Thursday, February 26, 2015

I Don't Want To

In addition to losing their sh** on a regular basis, toddlers - and kids in general - seem to think that "I Don't Want To" is an actual reason to not do something. My 5-year-old is going through a major I-Don't-Want-To phase right now. I don't want to eat. I don't want to get dressed. I don't want to take a bath. I don't want to listen to this song on the radio (Usually cuz it's a girl singing. Which makes it a girl song, don't-ya-know.) I don't want the yellow one. I don't want the red one either. I don't want to go to bed. I don't want to walk. I don't want to wear this shirt. I don't want to put my seatbelt on. I could go on. Believe me, I could. But I'm assuming that you get the picture.

This morning as he was having another of his daily I-Don't-Want-To tantrums, I had to leave the room. And all I could think was I don't want to. I don't want to. I don't want to listen to another one of these fits. I don't want to be late for work again because of a meltdown. As a matter of fact, I don't want to go to work at all. Or eat foods that are healthy instead of giant cheeseburgers with towering plates-o'-fries on the side. I don't want to clean the house. Or be in school. Or buy the groceries. Or cook the meals. Or be nice. Or do the laundry. Or wear regular clothes instead of sweatpants. Or feel guilty about everything I'm doing wrong. I don't want to...well, again...I could go on. Believe me, I could.

The only difference is, there is no one to cajole or plead with me or bribe me or yell at me when I don't want to. Because I'm the mom. And the grown-up. No, most days I don't want to be. I would rather be anyone else instead. But I am. And I don't know when exactly life changes from not doing things you don't want to do, to doing them anyway. I don't know when that moment is that, "Sometimes-we-have-to-do-things-we-don't-want-to-do" becomes something that our parents tell us, to something that becomes our daily mantra. I don't know when we make the shift from crying about what we don't want to do, to sucking it up and just doing it. (OK, and maybe sometimes still crying about it.) 

Is it a sudden change? A gradual one? I don't know.

I just know that all of us spend a good part of our lives doing things we don't want to do. Because we know that we have to. Or that we should. Or that it makes someone else's life better. Or that people are depending on us. Or that we need to set an example for those little ones watching our every move. And I, for one, am grateful to all of the people around me who do things every day that they don't want to. Because it makes my life better. Because when it comes right down to it, we are all a part of each other's lives. And, just like the cast of Gilligan's Island, we are all stuck here together. On this miserable, beautiful, dangerous, exquisite, frightening island of life. Each of us having something unique and useful to contribute. Whether it be material things, or friendship, or guidance, or great ideas, or intelligence, or beauty, or comic relief, or all of the above. All of us make the lives of people around us better by doing what we sometimes don't want to do. 

So I am going to try to have more gratitude and be more conscious of the reasons why I am doing all of those many, many things that I don't want to do. 

And if I can't always remember the reasons, well...there's always: Because I Said So.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Things I Love

Nope, it's not Valentine's Day. That day has come and gone. (Thank goodness. I think it's the dumbest "holiday" ever.) What has yet to pass, though? Winter. I hate winter. It makes me miserable. Which reminds me. These days everything seems to make me miserable. Everything. I hate school. My house is a disaster. My life is a disaster. I have no energy. I have no money. I'm not getting enough sleep. I'm getting older.

I know life is not really all that bad. And I have much I should be grateful for. I just can't seem to find my happy thoughts. No matter how hard I look. I wake up every morning feeling miserable and go to bed every night even more miserable. I'm grouchy. I am a total affliction to live with. {Or hang out with. Or talk on the phone with.} And I hate it. 

I have been blessed with much. I know this. But lately all I seem to be able to focus on is the negative. In every silver lining, I seem to only see the touch of gray. It doesn't suit me, this funk. And I'm pretty sure it's bad for the complexion. And maybe even the digestive system, who knows? {I'd do some two-sample hypothesis t-tests to find out, but that would only serve to remind me how much I hate statistics. And make me even more miserable. So you'll just have to take my word for it.}

So today I am choosing to think about the things I love. There are many, many things that I love. Short check-out lines, brand new razors, indoor plumbing, good parking spots, fluffy pillows, cheese, John Cusack movies. The list goes on and on. But I am going to focus on just 5 things that I love. Mostly as a reminder to myself that no matter how gross my kitchen floor is, or how much laundry and homework await me like a hulking mass of living nightmare, or how often I feel entirely inadequate, there will always be things I love to even out the balance.

