I Don’t Know…

It’s been awhile since I posted last.  The fall has been so busy for us with the older two kiddos in activities and adjusting to the school routine…and working through college application season with my students…and parenting fatigue, so I haven’t written.  But there’s SO much I want to write about.

I had a whole other draft of things that were on my mind but am self-editing.  I don’t know if my heart can take any blow back from writing my true feelings in the political climate these days. A strong woman with an opinion??!!! Nothing could be worse!  (insert eye roll emoji)

So, at this point… I don’t know.  I’m trying to fill myself up with good stuff; words and tools that will help me move forward and make an impact the way I feel called to do. I’m listening for God and I’m also reading a lot of things that are giving me strength, courage, understanding and hope.

When you “just don’t know” it’s great to read powerful narratives from people who’ve lived through ups and downs and DO know.  These three books are giving me comfort, inspiration and spaces to reflect.

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Brene Brown is quickly becoming my guru.  I need to read everything of hers.  She truly understands pain and the desire not only to heal yourself but those around you…her ideas about shame, authenticity, courage, forgiveness and community are incredible.  She gets me.  😉 I feel better reading her wisdom.

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Debby Irving’s book is through a class I’m taking with some fellow Mom’s.  We wanted to be better equipped to teach our children about race and the systemic problems that our country has created over hundreds of years.  It’s been such a great discussion.  I highly encourage other white parents to read “Waking Up White” if you want to have a better dialogue with yourself and your kids other than “treat everyone the same”…because while the spirit of that message is good and true, it doesn’t answer many questions and address the many injustices that our black and brown friends live every day.

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Finally, I just started reading Love Lives Here by Maria Goff for my church’s book club.  She lives in an “opposites attract” marriage (like me) and has a lot to share about finding Jesus in not only the joy but the pain in your life.  Three chapters in, she’s illustrating how important it is to give grace not only to those around you, but also to yourself…and that’s something I need to hear right now.

So, that’s the good stuff that’s filling my head these days.  Moving into the holidays, I’m looking forward to the cheer that Christmas music, time spent with family and friends and good food can do for the soul.  We ALL need to fill ourselves up with the good and take care of ourselves in a season of uncertainty.

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A Decade Together

My husband is probably going to be annoyed that I’m writing a tribute post to our marriage on our 10 year wedding anniversary, but tough cookies my dear.

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When I first met my husband, I immediately gravitated toward him because of his quiet, shy but sweet demeanor.  He was interested in me, not pushy or arrogant and a good listener.  He had strong points of view but was open to hearing other perspectives.  This was a breath of fresh air after trying to date in a huge metropolis where hair gel, strong cologne and egos dominated the scene. We had some major foundational things in common; both from small towns in rural farming areas, both attended smaller Lutheran universities, both had strong friendships and thriving careers and both of us wanted to get married and have a family.  Oh, and we both enjoyed sports…and that’s about where our similarities ended.

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What we would look like if we were dogs.  🙂

We could not be more different in every other way.  Him; a Type-A, introverted, cerebral accounting manager. And ME; a more flexible, extroverted, empathetic, feelings-oriented counselor.  Classic case of opposites attract. I knew that our relationship wouldn’t be easy…and I certainly never stayed in easy relationships.  I don’t know why but I wanted a challenge… I just didn’t know if this would be smart for the long-term. Questioning myself early in our relationship, I talked to one of my college mentors.  She told me before we got engaged, “you can be as different as night and day but as long as your foundation is strong, that’s all that really matters and you’ll certainly never have a dull marriage…but be ready for the work it takes to continually come together when your personalities keep you going in different directions.” I needed to hear that.

I read a devotion a while ago that helped me think about our differences in a really positive way.  It said when you have a partner who is your opposite, think of it as a blessing.  Your children will get to see two completely different ways of being and operating in the world.  It will make them more tolerant of people who are different from them because you’re exercising your empathy, understanding of a different view point and flexibility on a daily basis.  To think of your marriage like a stone you’re sharpening and polishing into a beautiful diamond and in the process, you better yourself.

