Have It All

“Mommy, what are you writing?”

“I am writing about what I want to be when I grow up”

“But you are already grown up. You can be anything”

“What should I be?”

“You can work around the house on chores.  And then you should be an artist.  That would be good.”

I’ve been awake since 4 am, mindlessly scrolling thru Facebook and Instagram posts- back and forth, looking for what? Today, it seems like affirmation that I am not ‘enough’.

Some examples of my feed: “Bossbabe” Memes and Quotes.  “Dream it and you can Achieve it”.  “MLM” is the same as working for a company. “Don’t let a man take care of you, earn your own money” “Buy your own Chanel Bag, don’t let a man do it for you”. “You can have it all- travel a few months a year, take your son to school, download my e-book”.  “I replaced my income with (Fill in the blank MLM of the week).

To top it all off, instead of feeling empowered, these and other posts, made me feel sick to my stomach.  I have failed, I have not been able to work a full time job,  have a few side hustles, clean a house, raise a child, be a wife, a writer, an artist.  Why can’t I do it all? Not enough positive affirmations each morning? Did I forget to write in my goal orientated planner all I want to accomplish?

Some days, I am thrilled to manage a hot breakfast for Vince, feed the dogs, and get two cups of coffee (decaf these days, baby is on the way).  Other days, I feel like I can take on the world.

Why the guilt? From what I can remember, my girlfriends are all very successful career women raising wonderful families.  We were raised by Mothers with high standards, who told us to have our own money, and go to college for what we wanted before settling down with a family.  They were probably raised by Mothers who were housewives, limited to careers that were in education or nursing- and when the 60’s and 70’s rolled around, told our Mothers to break free and be independent.

For the bulk of my life, that’s the route I went.  A great education, a fantastic career before and during marriage before starting a family.  My ‘own’ money (which led to fights with my ex about his ‘own’ money, and what was a fair way to pay bills).   And bought with my “own” money- a house, two cars, piles of electronics and expensive makeup.

And with that career, I lost track of being a Mother to my son. He spent a large chunk of his first 4 years at my parents home while I worked (out of necessity for several years as a single mother).  I can remember telling him to be quiet when I needed to run a conference call.  I remember taking him to Mcdonald’s drive thru and running a conference call from my car while he sat in his car seat munching chicken nuggets.  Who knows what little gems I missed by shushing him and telling him to go to another room when I had ‘an important call’. I am glad he saw me working hard; In other ways, I can’t forgive myself for the teary eyes he would get when I hustled him to a spot in front of the tv while I worked.  I spent an hour or so with him in the morning before I dropped him off at my Mom’s; then another hour or so at night for bath and bedtime-  what did I miss? I will never know.   I was a single Mother- and those who have spent time as one know the struggle to balance putting food on the table and giving attention to the one you are working to feed.

“Mommy! Look at this!”

These days, I can stop what I am doing and truly look at what he is showing me. I am blessed just for the precious ability to stop and put down whatever I am doing to really listen to my child, and give him my full attention.

What will I teach my daughter? I hope to have enough self confidence to be secure in whatever dream she decides to chase- whether it is a high power, high paying career; or a stay at home mother to her children, or some combination of that.  I just hope to teach her not to listen to the constant stream of what the world thinks she should be- and to some extent, what I would want her to be.  She will have plenty of role models to choose from as she makes her way in this world- but I want her path to be one she chooses- not one that a Facebook Feed tells her to take.

Why I wrote a To-Do List for 2018

Resolution setting has always made me feel like I need to fundamentally change myself- which was intimidating. I normally fail at sticking with the resolution, somewhere near the end of January.  Sometimes a change must happen quickly- such as a change in lifestyle due to a medical issue, or perhaps a job change.  Typically though, life moves along smoothly enough that any radical changes (such as the ones resolutions bring) makes me cringe. 

Instead of resolutions this year, I have decided to write a  2018 To-Do List.  I have more success writing a daily list of items to accomplish.  I enjoy crossing them off at the end of the day when I review my journal before bed.

I am going on the assumption that if a To-Do list is working for me on a daily basis, it may translate well to a Yearly To-Do.  Again, years of management kicking in here- if you

IMG_0727
Hoping 2018 brings a bright start to you.

want employees to reach a target, it had to be one that was easy to achieve, relevant, and measurable- (some blend of George T. Doran’s S.M.A.R.T. goal setting system).  So I make my To-Do list items ones that match this system.

 

Part of my personal “2018 To-Do” list:

  • Once a Day painting for 30 days
  • Once a month shipment of donations to charity
  • Twice a month digital scan of paperwork and dispose of hard copies
  • Drink 40 ounces of water per day

Each of these items I can set a reminder on a calendar as a “To-Do”- keeping in mind I can be flexible enough to move the date if it overlaps something I can’t move, lets say a doctor appointment for my son.  At the end of the month, I can then see if the item has been accomplished; and if it hasn’t, set a new date and adjust my thinking as to why I wasn’t able to do it.

Follow up is key- You can set as many goals or targets as you like, but if you forget to measure them along the way, or track your success it makes it impossible to know when or if you have reached these goals.

Here’s to a brand new start with a New Year, and a new way to track my progress on this journey.

 

 

Sick Day

My son came down with an ear and sinus infection over the holiday weekend, so today was his sick day.  He is a happy, rambunctious child most days; but when the stuffy head and fever had him stuck on the couch, the entire house slowed down.

In my sales-manager career Past Life, I would have been on the phone, checking emails, calling for sales updates, and conference calls- if I had the luxury of staying home with him at all.

Today, everything was different. My new title is SHM, as the internet has labeled me- Stay at Home Mom.

