Category Archives: me against the world

the final count

Here are my final 2011 New Year’s Resolution Purge numbers*: Technically, I succeeded. I got 33 more things out of my house than I had committed to do. Yay me. For some reason I’m not enthused at this accomplishment, but disappointed that I couldn’t do more.

My observations from this process:

  • I should have just stuck to purging. Most of those big fat zeros in the middle of the month were from the previously mentioned office rework-a-palooza. Which is great except that I spun my wheels on this project while I did that project, and I didn’t finish that project so I could get back to this project and not miss my self-imposed goal. So office rework is still in limbo, and though the furniture is more or less where it’s supposed to go, books are most certainly not.
  • Don’t hype it. I had this GREAT IDEA that a friend did last year and she said it was AWESOME and it’s a FANTASTIC WAY to detox from the holiday season and you WON’T GET SAD if you have this to focus on and YOU WILL LIVE HAPPILY EVER AFTER. Um, no, not quite. While perhaps not being QUITE THAT CRAZY ABOUT IT I still had grand plans in my head that got waylaid because, let’s see, I work full time, Big D’s in grad school,  we have two kids, and it’s cold and flu season. Duh.
  • Baby steps. I had intended to get through every room in my house in a month (except the kids’ rooms, they’re relatively manageable). My bathroom and bedroom were not fully sorted. I didn’t even get to the basement. So I’m disappointed by my inability to finish what I start because I mentally changed the rules to make it harder for me. Why do I always do that?

But, it’s done. I have now officially declared February the Month of Cleaning Up What You Completely Ignored in January. I’m hoping by March I’ll be able to see if getting almost 200 things out of my house actually made a difference.

* – I have to confess, the last three numbers on the calendar were actually accomplished in February. I crapped the bed the last weekend in January and sat on my butt.

excessive? obsessive? who, me?*

Judging by my numbers from earlier this week, I’ve ground to a screeching halt:

(Thank goodness for the burst of energy earlier in the month, that 52 is the only thing saving me at the moment).

Judging by the state of my dining room, I am probably certifiable now:

Or the living room, which has turned into Plastic Bin Central:

It’s because of this room:

The office, aka my latest obsession, has brought my purging to its metaphorical knees. My logic to start with was sound – start in one room, methodically sort through things, move on to the next room. Worked wonders in the kitchen, the dining room, the living room. But then, the office loomed large. It’s covered in books and shelves and was laid out like a library. Which works well for adults, not so well for children. It had boxes of papers to be filed to get to and not a lot of space to maneuver in a room that is technically the largest bedroom in the house. It’s also the backup guest room space (if someone doesn’t want to stay in the mancave) but is impossible to sleep more than one person because of how the shelves were positioned.

No problem! I’ll just rearrange the office in the course of my purgefest! Shouldn’t take more than a couple of days! I am superwoman, hear me roar!

*THUNK.* That was the sound of me falling back to reality. Or splashing into the ocean because my wax started to melt (the more likely option). My obsession for the last two weeks has been this !@#$%^&* room. I am bound and determined not to move on to the next thing until this room is the way I want it because, dammit, this purge is as much about cleaning out my mental cobwebs as it is decluttering our spaces. So here I am, obsessing about books, sorting through papers I probably will never need, questioning the need to have two shelves full of German history and a section in our library on Conspiracy Theories. The rest of the rooms in my house have been completely neglected in my all-encompassing quest to make this room habitable. I guess I’ll let you know if it works?

*No child’s welfare was harmed in the living of this house. I promise.

bitchface.

I get the visual harshness from my German grandmother. The jaw that’s slightly too sharp, the eyes that are a little too piercing when they look at you straight on.*

I get the quiet appraisal from my Scottish grandfather. The little man who knew how to blend into the background, who passed his wallflower tendencies onto his son, also passed on the need to size people up before getting to know them.

I get the stoicism from my (other) Scottish grandfather, who was loving and kind until you messed with him. Then he battened down the hatches.

I get the laser-sharp daggers from my mother. She wore the pants in the family for sure. She was never wrong and let you know it. She’s the reason I’m a strong woman and she’s the source of a lot of my insecurities. My last year of high school was certainly not a fun one.

I get the second-guessing from my father, who was never really happy in a situation probably not entirely of his making, but didn’t know how to get out of it.

