Saturday, November 22, 2014

Leaving behind the need to prove.

From and also a calming image
I've been thinking a lot about being who you really are vs. who you either want to be or who you think you should be.

It's all kind of boiled down into: what am I trying to prove?

And then realizing the whys don't matter to me. I don't really want to prove anything to anyone anymore.

Getting rid of the need to prove has been a slow motion train that is still picking up steam. Like a lot of things in life once you have THE thought you tend to keep seeing that thought everywhere you go. I've been finding articles and movies and talks that have made me reevaluate when am I living as me and when am I proving as not me. Some of them I've listed below:

Grace Bonney of Design Sponge coming out after one of the most elaborate weddings I've ever seen. That must have taken so much courage to do a 180 on the life you've very publicly set up.

This woman discusses the struggle of being taken seriously as a working mom. I've faced the same struggle but, unlike her, I don't want to be stressed out anymore. I don't find joy in that kind of chaos. That's not for me. Wake-up call.

My mom's friend's documentary about the creative process. Patricia is so natural and so obviously living her passion. Which I'm sorry no one outside of Birmingham can watch right now but it was inspiring to watch pure trust in the creative work.

More minimalism. Getting rid of proving seems to be minimalism of the heart.

Always, always, Christiane Northrup on Hay House Radio.

After more than 30 years of trying to prove how smart, tough, cool, calm, sassy, pretty, willing, forceful, cute, spunky, strong, sexy, etc. I am - it never actually makes me so. I'm still sensitive, gullible, naive and prone to anxiety and worrying. Some days I'm spunky, some days I'm not. I may be smart in some ways but I'm not in all the ways I try to prove. I'll just say it right now: I'm never going to open Infinite Jest. I also like the music of Jewel. And Hallmark Christmas Movies.

Needless to say, no amount of proving has turned me into my idols growing up: from Punky Brewster to Liz Phair. I'm not going to be Winona Rider in Reality Bites. I'm not going to be Julie Delpy in Before Sunrise or even Liv Tyler in Empire Records (can you tell I turned 15 in the mid '90's?). I'm not French. I'm not tough. I care too much about some things and not enough about others. I'm not the manic pixie girl of my dreams nor the femme fatale.  I'm human. As Glennon at Momastery put it, "I'm the Daisiest you can be." (see post on Facebook)

It's scary to figure out who you really are after putting down the proving. I don't know what I want. I know I'll still feel the need to prove. To show (and get validation) for myself. And I feel like the only way to not need to prove is to get real real comfortable with me.

So I'm taking a cue from decluttering and asking the question, again; this time about the way I spend my time, the items I spend money on, the people I hang with, etc, "Does THIS spark joy?"

It's a lot easier to answer honestly when you have nothing to prove.
And only honesty matters.

P.S. Apparently I'm 5 years behind.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

On Multiplying

I know what we would need to do to have a second baby.

We would need to be able to live off one income. We would need to be able to pay for five days a week, full-time child care with a lot of babysitters on the side. We would need to be prepared for some hospital stays. We would need to be prepared to live as a one parent family who nursed a sick relative 24 hours a day.

And that's just the practical logistics.

The emotional toll is high as well. For me it's accepting the possibility of 9 months of disabling illness. Losing my job again. Having every scent in the known world be nauseating. Ruining what's left to ruin of my teeth. For JTS it would be being a full-time caregiver again. For Lil' D it would be not having a mama for 9 months. Or at least not a mom she recognizes.

As more and more of my friends move on to welcoming their second child and as more of Lil' D's school class gets new siblings I'm starting to feel (for the first time in my life)

left behind.

I never cared when everyone started getting married and I didn't. I never cared when people were having children and I wasn't. But this second child thing. Man, it eats at me every day.

There is a 65 - 80% chance that if you've had hyperemesis before you will have it again. But the thing with me is no one knows if I had hyperemesis in the first place or if my no good, horrible, very bad pregnancy was all a side-effect of my uterus making a slow migration to the other side of my body or some kind of horror show combination. And no one knows if any of it would happen again.

"Probably not."


"No promises."

Nothing in the wide world makes me sadder than thinking about when I was pregnant. My nightmares still involve a positive pregnancy test and I can get to PTSD levels of anxiety thinking of being trapped in that sick, very pained body again. I missed out on the happy parts of pregnancy and that makes me sad. I never got to have a baby shower and that makes me sad. I never got to "enjoy" pregnancy or plan for a nursery and that makes me sad. I never got to ruminate on the baby with love and that makes me sad. My only thought ever was "Please God let this end." And on some dark dark days I didn't really care how that end came about. The only thing that kept me going was my weekly ultrasound and that there was an end date. On a hospital calendar.

