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Saturday, September 30, 2017

Being Present in the Moment, Even When the Moment Totally Sucks.

Eckhart Tolle said if you are truly in the present moment, you cannot be unhappy.  Who am I to disagree but…I don’t agree.  Nope.  This has seemed to not be the case in MY case Eckhart.

I have been making more of an effort to be ‘in the now’ (because that’s what’s all the rage nowadays folks) and I realized I don’t need to wait for those ‘perfect’ moments when it’s easy to relax.  I don’t need to wait for when it’s quiet and the sun is shining and it’s easy to feel that soft peace infuse my soul.  

It’s easy to feel ‘in the now’ when ‘now’ is restful or beautiful.  Out in nature, or alone watching the sun set behind your favorite Willow tree with a plate of hot chocolate lava cake in your hand.  Ahhhh.  Where was I?

Oh yes, being present when the ‘present’ totally sucks.  

For instance, just yesterday on the way home Benji was screaming his displeasure at the torture device we call a car seat, and Ellie is suddenly, urgently demanding to pee, each time getting a little louder and a little whinier, competing with Ben for auditory dominance.  Or my attention, I guess.  

So normally you try to speed through those moments right, just, ugh, get through them so you can get to the ‘happy’ moments.  Fast forward the screaming car-ride home moments and get to the cuddling-on-the-couch moments right?  

Well, maybe, wrong?

So I did it today on the way home.  Instead of wishing I was on the couch (alone!) with a cup of hot tea and a bowl full of double-chocolate-fudge cake, I really tried to be present.  It was kind of an awful moment of above-mentioned screaming and theatrics that normally I try to just…endure.  

But the sun was shining, so that was nice, and the air was cool, and the car in front of me had one of those Halloween hand things sticking out of the back door and I had to smile and then…then the moment was over.  Ben fell asleep, Ellie stopped crying too and I thought, huh.  

That actually made things easier to handle.  HOLY CRAP.  This stuff actually works.  I mean, I wasn’t HAPPY but, I wasn’t worried about the fact that I wasn’t happy.  And I was kind of joyful, almost?  Under the unhappy.  

So later that day when we went out to eat and Benji dumped all the toys I brought to entertain him on the ground and played with the container I brought them in instead, I just laughed.  What can you do?

When Bill’s car refused to start when we tried to leave, and Benji was screaming as I tried to boost Bill’s car battery with the van and it wasn’t working, I knew as long as I didn’t detach myself from the moment by wishing myself into a better one, we would get through the moment just fine.  

Now, anyone who knows me, knows how momentous this is.  I.  Hate.  Babies.  Crying. 

Cannot stand it.  It triggers some totally primal part of me and I can’t even think straight.

I have been known to pull over to the side of the road to try to soothe Benji rather than try to drive home while he cries.  

I HAVE walked up to strangers and tried to calm their babies.  (Not my finest moments.  Mom’s were not amused.)  I have also dropped my milk and eggs in the cereal aisle and RAN AWAY from crying babies in a grocery store.  (Yes, yes I really did).

I don’t know why it affects me so deeply, so powerfully but it will spin me from a cool 3 to a nail-biting I’m-a-nervous-wreck 11 in about 4 seconds flat.  I’d rather have a hot potato to my eyeball than sit and listen to a baby cry.

Ok.  You get the picture.  So I’m gunning the engine trying to start his battery and Benji is screaming and I’m hearing him, and I’m singing to him to try to soothe him but for some reason while I’m hyper-focused in the moment, on that moment, being THERE in the parking lot, helping my husband, the anxiety associated with the screaming just isn’t there.  Or, maybe it's there but I'm kind of watching it like I'm watching everything else?

And the moment passed.  As all moments do.  And I felt grateful that I hadn’t spent it wishing I was somewhere else.  You can wish a whole life away like that.  But I won’t.  Not anymore.  Ok, not as much, at least.  After all we can't always be sipping hot tea and eating chocolate cake now, can we?

“When you are here and now, sitting totally, not jumping ahead, the miracle has happened.  To be in the moment is the miracle.”  Osho.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Grit-Up Moms. We. Can. Do. It.

The following is based on actual events.  Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent.  And the timelines may have been smudged a teensy bit for effect.  

But, every event recorded actually happened to me, this week.

4:45am: Up for the day with ‘Oliver’.
5:15am: Stumble around in the dark trying to drink my morning tea before realizing I’m holding a banana.

