Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Time to regroup, refocus, recharge, reconsider!

I have been working in college publishing for nearly 14 years. I was thinking back to my previous jobs and it is so odd that these positions that were once a large part of my life are fading memories. Names I used to know are gone. Tasks I used to do daily are little blips in my memory I can barely recall. Company events that I helped plan are on the very fringes of my memory stores.

I remember clearly what I disliked about my jobs and the people that made my life miserable. But, I don’t recall as many fun times or moments of intense learning. I had bosses I liked and bosses I loathed. I had really wonderful people that I worked with that I can’t even recall enough of their names to find them on Facebook. Was is Suzie or Lucy?

I don’t even remember if I was excited about those jobs. Did I wake up eager to get to the office? I don’t think so. I just got up and did my thing. I got out the door and clocked in right on time. I do recall being excited about Thursday. Thursday was the day before Friday and Friday at 5pm I was free. I sort of miss detaching from work on Friday at 5pm. Now, much of my work is from my home office and it is harder to check out. With cell phones I can be contacted at any time of day, weekend or not. That is a bit maddening.

After 14 years with the company I now work for so much of what I do is just ingrained in me. It is often exceedingly boring but every so often I get to scout out new info or wrangle a new challenge. I keep hoping to move up the ladder a bit but the rungs are full of folks that really need to retire. When I am of retirement age I will retire. I won’t hang onto a position that some new blood is thirsty for.

I have seen so many people come and go from this organization. I am always curious where they went and why. I have checked out a few opportunities over the years and I have been offered a few different positions. I wonder if there are any I should have accepted. If I hadn’t followed the path I am currently on I would never have met my husband. But, perhaps it is time to branch out into other things and seek new opportunities? If I do, will this place become a foggy memory in a few years’ time? Will the excitement of something new quickly fade to some boring reality?

My son wrote about his life 20 years from now for an Open House project at school. His last line is: Most importantly, I will have fun doing what I like. Where did he get so wise and did I miss that boat already? I know I don’t do what I love for living. I enjoy bits of it but I don’t wake up and dance around that I get to work today. I want that. I want to have fun doing what I like. I want to dance around full of joy for the work day ahead. Why must work be labor? Why can’t it be fun?

I think something is amiss if I can’t look back on my career and say, “Yes. That was quite awesome work I did. I really enjoyed my years there.” If my memories are strained then they aren’t shrouded in awesomeness. Clearly I am eking out a living instead of joyfully providing for my family. I really need to have fun doing what I like. I need an overhaul!

I am tired. I am stressed. I am underpaid. And…I don’t even get bubblies in my tummy over my work? Oy vie! Time to reconsider and reprioritize.

Open House

We attended Open House last night for my kids' school. One of the projects my son completed was a poem using the letters of his name. Our daughter was the first to spot his poem on the wall. I knew something was wrong when the steam started to eek from her ears. 

"Look at what Mitchell wrote for 'E'," she seethed.

I squinted my eyes and read out loud, "Ellie is my sis and she likes to hiss!" I did a snort before composing myself.

"It isn't funny, Mom!" Ellie....hissed.

"Well, it kind of is," I told her.

She gave me the stink-eye and replied, "I better get Mrs. B when I am in fourth grade so I can write about him! Hmph!"


Aside from Ellie's ire over the poem we did have a lot of fun checking out what the kids have been working on this year. They have been busy! 

In merely second grade, Ellie completed a lengthy report on sharks filled with interesting facts about these "killing machines." Her favorite was the Hammerhead which she sculpted with the help of Dad out of foam and paper mache. In fact, all of the parents...I mean, kids... projects turned out great!

I was blown away by the level of the work the students completed this year. When I was in second grade I think we were still reading about Seeing Spot Run. Ellie had written haiku's and learned about butterflies and their proboscis'. Amazing!

Mitchell completed an amazing level of work also in addition to his clever poem. He did a touch and feel report on the Miwok Indians that rivaled any high school report I ever completed. He had written amazingly descriptive imagery paragraphs and put together a very detailed diorama. I also learned that in 20 years he will be living at the beach while making a living being a pro-skateboarder. You know...I hope he makes it happen. There is no rule that says he has to be a white collar worker. I truly want both of my kids to find their passion and work at that. Now, If I could just get him to smile in photos instead of giving me that "I wish I was anywhere but here look" we would be set!


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Best Buddies

My kids are 7 and 9 and they each have an amazing best friend. They are social kids and have a lot of friends at school but they also have that one, amazing go-to person that they would spend every waking minute with if they could.

My son is small and wily and his best buddy is a full head taller and more precise in his movements. He and my son complement one another. They enjoy much of the same things and are both very grounded. They are in that transition phase from child to I-am-young-but-not-a-child. Neither one makes fun of the other for having Nemo sheets on the bed or a nightlight. They accept one another and have each other's back. 

