Life, Interrupted

 

wpid-img_20140814_160137.jpg

How many times could that be the title that best describes our lives?

Interrupted.

We’ve been interrupted. Not by anything particularly significant but by a series of things–the start of the school year, the change in weather (or not, in So Cal), a glitchy computer. We work hard to keep so many balls in the air that it’s hard to stop them all when one drops.

My writing dropped. But there were kids to pick up and events to volunteer for and a football season that isn’t quite going the way we expected, plus two-fifths of my family was in physical therapy twice a week at the same place, but of course not the same time.

So I didn’t have the balance to lean over and pick my writing up.

One day I was on the school’s website putting money in the kids’ lunch accounts and I saw the Jobs tab. I clicked it, for fun. There they were, a list of jobs I could do without having to plan a lesson or grade a paper. Hourly. Minimum wage. None of the responsibility but all the fun.

And I thought…Is it time?

This stay at home mom gig was never meant to be forever. Just a season. I had no idea how long the season would last, but in the last six months, I have felt a restlessness. Annie goes to full day Kindergarten next year. I know that I can keep the house and run the finely tuned engine that is our family schedule and still work at least part-time.

This was the question that interrupted me the most. It’s age-old, isn’t?

What am I doing?

I gave it my full attention. The Holy Spirit helped me out by crashing my laptop spectacularly last week. She didn’t send the Blue Screen of Death. No, no. My screen went RED. I don’t even know.

I couldn’t write, even if I wanted to. I had no idea how much noise my computer inserted into my daily life until there was only silence.

Into the silence came a decision to attend a conference and an invitation to a retreat. There was a friendship issue with Kate where the other mom and I have been able to have really good, supportive and thoughtful conversations about how to help our girls navigate their feelings. Shea and I talked about my going back to work and decided not yet, not until Annie is in full day school.

Something is happening though, swirling around my head and heart. The tide is turning, the season is changing. Something wonderful and inspiring this way comes.

 

In the meantime, I am still Here, rooted and growing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Suck at Cakes

Vanessa, from Suburban Mama Goddess, posted before Christmas that she baked an ugly cake. I felt her pain.

I was ten the first time I made a cake all by myself. It was from a box, but I still took it very seriously. While it was in the oven, I didn’t go outside and play with my brothers. I sat on a chair in the service porch and read my book.

When it was done, I took it out and turned it upside down on a rack to cool. There was a nice breeze coming through the back door, so I set the cake on the chair to cool faster.

Then I set the timer for 30 minutes, grabbed my book and sat down on the chair to read.

Girlfriend, yes I did sit on my cake.

Ten years later, I was home for winter break from college, and my mom asked me to bake a cake for my grandfather’s birthday. I got all fancy and tried to make two layers. I had no Food Network to tell me to even the layers before I tried to frost them. It was crazy lopsided. I honestly thought that a good thick buttercream frosting would make it look even. But I used margarine, and the frosting broke and slid all over the top of the cake. Then I left it in a spot on the counter that takes afternoon sun, so when I came back, the frosting had melted down the cake, over the plate and onto the counter.

In desperation, I dug through the baking cupboard and in the way back found a shelf-stable tube of green frosting that had only expired the month before. I tried making green roses on the pink cake.

When my grandfather saw it, he wanted to know who let the green owl in the house.

20150222_171155

A few years later, I decided to make an egg nog cheesecake for Christmas dinner. I will admit to not being 100% sober when I made it, so I was pleasantly surprised when it came out of the oven with nary a crack. I stenciled some stars on the top with grated nutmeg and carried it off to my parent’s home.

After dinner, I carried my cheesecake proudly to the table. I cut my brother a slice and passed it down. He took a bite and chewed. Then he started laughing.

Which of course made my other brother dive for the cheesecake with a folk and scoop a big bite into his mouth.

Then they both were laughing. By the time my dad took a bite, my first brother had spit it out: “It tastes like playdough!”

In fact, it did. I was mortified. “What happened?!” I wailed. My aunt asked me about the recipe. I didn’t remember it exactly, because Coors Light, but when I got to “three cups of flour” she stopped me. “Three cups???” she asked. “Are you sure?”

