Sunday, January 31, 2010

January in Review

Each month I plan to take the time to reflect on what I have learned and accomplished during the last 30ish days.

It is clearer today than it was 31 days ago that…
  • To figure out what to do next, it is important to reflect on what I have done in the past.
  • Internal dissidence is a sign that I need to make changes in my life.
  • In the past, my attempts to lose weight were entwined with excuses. Eliminating those excuses is helpful – but I still have to do the work.  And doing the work does help...I have lost 4 pounds this month.  Wished for more, but at least I'm headed in the right direction.
  • My crankiness and yelling at my children is less about what they are doing but more about what I am not doing. I know now that I need regular and meaningful time for me!
  • Even though my good friend (thanks, LF!) is my one and only “follower” and probably no one else is even reading this, I enjoy this blogging thing!
Bring it on February, I’m ready!

Friday, January 29, 2010

How Did I Get Here? (part 2)

I believe I left off in HDIGH? (Part 1) with blissful happiness ensuing after I got married in 2003. And, truly, I was incredibly happy. My job, working with college students at a small liberal arts college, I enjoyed (most of the time). I also really loved being married. JT and I were in the middle of remodeling our (previously his, now, by the default of marriage, ours.) condo. And, when I say remodeling, I do not mean we called the contractors in and lived our life around the chaos of plumbers, carpenters, electricians, etc. Nope – JT and I were the laborers and project managers. Or, perhaps, more accurately, JT was the project manager, plumber, carpenter, and electrician and I was the designer, consultant, and occasional laborer. We were a good team and it was fun to work together on the project.

A month or two after finishing our biggest remodeling project (gutting a tiny galley kitchen and attached dining room and creating a large eat-in kitchen), and less than a year into our marriage I had a huge realization… “I am ready to be a mom.” I was 34 and was feeling… well, old…and was ready for “something more significant in my life”. Fortunately, JT was in agreement and, although it didn’t happen over night, six months later we were pregnant.

We were excited and thrilled! As an “older” (as my Dr’s chart stated – AMA – Advanced Maternal Age) first-time mom, I felt prepared for having children. And since most of my friends were already moms, I had a wealth of resources to pull from – not to mention all the “first-time mom” books I devoured. I was fortunate enough to be able to leave my job before AB was born to be a SAHM. After AB was born (12/04), I learned lots about what I was not prepared for – but regardless felt pretty good about my “mom skills”. And, when AB was 6 months old, we were cautiously excited to find out we were pregnant with our second child (NO, not an accident, just happened incredibly quickly!). Remembering the period of time between the birth of AB and until OB, my second child (born 2/06), was about 4 months old, the memories are coated with a hazy fog. I was sleep deprived and overwhelmed, but still, I was happy. This was my dream!…a bit later in life than I had expected, but all the more reason to treasure it, Right?
And I did treasure it. I knew that the moments with my babies were precious and worth being present for. I embraced each moment and enjoyed myself – until about the time they found out they had minds of their own. Don’t get me wrong – I was excited to see them reach their milestones and grow and develop – but slowly I began finding myself getting frustrated with them. “Let’s go! I asked you to put your coat on 20 minutes ago!”, “Why did you get into mommy supply cabinets when I have repeated told you not to!”, “You do NOT talk to me that way!” “How many times do I have to tell you that markers are only to be used on paper!” I would hear myself yell at them – Eek! I never wanted to be that mom – that yelling, screaming, losing-it mom – but alas, much to my dismay, I was! So off to the library I went…parenting books would help. And some did. I gained new skills, used different approaches, and changed my attitude but still I was feeling…unhappy? angry? alone? lost? Yes, yes, yes and yes! But how did this happen? Aren't I living my dream life?

How Did I Get Here (Part 3)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

"If you want to turn your life around, try thankfulness. It will change your life mightily."
~Gerald Good

In the spirit of gratitude, I am declaring Thursdays as “Thanks for Thursdays”.

Today I am thankful for my quirky son, AB. He recently turned 5 years old and he is very much his father’s son* – something that profoundly exasperates and astounds me. Today, he noticed that our local newspaper was outside on the side deck and slowly getting buried by snow. He asked if he could go out and get the paper. “Sure”, I said. “Get your boots and coat on and go and get the paper.” I was in the middle of cleaning up the kitchen from breakfast so I didn’t pay much more attention. We had done this before and I knew when he got the paper, he would come in and hand it to me. But, what I didn’t consider was that he has never gone out to get the paper in the snow. A bit later, his younger brother was looking for him – I looked out the window, and could see his footprints across the deck and the paper was gone…but where is AB?  I began to get a little concerned, but just then I heard the door open. AB walks in, checks red, and a big proud smile on his face.

AB: “Mommy, It’s cold out there.”

