On knowing I have plenty…

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It’s the new year and I’ve decided to try two new personal projects for 2017:
1. Don’t buy anything that isn’t necessary.
2. Do ten minutes of yoga every day.

Surprisingly (to me), it’s the second one that’s been the most challenging so far. I’ve done yoga once since January 1st. ONCE. I have carved out ten minutes for myself one time in five days. And even then, Godzilla was screaming for me the entire time (Sailor was home and handling it, but it was far from the zen ten I was hoping for).

But the “no spending” thing? That’s been oddly easy. I didn’t buy any car candy or frozen pizza at the grocery on Monday. My Target spree yesterday was actually entirely necessary items (milk, diapers, a birthday card for my dad, etc.).

I think it’s because I’m trying this thing where I really evaluate what I think I need. And what that comes down to is the word ENOUGH.

I have enough. I have plenty. In many ways, I have more than enough (I went through my lingerie drawer last night and found more than a dozen pairs of unworn underwear and at least as many that could be gotten rid of. My bras are another beast entirely…I have probably thirty of varying sizes, but two rounds of pregnancy have taught me that boobs change size on a whim, so I’m keeping all the bras…for now). Clutter generally stresses me out. I like seeing wide, clean spaces (like my countertops). It’s hard to manage this with a toddler. She has SO MUCH STUFF! I don’t want to get rid of her toys just because it stresses me out. But I do wish we had a room that could be devoted just to her things because seeing it all the time makes me crazy. I spend more time picking up after her than anything else. It’s not going to be any easier with an added tiny human. So I do what I can with my own things. I’m trying to be fairly brutal with my closet, but that’s also challenging because I’m pregnant so who knows what I’m going to fit into in a few months? The one thing I know is that I’ll be able to off-load much of the maternity clothing I’ve amassed. That’ll feel good.

But the thing about “enough” that’s proving more difficult is the part where I AM enough. I think a lot of us struggle with that. There’s always some area of life where we feel somehow unfulfilled or underfulfilled.

Recently, that’s been motherhood for me. Two year olds are hard work. That wasn’t a surprise to me. But my ability to manage her has been less-then-stellar. I get angry with her a lot. I yell more than I want to. I ignore her when I just can’t take it anymore. I’m supposed to be one of the only people she knows will love her unconditionally…her attitude and behavior shouldn’t affect the way I treat her. I always want her to know kindness from me.

But ohmigod, she is a real pill sometimes. She gets so worked up that there’s just no reasoning with her. I just have to let her cry her tears and throw her tantrums and generally be insane…and sometimes that lasts for way too long. It’s frankly no different than when she was an infant and would cry up to twenty hours a day. It’s just louder now. Much, much louder.

It causes me to wonder: am I doing enough? Am I challenging her enough? Do we do enough activites? Do I read to her enough? Do I discipline her enough? Do I hold my ground enough?

The one thing I know I do enough of is love her. God, I love that little girl. She’s crazy and difficult, but my heart seems to grow bigger every single morning when I get her from her crib and she reaches up with her big, sleepy eyes and says, “Hi mommy!”

Up until very recently, I had legitimate fears that I wouldn’t be able to love both my girls enough once Mothra arrived. Would I love Mothra more? Would I love Godzilla less? How can one person possibly be expected to love more than one person with every fiber of her being?

It turns out, the closer Mothra gets to making her arrival, the more my heart seems to acquire the space.

I don’t know that I’ll ever feel adequately “enough” to manage two little girls. We will fight. We will yell. We will say mean things. I know…I have experience being the daughter of a headstrong mother. I will probably always feel like I haven’t done or given or taught or prepared them enough.

But I know that I will always love them enough. I will love them Beverly Goldberg style. I will love them until it annoys the hell out of them and they push me away and it will hurt me in ways I’ve never been hurt before. But I will love them enough.

And in the meantime, I’ll be making space in my house and getting rid of excess things I have enough of…and try to do some damn yoga.

On the depths of my soul…

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It’s exactly one week until my favorite day of the year. It’s better than my birthday. Better than Valentines Day.

Christmas Eve is my favorite day of the year.

When I was younger, Christmas Day ruled all. I think that’s true for a lot of us. As children, we look forward to presents and Santa and seeing the tree in the morning. It was my favorite day until I was in my early 20s, I think. My parents did the most wonderful job of making Christmas magical for my siblings and me. The decorations always sparkled. We left out cookies and carrots for Santa and Rudolph (he was always welcome in our house). There were hoofprints on the roof in the morning. The tree was beautiful. The fire was always warm and crackling. In fact, none of that has changed. I’m nearly 37 years old and my parents still do everything the can to make Christmas morning magical. We still get gifts from Santa, wrapped in the same paper for the last 30-plus years.

As I’ve gotten older, my sense of wonder has shifted a little. Don’t get me wrong: I still love everything about Christmas morning, especially at my parent’s house. But the magic isn’t there anymore. It didn’t disappear. It shifted. It changed. It evolved.

The culmination of the entire year happens on Christmas Eve. My faith relies heavily on what happened that evening (which, yes, probably actually occurred sometime in the fall). Without Christmas Eve, my faith doesn’t even exist.

