It’s Just Stuff

Photo by tu tu. From www.unsplash.com.

The Great Stuff Purge of 2017 has begun. It started innocently enough a few days ago, but once the ball got rolling it has gained in size and I am not sure where it will end.

When did we accumulate so much stuff? Where did we get so much stuff? Why do we keep so much stuff? Is it the feelings attached to the stuff? Do we think the more stuff we have the more successful or well-off we are?

I have realized over time that the more stuff I have, the more complicated life seems to be. More stuff to take care of, more stuff to clean, more stuff to deal with. As we have had children the amount of stuff in our house seems to have skyrocketed. There is more kid stuff in my living room- an easel, a play kitchen, a small table and chairs, a pack and play, a baby swing, and more- than regular furniture and adult stuff. I have to pick up all my kid’s toys each evening; I have to have a clean sink and empty counter top, if I don’t it drives me crazy. Maybe I am just weird. Maybe I am just a product of my environment, my mother’s house is always neat and tidy.

I have also come to realize that lots of stuff, messes, and disorganization seems to enhance my anxiety. I don’t think most people are bothered by that kind of thing, but I have noticed that places, like a certain family member’s house which is full of wall to wall stuff pliled on stuff really bothers me, almost to the point of having a panic attack. It is really difficult for me to spend holidays with family there, especially when the house is crowded with people.

For an embarrassingly long time there has been a pile of mail, mostly credit card pre-approvals, paid bills, junk mail, and other stuff that has needed to be sorted and either recycled or shredded and recycled. It has always been on my list to do but has always been put aside in order to take care of something more important. A few days ago I finally told myself that I had to get motivated to clean it up and get it out of my house before my maternity leave ended. I hated working on shredding it, waiting for the overheated shredder to cool enough to start again, clean up the tiny peices of paper left all over the floor, and then take out the bags for recycling. But when I was done it felt so good to be rid of it. That helped motivate me to take care of some other tasks I had been putting off or hadn’t had time to take care of yet.

Next, I decided to take all my maternity clothes off of their hangers and box them up to store in the basement. I took the three trashbags full of pre-pregnancy clothes down from the shelf in the top of my closet and began to sort through it. That lead to making piles on my bed, which after getting interrupted dozens of times over the next few days, never got folded and placed in my drawers.

Yesterday while Oscar was asleep in the baby swing I went to work to tackle the piles. I started to weed out old clothes that are too worn out to be anything but rags. They went into the trash. I separated all of the out of season clothes, like shorts and tank tops, to store on the closet shelf. I made piles for t-shirts, sweats, pajamas, around the house work clothes, and then hung everything else. As I began to put the clothes away in my dresser drawers I realized that it would not all fit.

I then decided to further sort through everything. Uncomfortable underwear and bras that always get shoved into the back of the drawer? Toss. Socks with holes? Toss. Trouser socks that don’t have a match but I was for some reason holding on to in hopes that it would appear? Toss. After matching up all my socks I decided that I didn’t need a trillion pairs of both white and black socks. Donate. Old belts that came with pants but never matched any of my outfits? Toss.

Then came the shoes. I struggled to get all the shoes hiding underneath the bed, out of reach. I pulled all the shoes out of the bottom of the closet. If it was too worn out it was thrown away. My feet got bigger when I was pregnant with Abby and never returned to their original size so I had several pairs of shoes that either didn’t fit right any more or were very uncomfortable to wear. I had continued to wear most of them because I couldn’t justify the cost of spending money on myself to replace so many “perfectly good” shoes, to the disadvantage of my poor feet. Into the Goodwill bag they went.

I now must admit that there are still two tubs full of clothes in my son’s closet. These are clothes that I haven’t been able to fit in for several years and have always hoped to wear again. I haven’t been able to bear getting rid of them. They are nice clothes, they were expensive. Am I an denial that I will never be that small again and will never be able to wear them? A voice in the back of my brain tells me that if I do lose weight (you know, that plan that is always a plan but never really materializes?) then I will have to buy all new clothes. I know I need to let them go, I am just not there yet.

