On looking to the beyond…

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Photo Credit: QuoteFancy.com

It’s the last day of #NaBloPoMo and this will be my twentieth post of the month. I’m not going to lie: I didn’t think I’d post even half that many times! My success this month makes me hopeful I can continue writing with much more regularity…and even more hopeful that I can find interesting and worthwhile things to write about. That’s my biggest challenge. Much of what I write doesn’t feel all that interesting.

I digress.

The final prompt for this month is:
Have you chosen a word of the year for yourself for 2017? What is it? If not, what words would you consider?

Given that I really enjoy all the words, this is going to be a hard one to answer. Well, that’s not the real reason. The real reason is that this question has never been posed to me before. It’s never once crossed my mind to have a “word of the year.” Is that a thing people actually do?

So it’s making me think about all the things I’ve done and learned over the last eleven months. It all seems like a whilrwind. I’m not sure if I could nail down just one thing

Okay so scratch that.

Maybe the best word for 2017 is “anticipation.”

Yeah, that sounds about right. There’s a lot coming up for the next year. Things I’m excited and nervous about. Things that terrify me. Things that thrill me. Moving to another country. Leaving my family and my friends even further behind. Giving birth for the second time. A new baby. Deployments. Managing a toddler and an infant without my husband there for what I’m sure will feel like an eternity. Homecoming. Vacations. Disneyland in another country. Cross country road-tripping (I hate road trips, by the way. More than about 2 hours and I’m spent and start whining, toddler-style).

I spend a lot of time thinking about how all those things can turn out. I’m cautiously optimistic that everything will be Pinterest-worthy (especially that deployment homecoming…I’m a crazy person about things like that. I can offer about a 99% guarantee it will go down as I’m hoping it will). Hilariously, the only thing I don’t really have any reservations about is giving birth again. That’s right. Having my person basically ripped in half doesn’t freak me out, but a 30-hour road trip makes me want to crawl under the covers and cry.

I worry about how to manage to little girls under the age of 3 without a partner in crime to help deal with the crazy. I worry not because I don’t think I can do it, but because it’s just going to be so different from what I currently know. There will be no tag-teaming night time wake ups. I’m going to be more tired and more sleep deprived than I can even conceive of at this point. But I’m also hopeful that my oldest daughter will continue to be her (mostly) dreamy, helpful little self and will most likely be the glue that holds Mommy together until Daddy gets home. It’s a big responsibility for a two-year-old…but she is one hell of a kid and is stronger than I in so many ways.

I’ve been learning this year how to release myself from the grip of fear. It doesn’t benefit me in any way to live in fear or disappointment. Yes, things still frighten and disappoint me, but I try not to let myself stay there. I will fail. Things will fall apart. Plans will not go according to my schedule. That’s just the way life works. But I’m finding (as I have been for several years now) that finding the good or helpful in every situation. Or even finding the lesson. I often find myself asking, “What was I supposed to learn from this?”

So I think that’s my word for 2017: ANTICIPATION.

There’s a lot on the horizon…I’m looking forward to some incredible views.

 

On bouts of brutality…

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Photo Credit: Someecards.com

Murphy’s Law had to have come about after a particularly rough bout of parenting. It’s the only way the last several hours of my life can make any sense. Just about anything that could have possibly gone wrong, did. And it all started around one o’clock in the morning on Sunday before finally relenting about an hour ago. It’s too exhausting to go into, but here’s the basic rundown:

