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mind-over-motherhood

Being more than "just Mom".. honestly.

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The “Mores”

No kids allowed here. This is the “Just Me” part. The stuff in my mind (and daily life) that isn’t about my kids.

Have you seen my Motivation…

Because I have clearly lost it.

It’s January. (Now March – but I started writing this piece back in January. I thought it was fitting to leave it..)

This time last year I was looking at back at my year in review, analyzing the goals that I set and achieved (or missed altogether) the year prior  and setting new goals for 2012.  By this time in January, I had taken on multiple purge and re-organize projects in my house. Totally revamping my closet. I was reading a book (gasp!). I was taking up tennis. I even really – truly finally got serious about my writing and this blog.  That was my biggest resolution in 2012.

What do they say about the average time that people actually keep their New Year’s Resolutions?  Based on the drastic drop-off at the gym  this week of every year, my guess would be two weeks.   A FranklinCovey  survey found that “35 percent of respondents break their New Year’s resolutions by the end of January and only 23 percent of those surveyed don’t ever break them.”

So, I’m not that bad. I made it well past January of 2012. At least through the first quarter if not half way through the year.

But the truth?  I haven’t yet looked back to see what my goals were for 2012 for fear of how many I dropped at some point during the year or abandoned completely. I don’t have a single resolution or goal for 2013. Not one.

Still waiting for some New Years motivation. Hoping it gets here before the year is over.

Defining – and Defying – the Word: Me·ni·al

me·ni·al   /ˈmi ni əl, ˈmin yəl/   [mee-nee-uh l, meen-yuh l]

adjective

1.  lowly and sometimes degrading: menial work.

2.  servile; submissive: menial attitudes.

3.  pertaining to or suitable for domestic servants; humble: menial furnishings.

———————————————————————————————————————–

Finding your identity – and maintaining a sense of it – as a Stay at Home Mom can be a little more than challenging.. especially in terms of how the world views you — what “worth” they put on you.

I get comments from people all the time (usually other women) about how “nice” it must be not to “have to work”.

Or the drive by comment, “Oh, the life of a stay-at-home-Mom.”  – as the working mom drives away from the bus stop on her way to work, and I walk back to the house in my yoga pants, with my coffee cup in hand.  Little does she know that the idea of getting dressed in business attire and being able to have a change of scenery – where I can turn on my brain and engage in something other than house and kids sounds like manna for my starving mind sometimes. *

As you may have gathered from reading this blog (when seldom I post, lately), I work hard to have an identity outside of my children. To find ways to keep myself well-rounded and feed those parts of me that need a little more than 5th grade homework (challenging as it is for my old brain) and endless loads of laundry.   I have been diligent in recent years in my attempts to hold on to the interests I had prior to my three little birds landing in my life… so that once they spread their wings and leave the nest, I don’t feel lost with no definition of myself.  When they fly away, I pray, that they will be strong, independent and GOOD big birds… and that I will be more than just mom with an empty nest.

I have made endless efforts to find ways to engage in my interests, learn new things, and feel like I still contribute to the world outside of my home (not in any way belittling the value or importance of being focused on the contributions I make to my household.)  It takes a lot – and I mean, A LOT – of energy to keep from being all-consumed by life as mom.  Which makes the comments from others that go like this: “Oh, are you still doing that little volunteer thing?” – feel a bit like a knife in the gut. * (It’s worth visiting this asterisk again.)

While I do know that having the luxury of staying home with my little birds is a blessing and I AM thankful, I also have to admit that very often when I’m doing the same laundry for the 100th time — or doing dishes for 4th time in a day — or trying to figure out what to cook for the next meal (when I’ve just finished cleaning from the last one) — or picking up guinea pig poop — or having to repeat myself endlessly with my children, I often feel that most of the things I do all day are just plain menial.

There have been times, I even feel like anyone on Earth could do what I do –  I could just record myself saying “No. Stop fighting. Speak kindly. Try again!” and let it play on repeat on the ipod — or that I am simply that robot, Rosie from the Jetsons (please don’t tell me that you don’t know who the Jetsons are.)   Am I just wasting my talents and my education on these menial tasks that have to be done over and over and over and over, with no end in sight?!

Not that these tasks are unique to stay at home moms… all moms/dads have to get these same menial things done, but when you have no other “professional” outlet or career definition in your life, these menial tasks tend to be the things that come to define who you are – they ARE what you do.

But that is not where this topic ends. Not with the negative. Never.  I look back to that first paragraph, and I Thank Goodness that – as a Christian – my “worth” is not defined by this world.

One morning a while back, during a few minutes of devotional time, I happened upon a quick writing about Holy Thursday. It reflected on Jesus’ last acts with His disciples and pointed out that in His final hours with His most beloved – His chosen – He didn’t perform miracles or do “great” works. He didn’t bring people back from the dead, he wasn’t being anointed with costly oils or perfumes or any of the multitude of things that The King would seemingly choose to do in His final time on Earth.  Instead in His final hours, He chose to spend with His earthly family, His chosen disciples.

