Balancing expectations. A visit with the in-laws.

img_5593I’ve been missing in action because I have spent the last two weeks with my in-laws who were visiting us at our home in Virginia.  Yesterday I dropped them off at the airport for their flight home.  To be honest it was both a wonderful visit and a difficult one.  It was wonderful because I truly love my in-laws and am so thankful for all that they do for our family.  It was sometimes challenging because we live such different lives and I personally struggle with meeting their expectations, not because they put many on me, but simply because I am their daughter-in-law.  The difficulty also came from my husband’s hectic work schedule these past two weeks.  He has been working night and day and was not able to take enough time to spend with his parents.

The relationship between a woman and her in-laws is not only an important one, it is a delicate balance of expectations and lifestyle. Sometimes small judgements hover in the air, and maybe those judgements are not spoken out loud but they are there nonetheless.   If allowed to hover, both sides may feel resentment and the relationship for the entire family suffers.  How those judgements are handled is the key to a successful and positive extended family.  I am lucky because my in-laws are usually quite contained and they are lucky because I am able to let many things roll off my back.  A mutual agreement of peace!  In the end, I firmly believe we are aligned on the importance of each person’s role in our entire family.

I also have to stop and think about the fact that I have three boys and that one day, I too, will be someone’s in-law.  What will that look like?  How will I act? I am 100% confident that I will make many mistakes.   Why, especially for some, is this relationship so tough?  I think it is tough because a positive relationship requires mutual tolerance, respect and at least an attempt at not being too judgmental.  This is easier said than done for most people!

We mothers invest so much of ourselves, to our very core, in both our sons and our daughters.  When they grow into adults, get married and decide to live life differently, well….I think that is challenging for every mother that has ever lived.  In some ways maybe it feels like rejection, when in reality, it is simply a decision to live life in their own way.  The gift of love we give to our children and their spouses is to simply support them as much as possible while practicing the commandment “thou shall bite your own tongue.”

I adapt to my in-laws by going with the flow. I show my husband love by treating his parents with respect.   We had our morning routine and then every day we spent working on the home.   I cannot express how grateful I am for everything they did in my home, from caulking our bathroom to reorganizing the storage room!  I think we all enjoyed the visit and we all agree that it is nice to get back to our own lives and ways of doing things.  I did this by sipping my morning coffee a little bit too slowly, causing my son to be late to the bus and by catching up on my writing.  I got back to my routine by talking to friends who remind me that I have a meeting tonight at school and my son has a birthday party on Friday.  They, in turn,  have safely landed in Sweden and are hopefully having their evening coffee and getting ready for bed.   My husband is on his way back home from China.

Life returns to our individual normals, different, but uniquely special.  The true winner in all of this?  Our children.  Their child and ours.

 

Super Mom! Super Wife! Super Tired?

IMG_1026My last blog post was written at the very beginning of summer.  Summer, self-care and boundaries outlined the steps I wanted to take to improve my quality of life.  I am committed to staying on track!

I recently saw a mom with a stroller and her diaper bag had the following words imprinted on it.  Super Mom.  Super Wife.  Super Tired.

Yes! Yes! Yes!

This is why I wrote the blog in the beginning of the summer regarding boundaries.  I still have to ask though, how much of that “super tired,” is a result of each one of us taking on too much?    What kind of resolutions will help you reduce the stress in your life?  Today is August 10th and New Year’s Eve is only three weeks away.

Huh?

Let’s face it.  Summer rocks.  It doesn’t matter if you work, if you stay-at-home or if you are a student, the truth of the matter is that we are in a magical time of year.  The sun is shining, the birds are singing and everyone breathes just a little bit easier.  In fact, as the summer draws to an end it is time to make your New Year’s resolution.  Yes, you read that correctly.  August feels like the end of the year for many of us.  In September teachers and students go back to school, mom and dad settle back into work mode, focusing on work-life balance and the routine of the year begins once again.  August is the real New Year’s Eve.

new year.jpg

Here are some random resolutions in my convoluted mind and some of them I have verbalized in my last blog but I need to repeat them for my own sake!   Forgive me if this post is rather similar, it’s my reboot after not writing for two months.  I have a new post in my mind about Facebook and the political landscape.  It’s a doozy.  Stay tuned!