6:01am: ‘Elena’ wakes up and is not pleased to be sharing her life, once more, with Oliver.

10am:  Glance at the clock.  Realize it’s 10am.  Realize I’ve been up for 5 hours and it will still be almost 9 hours before ‘Sam’ gets home to give me a break.
10:01am:  Cry into my tea.

10:16am: Elena asks:  “Are you happy mommy?”  I answer, “Mommy’s just tired honey.”  (Where’s my banana?  I mean, my tea?)
10:17am: Marvel at how wonderful and sensitive my child is to my moods.
10:18am: Worry about how wonderful and sensitive my child is to my moods.

10:19am: Save Oliver from falling off the one step we don’t have a gate on and smacking the back of his head on the concrete.  Twice.
10:23am:  Save Oliver from toppling head-first into the bathtub.  Feel like a superhero.  Wait for applause.  Remember there’s no one watching.

11:00am:  Make early lunch to give myself something to do.
11:24am: Eat lunch.
11:30am: Make 5 cinnamon rolls for something to do.
11:55am: Eat 3 cinnamon rolls.

12:00pm: Worry about the 5 minutes of silence from the bathroom where Elena was washing her hands while I changed Oliver’s seriously poopy diaper.  Worry ramps to concern as I encounter a shut bathroom door.  I open the door.

12:00pm-12:25pm:  Clean up the ‘skating rink’ Elena has made on the bathroom floor by pouring cups of water onto the floor until she can ‘skate’ while Oliver screams his displeasure at being left alone in the playpen with 8 different toys he never plays with.
“Time out?”  She asks, perceptively.  I nod because to speak may mean to scream.  Once I start, I’m not sure I’ll be able to stop.

12:30pm:  Feed Oliver and put him down for a nap.
12:35pm: Settle down to watch a movie with Elena.
12:40pm:  Realize everything is too scary for her and all she wants to watch is Daniel Tiger.  Again.  Resist the urge to tell her I think Daniel Tiger is annoying and wimpy and his red sweater is stupid.  Treat myself to a half a chocolate bar secretly stuffed in the empty kleenex box on top of the toilet when she’s eating her snack.

12:50pm: Give the dog his breakfast because he’s staring at me and growling.  Get Ellie third snacks.  Refill her water bottle.  Pick up the socks she chucked from the laundry basket.

12:53pm: Start to clean the lunch dishes

12:54pm: ‘Oliver’ wakes up and does not agree to sit down quietly by himself and will cry unless I am holding him while I walk around the house.

1:45pm:  Leave early for the Apple store.  I have an appointment to fix my laptop after talking over the phone for 3 weeks with their tech people.

2:00pm:  Get to the mall.

2:23 pm: Find the Apple store after walking by it twice.

2:30pm: Finally get someone’s attention at the Genius bar to tell her I’m here for my appointment.  She takes my name (but only after ensuring I feel bad for interrupting her obviously far more important work.)  When I ask about the wait she rolls her eyes.  “Well, you’re appointment is at 2:55pm so, probably about 20 minutes.”


This is an immutable scientific fact.  

3:19pm: Tell the lady waiting almost an hour with two kids for an appointment I made a week ago is too much.  I have to go.  My bad because I showed up early.  Can I reschedule?

“No.  Go online.”

3:20pm: Apple employee tells me to have a good day as I leave the store, stunned.

3:21pm: Stifle the urge to tell that employee what he can do with his ‘good day’ and assure him that I am not, actually, having a good day because waiting 45 minutes with two babies is not fun.

“Make an appointment online next time.”  He advises sagely.

“I did.”  I hiss.  No response.  Nervous smile.  (Is this harried looking lady with two babies hanging off her going to EXPLODE?)  Resist the urge EXPLODE and yank his name-tag off his blue GAP sweater and shove it..well..urge resisted, enough said.

3:22pm:  Debate chucking the laptop in the garbage and screaming at the injustice to anyone who will hear.  Decide at the last minute I’d rather not spend the weekend with the guys in the white coats.

3:35pm: Stop at Starbucks to give Elena a cake pop because, she was REALLY good.  For a three year old.

3:45pm: Race to the car in the pouring rain, (thunder AND lightening) Oliver in his carrier on my front, Elena riding piggy-back.  

Realize halfway to the van in the swampy parking lot of Nordstrom’s that I am NOT, in fact, Wonder Woman.  And that both kids together weigh almost 60 pounds.