When I got home, I double-checked. Turns out, Coors Light and I misread 3 tablespoons as 3 cups and never looked back.

Every now and then I try again. For Father’s Day a few years back, I tried to make a scratch lemon cake in a sunflower cake mold for Shea. When I turned it over to pop it out, only the petals came. The center of the flower stayed in the pan. You better believe I cobbled that thing together, frosted it and served it up, gaping hole in the middle and all.

And for this past Valentine’s Day, I decided to bake a Paula Deen coconut lime cake for the family.

It was a three layer cake, but I only have two cake pans, and had to pick the kids up from school. So I tried to remove one of the cakes way too early to bake the third one, and this happened:

IMAG2497

Shea came home and saved it, thank goodness. It tasted amazing:

IMAG2502

I can bake a cookie that will make your heart melt. I perfected that egg nog cheesecake, and cheesecakes in general—you should try my key lime cheesecake. Pumpkin pie. Pecan pie. Gingerbread. Nutmeg sugar cookies. Last Christmas I made a chocolate cinnamon loaf with a whole dang pear in the middle:

IMG_20131215_195834

But I suck at cakes.

Well. Somebody has to.

When Facebook Calls You Skim Milk

You know how something stupid can get you thinking?

Last week one of my friends posted “Which TV mom are you?” The pictures were of Claire Huxtable, Roseanne and Peg Bundy.

I am Claire, minus the law degree I thought to myself. No nonsense, fair, funny. For sure.

And then I got Cindy Walsh from Beverly Hills 90210.

Dang.

Cindy was skim milk—good for you but boring and forgettable. Minimal impact.

And stupid enough to let her sophomore daughter have a hotel room for prom.

Hello? I wrangled 200 teenagers a year for 18 years. I taught them Thoreau, for the love of God, and they liked it. People respected me, 16 year old people, and they don’t hardly respect anyone.

How on earth am I like Cindy Walsh?

Sweet goodness—have I turned into Cindy Walsh????

This could be a stay at home mom thing. Transitioning from working mom to stay at home mom is not for sissies.  I don’t want to turn this into a working vs. stay at home mom tirade because that horse has been Rode. To. Death.

(Rode. That’s right.)

I’m just saying that when a woman is kind of a big deal in her workplace, the eye of the hurricane, staying home can be like hitting a wall.

I am not complaining one bit. I am just saying that “big deal” and “hurricane” are not words I use to describe my time at home.

I used to be one bad ass teacher.

“I’m a bad ass stay at home mom!” is something no woman said ever.

Not that I want to go back, mind you. I never want to go back. And yes, I know the work I do now will resonate through the generations. Fruit of my womb. I get it. I’m thankful.

But this stupid quiz made me realize I miss being the eye of the hurricane, sometimes.

Vanessa, from Suburban Mama Goddess took the quiz and got Carol Brady. Vanessa is not Carol Brady. Maybe even more than I am not Cindy Walsh. She didn’t like it either. We had this chat:

vanessaconvo.jpeg

I would love to believe that changing my drink would solve this problem, but that’s a slippery slope. Where do you go from Kettel One and Tonic? Absinthe?

I know what I have to do.

Make peace with the fact that my Claire days are over.

Find a way to balance Cindy and Gloria while avoiding rehab for an alcohol and plastic surgery addiction.

And stop taking the stupid Facebook quizzes.

PS: Dana took the quiz and got Claire. I didn’t talk to her for two days. You can cause your own mid-life mama crisis at www.playbuzz.com.

Slowing Wonder Woman Down

wornoutwoman

My younger self would have seen this statement as a challenge and asked with a saucy smile, “Are you sure about that?”

This older and wiser version of me knows better and actually grieves the years I spent trying to be too many things to too many people. My mantra used to be “I got this” with little thought to whether I needed to have it or not.

I have learned to say no, or say nothing, which is maybe even more powerful.

