Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Running on Empty

I'm a well and everyone wants a dip.

I know this many sound like I'm the gal in my high school who my Grandmother said was "looking for adventures" but that's not what I mean.

I went to a women's conference last week called BoldHer. One of the amazing speakers talked about how most women/mothers are wells that are depleted over the course of the day. ( I'm not exempting men from this because most of you work so hard, still mow the lawn and coach your kids' sports teams). 

But think of the "woman as well" analogy.

Your husband needs his shirt ironed for a 9 a.m. meeting. It's 8:47.  Dip.

Your best friend is in tears because her man won't commit and she needs to talk out her feelings via Skype. Dip.

You're asked to bring a veggie platter for your moms' group?  More dipping.

Even your house dips you because it needs to be cleaned and the church you love volunteering at takes a dip because now they need you to write an article about Sunday School for the newsletter.

Your kids need lunches made/homework help/for you to find the marble they lost two weeks ago.  Dip. Dip. Dip.

Now all of this  is just life but it all has one thing in common.  Not one of the tasks you performed above was for you.  You do so much for others that by the end of the day, the well is depleted.

I think that this is why, more than anything, I want to be left alone at the end of the day after I tuck my little ones into bed. I don't want to talk on the phone.  I don't really want to talk to anyone. I want to read, write or revel in my aloneness.  I often find myself resentful of anyone wanting to corner me into a conversation or event, expecting me to be charming or understanding.  Don't they get it?  I've BEEN ON ALL DAY!

I've been patient. I've been hard working. I kept it together when the kids took all the couch cushions off, not once but THREE TIMES.   I cooked three meals, assembled nutritious snacks and did all dishes. I did laundry for four people.  I paid all the bills, made all the beds, shopped for groceries and arranged play dates for my kids where I may have been trapped in an uber-boring conversation about window treatments. My "luxury" if you can call it that is that I snuck out for a 25 minute run at 6 a.m. as to not be missing when any of my family members are awake.  I am tired.  I accepted that I didn't get to write today, which is my lifeblood, because everyone else's needs came first.   And I know that most moms did as much as/ if not more than I did on this particular day and THAT WE DON'T MIND DOING IT.  It's right there, under the job description of mom. It's cool with us, right, doing and giving as we do? 


But. At the end of the day, the well has run dry, and I am resentful of anyone's demands on me.

And this is a problem.  Bringing it back to the  speaker at the conference, this is a problem.  If I had more in my well, perhaps it wouldn't run so dry at the end of the day.   The speaker suggested that each of us fill up on "love fuel" each day by doing something for 20 minutes each day that is just for us.

I was flummoxed.  Do I do anything each day that is just for me?  I racked my brain.  I take a karate class with a collection of lovably awesome weirdos each Saturday.  But that's not a daily thing. I love spending time with my girlfriends and laughing our heads off but that's usually a couple of times a month, if that.  Of course I love taking my kids to the beach and on picnics and generally spending time with them but the conference speaker said you have to do something just for yourself every day.

Oh and you're not supposed to feel guilty about it.

It could be meditation.  It could be watching General Hospital. It could be exercising or relaxing with a cup of coffee and the newspaper.  It could be anything that it JUST FOR YOU.  Just 20 minutes so you can add a little extra energy into your tank and you won't feel so empty at the end of the day.

I'm not sure what mine is yet.  I think it's writing but it's been hard enough to write this weekly entry. The entire time I've been writing, my 2 year old has been wound around my neck like a feather boa, asking me, repeatedly, why coconut yogurt tastes so yucky and begging me to take her on a ferris wheel.  Yet I know I need to make the time do it, even if it's 20 minutes a day, because I'll be happier.

And then you were supposed to look in the mirror and tell yourself 5 things about yourself that you love.  Physical, spiritual, mental.

Holy Cannoli.

I have never done this before in my entire life.  It was really hard and it didn't help that I was cracking up in the middle of it.

But here's what I came up with.

--Physically I love my eyes and my legs.
--Mentally I love my knack of expressing myself through the written word and my wicked sense of humor.
--Spiritually I love that I'm oversensitive because it actually makes me more sensitive and compassionate towards others.

If there are any others reading this, will you try this exercise?  Share what your "love fuel" is...something that you do for yourself every day and...if you are truly brave...please share five things you love about yourself.  Can you do it?  I can probably name five things I love about anyone reading this blog and yet we all seem to have such trouble doing it for ourselves.

And let's get our wells up to overflowing so when the dipping begins we have plenty for everyone and even some extra (not leftover) for ourselves.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


Where I live, sports are king.  KING.  Some parents hold their boys back from kindergarten so they'll be better at them. It's not unusual for an 11 year old child to be in rec soccer, travel soccer and travel baseball all at the same time.  A dad I know just hired a private lacrosse coach for his 6 year old and many kids toil away at camps in the dog days of summer, running suicides to buff up their endurance. 