And at 8:46 am on week 38 your suffering shall end. Amen.

So probably everyone out there is now wondering why in all the hells would I even be thinking about risking this again?

The first, and most obviously wonderful reason is: babies are awesome. If I had known how addictive they were I would have skipped the whole elaborate cake and cafe lighting wedding and just gone straight to the baby.

How can you resist this drooler?
After you get through that o-so-tough first 3 months it's all pretty fun. The smiles, the giggles, the utter silliness. Sure, everyone loves to moan about the bad nights, the crying in restaurants, etc. etc. But when a little pint-sized goofball tries to make a "joke" (in this case, imagine Lil' D accidentally running into a pole, not hard, but then getting a sly look across her face, falling flat on her back with her legs in the air and then waiting with a smile to see if anyone laughs) it's just SO. WORTH. IT.

The second answer is more complicated and has, honestly, more to do with guilt than my true feelings. I will feel guilty if Lil' D didn't have a sibling. I will feel guilty on those Sunday afternoons when she is bored and could be playing with a sibling. I will feel guilty she won't ever have anyone to discuss how nuts her mom is over a latte. Well, anyone who really knows.

And then the mother of all guilt. There is an unspoken code I feel that you don't really count as a mom until you have two. Until you're outnumbered. That somehow you have it easy with this fake, only* child and you haven't yet joined the ranks of mom.

But I waffle.

On difficult days one seems like plenty. On the super happy days I don't know how I could ever love another. When all is well I would never want to diminish the amazing amount of attention I can lavish on Lil' D. She soaks it up. And in all my obsessive research over one child families, only children do really well with all that undivided attention and love.

And of course the very traumatized soul of my pregnant self never wants to go through those 9 months again. And even pretending the next time will be different doesn't make it so.

I don't know how it will all shake out. But I'm feeling really behind. I'm feeling disappointed in my body. I'm feeling disappointed in myself for not having an answer. With every new baby that enters my world I feel a disturbing combination of happiness for my friend and wrenching jealousy.

But I have figured out that's the reason why I've been wanting to get a whole new wardrobe or redo my living room. To take my mind off the fact that I just want something I can't make happen. I want to be a normal woman, with a normal pregnancy. Something to celebrate, not something to dread.

*Side note: What a terrible term ONLY child is. On so many levels.

Friday, November 14, 2014

The best question when decluttering.

Besides shopping my other favorite thing to do is get rid of the things I shopped for in the first place.

But sometimes you hit an emotional wall or a family heirloom and you just can't find the will to let an item go.

But then I discovered  Marie Kondo.

(Like all good things, I found out about her from Joanna Goddard).

I haven't read her book yet but I ruthlessly attacked my office and bedroom with the single most important question:

Does this item spark joy?

Wow. That made it so much easier to dump stuff.

Does this item spark joy?

Out went things that I thought I should have, or people had given me, or had cost a lot of money when purchased. Out went almost every last pair of exercise shorts I owned. Out went shoes and jewelry and books.

Oh so good the feeling.

Soon I'll attack my closet.

In the meantime I've been enjoying folding my socks delicately and giving them thanks.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Psychology of Overspending


So I'm not a psychologist. But allow me, dear reader, to pretend you are my psychologist and that I'm writing this from a prone position on a chaise lounge while I bite my fingernails and tell you how it's going.

I've been on a budget for 2 months and let me tell you something you might already know. Money is a lot more emotional than I previously thought.

I would give myself a solid B- so far in the budgeting department. I've been very good and diligent about creating my budget before the month starts and changing it, morphing it, and moving things around as I need to.

But I've fudged. Since JTS and I have some separate accounts and since some of my income is freelance I have a small amount of $$ on my own to fudge with even though I'm not supposed to. And I've learned my greatest weaknesses are Kindle books, Lil'D clothes, and eating out.