In the bathroom I threw out a lot of old cosmetics that were incredibly old and hadn’t been used in forever. I recycled the random bottles of shampoo, conditioner, and lotion that had just a little bit left but had for some reason been placed under the sink or sat in the corner of the shower unused.

What’s next? I think the bookshelves downstairs need to be thinned out and books donated. The top of my dresser has been a catch-all lately for random things and it needs attention. My craft room needs reorganized and boxes of left over wedding stuff needs photos taken so it can be listed on the local buy/sell/swap page on Facebook. I need to go through both of the children’s dressers to pull out clothes that are out of season and too small. My pantry and kitchen cupboards need reorganized. My office filing cabinet needs cleaned. I could go on and on.

I know, I know… That sounds like a large undertaking, in fact, it is most certainly more than I will get done before my maternity leave is over, but it feels so good to keep going. I want to see how much I can do. We certainly don’t need so much stuff. It’s just stuff.

Advertisements

Still Dealing with a Bully

Photo by Viktor Hanacek. From http://www.picjumbo.com

Bullying is an important issue for kids that I don’t think gets all the attention it deserves.  I think it is on the public radar now more than ever due to kids’ access to electronic devices and social media, but still should be talked about and dealt with.

I was bullied growing up- quite a bit, actually.  I haven’t really thought about bullying in years, until today.  I never imagined I would be facing it at thirty-five and on a professional level.

One time in second grade a boy in my class cornered me as I was walking through the empty schoolyard on the way to my mom’s car.  He pushed me down, sat on my back, and forced me to eat nasty dry dead grass.  The same boy also enjoyed pulling my chair out from underneath me as I sat down.  I wore tortoise shell rimmed glasses and was made fun of daily by the same kid.  “Anti-snake eyes,” he would call me, because he thought the tortoise she’ll looked like snake skin and he apparently didn’t know the meaning of “anti.”

Once I got sucker punched in the stomach and had the wind knocked out of me just because I couldn’t remember the name of the new kid I was playing with.  I told my babysitter, the mom of the kid who had punched me, and she did nothing.

After I moved to a new town I was bullied by a mean kid that picked on all the new or “weird” kids in our school.  I remember walking home from school one snowy day and he appeared out of nowhere, throwing rock filled snowballs, which hurt like hell.

I was made fun of because I began puberty sooner than other girls.  I was body shamed about my weight and my breasts because I looked womanly when other girls were still small and flat-chested.  In middle school, the anti-snake eyes idiot loudly embarrassed me in the gym in front of the entire school after an assembly asking how big my boobs were and if I had to buy bras in the old lady section at the store, and more.

In my high school Geometry class I sat next to a girl who didn’t like me and only positively interacted with me when I had my homework done and she didn’t.  If I had mine done she would make me feel as though I had to give her my homework so she could copy it before class started.  If I didn’t she was mean and made fun of me.  She never realized that the joke was on her because I hated Geometry and didn’t try at all, hence my C grade instead of an A like I got in all my other classes.

When I was younger I never thought there was anything that could be done against a bully.  Trying to tell a teacher or principal just made the situation worse.  Telling other adults got me horrible advice like, “Sometimes boys tease you when they like you,” and, “Just ignore it and eventually they will get tired of it and stop.”

Today as I was sitting at my desk after a meeting I realized that a person I work with is just like the Geometry girl from high school.  She only acts friendly and nice towards me if I have something she needs or if I can do something for her.   If she has nothing to benefit from interacting with me then she ignores me entirely or is not pleasant.  In fact, lately she has been downright rude and mean because I have disagreed with her and I stood my ground and didn’t back down when she disrespected me in front of others.  Today in a meeting at work I dared to question something she said and she yelled at me in front of everyone.  I couldn’t believe it.  I was in shock.  My boss was on vacation so she wasn’t there to back me up, my boss’ boss didn’t say a word, and her boss didn’t say anything either.  After she yelled at me she moved on and acted as though it didn’t happen.