#1. Parking in the Garage
Since November of 2013 when I decided to do a last-minute, week-before-Thanksgiving, extreme basement makeover my garage has been a disaster. It has been the storage place for all things dangerous and homeless. Like ripped out baseboards with nails sticking out of them. {Cuz, you know, surely they'll be useful for something someday.} Or old Halloween costumes that will never again fit my now much larger {and much pickier} children. Or 17 tons of thrift store donations, yet to be donated. Camping supplies, painting supplies, craft supplies. I could go on, but you get the picture. Suffice it to say, for over a year I was unable to use my garage for what it was designed for. {Contrary to what my children believe, it was actually made to park in. Not to get everything out from every box you can find and leave it on the ground somewhere.} I also was only able to open my garage under cover of darkest night. Lest my neighbors with their garages-cleaner-than-my-house see what a nasty pig I really am. But last September, I knew that I had to clean my garage out. Because if I had to go another winter without parking in it, I might die. 
And I did clean it. And I do park in it. And it is delightful. 
And it made coming home from Arizona on Sunday night a little more bearable. Because I had just come from 80 degree weather and was wearing flip-flops. And there was a blanket of snow outside that I would've had to walk through if I hadn't been able to park in the garage.

#2. Sleep
I mentioned that I don't get enough of it. And it is true. But when I get any sleep at is a beautiful thing. I love sleeping. It might be my favorite. I would rather sleep than do countless other things. When I was young, my parents actually had to wake me and my siblings up on Christmas morning to open our gifts. Cuz they couldn't wait any longer. And we are some sleep-lovin' people. I love crawling into bed after those long days of life and work and late nights of homework and children and just laying there thinking about how I'm going to go to sleep. It's like ordering a steak and just waiting for the server to bring it, all juicy and hot, to the table. Sleep makes my mouth water. 
And those rare occasions when I don't have to set an alarm for the next morning or I can actually squeeze in a nap?? That, my friend, is a little piece of heaven on earth.
You know how your first kiss with someone or the first time you hold their hand makes you feel all fluttery and twitterpated inside? Yep. That's how I feel about sleep. It's giving me butterflies just thinking about it. It's my one true love.

#3. Pandora
It's a silly thing to love. But I do. It just gets me. You know? I just say, "Hey, Pandora. I like the Beastie Boys. And Pearl Jam. And Goldfinger. And Rise Against. And Ne-Yo." And it says, "Oh, Cyndie. I know. I know exactly what you like. And I bet you also really like Cypress Hill. And Bush. And Beck. And Autopilot Off. And Usher."
I do! I do! How did you know? 
It's like having my own personal concierge with a British accent. "Madam. I cannot help but to notice that you seem to be enjoying the Weezer. Might I suggest a helping of the Green Day for your listening enjoyment?" 
Why thank you, Pandora. You really understand me. Granted there's always going to be those Sugar Ray and Smash Mouth moments. And nobody should be subjected to those. But overall, Pandora is all about giving me the music I like.
And I used to be angry because no matter WHAT station I put it on, Pandora was always slipping in some Red Hot Chili Peppers. Who I do not like. But now I understand that it's just trying to be funny. Cuz it's our little inside joke. So now I just laugh. And push the thumbs-down button. Again. Silly Pandora. 

#4. Driving a Small Car
I have driven a minivan for almost as long as I can remember. And not to knock it, cuz there's a lot to be said for a good old, faithful family car. One that everyone fits in, one that can take all of us (+1) to wherever we wanna go, one that is so horribly travel worn and dirty that eh, what's another spilled Coke, or bag of Cheetos, or some more smashed Mike & Ikes? But now that my kids are slowly growing older, I don't take them with me to many of the places I go. And driving a minivan, while it has its upsides, makes me feel old and frumpy and mom-ish. And yes, I know, I AM old and frumpy and mom-ish, but that doesn't mean I have to FEEL like that when I drive around. So sometimes, I love to just hop in my little {dented and bruised} 2-door Alero and pretend, just for a minute, that I am not the carpooling, One Direction listening, screaming & raging lunatic mom that I am. Just for a minute.

#5. Spandex
I know what you're thinking. Blades of Glory. Nope, not that kind of spandex. And I have no desire to be yet another blogger to weigh in on the whole yoga pants/modesty issue. {I couldn't have an opinion about it if I tried. I only know that I have neither the self-confidence, nor the thighs to wear them around town myself.} What I love is just that little bit of spandex that is being integrated into jeans over the last few years. And even into the work pants. {Which are also known as slacks. But I am morally opposed to using that word. Along with blazer, or blouse, or panties.} Just that little bit of forgiving stretch that makes all the difference between simply wanting to put on sweat pants when I get home to absolutely needing to or I might die.
I have discovered a sweet spot right around 3-7% of spandex that I like in all of my pants. Anything less than 3% and I have to unbutton them when I go to the movies. Anything more than 7% and ... well, it's just a little more disclosure than I am comfortable making.
It's a wonderful gift the clothing industry has given to us moms. And so much cooler than an elastic waist. It almost makes up for crop tops. Almost.

