The comforting aspects of change

My meditation practice, my dreams, and my thoughts seem to be returning to a similar theme these days: How everything changes. It’s gotten so I can’t even appreciate a good wallow, so soon do I return to hope. I’ve never been a hopeful person, so this is an odd mindset for me.  But the flip side to this realization is that the good stuff will also soon pass. Which is why I am no longer kicking myself for lingering in bed snuggling my babies on weekends. How many more weekends will I have like that? Not nearly enough. And honestly, nothing I’d get up early to do is more important than baby cuddles.

Loving:

My dreams have been quite informative lately.  Oh, there’s the usual detritus in there — fears and anxieties and triggers, random people I’ve not thought about in years making cameo appearances, and oddly specific details (the main setting of my dream last night was a three-story room wallpapered in a lavender-cream velour). But they’ve also taught me much about myself, sorted out conundrums effortlessly — while I slept, even! — and even given me a few pointers as to what I should be working on next. After so many years of restless and interrupted sleep, it’s nice to reach the point where I can not only dream, but that those dreams can be useful. Just imagine what I could do if I got enough sleep to feel rested.

Reading:

This post about apparently insane employers. Look, I work hard — some days, 18 hours. I am dedicated, and smart, and want to do a good job. But my personal time is off limits. If there is even the possibility that you’ll be asking me to drop everything during a family vacation and come to work, our relationship isn’t going any further than the interview. While I derive more from working than just a paycheck, my job will never be more important than my family. And quite frankly, I think that’s exactly how it should be.

Watching:

A little more Jane the Virgin. I’m sad about Michael, but she’s writing more now — that’s always a good thing.

Listening to:

I never listen to podcasts or watch online videos. I can read faster than you can talk, and skimming to the part I am interested in is far, far easier in print, so I don’t get the whole multimedia thing. I see how videos benefit my kids, who can’t read, so perhaps my experience is tied to the fact that I am such a hyperreader. But I did come across a podcast I wanted to listen to: Gretchen Rubin’s episode about dealing with a Rebel preschooler. (Gretchen talks about the Four Tendencies of people. It’s fascinating stuff, if you’re unfamiliar with the concept. I vacillate between being an Upholder and an Obliger.) And I derived some great tips I can’t wait to try out on Anya. (Kai is, to my guess, either an Upholder or an Obliger, like his mother. I know how to deal with him. Anya is without question a Rebel, to my pride/dismay. I’ll take all the help I can get with her.) But my god, is iTunes annoying. It took me half an hour just to set up the app and my account so I could listen to the podcast. I swore off all things Apple years ago, partly because I associate Apple products with an ex I’d just as soon never think about again. But as this podcast reminded me, he’s not the only reason — or even the main reason — I hate all things Apple.

(I’ll update later on about whether the tips helped me deal with Anya.)

Working on:

While I do enjoy rambling here, collecting my thoughts and waxing philosophical, it occurs to me that this exercise is another way to spin my wheels. In the near future (meaning whenever I figure out what my workload is going to be like for the coming weeks), I’m going to dial back the blogging and dedicate some of this writing time to work on my book(s).

Anticipating:

Fall. I suddenly find myself planning cooking and baking projects. More than back-to-school (which is still too new to us to be a trigger), this tells me fall is coming. Perhaps it’s the new August angst, this urge to bake. Maybe I’m responding to some subtle shift in the sun’s rays. Either way, I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and break out my Kitchenaid.

Making me happy:

Anyaisms of this week:

“Why you got such a cute face? You make me want to nuggle you, you so cute.” (Yes, that was directed at me.)

“When you die, I’ll remember you. Unless I die first. Then I wait for you, and we remember together.”

“When I grumpy, I need extra smiles.”

How many knots am I tying here?

Weddings are stupid expensive.

At what other time would someone pay more than $200 for a cake without batting an eye? Don’t get me wrong — I love cake. And I get that cake decorating is a skill; it’s one I certainly don’t possess. But why does the cake have to be that fancy, anyway? Can it not just be pretty and tasty? Why must it be art?

Why in the world should I spend more on a dress I will wear for three hours than I do on a month’s rent?