My husband is sharpening me and I’m softening and polishing him.  I’ve become smarter, tougher and more disciplined since knowing him and he’s become softer (on the inside of course…you could bounce a quarter off the man’s pecks. ha!) more playful and flexible since knowing me. We still have our challenges and always will because of our differences but by the end, we’ll hopefully have accomplished a lot to be proud of.  A beautiful brilliant diamond of a marriage.

Ten years in and I’m proud of us, David.  I’m happy with the life we’ve built.  I look forward to spending time with you after the kids have gone to bed and we can enjoy a glass of wine, some hand holding and laugh together watching our favorite comedies on Netflix.  (I’m REALLY looking forward to when we can have MORE time together because this first decade has been an exhausting marathon of moves, career building and raising children away from family logistical support. Wonderful but exhausting.  It’ll be SO much nicer, when everyone can wipe their own butts, right?!!)

Cheers to ten years!  Can’t wait to see where we’ll be in another decade together.  Love you!

 

 

P.S. – Other things that have sustained and strengthened us that I can’t forget to mention because they’re so important to us…1. finding a church community we love and the ability to pray, worship together and forgive like God forgives us and 2. Having one of us in particular (David) who does not quit or walk away from any argument or challenge.  He will not let a disagreement or bad feelings linger.  We talk it out immediately.  I’m FOREVER grateful for this quality in him.  There’s no silent treatment, no going to bed angry and no passive aggressive game playing in our house.  Thank GOD for your love for me and tenacity in problem solving!!  You’re solid as a rock, David.

35!!

Today I turn 35. In the words of one of my favorite TV shows, Sex and the City, “*%#! I’m old!”.  I don’t know why, but 35 feels fully adult.  I still felt “young” before today.  Like, I’m older and wiser than all those “kids” in their 20s (in a cool way) but still pretty young.  Yes, I have three kids.  Yes, I have a nice house.  Yes, I have 10+ years of work experience, but I’m still “youngish”.  Not anymore.  Here was me at 25. Fresh faced.  No signs of aging.

Maybe it’s the gray wiry hairs curling out from my dark silky long ones.  Maybe it’s the permanent dark circles under my eyes.  Maybe it’s my poor bosoms sad and saggy after nursing three children for a year+ each time.  Maybe it’s the fact that recently my husband and I created a “Will” with a real lawyer in the event of either of our deaths. Maybe it’s the fact that my energy level is significantly lower than it was 10 years ago when “going out” with friends began at 10pm.  Now, I’m in bed watching Conan by that time!  Whatever it is, I’ve crossed the threshold and am now staring down the barrel of “middle age”. Here’s me now, at 35. Not bad. Not “old”…just starting to look more puffy and tired.   😉

Now, don’t fret.  I know I seemed a little dire and dramatic back there. I know that “youth” is more about how you feel inside than your biological age. There’s a benefit to growing older. I’m a lover of life..and after a lot of ups and downs, there’s a lot of security in the wisdom that age can bring.  I was pretty insecure in some ways as a “young” person and finally feel like my identity is firm and I am more strong and confident than before.  I think what’s throwing me for a loop is how FAST time has gone.

I still vividly remember my high school show choir competitions and how tight we were as a group (and some of the choreography that went along with our numbers).  I still remember the day I went to college, how hard it was to leave my home state and say goodbye to my parents.  I remember the soul-crushing despair of a broken heart and all the late nights writing in my journal. I remember the laughter, hilarity and heartwarming loyalty and sisterhood of living with my best girlfriends in college and early 20s. I remember the night I met my husband and the 10 day absence that followed and long distance phone calls that drew us closer together (Yes, my husband talked on the phone with me for hours on end when I was on a work trip.  Those who know him, KNOW that’s a big deal for him to talk that much). And here I am now, deep into parenting, trying to navigate school issues for my daughter, behavior issues for my preschooler son and still changing diapers for the baby; going a couple days at a time in-between showers, still trying to keep my footing in the professional world and barely maintaining contact with that fun girl who lived it up in Chicago pre-husband-and-kids.