I won’t lie, in that moment I felt transported back to that playground in second grade with a bully on my back stuffing grass in my mouth.  I felt four feet tall and helpless.   I didn’t know how to react, but also felt that if I did allow myself to I would say something inappropriate to the situation and get myself in trouble.   So I did nothing.  It was horrible.

What can I do about it?  I don’t know,  probably nothing.  But it won’t stop me from standing up for myself in the future.   

Being a Nerd and Owning It, or Just Be Yourself 

Photo by Derik Hussein.

I was a super nerdy kid.  I was never interested in sports.  I was involved in Girl Scouts from first through tenth grade.  I played three different musical instruments in the school band and participated in our church handbell choir for almost ten years.  From first grade on I wore glasses.  In the early years I was not particularly careful with them, so I was prone to breaking my glasses; I remember having a couple pairs held together with tape until I was able to get a replacement.  My mom encouraged reading early and I excelled at reading.  In second grade I could read at a fifth grade reading level, and the older I got the farther ahead of my classmates I read.  I remember once during library time I wanted to check out a copy of a children’s version of Moby Dick, but the school librarian didn’t think I should check it out because she believed it was above my level of reading and comprehension.  She quizzed me in front of the other students and I was able to take the book home.  My voracious appetite for books only grew as I grew older. I was lucky to have several adults who recommended or gave me books to read that expanded my horizons.
In elementary school I discovered the Star Trek and Star Wars movies.  In the fifth grade I began to beg my mother to let me stay up past my normal bedtime to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation on TV at 9:00 p.m.  I was made fun of for my glasses.  I was made fun of because I liked to read at recess rather than playing dodgeball or some other game I wasn’t interested in or good at.

When I was in middle school I became obsessed with reading science fiction and fantasy novels.  I devoured The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.  Of course, in middle school there is a change in school social structure.  Unlike elementary school where everyone is friends, middle school becomes divided into different groups and cliques form.  I always felt as if I didn’t really belong in a certain group and tried to hide my nerdiness, to no avail. My haircut, the hopelessly uncool clothes my mother bought, and my ginormous glasses all branded me as a nerd.  I attended a small school and never had a group of friends that shared my interests.  Recently when my husband and I watched Stranger Things on Netflix I thought,  “Wow, that’s the group of friends that I should have had as a kid!”

During my high school years I still felt like a nerd.  I got all A’s and was the editor of the school newspaper for a year.  I participated in the Academic Contest with other school students in our school’s League. I was a member of the Scholar’s Bowl and the National Honor Society.  I tried harder to be cool and hide my nerdy interests so that I would fit in, but I never really did.  I often felt ashamed that I was so “weird,” as other kids called it.  I never dressed right, never played sports,  never had the right car, the right hairstyle, the right interests, the right music, and whatever else was or was trying to be, have, or do.

After high school I took a semester off and traveled.  When went to college I slacked off my first two semesters and did not do well.  I had a somewhat late rebellious phase and was determined to not be the dorky person I had always been.  I lived a much more carefree and bohemian lifestyle for quite a long time, trying to figure out who I was and what I wanted to do with my life.  I remember having an epiphany at a Dead concert at Red Rocks.  I was having a conversation with an older couple who had followed the Dead for years.  They were living the lifestyle they loved.  They were doing what they loved.  They weren’t trying to be something other than what they were.  They were happy.

I had never lost my love for all things sci-fi, superhero, or fantasy.  I am a huge Doctor Who fan.  I love graphic novels and am chomping at the bit to read The Walking Dead Compendium 3, which I received for my birthday but haven’t started yet.  I am dying to watch the new Wonder Woman movie.  I could sit down and discuss at length why the newest Star Trek movies totally suck and why the newest Star Wars movies are fantastic.  