Although I'm not a huge sports fan (I'm not sure I could name 5 active professional football players...I love throwing football parties...not watching the game) I also think sports are very important.  Our generation's children's addiction to iPads and Xbox (coupled with their love for fast food and soda) seems to be creating an army of squinting, marshmallow-like children who have no idea how to sit still in a restaurant without a phone in hand, let alone carry on a conversation. 

So, while I would never force my child to do a sport, I also don't feel comfortable letting him skip any and all athletic activity, allowing him to sit home and play Minecraft to the extent that his head actually turns into a square block.

Sports are awesome because they teach teamwork, they inspire friendships and more important than that they provide physical fitness and exercise. It's great for self-esteem and the pizza party at the end of the season is oodles of enjoyment. Sports create a safe haven where you can be competitive and they offer the thrill of victory while also serving up the hard-to-swallow but mandatory pill of defeat.  Sometimes an amazing coach can impact a child in ways that perhaps parents and teachers cannot just by the sheer fact of being willing to volunteer their precious time and energy with a group of children who are not their own.  And here's the critical advantage of doing sports -- it's fun.

Some children are born with a natural aptitude for my 2 year old daughter, who zoomed into the world, crawled at 6 months, walked at 10 and has been climbing everything in sight since then.  She loves baseball, soccer and basketball and has been pouting for the past week because she's not allowed to partake in her brother's soccer practices. 

Speaking of my son, he is not the most athletic kid I've ever seen.  At this point in time, if I had to choose a team where he'd fit in the best, it would be the Bad News Bears. Big A has the desire to play but lacks both the aptitude and, as of yet, the skills.  He reminds me so much of myself as a child it's sometimes creepy.  But because I had the desire to play, and I had a dad that loved baseball and volunteered as a coach, I was able to learn what didn't come naturally.  I played first base for a number of years and had a decent batting average. I also played field hockey, another sport that did not come naturally to me, but with hard work came an eventual hat trick.  My parents and coaches marveled as the transformation I made from being truly hopeless to a contributing member of the team.  That's the beauty of sports.  If you practice, you can see measurable improvement.

So Big A had his first real soccer practice last night and it was as disturbingly comical as I thought it would be. At just 6 he is one of the youngest members of the team and he's had no training to prepare him.  He asked his father to teach him this past summer and surfer/basketball player looked terrifyingly baffled.  He eventually took him out to the backboard and began teaching him how to shoot 3 point shots with the soccer ball. Nothing but net.   

Big A doesn't really know how to kick the ball. Nor does he run very fast.  Nor does he know how to dribble the soccer ball in any manner that doesn't make him seem like a malfunctioning robot.   At one point I swore I saw him kicking the ball towards the wrong goal.  And what's more, he missed. He didn't just miss the goal, he missed the ball. Altogether.  The other boys, in their high florescent socks seemed bigger, faster and a thousand times better.  Before practice started I urged him to watch the older boys on his team, and learn from them.  But I had no idea that the learning curve would be so steep.

When Big A ran off the field after practice, I'm not what I was expecting. But it wasn't a sweaty, exhilarated child gulping water and smiling.  "That's was great!" he exclaimed.  He seemed really proud of himself despite his non-prowess on the field.  "I think I'm getting better," he said thoughtfully as we walked to the car.  "And I might need to get some of those bright-colored socks.  Why do we wear such high socks in soccer?"  I had no idea. 

I released the breath I was holding.  Since sports are so emphasized where we live, I guess I was worried that my son's (non-existent) skills would be holding him back.  I totally forgot the real reason why Big A has decided to use his free time to play soccer -- because of the fun, fitness and friendships.  To learn as he goes and enjoy it.  If anything about rec soccer is stressful at age 6, then something has gone terribly wrong.

As I tucked Big A in, he chatted to me about his first soccer practice. 

"Coach asked what the first rule of soccer is.  Guess."  he said

"Don't touch the ball with your hands." I replied.

"No, that was what I guessed. But that's the second rule.  Guess again,"  he said.

"Don't dump Gatorade on your coach's head?" I ventured.

"MOM! No that is not the first rule of soccer,"  he admonished me.

"Well, what was it?" I asked.