How did that life changing shift seem to happen so quickly?? This is my birthday lament.  It’s not bad or wrong.  It’s just reality.  Each year that I get older, I have to exclaim, “How in the heck is this happening??!”  I remember when my parents were 35 and now I’m 35!!

I know this. I had two grandparents,who I loved dearly but who talked about their impending death every time I visited them.  Every discomfort and pain was exaggerated and discussed at length.  Every day was a day closer to their funeral.  I don’t ever want to be like that.  I will dance to my favorite music while making dinner for as long as my knees will let me.  When they give out, I will still sing. I will take care of my body, the only vessel we’re given, to do good. I will still travel as long and as far as I can to learn about the world and find out more about who I am in it.  I will still seek God in the good and the bad.  I will raise my children to be fully themselves, as fearless as they can be but also to roll with the punches that life brings.  I won’t stop trying to evolve and be better.  I will keep pushing back against hardships because if I “give up” in any endeavor, then I have real problems.  Finally, I will continue to try to “let go” when it’s the healthy thing to do (still not a pro at that).

I will also continue to be grateful because, seriously…I’ve had a blessed life.  This year might be the craziest year of my existence due to what’s happening in this country and the world and how anxious and unsure so many of “my people” are feeling…but we still have many riches and blessings and privileges that so many in the world do not have.  I am grateful. I also know that I do not know everything.  I have a lot to learn and I actively seek out people who are smarter/more grounded/more spiritual/more humorous, etc. to let me in on their secrets.  I hope that 10 years from now their wisdom and grace will have made me even more savvy/forgiving/intelligent and quick to laugh.

You know, if I get to my “goal” age, I’m only a third of the way through my life.  I have a ridiculous life goal to make it to 2076 (I’d be 94) so I can be alive for our country’s 300th birthday celebration, sitting on the Capitol’s lawn, watching the concert and fireworks in Washington D.C.  I want to be one of those old people they feature on PBS’s 4th of July Celebration special.  Me, white-haired, in my wheel chair, waving my little American flag surrounded by my family singing patriotic songs.  Don’t ask my WHY I think that would be fantastic…but I hope I can make it to experience that moment, knowing I’ve pretty much seen it all and experienced it all witnessing the turning of a page into a new era.

For anyone reading this…thanks for investing in me.  To those who know me well…thanks for being a part of my life.  Love you.  To my friends who share my birthday year, let’s all go on a cruise when we turn 40!!  Anyone else want to be in D.C. with me in 2076?!!

 

 

 

 

The Great Unknown…

The past few months have been strange for me and an emotional rollercoaster at times.  Our latest election and new POTUS have thrown me for a loop as far as changing my outlook on my country and what I could expect out of my neighbors & community.

The best way to describe how I felt (and still struggle with sometimes) is through illustrations from “The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers”.  In the book (which has been around since my childhood), Sister Bear learns about the dangers of strangers.  Her typical happy-go-lucky outlook on the world is like this:

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Her community is a safe, friendly harmless place.  After her fear of strangers takes over her mind and thought process, her outlook is like this:

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Her environment is darker, unfriendly and she’s far more suspicious of the people around her.  This is almost exactly how I felt when I woke up the day after the election.  Fear can shut out the light.

One of the things I heard after the election was “Why are you so upset?? Did someone DIE?”  And while no one close to me died, of course, my perception of the world did.  My inherent optimism and trust that “everything will be ok” did.   My perceptions about where we were as a society was flipped on it’s head.  The issues important to me were and still are under assault.  I went through a huge mourning period with lots and lots of anger and processing and praying that followed. As my husband put it, our house was not a fun place for a few weeks (and really any time after POTUS speaks on television).

However, I knew this was a moment to learn something.  My husband said “not to vilify the other side”.  I always agreed with that in theory but now had to put it into practice like never before.  What was I going to do…let DJT ruin my relationships?  No.  He’s not worth that.  While he tears down people and pits them against each other, I’m certainly not going to do that.

