Tag Archives: Baby Boomers

This time last week I found myself in the midst of an existential crisis. The kind where you cry and drum up all the reasons why your life is terrible. It went something like this.

“I can’t do it all.”

“Something has to change. I can’t keep doing this.”

“Everyone else’s needs are being met but mine.”

“When is it my turn?”

If this sounds familiar, read on. If not, you should probably find something else to do. And count your blessings while you’re at it, because you’re a lucky soul.

For those in the first group, let’s continue.

My initial interpretation of the feelings I was having was that I was unhappy. I was crying, after all. I must be unhappy. “My house is a mess. My yard is a disgrace. Life is terrible. Etcetera, etcetera.”

After my melt
down, I tried to put emotion aside and sort things out in an analytical manner. Working from emotion had given me swollen eyes and a stuffed up nose, which wasn’t helping the matter. So I did what my mama taught me to do. I looked inward.

My perception: “The house is a mess.”

Reality: My house is not a mess. The dining room is where we do homework. The kitchen counter has
a pile of papers on one end. The refrigerator needs to be cleaned and the dog needs a bath. Not a crisis situation.

My perception: “The yard is a disgrace.”

Reality: The gardens need to be weeded. I didn’t get around to thinning out the liriope before it got to be a gazillion degrees outside, so that will have to wait until fall. The grass is brown in the sunny spots, b
ut that happens every August. And now that I look around, every other yard on the block looks the same way.

My perception: “I can’t do it all.”

Reality: I decide what I do or don’t do. If I’m obsessing over something trivial, it’s my own doing. I choose what I do or don’t do.

My perception: “My life is terrible.”

Reality: My life
is enviable.

In an effort to break it down I started a list. In a matter of minutes I had a two page list of things to do. Tasks that would address my perceived deficiencies. Get it all done. But nowhere on the list were all the things I do every day. Empty the dishwasher. Feed the dog. Balance the checkbook. I looked at the list for a few minutes and started to sob again. I could spend entire days, weeks, months constantly in motion, and never get all of this done. The list would be constantly growing.

Constantly outpacin
g me without ever reaching any of my goals.

I felt overwhelmed.

So I made a new list.

I made a list called What I Want.

I’ll share a few items with you so you can get the gist, sparing the really personal ones for another time.

I want to support my son with his homework.

I want to be more faith-centered.

I want to have a clean house. (I surprised myself by acknowledging that.)

I want to make time for friends and family.

I want to finish the 1st draft of my novel.

I looked at both lists, and considered how many things on my To Do List supported my What I Want List. That was an epiphany for me. I was perceiving everything on my To Do List as time and energy suckers. When in fact, many of the things were supporting or accomplishing the things I said I wanted.

I felt like I had cracked the code.

We all get overwhelmed. Some days it feels like it’s just too much. But understanding the difference between feeling unhappy and acknowledging that you’re overwhelmed can be the difference between divorce and marriage, between joy and meltdown, between giving up or living to fight another day.

I’ll never again confuse overwhelmed and unhappy. When it feels like it’s just too much I’ll check the list and make sure the things I’m doing support the things I want. And I’ll remind myself that I don’t have to do it all. I choose what I do. My life is enviable. And I am grateful for it all.

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Are you one of the lucky folks who has never felt this way? Or are you also familiar with the Big O?

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Rediscovering Beauty

A few days ago, I slowed down.

While this might not sound like much of a news flash to you, it was a big deal to me. Because I rarely do it.

Our days are full. We wake early and start hustling to get out of the house on time for school and work. While the kids are in school, I run errands, go grocery shopping, do housework, work on our rental properties, visit nursing homes. Afternoon carpool usually comes before my list is checked off, leaving the undone tasks for the next day. After school it’s homework, dinner, often more homework. (If you’ve been around for a while, you know my son is dyslexic, so he needs more assistance than most kids his age. So I’m not done til he’s done.)