Me: “AB, what took you so long?”

AB: (in a matter-of-fact tone) “I had to shovel the driveway. Because, Mommy, if you drive over the snow it gets slippery.”

Sure enough, he had shoveled. Who is this child? I’m not complaining – but seriously, what kid does that?

So this "Thanks for Thursdays" and am thankful for my son and his love of doing jobs and helping our family.

*I should explain that my husband, JT is a doer (to the extreme). It is second nature to him to “simply” do what needs to be done. And, those tasks that most people dislike and put off, JT strangely enjoys.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

How Did I get Here? (Part 1)

"There I am in younger days, star gazing,
Painting picture perfect maps of how my life and love would be
Not counting the unmarked paths of misdirection
My compass, faith in love's perfection
I missed ten million miles of road I should have seen"
- Indigo Girls

In 1981, I was in 5th grade and I distinctly remember our teacher asking us, “What do you want to be doing in 10 years?” Row, by row, each child answered her question. “a journalist”, “a teacher”, “a scientist”, “studying to be a doctor”…all admirable careers and goals. She smiled, nodded, and was pleased with each child’s aspirations – that is, until I answered…    “a Mom”.  Her face changed – She was horrified! – “But you’ll only be 20 or 21 years old!” she exclaimed. Oblivious to her horror (and reasons for her reaction), I responded confidently, “Yep!”

Fast forward 10 years: I was in my sophomore year of college and, fortunately for me, I was not a mom. I knew that, at the age of 20, I was not ready to have children. I was too immature, selfish, and furthermore I wasn’t even dating anyone. Even still, that did not dampen my desires to fulfill that dream.

I always knew that I wanted to be a wife and a mom. I figured that I might meet the man of my dreams in college. I dated some, and even had a long-term relationship, but I graduated single. It didn’t matter…I still felt young and I had lots of life to live. So I went off to graduate school…then to my first professional job…then second…third…

And then I turned 29 years old. Huh? Whoa – what happened...or, more accurately, what didn't happen? That stuff – that husband, children, house, and white picket fence was suppose to happen in my twenties – right? I could do the math – since I wasn’t dating anyone (and pathetically, did not even have a prospect), there was certainly NOT enough time for “that stuff” to happen. And, worse yet, since I had just gotten a cat, I had a vision of me - old, single, kid-less, and a CAT LADY! Needless to say, year 29 was not my best!
No matter how much I tried to talk myself out of wanting a family of my own, I couldn’t shake the dream away. Even still, I truly believed that “I would rather be single for the rest of my life than marry an asshole.” So when I turned 30 I asked myself if I would ever consider having children on my own…to which, I decided not to decide. My plan was to revisit the concept if I was still single when I turned 35. Fortunately, I didn’t need to, because two months before my 34th birthday (in 2003) I got married... and true my word, he's not an asshole, but a wonderful (most of the time) guy! So, my dream could begin and blissful happiness would surely ensue…Right?

How Did I Get Here (Part 2)
How Did I Get Here (Part 3)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Me vs. Me

“The beginning of thought is in disagreement – not only with others but also with ourselves.”
-Eric Hoffer

Until I started this rediscovery of self, I never really thought about the disagreements that I have with myself. They are not loud arguments, or even heated discussions, but instead, and perhaps worse, unspoken, unacknowledged, and silently jarring internal conflicts. So after festering, this dissidence is probably the impetus of this journey.

Therefore, I thought it would be beneficial to identify some of my internal conflicts as well as what, I believe, would be the desired outcome to alleviate the dissidence.

Valuing diversity education and challenging others’ views
Feeling unsure of how to teach my children about differences.
I hope to learn more about how to teach about diversity issues to preschooler and be more deliberate in my conversations with my boys.

Believing that I am very introspective and feel like I have always had a good sense of myself
Feeling lost and confused when trying to figure out “what I want next for me”
I hope to have a vision, goal, direction.

My dream of being a wife and mom and I believing that, in those roles, I would be happy.
Not feeling happy (although, I also would not say I am unhappy) and overjoyed, instead feeling lost – yet I have a wonderful husband and children.
I hope to find a balance between being a wife and a mom and an individual.
I know that the “how” is missing – How to reach my desired outcome. But, just identifying those items, feels great!  I know that “how” will come over time.