I started to read about or listen to the people who voted for DJT and considered their point of view.  Lots and lots of fear, uncertainty, feelings that their country let them down..and then those who voted for him and didn’t feel good about it.  “I cried in the voter booth because I didn’t feel like I had a better alternative”.  “I left the Presidential Candidate section blank”. “I hate him but feel like he’s the only person who can blow up an ineffective system in Washington”. In other words…it’s complicated and not what most conservative voters would have wanted in the first place.  (For those who love DJT…I can’t even begin to process that right now…)

So here we are.  The future is unknown.  While it always has been, my trust that the future will be better than today is gone.  Maybe I’ll get it back someday but for now, it’s gone. I hate that feeling.  Still, there are days that my hope in my fellow humans soars. I’ve been so heartened and proud of the activism that has come out in the past few months to keep working to fight prejudices and discrimination; to protect the free press and keep pushing for equality.

I’ve also realized that I can’t sit back and rely on others to make the world a better place.  I have to get more involved in my community if I want to see a change.  So, I’ve started to do that. Maybe I can’t run for office or protect the vulnerable but we all help out in different ways. For now, I’m volunteering in my daughters super diverse school to come up with ways to create more opportunities to celebrate diversity.  I created a Facebook group to connect with a diverse group of women to be a space for support and keep dialog open.  I’m connecting with other like-minded moms who are doing the same things.  I’m trying to disconnect from as much “noise” as I can.  I deleted Facebook off my phone so I’m distracted less.  I’m savoring my children’s sweetness.  I’m letting myself indulge in “feel good” movies, shows, music, books, etc.  I’m thankful for my students…working with them gives me energy.  My husband and I started doing puzzles at night (with cocktails!). I’m holding onto the words of my pastors at church more tightly than I did before.  I’m listening for God’s voice more than before.

There will still be people who roll their eyes at me because I’m being “too intense”.  There might be people who choose to distance themselves from me or not work with me because I’m vocal about tolerance, acceptance, inclusivity and collaboration.  There will still be sleepless nights or times I doubt myself and feel like not leaving my house…but forward motion is key.   If I get too far down into the “maze” of negativity, laughter and active love make it all better.  Love = light.

Maybe the current administration has brought out the “inner activist” in me…and while I’m still trying to figure out what that looks like for me… the possibilities are a good thing.

ONE!

I can’t believe my youngest just turned one!  I still haven’t blogged about his birth story and here we are, a year later already!