My husband and I have attended three Comic-Cons together.  They have been some of the most fun experiences of my life.  There were so many people there that were having the time of their life, surrounded by so many encouraging people who shared so many of the same interests, some of whom had dressed up as their favorite characters, not caring a bit what the rest of the world thought. 

I am tired of trying to fit in to someone else’s mold, of trying to be someone else’s ideal.  I don’t care if I wear more band or TV show themed T-shirts than LulaRoe leggings or skinny jeans.  I am happy with who I am, nerdiness and all.  I no longer feel like it is something I should feel ashamed of.  I have never been more comfortable in my own skin.  I no longer care to change who and what I am to make others like me; if they don’t, it’s not my problem.  Love yourself.  Be who you are and own it.  It’s the only way to be.

Five Reasons Why I Love Being a Mom

  1. There is a little person who loves me just as I am, fiercely,fully, and without reservation.
  2.  People always say, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  I look at raising a child as my chance to change the world, my chance to make it better by raising a good, kind, caring, conscientious human being.
  3. I get to watch her learn and grow and discover the world.  It is incredible to see.
  4.  She can always make me smile, no matter how sick or tired or sad I am.  
  5.  She makes me want to be a better person and strive to be better than I am.

Working on my Patience 

Photo: Elizabeth Lies/ Unsplash

Forgive me for ranting a little.  The last couple weeks have been rough.  First trimester exhaustion has hit big time.  I am always either voraciously hungry or feel like I am going to throw up- isn’t “morning” sickness great?  I have been battling a head cold and although it has mostly resolved, I still have a bilateral ear infection.  I have begun to wean Abby from her nighttime nursing and she’s not happy about it, plus she’s still waking up multiple times a night (maybe it’s teething again?  I don’t know.) and only wanting to snuggle with Mom, not Dad.  Needless to say, no rest for the weary.
I have tried to stay upbeat and positive but Mommy’s patience is starting to wear a little thin.  

Each morning as I get ready for work I put Abby in the Pack and Play in my bedroom.  This is apparently now viewed by her as a new form form of torture, judging by the constant screaming, crying, and whining that begins the moment I put her in there until the moment I take her out.  Whereas she previously didn’t mind and used to play or look at books during that time, I think she doesn’t like being in there any longer because at daycare she is now one of the “big kids” and there is a new baby who uses the Pack and Play that she used to use.  I can’t tell you how it has grated on my nerves hearing non-stop screaming the whole time I brush my teeth, put in my contacts, and take a shower.

Multiple nights in the last week Abby has ended up sleeping in bed with us after about 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. It is something I swore would never happen before I had a kid and while I was pregnant, but after getting up seven or eight times a night I have given up and placed her in between us so I get a little more sleep.  It works great… until you get poked in the eye or kicked in the nose out of nowhere while sleeping.  

Her daily temper tantrums have continued.  This morning it happened three times: once because she knew it was time to get in the Pack and Play, the second time was because I put on brown boots, the third was because I wouldn’t let her eat a banana as we were getting in the car.  What was wrong with my brown boots?  I don’t know.  As soon as she saw them, Abby began trying to unzip them and pull them off and then cried when she couldn’t do it.  “Don’t you like my boots?” I asked her.  “Uh-uh, no-ey!”

Normally patience is not an issue for me, but when you don’t feel good it is so much harder to take things in stride.  I am trying hard to be more patient.  

Facing a Profesional Fear

I have been working at my current place of employment for over fifteen years.  I have had a variety of positions but I have been in my current position for a little over three years now.  

When I first started my current position I was basically just thrust into my job duties and not really given any cohesive training, as my coworkers were in the middle of implementing a large project.  I was handed a bunch of training guides and expected to figure everything out.  This was a little difficult for me, because it was all very new and different and my job is very multifaceted.  I had to train myself to do so much.  