The price of everything related to weddings is over the top. The paper you send out asking people to come. The paper they (are supposed to) send back letting you know if they will. The pictures. The food. The music. The venue. Every last little detail, if it has the word “wedding” associated with it, is going to cost more than it would if you said this was an anniversary party, or a birthday party, or a reunion.

Obviously, I’m looking to save money on our wedding. And, having been around this block once before, I know some tricks. But I think the biggest one is this:

Don’t invite 200 people.

That’s it. That’s all. No matter what you do, it’s going to cost more if you invite a bunch of people. Your venue will cost more, your food will cost more. your beverages (if you’re supplying the adult kind, especially) will cost more. You’ll be expected to pony up for a higher level of entertainment. Because a ‘do of that size is no longer a party — it’s an event.

I’m not an event kind of person. For starters, in no context would I ever want 200 people looking at me.

So, small. Small venue means small guest list. Small ceremony, small reception. No seating charts, no sit-down dinner, no 12-tier cake. The trade-off: A more personal touch. We can take care of a lot of the details ourselves, make it truly reflect us and our relationship. We will also have more time to spend with our guests, rather than nod and smile as we dash out the door.

It’s a step above a courthouse wedding, but not a wedding.

So, how’s it going? Well, I have most of the flowers and ceremony/reception decor. We’ve set a preliminary guest list, a preliminary menu. We have a venue, an officiant, a photographer, and a familymoon hotel reservation. I have also picked up some family heirloom-type stuff: The Christmas ornament we’ll use as a cake topper, the Jenga game that will be our guest book. I still need to get my dress fitted, and we need to go clothes shopping for the groom, the mini-mes, and the matron of honor. We need to work on a Spotify playlist. And a trip itinerary. We need to decide upon and order the cake — I do acknowledge that if I want it to look good, I need to let someone else do that part. (Or do I?) I need to decide if I’m having hair and makeup done.

In other words, if we did no more work between now and November, we’d still be getting married. Because the important stuff is taken care of: We have a day, a time, a place, and a person to make it official. We could get married in our pajamas, serve Pop-Tarts and apple juice, and we’d still be married.

Actually, that would be a fun way to go. But I already bought the dress, and all these flowers.

It took me 20 years to plant a garden

I am a planner. I can’t remember a time when I was not a planner. I had my life mapped out at the age of 3, and while the details have changed somewhat along the way, the scope of my vision has not. I’m constantly living in today, tomorrow, next week/month/year/decade. When I read Robert Fulghum’s description of his friend Grady, I saw a kindred soul. I know this quality is more infuriating than endearing, but I can’t help it. It’s what makes me me.

It also means I’ve lived my life in a state of partial paralysis, not knowing what to do next because there have been so many variables between where I am at any given moment and where I want to end up. But I’m working on that.

When I was a child, I imagined I’d grow up, buy a house, and lay down roots. Deep, thick roots. My kids would come back to that house with their own kids on holidays. I’d sit on the porch in my dotage. I haven’t given up on that idea yet, but I’m 43 and still rent. That house is way off in my future, if I ever buy it at all.

I have never not rented. This is my first house, but my entire adult life has been in leased domiciles. At first, it’s liberating — you can just leave when the lease is up. Then it’s limiting: You can’t do _____ because it’s just a borrowed place. I’m at stage three now: It’s borrowed, true, but for now it’s my place, and I’m going to treat it as such.

A few years back, I bought R a cherry tree for Valentine’s Day. Because our daughter’s middle name is Sakura (which means cherry blossom in Japanese), and because we both love cherry blossoms, and it was a grand gesture. But I bought a miniature one, and a pot to plant it in, because we rent and I didn’t want to leave this symbol of our love behind when we move — and as this isn’t our house, we will eventually move.

But the tree didn’t like the pot, so R finally transplanted it. It’s thriving in our front yard now.

This summer, I started a little garden in our backyard. I’m not talking the container garden on our deck — I mean a border, some stones, some morning glories and moonflowers, and a couple of bird feeder poles. It’s small, but makes our backyard look…well, ours. I’ve never had a bird feeder before. Or a flower garden. I dig it.

Like that cherry tree, I’d become pot-bound. For 20 years, I’d boxed myself in so tightly that I couldn’t put down roots — what would become of my roots if I left?

What would become of me if I stayed? Because I did stay. For 20 years and counting.

