she would save me a seat. She did and I sat at her table once I joined the dinner festivities.

I knew all the kids at the table, a lovely group, except for the one boy at the table who was introduced as the cousin of one of the girls dining with us. Awesome. It's brave for a middle school boy to join a table full of girls. Kudos.

The conversation goes along, blah, blah, blah. "Hey Mrs. Neuwirth, have you ever eaten real chicken?" "Yes, I have." "Does your fake chicken taste like it." "It kind of tastes like it, but the texture is different." blah, blah, blah. Then the kids, 4 in middle school and 2 in 5th grade (my kid being one of the latter) start comparing who knows who. Fine, fine. Then the boy asks my daughter's name. She gives it. He repeats it incorrectly. She restates it. The he says...wait for it...seriously this is a quote..."Oh, I know you. Someone said you used to be little and now you've gotten a lot bigger."

The whole table realizes that he is referring to her weight. Everyone knows she is rounder, hippier, and boobier than she used to be. The whole table freezes, including me. I decide in that split second that I need to keep my mouth shut and let my girl deal with this.

This is her worst fear come to life, someone calling her fat. This is what she has cried about on the way to school for the past two days. She has been so worried that people will call her fat with short season and smaller clothes on the way. She calls herself fat, not realizing that puberty will fill you out whether you are ready or not and whether you have the stature to pull it off or not. When your body decides to round out a barely over 4 foot 10 year old, it's going to look different than on a 5'1" 13 year old.

Fat, fat, fat, fat. This is what she worries about. This is what she now is faced with. I hold my breath and wait for the barrage of tears, the screaming, the hurt for days to come.

"Oh, I know you. Someone said you used to be little and now you've gotten a lot bigger." My girl, "Really? Thanks for sharing!" All the girls at the table, "What is wrong with you?" "Why would you even say something like that?" "You don't need to repeat things all the time." etc. etc.

Translation: You dumb ass, what the hell is wrong with you? That was an ass-hat thing to say so you should just shut up now.

I like the way these ladies have handled the situation. My daughter looks at me and I just give a nonchalant shrug to confirm it's all good and boys are stupid. This satisfies her and she repeats her original response. The girls continue to mumble disbelief at the boy. I finally breath. In the back of my head I am wondering if there will be fall out later when she is driving home, going to bed or getting ready for school tomorrow.

There is no fall out.

She is fine.

I think that she has had to face a big fear of hers and she saw that it did not swallow her up. She was able to stand her ground. Not only that, she had backup. He didn't. She did. She fought and she not only won, she kicked ass!

Keeping my mouth shut was not easy. But, the support of her peers and her sticking up for herself was much more powerful and necessary than anything I could have done or said. I am proud of my girl and her friends. I think this was a huge opportunity for growth and she took it. I am proud.

Well, that is one monkey back in the jungle and out of my mind. With one monkey on his way out, I have a feeling others will follow. That's the way it is with monkey mind. If I can get a single primate moving on, a single task done, one good parenting moment accomplished, momentum tends to build.

I wish everyone a monkey free day and opportunities to face your fears and kick the crap out of them like my daughter did. She is awesome!!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Driving to School

How is a 2-3 min. car ride to school capable of completely changing the mood of the morning?

Every one was up, dressed, finished with breakfast and happy. Lunches weren't quite ready when we hear the squeak of the bus tires, so I tell the girls I will run them up to school. It's just about a mile away. Close enough to walk if we got an earlier start, but it's always the bus or we drive if we're a few minutes behind.

Down the front walk, my 6 year old begins explaining how she's just like a teenager. She has her phone in her hand (an old one of my father-in-laws that she plays with), her book and her rolling backpack. She tells me the car is an airplane because she has her suitcase, phone and book to read. So funny.

My oldest is in shorts. It's chilly out, but has been so nice in the afternoons. She confirms that it is supposed to warm up and says this might not have been the day to dress "cute" since her legs are a bit cold. I assure her it will warm up and I like her outfit, too.

We back up out of the driveway, first fit. Little one can't get the seatbelt on right so big sister is trying to help and is getting frustrated with the attitude she is getting. I convince the little one to let her sister help and the older one to calm down and both of them to speak nicely.

We drive several houses down and now the little one is kicking the air and hitting her legs because the seatbelt is bugging her (I mentioned we have sensory issues around here, right?). This annoys the older one who starts telling her to calm down in a not so calm voice.

We round the first turn, about a block from our house. The noise from the back is getting louder. I stop the car and tell them they are not to speak to each other anymore, re-explain why the seatbelt is being funky because it is the same reason it gets messed up every single time we get into the car and this happens. The little miss now throws her fake phone and she is informed that she will be leaving that in the car and will not be playing with it for the rest of the day.

Now my youngest is crying and is still pissed off at the seatbelt. I can see my older one speaking under her breath, I know threats are happening, she is reminded not to speak to her sister.