*Godzilla wakes up from 1am until about 4am, during which time she pile drives and “cuddles” her daddy and me, so
*Husband and I really only got about five hours of sleep.
*What should have been a five hour drive home from Thanksgiving adventures turned in a 7.5 hours drive. Thanks, DC Beltway.
*I caught a nasty cold sometime on Saturday morning, but
*I’m pregnant, so taking an cold medicine worth a damn is a no-no
*Husband had finals due over the weekend so he had to spend most of our visit with family working on essays and final papers (WTF, school? No break for Thanksgiving? Really?)
*Upon arriving home, Godzilla decided it would be awesome to not go to sleep and instead spend literally six solid hours screaming at the top of her lungs for reasons that are still unbeknownst to us. She didn’t fall asleep until about 1:30am.
*Which meant that Husband had to request an emergency extension to get his final paper turned in to his last class. We’re still waiting to hear if the professor is actually going to accept it.
*If not, it means he fails the class (barely. Seriously, he’ll fail by something like 2 percentage points or less. It’s a real kick to the junk) and we’ll have to repay the military for that class.
*And finally, my sciatic nerve on either side is killing me so walking has been quite a challenge today.
*Oh, and I never drank a single cup of coffee.

It was the worst of times. And I’m not the only one that had some kind of garbage Monday. Almost everyone I talked to today wanted a redo. And isn’t that how it always seems to go? I mean, sure misery loves compay blah blah blah, but why must all our days go completely to hell at the exact same time? It really just leaves a wake of upset people that can in no way care for each other except to say, “Everything sucks, I know.”

I’m lucky that I have a large group of supportive women that physically surround me right now. No less than three of them (I can only assume Monday had mercy on them; otherwise, they should be granted sainthood immediately) contacted me to offer coffee, lunch, medicine, more coffee, tea, chai, a listening ear…all the things that a girl could possibly want!

I guess all this ranting and brain dumping is meant to do is remind you (and me) that we’re never truly alone. Someone is probably always looking out for us, someone always has your back, someone is having the same garbage day you are. Which means that we have a pretty awesome responsibility to each other. If someone always has my back, I always need to have someone else’s. To me, that’s a key component of life: being there for each other. Carrying with us a sense of combined duty and understanding for at least one other person is maybe the smallest, easiest way to offer kindness in an otherwise brutal world.

Make the world less brutal. It’s the least we can do.

 

On failing and not caring…

I’m typing this on my iPhone app while watching college football with some of my extended family. It’s been a few days since I’ve written and while this #NaBloPoMo thing was intended to be a 30 day challenge, I knew I would t be writing during thanksgiving weekend. 

I regret nothing. 

This is the last time I’ll see my extended family for several years so I’m quite happy to forego my writing project (which will hopefully extend indefinitely) for a few days. 

Cheers to a happy thanksgiving! 

On needing a little more…

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The last several months, I’ve been feeling a bit underwhelmed with my own intellectual pursuits. That happens when you spend most of your days watching Doc McStuffins (whom I could now probably write an entire dissertation on) and Sesame Street (which is amazeballs, but there are far too many third-person talkers in that ‘hood) and reading Little Blue Truck board books (that truck gets around!).

I’ve bee trying to finish this one series of YA books for well over two years. I’m halfway though the fifth book of the series and while it’s a remarkably well written and engaging series, I just can’t seem to get in the right frame of mind to power through it. But I’ll plug it here regardless, because it is one of the best series I’ve ever read. Definitely check out “The Parasol Protectorate”by  Gail Carriger. I would love to see this series turned into films. These characters come alive beautifully in writing…I would love to see if someone could pull off the snark and wit of Alexia or the style and silliness of her best friend. It’s really just a lovely series.

But I’ve been feeling the need to be more introspective than werewolves and vampires can take me at this point. I want to be challenged and uplifted and involved, whatever that means.

So I started reading “Happier At Home” by Gretchen Rubin. It’s a follow up to her wildly successful “The Happiness Project” which I read a couple years ago. I’m always interested in how other people find ways to actively pursue happiness. I’m a chronic Pollyanna-type. Maybe I’m a little addicted to being happy. Is that a thing? I just like reading different ideas for implementing happiness and joy in my own life.

But then the election happened and I didn’t feel like being so happy-clappy. I wanted something deeper, less flippant. Something that would really challenge my soul. So I asked one of my best friends for a suggestion (there are only a handful of people I ask for book suggestions. These few people are far more well-read than I will ever be and I deeply respect their friendship and their minds. Hopefully you know who you are. I tend to get music suggestions from you, too).