In very much a familial way.  He chose to feed them. To teach them. To wash their feet. In essence, the very cooking, cleaning, correcting and teaching that I have loathed. That’s what was most important to Jesus in His final hours. That’s what He chose.**

Yeah, go ahead and think about that for another few seconds.

And the crazy thing is that when I found this reading – about Jesus, Himself, choosing these seemingly menial tasks as the most important things He could do in His last days, I began to find happiness in doing them.

So, I share this today to say that, here – at the end of the calendar year, I am adding a new “MORE” to my list.  As this Advent Season begins I will make the everyday things  – that I have been so desperately trying to keep from defining who I am – precisely what defines me. And by that I mean, what should – and really does – define me, is how I choose to view these tasks. My attitude towards those menial tasks defines my character.  It makes me more than just mom.  It makes me the person that I want to model for my little birds as they grow.

Menial = redefined.

* I truly don’t have any ill feelings toward my fellow moms that make these comments – not at all – I maintain that we are all on the same team. Maybe sometimes we just need to communicate about our different positions on the team and how they all work together for the greater good of our team goals.

** I had to pause and ask myself if I knew that I had a few last days on Earth, what would I choose.. would it be to do the things I have never done and go see the world? Probably. Would I choose the menial acts of service for my loved ones? Probably not.

Renovating Our Own Cathedrals

I know I’ve been absent for far too long.

However, I did begin writing again earlier this week.  When I finish it, I’ll post it, but something else took precedence today.

And that’s just where I am this week. Pondering my absence.

In an attempt not to be absent in all facets of my life, I sent a text to a dear friend this morning to check in with her on a prayer request she had shared with me a few weeks ago.  Her response was a little like a mini jack-hammer to me. Not in a destructive way, but in a way that shakes you so as you can’t help but give it your full attention. She said that I had been on her mind and heart; that she had a feeling I needed to talk.

Little did I know, I really, really did need to talk.  So talk, we did. And it was Good – with a capital G.

————

I’ve talked about this before (Losing Myself in the Building of Cathedrals), but sometimes I think we get to a point in our lives where we are so busy building our little Cathedrals that we get lost in them. And well, there are times that it just has to be that way.  But there are other times, when we are busy working away on their little cathedrals, all the while thinking that our own cathedral – built long ago – is sturdy as a rock and standing the test of time – only to find out that maybe it’s not.

Usually things that were built way-back-when seem to be built better than the new stuff. It seems like older structures are more sturdy, more sound. But, guess what? Not always the case. Sometimes, the ancient things crumble. Especially if they aren’t getting the regular maintenance and attention they need.

This blog has focused on giving my cathedral the little stuff it needs so it can keep on standing firm while the building of the little cathedrals happens.

Sometimes that little stuff  means my cathedral just needs a new coat of paint.. and something like a girls trip to the beach adds enough color to your skin to take care of it. 🙂

Sometimes, our mom-cathedrals just need a little landscaping.. and a trip to the salon for a haircut – or a mani/pedi spruces things up and makes things feel tranquil again.

Sometimes it’s the simple little maintenance that holds it all together.

And then other times, a cathedral has serious foundation issues.. something for REAL that rocks it to the ground.  – People get sick. Really sick. People lose their way. They lose their partner. Or a friend. Or a parent.  — Serious foundation issues. — The ones that cause destruction, requiring total demo and huge construction crews to build it back.

Thankfully, my cathedral doesn’t have serious foundation issues right now.  But if it did, I know the construction crew that I would call in to do the job.

You know those friends. The Tried and True Friends. The friends that make you feel comfortable showing all of your cracks, at the same time making you confident in the beauty in your age.  They’re the friends that have Faith in the One Great Architect.  They’re the friends that He sent to me in my earlier building stages… and that the One Great Architect is still sending my way with each new phase of life.

——————

Today one of my most beloved and experienced construction crew told me just exactly what I needed to hear as I struggled to figure out what needed to be rearranged and renovated in my Cathedral.  It was simple really. Everything is in place;  she just reminded me that I need to clean the windows and let the light shine in on it.*  The light can’t shine in if you aren’t cleaning the windows regularly.

The important thing here is found in this quote I read today:

“How might your life have been different if there had been a place for you?  A place for you to go…  a place of women, to help you learn the ways of woman…  a place where you were nurtured from an ancient flow sustaining and steadying you as you sought to become yourself.  A place of women to help you find and trust the ancient flow already there within yourself…  waiting to be released… A place of women.  How might your life be different?”  ~Judith Duerk, Circle of Stones

Do you have an expert construction crew? Do you consult with them often enough? And do you thank the ONE GREAT ARCHITECT for them and the gifts He Graced them with? Because, today especially, I sure do.