There are three main challenges I have when it comes to staying on budget:

1) Instant gratification
3) Laziness and hunger

#1 and #2 go hand in hand. If you didn't grow up budgeting or thinking about saving money - when you make the switch to budgeting - mentally you are there but emotionally it's a struggle And for me emotions trump. Not getting what I want when I want it (i.e. RIGHT NOW) makes me feel poor. There is no better way to say it. It's ugly but it's true. I can get really depressed about it if I ponder too long on the wants. I want: new clothes, Christmas decor, a fall wreath, new books, new sheets, a rug for my office, some fashionable curtains, and to eat only organic food that was blessed by angels. Feeling poor and feeling sorry for yourself when you have a roof over your head, a nice kitchen with food, and your child has a play room all their own is absurd and probably more than just a little offensive. This I know.

But. It is how I feel. Even if I know rationally my former life was not really ever real  (almost always sponsored by Visa) it's a mindset I've known for so many years and I have no idea how to get rid of. I've started practicing gratitude about what I have and focusing on my goals but feeling the feelings about money is the single biggest impediment to my success as far as I can see. I miss what spendthrift me looked like. I miss my new and expensive clothes. I miss my dinners out with red wine. So I can only hope that once you make it through some time with this budgeting thing you get better at handling the wants.

Do you have unroll me? As far as I'm concerned they
have just rolled all the temptation into one big email.
And in the same vein, if you didn't grow up with budgets and saving - when you see SALE! 40% OFF! emotionally you pounce! You start doing mental gymnastics about how you HAVE TO buy something RIGHT NOW because you know - SALE! I succumbed to the sale e-mail last week. 50% off! Flew out to the store, bought a bunch of stuff I could use but probably didn't need for Lil'D. Fast forward to this week and I was greeted with a new e-mail: 60% OFF! The same stuff, now only cheaper. Lesson learned. (Maybe).

The last one (eating out) is probably the easiest one to fix because it just involves more planning ahead. I'm not terribly good at planning ahead but at least it's unemotional.

And now I'm off to listen to the savings lesson from my pal Dave again to buck my spirits up.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Final thoughts on the Dave Ramsey FPU. Classes 8 and 9

After going through one month with a budget and now working on my second month I have a LOT of thoughts about trying to rope in your spendthrift ways but I'll wait on that and discuss instead the last two lessons of FPU: #8 Buying Houses and #9 Giving.

I have to say that I was so glad Dave finished with a whole lesson devoted to giving because the class before that on buying houses really depressed me.

There was nothing new to the house buying lesson. Just a recommendation to put at least 10% down and have a 15 year mortgage. But that was when it hit home for me just how daunting it would be to get out from under student loans, save 3-6 months of living expenses, and save for a house payment. The lessons before are kind of pump you up style: YOU CAN SAVE! YOU CAN SELL! YOU CAN DO THIS! GAZELLE LIKE INTENSITY and even though this lesson actually had a motivational speaker in it - when you think about saving up 10% on a home - AFTER all the other steps - I kind of wanted to put my head in the sand. All I could think of was: man I wish I had learned this stuff in high school. I'm not 25. I'm almost 35 and my house standards have drastically changed since my younger days. I have zero desire or energy to save up for a fixer upper. I've been perfectly content and somewhat spoiled renting houses that I would totally buy. So if I'm going to buy a house, I want to buy a house that I've been dreaming of. I don't want to do all these steps for a downgrade. That makes my 10% look pretty large. So yeah. Just another reminder to teach Lil' D all these lessons early so she isn't just figuring out how much a house costs at 35.

After being totally bummed out I was so glad for the lesson on giving. Dave comes from the tradition of tithing, which if you aren't from a tithing church community, means that 10% of your income goes to the church. I did not grow up in a tithing family and I would probably never give that much money to any church but I did grow up with a mom who gave a lot through volunteering and financial donations and I've enjoyed following her lead. As a child I did the kid's version of volunteering i.e. picking out an Angel on the Angel Tree, donating toys and books, or helping with a canned food drive. And as I got older I volunteered more and gave more donations to groups I was enamored of (See previous post on my wolf adoption. I paid for that myself.) Over the years I've donated to whatever tickles my bleeding, liberal heart at the moment. And I'm happy with that. But what would make me even happier would be to have enough money to REALLY make a difference. Because while I can create logos for non-profits all day, they probably would do well to have some money too. Envisioning a future where I can donate big or have long periods of time to volunteer put me back on the positivity train.

So that's a wrap folks! Hope you enjoyed or were at least not too annoyed with my Dave Ramsey recap.

Because there will be much more to come about working with a budget.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Cleaning out the Clutter!