We hit the first of 2 stop signs. My big girl thanks me for driving them to school. She knows I am not happy and starts to try to make amends. The little one is still fussing. She says thank you, too, in between pouty tears.

We hit the second stop sign and now my older one starts thinking about entering school, they just had 4 days off and that always makes re-entry difficult. She starts to contemplate her wardrobe choice and starts to get nervous about the whole wearing shorts thing. Little one is starting to calm down.

We pull into the school and I hear, "Why did I wear shorts? People are going to be asking me a million questions. They are going to make fun of me. They are going to say I am fat. Look at all these bruises on my legs from playing this weekend. They look horrible......" I remain silent because I have no idea how to comfort all these thoughts out of her in the 2 seconds before she leaves the car. My youngest has now stopped fussing.

The side door of the van is opened for them to go into the building. They say good bye, they love me. I say that I love them too and I hope they have a good day.

They walk into school and I drive home on the verge of tears.

What the hell just happened? What am I supposed to do with this? Is there a parenting lesson here? Did I miss the mark on this one or are my children just out of there little minds like many other children out there? Holy crap!

Sometimes I just don't know about this parenting gig. Somedays I feel like a freakin' rock star of a parent. The kids are happy, well behaved, kind to each other and to other people and happy. Other days like today I feel like I am doing something so wrong because I can't even have a 3 min. drive to school without all hell breaking loose.

I just feel sad.

I don't know what they are going to do once they are in the building. My kindergardener will probably go into the class just fine because the damn seatbelt is not on any more. My fifth graders whole day is going to hinge on what the first person says about her outfit. I hope it is a friend. I hope it is not someone who is going to be unkind to her. I can't control any of this. I dropped them off and had to leave and assume that all would be OK. There is a lot of letting go in parenting.

Now, I am going to go get some coffee, fold some laundry, and let go of this morning. I do not get a notch in my good parenting belt this morning, but the belt has not been taken away. I get to try again later today and hopefully it will go better.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gifts for My Children

Do you ever do things and then realize it is something you have seen your children do? Sometimes I see them and hear myself. But for me, generally, it is a realization that I have just mimicked something that I get after them for. Then the thought that they perform that action, because of me, causes a moment of pause.

Sometimes this pause is filled with laughter because I think it is so funny that they chose to copy that statement or action. Other times it makes me sad because it is something that I do not like and would rather they did not emulate.

After such an incident this afternoon with Blaine, I had to really stop and think about why I interrupt people who are speaking to me. This is something my girls do all of this time and it drives us both super crazy.

So, I was wondering why does this happen with me? I do not feel what I have to say is more important or valid. I want to hear what the other person is saying. I realized that I don't know I am doing it, until I am doing it. When I have a thought in my mind, it takes a minute to process it before I am able to find the words. Many of you who know me well have seen me pause mid-sentence to search for a word or a phrase to verbalize my thought. Since this thought is stuck in my head as I am processing it, I often do not hear that someone else is starting to speak. It is only once my thought is together and I am speaking it that I hear that someone else is already speaking.

Our youngest will walk up to Blaine and I and just start talking. When we pause and draw her attention to the fact that we are in the middle of a conversation, she usually replies, "Well I didn't know." This has always confused us because we were obviously speaking. Now maybe I understand. Slow processing. That is our problem. How to fix it, I don't know. But, I think I will be a little more lenient on my kids when they interrupt the hundreds of times a day that they do.

So, let's see, gifts that I have given to my children. I have given this gift of interrupting along with some anxiety, OCD, major tactile defensiveness and other sensory issues. That's OK. Counseling and medications abound and they will be fine.

Growing up with all these traits in my little body, in my adolescent years, early adulthood and up to now, has created the person that I am today. It has developed other traits and ways of being that I am proud to pass on and I am happy to see the girls imitate.

I am very compassionate and driven to help people, especially the "under dogs." I was an under dog a lot of the time growing up. I know what it meant to me when people would take time to help or notice what I did. This is also why I became a teacher, studied psychology and got a degree in multi-ethnic education. I want us all to champion each other regardless of our similarities or differences in race, gender, age, SES, culture, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, family make-up, etc.

I am deeply spiritual. I had to be in those years that I was suicidal everyday. I had to feel there was a purpose for me to be here. I had to feel, and know, that a higher power put me here because I was to make a difference otherwise, I would have cashed in my chips long long ago.

I am a big smart-ass. When you are teased and laughed at often, you either cry a lot or learn to laugh. I decided about 10 years ago I would laugh. I laugh loud and often. I make jokes about things all the time. I am very sarcastic because I like that type of humor and I think it reveals truth in a way that people will listen.

I love deeply. I do not let a lot of people into my inner circle of friends. There are lots of people who I respect and value that I don't let in. If you are in my inner circle it is because I love you and I trust you with everything that I have and everything that I am.