Yes, when we go, I’ll be leaving something of me behind. Like the tree. But rather than seeing it as something I’m losing, I’m looking at it as leaving my mark. This house was my daughter’s first home. It’s where my son was conceived. Where we brought him when we took him home from the hospital. I got engaged here. I’ll come back here a married woman. This house has held great meaning in my life, and I’m pleased to think it will bear my mark after I’m gone.

This mindset is beginning to free me from my paralysis. The knowledge that, as people, events, and objects make their mark on me, so too do I leave my mark. Leaving something behind is not a bad thing. It’s my legacy. It shows I was here. And like my cherry tree, I can put down roots here. Perhaps I’ll only dig them up in a few years. Perhaps not. Either way, it will be nice to feel the cool earth on my roots, I think. To stretch. To grow.

I hope whoever lives here after us enjoys the cherry tree and the bird feeder garden.

August (and everything after)

I find it hard to believe I’ve never used this blog post title before. The album was the soundtrack of a highly pivotal time in my life. But a blog search says no, so I’m using it.

Ahem.

August has historically been a time of reflection (oh, okay, and angst) for me. In August, I look hard at my life and identify lacks and gaps. I reminisce about the past, and think about people I used to know. I wallow.

Parenthood nipped that in the bud. Anya was born in August, so it’s really hard to get my nostalgia on when I spend pretty much the whole month celebrating the birth of my firstborn. Now she’s in school, so I have even less free time than ever. And this year in particular I have a lot of plates in the air.

It should prove to be an eventful few weeks.

Loving:

Anya’s summer art class is wrapping up; she will have her first art show this week. Next week, she’ll start her fall class. I also signed her up for Girl Scouts, though I don’t know yet when that starts. She starts kindergarten next week.

I’m only beginning to grasp how my life will change this year. Last year was just practice; this is the real thing, schoolwise. Kidwise. She’s not my baby anymore. I look at her and see what she will look like at 10, 15, 20. It’s wonderful. And heartbreaking. I can’t wait to go through all the milestones with her. I wish I could reverse time and inhale her baby scent just one more time.

Reading:

Not much reading this week. Unless you count WebMD. I discovered that my gyno now takes my insurance, so I made an appointment for my annual — this self-diagnosis stuff is for the birds. If the pain I’ve been having is just the result of crazy periods (72 days since my last cycle and counting), I’d like them to please give me the magic pill to start me so I can go on with my life.

If it’s not period related, I’m not sure what the problem is. There are several options. They’re all ugly. I’m tired of guessing; time to ask the experts.

I also have an eye appointment to get old people reading glasses; I might read more if I could see better.

Watching:

Still trying to get caught up on Jane the Virgin. But I only get to watch on weekends right now, and I usually fall asleep after one episode. So it’s slow going.

Listening to:

I set up a family account on Spotify, so I can de-pop my recommendations. But we still listen to mostly Kidz Bop in the car, so my Spotify is confused. I wish there were a “I put this on for my kids” toggle switch.

Working on:

This month’s fitness challenge, started yesterday because I start things best on Sunday, is The Abs of August. Given the whole back pain thing…we’ll see how that goes.

Anticipating:

I’m going to be starting a new workload in the next couple of weeks, as I will cease to be a fill-in editor and start editing my own newsletters, so my work schedule may also change. I’m looking forward to new challenges.

And, of course, Herself’s 6th birthday is in the offing. You’ll be hearing more about that as it draws near.

Making me happy:

My landlord had my house repainted. This weekend, we washed all the cars, and I hosed off the porch and put the toys away. I still need to work on the flower garden out front, but it’s looking so much better out there. Now to tackle the back of the house.

Oh Discardia!

For the longest time, I’ve thought of Discardia as a method of simplification. The less stuff I have, the less I have to take care of. I’ve been thinking of possessions in terms of tenants, and determining whether they were good roommates who paid their rent on time and helped with their share of the housework. (All figuratively speaking, of course. I’m not that far gone.)

However, I’m noticing some areas where this mindset fails me, and nowhere is it more evident than my bathroom cabinet. There lies the Gallery of Makeup Missteps. The stuff I bought, tried once, and decided didn’t suit me. The stuff I wore for a while, lost interest in, and tucked away “for later.” The cheap stuff I bought to wear for Halloween. The stuff that makes my eyes burn. I keep it all.