Baskets of laundry often line the walls upstairs, and piles of mail await attention. I have a hard time overlooking all the undone work and relaxing, so when I’m home I’m usually in motion.

I tell myself that it’s this phase of my life. That I will be able to slow down one day. One of my boys is in college, another heading off in the fall. That’ll leave just one kid at home. And before I know it, he’ll be grown, too, and I’ll have all the time I need to finish my to-do list. But for now, I’m just too damn busy.

Busy

Too damn busy to notice what’s going on around me. Too engaged in action. Too full of distracting detail. Too preoccupied to notice the beauty around me.

In a slower time, I was very good at “everyday beauty.” I’d linger at the corner to take in the field of clover or pause to admire the clouds. I took pride in my garden and home. I helped neighbors. I sent hand-written birthday cards, baked cupcakes, did good deeds.  I made it my mission to see beauty in every day, and to share it with others.

But I’ve become so busy I’ve forgotten to pause and see it.

I’ve reduced myself to a “get it done” life.

And it has taken a toll on me.

So last Sunday, I was forced to slow down. My son had a choir concert, which is a very big deal to him. We kept our church clothes on (which made it feel like an even bigger deal) and went across town to hear him sing.

After we arrived, I fumbled with the program to make sure my son’s name was spelled right and resisted the urge to pull out my phone and check Facebook while we waited for the performance to begin. I just sat. Still and quiet.

I looked around at the church and admired the architecture. I stared out the window at the clouds. I looked at my nearly-grown son sitting next to me and marveled at how handsome he has become. Things slowed down.

The children took the stage and started singing. And the words that flowed were the very words I needed to hear at that exact moment.

“Let me know beauty in my mind, in my sight, let it brighten my daytime, let it comfort my night. Let my mind know the beauty that the world has to give, O let me know beauty for as long as I live…”                                                             — Allan E. Naplan

I needed to be reminded of this. I needed to be reminded that beauty and joy and happiness are out there for the taking. But they don’t come to you if you aren’t open to receive them. Whizzing by in a hurry leaves them sitting there, waiting for the next taker. 

So I’m going to slow down, recognize the beauty around me, and let it become part of me. I’m going to look out of the window more. Admire the architecture more. Listen more intently. Take it all in.

Because beauty is out there. It’s up to me to slow down and discover it.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Do you find yourself too busy to see the beauty around you? If not, tell me your secrets, please.

And do you check the program to see if your kid’s name is spelled right?

 

And know they love you.

Letting Go. Artist: Sue Kafka-Ellis http://www.art-base.org

A self-proclaimed dispenser of wisdom, I recently shared a parenting thought with Louise over at I Choose Happy Now.  She wrote a post about sending her first-born off to Pre-K, and the tug on her heart as he reached this milestone.

I shared with her one of my favorite little pearls of parenting wisdom:  Roots and Wings.

The full quote, from Southern journalist and author Hodding Carter states “There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: One is roots, the other is wings.” 

The roots part is what we usually think of as parenting.  Teaching them right from wrong, good manners, faith.   Giving them roots brings us closer to our kids, because it’s a time when we’re instilling in them values we want them to have, molding them into the people we want them to become.

The wings part is much harder.

There are the small steps.  Sending him off to Pre-K, wondering if he’ll be able to open his Ziploc bag at snack time.  The first day of second grade, wondering who she’ll eat lunch with.  Or the rite of independence The Caboose experienced last night: wandering the stadium with his friends at a football game while we sat vigil over the popcorn.

Then there are the big leaps.  Going on her first date.  Getting his driver’s license.  Going away to college.

My friend Stacy was the first to chant the “Roots and Wings” mantra to me back when The Trailblazer was in high school.  With her first-born a year older than mine, she shared with me her anxiety as her daughter left for college.  Assuring her that her baby girl was ready for the real world made me realize that I had to accept the same.  (I mean, if you can’t take your own advice, you’ve got no business dispensing it, right?)