I get the increasing tendency towards pessimism from what life has thrown at me so far. Big D wonders why I can’t see the positive things in our life sometimes; I wonder why I keep getting dumped on. Our life looks pretty good from the outside (if you don’t look too closely at the backyard, anyway), but some days it’s a struggle.

I was born to have a ‘bitch face,’ apparently. It’s why only crazy homeless men with no teeth chat me up while walking down the street. It’s why my boss tells me to lighten up as I pass by when I wasn’t thinking about anything particularly heavy. It’s the line of my almost-nonexistent eyebrows, the set of my jaw, and the bold glasses I use as a mask. My default face is the face that says ‘don’t mess with me, motherfucker.’ People ask me how or why I do it – damned if I know. I just *do*.

I didn’t know this explicitly until I was an adult, but I think I’ve compensated for the bitch face by being too nice, sometimes. For giving the people I let in the benefit of the doubt, when maybe I shouldn’t. For looking past the bad things and focusing on the good things. More often than not, that’s the moral equivalent of shooting myself in the foot. Especially when my kids are involved, that’s a sure recipe for disaster.

I hate being a bitch. But I’m incredibly good at it. And to save my own skin, and those of my family, I need to do it more often. So if you see the bitch face, don’t take it personally. It’s self-preservation.

* (I get my Aryan breeder hips from her too, but that’s an entirely different story.)

I’m just a little bit stubborn

about New Year’s resolutions. They’ve never worked in the past – instead, they’re just good ideas that I’ve either forgotten about a week later or felt guilt over for screwing up. Life is messy, as we all know, and mine seems to be a messier one than most. 2009 was mostly reactive, putting out fires that I didn’t start, playing catch-up, and adjusting to yet another new paradigm. A month without an oven between Thanksgiving and Christmas certainly didn’t help.

But, 2009 was also a year where I learned more than I thought I would. And I think these little lessons, tapping me on the shoulder or clunking me on the head, are doing more to inform my goals (NOT resolutions, on purpose) for 2010. So maybe you (especially the lurkers, Leah – I know you’re there!) can help to hold me accountable in 2010. I apparently learn about everything the hard way.

Here goes:

  • Be more mindful of where the money goes. I saved $2,509.67 over the course of 2009 by setting aside the cost of a salted caramel signature hot chocolate – plus tax! – each day. I still struggled with another $4 drink that shall remain nameless, but I’m getting there. The goal was to set that money aside and not touch it, which of course didn’t actually happen. But the little emergency fund that could saved my financial ass more than once this year, got me back into the habit of saving, made me realize I didn’t really miss that small amount of cash that I otherwise frittered away, and reminded me that I need to pay more attention to my family’s financial situation. I, who was once incredibly anal about balancing my checkbook, haven’t wanted to look at it since May of 2008. That act of sticking my head in the sand has kept me from realizing that being detail-oriented is actually a good thing. This overwhelming part of my personality is an asset, both when we have a bit of a cushion, and especially when we don’t. Big D and I have started having real, substantive discussions about our family budget, and are making changes that should help keep us in line and not so willing to spend cash at the drop of a hat.
  • You can’t forget yourself in the process of getting through the day. Because of Big D’s school schedule, it makes the most sense to have me manage miss poopypants at daycare. So that means running to get her there, running to work, running through the day, running to collect her, running to get home and feed her before she turns into Jack-Jack from The Incredibles, running to put her to bed, running to organize the house, etc. Weekends are catchup and prep time for the week, not much of a break. With this as my standard schedule, and the running back and forth to deal with my mother’s house for the first half of the year, no wonder I survived on caffeine and sugar. My yearly grope and feel was a wake up call that my frayed emotions weren’t able to ignore: 22 pounds and 14 points on my blood pressure in one year meant I was going to kill myself at this pace. As much as my brain told me to keep going to get everything done, I’ve had to retrain myself to recognize that it’s not possible, my kids aren’t going to be young forever, and if I don’t relax I *will* pop a gasket.
  • The internet is a blessing and a curse. Both Big D and I are guilty of burying our heads in our data plans, surfing facebook and ignoring each other and the kids. I’ve had some so-called friendships blow up in my face because of social networking. But we’ve also gotten to know wonderful people, renewed old friendships, and learned more about our world, our environment, and our interests. Moderation needs to be the key – both in what we say or don’t say, and in how much time we spend. Our interpersonal relationships are enhanced by the internet, but honest to goodness, flesh and blood people are at the core.
  • I am more than what I do for a living or whom I parent. As much as I love and need my job, and dote on my kids, I can’t forget who I am. Most of the time, that person is dormant – caring for young kids pretty much demands it – but glimpses of what I enjoy need to surface on occasion so I don’t lose my me-ness. If anyone has any ideas on how to actually make this happen, I am taking suggestions!

