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.

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?