Every Christmas Eve, I look forward to midnight mass (or “the eleven o’clock service”, as it’s more commonly known in the evangelical world). It’s quiet and reflective. It’s peaceful. It’s serene. It’s basically everything that birth is not and everything that my life to that point hasn’t been. A year of chaos and noise comes to a grinding halt on Christmas Eve. Life’s busyness subsides and I am able to rest in the quiet and the candlelight, even if for just a moment.

It feels like Christ himself is breathing new life into my soul. Like I can hear Him say, “That feeling you have right now? That’s me. That can be all the time if you’ll just slow down and let me.”

That’s where the magic is for me now. When in the bustle and madness and fear and unknown of everyday life, I can sit quietly and honestly think, “Yes. All is well.”

So the magic of Christmas is still there for me. But it’s not in the lights or decorations or cookies.

It’s heavy. I can feel it’s weight.

It is the deep magic.

On wanting what I have…

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With only two-ish weeks left in the year (and thank God for that), I’ve started thinking about New Years resolutions. I do this every year. But the last ten or so years, my resolutions are more about deleting something from my life than about adding.

One year, I vowed to go to chain restaurants as little as possible. That one really stuck. Well, until I moved to southern Maryland where chain restaurants are really the only available options most of the time. I love seeking out new places to eat and discovering little hole-in-the-wall family-owned dives that just know what they’re doing with whatever food they’re serving. I’m looking forward to getting back to that when we move next year. That was easily one of my best resolutions to date.

This coming year I’ll be thinking more about subtractions. I want to simplify and minimalize. I want to spend less and do more.

For the last few years, ever since having our first baby, I’ve felt a constant need to get rid of things. I feel like there’s a lot of clutter and chaos in my life and a baby (or two babies, as the case will soon be) doesn’t lend itself to a lack of stuff. And the things we do actually need for the tiny humans are quite large. I’m beig overrun by toys, diapers, and shoes right now. It’s overwhelming a lot of the time. So I end up violently purging my own things a lot of the time. I’m vicious when I purge. I give zero regard. If I don’t currently use or need it, I want it out of my house. To the point I don’t even care if I can sell it. I’ll give it away if I can just get rid of it!

So my personal goal for 2017 is to buy fewer things. I honestly can’t think of anything I actually need, much less want. A friend recently told me about a friend of hers that went an entire year without buying anything new. I would love to try that sometime. I don’t think it’s at all realistic for someone with a husband and children. But it’s certainly something to keep in the back of my mind every time I go to Target or the grocery store or log on to Amazon.

One great thing about having two girls is that I don’t really need to buy anything new for the littlest one. She’ll get a few of her own things, but by and large, she can just wear her big sister’s clothes. And let’s be honest: babies and kids grow out of clothing so quickly that most of her things are still in fabulous condition! And there are some things that my first just didn’t get to wear for long enough, so it’ll be fun to put her sister in those tiny, cute clothes!

There’s also a really good chance that I’m going to need some smaller clothing once I’m done being pregnant and have hit my goal weight again. That’s a ways off, but it’s a reality. Granted, I have a TON of pre-pregnancy clothing that I can’t wait to get back into, but I know I’m going to want to treat myself to a couple new things. I think that’s fair. Plus, I’m going to need a new dress for when the sailor comes home from his next deployment (whenever that is).

But beyond that, there’s just not a lot of need or want in our family. We have everything we need and more. And what we want? Those aren’t really tangible things. I suspect that’s partially a product of getting older. I’d rather just spend time with my family than buy a new gadget.

Except for a bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. I really want one of those.

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?

On ruining a meal…

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When it comes to cooking, I don’t fail often. Part of that stems from the fact that I’m not terribly adventurous in the kitchen. I’m a far braver baker than cook. So when I fail at cooking, I fail hard. There are a few instances I can choose from…the time I set my oven on fire (with oil) and attempted to put it out (with water) or the time I so thoroughly burnt falafel that I still can’t bring myself to make it again (that was over two years ago) or the time I had a beautiful meal planned and realized (as I was beginning to make said meal) I was missing three of five ingredients.

When it comes to screwing up in the kitchen, I tend to do it with the most basic things.

This is the story of my most epic fail. And it just so happens to be a Thanksgiving fail.

Almost ten years ago, I was invited to spend Thanksgiving with a couple of friends up at their mountain home. They’re both pretty phenomenal cooks and always use the most primo ingredients so this was an easy invitation to say yes to. Best of all, they knew how important gravy was (is) to me when putting together a holiday meal. Gravy will make or break Thanksgiving. It goes on literally everything. If the gravy is garbage, the meal is basically ruined. My family tends to makes the objectively best gravy that has ever existed. And you’re not allowed to be in charge of gravy until after some pretty serious training. You have to be the taste-tester first (for many years) and then you graduate to giver-of-opinions (but you still don’t get to actually add the ingredients). I’m 36 years old and have been my immediate family’s GoO for over 15 years. We don’t take gravy lightly.

So being asked to be in charge of gravy for my friends Thanksgiving meal was a big deal to me.