"Coach said the first rule of soccer is HAVE FUN," my exhausted child murmured as he rolled over and went to sleep,

Such an important thing to remember yet it was so easy for me to forget. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Working Girl

Last Saturday evening, I found myself at my sister's kitchen table throwing back strong margaritas and scooping up a to-die-for corn dip whilst my bro-in-law grilled and kept whipping up ever more margaritas.  He delighted my kids by setting off a number of illegal fireworks as my sister smiled on from the kitchen (translation:  threatened to call the cops if he didn't stop, LIKE NOW!)  Hot fudge brownie sundaes (that I couldn't possibly fit, so full was I, but at which I enjoyed gazing) topped off a night where my sister was having me over to say thank you.

She was thanking me for watching her children (my niece and nephew) one day every week because she works full time.  My sister acts like I am doing her a big favor to watch two tweens who are extremely sweet, delightful and well-behaved.  My young children adore their cousins and it is an absolute pleasure to spend time with my sister's kids, knowing that soon, as they inch towards adolescence,  I won't be "the cool aunt" anymore but rather an embarrassing adult whose hugs they will want to avoid in public.  These four kids together make me laugh (they all hold hands, four across, in parking lots) and sometimes make me cry (because they still all hold hands, four across, in parking lots.) 

I am in awe of my sister, (and all working moms, actually) because they are making the amazing yet difficult sacrifice of taking time away from their kids in order to either contribute financially to their household by necessity or they are continuing a career for which they studied and worked hard.  I am always inspired when a mother works full-time in that their children see that they are equal partners to their husbands (or sometimes the main breadwinner) and it sets a good example for their children.

 The job of "stay-at-home mom" has its own difficulties, its own frustrations and its own insanity...and worst still, you're not even getting paid and there's no dental! But to think our sisters in the workforce have it easy is about as realistic an assessment as the notion that stay-at-home moms spend their days watching soaps and popping bonbons. Working moms do get "a break" from their children, I guess, and I admit they can go to the bathroom without an uninvited two year old insisting on accompanying them.  But generally, they still have to do everything stay-at-home moms do like helping with homework, making lunches, dishes, laundry and rushing to attend their children's sports/violin/archery events. 

There's an image (unfair I think) of a woman who is so consumed by her career that she happily shakes off the shackles of her children, relieved to get away from those pests, and struts off to work where she can sneak off at lunch and get a pedicure.  This is laughable.  And yet there's still a perception that working mother can't possibly be as nurturing as a stay-at-home mom.  I find this untrue if not bordering on ridiculous. (Is an unemployed father better than an employed one?  He's certainly more present)

When I had Big A, I owned a marketing company. I worked until the day before I gave birth.  I was a machine.  And then, with the birth of my son, everything changed. I changed.  Post-baby, I hated going into the office to be away from him (and I didn't much like marketing anymore). A job that used to make me feel happy, satisfied and proud was becoming a huge source of resentment. For a year, I waffled and grappled...I was unhappy being away from my child, but the company I built was doing so well. 

Ultimately  I decided I was willing to sacrifice financially because I wanted to be home with my 1 year old son. I had the luxury of quitting even though it meant we'd have to push back moving to a new house and I'd still be driving my PT Cruiser for a while longer (I did love that car even though it was like driving a go cart). Many women either don't have this choice or have come so far in their careers that they are truly committed to staying in a job they love and that's fulfilling.  Why should that even be questioned?  No one expects a man to quit a job when he becomes a parent. He's supposed to work more...make more money...but that's a blog for a different day.

So this image of a working mom as cold and ambitious is laughable.  Every mother is pained to be away from her children all day.  Do I even need to say that?  It seems so obvious.  (Except when said children are fighting over who gets to hold your car keys and incomprehensively slapping each other and shrieking like howler monkeys.)

I was a at soccer game with a fellow mom who works full-time and we overheard a mom we didn't know complaining about her children.  Her beef was that although they were begging not to be enrolled in camp all summer, she was "forcing them" to go because she needed her alone time. Sigh. As a closet introvert and voracious book worm I totally understand the need for "alone time" especially as a way to recharge.  But since her (6 and over) kids are in school all day ten months out of the year I was just wondering how much "alone time" did this woman actually need?  The mom I was sitting with began to tear up.  I know what she was thinking...that she would be grateful for even one afternoon a week to not be at the office and take her kids to the beach.

I think a lot of other mothers who work full-time feel exactly the same way.  The working mom genuinely desperately misses her children all week. I think it crushes her that she can't spend more time with them...but especially during the summer when they're not in school all day.

So this is my plea to the stay-at-home moms who are exhausted and harried.  I'm the jerk adding yet another item to your (well...our) to do list. Give your working mom sisters a hand. Next time the working mom you know can't meet you at the spray grounds on a Thursday afternoon with your collective kids, maybe you can suggest a Sunday afternoon get together at the park.  Maybe if her child has to miss yet another birthday party because he's staying with Meemaw that day and Meemaw has no idea how to get to iPlay America, maybe you could offer to chauffer and supervise her child. 