These are but a few of the things I love. Of course there is also my kids, my friends, the beach, Target, dryer sheets, crushed ice, being right, and having a tan...amongst many other things. But maybe this will start me off on the right foot. And instead of feeling so miserable all the time, I can focus on the things I love. Like pulling my Alero into the garage while listening to Pandora and wearing stretchy jeans. And thinking about that magical time when I get to go to bed.

Monday, February 9, 2015

On Second Chances (And Third And Fourth And Five-Hundredth Ones, Too)

Well, it's coming up on my 40+ birthday. Because I have decided that on every birthday from now on I will merely be turning 40+. Plus what, you ask? Plus none of your business. I have decided that 40 is the largest number I ever want to say when people ask how old I am. Which they do less and less these days. On account of my advanced age. Because as you get older and older, it becomes more and more impolite for someone to ask you how old you are.  

I always thought I would be one of those people who grew old with grace, who looked at each year as another year of wisdom and experience under her belt. As it turns out, I am not so wise after all and even less graceful. I have mused a lot over this past year about what it is about 40 that has been so hard for me to accept. (That's what I do in my spare time, you know. Muse.) And what I have come up with is that I am not so much sad about having lived for as many years as I have. I am more sad about the fact that I have less and less years ahead of me to accomplish the things I always thought I might. When you are 17 or 23 or even 36 and you are having a tough year, you can always say..."Eh, I'll have it all together by the time I'm 40. Just wait and see." And then guess what happens when you are 40 and your life is in as much shambles as ever? Well, let's just say that I am not so foolish now as to think that I will have it all together by the time I'm 60. (So maybe I have gained a little wisdom after all.) 

Turning 40, for me, has meant the end of a lot of my past dreams and the acceptance of stark, cold (mean and ugly) reality. I will never compete in the Olympics. I will probably never write a book. I will more than likely never go to Greece. I will never sing back-up for Neil Diamond (no matter how good I sound belting out Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show in my car.) I will never learn to play the guitar (besides the Guitar Hero kind.) Or the harp. Or the cello. I may never own a nice car (in which to sing Neil Diamond.) I will undoubtedly never have a clean house. I will never be a Grammy-award winning songwriter. I will probably never play a dead-body on CSI: Miami or Law & Order. I might not ever get my master's degree (the jury is still out on that one, but the bachelor's may just kill me dead.) I will probably never have a retirement account. Or a savings account with more than $25 in it. 

Silly as some of these aspirations may be, it's more than a little bleak to feel the passing of time and to have them slip entirely out of my grasp. And, sadly, this is what I have focused on a lot over the past year. The unmet goals. The unrealized hopes. The missed chances. I'm not saying that I'm ready to throw in the towel or anything. And with any luck I have many years ahead of me in which to accomplish other things. But it has been a little hard to accept that a lot of the hopes I had for myself 10 or 20 years ago will never see the light of day. Stupid 40+.

As I sat there a few days ago mulling this over (because when I'm not musing, I'm mulling) I turned the focus for just a brief moment to the things I still have the chance to do. Every single day. 

The chance to respond to my children with patience instead of anger when they interrupt me for the zillioneth time while I'm in the middle of homework. 

The chance to be understanding and not judgemental when I come across people who are different than I am.

The chance to lift others instead of wallowing in my own lack of accomplishments. 

The chance to choose drinking water over drinking a Vanilla Coke. (Just kidding. That would be silly.)

The chance to build my children up so they can become the amazing people I know they were meant to be. 

The chance to smile and laugh instead of pouting and crying.

The chance to get on my hands and knees and play with my 5-year-old and the toys he left all over the floor instead of yelling at him to pick them up.

The chance to see the glass as half-full even when it looks pretty dang half-empty.

And most importantly, even though I am a hopelessly flawed mother-friend-sister-daughter-human-being who will blow most, if not all, of these chances on any given day...the chance to forgive myself and try again when I fail. 