 

*  I need to give my faith life a little more time and attention.

St. Louis Cathedral, New Orleans, Louisiana – photographer unknown

Mirror, Mirror On the Wall (from the Huff Post)

I just read an article on the Huffington Post Life & Style Blog, and it really hit home with me.

Kudos to this list! It’s spot-on in terms of what I strive for in my motherhood. (And it supports my blog premise perfectly, so that’s a bonus.)

And if you only read the bold parts of the lists, you’re missing out on the real meat of it.

Read the list here: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

#1 – Find things outside of your motherhood that help make you happy.  (The MORES)

#2 – (THIS is a HARD one) Learn to say no to some things. Find your stress threshold and accept that yours may not be the same as the Supermom on the PTO, and that’s ok. Your kids need you happy, not winning awards and stressed out.

#3 – Make time for yourself and your spouse (significant other). Find a good sitter and don’t feel bad about leaving the kids behind to focus on your relationship. It’s better for the kids!

#4 – (THIS is an even HARDER one) I love the quote she uses here. I’m practicing so I can become more like this, but I admit it: I yell first and apologize second sometimes. I think it’s equally as important to admit when you lose your cool and explain to your kids that it happens, because I’m human, too. But the important part is to come back and do it again with a level head, so they realize that (though my response may not have been ideal) what ever behavior set me off needs to be corrected (just like I had to make my overly emotional response right.)

#5 – I’ll be their friend when they’re adults. Right now I have to get them successfully to adulthood. No, I’m not letting you have a Facebook page when you’re 9 and then posting pictures of you posing in the mirror like a seductress and tagging you in them.  You’re the kid. I’m the parent.

#6 – Two of my favorite quotes:  “I have learned more from my mistakes than from my successes.”  and  ” If I had to live my life again, I’d make the same mistakes, only sooner.”  — I’d much rather that my little birds make the mistakes (THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE) now, while they are young and under our guidance and love… learn from those mistakes and put what they learn into practice as they move out of my tutelage.  Mistakes are the portals of discovery.

#7 – This one gets easier as they get older.. but I still struggle with it. I keep reminding myself that if I want them to be good decision makers (just like anything else), I have to give them the opportunity to practice making decisions.  Sometimes this means I have to stuff the urge to stop my 8-year-old from walking out of the house like this:

#8 – Again, I remind you.. this list doesn’t mean to say we have to be perfect, but these should be our goals. I hope my children don’t one day judge me based on the tone of our mornings, because I’m not a morning person and getting ready for school is a tricky one for us. None the less, I keep trying to improve on it.. and then we always end the day with our “BESTS” – Gratitude for the day. Sometimes I follow-up by praying for a little more patience in the morning. They pray with me and know I’m trying. (But the likelihood is that when they are adults, they’ll be telling their therapists horror stories about their childhood mornings..)

#9 – My kids get rewarded based on effort rather than results.  Performance evaluations and performance-based bonuses will soon be implemented in my house. (No, I’m not kidding at all, and there will be a blog post about that in the near future.)

#10 – Well, on this one, if you’ve only read the bold print, you’re covered.  Real isn’t perfect, and perfect isn’t real.

Making Friends with my Limitations

{Although it may appear so in the first few paragraphs, this blog post is not about my physical health and my love for yoga, so if the yoga mantras are corny to you or my rambling about my injuries gets on yours nerves, please hang with me anyway.. it moves beyond that.}

If you’ve been following along a while you know that I’ve been battling some injuries that make some of my “MORE” goals a little difficult. My last post about seeing the Ortho was followed by an MRI and some interesting news. My issues (this time) are because, well.. I’m getting old. The hip issues I thought I was having were actually caused by degeneration and arthritis in my back. I think the exact words they used were, “Have you been really active all your life, because your spine looks a lot older than it is?”  Me: “What do you mean?”  The PA: “Well, it doesn’t look like it’s 80 years old or anything that bad, but you do have more degeneration in your spine than you should at your age.”

—Just great. Because my saggy ass and boobs, wrinkly skinned stomach and knees; sudden mass of wiry grey hair, failing eyesight; joint issues, surgically repaired hip, stiffness; high cholesterol, early onset mental-pause, failing brain, and terrible memory weren’t enough to tell me that I’m old and just NOT what I used to be.   What I really needed was medical confirmation that not only am I getting old, but I’m doing it at an unusually increased pace.  (What I’d really love is if my run pace were increasing as well. Instead, it has completely halted.)  {Refocus, Jenny}  —

I’ve now been in physical therapy for a few weeks, and while my hip is better, the issues in my back are much more evident.  Each day it was slowing me down more and more. And I don’t do slow very well.  I keep reminding myself that this is a tiny little hiccup in my life and nothing – at all – major, so I should not complain. But the truth is I have given into the frustration here and there, too.