Monday, January 25, 2010

My list of beliefs/principles (in progress)

What are some of my guideposts - beliefs and/or principles that I live by?  I have been thinking about that - thanks to The Happiness Project, by Gretchen Rubin.  It's been fun to take the time to put, in writing, the "stuff" that is the core of who I am and how I make (or want to make) decisions.  So far, my list is as follows:
  • My relationships are what I value most - Take the time and energy for my family and friends is important...but I'm not sure if I deserve a grade higher than a C- for this one.  Hum...note to self: dissidence occuring - perhaps I need to spend some time on this one.
  • Truly being in the moment (even a bad one) is peaceful and makes life better -  Once when I was going through a very difficult time and people continually told me to "be in the moment", I remember thinking "What the hell does that mean?"  To figure out what that meant, I needed to break it down into the basics (or as I like to say "Treat me like a 3 year old").  So, after emphatically believing that the moment was truly CRAPPY, I decided to notice other things of the moment - the breeze coming in the window, the smell of the waffle in the toaster, the sound of the trees blowing in the wind...etc.  And, in that moment, although I still felt CRAPPY, I also felt lighter.
  • Vices, addictions, and some habits get in the way of me being the best I can be - sometimes doing something just because it is what I have always have done gets in the way of progress. 
  • Trust my intuition - it has never let me down - my gut has always been a good guide.
  • Always continue to search for the "real" me
  • When lost, or confused - go back to the basics - even if that means reviewing lessons learned in preschool.  Or - "please, treat me like a 3 year old".
  • Life is a process, I am in process - I don't always need to know what is right, or how to do something, or who I am...I'm still learning
This was a good place to gave me time to think about my truths and better the core of who I am.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dissidence and Guideposts…

So, I jumped head first into my “purposeful journey”, beginning with my goal of losing weight within the Health and Wellness Theme. I believe that will be one piece of finding myself. I am continuing to figure that out – including a program assessment (free with my gym membership) with a personal trainer to put together a weekly workout plan, and a child-free trip to the grocery store, so I am able take the time to read labels and shop smarter. BUT, I feel as if I need to take a step backwards before I continue with the rest of the journey.

As I was thinking about what themes I wanted to explore, I was having a hard time staying on task. I kept noticing a dissidence that was occurring in my assessments of myself. It seemed I had an understanding of me before children, and another, yet definitely hazier, understanding of me after children. And I found, in some areas, there is discord between the two. For example, (before) in my career working on college campuses, I was often an advocate for diversity education. This was something that was incredibly important to me and I would often seek to educate myself on this topic. As a SAHM, (after) I am sad to say that diversity and related education do not seem to be an easy fit in my life. Even worse, I find that I, often, do not take the time to have conversations with my children about differences. So, then I ask, who am I? Are tolerance, acceptance, and embracing diversity really important to me? I want to scream a resounding YES! – But can I truly say that? So there it is…the Dissidence.

Also, while reading The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, I realized that I am missing an important piece. Gretchen identifies her overarching principles and beliefs that she calls her “Twelve Commandments” and “Secrets of Adulthood”. These principles and beliefs served as guideposts throughout her happiness project. I realized that if I am going to figure out what “who I am”, and “what is next” for me, it would be helpful for me to develop and appreciate my own guideposts - plus, it seems like fun!

So, next step - analyzing the dissidence in me and identifying my principles and beliefs.

(note: if you haven’t read The Happiness Project, I HIGHLY recommend it – I randomly came upon it on New Year’s Eve day at a bookstore and I devoured it and continue to go back to it regularly).

Friday, January 22, 2010

Embracing the Scale

I have been thinking a lot about how I am going to lose weight. It would be impossible to count how many times I have been in this very same place – ready to start something and unsure about what or how. In the past, one of my biggest hang ups is that I didn’t like to weigh myself. For years I didn’t even own a scale and rarely knew how much I weighed. When I joined Weight Watchers and had to weigh in, I would get discouraged especially if I thought I had really worked hard, and the number would not reflect my effort. One week of bad news could throw me into a tizzy of frustration and unhappiness – and that, at times, was enough to just quit. So if stepping on the scale is such a “horrible” thing, I should just not do it, Right? Can’t I just judge how I am doing based on how my clothes are fitting? Plus, the scale doesn’t accurately tell me how I am doing, because “muscle weighs more than fat”. And, many experts have told me that it is not good to always weight yourself.

At least these are all the things I told myself…but with this wisdom, how have I done? Not very well – I have gained back much of the weight and my eating and working out are not consistent. Clearly that’s not working for me. This time I need to think differently.

So, instead, I am embracing the scale. Perhaps it is not the enemy – instead it is friendly tool to guide me through this weight loss. I am aware that it does not know my entire story and that there will be weeks when I may be discouraged by what it has to say. But if I remember that, like a good friend, it is truthful and will remain loyal, especially in the long run.

With this revelation, I visited my “good friend”. And, you know what?…although the number was not pleasant to see, the experience was not that bad – it was even a bit freeing. And, more importantly if gave me a starting point and I am ready to face the challenge. So here it is: my goal is to lose 40 pounds by my birthday (August 4th). And, curiously, I already know that I will succeed and am excited about this part of my journey.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lost in layers of fat...