Part of my job is to train new associates.  I have done this job duty for a long time and am comfortable with it, but one thing I had not done was to train nurses.  I have trained office managers, office staff, CNAs, but never a nurse.  I have always felt scared to try, overwhelmed by the amount of information I would need to pass on, and unsure of my knowledge and ability to do it correctly.  I have somewhat avoided doing it, always waiting for someone else to volunteer to do it first.  I don’t know why, but it has always freaked me out.  Perhaps part of my hesitation was that I felt like if I tried to train a nurse the curtain would be pulled back and people would see that the great Wizard of Oz was really just a weird little guy talking into a microphone.  People would see that I didn’t know as much as they think I do, as much as I claim to.

Fast forward to the present.  One of my coworkers called in sick and had sent a text message asking if someone would either reschedule a training session she had set up for a nurse or train the nurse.  My other two coworkers were leaving early so I decided to take the leap and face my fear.  I dove in and did it.  Fake it ’til you make it, I told myself.  I met with the nurse, I acted confident and like I knew what I was doing, even though I was shaking in my boots, quite literally.

And you know what?  It really wasn’t so bad!  I surprised myself with how much I really did know, how at ease I felt once I got in a groove, how well I did.  (Insert mental image of me jumping around ecstatically here.)  I did it.  I cannot explain how good I felt.       

So I guess the moral of the story is that when I faced my fear head on I rose up to the challenge and found out a lot about myself.  I realize that I need to apply this approach to other areas of my life.  Maybe it will be successful, maybe not, but I need to at least try.

Have you ever been in a situation where you’ve faced one of your professional fears?  How did it turn out?  I would love to hear from you.  

Today is a New Day

Today is a new day.  So far it has gone much better than yesterday and I am determined to keep it that way.  My goal for today is to think positively.

I did not ignore my alarms and woke up early.  I readied the coffee maker last night so I had hot coffee waiting for me when I got out of bed.  I prepped lunch and snacks so I have no excuse not to eat well today at work.  I actually feel energetic this morning and can’t wait to get to the gym during lunch.  Today is going to be a good day!

What are your tips or strategies for having a great day?  I would love to hear from you.

Weighing my Self and Myself

Photo by Calum Macaulay. From http://www.unsplash.com

Today is the nine year anniversary of the first date that my husband and I went on.  

In the time that we have been together my weight has fluctuated both up and down.  I have weighed fourty pounds more than my current weight at my heaviest during pregnancy and weighed twenty-five pounds less.  

My self-esteem and sense of self-worth seem to be tied to the little red number appearing on the scale each morning.  After I stepped on the scale and saw 176 this morning I instantly felt disgusted and sad and angry with myself.   Why is this?  I don’t know.  Perhaps it is that I have been bombarded by images of what our society considers to be “normal” (read: thin) women on TV or in movies my whole life.  Perhaps it is because almost any women’s magazine you pick up has photoshopped pictures of actresses, models, and athletes, endless articles about “how to fight holiday fat,” “lose your love handles,” or “lose five pounds fast.”  Maybe it’s because I hit puberty before most of my classmates as a kid and was always the chubby girl.  In middle school and high school I felt like I always stood out from the rest and had a woman’s body while most of my friends were still tiny.  

I have never felt comfortable in my own skin.  From an early age I had stretch marks from body changes in puberty, which have just compounded over time with the loss and gaining of weight and pregnancy.  Even at my thinnest weight of 140 pounds and size 6 jeans I never had a flat stomach or a body resembling anyone on the cover of a magazine.  I haven’t worn a bikini since I was a young child.  I have never really felt attractive.  

Sometimes it is mind blowing to me that in the nine years of dating and marriage that my husband is attracted to me.  When I step on the scale and see that number that somehow translates to feeling good or feeling good bad in my brain, I amazed that somehow he doesn’t feel all those bumps or cellulite ripples.   He doesn’t see those stretch marks or boobs that are still enlarged from breastfeeding.   He still snuggles up to me in bed and touches me with desire.  Even when I weighed fourty pounds more and felt like a pregnant whale, he wrapped his arms around me and told me I was beautiful. 