You may have also noticed in my blog writing that I mention yoga a good bit. I’ve come to really love it over the last 7 – 8 years. (WHEN I could manage to make it a priority.) Around the time that I went back to the ortho for hip (back) issues a few weeks ago, I also quit doing yoga. I’ll be honest, the whole “Don’t use your full range of Motion” directive from the doctor really took something away from the idea of my yoga practice. The part I loved was pushing myself to that full range of motions and beyond.. in order to get that super-stretch. Now, not able to do so, I figured I wouldn’t get what I needed from yoga. *

Realizing that quitting because I couldn’t do yoga “all the way” was really childish and stupid, I made the decision to go back last week.

The first yoga session went OK.. I could do about half of the poses with no pain, and fought the urge to be frustrated by my limitations in the one place that I used to be able to let it all go and reach my fullest expression of a pose.. and of quiet prayer. Yes, I know that this place should be church, but my three little woodpeckers birds are always with me in church, and truthfully I’m a little distracted by my efforts to make sure that The Starling doesn’t lift up my skirt, pull down my shirt, or tear a bracelet off my arm – sending a hundred beads flinging across the entire place.. bouncing around and creating a serious hazard for the rest of the parishioners. (Did I describe this in too great of detail to pretend that I don’t have firsthand experience with any of these?) And if by some true miracle The Starling is behaving (read: my WAPI husband has saved me and wedged himself between her and me – despite her protests), The Pelican will surely be in a needy, passive-aggressive, I-need-attention mode, which always means she’s attached to my side like a leach and leaning her entire body weight on me.. while I’m wearing fun wedges or high kicks (because it’s the one time a week I get to forego my flip-flops or running shoes). It’s like having a defensive lineman coming full-on from the blind side on a quarter back wearing big pretty wedges… now, you know the wedge-wearing QB is going down.  – Much like The Owl, who ALWAYS, I mean always, mysteriously falls sick on Sunday morning and puts on a pitiful case of “the Sunday Virus” – complete with his attempts to sprawl his 13-year-old, 100+ pound, 5-foot-4 self across the pews in the middle of mass.  None of these scenarios are very conducive to me (with my child-induced ADD) to focus on prayer. I know God understands and is just happy to have me – and my attacking little birds – there.

{Apparently, this is going to be one of those blogs where I go off on tangents a lot and have to bring myself back to the point I’m trying to make. Back to yoga class we go…}

Yoga has no bracelet-flinging, tackling, or angry teenage birds coming at me from all directions, so you can see why it’s a lot easier for me to find prayer time there. When a pose is hard and I’m shaking, I just think of my Warrior-God and offer up the intentions of my friends and loved ones. When flowing through poses I pray the “Our Father” in my head. During those moments of stretching surrender, I rest in His Grace and listen to what He needs me to hear. So why didn’t I focus on those things instead of giving it up all-together when I was given some physical limitations?

The good news is that I went back for a second class on Thursday. And the yogi began this class with something new.  These words: “Lately there has been a lot of talk about yoga causing injuries. But yoga doesn’t cause injury. Injury occurs in yoga when a person ignores their body and listens to their ego. Ignore your ego. Dismiss your expectations. Embrace your limitations.”

Yeah. Ok. Talking right to me.

Her words struck a chord with me and reminded me of another yoga class I used to attend regularly – one that is actually a Christian-based alternative to traditional mind, body, spirit practice. Each and every class begins with the instructor reminding us that “Our bodies are the Temple of the Lord. Honor your body. If it hurts, don’t do it. Be still and allow God to speak. Let go of expectations. Let go of judgment. Let go of competition.”

Somewhere in that second “return to yoga” class I made friends with my limitations. I let go of the competition I had with my “old” self. I let go of the expectations I had of myself, and I opened myself up to what good could come from my limitations.

And guess what? Although I couldn’t do every pose, I felt better when I was done. Physically and mentally. The tension was gone from my shoulders/back and my mind was at peace.

No matter what your particular religious beliefs are OR what level of fitness is (or is not) part of your life, there is a good message to be found in this yoga-speak…. And one that not only applies to our aging Mommy bodies and minds. But one that even better applies to our motherhood. My personhood (for lack of a real word).  The realization hit me that the physical limitations are equaled in frustration by our personal limitations.

Making friends with my personal limitations is a little more daunting than making peace with my physical limitations.

In the last couple of years I have realized something important about myself.

My stress threshold may be a tad bit lower than a lot of other people.

In the past, I have found myself getting resentful of – or even angry with – others because I felt overwhelmed with the level of commitment or expectations that were required of me. Sometimes it happened in the work world (way back when), but even more so since I have been a SAHM.

You already know my feelings about the way I think we overdo sports for kids. (The World Has Gone Mad) And there really are SAHMs out there who take everything they do to super levels.  (She Can Do It All..) I’ve been involved in PTO at multiple kids’ schools, and let me tell you, some of the PTO Moms could take over Major Corporations and take them to a WHOLE new level. In doing so, they commit themselves totally to the role in the PTO and forget that others may not be willing or able to do the same.