She emailed me a copy of “Love Warrior” by Glennon Doyle Melton and I dug right in. Yeah yeah yeah, it’s a super hot book right now and it’s on Oprah’s reading list and blah blah blah insert whatever reason you might have for avoiding this book. I literally knew nothing about the book or the author until it was presented to me via email. I kind of wish I hadn’t looked the author up until I was done reading the book. I know too much now. But that doesn’t take away from the power of her words. It speaks a lot of painful and beautiful truth into my entire life, past and present. The way she writes is the stuff my writer-dreams are made of. It’s not a terribly happy book, but it’s inspiring. A beautiful disaster, if you will. She’s showing her cracks and filling them with gold. It’s a scary and wonderful thing to read such raw bravery.

But that was getting super intense so I got myself a copy of “Scrappy Little Nobody” by Anna Kendrick. It’s another in a long line of hilarious memoirs written by women I find hysterical (Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Mindy Kaling are among them). She has moments of insight and brilliance, but mostly (as with many of her predecessors) it feels like she is me and we could be super best friends should we ever meet. It’s a good read when I just want to feel lighthearted and happy. Not a whole ton of introspection here, but it gets its job done and I can definitely appreciate that!

Once I finish at least one of these books, I’m going to start in on Megyn Kelly’s book, “Settle For More”. I have had a bonkers amount of respect for (and probably a big of a girl crush on) this woman for a long time. I think she’s a brilliant journalist and woman. She stole my heart during the most recent presidential debate season (as I suspect she did many people…probably as many as she pissed off) and I’m so curious to read more about how she became the woman she is today.

So yeah. Those are the books that are currently taking up space on my iPad. I wish I had more free time to devote to these lovely friends, but I’ll take whatever spare minutes I can for the time being.

On clawing my way through life…

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What is the one thing you wish people better understood about something in your life?”

I think one of the hardest things to explain to people is that I’m an extroverted introvert. Adding to the madness is that I’m a chronic people pleaser. So while I love helping people, I also can’t say no to them, and by the time I’m finished doing the thing that’s been asked of me, I hate people and want to crawl under a blanket for at least a week.

Since becoming a mother, my tolerance for groups and people in general has greatly diminished. Instead of just going about my days like I used to and then holing up when it all finally hit me, I have to actively think about what is going to happen not only today, but the days following. I have to make sure I’m not too over-zealous with my time around humans. That’s not to say I won’t go in public. I spend much of my “day off” at a coffee shop or in stores. Even when I’m most peopled out, I still find myself in a yoga class. It’s that I need to ensure I’m not cramming my days full of actual human interaction.

Every week, I have to look at my schedule and decide what is required and what can be forgone for the sake of my sanity. And all of this is because I’m constantly at the beck and call of a two year old (who will soon be joined by an infant sister and then their daddy is going to go ahead and deploy for several months. That oughta be interesting for me). She’s always touching me or climbing on me or  wanting “ups” or asking a question or showing me this trick or that thing. I can’t be certain, but I’m fairly sure she’s en extrovert through and through. She LOVES being around people. She’s constantly asking if her friends are coming over or if they’re going to be at the next place we’re heading to. Me? I’d be happy just sitting quietly and reading for a couple hours.

When I get overwhelmed with human interaction, it can come out in some pretty ugly ways. One of them is that I simply shut down. I start giving short, clipped answers to really benign questions. I seem a lot more upset than I really am. Then when I try to convince someone I’m not actually upset, I sound really insincere and bitchy…like I’m exceptionally pissed and am going to blow at any moment. I’m especially guilty of doing this to my poor husband who, upon returning to the house from a day at the hangar, is just looking for some human interaction himself. It’s just that I’m spent by then and all I want is to go to the bathroom or cook dinner in peace.