One of the hardest lessons of parenting is realizing that our REAL job is to prepare them for their time without us.  Whether that time is 9 to 2 at preschool, four years at college, or the independent adult life they will someday live without us.  We’ve got to teach them well, and then let them go.

It’s all about Roots and Wings.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ztVaqZajq-I

This may be TMI.

I’ve made a few vague references to peeing in my pants once or twice here, so the intuitive amongst you may have figured out that I (along with thousands millions of other women, so don’t judge) experience occasional bladder issues when sneezing or laughing or jogging or jumping on a trampoline.

There.  Now you all know.

It’s not a chronic problem or anything.  Just an occasional (and minor) condition that I sometimes feel the need to be prepared for.  So my shopping routine sometimes includes the purchase of panty-liner type products I lovingly call pee-pee pads.

I usually slip into Walgreen’s at an odd hour when the crowd is light and the chances are slim that I’ll bump into my priest or a neighbor and spare myself the awkward moment when they glance in my hand to see what I’m buying.

But today I needed school supplies and groceries and pee-pee pads, so I decided to be a big girl and go to Wal-Mart, where I could get everything I needed in one stop.

I scope the aisle I need to go down and, seeing no one I know, trot on swiftly to snatch what I need.  My plan is to do a slow-rolling grab, then proceed to the shampoo aisle to calm my nerves.  From there I’ll compose myself and continue shopping.

I get to the spot for my grab-and-go, but alas, the product I need is on the top shelf with only a few remaining, pushed back far beyond my reach.

Damn.

I go around the aisle to look at this predicament from a different angle, hoping to spot a misplaced package of what I need on a lower shelf.  Nothing.

I stand there.  Staring.  As if my glare and presence are going to make the packages move to a shelf within my 5’2” reach.  Still nothing.

I glance around, and notice a really tall older man on the next aisle. Perhaps I could ask him for help.  (He’s much older, and probably won’t think anything of it when I asked him to hand me a package of pee-pee pads.)  Nope.  Not gonna happen.

Can I stand on a lower shelf and try to reach it myself?  (Visual: me lying on the ground after the shelf falls on top of me, surrounded by neighbors and friends, covered with hundreds of packages of incontinence products.)  Nope.  Not gonna happen.

So I make another lap around the aisle looking for solutions.  (Lo and behold, the aisle next to the pee-pee pads is full of geriatric products.  Hmmm.)  I pull a cane off the rack of geriatric aides, and (shrugging off all previous anxiety) use the cane to pull the package I need to the edge of the shelf where I can stand on my tip-toes and reach it.

Smugly, and with a sense of accomplishment, I put the pads into my cart and turn around to return the cane to the next aisle.  The man I had considered asking for help was now nearby.  “You had to get creative?” he said.  I gathered a smiled and managed a little laugh, returned the cane, and high-tailed it to the grocery section.

I gotta find a web site where I can order this stuff online.

With Apologies to Dr. Maslow

I don’t consider myself an “expert” in any way.  But with 45 years combined experience (19+16+10) parenting 3 boys, I have learned a thing or two.  And by today’s measurable standards I’ve done a decent job.  They make good grades.  They have reasonable standards of hygiene.  None of them has been to juvey.

So (after I pat myself on the back) let me share with you a little of the wisdom I’ve gained.

Teenage boys only give their undivided attention to one thing: video games.

When there’s a controller in their hands, they can block out anything.  Parents calling, little brothers screaming, phones ringing.  I pray the house never catches on fire while Slick is playing Call of Duty.  He’d be a goner.  I even saw The Trailblazer’s girlfriend on a Skype screen competing for his attention while he was playing FIFA.  She lost.  They get hypnotized by the pixels on the screen like deer staring into headlights.  (A few days ago I thought about throwing the main breaker and telling them there was a power outage just to get their attention.  But it was too hot to be without the A/C, so I had to shrug off that idea.)