Why? Well, probably because I feel they were frivolous purchases to begin with, and it makes me feel twice as guilty to toss them out barely used.

I tried to get into Sephora; at least I could return that stuff. And I may yet go back to shopping there, when I have more time and money. But I can never carve out enough kidless time to shop there, and don’t know enough about makeup to shop online. Also, the prices intimidate the heck out of me. Big box it is.

I am, at this moment, wearing a gorgeous navy eyeliner that stings my eyes. Last week, I determined that my greige eyeliner does the same. Both are still sitting in my makeup bin, along with half a dozen eye shadows that do nada for me. Earlier this month, I struck a compromise: I gave my daughter a palette of four lovely purple eyeshadows that don’t really work for me. She was overjoyed at the prospect of her very own makeup, and I could rest easy knowing the purchase hadn’t been “wasted.” But I can’t do that with everything. She’d never wear brown eyeshadow, for instance. And we are not entering eyeliner territory just yet. I just need to suck it up and toss that stuff.

Makeup isn’t my only issue. I’m scratching like I’m lice infested after one washing with Neutrogena shampoo. I swore by it in the 90s to degoop my hair, and was thrilled to find a bottle recently. But apparently my skin has decided in the intervening decades that this stuff includes poison ivy as an ingredient. Toss it? I know I will; it’s too harsh for R and the kids, and using it for handwashing (what I usually do with shampoos that don’t work for me) is out given the itch factor. But it galls me to do so.

And don’t even get me started on the nail polish. I could paint a car with that crap.

I don’t mind tossing expired health and beauty products. In fact, my former method of dealing with unsuitable products was to tuck it away in the depths of my bathroom cabinet until they expire, at which point I would happily throw them out. Now I’d like to move that time frame up a bit. Allow myself to make mistakes. Forgive myself when I do. And let go of what doesn’t work for me.

Good advice for all areas of my life, but especially for my poor overcrowded cabinet.

 

Gold stars

I was a good student all through school. Even in my high school years, when I was depressed and didn’t care much about anything, least of all my grades. And while I can’t say I didn’t take it for granted sometimes, you do tend to get used to making good grades. You take on a project, you do good work, you get a gold star.

Adult life was, therefore, a rude awakening.

I’ve held a variety of jobs in my adult years, especially since I started freelancing. Of them, I can count on one hand the jobs I’ve had where I regularly received positive feedback. Usually you only hear from your employers when you’ve displeased them. It’s a hard adjustment. You have to either start believing in your abilities a great deal, or stop caring so much what others think. I suck at both these things.

Somewhere recently, I read that the reason guys like video games is because it makes them feel like they are accomplishing something, often in short order — fight a few battles, go up a level, reap rewards. Often with fanfare theme music. I used to game myself, and I can attest to this theory. When life was moving too slowly and the gold stars were slow in coming (pretty much the whole of my 20s), I could go home, turn on the television, and save the world. When my personal life was in shambles, I could play Sims and live vicariously through my avatars.

As of late, I’ve not been playing video games. It feels like such a waste of time for me. I’d rather have something to show for my down time — a clean house, or increased physical endurance, or a project, or simply time with my kids. But I find myself even wanting some way to quantify time with the kids; I create lists of things I want to do with them, teach them, experience with them. I am not big on unstructured time, it would appear.

Upon reflection, I believe this is because I’ve made life into my video game. I set goals, map out how to achieve them, and go to work. Nobody’s giving me a gold star for completion, nor do I get prizes for moving to the next level, but I still feel accomplished for having done so.

It’d be nice if I got some fanfare music every once in a while, though.

Ghosts of clothing past

Anya came into the kitchen wearing one of my favorite necklaces from my dress-up, office-working days.

“Why you have this necklace?” she asked

“I bought it to go with a suit I used to have. It was exactly this shade of blue.”

“But it too little for you now?”

No…actually, that suit would probably fit me perfectly now. It was huge on me when I bought it. “No. I just got rid of it. It was old. And my life doesn’t call much for suits these days.”