The other big way my introversion rears its ugly head is that I start clawing at my neck. I’ve definitely drawn blood a few times without knowing it. It’s a big reason I’m always wearing a necklace. It gives me something to fiddle with and hang on to that isn’t going to cause me bodily harm. I never actually knew I did this until a friend saw me clawing away at myself in an elevator in Las Vegas. She immediately got me and the rest of our party off the elevator and to a quiet hotel bar so I could calm down. I had no idea I was having an anxiety attack until she explained to me what she saw. She’s a doctor now. A really good doctor.

So yeah, it’s really hard to explain to people how much I love being around them, but when I’m done, I’m just done and that it has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of their company. Because I’m a people pleaser, I always want other people to be happy and comfortable, much of the time at my own expense. I love having people in my home. If I invite you over, I really really really want you to come. I want to share my space and my food with you. It’s just that the next day, I probably won’t want to talk to anyone so that I can recover and get ready for the next time I’m going to want to have people in my home. It’s exhausting to try to keep up with, I know.

Try living it.

On shaking it off….

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Photo Credit: Catalina DeVore Photography 2014

“What is the dumbest thing you and your partner have ever fought about?”

My husband and I dated in high school, then for a year in college, and then again in our 30s which is when we’d finally get engaged and then married. We have a LOT of time to pull from when it comes to ridiculous fights. I think our most fanstastically stupid fights have come since we’ve been married. There was the one about dish towels, innumerable fights over where to eat for dinner, and the one over women in the military (trust me, that was a seriously dumb one).

But the best one was the fight we had because we didn’t have a fight.

Yeah. You read that right. We fought because we didn’t fight.

And it was all over our first baby’s name. I’m not even kidding.

We’d been going back and forth about names for a few weeks. He was settled on one, I was settled on another. Neither of us was going to budge. Then he went to Florida for a couple weeks from training and I spent the time alone thinking about the name he liked. I decided that I liked it too, but only if it could be combined with a super girly middle name. And the middle name we were set on wasn’t girly enough so I chose a second middle name. I had a whole dissertation prepared so that I could convince him to go along with my double middle name plan so that he could have the first name he wanted. I was ready for our evening phone call that night and nervously brought up the subject of our baby’s name.

“So I have a new name suggestion. ”
“Yeah?”
I told him. And before I could launch into the littany of reasons I had for why this was the perfect name, he interrupted me and said:
“It’s perfect! I love it! You have a male name and two middle names and now so will she!”

That’s when the fight started. I started yelling and crying about how he didn’t even give me a chance to tell him why the name was so perfect!  I’m pretty sure he was laughing hysterically on the other end of the phone. There’s really no reason for him not to have been. It was the first (and only) time I went off the rails during my entire pregnancy. And I just completely lost it.

After I’d finished laying into him about how mad I was, he said to me, “So what you’re saying is that you’re mad that we didn’t fight even though you go what you wanted anyway?”

Yes. That’s exactly what I was saying. I think I hung up on him.

It was absolutely ridiculous. I have no explanation for why that conversation went the way it did except that I was very pregnant.

I’m still not sure if there’s a lesson to be learned in all of that. All I know is that whenever we think back about that fight, we laugh. Maybe that’s the lesson. That most fights we’re going to have during our marriage probably aren’t going to be that big of a deal. We’ll probably look back on the majority of them and just laugh at how silly we were being. There are fights worth having and hills worth dying on. But largely, I’m learning it’s important to pick my fights wisely. There are a lot of things we do that drive each other crazy, but pretty much none of those things are worth picking a fight over.

Fighting is a thing that happens; fighting fair is a skill that must be learned. And marriage provides a bit of trial-by-fire in that regard. Not everything is a mountain. Not everything can be. That would just be exhausting. Better to save our energy for the things that really matter. Better yet to save our energy for laughing.

On learning life lessons…

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Photo Credit: Steph Romine Photography 2012

I’ve had pets for almost as long as I can remember. My family got our first cat when I was probably ten years old. It was a huge error in judgment on my part…I didn’t realize that once you feed a feral cat, he will continue to come back for more food. But he was the sweetest thing in the whole world and when he finally died, it was a rough day for our entire family. He was a busted up black cat with a chunk missing from one ear and one eye that was milky white from having been scratched in some alley cat fight. He was tough as nails, but when it came to us kids he was a constant cuddler, just the loviest thing I’ve ever know.