And I’ve been involved in other organizations recently that also expected serious – and very  specific levels of – commitment. Every time I would get overwhelmed and frustrated in any of these realms, I would automatically default to venting about how it was TOO MUCH or the expectations were RIDICULOUS.  My level of stress always became someone else’s fault.  And while it may be true in some cases that moms/parents have taken the levels of expected involvement (their kids’ and their own) to over-the-top levels, I realized that the real problem wasn’t always them. Sometimes it was me.

My stress threshold may be a tad bit lower than a lot of other people.  I get stressed OUT and require venting a lot quicker than a lot of other people (especially moms) that I know. The time, commitment and stress level involved that it takes to achieve an award-winning PTO is just simply a bit over of my acceptable threshold. (This is not meant to come across as me “bashing” myself.. I have my strengths, we all do. This is also not to say that I can’t handle a fairly big load of responsibility or stressful situations. I can. But I have come to recognize where my stress threshold is, and I know that it isn’t high enough to ever be the PTO President. Nor do I want to be. And I’m OK with that.)

As a Southern girl, I’m a pleaser. ~ A yes girl. ~  I never want to hurt anyone’s feelings or let anyone down. While I embrace that part of my character – and it serves me (and others) well in many circumstances, at times it takes its toll on me, too. The problem I have with myself in this scenario is that – in the past when I felt the pressure – my natural inclination was to resent the people around me who seem to be handling more than I can.. or that I want to handle.  At some point in my motherhood (much like my “a-ha” yoga moment), I realized that I could not control everyone else’s expectations of me or change how much anyone else is willing to do, but instead I could work on getting to know (and get comfortable with) my limits.  I can be OK with the fact that I’m not willing to sacrifice my life and sanity to my (or my kids’) extra curricular  activities **, while not being bitter that others around me may be hoping for me to join them in their trip to the loony bin. Figuring out how to be involved within the confines of my comfort zone (not theirs) is the tricky part, but I’m getting there.

So here’s another area of life where I’ve been striving to find some balance… between that giving, want-to-be-able-to-do-it-all, yes girl – and the girl who is well-adjusted and self-aware enough to know when to say no. And be OK with it.

I realized this fact last year, and I made the decision to be ok with giving only what I was comfortable with.. even if it wasn’t as much as someone else was able to do (or expected me to do). And yes, even when I that means I have to walk away and focus my efforts in other places.

So I resigned a couple of my positions. Without feeling anything negative at all.  I found that “place” inside myself where I realized I wasn’t doing anyone any good “helping” when it prevented me from doing any aspects of my life well.

I’m working on getting more comfortable with approaching projects and volunteer work with an attitude of “This is how much of my time and energy I am able/willing to give to this particular thing. If that works for others or is helpful to them, then I’m happy to be part of it. If they need/want more than I can give while maintaining a semi-sane state of motherhood, then I’m out.”

It’s that simple. Or, at least, it should be.

If it hurts, don’t do it. Let go of expectations. Let go of judgment. Let go of competition. Ignore your ego. Dismiss your expectations. Embrace your limitations.

Identifying and accepting each of our own personal limits WITHOUT resenting others for not conceding to our limits takes constant work – for me.  — And here I thought that the physical limits were the hard part of growing up.  My arthritic back, failing memory and saggy skin have nothing on my attempts to get to know and accept my personal limits. So, I guess the newest addition to my “MORES”  is: making friends with my physical AND personal limitations – getting comfortable with them, so they work FOR me, not against me .

Just to be clear – making friends with my saggy skin is my least favorite on the list. I really wish my “Saggy” would just move out of the neighborhood, so I wouldn’t have to work so hard to befriend her.

*  Ironically, my back has gotten worse since quitting yoga.. even WITH PT.

** And I owe my kids better than a stressed out, over-committed mom.

Don’t Use Your Full Range of Motion

Early Saturday morning (before the not-so-super-Saturday race that is my kids’ sports schedule), I sat at home with my 3 Little Birds while my wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband and the rest of my neighborhood – the entire city, it felt like – ran in the city’s big race. 20,000 people. And I was not one of them.

“Don’t Use Your Full Range of Motion.” A quote from the Orthopedic Surgeon this week. – I’m not new to his office. Because I’m knocking on 40’s door and some of the “mores” I’ve chosen to place in my life in recent years have not been welcomed with love by my body. After a long painful battle at the height of my run training, my (now) dear orthopedist discovered that I had a labral tear in my right hip in early 2010. I had surgery on it and bounced back pretty quickly. At the time of the injury I know some people wanted to tell me (and some may actually have), “See, all that running is bad for your body.”  While I’m not an avid runner – I don’t crave it – I decided that the good that this particular “more” did for my mind (not to mention my high cholesterol), far out-weighed the wear-and-tear (literally) it put on my body.  So, 6 months post hip surgery I ran (some would argue that I jogged) my first half marathon.

