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!

 

The Table

It’s been almost 10 years since my Grandma Swanson died.  She was truly one of a kind.  Born and raised Olga “Brooks” Fedden in Brooklyn, NY on Feb. 10th, 1921.  Eldest of three children,  she grew to be the head of the message center at Pearl Harbor in WWII with the U.S. Marine Corp Women’s Reserve (where she then met and married my Grandpa Swanson).  She never told me any war era stories but even from a young age I knew how much the war and her service was a part of her. She proudly played the bugle at funerals of fellow veterans for decades.  She looked so sharp in her uniform.

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Whenever I visited her with my Dad growing up, I would sleep in my Grandma’s bed with her.  She snored…so I didn’t really ever sleep that well.  Most nights, I would tip toe back into my Dad’s room and sleep next to him or go on the couch.  But I loved going into her room and looking at all her jewelry displayed on her dresser.  Most of it was costume jewelry.  Bright colors.  Lots of necklaces and broaches with turtles on them. She once gave me a necklace with a working bugle horn charm on it. I think I blew it so much that it stopped working shortly after receiving it.

Grandma was a stinker.  Full of life with her Brooklyn accent.  She taught me the “Hoochie Coochie” when I was little, dancing it up to any Glen Miller Orchestra numbers at her local American Legion dances in Moline, IL (Post #246).  She cheered for the Mets. She loved the old movie musicals like “There’s No Business Like Show Business” and “Kiss Me Kate” and would make me watch them with her.  At my high school graduation she scared the living daylights out of my brother and one of my cousins playing basketball in the driveway when she gruffly projected, “if ya don’t stop bouncing that boll I’m gonna rip ya arms off”, as she tried to hide an ornery half smile.

When Grandma Swanson died, she left me the costume jewelry I so admired along with several pieces of furniture.  For nearly all this time, it has been sitting in my parent’s basement. As an early 20-something living in Chicago with my girlfriends, I had absolutely no where to put a full dining room set, bedroom furniture and a cedar chest.  My bedroom in the Andersonville two-flat we rented was smaller than the size of my current closet.  After my husband and I married in 2007, we lived in 4 different condos/apartments in Chicago during our 9 years in the city.  None of our residences could fit anything other than our set of couches and tall boy table and stools in a given living area. The plan was always to take Grandma’s furniture when we had a house.

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After moving to Minnesota and buying a house this fall, we were finally able to take on my inheritance.  The bedroom furniture is now filling our guest bedroom.  Very mid-century modern with sliding panels to cover storage cubbies in the head board.  It has it’s quirks, rattling whenever you move in bed (gotta fix that) but it reminds me of her.

I love to entertain and have friends over for meals…something I began to appreciate in my 20s, living with my girlfriends, cooking for each other, enjoying pot lucks with friends.  Finally having a formal dining room of my own, I couldn’t wait to rehab Grandma Swanson’s old dining room table and chairs to make it shine and welcome guests. This is what it looked like when my parents brought it up from Nebraska.

I’d never DIY’d old furniture before and my husband thought I’d never finish this project.  I had plenty on my plate this fall with a new house, new baby and two other rambunctious kiddos and easily could have sold or given away the table and bought new.  Yet, this was a project of love and remembrance; one I wasn’t going to abandon.

My goal was to get the dining room finished by Thanksgiving, since we were hosting my husband’s family.  That timeline was great motivation.  I also enjoyed the time out on my three seasons porch; sanding, priming and painting that table because it gave me a renewed connection to Grandma’s spirit and some time to myself when I was deep into breast feeding, diaper changes, spit up, and lugging around my own haggard looking postpartum self.  Yes, I should have been napping when my baby napped but I think it benefitted me more having time to myself and a project to work on that was my own.

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So, I de-glossed and sanded. I primed.  I painted.  I recovered the chairs.  I listened to some podcasts I’ve been meaning to get to. I cranked up Pandora and listened to the Vocal Standards/Jazz Station that I so love and makes me feel transported to a simpler less stressful time.  Bing Crosby.  Nat King Cole. Etta James. Doris Day.  Grandma would have approved of my music choice for sure.  I found my little piece of Zen in a very busy fall.

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I’m so proud of the way it turned out.  I only used two of the six chairs that went with the table to have a mix-matched look (bought the other chairs and bench at World Market).  I bought the paint at a local hardware store (Valspar Semi-Gloss in Antique White) and clearance fabric at JoAnn’s Fabric.  The table is a stand out piece.  My Dad pointed out that it has had more people eating around it in the last couple months than it had in decades. Here it was all dressed up for Thanksgiving.

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Cheers to you, Grandma Swanson!  Thank you for leaving me something that I can use for decades to come and share with family and friends while remembering you at the same time.  Even though you aren’t here anymore and never got to meet my children, I was able to tell them stories about you as I worked on the table.  You helped me through the postpartum fog and gave me a fun challenge to focus on.  I’m proud that I’m your grand daughter.  Your spunk and ornery zest for life lives on in my older two children (the jury is still out on the baby’s personality).  I’m sure you’re having fun up there watching them run me ragged, make me laugh and test my own motherly toughness.  I think of you often…especially since our new son, Brook, is a nod to your nick name. (As well as a storied Nebraska college athlete, but that’s another post for another day).  I dedicate my first blog of 2016 to you !