My son encouraged his buddy to join the triathlon team with him and his buddy is surprising himself by running and even enjoying it! They talk about everything from Legos to Disneyland to God in Heaven. I enjoy listening to them talk about crazy things and crazy plans they have. My hope is that they will always be best buddies.

My daughter is also blessed with an amazing best friend. Her bestie told me that my daughter is the candy-coating to her M&M's! They are seven! The girls are not as mellow as the boys. They squeal and giggle. They have little toy squirrels that they tend to and coo over. They often put their heads together and whisper light-hearted secrets. They are in sync like no other children I have met. They link arms and dance around and they accept new friends to their group. They have a seemingly easy friendship but I believe it is iron-clad. Theirs will be a friendship that withstands the years.

In looking back at my childhood I remember one friend that lived next-door to my grandmother. We were locked at the hip from about six to 16. She ended up getting pregnant in high school and moving to Texas with her new baby and new husband. I lost touch with her as she began her new life.

I missed out on those rock solid friendships built in childhood but God instead blessed me with the most amazing friends later in life. My girlfriends now are as close as family if not closer. They have my back and my heart. They are the kind of friends that will show up with shovels - no questions asked. They accept my dorkiness and are there will the rope seems to be rapidly fraying. I can't imagine a world without my friends and I am so thankful my kids are already off to a good start.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Being Spent

One of my biggest flaws as a parent is giving my family the leftovers. Not leftovers from past meals - those leftovers are gems - but the leftovers of myself. The bits of me that are left over after a stressful day. The dribs and drabs of mom that didn't get taken by colleagues or customers or even the bank teller.

As I progress through my day I often find my joy dwindling. It is almost like I only have a certain amount to give and then I become weary. Of course I want to be kind and courteous to those I work with and work for. They don't need to see the weary Jen I tuck away. And, most assuredly, I want to lift up my friends who are struggling and share in the joy of their victories. I am kind to the bank tellers and grocery clerks. I am friendly with the people I pass on my run or at the gym. I wave to moms on the way to school. I chat with teachers and girlfriends. I respond to emails in exclamation points and happy faces. I smile, I laugh, I delight, I grow weary. 

I sing and dance in the kitchen while I make dinner and I go through the motions to clean up the dishes. I ask my children to get their showers. They resist. I say, "Please." They ask, "Why? Can't we just have five more minutes?" And, then I am done. I start my count, "One! I'm at two!" I never get to three and I am ever so thankful. I have no idea what happens at three? Do they lose electronic for a day? Do they have to clean the bathrooms? I really need to develop a plan for "three!" 

I thought it was just that my kids knew how to push my buttons - and they do! But, mostly I see that I am frustrated because I am spent. I have given so much of myself away during the day that I have very little good bits left to offer the people that mean the most to me as the day closes. My patience is thin for sibling wars and procrastination. My kids are being kids but I sometimes forget what it is like to be 7 and 9 years old. 

Kids doddle because they see the joy. They know it is fun to sing in the mirror even if Mom has asked them to shower four times. They know it is crazy delightful to jump on the bed even if they are supposed to be getting their pajamas on. They love to irritate siblings even if they have been told to brush their teeth. Kids are kids. Attention spans are short. Shining objects are distracting. And, mud truly beckons their attention.

I catch myself every time my fuse is short. And I get angry at myself. Why was I so nice to the lady at the pizza parlor and am so frustrated with my children? Why do I spare so little joy for these little people that are my biggest gifts?

I try hard to pick my battles. I don't want to wig out over mud tracked into the house - but I also wonder why these beautiful little beings can't wipe their feet? I will count to 10 before I asked them - again - to pick up their shoes and sweaty socks from the living room. I will smile and say, "I love you! Now, I really need you to hop in the shower." 

My goal is to open a reserve in my heart for extra joy. I need to store it away during the day so I can release it to my family as the day closes. I need to say, "Yes. You can have five more minutes." And, I need to embrace their childhood. I need to cherish the chaos instead of weeping over my stumbles as an overwrought parent. I need to realize that in the scope of world, mud on my floors is minuscule. I will save good portions of Mom for my kids each day. I won't promise to be perfect because I know I can't walk on water. But, I will try my hardest to save the top-of-the-line Mom qualities for my kids each day. And, my poor husband! I need to remember that I am not just a mom but a wife as well.

Friday, May 9, 2014

The Mother of All Hoods

Motherhood. The mother of all hoods. Truly.

Motherhood outweighs adulthood which doesn't even compare to childhood. Motherhood encompasses both of those hoods. You get to be an adult but you also remember what it is like to be a kid. You get to act silly and eat fun cereal all while having the ability to drive and set the rules. But, adulthood also comes with major responsibility which is why I think childhood edges it out. My children never worry that the fridge will be empty or the toilet paper supply will be low. They just eat and go and know that mom has them covered. 

There is parenthood and fatherhood. Those are great, but still, motherhood wins. Mothers have magic kisses that make wounds feel better and magic hugs that make everything seem right. We know how to dry tears and calm nerves. We can test a child on spelling words while making dinner. We balance an amazing number of responsibilities but know that our greatest accomplishment is our children. Parents and fathers are amazing...but there is just something extra special about moms.

