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No, Thanks, Not This Year

I love all of us. You, you, that weird dude over there. We are good people. With the exception of some very not good people in the world, we’re alright.

But we are also all stupid.

We do things that make our lives harder than they need to be. I blame Pinterest for some of this phenomenon, but one social media platform can’t be the fall guy for all the madness. Pinterest didn’t start the fire, as Billy Joel might say.

Somewhere along the way, we got horribly lost. If we have to point a finger, let’s point it at fear.

Fear of failing
Fear of not being liked
Fear of looking lazy
Fear of missing out (that even has a common acronym – FOMO)
Fear of looking like a fool
Fear of what others might say
Fear that we’re not good enough at [insert your own crap here: work, marriage, parenting, balance...]

I’m not healthy or strong enough to say to hell with you, fear! in every area of my life. I’m just as stupid as the next guy or gal most of the time. I’m working on it, but I still operate out of a place of fear more than I’d like. See: the time I agreed to be lead homeroom parent (which isn’t so bad, but I totally agreed to it out of fear that I was somehow failing my child and my school if I didn’t do it this year).

As the holidays sneak attack us – next week is Thanksgiving, did you know that? – I’m aware that ’tis the season for agreeing to a whole bunch of stuff you’d rather not do. And honestly, some things are not a fear issue. A lot of what we do to make the holidays special comes down to doing the right thing, for others and for our families. I’m not talking about those right things. I’m talking about the optional stuff.

What I’m talking about is blowing the budget to please someone else. Or blowing your schedule, even if it means the holidays are a blur and you don’t enjoy a second of it. Or blowing your health, because you forgot to eat at least one vegetable and exercise.

This year, I’m not doing some of that optional stuff, even if it means dealing out a little disappointment here and there. I have to stand my ground. I’m not going to be so mired in fear hat I forget to feel joy.

This year, I will not:

Buy a hamster, or any rodent, or a snake, or any reptile. Sorry kids, that wish list item isn’t happening, because guess who will have to feed the creature and clean the creature’s cage? I learned my lesson in the Sea Monkey Debacle of 2013.

Attend a cookie exchange. I don’t need that many cookies, ever. Even at the holidays.

Make homemade wrapping paper. I’m all about reducing, reusing, and recycling, but I’m also all about getting the gifts wrapped without adding 23 steps to the process.

Stress about the theme of my Christmas trees. If you enjoy that type of thing, then I think themed trees are awesome. I do not want to spend my time or money on that this year (or ever).

Speaking of trees, I’m not going to agonize over the lights. This issue may be unique to me, but I spend a crapload of time fussing with Christmas tree lights to make sure the tree is evenly lit, with no dark spots. This year, I’m going to embrace the dark spots.

Schedule an event or activity every night and all day on weekends. I’m not saying we’re not going out and about at all, merely that we are going to make sure there’s some downtime, too. We are making time to stay home in our pj’s and enjoy our theme-less, spottily-lit trees.

Get my cards in the mail right after Thanksgiving. I’m toying with not doing cards at all. You heard me. I love to receive them, though, and therefore feel that I should reciprocate. But I always kill myself to get them out the first week of December. If I’m later, I berate myself for not being more organized. Not this year.

Make my own decorations. I’m not anti-craft project, but I’m not going to put unrealistic homemade holiday expectations on myself.

Say yes, when my heart and mind are screaming, no! Who knows what kinds of invitations, obligations, and requests are going to come our way during this holiday season. I vow to trust myself, and consider the option of saying, “no, thanks, not this year.”

Lest you think I’m all bah-humbug (see, I still fear your poor opinion of me), let me tell you that I will be incorporating a lot of Yes! this season:

Yes, we’ll destroy the kitchen by covering every surface with flower and sprinkles when we make sugar cookies.

Yes, we can stay up late and play games by the fire.

Yes, we will gather with friends and family to celebrate the season.

Yes, you can watch Elf for the 753rd time this week.

Yes, while we’re on the subject of elves, we will embrace The Elf on the Shelf, because Bingle Jingle Snevets might be a little creepy, but he’s a lot of sweet fun for the kids.

Yes, you can make – and eat for breakfast – a gingerbread house if you want to.

Yes, we will remember why we celebrate Christmas and talk about our faith.

Yes, we will count our blessings and share them, too.

I wonder…

:: What will you say no to this year?
:: What kinds of yeses to you have in store?