This leads to a trait that can be good or bad, I am vulnerable. I decided a long time ago to be a Pollyanna about this world. I truly believe that people are good. People want to do good things. All parents try. There are circumstances that lead to bad decision making. There are things beyond our control that can make us use poor judgement. However, in general, I am willing to be disappointed or get hurt from time to time to live in a world where I believe people have my back and people are well meaning.

So, let's see, compassion, spirituality, a sense of humor, deep love and vulnerability are also gifts I give to my children. All of these things I also see emulated on a daily basis. My girls are amazing, caring, gifted, passionate children. So I consider those traits I mentioned earlier the yin to the yang of these traits.
All things in balance.

What gifts of yours do you see in the people around you? What gifts do you see in yourself. Look and see what you are passing around, I am sure you will be impressed. We are all complicated complex creatures of nature, nurture, circumstance, fate, and free will. Embrace all that you are and all the gifts you have today.

A friend passed on some words that she saw on a t-shirt the other day. I think it sums up all things well: Namaste Bitches!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Labeling of it All

OCD, depression, ADHD
Social Anxiety Disorder, Depression, OCD
Significant Anxiety and OCD, Inattentive ADHD
Suspected: Significant Anxiety and OCD, Combination ADHD

These are the members of my immediate family according to the DSM V. Counselors, doctors, neurologists, teachers, and family members have all confirmed this information. What does it mean? Does it mean anything? What does it look like? How does it affect our lives?

It's just a bunch of labels. But, it's all true and it is significant in our lives.

I will clarify the meaning of these letters quickly for anyone not familiar: ADHD=Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, OCD=Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Inattentive ADHD=Not the kid running around the room, they just can't pay attention and concentrate, Combination ADHD=The kid who can't pay attention and concentrate and is also running around the room, Social Anxiety Disorder=Fear of engaging with people, even people they are very familiar with.

What do I do with this? For a long time I ignored it. I didn't think it was making that big of an impact in our lives or was noticeable to outsiders. Sure, I have been in and out of counseling since college and I've been on medication for a very long time. This is true for a lot of people. How was I different?

I was different because there were times that my house got to the point of being barely livable due to the dishes piled up, the stacks of laundry, toys and things everywhere, dirty bathrooms, sheets that hadn't been changed in months, kids having meltdowns on a daily basis, and a husband who would prefer to stay at work than come home. Not because he didn't want to be with us, but because it was such chaos and clutter and confusion it was awful to be part of.

There were times that I wanted it to be/feel different, but I was stuck. It was so hard to fix what was going on with my home and family, so I started to help fix things elsewhere. I'd help my mom organize. I'd volunteer places. I was the one willing to run errands for people. All of this got me out of my house so that I didn't have to look at it or think about it.

I was overwhelmed. I couldn't get started. I felt like the person who weighed 600 lbs., lost 300 lbs., and was still morbidly obese. I would clean one room, even two, just to have the stuff from other rooms spill into the clean areas, and I would give up again.

Meanwhile, things were getting more difficult at school for my big girl. This year has been significantly better. Part of the problem, a big part, was the teacher from last year. This is not be being a protective parent, she is no longer at the school. It was the teacher. However, I am grateful. Seeing my child struggling kicked me into gear.

I decided to quit my teaching job. That environment was poison to me. It was not like the other teaching jobs I had. I did not wake up ready for the day and excited. I woke up dreading having to go. I knew quitting that job would make me stronger and then my job could be my family, my home, our issues, our needs. I knew I needed to quit fixing outside things so that I could fix what was right in front of me, what the actual root of the problems were.

It has been 8 months since all of this has come about. Change is difficult. New routines are difficult for me and for the rest of my family (remember the OCD part). My house is now more often clean than not. Laundry is done weekly. Bathrooms are cleaned weekly, or more often. Floors are swept and things are dusted weekly. Bed sheets are changed every other week (I'm still working on getting this to weekly), dishes are done on most days, but are never more then 2 days behind. The girls have clipboards with morning, afternoon, and evening routines on them. They will follow them with reminders. The girls are getting to school on time since I am getting out of bed on time. We are not missing meetings or outings because I am keeping, and referring to, a calendar.

All these things are items that most people do. I am starting to do them, too. I still have rough spots. There are still days that I struggle to get out of bed or off the couch. I still hate answering or talking on the phone. I get impatient with my children only to realize that I am not providing the structure they need. And it's ok. I know it is not the end of the world. If my house things do not get done for a day or two, I can catch up because it has not been weeks or months since I did those chores last. The phone is a good and friendly item. People are calling to talk, not yell at me. And kids are resilient. They roll with things and forgive me for not always doing what I know is right. I can always try again.

So, these labels do mean something. They mean that I have to be diligent, without distractions, to get to where I need to be. I need to focus on my family to help them focus. My family deserves my attention and I deserve my wonderful family.

I know there are so many other people out there who struggle. I want to tell them: You are awesome. You can make any changes you need. There is help. There are people ready to support and love you. You can do it!

I am awesome. I can make any changes that I need. I can access help. There are lots of people who love and support me. I can do it!