4:20pm: Finally make it home.
4:30pm: Make myself some hot chai tea.  Crush Tylenol into the tea.
4:33pm: Cry into said tea.

4:35pm: Text Bill to tell him I’m having a bad day.
4:36pm: Chuckle when he offers to bring home Subway for supper to cheer me up.
4:37pm Text back to tell him unless that’s a Tequila sandwich on a bun of white wine gel with shots of whisky, I’m not interested.

4:50pm: Texts back he’s leaving work and on his way home.
4:51pm: Cry with relief into my watery, salty, powdery Chai tea.

5:20pm: Elena asks if I need a hug.  I say yes.  Then make her giggle when I refuse to let go and it ends up in a tickle-fest with both kids that even the dog wants in on.

5:21pm: Sam arrives home and says, ‘Looks like there’s lots to clean up today!’  Because there are still lunch dishes in the sink and the house is a mess and I’m just playing with the happy, happy kids right?

5:22pm: Shove Sam out a window.

Ok I didn’t shove ‘Sam’ out the window.  Or, I opened it first.  Something like that.

This stay at home stuff isn’t for the faint of heart.  Grit-up mom’s.  I know how hard it is.  Luckily we don’t have to be the smartest (or even the most awake…).  We don’t have to be the strongest or the quickest or the skinniest or the one with the best make-up on.  

We don’t have to have the most patience and we don’t have to be perfect all the time.  We just have to love the best way we know how, and when we screw that all up by 10am, we just need to pull it together and try again.  And again.  And again, and again.  Until it gets better.  

Because it will.  And then I’ll be all whiny and moony because my ‘babies’ won’t stay in on a Friday night and cuddle on the couch with me to watch movies.  Heck I’ll probably even miss listening to Daniel Tiger sing about going to potty.  

Or, probably not.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Getting My Mojo Back. Soonish.

I’m in the car and the kids are quiet.  I’ve got the windows rolled down because it’s finally cool enough outside not to melt my arms if I stick them out the window.  

The sun is dappling down through the full tree branches and I can feel the quiet infusing my soul.  It’s a beautiful feeling to be grateful, to stop within the whirlwind chaos that is life and feel the sun on my skin.

And then I’m plunged back into the clamor.  Traffic roars up around me, Benji chucks his pacey in a sudden baby rage, Ellie starts to scream because Benji is screaming.  They’ve both got snot running down their noses because they’re sick and I have the tell-tale tickle of a sore throat starting myself.

But for one minute there, I had a beautiful, quiet moment to sip hot tea, feel the sun, expand my lungs freely and RECEIVE nourishment.  

All the givers out there, you know what I’m talking about.  You give, all day.  You put everyone else first, because only when everyone else is happy and satisfied can you then turn to yourself freely, finally, guilt-free.  At the end of the day, on a lunch break if you work, or during nap-time.

I know it isn't much but every time there is quiet I lean into it.  I am aware and grateful and I soak it up like a sponge in water.  Because it IS like water to me.  A quiet moment is as life-sustaining to me as water, air, and food.  It nourishes my soul like a hot cup of tea on a cold morning.  Like a sudden snuggle from Ellie or Ben, those rare quiet moments are a welcome surprise and they keep my heart going from struggle to struggle to snuggle.

I know I bring value to my family by not working outside the home right now.  Admittedly, it is a much more relaxed atmosphere when one parent’s main focus is home and kids.
Groceries get done, suppers get made, kids are taken care of with no stressful complications like sick days or transportation to and from their care centers.  There are loads of lovely people out there who will love on your kids but none as much as you.  The value of one on one stimulation and attention they get from a stay at home parent is incalculable.

And yet.

If I stay home much longer I’m going to go completely BONKERS, people!  There are plenty of reasons for me to stay at home, so much so that I’m going to be looking for something part time instead of full time.

If I could just be fulfilled and happy instead of merely surviving they would be better off with me staying home full time.  I mean, my sanity IS slowly returning but my PEP is gone.  My ZEST.  My mojo.  Call it what you want - my-get-up-and-go is get-up-and-gone.  I can’t help it.  

I feel guilty even thinking this let alone writing it but changing diapers and cleaning noses, navigating sibling aggression and being on CONSTANT DEATH WATCH because Benji is on a one man mission to self destruct…ALL DAY…does not excite me.  Sure I want to be there for the big moments, walking, talking, eating cake for the first time.