Yep, it's true, I have and lost myself under my layers of fat. I, like many, struggle with weight and body image issues and wish I could say that it is stubborn pregnancy weight. But, I can’t. Before my pregnancies, I was overweight and not in shape. Throughout my life I have never been into sports or working out and during high school and college, I was blessed to be relatively thin. After graduating from college, slowly, I began to gain weight. I didn’t pay attention to my nutrition, and exercise was not a priority. Although I yearned to be thinner, and attempted various weight loss plans, I was never able to persist and succeed. After getting married and having children I became motivated to be healthier. Since the birth of my second son, I have improved my health and wellness. And even had some remarkable (for me) successes including, following Weight Watchers and losing 36 pounds, running a few 5k races, and last year, days before turning 40, I completed a sprint Triathlon – something that I never imagined that I would do.

Even with these accomplishments, I continue to struggle with maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Recently, I have regained most of the 36 pounds and I am consistently inconsistent with working out and healthy eating. As you can see from a triathlon picture, I am not thin. In fact, during my training, one of the best resources I found was a book by Jayne Williams called Slow Fat Triathlete: Live Your Athletic Dreams in the Body You Have Now.  A great book that encouraged me especially when I doubted myself or felt self-conscious about my weight.

Why am I overweight? Why is it such a struggle? I don’t know. Throughout the past 20 years I have had many thoughts, including:
  • Being overweight has clearly allowed me to hide and blend into the background – a place that I feel very safe and comfortable in. So comfortable, that I don’t take risks or try new things. If I try new things, then I might fail. A fear of failure, perhaps?
  • When I was dating, I wanted to marry someone who liked me, regardless of my weight. This gave me the perfect excuse to not lose the weight. I thought self-righteously, “If I am losing weight to meet a guy, then I am not losing the weight for me”. So I rarely even bothered trying.
  • At various points I tried to believe that I was meant to be fat and that it was just genetic (not considering that neither my parents is drastically overweight). Again, another perfect excuse to not even try.
  • Or, after hearing Dr. Phil say “Are you doing what you're doing today because you want to do it, or because it's what you were doing yesterday?” I wondered if I had just gotten in a rut and needed to “simply” do something different.
All of these thoughts, plus many more, ring a bit of truth. But each is also a wonderful excuse. They are road blocks to what I really want – to be healthy and fit and that includes losing weight.

So in the theme of Health and Wellness, I plan to first focus losing weight – and as everyone knows, that means I have to move more and eat less. I guess the next step is to figure out the details. I am excited to learn more about myself, as I finally persist and succeed, and become a healthier me!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Getting Organized

Ok, in my effort to make this is a purposeful journey I have put together a plan that I will use as a guide.

I plan to:

  • Identify themes (for example, spirituality, health and wellness, relationships, career, plus others) that I want to explore and tackle each one independently.
  • Read, read, and read some more – to learn more about each theme so that I can become better educated and more aware.
  • Develop and implement activities that I can do for each theme so that I am able to learn more about my interests and directions for growth in each area.
  • Assess and evaluate each experience.
  • Discover and record my personal experiences and identify what I have learned about myself.
  • Achieve a significantly better understand myself and identify "what is next" for me by the end of 2010
I am not exactly sure all themes that I want to explore, but I know which one I would like to start with… health and wellness. Next post I will explore that in more detail.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My Purposeful Journey

Hello! Welcome to my inaugural post!

I am a 40 year old stay at home mother of two boys (a 5 year old and an almost 4 year old). In the past 10 years, my life has changed quite a bit. Since 2000, I met my husband, (after years of random dates and many dating droughts), got married, had two children in 14 months, quit my career to be a stay at home with my children, moved three times, and amidst it all, I lost a bit of myself.

Initially I didn't realize that I was lost. I had everything I ever wanted - a wonderful (most of the time) husband, two children that were healthy and happy (again, most of the time) and I felt lucky (you guessed it – most of the time) to be able to stay at home. And this is what I want, but somewhere in between night feedings and preschool registration I changed – my conversations were not the same, my interests altered, friendships were different, and my days were unlike ones before children. Early on, I had no time to mourn the loss of my previous life or to contemplate how motherhood would change me and the person I am. But, as the boys started preschool, I began to feel the urge to figure out “what is next” for me. In trying to answer this question, I realized that I don’t really know myself anymore. The dreams, goals, and aspirations that I had prior to motherhood, feel a bit like square pegs in round holes. I am, proudly, a mother and a wife, yet somewhere, lost in those roles, is me. So here I am - at the beginning of my purposeful journey. I don’t know where this trek will take me, or how it will progress, but nonetheless I am ready for the ride! This year, I am on a search of ME within the chaos of motherhood.

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