Now, Worn-out Wonder Women make me nervous. I feel like a recovering junkie: If I get too close to their whirlwind lives, they will suck me back into the vortex of Being All Things to All People. The affirmation that comes from keeping friends, colleagues, bosses, families and spouses happy can be intoxicating.

But to paraphrase Emerson, it gives no peace. Wonder Women are running from or towards something, for sure. In my own case, I was trying to find something that I already had. But I was moving too fast to know or appreciate or enjoy it. Now I try really hard to be still and present, but I can only do that if I have time.

And I can only have time if I tell others No.

No to commitments that only serve me or my ambition

No to people who do not know or care about my family.

No to people or things that do not bear fruit.

I only owe one yes in my life, and that’s to God.

Lysa TerKuerst of Proverbs 31 Ministries has a new book out called The Best Yes, which is all about curing “the disease to please” and escaping “the guilt of disappointing others” that comes from saying no. Today and tomorrow, if you order one copy, you can get a second for just $5, plus a free audio download.

Check it out at www.thebestyes.com and learn more about Lysa and Proverbs 31 Ministry at www.proverbs31.org.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

August Is Breast Feeding Awareness Month ~ Guest Post by Jennifer

My name is Jennifer and I met Jen and Dana when we were all teachers. Now I am a homemaker for my amazing husband, two beautiful sons, and one slightly neurotic cocker spaniel.

In July, Jen and Dana invited me to guest post with the instructions to write about something that “fired me up”. I never anticipated breastfeeding to be the topic that pushed me into writing.

August is Breastfeeding Awareness Month and I realized that I needed to tell my story about my experiences. When I was pregnant with Jacob I assumed I would breastfeed. I mean, it’s free and healthy! How hard could it be? Oh the naiveté! I know some women who are so incredibly fortunate to have had easy experiences. I am not one of them.

My initiation as a breastfeeding mother was a rocky one. When Jacob was a newborn he refused to nurse. He would shut his mouth and go to sleep every single time I tried to nurse. So there I was with a hungry baby and my “talent”, which as a friend once put it, is producing a lot of breast milk. I will forever be thankful to a dear friend, who is a Lactation Consultant, for giving me peace of mind over using a bottle. Once we made this feeding decision, I heard a lot about how now he would never take to nursing and that I needed to keep trying. The comments were masked in concern and support but I felt like less of a woman/mother for feeding my baby with a bottle. I fought the guilt since it was still my milk; plus, this way my husband was able to feed and bond with Jacob too. Prior to this I didn’t even know that exclusive pumping was a thing but I did it. I remember crying as I learned to use the pump and asking God why Jacob wouldn’t latch. Thankfully, Jacob decided to nurse at three weeks old but it was still touch and go for some time after that. We got through some days “nursing session by nursing session” but we didn’t give up and I ended up nursing Jacob until he was 14 months old. (Take that, naysayers!) I know now that I had to learn to pump so that I could provide milk for Jacob while I was at school earning my MA. Plus, six months later a friend of mine had a very similar situation happen and I was able to minister to her in her time of need!

Jennifer and her first son, Jacob. Look at his chunky thighs!

Jacob and I. Look at his chunky thighs!

When I was pregnant with my second son, Andrew, I thought I was ready. I knew what nursing was like. I knew it might be difficult and that it would probably hurt. If all else failed, I knew my way around a pump. As it turns out, I was not prepared for the entirely new kind of hard that establishing, and maintaining, a breastfeeding relationship with Andrew would prove to be.

Last week, Andrew turned 1. But he was born one month early at 36 weeks gestation. His birth was very quick and he was small so he ended up with fluid in his lungs (Transient Tachypnea of the Newborn) and became a NICU baby for a week. Unfortunately, he could not eat those first three days because of his rapid breathing. As I did with Jacob, I pumped every three hours so I wouldn’t lose my supply. Within a week I had a stash of over 100 ounces. The NICU nurses were impressed. He went from tube feeding, to a bottle, before learning how to nurse. Remember my “talent”? My less than six-pound baby had to learn to nurse from breasts that were bigger than his head. Once again, it was not easy and it hurt. He was five days old before we had a successful nursing session. I still cry when I think about how relieved I was that day.