 

  1. Limit the social media expectations in my life.   I won’t be available within 30 seconds of receiving a text and people shouldn’t expect me to immediately respond.  I’m not going to live my life out on Facebook nor will I view my friends lives through the distorted Facebook lens.
  2. I will limit the time on the phone each morning.  I have some projects I’ve been wanting to complete but last year spent the entire morning on people and things that took up a lot of my time.  Get out of the house!
  3. Limit emotional baggage in my life.  I tend to take on other people’s problems and emotions.  I need to balance how much comes at my sensitive heart on an ongoing basis.  I’m a positive person and that also means less negative vibes my way!
  4. Level set the expectations I unfairly put on my kids.  Screw society.  My kids are unique, empathetic, kind and intelligent.  That’s enough for me.   I will support them with their interests and talents and won’t try to impose the “norm” on them.  I believe in them.
  5. Balance.  Namaste.  Balance.  Time to go back to yoga and spin class this August and September!
  6. Volunteer more where needed.  Introduce my children to contributing more to society.  Help my child’s teacher!
  7. See my family and good friends more.  I miss my brothers.  I miss my mom and dad.  We all get caught up in our own lives and I would like to see the people I love more often.  I am going to make this happen!
  8. Write.  The blog.  More.  A new project.
  9. Celebrate the holidays BIG this year.  I let them pass me by last year.  I truly feel my children slipping away into middle school, college and beyond.  I still have time for magic.
  10. Hike more!  Garden more!  Laugh more!  Love more!  Insanely.

Well there you have it!  Happy August!  What will your year look like?  What would you change?  I would love to hear about your ideas and plans for additional resolutions!   Get ready for a great year and remember that you need to take care of yourself before you can take care of your family and your friends!

Summer, self-care and boundaries.

selfcareI’ve noticed something this year.  Many women are simply not taking care of themselves, myself included.  I see it in their eyes.  I hear it in their voices.  They call me with stories of exhaustion, worry and plain old frustration.  I’m there for them.  They are there for me.  There is one thing missing from all of the support they and I give and that is a permanent solution.  That solution is self-care and the inclusion of boundaries in their lives.

My friend Julie sent me this picture just one week ago.  I was sick and instead of just saying “get better” she nailed the real issue right on the head.  “Self-care is never a selfish act – it is simply good stewardship of the only gift I have, the gift I was put on earth to offer others.”  This quote by Parker J. Palmer stunned me but didn’t really impact me until just today.  Did I mention that Julie is also a healthcare provider?  She has seen me for over twelve years dealing with sicknesses that were definitely brought on by lack of self-care.  Diabetes, viruses that won’t go away and shingles.  These are brought on by a lack of self-care, a lack of stress management and tendency to worry about things that are not even mine to worry about.  OK Julie I think I have finally got the message!  I’m going to print out my own blog post (this one) and put it on my refrigerator!

I just returned last night from a couple of days in Florida with my children.  On the drive home from the airport I had a very mild moment of anxiety.  My children were sound asleep and I was about seven miles away from home.  All of the sudden I couldn’t see the road.  My vision started to fail me and the road became a series of images that flickered instead of remaining steady.  My heart felt like it was going to jump out of my chest.  In a moment of panic I searched for a place to pull over but there was road work taking place and the shoulder was blocked.  I didn’t feel like I could make it to safety, and in that moment I realized that if I didn’t pull it together I was going to lose control.  I was on the brink of a panic attack and called home to hear my husband’s voice and thank goodness for Suri because there was no way I could dial the phone.   He didn’t answer.  I was on my own.  So I started to make my mind go blank instead of thinking about the situation and I started to breathe.  Slowly I began to feel like I had more control, I calmed down and got home safely.

I attributed the experience to night driving until the moment I woke up this morning.  My chest feels tight and small pin pricks of heaviness are invading my brain.

What the hell is going on?   It’s summer!

It is stress and even more importantly, a lack of self-care and stress management in my life.  Each one of my children are facing major developmental changes.  One child turns 21, one child turns 13 and one child turns 10 this year. Each of them are so very different and the sibling rivalry and clashes are at an all time high.  I feel like I’m living in constant referee mode.  My husband has some projects at work that have literally taken him away from me for the last year.  He is mentally and physically absent most of the time, even when he is home.  He and I have aged greatly as a result.  Our bodies are unhealthy and our minds are even more so.  I give too much of energy reserve to everyone and I don’t save one drop for myself.  Not one drop.

I’m worrying about shit that just doesn’t matter.  Are you?  I’m tired.  I wonder if while on vacation, my mother and father noticed that I have turned my reactions off most of the time.  While my children are torturing each other, I often take my gaze and look elsewhere.  This is not because I don’t care.  I do this because I feel like I’m a hamster in a wheel, breaking up the same damn fights, teaching the same lessons and repeating myself over and over and over again.   I do the same with my husband.  He talks about one thing.  One thing.  One thing.  It’s work.  Then he talks about work again.  And again.  I listen.  Sometimes with half an ear, sometimes with my entire heart.  Hey and my eldest had a party in my house while I was away!   I read him the riot act last night.  He can have friends over and oh by the way, he is responsible for every single one of their actions.  No he cannot claim ignorance that plastic cups are in our hot tub floating or at the bottom of the tub.  Oh and hope you enjoyed that party because it was the last one and you owe me money for my missing beer.