Once you get past video games on the Needs pyramid, everything else comes with an underlying distraction: thinking about girls.  The chart is self-explanatory from that point forward.

The tiny space at the top of the pyramid is what remains of their former dependence on us.  As they rely less on mom and dad for other things, the remaining contact is only for the purposes of bonding (us) and asking for money (them).  They want to spend as little time with their parents as possible, preferably not in public.

So those of you with teenage boys in your life, study this chart carefully, and save yourself a lot of grief.  Don’t get your feelings hurt when they bail on having dinner at home in favor of hanging out with friends.  Don’t think you understand what motivates them.  Don’t speak to them in public.  And make sure the smoke alarms in your house are loud enough to be heard over COD.

I’m sure Dr. Maslow would agree with me.

These are the Good Old Days

There are a lot of changes taking place in my world these days.  Lately I’ve been pondering the differences in life now, and life as I used to know it.  And I’ve been really happy with my findings.  Many things have changed about my boys, and about our lifestyle because these pesky kids are growing up.

Back in the Day -- when we needed a babysitter to leave the house.

I remember when silence in my house meant disaster was brewing. I rarely had to look far for the source of the silence, for there was usually a trail.  Freshly cut hair, water dripping through the downstairs ceiling from an overflowing sink, or the gentle scratching of a kid drawing on the walls.  Silence will freak out a Little Kid Mom.  Now, silence means harmony.  It means Slick is playing X-Box with his noise-cancelling headphones on and The Caboose is listening to his iPod.  Or it means they’re not home, which happens more and more often as they get older.  (There’s always something better going on somewhere else.  Always.)  Which leaves ME with silence.  I don’t feel the need to put the TV on for background noise or listen to music.  I’ve been waiting a long time for this silence.  I’m embracing it.

And hygiene has changed.  My kids think they invented the old run-the-water-and-put-on-Axe-Body-Spray trick.  (They’re so clever.)  Ha!  I was doing that back in the 1960s.  I recognized it as a sign of maturity when my kids realized showering was actually a good thing.  Back then, I couldn’t get them in.  Now I can’t get them out.

There was a time when sending my kids to their rooms to lie down was used as a threat.  It was actually one of my better negotiating tools.  “If you’re going to be cheeky, then it’s nap time.”  Much like showering, I realized my kids had come around to the next phase of life when they no longer saw sleep as punishment.  I grin when The Trailblazer says he’s going to take a nap in the afternoon.  He’s officially a grown-up.

The simple pleasures of being a Big Kid Mom are definitely suiting me.  I smile at the Little Kid Moms in the grocery store juggling toddlers and balancing a baby in a sling and pushing a cart.  I offer to reach things for them and smile at the “cute” things their kids blurt out.  I’m glad I’m no longer one of them.  I like being a Big Kid Mom.

I love eating in restaurants and not fearing the disapproval of my waiter when we get up to leave, and the table looks like a F2 tornado has ripped across it.  We no longer need to haul crayons and books, sneak in chicken nuggets in my purse, or ask for special concoctions from the kitchen for my picky eaters.

I’m happy that there are no longer designated “play areas” downstairs.  Just a couple of dumbbells (the weight-lifting kind, not the kids) sitting next to the TV.

I cherish days that are free from meltdowns over trivial things and drama, drama, drama.  (Well, those aren’t completely gone, but they’re less frequent.)

I have a few friends who are struggling with having Big Kids, starting to fear the days when our nests will be less crowded, and we’ll start re-feathering them with sewing rooms and home offices.  Not me.  I’m picking out the drapes for my woman cave.  The one that will have no sports memorabilia or wipe-clean leather furniture.  Just a pretty table for my laptop, shelves for pictures of my kids, a comfy chair with floral upholstery and a wine fridge.

So to all you Little Kid Moms, take heed and take heart.  It goes by fast.  You need to enjoy every moment of diapers, sticky hands, Nick Jr., and kids’ menus.  For being a Little Kid Mom is short-lived.  Thank God.