We grew up on a small farm and raised chickens. Whenever a new bunch would come home, they’d stay inside the house under warming lamps until they were big and strong enough to go out to the coop. Our feral black barn cat would just lay next to their little box by the fireplace and ensure their safety from both my little brother and our newest little kitty. He’d often get accidentally locked in the chicken coop with the hens and would just sit patiently by the door until we got home from school to let him out. Never once laid a paw on those birds.

Until I was 28 years old, I’d never had more than barn cats or chickens as pets. And they were, as we caustically described them in our family, “disposable pets.” I don’t mean that we got rid of them willy-nilly. I mean that we knew they were all outdoor animals and that nature would eventually have its way with them. We were just okay with that.  Circle of life, or whatever. It was still very upsetting when, one day, a cat wouldn’t come home for dinner. We knew it was over for him. We’d developed an understanding about how life worked for our pets, but that didn’t make it hurt much less when their time finally came.

When I was 28, I adopted two small dogs from a weird little rescue center south of Denver. The dogs were perfect! I went in wanting only the one and wound up walking out with two. They were best friends and I couldn’t bear the thought of separating them. It just seemed mean.

It’s been eight years since I first brought them home and I’ll be the first to tell you: I did not think they’d still be alive! One suffers from massive seizures and, until very recently, had a mouth full of rotting teeth. The other is old, was horribly abused, was fixed after she had a litter of pups (so her teets never receded), and now has only three teeth left. They have been known to eat things like full bags of Hershey’s kisses, tape dispensers, a small deep fryer’s worth of oil, a chocolate orange, a marble rolling pin, a compact disc…I legitimately have no idea how they’re still alive. Their doctors have told me recently that, aside from their teeth (which are now all better), they are basically as healthy as puppies. I call them my robot zombie dogs because NOTHING WILL KILL THEM.

I’ve learned a lot about pets and life in the last eight years. My dogs are remarkably intuitive. I’ve gone through some hard and painful things in the last five or six years and they’re been far more sensitive to me than I ever imagined possible. When I was angry, they’d get riled up which would force me to walk them to calm them (and me) down. When I was sad, they would snuggle up against me and just be. And the few times I hit the bottom and was crying on my bedroom floor drinking wine straight from the bottle, they’d sit next to me and lick my face every so often as if to say, “It’s okay to be sad, but you need to eat…and so do we.”

When I was pregnant with my first baby, Leo was somewhat annoyed by the fact that my lap was quickly disappearing; Suki took to cuddling my belly like a champ. “Been there, done this, mama!” Once the baby came home, Leo was constantly at her side. If she cried, he would come to get us (he still does this, nearly two years later). He’s very protective (even if a bit over-zealous sometimes) of our little Godzilla. Suki was a little more withdrawn at the sight of a real baby. I wonder if she was sad because she never got the chance to snuggle her own babies? She’s warmed up to the now-toddler and readily welcomes her snuggles (however unintentionally not gentle they may be).

On top of all that, they have welcomed my husband as their “pack leader.” That’s never been me. I’ve never been strong enough to take on that role for them. I’m lucky they’re well-behaved animals (for the most part). But when he came along, he loved them like they were always his and I think they felt that. They knew he was going to be around for the long haul.

It’s amazing the things I’ve learned from my two mutts in almost a decade. They have taught me to take the time to be silly. I’ve learned (or am better learning) the fine art of acceptance. I am far more protective of “my own” after having them.

But more than anything, I think the one universal lesson that dogs teach us is that of unconditional love. It doesn’t matter how mad or depressed or upset I get (at life, at myself, at them), they will always be happy to see me. Their kisses and snuggles don’t have strings attached. All they really want is a couple meals and a place to call home…and isn’t that much of what anyone really wants in life?