I want to be the kind of mom who wakes up every day and plans fun things to do with her kids because she CAN’T WAIT to spend the whole day with them and do it all again.  Who doesn’t need or want anything else to give her life purpose and meaning.  I really want to be that.

But I’m not.  I am just…enduring.  Between the big awesome moments I’m grateful to be there for, between the snuggles and quiet, so 89% of my day is spent just…struggling.  Just trying to make it through to the next minute.

I think a happy mom would serve them better than a ‘putting on a brave face’ mom.  Even if it means I won’t be spending every single minute of every single day within 3 feet of them.

In fact, it would serve them better to have someone watch them regularly who doesn’t give in to their every whim and desire because she’s too beat down to fight about it.

So, I raise my glass to all those moms who toughed it out staying at home full time, and all those moms who love it and wouldn’t trade it for anything.  

To you, I bid adieu.  And look out (employers)!  This momma’s out to get her mojo back.  Well, SOON, anyway.  

Friday, September 08, 2017

You Know You're A Mom of A Toddler And a Baby When...

It’s that time again, time for:

‘You know you’re a mom of a toddler and a baby when…’

1) When you have a hard time talking, because baby’s fingers are shoved in your mouth.  It’s hard to focus when you’re trying to block out the image of where his fingers have been last - usually trying to pull the hair on the dog’s butt.

2) When you check yourself in the mirror and you know your hair is going to look limp and ignored and your freckles are having baby freckles everywhere and the bags under your eyes could hold the groceries you still need to get but you get the added bonus of having both shoulders wet with teething-baby drool, sweet potato puree, AND sparkly finger paint.  Fun!

3) When you get excited for your husband to come home, not because you’re happy to see him, but because it means you can hand off the little monsters to him and finally start the dishes you haven’t done all day AND FINISH THEM AT THE SAME TIME.  

Ahhh, the previously unappreciated joy of beginning a mundane task and finishing it at the same time.

4) When you find yourself explaining away the mess to your husband by saying, look, my first priority is, are they safe, healthy and clean?  Do they feel loved?  THEN I clean.  Because you feel guilty.  Because you ALWAYS FEEL GUILTY ABOUT SOMETHING.

And he doesn’t care because the first game of the NFL season starts tonight.  And men can’t put more than one thought in their head at one time.  Linear.  Like a train.  One train of thought.  

Something else I haven’t had for about 9 months now.  One thought.  
Ahhh, the previously unappreciated joy of having just ONE thought in my head at one time.  

Having two young kids is like juggling two sociopathic brother-gerbils with a death wish.  You.  Cannot.  Take.  Your.  Eyes.  Off.  Them.  For.  One.  Second.  

One of them WILL eat the other in a fit of sibling rage.  Or your nose.  

And now you have to also cook for them, bath them, do the laundry, make the appointments, (take them to the appointments) do the groceries, (plan the week’s lunch and supper menu) (MAKE breakfast, lunch and supper) pay the bills, (make a budget) call the recycling company to see why they haven’t picked anything up in two weeks, run that errand for your friend, because, you’re not ‘working’ and have lots of time, right?  

Organize their baby photos, make sure they have clothes appropriate for the weather because they GROW LIKE WEEDS, get their snacks they’re hungry again but baby can’t eat wheat or berries or eggs, or, he can, but just not the WHITE part of the egg, only the YOLK (I think) and oh, and make sure you’re having FUN and ENJOYING EVERY PRECIOUS MINUTE!  Ok?

Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh I am slowly going crazy….

People change after they have kids.  I knew that.  No one told me I would slowly lose MYSELF, at least for awhile.  I’m a reader, a writer, a gardener, someone who loves yoga, a good joke and a dumb action flick with no story line.  I’ve read one book this summer, gone to three yoga classes, written one short story, my garden is down to a couple dying pepper plants and some basil, and I haven’t seen a movie in a year.

I can write this now because I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.  They’re both getting a little more independent.  Ellie’s ‘school’ started last week and I’ll get a couple days a week with a few hours in it with just Benji and I.  Soon Benji will be at one of those ‘school’ things too and you know what I’m going to do?

I could sleep.  God knows I need it.  I haven’t slept past 5am (or for more than 3 hours at a time) since before Benji was born.  