My avid running friends said the injury must have been caused by yoga. And my fellow yoga fanatics blamed it on the running.

Turns out that neither is to blame; I just have a pre-disposition for those kinds of injuries. After a recent bout with recurring hip pain I fearfully (“please don’t tell me I need surgery again, Doc?!?!”) went back to my Orthopedic Surgeon. So far, no surgery needed. My recent problems are most likely due to (1) Lower back issues – I’ve been in a lot of car wrecks that wreaked havoc on my back.  And (2) A structural abnormality in my joints that makes them loose and therefore cause one bone to rub against the hip-joint and labrum. Apparently your hip isn’t supposed to be able to have a 90 degree range of motion. But really.. after 3 child births with no epidural + breastfeeding, there’s really nothing normal about a woman’s body, is there?

The “easy” – no surgery required – fix? Don’t use my full range of motion. When I am in my peaceful place at the end of Yo-God, resting in happy baby pose I’m now supposed to stop myself before I find my full stretch and hold it there? Well, that defeats the purpose. I love the rest and stretch part of yoga. It’s why I do the work part. Just like, the only reason I eat dinner is to get the dessert afterwards.

The “don’t use your full range of motion” directions caused me pause. And they may be harder to implement than the surgery was to take. — While I guess it’s better than surgery, it may not be easier. I didn’t have to do much of anything with the surgery. I got to lie around and have my wonderful-and-pretty-incredible husband and my 3 Little Birds wait on me hand and foot. — Anyway, these directions he gave me go against my normal way of thinking. I’m of the mindset that the main goal in life is give your best effort at all times. We see and hear it everywhere (and my kids do, too. From ME!) Do your BEST! Go the extra mile. Give it your all. Make the most of it. Never give up. Don’t waste your talents and gifts. Go the distance. Just do it. ™ Leave nothing on the table.

Don’t Hold Back. That’s where my brain goes. So what’s wrong with this crazy man that’s telling me “Don’t use your full range of motion!”?! He must be nuts. Did I really let him cut me open and mess around with needles and a scalpel in my hip?

But on second thought, maybe he’s on to something.

Maybe there’s triumph in holding yourself back, too.

Maybe the athletes who save something in the beginning of their race really do have more left at the end.

Maybe having a filter on my mouth prevents me from blowing up when I’m angry.. enough to cool down and share my frustrations in a more productive way later. *

Maybe refraining from volunteering my opinions about the way other people choose to live their lives (unless asked) makes them feel better about themselves. (And that’s never a bad thing.)

And maybe not using my “full range of motion” in motherhood (= not giving my entire being over to my motherhood) will leave something for me, when I reach the finish line.

* I have to admit that I’m better at this with other people than I am with my kids. But I’m working on it with them and getting better.

Get A Life!

Really. It’s not easy having a life outside of being Mom. It’s a pretty all-consuming job. You can’t turn it off or clock out or decide that it isn’t the career path you want to take anymore. Once you’ve committed to this job, you’re in it. No advancement, no career change.

It’s easy in this mess of motherhood – especially those early baby/toddler years – to lose pieces of your life that aren’t required to make your motherhood happen on a daily basis. We’ve already established that when you are in survival mode with little ones, things like relationships (with yourself or with others) tend to take the backseat.

People have always told me that it is important to have friends you can relate to – you know, that are in the same “place” in life that you are. That is true – no matter your stage in life, you have to find someone who gets it.

Even the beginnings of my blog come straight from emails with my irreplaceable mom-friends. They have gotten me through times where I could not even begin to see (or smell) beyond the full diaper genie bags and nursing pads. And the potty training days? Well let’s put it this way: during potty training days my sister called me and asked me if I was evacuating ahead of the storm. My response? “What storm?” Sis: “Have you been under a rock [I may be paraphrasing]? The biggest Hurricane in US history is headed straight for you! Get out of there!” —- I had not turned on a TV that wasn’t on PBS or the Disney Channel in weeks. And I wasn’t even sure where one would find a newspaper. Radio? Uh-Uh. Toddler Tunes CD on repeat. All day; every day. — Her phone call (coupled with a few others) prompted me to figure out on which channel one would find local news and weather. Once I managed to commandeer the TV from the revolting littles to see what was happening, we packed up the circus and left town.

So, the point is that during those times I had absolutely NO connection to what was happening in the outside world. The real one. Where people were normal size, wiped their own rear ends, and spoke the English language in a way that included more than one or two-word sentences. My only shred of sanity came from holding onto those late night email chains between us – my mom-friends. They were my rock.

However, something else, vitally important was also a fixture during those times. Someones, actually. Some particular friends (a couple who were also family) who happened not to be “mommy”. Never wavering in their presence in my life, though goodness knows why. There were times when it could not have been easy.