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I sorely miscalculated how “upside down” my life would feel as the mother of three young children…and not just any three children.  MY high energy, high spirited, high need, totally lovable but totally exhausting two older children AND a new baby! I thought I’d have more time and energy this year to “do it all”;  work on my business, cook from a garden I was hoping to grow this spring – summer, blog regularly and still tend to the littles (due to the older two being in school/pre-school a lot of the time)…but in reality, my sanity and productivity is up and down.
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I’ve totally neglected blogging and could only grow herbs this season but have truly enjoyed every minute with Brook this past year. I’m so thankful that I’ve had the time at home with an infant (my other two were in daycare from 3 mo. on until we moved to MN). I’m proud of the work I’ve been doing with my small handful of clients but I’m barely keeping our house picked up and in order.  Some days I feel like I’m nailing it and doing a good job and other days I’m a hot mess. If I’m doing one thing well, it seems like other things suffer or fall behind.
The kids take up most all of my time and energy. As they should. They’re wonderful, loving and smart and deserve my attention.  But I’m laughing at myself thinking I’d have time for much else, let alone to do those things as well as I’d like…or the budget to get a babysitter as frequently as I would have liked so I can have a moment to focus on one task as opposed to multitasking everything in my life. It doesn’t help that my husband has been working like a dog climbing the corporate ladder for the past year and a half. (Praying there’s a light at the end of the tunnel soon because the reality is that I feel like a single parent M-F and sometimes at least one of the days on the weekend. We’re talking 13 hour days on a regular basis).
What’s the payoff of being a “work at home” parent, often by myself, juggling a bunch of balls in the air all the time? This little sweet guy, Brook Maddux. (And his siblings of course, but while I’m disciplining the other two the majority of the time, there’s nothing sweeter than a baby.  Am I right?)
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Let’s go back to his entrance into the world…
A year ago on September 10th, my husband and I scheduled an “elective induction” to avoid me having the baby on the side of the road, not being able to make it to the hospital in time. It was a gamble being that I was so far along already, without family around to take care of my other two no matter what time I went into labor.  All my labors have been relatively fast (12 hrs. with my daughter and 4 with my son). I’ve always dilated up to “active labor” stages before arriving at the hospital, beginning weeks ahead of my due date.  My doctor knew that once my water was broken, I probably wouldn’t need any other meds to get things rolling.  As God’s good graces would have it, that’s exactly what happened.
I went in on the 10th at 4 cm, 75% effaced and Brook was born about 4 hrs. and 20 min. after they broke my water.  The most stressful part of the day was waiting in the lobby for 2 hours because they had 4 emergency C-sections back-to-back and no staff available to clean a room and get us checked in.  So, while we were hungry and anxious waiting to be admitted, we had a quick delivery for little Brook once we got in. Everyone was healthy and resting by dinner time.
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I was very lucky to be able to have both of my boys fast without any drug intervention.  Ryne’s birth was textbook; contractions gradually increasing in intensity while I was able to adjust my pain tolerance and breathing techniques to work through the pain.  However, with Brook, labor was a little strange.  Contractions started after my water was broken and started to gain intensity for an hour and then stopped.  I was chillin’ again without much discomfort wondering what was going on.  I tried bouncing on a yoga ball (draped in a towel…let’s be real). I tried walking, laying down, etc. Finally something shifted and more water gushed out.  In the next hour I went from 6cm to 10cm!!  It was crazy.  Contractions were coming hard and fast and I could hardly keep up.  At that point, I was just there for the incredibly intense painful ride.  It felt like Brook was going to punch his way out.  I was in so much pain and urgency I pushed him out like a rocket.  His poor little face was bruised from coming out so fast.
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After our first day in the hospital, he looked more like himself…not like a puffy purple alien.
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Brook’s first name was ultimately my choice.  We had two or three names going into the hospital and after looking at his sweet handsome face, he just seemed like a “Brook”. His namesake is after Brook Berringer, a Nebraska Cornhusker football legend and someone I looked up to as an adolescent (and also a nod to my own Grandma Swanson). His middle name Maddux, after Chicago Cub great, Greg Maddux. (All of our kids have Chicago Cub references in their names). He’s our baby…and will likely stay that way since we don’t anticipate having any more children.  He’s the perfect fit to complete our family.
In his first short year of life, I’ve grown to love and cherish Brook’s:
* Dragon shrieking and LOUD screaming (it’s how he communicates right now)
* Affectionate hugs and cuddles, especially when he pats me on the back
*Hunger and thirst for pretty much anything I put in front of him
* Attempts at playing “sword fight” or “light sabers” with his brother, even this early
*Fast crawling and desire to “go”…even though he’s still too chicken to walk
*Super soft velvety peach fuzz hair
*Adorable teeth and smile
*Personable personality
*Fat feet
*The sweet way he interacts with his siblings
I can’t wait to see what he becomes.  I’m cherishing every moment…even through night waking and phases of clinginess and other tough developmental phases.  Seeing the age difference between Addison and Brook is an every day reminder of how fast time is going.  They will not be little for long.  Soon they won’t need me as much and I will have endless hours to work uninterrupted or start and finish a project without weeks in-between.  Their childhood is precious and fleeting and I’m so thankful to be in this space of life where I can experience their little-ness full on. It’s truly ONE big privilege to be their Mom.

Parenting in the Age of Internet Trolls

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It’s been a tough start to the summer as a parent today if you’ve paid any attention to social media and the news.  A child climbing/falling into a gorilla exhibit.  ANOTHER mass shooting in a place to dance and let your hair down.  A child being snatched by an alligator right under your nose at the Happiest Place on Earth.  A grueling and nauseating election cycle that won’t be over for another several months.  No where is safe.  Everywhere are insults, blaming, shaming, woulda, coulda, shouldas that heighten the anxiety of being a parent – heck, a HUMAN!  You want to protect your children.  You want them to grow up in joy and safety…but we live in a fallen world.  We’re not in control. We’re not perfect.  We make mistakes…and there’s ALWAYS horrid internet trolls who judge from the comfort of their computer screen who amplify the hurt.