But please don't think a working mom's love isn't as deep, her caring any less powerful or commitment less certain just because she's away all day.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014


The tunnel cave is a little creepy. 

In this Alice In Wonderland-esque creation it's very dark, everything is black-lit and it opens up into a maze of giant playing cards that even I find a little confusing.

Naturally, my children love this bizarre attraction, one of many at adorable amusement park Storybookland where we visited yesterday.

Another little girl around 3, however, did not share their opinion.  She was terrified by the tea party scenes, dark lighting and scary cave.  She was screaming for her mommy and terrified, shaking as she trembled in the mouth of the cave.  She was pitching a fit and sobbing.

Big A, my 6 year old, began yelling "Where's this girl's Mommy?" as my 2 year old, Little D, looked around worriedly. 

I'm the only adult in the cave so I hold out my hand and say "Should we go find your mommy?"  She nods in relief, takes my hand and we exit out the mouth of the cave where we all came in.

I stand out there with a few moms but no one seems to recognize the girl.  I point to her and yell out, (sort of like an idiot)  "IS THIS ANYONE'S CHILD?"  Nothing. "Really?" I ask, apparently to no one in particular. I ask the child what her name is.  It's Brianna.  She doesn't know her mother's name.

"What does she look like?" I ask Brianna.

"She has hair" is the response this little cutie gives me.  I am still holding her hand.

A few of the moms begin looking around but there's no sign of Brianna's mom.

"Okay," I say to her. "Your mom is here somewhere.  We're going to find her right away."  I figured we should walk around to where the cave spits you out into the maze of cards and perhaps her mom was waiting for her there. I was scanning the park for a park worker, hoping they would know the protocol for a lost kid.

Brianna, simply happy to be out of the cave,  walked along with me, hand-in-hand.  It was a little scary how much she trusted me.  She would have gone with me anywhere.  It makes me realize how trusting and vulnerable most children are. It scared me a little.  A fleeting thought hit me that if I didn't find a park worker soon, maybe the mom would think I was trying to steal her daughter.  So we kept walking towards the cave exit as Big A asked every passing woman "Is this your kid? Is this your lost kid?"

"Don't worry," I told Big A.  "We'll know who her mommy is the second we see her."

"How?" he asked.

"Because she'll be sprinting," I said.

5 minutes had passed.

5 minutes.

5 minutes can seem like 5 years when you've lost a 3 year old child. You imagine far-fetched scenarios of horror.  It brought me back to when Big A was around that age and we granted him the privilege of walking back to the pool from the beach by himself for the first time.  Clearly drunk on his newfound freedom, he chose to instead "wander around the beach looking for kids with cool toys." (That's what he told us later on.) 

Those five minutes of racing around the beach, trying to find a small child that couldn't yet swim, as the bright sun mocked me, were (besides his emergency hernia surgery last year) the worst moments of my entire life.  I was praying the whole time that he was okay.  When I finally caught sight of him, I was filled with relief and strangely, anger, in equal parts. I hugged him so hard I may have bruised a rib.

I knew Brianna was fine because she was with me. The person I was really feeling for was her mother. By now she would have realized that Brianna was missing and she was probably in her own personal hell.  At that moment I spotted a frantic-looking blond woman in a blue tank top. 

"Can I pick you up?" I asked Brianna.  She nodded happily.

I yelled across the park as I held up her child "Looking for this?"

Brianna's mom's face flooded in relief as she began running towards us.  She leapt over two chained off areas and through the Beanstalk Bounce as she raced over to us, grabbing her daughter and holding her tight as she fought back tears.

"I couldn't find you anywhere!  Where did you go?!"  she demanded in an anger I understood completely.

"Are you okay?" I asked her "I know that just took ten years off you life."

"20 years!  But I'm fine now," she said, squeezing her daughter.  "I'm sorry!  I took a phone call...a work call...just for a minute..when I turned around...she was gone.  I can't believe this happened." 

I explained where I found Brianna and that she was upset but that she calmed down as soon as I said that I'd take her to find mom.  The mom thanked me profusely and apologized again.  She was as terrified and embarrassed as I felt when I lost Big A 3 years ago.  I said "you're welcome" pretty quickly and walked away with my kids as not to prolong this mother's humiliation.

I totally got it. It's the worst feeling in the world. 

I hope that Brianna's mom enjoy the rest of the day and eventually forgave herself for simply being human.  Over-extended parents get distracted. Small children sometimes wander off.  It doesn't make her negligent or uncaring. 

As with everything I'm not sure I would have understood this if I hadn't already been though it. 

And as for Storybookland the kids went on the roller coaster 6 times and I maintain this cute little family-owned theme park still has the best funnel cakes I've ever tasted.