And that’s a good thing. But I do miss wearing pretty clothes. We took advantage of tax-free weekend to pick up some cute school clothes for Anya, but money’s too tight for me to feel good about buying clothes for me right now. Once Kai is older and less gooey (see this whole post), I shall make a point of acquiring more attractive clothing.

Loving:

Kai is a whirlwind of emotional expression these days. Which means I have to watch that I don’t get bitten when he’s angry, and must intervene with his sister when he starts pounding on her. (Didn’t see that coming. He was such a serene baby.) But it also means that I hear “I you” (which means “I love you” in Kai) much more frequently, and often without provocation. I also get loads of squeezy baby hugs, which are my absolute favorite kind of hugs.

Reading:

Last week’s favorite blog post award goes to this piece. Opened it for the clickbaity headline; stayed because the content surprised me. (And, if I am to be 100% honest, because the writing confused me at first. I had to read it a few times before I figured out what the author was driving at.) Makes a good point, despite the confusing style — a very timely point for me, at any rate.

I also enjoyed this post for the vivid throat-clearing image.

I can’t say I enjoyed this one, but I feel compelled to share it anyway. Perhaps because I am now middle aged, or because my parents are aging and unwell, or because I have small children and am thus inclined to take a big-picture view of the human experience, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about death. Not wishing for it; just ruminating on the topic. What it means to die. What it means to live. That sort of thing. Anyway, this Quora answer is beautifully written.

Watching:

I’m trying to work in eps from last season that I missed because…well, because I don’t have cable, or even basic TV (and there are limits to what I can watch online.) But it’s been a busy week, so I haven’t gotten many shows in. Which is fine; I’d rather do stuff than watch stuff. I did catch the first few eps of last season’s Baby Daddy. Boy, that show is dumb. Makes it great to sleep to. I also got back into Jane the Virgin, and stayed up waaaaaaaaay too late as a result.

Listening to:

A lotta lotta Kidz Bop. I am amused by how very much Anya likes the songs from Thriller. I was just about her age when that album came out, and loved every second of it. All these years later, the tunes hold up. I’d always thought that calling him the King of Pop was hyperbole, but apparently not — how many albums can you point to that bridge generations like that?

Working on:

My mornings. Specifically, my morning meditation practice, my morning tidying routine, and breakfast. I feel like I’d have a much better handle on my day if I could refine those three things. If I meditate first thing in the morning (uninterrupted, as I was not this morning), I start and stay more calm throughout the day. If I begin the day with an empty sink and a made bed, I feel less stressed about the house in general. It’s just a matter of doing those things.

Breakfast is another matter entirely. I’ve found, through trial and error, that eating sweets makes me eat more, more junk, and more often. So sweet daily breakfasts are out. I’ve been all about the Cheerios, but even then I’m hitting the pantry every couple of hours. (Especially now that I work at the kitchen table.) It’s not the frequency of my eating that’s the problem — it’s what I eat. Snackity snack snack. This past week, I’ve been experimenting with lunch as breakfast: eating my go-to quick office lunch (raw almonds and a glass of V-8) in place of my usual breakfast fare. The down side to this option is that I’m retaining way more water than usual. The up side is I’m less snacky. Once I’m through this bottle of V-8, I’ll try a low-sodium alternative. Ideally, I’d like to get back to my 2-3 meals per day plus a snack; it’s a lot easier to get a balanced diet that way.

In this vein, I am so pleased to finally have a workable food tracker again. Before Anya (so you might as well say “in my other life”), I used MyPyramid Tracker religiously. I liked how it would adapt my nutritional needs based on my physical activity and give me a personalized list of requirements. (Except when I was pregnant and in the early stages of breastfeeding, I’ve never been one to eat 2000 calories in a day.) When I tried to revisit the tracker after Kai was born, they’d changed it — not for the better, either. Well, I just checked back, and it’s closer to my beloved tracker. It even syncs with my FitBit! I’ve found that I’m better able to get a handle on things I want to improve if I track them religiously. (Except, oddly enough, my attempts to quit smoking.) So as I work on eating a healthier diet, I will be checking in with the SuperTracker daily.

Anticipating:

Anya’s birthday. Fireworks the day before (postponed from our rained-out 4th), a rainbow unicorn party, and a family putt-putt outing. Should be fun.

Making me happy:

My morning glories are growing! Now to get them into the ground.