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Put on Your Patience Pants

I think I’m a patient person.

Hold on. My husband, Mark, just read that sentence and he can’t stop laughing. It’s distracting me, and I can’t write. Okay, that’s enough laughing, Mark. Stop it. Really. Stop, NOW.

As I was saying, I’m super patient. Really. Incompetence bothers me, so I don’t love waiting around an extra long time due to ineptitude. If something genuinely takes time, however, I’m good with it. Have you ever rushed Julia Child’s beef bourguignon? It’s a travesty. Or so I’ve heard. Fine, I’ve never made beef bourguignon. It takes so long.

I try to model this exceptional patience to my children. I want them to know that the world doesn’t revolve around them. It revolves around me. No, that’s not right. I mean to say, putting others first is more important than our own immediate gratification. Good things come to those who wait, and all that.

This is not an easy lesson for any of us. Apparently, Mark thinks I’m still working on it. Excuse any typos; I can’t think, because he’s still standing behind me, reading over my shoulder and snort-laughing.

My kids are doing okay in the patience department. Mostly. We’re still working on not having urgent requests when I’m on the phone.

This was over a year ago, but could have easily been yesterday. Or five minutes ago.

In general, however, they’re learning. I say a lot of things along these lines, all of them met with grudging acceptance:

The plane can’t take off just because you want it to. There’s an order to these things, and the pilot waits his turn so we don’t die.

No, I can’t just drop the hammer and race through this stoplight. I have to wait my turn.

Well, I know you really want to ride that roller coaster, but so do the 732 people in front of us. (Yes, we vacationed at Disney this year. Talk about a lesson in patience.)

There is one time, however, that a gentle reminder to practice patience, or as I like to say, Put on Your Patience Pants Right This Very Second, Young Man, doesn’t work. That time? Meal time.

Both of my kids want to eat when they want to eat, which is always. (That’s a whole different post on the question of how people afford to feed teenagers.) My third grader, however, is never hungry. He’s hangry. He is fine one second and threatening to pass out from hunger the next.

I’m failing to meet a key parenting responsibility, the one in which we agree to raise decent humans who know how to function in the world. I’m failing, because I can’t seem to teach this otherwise bright kid how food works. Somehow we’ve mislead him; he believes food prep is akin to magic.

The kid thinks that all he has to do is announce, “When we get to the eating establishment, I will have a cheeseburger with tomatoes, and nothing else. Just cheese, meat, tomato, bun. I will have a side of fruit, or french fries if you let me. I will drink a Sprite.”

Two side notes here. One, this child is mildly obsessed with The Cosby Show right now, so go back and read the last quote in your best Bill Cosby. Two, my son also thinks he’s a Jedi master, and tries the Sprite thing daily. He rarely asks if he can have one of the cans-o-sugar. Instead, he announces that he will have a Sprite. His Jedi skills only work on the special-est of occasions, but a kid’s gotta try.

Back to ordering food. Declaring his order to nobody in particular, in my child’s mind, should result in the immediate delivery of a cheeseburger. Poof! Dinner is served! Prep time and cooking time make him weepy. Seriously. With watery eyes, he plaintively cries, “When is our food going to get here?” I don’t know, dude, maybe after they kill the e.coli by COOKING THE MEAT.

No matter how we explain this to him, no matter how we reason with him, no matter how much pleading we do, he can’t seem to hold it together when he’s hungry.

It’s no different at home. “What are we having for dinner?” really means, “Hey, why is there no food in front of me?! I’m DYING of hunger.”

I regularly wonder if there’s a strange force at play that warps my words when I speak.

I say: “I’m making dinner right now. It will be ready in about 10 minutes.”

They hear: “I have planted the vegetables, so your salad should be ready in about three months. I’m not sure if we’re going to have meat this year, though, because I haven’t managed to start raising livestock.”

I’ve been there, of course. I’ve been taking care of life, checking things off my list, when I realize I’m woozy and need food. Immediately. I understand feeling peckish. But you know what I do? I obtain food, with the understanding that my food choice will impact the overall time between need food and have food.

We’re a blessed people, a people who have never gone hungry. My kids have never missed a meal. They get three squares a day and one or two snacks. They are offered balanced, organic choices (most of the time), and occasionally they even Jedi-up themselves a treat, like Sprite.

It all leaves me to wonder…

:: Why, why, why the drama when hunger strikes?
:: From where does this impatience stem? Any thoughts?

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