And to be grateful for second, third, and five-hundredth chances to be a better person tomorrow than I am today.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Zero Tolerance Zone

I live in Southern Utah along with no-one-else-in-my-family. I have family in Arizona, family in California, and family in Northern Utah which means that I travel a lot (cause I happen to really like my family.) I spend many days and hours driving along the I-15 corridor (I know it's just a freeway, but that makes it sounds so much cooler in a traffic-reporter-in-a-helicopter type way, don't ya think?) I have noticed a lot of these signs lately that say Zero Tolerance Zone. I am not quite sure what they are referring to, these Highway Patrol signs. (But if you are doing it, you'd better cut it out. Cuz they've got zero tolerance for it. You hear me? Zero.) Drinking and driving, texting, leaving your blinker on, driving 15 MPH below the speed limit, naked lady silhouettes on your mudflaps. I don't know. Something. 
But it's gotten me to thinking about my own Zero Tolerance Zone. Now, truth be told, I have zero tolerance for a lot of things. But a significant amount of them apply to my life as the mother of 4 children. And if I had to choose just 3 of those things? Well, these would be them:

Holy crap, I hate it. I don't like crying. I'm not a fan of yelling. But whining? I hate it. Hate. "She got a bigger piece of pizza than me!" "He won't stop touching me!" "I don't want to!" "Do I have to?" "She won't stop touching me!" None of these are my favorite phrases anyway, but add to them that nasally, high-pitched, plaintive quality and I want to die. Die I say. There is nothing worse than whining. It makes me want to scream. And pull my hair out. And lock myself in a closet and never come back out. I can't even hear what they're saying when they whine. To me it all just sounds like, "Beat me! I'm SO annoying! No really. Bind and gag me. I want you to! Grab the duct tape." 

I don't love dirtiness or messiness. But I have learned to develop a higher tolerance for these things. Because I am a mother and a wife. And my children tend to be both dirty and messy. (And enjoy living in absolute squalor.) What is even worse than being dirty or messy, though? Being totally disgusting. Which my kids are. I can't even begin to tell you about the grossness of boys and toilets, but there is a formula there involving small streams and large targets that I simply do not understand. But that's not all. They fart. They talk with their mouths full. They pick their toes. They don't like to brush their teeth. They eat food off of the floor. They pick their noses. They PUT GUM UNDERNEATH MY DINING ROOM TABLE. Yes, gum. In my dining room. Under my table. AT MY HOUSE! Not that it's ok to do it in a restaurant, but REALLY!!!?? At home?? So freaking disgusting.  And just the other day I saw my 5-year-old grab something off of his face and put it in his mouth. I don't know what it was. I didn't ask. Because I don't want to know. Disgusting.

I am fairly certain my kids aren't actually deaf. They seem to be able to hear the television just fine. They also can hear me opening a can of soda or a bag of chips from 2.3 miles away. But they have this wonderful selective hearing issue when it comes to anything I tell or ask them to do. They never seem to hear any of it. I don't know if the sound of my voice triggers a reaction that causes copious amounts of ear wax to accumulate or what. I only know that they are unable to hear just about any sentence I utter that has the words "can" or "will" or "do" in them. If I had a dollar for every time they said, "You didn't tell me that!" Or, "I didn't HEAR you!" Well, let's just say I'd be paying someone else to deal with them. While I was in Belize.

These, of course, are not the only behaviors I am averse to. I am additionally not fond of fighting, laziness, tricycle-riding-in-the-house-ingness, loudness, talkingbackedness, or general craziness. But you gotta pick your battles, right? And if I had to pick just 3 zero tolerance things, these would be them. 

Of course, not tolerating something and preventing it from occurring? Well, those are two completely different things. But sometimes, just for fun, I pretend like I have a little bit of control.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

When You Don't Want to Play Anymore

I have often heard life referred to as a game. The Game of Life. If that is the case then it may very well be a game that is unwinnable. That makes it a not-very-fun one. I personally prefer games of at least limited skill, strategy, or humor where I know I stand a chance of winning. I don't enjoy playing games that require skills I don't have or games of chance or games I can't win. (It's why I never play roulette. Or volleyball. And I only like to play Scrabble with people who have a more limited vocabulary than I do.) I also don't enjoy games where the rules are constantly changing. Another absolute in this game of life. Which is why there are many moments when I don't want to play anymore. And I know I'm not the only one. My beautiful oldest daughter, for one, has had more than enough of those moments lately. Particularly over this last year of official "adulthood." It is not always fun, this game. It is almost always painful, in some way or another. And it is full of vast and heartbreaking disappointments. But lest you think that I am an incorrigible (worth up to 51 points if you can get it on a Triple Word Score square) pessimist, I do think it is possible to deal with the days (and weeks) when you don't want to play anymore. 

So to my daughter, and all of the rest of us, here are some reasons why it is possible to keep playing. And reasons why you should.