Calgon take me away!

IMG_1027I know what I need.  Boundaries.  I need to set them and I need to give myself the love and courage to live with them.  Here are my own realizations that I am just now writing down and will post on my own damn refrigerator! I need to work out and get rid of stress.  Staring at the walls and drooling doesn’t work.

  1. My friend’s problems are not my own.  No more CONSTANT internalizing and worrying about their shit.  This is not because I don’t care.  I do!  I just can’t keep a constant level of their stress in my heart.   I have my own life to fill up my time.   I will be there for my friends but I will not carry their load on my back.
  2. My husband needs to leave his work at work.  No more churning the family up over and over.  He needs to get on the treadmill and release his own stress or better yet work in the yard or fix something and get his mind off of the crazy!   I will not feel guilty about having him parent more with me.
  3. My kids need more fun time with me.  My relationship with them needs to be full of more happy times and not just being a referee.  Seeing them smile and enjoy Florida was amazing.  We need more times like this at home!
  4. I may not text you back and if I do it may be hours later not seconds.  It’s Ok if you do the same.  If I want an immediate reaction I will tell you or CALL you!
  5. I’ve already started living more and more “away” from Facebook and social media.  This will continue.  This is not how I enjoy my friendships.  I enjoy my friendships through laughter, dinners, hiking and rides to Middleburg, not through “likes” on the internet.  I don’t want to see the constant self branding, passive aggressive digs or rants.  That’s negative energy.  Thanks but no thanks.
  6. No more worrying about stupid shit.  So the laundry isn’t done.  Oh well.  How the hell did I get to a place where I care so much about doing laundry?  Seriously I have issues.
  7. More laughter.  Much more.  More time with the friends that laugh with me!
  8. I will bring more perspective into my life.  See number 7.  Life is really good.  I don’t need to have stress reactions or anxiety based on stupid crap.   I can only be responsible for myself.
  9. I will take positive action and do things for myself while  enforcing these boundaries.  Like now.  I’m getting onto the treadmill.

Happy summer!  Treat yourself to some love and perhaps some boundaries.

I feel better already!

“What do you DO all day?”

LaundryI was at dinner with a friend.  She is a very successful executive, lives in an affluent area, doesn’t have kids and is really fun to be around.  We were having a glass of wine when all of a sudden she said “you are such an outgoing and talented woman, what do you do all day?  I mean I know you stay home for the kids, but what is next for you, what’s next, what makes you feel fulfilled?”

I chose to down the rest of my glass as thoughts raced around my head, trying desperately to formulate a very intelligent answer.  I didn’t succeed.  My very deep ability to reflect and formulate a well thought out response simply abandoned me.  We all have reasons for doing what we do.  When I was a single mom I had to work for financial reasons.  I now have a choice that many women do not have and I currently stay at home.  Some mothers work and juggle their careers and their kids and after school activities. Some mothers work out of their home.   We all have one thing in common.  Sacrifice.

This did not come out in my brilliant answer.  Sorry ladies, I put us all back a couple of decades!

“Laundry.  I do laundry.   I do loads and loads every week.  I put clean clothes in small baskets for the kids to put away and they stay in those baskets until they make it back to the dirty pile.  That’s what I do.  I’m a hamster in a wheel.”

I truly have the chance to redeem myself.  I’ve gone through some emotions thinking about this answer and I’m happy to say that I now understand myself better and the choices ALL moms make, whether they work or stay-at-home.

“I am a mother.  I have made a conscious decision to sacrifice myself for the good of mankind.  I don’t always use my interpersonal skills to sell a company’s product or service.  Sometimes I use those skills to put more good into the world.  Through my children, these three boys, I have the chance to give back..   It’s a ripple effect.  The kindness, the guidance, the character that I instill in them will be magnified and ripple into future generations.  So although sometimes it is difficult and my days can be full of mundane tasks, deep down I know that there is nothing more important than the sacrifice that I am making for future generations.  What do I do all day?  I live a life of love and sacrifice.  I am a mother.”

My dear friend is correct though.  Although I am a mother for life there is an aspect of “what’s next.”  My children are getting older and are more independent.  Am I ready to retire?  Should I commit more time to the blog?  Write a book?  Go back to work?  What is next?  I don’t know, I really don’t, but I will make an effort to enjoy the journey.

I would love to hear your thoughts on motherhood, staying-at-home, working, just all of it.  What makes you happy?  What fulfills you?  What’s next?  If you’re not a mom I would love to hear about that also!  This is YOUR life.  These are your choices!