I get it.  It’s easy to judge.  I’ll be the first to admit that I judged the Gorilla Mom because I just couldn’t fathom letting your child get into a zoo exhibit that’s supposed to keep the general public out.  I remember the day after the incident I was talking to my neighbor and we both lamented “what were the parents DOING to let that boy get away from them??!!”  “Where were the others in the vicinity who could have helped?”  But then I read more about the situation and heard that the mother had a baby and another young child with her.  I heard she told the boy no and he ran away from her and no one else could intervene in time…he squeezed into the exhibit where an adult could not have followed.  I swallowed my judgement because I too have a rambunctious boy who often does not listen to me and I could imagine her horror.

Let me disclose the scariest day I’ve ever had as a parent.  I was back in Nebraska staying with my parents after we left Chicago.  My son was three weeks away from turing 2. He’d only ever known urban life; being on a tight “leash”, if you will.  Strapped into a stroller. Carried or forced to hold our hand so he didn’t run into traffic.  As soon as he learned to walk, Ryne has been a wild stallion.  Wanting to run, jump, climb, fight the bad guys, wield a light sabor. He thinks he’s invincible. At 20 months old, he’d ended up at Lurie Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago because he HAD run toward traffic near our downtown apartment and my husband yanked his arm so hard to save him that his arm got dislocated.

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My parents farm in Nebraska was the freedom that he needed.  He was having so much fun.  Space to run!  Cows and other farm animals to watch.  Tractor rides with Grandpa.  Only, he didn’t know the dangers of that space and I didn’t know the boundaries he would push, receiving the scare of my life….

My parents have a long drive way/lane that’s paved.  Great for riding trikes.  The kids and I were outside with my mom playing in the lane and the lawn.  I had to go inside to get a drink of water.  Ryne started to play further down the lane. As I was starting to walk back outside, I heard a truck turn onto my parent’s road from the corner of the highway, going fast right out of the turn.  I could hear the gravel fly under the truck from the house (maybe 50-70 yards away). I heard my Mom say it was my cousin’s truck (out helping my uncle with chores no doubt).  For some inexplicable reason, Ryne started to bolt toward the road.  My mom yelled at him to stop.  He kept running.  He was too far away from her to grab him.  I yelled “RYNE, STOP!!” He kept running and the truck kept gaining speed toward us.  There was no way my cousin would have seen Ryne.  There’s a huge bunch of bushes that grows tall in the summer and blocks the view of the lane from the road.  He kept driving and Ryne kept running as fast as his little legs could go.

I bolted into a sprint down the lane.  I had seconds to keep him from running onto the road in front of my cousin.  All the while, I’m still screaming.  Hoping that Ryne would stop.  Hoping that somehow my cousin would see us and slow down.  Flashes of my son’s death popped into my mind.  I don’t know how I was able to catch Ryne but I grabbed him TWO SECONDS before my cousin’s truck roared by.  It could have been a horrific accident.  Ryne could have easily gotten hit and died.  My cousin could have swerved and crashed. It could have been so bad and we were so lucky it wasn’t. We all would have been devastated. None of our lives would have ever been the same.

After I caught Ryne, I carried him back into the house. I was shaking.  I cried calling my husband to tell him what nearly just happened.  He yelled at me.  “Who was watching him??!!  How could you have let that happen?!!”  My husband was scared.  My mom didn’t realize how fast our little toddler was and that he wouldn’t listen.  I had a false sense of security being in the comfort of my parent’s property. The bushes should have been trimmed.  My cousin should have been driving slower. I shouldn’t have left for as long as I did. Very easy to see afterward what we could have done differently. Hindsight is 20/20.

The alligator attack at Disney World two days ago made me think about that near accident at my parent’s house…because sometimes you think you’re doing everything to be a good parent (playing with your kids outside) and something happens out of your control and there’s no time to analyze the situation.  You just react.  You do whatever you can.