#1. Because You Can
You don't always feel like you can. Believe me, I know. But you can. You hold within yourself the innate capabilities to survive, and even thrive, in the face of adversity. I don't know all the whys and the wherefores, but I have survived enough trials and missteps and heartaches to know that you can keep playing. Long after you want to. 
Despite what they (and Kelly Clarkson) say, I'm not completely convinced that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. Sometimes it does. And sometimes it doesn't. But it does change you. Always. And it helps you to know that the next time something comes along, you can get through that, too. Because you've done it before. And that knowledge can give you strength.

#2. Because You Are Not Alone
It is not always reassuring to know that other people are suffering. Sometimes, in fact, it makes everything seem a little bit worse. But take comfort in the fact that life is hard for everyone. It isn't just you. And sometimes the sheer difficulty of it is what forces you to rely on other people. You need them. Being dependent on others won't come easy, but it will bring you more happiness and relief than you can imagine. You weren't meant to do it alone. And for those moments when there seems to be no one around to offer solace, or aid, or a listening ear, turn to the One who created you. He knows you. He loves you. And He has promised to not leave you comfortless.

#3. Because It's Worth It
It doesn't always seem worth it. Believe me, I know that too. And sometimes the good does not seem to outweigh the bad. Sometimes the bad will threaten to overpower you completely. But those moments of good? They are beautiful. And they are incredible. The moments when you accomplish something you never thought you could. The moments when you feel loved and valued and cherished. The moments when the sun breaks through the dark and incessant clouds just for a moment and completely takes your breath away. They are incredible. And they somehow have to power to make everything worthwhile. 

So play on. Even when you want to quit. Even when you think you cannot possibly make another move. Even when you know your heart will surely break. 
You can do it. You are not alone. And the game is difficult. But I promise it IS worth it. 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Seeing the Garden Far Better

Why am I doing this? This is the question I wake up to every morning. It also follows me around like a harmless but annoying stalker throughout every hour of my every day and tries to elbow it's way into bed with me on pretty much any given night. Sometimes it even has the audacity to taunt me in my dreams. So obnoxious, this question. The "this" can (and does) apply to just about everything. Work, school, housework, motherhood, life. All of it. I feel like I am fighting an uphill battle. A battle that I cannot possibly win. But also a battle that has the potential to destroy not just my life, but the lives of those around me when I lose. Which I feel like I'm doing. Almost all of the time.

I work at my job to help support my children. I am finishing my degree so that I can be in a better position to support my children. And yet, working and going to school make me an ornery, short-tempered mother (with an incredibly filthy house) who seems to have no time whatsoever for her children. Do you see the circular logic here? It seems that no matter what I do or how hard I work, I can't quite become the person I am supposed to be. The mother I am supposed to be. And that's what really matters. Because at the end of the day, it won't matter what kind of job I had or what my grades were or whether or not I got into graduate school. What will matter is how badly I screwed up my kids. (Mark my words, there's a cross-stitched sampler to be made here.) Which I fear, a lot of the time, is...pretty dang bad. And they are ultimately the driving force behind it all.

Do you see my dilemma? I feel like Alice lost in Wonderland.

'I should see the garden far better,' said Alice to herself, 'if I could get to the top of that hill: and here's a path that leads straight to it — at least, no, it doesn't do that — ' (after going a few yards along the path, and turning several sharp corners), 'but I suppose it will at last. But how curiously it twists! It's more like a corkscrew than a path! Well, this turn goes to the hill, I suppose — no, it doesn't! This goes straight back to the house! Well then, I'll try it the other way.'

Here I wander. In circles. Knowing that if I could only see the garden, it would be amazing. I would understand it all. Everything would fall into place. I would know that all of my efforts and failures weren't in vain. The problem is getting to the top of that hill so that I can see the garden. Like really see it. But the path is a windy one. And it seems to lead me right back to where I started.

So maybe until the day that I can find the top of that hill, I'll have to just enjoy my view of the garden from where I am. The perspectives I have are not always the best ones. Most of the time all I can see is the dirt. And where I am going wrong. And the weeds. And the incredible amount of work that needs to be done. But every now and then I see the flowers. The vibrant, beautiful flowers that thrive sometimes because of, and maybe mostly in spite of, my best intentions. 

Every now and then I have a moment like the one I had today where I am helping my 5-year old put his shoes on. And he begins to lose his balance, so he reaches for the bed to keep from falling over. Then he thinks better of it and reaches for my shoulder and says, "No. I want to hold on to you, Mommy. You help me stand up."

And then for just a brief moment, I see the flowers. And I understand the why.