The friends I have that happen not to be moms are just as irreplaceable as my emailing mom-network. And wow, am I ever so grateful for them! They’ve stuck by my side and remained true through the toughest of years. You know. Those years when I hardly knew what day it was or the last time I had a shower, because I was so busy with three petit monsters. When I could never commit to doing things with them because I didn’t know what would be happening with the kids. And when I actually made a date with them, it usually either had to be cancelled due to a sick child… or an absence of a babysitter required that our great girls’ lunch date would include a high chair and a kid’s menu. Those were the years when I did a terrible job of initiating phone calls or emails. And when they called, I was constantly interrupting them because someone was climbing, crying, throwing, hitting or shitting. Sometimes on the floor. (Sorry for the language, but there’s just no other way to put it.) And believe me, they heard about it all. All. The. Time. When your life is consumed by your motherhood, it’s easy to forget that there is a life outside of it.

How did they stand it?!

Having these friends.. well, they reminded and challenged me (maybe without realizing it) to find that dormant me in the midst of my motherhood. And while it is easier to do during some stages of motherhood than in others, they have brought things into my life that I had forgotten existed. * During those rare moments I could manage to steal away with my non mom-friends (and I didn’t have to accessorize with a diaper bag!), they reminded me that I didn’t have to spell certain words in their presence. I could actually say the real words. They banned me from saying “potty” when talking to other adults and encouraged me to use multisyllabic words. They gracefully – and sometimes, not so gracefully – pointed out that my fingernails – etc. – needed some attention (I still ignore the nails, but appreciate that they cared.) They’ve re-introduced me to music that is not sung by a group of people with a pet’s name (i.e. “the Wiggles”). You know, music that has lyrics that don’t include such things as brushing your teeth and flushing the toilet (although my kids should evidently still be listening to those songs at 13, 9 and 8). They have challenged me to set personal goals for myself that I thought were unreachable – goals that were physically and emotionally healthy for me and help me feel accomplished at each year’s end. They remind me that there are restaurants that serve food that doesn’t come with crayons or a plastic movie endorsement… I mean, toy.

And most impressively they have loved me AND MY CHILDREN despite all those things. They’ve come to countless baby showers and birthday parties baring beautifully wrapped gifts. They have called to check on the kids’ health and well-being –even taken an interest in my kids’ interests. They have formed bonds with my kids. They’ve become part of our family.

Some of them have since moved into their own motherhood worlds. But there’s one in particular..

..That helped me get a life. A life outside of my motherhood.

I don’t know how or why they did it, but they did. And I can’t thank them enough.

*Mothers, try not to forget that there are these things called current events (which funny enough, my 13-year-old now reminds me that I need to keep up with).

New Year.. New Goals (Not Resolutions)

I remember the phase in my life when the last of my siblings left for college (I’m the oldest of 3 – by 6 years).  My own stay at home Mom (who had started back to work only a couple of years earlier) was faced with the challenge of how to deal with this new phase of her Motherhood. There she was.. working a somewhat entry-level position, even though she possessed a college degree and years of experience running a very busy household (and at times even her own home-based business).  I watched her struggle to rediscover herself: her passions, her hobbies, her gifts.. and I watched her struggle (or at least what I perceived as her struggling) with her confidence in herself. It seemed from the outside that she defaulted to going back to the point in her life before she was identified by her children.. and that’s where she began to rediscover the things she used to identify herself with (like art and books and learning new things). It’s hard to know who you are when you’ve been identified by other people for so long and then suddenly those people aren’t present in your daily life.  I didn’t have kids at the time, but the lesson I found in watching her struck a chord in me that has – in a more dormant mode – stayed with me.*

As I’ve mentioned in prior posts I haven’t always applied my parenting theories to my real motherhood experience. At least in theory, I have carried with me what I gathered from my mom – and that is this:  It is extraordinarily important to maintain a sense of YOURSELF in the midst of your motherhood.  (..so much easier said, than done.)

I have been determined (albeit at times, only in my head) that my job was to teach my kids what they needed to learn to go out into the world and be successful on their own.. and to instill in them knowledge that they are loved.  My end goal being that when my three little birds** fly the coop, and I’m left with an empty nest, I will have maintained enough of a life separate from them that I will not be sad, lonely, and lost.  – Hang around about 10 more years and lets check back to see how well (or poorly) I do.

For me that meant making time for friendships that aren’t tied to my children, maintaining AND developing hobbies, spending time with “the girls”, having date nights with my husband, and keeping my hand in things tied to my old professional world.