I could eat.  (Surprisingly NOT Ethopian skinny despite the fact I never know when I’m going to get a full meal in.  COULD BE the plates of pie and cupcakes I eat on the fly…)

I could close all the curtains and binge-watch all the movies I’ve missed while eating bowls of cheezies.

I could putter in the garden, weed, plant, water, enjoy what little vegetation survived Benji’s arrival.

I could catch a yoga class, go to the library with a latte, sit down and just read whatever I want for HOURS by myself.

And I will probably do one, or all these things as soon as the chance presents itself.  

I know what I’ll be doing for sure.  Missing them like a mamma bear misses her cubs.  Because they may be yowly, screetchy, no-napping little monster-bear-cubs, but they’re MY little monsters and life is just weird when they're not around.  Weirder than before.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

The Sun is Shining In Texas. Shining on all that Standing Water.

Harvey is done, the sun is out.  There are communities that are still under water like Wharton, and Beaumont.  

There are some that are starting the long process of rebuilding, ripping up baseboards and drywall.  (Pictures below) 

There are those still in shelters, unable to go home and unsure what will be there when they do.  (YMCA's are open for showers, emergency child care, recharging cell phones, etc)

There are those that either through the force of the water, or through downed power lines and other hidden dangers, have not made it safely back into the sun with us.  There are those families with people still missing, waiting anxiously to hear if they’re alright.

Everyone with a pet they had to leave behind are also waiting for a way to rescue their pets or to check on them again.

In some unfortunate neighborhoods there was just street after street after street of total devastation.  It was hard to see and there are still lots of people in lots of communities that still need our help.  Even if it's just coming by with food and water, and a chance to talk about what happened and what the next steps are.

We are very fortunate not to have been affected directly or catastrophically by Harvey.  Yes the stores don't have everything re-stocked, yes we have to drive around a bit to get gas and yes everything is cancelled and I’ve spent the last 5 days in my house with two babies AND a husband working from home.  (Not a small inconvenience but hardly a pebble to the mountain of being grateful everyone is alive and well and dry).

It was because of this recent national tragedy that allowed me to be receptive to an article in my DailyGood (News that Inspires) email newsletter I get once a month:

The article was…are you ready for it?  

Five Invitations:  What Death Can Teach About Living.  It was written by Frank Ostaseki, the co-founder of the Zen Hospice Project, a holistic residential care facility.

Now, normally I see the word ‘Death’ in the title and I swipe left.  No thanks.  But because of all the recent horror I was feeling in a mood to confront the darker side of life.  

In a nutshell, from thirty years of speaking and working with people at the very end of their lives, Frank has gleaned five ‘invitations’ to help us live a more full life.

They are:

Don’t Wait - it's easy to recognize when you’re dying that every breath counts, every minute.  The truth is, death is always with us.  Every breath is precious whether you're 18 or 88.

Welcome Everything: Push Away Nothing - Even a crisis can teach us valuable lessons that can enable us to live a deeper, more meaningful life.

Bring Your Whole Self to the Experience - Wholeness does not mean perfection, it means bringing your whole self, fears and anxieties and flaws to every experience.  It is only through acknowledging my own 'crazy' that I can connect and be empathetic with the ‘crazy’ of someone else who still needs help seeing them through the other side.  It is only when we are vulnerable that we can really connect to the people in our lives.

Find a Place of Rest in the Middle of things - I NEED TO HAVE THIS TATTOOED ON MY FOREHEAD!  We all think of rest as something to do ‘when we’re done’.  Done the ‘to do' list, done putting the kids to bed.  Once we go on vacation.  But if we can remember to rest ‘in the middle' we can learn to care for ourselves better and be happier.  If we can learn to cultivate a subtle quietness while going through the motions of our everyday mundane chores, this will help us live a more joyful life.

Cultivate “Don’t know” Mind - Being open and receptive has never steered me wrong, and has always allowed me to bring more love and compassion in.  Who wouldn’t want more of that!?  

To wrap up, we're all going to be busy for a long time helping our neighbors and friends and family clean up, re-build, and get back on track.  We’re all going to be healing and trying to heal from the wounds this storm has left us with.  Some are deeper than others, but we all endured this storm together and we’ll only all get out of it together.

If you're still not sure who needs help or where to go, just ask your network of friends.  It’s unlikely you don't know someone at least peripherally affected by the storm who needs some help.

Stay strong Texas - we’re going to get through this.  (Together).