Jennifer nursing preemie Andrew.

Nursing preemie Andrew.

Nursing Andrew was easier than Jacob only because he was eager. The hard parts were the technical ones like correct latch and drinking enough. Because of my “talent” I also had to worry about foremilk/hind milk imbalance which is a product of the vicious cycle of having so much milk that he would be full and I would have to pump out the excess; I was desperate to avoid mastitis. I had to actively work to decrease my supply just enough so that he wasn’t choking at every feeding but not so much that my supply went away. I went back to see a Lactation Consultant for some peace of mind and the reassurance that we were doing things right.  Unfortunately, when Andrew was about two months old he rejected the bottle and would only nurse…I felt like I was on a leash tied to my baby. There were other factors at play but Andrew’s refusal of the bottle, and my subsequent inability to get a break, were big factors in the severity of my Post Partum Depression (PPD). There were a few months there where I just wanted to get out of the house and part of me resented nursing Andrew. Statistics will tell you that breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of mothers developing PPD but it was making things worse for me. Despite all this, I believe my PPD would have gotten worse, due to guilt, if I had stopped nursing Andrew at four months of age. This was when my PPD was at its strongest point, as four months is when PPD tends to peak.

Since my baby refused to take a bottle, my freezer filled up with pumped milk. I knew I needed to donate it but I could not bring myself to give it away. It took me months to give away the first batch of milk and I totally cried over it. I was literally giving away part of myself and it was super hard to do. (You know the phrase “There’s no use crying over spilled milk”? Whoever came up with that nugget never had to pump their own milk.) I ended up donating over 300 ounces to our cousin’s baby with Down Syndrome who couldn’t latch. Each time I gave away my milk I cried but it also got a tiny bit easier. I knew it was needed elsewhere, my baby wasn’t got to drink it, and I sure wasn’t going to let my milk go to waste in my freezer!

The fruits of my talents!

The fruits of my talents!

My baby is 1 and I am doing better. I am at the point where I am cherishing every nursing session with Andrew because I know they are numbered. It’s interesting though how things change. When I was almost done nursing Jacob I was ready. I was looking forward to having my body back to myself. Maybe it’s because things started so poorly for us. I don’t know. I just know that I feel differently about weaning Andrew. Jen has a theory that we attach more strongly to our PPD/Anxiety babies. That could be it. One thing I do know is that I am proud to be a breastfeeding mom. It has been so much harder than I could have ever imagined but I am so glad I didn’t give up. It is such an amazing experience to watch my babies develop rolls upon rolls of baby chub because of ME. Rolls that I get to tickle and kiss to my heart’s content.

Andrew, our chunky monkey!

Andrew, our chunky monkey!

During this month of Breastfeeding Awareness I celebrate my personal journey in being a breastfeeding mother and I support all mothers in feeding their babies. Exclusive breastfeeding, exclusive pumping, donor milk feeding, formula feeding, supplemental feeding, and any other method of feeding, we are all doing the best we can for our babies and for ourselves. We should all be proud of that and we should be supporting each other. I know I would be telling a different story if it weren’t for the support of my amazing husband and the mamas in my village.

Resources:

For Breastfeeding in the US

Loving Support (Riverside County, CA): www.lovingsupport.org

La Leche League: www.llli.org

For Breastfeeding in Canada

INFACT Canada: www.infactcanada.ca

La Leche League Canada: www.lllc.ca

For Pre and Postpartum Mental Health support worldwide:

Postpartum Support International: www.postpartum.net

 

 

Be ~ Jen

Multi-tasking is bad for us, right? Big bad. Stress-us-out-and-give-us-cancer bad.

We try to make multi-tasking into a badge of honor, but that’s crap. All it does is place our need for validation in one 90 mile an hour basket.