Let me back up and get real for a minute. For the first 8 or so years of my motherhood, my husband was a traveling road warrior, and I was at home with 3 young children, changing 2 sets of diapers, dealing with an allergy-ridden/asthmatic child who was always on breathing treatments, and at times doing contract work from home.  Honestly, I was in pure survival mode.  Just getting everyone fed, bathed*** and vaccinated (while hoping to hold on to some shred of sanity) was all I could muster in the way of goals.  I survived it. Thank goodness.  And I feel pretty good about the fact that I have invested in our future economy, because my kids will no doubt require paying a regular therapist to help them deal with the repercussions of those early years.

But now the kids all go to the toilet on their own (though wiping and flushing are still questionable.  And infuriating.)  They can all take showers by themselves (though I still have to go in at least twice a week and ensure that things like soap and shampoo are actually being used. Oh, and that my youngest isn’t flooding the house. Yes. Habit learned by conditioning.)  And as for the vaccines… well, are they really all that important?

Since the kids have a little more independence and my husband took a new NON-TRAVELING job 4 years ago, I’ve been able to do a better job of putting this parenting theory into action in my motherhood.  I have gotten involved with my Alma Mater’s local Alumni Association Board, taken up my yoga practice, trained for and run a sprint triathlon and a half marathon with a dear mom-friend, volunteered to publish the PTO Newsletter, taken some girls only trips, learned to surf and found fun ways around the house to get my “creative fix”.  My husband and I go out much more regularly without the kids (much to my daughters’ dismay) and we take at least one trip together each year without our little Maniacs.

I have also started the practice of spending some time in reflection and introspection at the beginning of each New Year. I take a look back at the year before, thinking about my accomplishments. Then I ask myself if they’re balanced. Do they reflect the whole person I want to be? Are there accomplishments on my list that don’t aren’t “part of my motherhood”?  — Next step. Set out some goals for myself for the following year. In an effort to diversify and develop more of myself than just my motherhood I have set the following goals for 2012:

  1. Read more. Specifically, I have a list of books that I want to read this year. Reading isn’t a luxury many tired moms of toddlers can afford. Even now that the kids are older, I find it hard.  If you are like me, by the time the kids are in bed and all the daily work done, your brain is too tired to process the words yours eyes are perusing. Go ahead.. read it 3 times and then try to tell me what you just read. (Or is this just me and my Child-Induced ADD?)
  2. Get Organized (More Efficient). Working on it. Pinterest required. I’ve been focused on trying to implement organization in my home that works with my tendencies. (Like the fact that no matter how great my intentions, I do not stay on top of the filing. Or my junk drawer. Or hanging the clothes in my closet…. You get the picture.) 6 weeks into the New Year, I have managed to overhaul the junk drawer, my closet, the laundry room and the kids’ school paperwork — and most importantly, I am maintaining it. I know it’s only been a matter of weeks, but that’s big for me. Don’t judge.
  3. Learn to play tennis. Just because it’s something new that I’ve always wanted to be able to do. I’m thinking that the self-taught matches I’ve been having with my friends aren’t quite going to get me to my goal. I may require the services of a professional tennis coach, seeing as I have hit myself with my racket – leaving painful bruises – each and every time we have played.
  4. Volunteer outside of their Schools!!  The idea for this one began last year when my son needed to have volunteer hours for National Jr. Honor Society. It made me realize that this was another area of my motherhood where I was failing miserably at putting my theories into practice. So, I’m working on it. Outside of my normal school volunteering, I’m in the process of finding volunteer opportunities for myself.. one that is a fun passion of mine and one that is more service oriented. Hopefully, I’ll get those rolling and be able to share more later.

Though it wasn’t on the list, I can add THIS BLOG as #5.  WooHoo. Bonus points!

Now the goals are in writing for the world to see. Just maybe that will help me hold to them. And maybe when my kids watch me shoo them from the nest, they’ll see me transition seamlessly into being  Just Me (and Just Us with my husband.)

But then.. where will they learn a lesson in that?

Thank you, Mom.

* I hope she doesn’t mind me sharing my perceptions (although in actuality, my view of it may not be an accurate representation of how she really felt while experiencing it.)  It’s just one of the many things my Mom taught me without realizing she was teaching.. she’s just that good.

**Hope you caught the reference to one of the greatest songs ever.  I love Bob Marley.

*** OK, this didn’t always apply to me, but at least the kids were bathed.

A Little More Background

Quoting a very wise friend, “I think that being a parent is the hardest and most humbling job that one could ever have.” If you had asked me 15 years ago if I would be a stay at home mother of three, I would have laughed in your face. Necessity brought me to this, and I have found that it is one of the greatest lessons God has given me about letting go of my own plans and letting Him guide my life. His plans are always better than mine. I think this job builds more character in the mom than in the kids. When I find myself dreaming of going back to work, I stop and realize that I am learning more lessons and growing more as a person in this job than I ever have or could in any other job. But I don’t believe that this is, or should be, true for every mom. I know that for a lot of women, working makes them an even better Mom, and I love that we all thrive in different environments.  That being said, I enjoy a nice glass of wine at the end of the day. Sometimes 2, depending on the day.

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