Why do I let it affect me so?  Why does it have to power to?  How many times have I avoided being in photographs or tried to hide in the back row of a group picture?  How many times have I felt like not going to a party or event because I felt uncomfortable with the way I look or because I didn’t feel like I didn’t have any clothes that I looked good in (compared to someone else that I knew would be there)?  How many times have I not had fun at the swimming pool or the beach because I was too preoccupied with how fat I felt in my swimming suit?  How many times have I been in bed with my husband and totally been taken out of the moment because I was worrying about how dimply my butt must look or how much my tummy jiggled?  How many times have I refused sex because I felt fat and so unattractive that I just didn’t want to be touched?

It’s not like I hate my body, I guess.  I mean it made another human- that’s pretty awesome if you think about it.  My body has made milk and provided sustenance for my baby for seventeen months.  I am pretty proud of that.

 After my pregnancy I lost fifty pounds and felt pretty good.  I had been trying to lose about twenty more to get to my “goal” weight,  you know, that magical number we all have in the back of our minds.  I don’t know if it has been my anxiety and the eating I so often use as a coping mechanism, the medication I started two weeks ago to manage it, poor food choices, not enough exercise,  laziness, or a combination of all of the above, but my weight loss efforts have backfired and I have actually put on about fifteen pounds.  As a result I have felt so negative and bad about myself lately. 

This morning as I was getting ready for work in the bathroom I was looking in the mirror- sucking in my stomach, turning side to side assessing my body when I happened to look to my right and saw my daughter in my bedroom. She was standing in her Pack and Play watching me.  How often have I mindlessly done this in front of her?  I was horrified thinking of the negatively example I am showing her.  Instead of judging myself and my self-worth based on what I see in the mirror and by the number on the scale, I should be teaching her that those things are irrelevant.  I should be providing a body-positive, self-loving, living breathing example for her.  I don’t want her to ever feel shame and negativity about herself and her body.

So where do I go from here?  How do I change this mindset, this pattern of thinking that has followed me my entire life?  I’m not sure, but I will definitely keep working on it.  Someone is watching me and I can’t let her down.

Parenting Fatigue, or Mommy Just Needs a Break

Photo by Alex Blajan. From http://www.unsplash.com

I’ve been struggling to come up with an explanation of how I have felt in the past couple weeks.  This morning I read an article on parenting fatigue from a blog I follow, Scary Mommy.  I think it described my current state of mind pretty well.  

I have been stressed to the max between work, worrying about ill family members, lack of decent sleep, and the constant go-go-go that has been our normal lately.  I feel like I need some time for me, more than time for a cup of coffee during a nap time… more than my only true alone time during the day, a bathroom break at work…  I need a little time to relax, reset, rejuvenate, without being interrupted every ten seconds, without constantly having an ear cocked listening for a cry… you get the picture.   I am not sure I like the term “parenting fatigue,” but it sounds better than “I need a day without a kid crying/time to be in the bathroom alone/sit still for five minutes/do something relaxing or I’m gonna lose my shit.”  Now, I don’t want to come across as whiny or entitled.  I am tired in a way I have never been tired before.

I have been toying with the idea of taking a day off of work just for myself.  But then, I feel guilty.  My work responsibilities aren’t being taken care of.  That’s eight hours of PTO I may need if Abby gets sick.  There’s a whole day of PTO I am trying to accrue for my next maternity leave, spent selfishly on myself.  I always just suck it up and move on.  But something changed when I walked in the door to work this morning.     I felt like I deserve a break.  I wake up nine times a night, on average.  I take care of everyone else, even when I am sick.  I work hard both at home and on the job.  I have the means to take a day for myself and I should do it.  My wellbeing and mental health is worth it.  

I’m sure some, or most of you out there can relate.  You can read the article I referred to here:

http:/www.scarymommy.comparenting-fatigue-blindsided/

What do you do when you’re feeling this way?