 

Times They Are A Changin’…Personally and Professionally

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”
Leo Tolstoy

Change.  Sometimes it can be really difficult but I try to think of it as a friend.

For anyone who knows me well, you know I’ve had a long difficult relationship with my step-mother…and for the past almost decade it’s been a non-existent relationship due to her wishes.  As long as she’s on the earth, I’ll never really write about all the gruesome details because, well, I don’t need to make things any worse but I will say that she’s affected more of my adult life choices than I ever could have predicted. When I was a teenager (or perhaps I was already a young adult…I can’t remember now) and our conflict was coming to a head, I remember an argument where I was asking her why she couldn’t accept me, why she couldn’t move past her anger at me and why we couldn’t have a good relationship (especially for my Dad’s sake) and she replied, “Because I am who I am.  I will NEVER change…people don’t change.  You can’t change me and that’s just the way it is”.

After that I decided that I will NEVER be like that.  I will never stick my head in the sand and NOT let potentially good people and relationships into my life because it’s hard or allow my own issues to get in the way of growth…and anytime I go through something tough; change in career, a move, changing relationships between friends, tough moments with my spouse, etc. I try to embrace it as something that I’m supposed to go through (even silly things like changes in technology I try to figure out)…and if it doesn’t feel good right away or ever, maybe I’ll learn from it.  I may not handle everything gracefully at first, but eventually I remember the pain and hurt I felt from being shunned due to lack of ability to change and I suck it up and deal.

So what’s changing now that I need to embrace lately?  🙂

On a personal front, it’s a good change.  I’m expecting our third child in September!  I’m very excited…now.  The road to pregnancy, however, was not mutually agreed upon at first with my husband.  He wanted #3 in my belly as soon as we got to Minnesota.  I was in no rush.  I wanted to get my daughter transitioned into school and get into a “stay-at-home” groove with my son.  As he got further into the “terrible twos”, I was in a bad place.  I didn’t want a 3rd child if I couldn’t even enjoy being with my son all day long.  I was overwhelmed, tired and frustrated.  Nothing I tried seemed to help his difficult moments or lessen the intensity or duration of his tantrums.  He was (and still is) so high energy, so stubborn and persistent, independent and fearless.  My husband was hurt that I kept putting off our next child.  We fought about it.  I felt misunderstood and unsupported in my feelings…but we kept the topic open for conversation.  We went on date nights so I could get a break from the kids and have some fun.  I got some tools to help me deal with my son’s “spirited” twos personality. Time and prayer helped too. Sometime in the winter I felt more capable of being ready for a pregnancy.  After all, I wanted a third child too.  I was letting fear of change get in the way.  Now was the time…I’m a stay-at-home mom for God’s sake.  My job is kids for the time being…so it was time to be done waiting.

Little BOY will complete our family and I can’t wait to meet him.  With every kick and flutter, I feel more happy and content and ready to transition into being a family of five…and then it will be time for a new set of challenges and changes.  🙂

Preggo!
Preggo!

Professionally, I’m in the process of redefining my goals.  Originally when we first moved, I wanted to start my own college consulting business and sit for my LPC (Licensed Professional Counselor) so I could get into mental health work part-time.  I then realized how LITTLE I could get done at home with my son all day and I haven’t been able to start the consulting business yet.  Once I knew I was pregnant, I thought, “as long as I can get my LPC before the baby comes, then I will have some options once I’m ready to leave the baby at daycare part-time”.  I started doing research on the steps I needed to take to obtain my LPC and realized some disappointing things.  Minnesota has some higher standards of their mental health professionals and my graduate degree (which is accepted in Illinois) is 14 quarter hours short of meeting their requirements.  On top of more classes, I would need a new internship with a mental health focus (my Student Affairs internship and jobs will not count) and I will still need to pass the NCE.  Essentially, redo my entire last year of grad school when I thought I just needed to pass a test.  This is not happy news.  I’m not in a place in my life where I can take that on; soon-to-be three kids and little financial freedom to afford daycare and more grad school (plus everything else in our life).  It’s frustrating because I have the skill set and desire to help people who are hurting and need good counseling and I thought my education had qualified me for this…but that career goal will have to wait now.

So, what now?  I’m going to put all my energies (whatever is left!) into starting my consulting business and hopefully take on a few clients next year in between feedings and nap time (while my son is in pre-school!).  It’s still not going to be easy.  I need to join some professional organizations which will make me “legit” and help me follow industry standards.  In order to do that, I need to fork over some cash and brush up on some of my own qualifications.  I need to create a website.  I need to make contracts and figure out marketing. These are things that will be trial and error and relying on the kindness and knowledge of friends and mentors.

Why do all of this when I have a new baby on the way?  Because I need to NOT be stagnant and let my professional self slip away from me. (I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since I’ve received a salaried paycheck).  I may not be able to “lean in” right now or for several years but I want and need to change and grow in a professional way, even if it’s just a little for now. Even if I’m in my pajamas with milk-leakage stains on my shirt, un-showered with dark circles under my eyes.  Helping a bright-eyed high school student find the right college fit will help me in so many ways as much as I hope it to be a service to them.

Since I’m so often alone with only a two year old as company, I found this quote that is such great motivation to help me in all my personal and professional transitions…I hope all of my self disclosure today will help someone reading.

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”
Barack Obama