And one hard and fast goal – miss poopypants WILL be in her own room by the end of the month, come hell or high water. We’re both getting sick of being beaned with binks at 6:30 am.

it’s always something

It seems fitting, oddly enough, that something else has the potential to go wrong this week. It’s always something – and has been for the last several years. Just when one thing seems to be resolved, or cleaned up, or dealt with, here comes another thing to crack me over the head until I see stars.

I’ve had a steady stream of unsettling issues to deal with, and quite frankly, I’d like a moratorium. Not a long one, like ten years, or the rest of my life, but six months to a year of mundane existence would be welcome right about now. Of course, that’s not how it works.

So here I sit, on the eve of my birthday, knowing that we don’t have the time to actually celebrate, and I’m coming to terms with that. I’m an adult, I don’t need the confetti and the goodie bags and the Chuck E Cheese tokens. I’d much prefer to not have to deal with those at all, but little d and miss poopypants probably wouldn’t let me get away with that kind of a moratorium. But that’s not all. I sit here, on the eve of my birthday, fervently hoping for good news tomorrow morning. That the something that is wrong isn’t really too bad, or if it is, that’s it’s easily fixable.

There’s a lot they (whoever “they” are) don’t tell you about being a parent. Having your heart grow three sizes is just something you can’t describe, even when you’ve experienced it. Having a piece of you walk around outside your body, happy and joyful with scabbed knees and adult teeth half-grown-in, makes you feel both bulletproof and incredibly vulnerable. And having something potentially wrong, really wrong, with the scabby-kneed ninja who’s sleeping upstairs is quite possibly the most overwhelming, heartwrenching feeling of impotence that I could possibly imagine. I’m entirely too practical to not be able to fix something when it’s broken. And when it’s your kid’s heart that’s broken, you want to fix it. RIGHT NOW. And there’s no way I can do that without handing him over to people I don’t know and hoping they know what they’re doing.

Mommies are supposed to fix everything, to kiss every boo-boo and make it believable when they tell you everything is going to be ok. I can’t say that convincingly tonight. Maybe, hopefully, I’ll be able to say that tomorrow. That would be a great birthday present.

my latest excess: unreasonable expectations

Most people think I have my shit together. And on the surface, it certainly seems that way. I have a job that I enjoy that pays me a handsome wage, a happy and fulfilling relationship with Big D, two gorgeous and crazy little ones, a comfortable house, newish car, leather couch from IKEA that my dogs have not yet ripped apart, new Apple with a screen that goes on for miles. What else could a girl want?

Time to think, for one. I’m anal retentive and neurotic and a professional planner. That means I need to be organized and have a plan in place for everything – monthly bill-paying, home renovations, meal planning, you name it. And under the best of circumstances, I would take time out each week to update, manage, and assess the plans for efficiency. It’s a great system. Now if life would only let me use it.

Because even though I have my shit together, my spectral aura must be screaming out “Dump more stuff on her! She can take it! She’ll rise to the challenge!” So since I’ve become an adult, I’ve had to:

  • move out of my parents’ house without their knowledge to maintain my sanity at age 17
  • manage being the primary support for a suicidal relative
  • see my father wither from Parkinson’s disease for over a decade
  • marry someone I thought I knew, but didn’t – *really* didn’t
  • care for a dying relative for three months while in graduate school
  • put my then three-year-old son through a divorce (thankfully, an amicable one) and start out on my own all over again at age28
  • deal with becoming unexpectedly pregnant five months into a new relationship
  • manage my mother’s pitiful financial situation while my father lay dying
  • integrate Big D into my household, which was interesting given our respective baggage
  • pop out my second baby over nine pounds, without an epidural (or any wish to have one)
  • have my mother spite me one more time by dying unexpectedly less than one year after my dad, on the day I was moving into my new house
  • deal with three houses and three cars and two kids and two dogs for a solid six months
  • and and and…