 

Celebrating Life and the Night I Spent with a Star

imageIt is 4:00 am in the morning. I am wide awake. My husband and I traveled to California to celebrate a friend’s 40th birthday. We have an early flight back to our three children, two dogs and suburban house in Virginia in two hours. At this very moment, I am sitting on a small comfy couch in a cottage that used to be the home of a man named Charlie, the former caretaker of Mission Ranch. Walking into his cottage was surreal, as if I had stepped back in time, and I can’t help but think that he would smile at the excitement I felt at just being in his former home. It felt personal.   Being here made me feel like I am now woven into the fabric of the ranch’s history. These past two days have caused me to reflect on how experiences truly make life worth living.

My heart has been affected by my stay here.

The party was a surprise. Her husband picked us up from the airport and took us to the ranch. The land reminded me of Sweden in that it was untouched, frozen in time, and for me, a place where my soul could breathe. Sheep grazed in the valley, flowers and ivy brightened the various shutters and windows. A gentle fog covered the green hills. This was no ordinary place. I will never forget my brief stay.

We came in on a Tuesday and we are leaving on a Thursday. In this short time we have been to Pebble Beach, drove the coast of Carmel, had a luxurious dinner at Casanova, hiked amongst Redwoods and spent the night with a star. That star was not the owner of Mission Ranch although I and others were affected by his attendance, that star was our dear friend Lena. Continue reading

Through the haze; the curse of having a piss-poor memory.

bad-memoryI’ll forget that I wrote this in a couple of months.  A great idea about a blog post will strike and I will have to search my blog to see if I have ever written about my memory or lack thereof.   True story.   Been there done that.   I suffer from what is not clinically known as a piss poor memory. I go through life in a haze. My childhood friends ask me most ridiculous questions. Don’t you remember so and so? Don’t you remember my mom’s foyer table? What did you eat yesterday?   And I look at them with a dumb look on my face.

My memory has always been horrible. Continue reading

Jump for joy!

jumpforjoyI have just finished watching my son play in the backyard.  He has been jumping on the trampoline for the last twenty minutes.  I picked him up from his after-school activity, parked in our garage and he threw down his backpack and ran back outside.  “I need to get my energy out mom!” he said.  He jumped up and down with obvious joy.  The leaves from previous years gently blew around on the ground and the smell of spring was in the air.

I couldn’t stop smiling.

He would then suddenly stop and sit and gaze into the woods.  I wondered what deep thoughts he harbored when suddenly he would bounce back up in such an abrupt manner, that even Tigger would have been surprised.   Bounce!  Bounce! Bounce!  The joy he felt was infectious.  My heart started to burst wide open, because after all, isn’t it the most simple things in life that truly bring happiness?  For a brief moment I thought that perhaps I would sneak out there one night and bounce around.  I still may try that; alone and in the dark during a time when no one would see!  Perhaps I will need to wear Depends.  You ladies know what I mean.  Childbirth doesn’t make it easy to bounce.  I’ll also need a sports bra.  OK got it.  I will be prepared and I will bounce. Continue reading

Put on the purple hat with authenticity and confidence.

Purpleauthenticity

Live an authentic life and don’t worry about what others think!

Years ago I remember laughing over Erma Bombeck’s essay with my friend Birgitta.  We both loved the message about living life in an authentic manner and putting on “The Purple Hat.”   If you are not familiar with this essay I have included it at the bottom of this post.  The message means even more to me today because I’ve realized that since becoming a mother I’ve been guilty of allowing a bit of my light to dim.  Motherhood, sweatpants, conformity, criticism from peers and getting boxed in by the mommy crowd has put many of us all into the same clothes with the same purses and the same haircuts.  How ridiculous is that?  And it goes beyond clothes into how we are all living our lives.  How many of you have done the same?   We are hiding, blending and conforming.

I’m kind of tired of it. Continue reading

Mommy medical degrees. Moms! You rock!

Sick kid humorMy eldest son is twenty years old.  When he was younger he had sensory issues.  He hated to color and would complain that his hands hurt.  He couldn’t stand to wear jeans because they were too scratchy.  Strong smells caused him to get sick whether we were in a restaurant, at a school event or in church. This doesn’t even include the normal childhood illnesses.   I’ve seen more than my share of vomit, stitches and broken bones.

When I got remarried I thought it would be a great idea to have two more kids.  There’s an age gap of eleven years between my eldest and my youngest child.  Do you know what that really means?  It means that I have had twenty years of uninterrupted and constant childhood sickness in my home and I have another ten years ahead of me!   My house is a wreck.  To top it all off, I have three BOYS so we have had several cases of man flu when they are not truly sick.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve earned my medical degree. Continue reading