I arrived at their house and after a glass of wine or two, I set to work. I asked for all the ingredients I’d need: drippings, flour, water, seasoned salt, poultry seasoning, and a few other things. They pulled everything out of their extensive pantry of high end items and I began my work.

But after a pretty significant amount of time (and more flour than I’m used to using), the gravy wasn’t thickening. I hadn’t yet tasted the gravy, because this isn’t something that happens until the thickening begins. There’s a process, dammit! So I looked over at my friend and said, “Um, what kind of flour do you weirdos use?!  Something just isn’t working.”

And that’s when my world fell apart and I literally started crying. Because he looked over and said, “Oh shit! I grabbed the powdered sugar!”

There’s not much left to say after that. Thanksgiving (for me) was all but ruined.

Thank God there was pie…and more wine.

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Sunday Brain Dump

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This month, I’m going to use Sundays as brain dumb days. I don’t even have the energy to come up with a marginally clever title.  If I find something of importance or value to say, I will. If I don’t, that’s fine, too. Sometimes it’s nice to just ramble.

I’m 22 weeks pregnant right now and all the pains I remember from my first pregnancy are making a violent return. Round ligament pain and early pelvic separation are no joke. I can’t even put on yoga pants without significant struggle.

I was reminded by a very good friend today to dream big. I’m going to record a Christmas album…and as it turns out, I have a lot of friends who I can turn to for advice and help in that arena.

One of my friends touched on it earlier this week, but I think part of the reason I’m okay with starting the Christmas season early is that the world (and particularly the States, recently) could use a little more joy and a lot less tragedy, lies, and disappointment.

I’m going to try to talk my husband into setting up one of our pianos (yes, we have more than one. It’s kind of insane). I want to start playing again. And what better time than now? Especially with Christmas looming and all my favorite music about to be on blast for the next several weeks.

Despite all that, Fall is officially here which means my baking season has begun. I loves me some dark liquors and I really enjoy baking with them. Fall flavors lend themselves well to dark liquors (especially bourbon, which I’m more than partial to). I have some staples that I make every year, but I try to come up with something next every year. I did a dark caramel drizzle on some gingerbread and bourbon cupcakes yesterday. That was a solid win. I get to make one of my favorite pies this weekend to share with some girl friends (except that my crusts are still the bane of my existence so I’m going to turn it into a crisp instead).

So it seems I have nothing significant to say this evening. And that’s okay. But it means it’s time to end the rambling and turn my attention toward the Broncos v. Raiders game. #timetoride y’all!

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On needing to feel desirable….

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Today is November 1 which means it’s the first day of #NaBloPoMo, a writing challenge I’ve attempted several times in the past and am hoping to be more successful at this year. It helps that I’m joined by two women who are both good friends and excellent writers. I encourage you to read their work as well!

I’ll be (mostly) following the prompts from BlogHer. Today’s prompt wasn’t all that exciting to me: When you’re having a bad day with your mental health, what do you do to help yourself?”  I’ve written about self-care before. It’s not new territory for me. I sometimes feel like I’m whining when I write about it. 

But maybe there are parts of it that are new territory.

A lot of times when I think about self-care (especially as regards my mental health), I consider it a solo activity. I like to spend time by myself. I enjoy being alone. But as a wife and mother (mostly as a mother), taking care of myself means requiring the help of other people. I need babysitters or I need my husband to be home so I can leave the house. Oddly enough, it’s frowned upon to leave a two-year-old on her own for four hours. But it’s not just my husband’s help I need. He provides so much for me and for our family. He “gets” that I need to be not-Mommy for a few hours a week in order to even adequately care for our marriage and family. It’s something I deeply appreciate and all-too-often take for granted (that’s a whoooooole other blog post).

I think I’m getting to a point where I need the rest of the world to cut me some damn slack when it comes to self-care. Okay, not the rest of *the* world, but certainly the rest of *my* world. Motherhood is a deeply sacrificial experience. Every time I turn around, I feel like I’ve given up something else, some other piece of myself, in order to be a mother. And just when I think I have nothing left to give, someone or something finds a piece of me I forgot about or didn’t know I had and that gets taken away too.

Maybe, just maybe, it’s time for me to be angry about that. And I swear on everything I (still) own, I will lose it if even one person tells me, “Yeah, well, you chose to become a mother!” Screw that noise. I’m well aware of the choice that I made. We should all be very aware of our choices. I think I’m angry because I’m sitting her, waiting for the moment when someone or something decides am worth sacrificing something for. I had absolutely no idea the concept of sacrifice until I became a mother. I thought I knew. I’ve given up a lot in my life. I’ve had to choose between two very difficult paths a number of times. It’s not a new concept. It’s a far deeper concept now.

So when I get asked to chip away just a little more of my time or my energy or my talent for this thing or that event or whatever it is that needs my attention, I start to ask myself, “When will I get a little in return?” Not in smiles and hugs from my daughter. Not in kisses and kind words from my husband. I get those in spades. Those are the things that keep me from lighting my own fuse and completely blowing up.

I’m waiting for the world to offer up some small gesture to show me that I matter, that my time is valuable, that my presence is desired, that my opinions count.