Time moved at a snail pace.  While he rested, I quietly did chores- remembering my own sick days as a child, and my mother working silently in the next room so I could rest.

I took the time to steam clean the kitchen floor.  It’s a slow process, if you’ve ever tried it. By design, to really clean with the unit you must take your time as the steam hisses out the pad onto the floor.  It’s meditative, the heat radiating from the tile as I walk back and forth listening to the steam do its work.  The only other sound in the home, my son’s stuffy snore from the couch.

I once thought the only joy was in a career with a prize at the top of the corporate ladder- either the paycheck, or the title, or some combination of both.  My new “job” is making this house a home for my husband and children.  No accolades from the boss. No sales awards to hang on the wall.   Just a clean floor, and dishes, and the laundry folded before it’s put away.

My award is the happy smile from my little one telling me it was his best sick day ever.

 

The Things I Don’t Have

Tradition says I should post on Facebook and all of social media the things I am thankful that I have.  I was restless last night when I should have been sleeping, and instead thought of my list of things I am thankful I no longer have.

I no longer have a household full of screaming matches, and thrown objects, and drunken threats.

I don’t have a sense of dread opening the door to my home worried about what I am going to face when I get inside.

I don’t have the stench of cheap wine making my stomach turn.

I don’t have the bruises anymore.

If life is not what you want it to be, as frightening is to stay where you are, and it will be more frightening to leave-  But when you do, the sense of peace you will finally have, there is no wealth on Earth that money can buy.

So this Thanksgiving, I give thanks for all the Blessings I do have- and even more for the Blessing of the all of the things I do not.

Thanksgiving

Smashed

I was decorating with some handmade coffee cups and was reminded of a lesson I learned while making them.  I had spent the summer at an art camp in Erie Pennsylvania, and was a little bitter that instead of getting to paint all day, my concentration was ceramics.

Part of this was that I wasn’t good at it- anyone who has tried to center clay on a potter’s wheel can attest that it is a hard learned skill.  I have a habit of giving up on tasks that I can’t master in the first or second try; and this class tested my patience at all levels.  There are more steps to creating a simple vase than one can image-  You must spend time kneading all the air bubbles out of your lump of clay.  Then after arm numbing kneading, you attempt to throw the lump of clay at a spinning wheel, aiming for as close to center as possible and with enough force that you ensure there is no air pocket separating that clay from the metal, wet wheel.

Back to the grind, you then use your upper body strength to force the clay down and in on itself; one move the wrong way, and the clay may fly off the wheel, or go off center, and your clay needs to be removed, re-kneaded, and thrown again.

BackIMG_1135 at the wheel, if you are successful, and have “pulled” the clay upwards in a semblance of a vase shape, there is the cleaning of the excess clay, and removing the spinning vase from the wheel by using  a steel wire.

That’s just the throwing.  That’s nothing of the hours of drying; ‘firing’ in the kiln; glazing; re-firing; praying-  and maybe, just maybe, that lump of clay has become a fine piece of art.  The process, start to finish, can take days- sometimes weeks depending on the drying times involved.

After all that- My Professor then had us smash the pieces.

I fail to find the words to fully express the sickening feeling of watching my own work destroyed beneath a hammer swung by my own hand.   The hours, the frustration of the process, the joy at seeing the work finally finished- gone- back to the dust that it had come from originally.

What did I learn?  Don’t be afraid to lose everything you work for.  Don’t be afraid to start over.  Don’t get too attached to material things- they can all be lost in a moment, and you will need to be able to move on.   There is always more art to be made in this life.

 

What If I Need This?

I am in a prison made of sheets of 8 x 10 inch paper. 

Despite my attempts to minimize my personal belongings, my biggest struggle is with paperwork.  Not that I get massive amounts of paperwork in the mail, but every ‘system’ I have tried to organize, shred, or scan has failed.

I have a pile on the kitchen counter- mixed items, my son’s preschool notices, some coupons, and flyers I “may” need.

There’s a pile next to me at the kitchen table- a dual cd “Learn to Speak Spanish” my parents re-gifted to me. Church bulletin; healthy living magazine; and a folder from Berkshire Hathaway about selling homes.

In the dining room, three piles on the table- More preschool paperwork and crafts; medical bills; checks in and out.

Did I mention I do have an office? My excuse for not using it (although it stores several boxes of Avon business work)- I don’t have enough lighting and a chair.   Simple fixes, right? But it keeps getting pushed to the back of my mind to get both items.

I have made the effort to digitize most of my monthly expA5B00935-BC22-44ED-9C97-48269AA591C9enses- automatic debit, and paperless billing.  I won’t discuss the 22,000 emails sitting unopened in my Gmail account.  That’s a fight for another day.

I feel that with paperwork, I have more of a hang-up on letting go than my physical belongings.   The terror of “what if I need this?” is real- mostly drilled into my mind from my Mom (sorry!) who was constantly telling me not to throw out paperwork ‘in case’ there was an IRS audit.   I am not sure they would need my rental agreement from 2002, but I still have it ‘in case’.   Or documents on how I paid off my student loans- “What if they come back sometime in the future and say it’s not paid?” How will I prove it?

Irrational, believe me, I know.  Those are the crazy thoughts I have while trying to sort paperwork.  I try to apply the same principles that I use for objects, but I struggle.  A vicious circle in my mind of overcoming the silly ideas, that panicked “what if?” that creeps in my chest when I dare to think of burning every scrap of paper I have.

The struggle is real, my friends. I won’t declare defeat, I will adjust the method of attack and fight on.  Knowing there is a peace once the paper is gone keeps hope alive for me.