My family and I LOVE Disney World! It’s an escape from the rules, routine and common-ness of every day life. The resort is the capitol of happiness and king of customer service. (We’re actually in the process of planning our next trip). While it was built on top of swamp, it’s a place that’s pristinely manicured and manufactured to give you a “fairytale” experience.  It’s so commercial that NO ONE is thinking about wildlife as a threat. Especially with so many people around.  Especially so close to Magic Kingdom.  I can totally imagine how those parents were feeling at the end of a long day at Disney.  Winding down relaxing on the beach, waiting for the fireworks to start, enjoying time as a family. My heart breaks for them in the wake of such a horrible accident.

And yet, there are the internet “trolls” who will pass judgment with the ease of a key stroke.  Throwing blame around, making others feel badly. Dealing with this kind of cyber criticism today is unlike any other era.  Our parents didn’t have to deal with this. Not that long ago, parents made mistakes and no one would instantly know about it or have the ability to comment.  I made the mistake today to engage such a troll on a friend’s Facebook page who made a comment that the Disney parents “should have been paying more attention and used common sense”.  Easy for him to say.  He wasn’t there.  His defense of his comments was that he lives in a free country to express his opinion and when I implied that he would never say such things to those poor parents in person,  he said I would be impressed to know the things he could say to people’s faces. Fabulous.  Congratulations to him.  I was stupid to think that engaging with such a self-righteous person online would ever turn out positively.

So, what do we do in the face of so much anxiety amplified by the internet age?!!  The answer is a tough one because I can’t even totally comply with my own advice….but for me, it’s to “turn it off”.  I’m going to try to “disconnect” more this summer with my devices and be more present and “in the moment” with myself and my family.  Like I said, SO hard when smart phones are addicting.  I mean, what do I do all those times nursing my baby day and night??  I scroll through my phone, of course. However, “turning it off” is so important when you feel your chest tightening and breath quickening when you read or hear bad news stories AND reactions to such stories that are less than graceful or forgiving.

We need grace.  We need forgiveness.  We need positivity. We need comforting.  Especially in times of grief or uncertainty.  Bad things happen every day and we’re in a society where we know instantly the moment something bad happens.  I’m to the point where I can’t listen to the hate anymore.  It’s not that I’m passive and not going to do anything to make a difference in my society.  I’m not going to vote for anyone promoting hate speech.  I’m going to stand up for people who can’t stand up for themselves against bullies.  I’m going to write and teach and counsel and guide for the good in my every day life; personally and professionally.  And I’m going to play with my kids…because damn.  Life goes too fast and it could all be over before we’re ready.

I pray that everyone has a safe and happy summer!!

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My little fire-cracker last 4th of July. Trying to teach him safety around fireworks! A joyful childhood rite of passage. 🙂

 

 

 

Struggling with Confidence

Back in May, I posted an update on my new professional endeavor, starting my own business.  Update on that venture!

My business is called Best Fit College Consulting and it’s going pretty well so far.  I’m connected to a wonderful group of fellow consultants in the Twin Cities area.  We meet about every other month for professional development and collaboration.  I’m a member of a national association who keeps me accountable with best practices and also provides professional development, college tour opportunities and support. I’m really happy with how things are going with my client and all the work we’ve done so far.  But…

Business is slow.  I’m by myself.  I’ve missed some meetings and opportunities here and there with a new baby at home.  It’s hard to leave him when I’m breast feeding and he doesn’t take a bottle well.  I’ve never done marketing or advertising, so I’m struggling with how to promote myself. College consulting isn’t a super popular thing in my area yet so there aren’t a lot of people seeking my services (while in the bigger metros in the country, it’s very popular). Starting a new business from scratch is difficult!  I’m definitely in new professional territory and at times it eats away at my confidence.

My first and primary job is that of “Mom”.  I’m glad to be at home with my baby (likely our last baby) and this is a special time.  My other two kids need me a lot right now too.  It’s not like I WANTED to be working full time or be so busy that I don’t have the flexibility  I need but I’m also the kind of person that needs to have something of my own in order to feel “balanced” and I also want to be good at what I do.