I spent all weekend. (Seriously. ALL WEEKEND.) Clearing out clutter, rearranging things to have empty shelves and spaces, and taking yet another hard look at the bizillion possessions I own. Most of the overwhelm has recently come from picking up what amounts to my entire childhood from my mom's basement.

As a mom I know the feeling all to well of wanting to give your child something you didn't have. It's like an intrinsic, primal desire to make sure the next generation is better off. My mom's mom didn't save much from my mom's childhood. A few pictures. Two dresses. And a 1950's Barbie doll. My mom always wished there was more. So while I was growing up she saved everything.

And I mean everything.

Imagine if every stuffed animal, ever McDonald's Happy Meal toy, most of the clothes that clothed you from 0-14, every book (no matter it's condition), every piece of math homework, every certificate of attendance, and every piece of mail from any relative - and that will give you an idea of what I'm sifting through. The 80's have taken over one entire room in my house.

Not so awesome.
As you can imagine this has brought up so many memories. Good and bad. And it's also made me wonder what I want to save of Lil' D's for her future- somewhere in the middle. Not too little but not as much as I have.

While I've been going through my childhood sweater by sweater and letter by letter here are the thoughts that have crossed my mind:

1) Children receive FAR too many certificates. Does every single activity from childhood require a paper certificate? The stack of certificates I have from Grade 1-12 could fill a small moving box alone.

That time I won 2nd place
in 4-H in Appliances
2) Notes from loved ones are only treasures if they contain a meaningful sentiment. I've sifted through many cards from my great-grandmother and ended up only saving a couple.

3) My favorite thing unearthed is my brownie scout uniform. Thats a keeper.

4) I still love patches of all variety and apparently I collected a lot in my childhood.

If you ever wondered what a first grader
in Sylacauga, Alabama ate in 1986
5) Your memories are not sacrosanct. I remembered being an automatic winner when it came to contests of the the Creative Writing variety. In truth I wasn't a wunderkind. I had a lot of honorable mentions before winning first. On the other hand, I did a lot better in math than I remembered doing.

6) Original art is more valuable later in life than classroom craft projects.

7) Same goes for original writing. Much more fun to read than classroom recitation writing. I learned that in 3rd grade the following things drove me "nuts": my brother, our dogs chasing the car down the driveway, and "my mother." Sassy little 8 year old.

That time I adopted a wolf.
8) Stuffed animals you loved in childhood still have an emotional pull. Even when you haven't seen
them for 25 years. Since I don't want to burden Lil' D with every stuff animal I've ever had I've had to dig deep to only keep the ones that really matter. Do your kids a favor and weed it out for them!

9) Don't take moody teenagers that seriously. I found a ridiculously awful story I wrote in 7th grade about abusive, alcoholic parents and a teenage couple trying to get them arrested. I can't believe the teacher didn't call DHS. Where did that story come from? Was I watching too much Unsolved Mysteries? Thankfully, I just got a bad grade.

10) Only save the most beloved clothes. I pulled out a spring jacket that made my heart soar. It was like finding an old lovey. I also pulled out the awful wool jacket from Austria that my mom made me wear all the time and my skin immediately started itching. Either way, it's a lot harder to get rid of clothes than a turkey made out of a paper plate and construction paper.

And finally: A lot of your childhood obsessions come from things your parents introduce you to. This is probably a duh moment for you out there. But I just discovered that my childhood obsession with the Loch Ness Monster or Mozart very obviously came from my parent's trips to Scotland and Austria respectively and the books they brought me back. I don't know what I'll introduce Lil' D to but that's a nugget of info to remember.

So with all this in mind (and so many more things to sort through) I think I'm going to just try to save the highlights from Lil' D's growing up. The FAVORITE coat. The letter to Santa. The most loved stuff toy. A funny essay from school.

There will be plenty and it will save her some time later on. If she gets mad at me for not holding on to enough I'm willing to take the heat.

And then she can hoard all her daughter's possessions and the cycle of life can continue.

It cost 11 cents a minute.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

FPU Class #6 - Think about the things you don't want to think about.

I've been thinking a lot about growing old gracefully recently. Well, really as gracefully as possible because, just like childbirth, you can make a plan but life probably won't follow it.

I could chalk this elder obsession up to being in my almost mid-30's and pondering life's course, etc. but, truth be told, I've been a worrier and a hypochondriac for as long as I remember. I mull this stuff over pretty much all the time. Should I live to a ripe old age I will surely regret the amount of time I spent worrying about dying. Unless, of course, I have cognitive impairment then it might not have been a waste of time but I won't know the difference anyway.