Servanthood is a hood that bites! And, falsehoods should be avoided. Brotherhoods are fine but somewhat ominous sounding. Sisterhoods remind me of sororities. I never had a good impression of sororities. Truth be told, I am sure the sorority girls I met where not shining examples of the sisterhood. But, all the same, they never left me wanting to join their ranks.

Now, knighthood is pretty cool. To be declared a knight would be a pretty slick feat. There is a lot of status that comes with knighthood. But, as a woman, I think knighthood would just not be my thing. I am not the sturdiest or most graceful gal. If I did mange to walk upright in a suit of armor, it would not be for long. Knights are dashing and bold, not cute and clumsy. And, I think the magic kisses still give motherhood priority over knighthood.

Puppyhood is delightful, but just a phase. Motherhood is a lifetime achievement. Sainthood is awesome, but comes with controversy. I guess motherhood can come with controversy as well, but it seems the sight of the newborn baby makes a lot of difficult stuff melt away.

Livelihood is an important hood - probably neck and neck with motherhood. As the ability to survive and provide a life for a family, livelihood is important. But, if push came to shove, I could set up a sweet shack for my tribe. No, it would not be awesome. As moms, we want to provide the best for our children. I don't work full-time so I can buy myself new clothes and fancy frills. I work so I can buy clothes that fit my growing children and enough food to fill their seemingly bottomless stomachs. I work for the betterment of my family. And, I work so I can buy Lucky Charms.

There is also the hood... the flat out "hood." In my neck of the woods the hood is bad and scary. It comes with images of gangs and drive-by shootings. The hood is where you don't want to be when darkness falls. Bob and weave is the way to play it in the hood. And the hood definitely is no match for motherhood.

Motherhood. The hood that represents many woman and what we do. We try our best and get it done. We roll out of bed each day ready (or bracing!) for another adventure. We wear hundreds of different hats for our hundreds of different roles. At the end of the day there is no paycheck, no benefits package, and no paid time off. There is however work yet to be done. Laundry to wash, laundry to fold, laundry to put away. We don't get paid with cash but we do get rewarded with grimy faces and shining eyes. We get the gentlest hugs and the briefest of kisses on the cheek. We get details of the day from an innocent perspective. And, we get wiggly bodies to tuck into bed. We get more joy than one could possibly expect from even the faintest smile of a child. Motherhood. Probably the toughest hood around but definitely the best!

Happy Mother's Day!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Celebrating the Small Stuff

Here at Smokey Acres we celebrate the smallest of victories. Getting to school on time - in clean clothes no less - is high-five worthy! It is a double-high five if neither child utters, "Something is poking my bottom" as they fish for a random foxtail that transferred from socks to underpants in the laundry.

We cheer for dinners without spills and bike ride with no skinned knees. We like when jumping on the bed doesn't lead to broken crowns and when tree climbing is scrape-free. It is awesome - though rare - when roller skating finishes without the need for a Band-Aid. 

We also get completely giddy over kind words. I will pause whatever I am doing to celebrate a "please" or "thank you" given from child to child. It is an amazing sound after years of "give me that!" and "I said it's MINE!" 

I know that children need to learn about failure and that it is not good to build them up constantly. I agree. But, celebrating the small stuff is not wrongly teaching them that life is is teaching them that life is good, even when it is hard.

My big thing is being thankful. Thankful for the clothes on my back and the crop of wimpy hair on my head. Thankful for my big nose and my big feet. I want my kids to be thankful in all circumstances. That is why we celebrate everything from bee stings that actually didn't hurt that bad to a trip to Disneyland.

Our house is chaos. I bow to mothers that have more that two children. I don't know how they do it. I have two and I am exhausted. I work full-time and juggle mom duties and feel completely spent at the end of the day. If we don't have little victory dances here and there I might miss some of the wonderfulness of motherhood. Which, is of course, the mother of all hoods.

Take time to celebrate this day! Your child got a "B" but did their best - Hooray! Enjoy as many fleeting moments as possible. Time goes by too fast! Celebrate and savor the small stuff and much as the big stuff.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Clock Keeps Ticking But The Phone's Not Ringing

Waiting is so hard! Patience has never been a gift of mine. I know good things come to those who wait but I feel I will positively shrivel up before that happens.

I am waiting on news. It is news that could be amazingly awesome or a total bummer. The news has weight to it. Either way it shakes out it has some heft. It is going to be life-bolstering or life-affirming. 

Though I know God has His awesome hand on this, my stomach is in knots. I have prayed for His will to be done; it is still nail biting to actually see what His will is. Jeremiah 29:11 - I am holding onto this scripture!

I am beyond ready to burst forth with some aspects of my life so this news is particularly timely. I am on the starting blocks, ready to run...I just hope I don't lose this race before I even start it.

Why can't time move this slow when I am at Disneyland?