This used to be my life, when I was a teaching, mothering, wifeing, friending, volunteering fool. I could teach the children, answer email, shop for shoes, plan vacation, grade papers and mentor colleagues all before lunch. Then I came home and worked out, answered texts, baked cookies for the bake sale, helped the kids with homework, did the laundry and cooked dinner. My life looked like this:

graph 1

Check me out. Man, you either got on board my crazy train or got run over. C’est la vie.

Then I one day I told Shea “Sure, I’ll have another baby, if I can stay home.” He called my bluff and two years later, I was a stay at home mom with a newborn. I hadn’t quite considered all the consequences:

graph 2

Some people may see those gaps as an opportunity for rest.  But the Master Multi-Tasker has no idea what rest is. To me, those huge gaps look like wasted space. Just having a newborn was for rookies. I would have a newborn and serve on the PTL and a corporate board and turn laundry into an insane art form. I would blog and post on Facebook three times a day and monitor the weather and traffic for all my close friends and family.

Do I have to say that this level of go is not sustainable? For anyone? Something will give. In my case, two somethings before I paid attention.

I was doing too much. Way, way too much. I was trying to be all things to all people. I didn’t want to let anyone down—not my husband, not my kids, not my students, not my colleagues, not my bosses, not my neighbors, not my family, not my kid’s school, not my church, not anyone.

You think that list is crazy?

What does yours look like?

We do too much. And in order to do too much, we multi-task. That means we do none of it well, because we’re moving too fast to really have a care. There’s no time for care! We say yes to everyone on that list, and then we short change them all, because that’s the only way to do it. We train ourselves to believe that rest is sloth, and we forget how to be. Still.

Then we are diagnosed with anxiety disorders and get cancer and divorces and we turn around one day and our kids are grown and we cannot for the life of us account for the years.

What if we just didn’t. Didn’t try to be all things to all people. Didn’t say yes. Didn’t try to balance our lives so that all things are equal. Yeah, that’s right. All the things in our life are not equal. The boss does not deserve the same time and attention as the spouse or the kids.

And what if we just be. Be the one who learned to say no. Be the one who cut some things out, like team parent or coaching or that committee at work. Be the one who made room for rest who took our charts, cleared them out and made some space. And then, instead of filling the space right back up, did this:

graph 3

We can do less, but do it wider, slower, better. We can take only the things we need, the things that make our lives lovely and amazing, and fill them up and out. Maybe–probably–we would feel less hollow, guilty and not enough. Instead, we could have more space and feel more fulfilled.

The thing I loved the most about this Christmas season was the ground swell of voices talking about less and slower. We can carry that momentum into 2014 and into all parts of our lives.

Do less. Be more. Happy New Year!

High Harvest ~ Dana

When Jen and I were brainstorming names for our new blog, one of the words that really resonated with me was “Harvest.”  I bounced around a lot of titles including this word because I feel like this time in my life is the High Harvest.  It’s not the Thanksgiving, end of the season harvest, but the one where things are just starting to get good.  It’s like when the grocery store finally has good fruit again after a winter of just apples.

For as long as I can remember, I assumed that my life would be like my mom’s life:  That I would meet my future husband in college, that we would be married after we graduated, that we would start a family after a few years of getting used to being married.

But of course, my journey was quite different.  After school I lived in Europe.  I came home and bounced from job to job.  I met my husband the year that I turned 30.  And after a few years of dating, and a few years of marriage, Here we are.

Image

Where the strawberries are, I see my two sweet daughters’ faces smiling back at me.  Amongst the watermelons, our lovely new home.  Tucked in with the pineapple, my darling husband.  And here and there, with the asparagus, the leeks, and the heirloom tomatoes, my family and the friends whom I cherish.

Now, lest you think that the harvest is a time to rest on one’s laurels, let me assure that the harvest is still work and life is not perfect.  We have two little ones, still in diapers.  My dad is in chemotherapy, fighting for his life.  My husband works time and a half every day so that I can stay at home with our children.  This is far from easy.  And we are not resting.

Still, I look at all of the wonderful things that are coming from my years of hard sowing and in those rare moments of solitude and quiet, I am so grateful to be just where I have landed.  I am enjoying the High Harvest and wondering which seeds I will sow next.