I've been taking notes about growing older over the years and I've made myself a few pointers to remember. Or maybe a few pointers to write down on a card that can be tucked into my dog hair covered sweater to be read every time I forget its in the pocket.

First, and most importantly: I know what I'm going to wear.

Think crisp button down, popped collar, white/grey hair in a ponytail, big round glasses, maybe some bangs. (In reality I'll probably be too lazy to iron a shirt and will wear oversize sweaters and jeggings but I've got 35-40 years to nail this). Think Diane Keaton.
Minus the tie and jacket.
Or this lady.
I will, most likely, never bother with hairdos.

Or my favorite lady on a cruise who wore her monogrammed slippers to dinner because, "Dammit I'm 84 and my feet hurt."

1. So fashionable clothes that are cool, age-appropriate, and comfortable: check.

The ladies in my family tend to live a long time (one side does at least) so I've gotten to see first hand what it's like to grow older. I've come to the conclusion that it's silly to beat about the bush about getting older. As is wishing the human condition will change. Old people remind everyone of the inevitable. Therefore, the olds make the youngs uncomfortable. But I believe there are ways to keep your invitations to the under 85 parties coming. For example, I've noticed that no matter how old you are the under 85's don't want to be interrupted in the middle of a sentence. I've noticed they also don't like to be told they are being interrupted because, "I don't care. I'm 94. I'll talk when I want" (I totally just made this story up. Pure fiction. Totally.)  I used to want to be a bawdy, who-gives-a shit-80 year old but now I think I'd rather people invite me to the under 85 parties. So.

#2. Speak when spoken to or when there is a genuine lull in conversation. If you can't hear said lull, maybe buy a hearing aid. Kind words trump all. Remember manners still matter no matter how much seniority you pull.

I've also noticed that a certain 94-year-old in my life is more fun to be around when she isn't discussing a) wanting to die or when she will die or how she will die or b) various maladies.

So #3) No one wants to hear about your never-ending illnesses. (I should probably take that hint now).

In the midst of all this elder thought I watched Elaine Stritch's documentary Just Shoot Me. It's a can't-stop-watching film. Elaine follows Rule #1 with an incredible outfit of just black tights and a white shirt. She is ready to break into song and dance at any moment. She pretty much never follows #2 but because she is famous people put up with this. She can be downright nasty. But I don't think this is new to her dotage. I think this was her personality. I will most likely not be famous so Rule #2 still applies to me.

Elaine's main problem at 87 is diabetes. Heartbreaking scenes of delusion, fear, and panic are all due to diabetes. She is courageous and soldiers on for so long but it's as vivid a portrait as I've seen outside of the nursing home: getting old ain't for sissies. So there is #4 in my series: Stay as freaking healthy as possible.

And #5: Guard against loneliness. No one wants to be the one calling and nagging their family about visiting. In the land of the young and healthy it's a total bore. The problem with getting older is that everyone is always dying so you have to constantly reinvent your social circle while staving off the depressing fact that all your friends are always dying. My grandmother, in general, is a great example of this. She reads her Kindle at the largest print, she has many social groups with younger people, and she socializes at her nursing home. Unless she is already in a pity spiral (see #3) she only calls to check-in. And pity spirals seem to only happen after she has hit the Dubonnet at a nursing home party. I noticed this with Elaine too - drinking made aging way worse. So Rule #4b: Even though being buzzed through the winter of your life sounds super fun (and was my original aging plan), it might not help you stay alive or happy.

This is a long and winding road to say that FPU Class 6 is about INSURANCE. Mainly about all the insurance you need if you or your spouse were to get sick and or die. It stinks to think about but it did put a fire in my belly to get life insurance so Lil' D is taken care of should I not get to try out my rules of aging in real life. Also, Long Term Care insurance once you hit 60 is vital according to Dave. JTS says this is controversial but I've seen first hand how expensive nursing homes are and also how essential they are to maintaining the ever important social network.

Bottom line: Growing older requires some proper planning. You can't know whether you are going to still be sound in mind or body and for how long but you can do the best you can to get ready for what may come.

If the year is 2070 and you need a friend, I'll be the one with small dogs, large glasses, reading mystery novels to my heart's content or hopefully I'll get my first choice in aging: sleuthing in rural Maine.