I’m passionate about helping students and I love my new business.  I’d like to be working more. I’d like to be able to have a more regular routine and space of time to do work so that I could get a regular babysitter for the baby. Because things are slow and I’ve missed some things here and there, my negative self talk starts up.  “This isn’t going to work”.  “You’re never going to have enough clients to afford a babysitter”.  “If you’re not going to make any money at this for awhile, aren’t you just hurting your family by using up your money, time and energy”? “You’re being selfish to want to work instead of solely focusing on your children”. (That one in particular really eats away at me whenever I see a post on social media by a fellow stay-at-home mom who makes me feel like I should feel 100% fulfilled by being a mom).

I’ve always been the type of person that feeds off of others and is motivated by working in groups.  Now that I am on my own, there’s no supervisor/boss down the hall to ask a quick question or a group of coworkers to collaborate with.  For the most part, working for myself has been amazing.  No vacation requests or sick time to get approved.  I can work whenever I need to instead of having to be in an office at a certain time.  My day is my own and that’s awesome.  However, there’s no positive feedback or validation when you need it.  When I’m having a bad day, there’s no “water cooler” talk to get me out of a funk or a coworker sharing similar concerns or giving me a pep talk.  For an outgoing people person, being alone all the time isn’t so great for my confidence.  It’s not like my 6 year old can give me constructive feedback on my approach or style with a student or give me suggestions of what I could do differently.  I could definitely use that when I’m doubting myself over a session.  “Should I have said that?”  “I hope she doesn’t think I don’t believe in her” or “I wonder if she got the most out of this session as you wanted her to?”

Why do we always believe the bad things people say about us more easily than the good?  Why do bad experiences stay more vivid in our memories than the good?  This is what happens to me.  I’ve had some pretty bad, hard lessons and experiences both personally and professionally that nag at me when I’m in doubt.  That time my step-mom told me I was a “spoiled princess” among other horrible untrue things.  All those times I was asked to go up to the blackboard to “do a problem” in math class and I froze and embarrassed myself, feeling dumb. That “hot” feeling of self loathing when I’ve put my foot in my mouth. The time an old boss yelled at me to stop asking for things.  The time an old supervisor harshly criticized my presentation style and wardrobe. The time another boss shot down my presentation in front of the whole office. The time I went through two rounds of interviews for a job, met several people who I thought I impressed only to never get a call  back about the verdict of the position…and when I called to touch base, no one returned my call.  Yeah, ouch.  Lots of times I was hurt and felt badly about myself.

I’m all for constructive criticism.  Any young professional in their twenties needs that to grow.  However, I definitely had some more jarring harsh experiences that rattled my confidence and whenever I’m trying to make progress in my career, those negative voices and experiences come back and drag me down.  Now that I’m in my 30s, I feel like I should be further ahead; especially when I compare myself to my peers. I’m so envious of my friends who ooze confidence and don’t have any problem achieving success (or so it seems).

A quality that I’m trying to embody more now is self motivation….because if I let those negative voices drag me down or those negative experiences I mentioned define me, I wouldn’t get anywhere.  So, (here we go with some self-cheerleadering) whenever I lack confidence or doubt myself, I need to keep remembering all the GOOD.  How warm and nurturing I am.  My ability to bring out a person’s true problem or meaning behind a concern.  My ability to form relationships. Remembering the positive work experiences that have helped shape me. All the experience I have in my pocket to draw from when problem solving.  The students who told me how much I helped them. My wonderful education that qualifies my expertise.  My passion for people that gives depth and meaning to what I’m doing. My ability to fight for and stand up for myself. Professors who believed in me and thought I was a good counselor. Support from family and friends. Resilience to bounce back from rejection and the ability to learn from my mistakes. These are all good things.  All reasons to believe that I can reach the goals I achieve.

In the meantime, I also need to be grateful for what I have and give myself a break.  I have a new business and a 5 month old AND 3 and 6 year old.  Chill out, Kate.  You’re doing the best you can.  Your business won’t be running at full speed for a few years.  Stay patient and humble. Keep a servants heart. God gave you gifts for a reason.  Keep going.  You can do it!