I haven’t had time to assess whether I’ve kept my shit together or not. Frankly, I’ve jumped from one crisis to the next, always reacting and trying to put out the next fire. 2008 was a particularly stressful year, because miss poopypants came along, I started an intensive leadership program, moved, lost my mother, and gained massive amounts of paper to push at work. I’m quick to cry when easily frustrated (though less now than six months ago), haven’t had a decent night’s sleep in over a year, and am more or less caffeine-dependent after being off the stuff for a good six years. Hobbies? Don’t even remember what they were. Books? Good for the bathroom, and that’s about it. I can’t stop moving when I’m at home, for two reasons – 1) there’s always something to do, and 2) if I stop moving, I fall asleep. Thank goodness my biological clock is aching for more babies, otherwise I’d never have enough energy to get laid.

And yet I still expect more of myself. I expect that I can be a better partner, mother, employee, housekeeper, and do so while being thinner and eating healthier and cooking all meals at home and attempting to be frugal….. and I don’t know why. My expectations of myself and my abilities are still framed around my time in college, I think, when I took a tougher-than-average courseload, worked a part-time job and had an internship, and still had time to paint and go to flea markets on the weekends and plenty of time to navel-gaze. Why don’t I have any free time now? Why can’t I get the house cleaner? Why can’t I clean out the garage and finally park my car inside?

My expectations are probably the most excessive – and destructive – part of me. So maybe I shouldn’t obsess over every expensive drink I consume, for the money or for the caffeine level. Because when I cut back there, I compensate with sneaking old Halloween candy and coveting little d’s Easter bunny. Or if I cut back there, I can’t stop thinking about guacamole. My rewards for dealing with stress aren’t awful – a latte here or there is certainly better for me in the long term than drinking alone – but I’ve come to the conclusion that my high stress levels need to be the first thing to go. They are truly excessive and in the end, the most harmful thing for me. I’m working hard not to obsess about the sink full of dishes because the kids that dirtied them won’t be kids forever. The laundry on the bedroom floor is truly less important than enjoying the reason why it was tossed there. My family keeps me grounded, keeps me sane, and deserves my best – not half of my attention while my eye is on the dirty floor.

good lord, it’s been a while.

I committed (at least in my own head) to posting on this site a few days a week. And it’s been almost a month since I last posted. Slacker!

We really need to get the internet up and running on more than one computer. Sharing Firefox with someone who does online gaming means I’m lucky I get five minutes without Big D breathing down my neck. And it’s not the sexy, hey baby kind of breathing either. I do need to give him credit, though – last night he asked me if he could get on for a second and actually waited until I said I was done to assume his default position back in front of the screen. I was very impressed. It’s not easy to wean yourself off an addiction.

Which is what I’m starting to see the four-buck drinks as (notice I changed the title of this blog? Hot chocolate has not entered my mind in weeks… but other warm, expensive drinks have), an addiction. To the idea of treating myself, of deserving a break from the craziness and stress that is my life. It’s not a bad life, but I’m still recovering from the mind-fuck that was 2008. I find myself, on a daily basis, figuring out when I can walk down the block or drive down the street to grab some warm liquid goodness. It really is starting to feel like I have an addiction to coffee porn.

But isn’t that what we all see? It’s ubiquitous. Every celebrity has a cup in hand and maybe subconsiously I want to be like Britney Spears. It’s not that expensive, I can enjoy the little treat, and it’s certainly less expensive than the designer handbag or Mercedes without car seats. Now that I’m trying to be good about our family budget – thanks to a layoff, plans for grad school that are on hold, and my unexpected status as the sole breadwinner, at least temporarily – I’m arguing with myself over whether or not I really need that extra jolt of caffeine. Sure, Britney Spears is famous and drinks a lot of coffee in front of cameras, but she also shaved her head, bared her lady parts to the world, and lost custody of her kids. None of those are remotely appealing to me. So I’ll keep fighting the urge to take five minutes away from work and blow four bucks. I’ve already saved over $400.