Mommy Madness

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I’ve never shot a handgun before. This year, my husband bought one with his Christmas money. He brought it home last night and was eager to go out and shoot some cans with it. We live outside of town, so he headed out to the backyard.

I’ve always loved a good adventure, so when he offered to teach me to shoot it, I agreed. I shot probably five times just to try it. When we returned to the house, both of us realized that might not have been the best idea.

See, I’m pregnant. Almost 24 weeks along. We just found out it’s a boy.

Now, I inwardly shake my head at parents who follow their kids across the playground like they’re made of porcelain. Just let them be kids. And kids sometimes skin their knees. You can’t always be there to protect them, so teach them how to handle life’s bumps and bruises. Easy, right?

Not so easy when it’s your kid. I went into protective mother mode (i.e. high alert) and did research online to find–unsurprisingly–mixed opinions about the safety of shooting a gun while pregnant. Of course, the general consensus was to avoid it as a precaution since we still don’t know about all of the effects it may have on the fetus. Generally, the risk can come from lead exposure and loud noise on developing ears.

Just like that, I became the overprotective mother on the playground. Basically, my whole system went haywire with worry. From five shots in a matter of mere minutes.

I washed the clothes we were wearing, including the gloves I had on. Wearing the gloves had been a lucky fluke. I put them on because it was cold, but they may have protected me from some of the lead exposure. At least that’s how I’m validating it to myself.

I even soaked in Epsom salts the next day. My midwife has cleared me for Epsom soaks as long as I don’t let the water get too hot. And as an extra precaution, I soak for 15 minutes or less using a timer to be sure. It may not have done anything but ease my mind, but in that moment, that’s what I needed.

I have vowed not to target practice again until after the baby comes.

Now, logically, I know this probably wasn’t the best decision, but it happened once and only for a short amount of time. Most of the research cites high levels of lead exposure and continuous loud noise to be the main culprits for safety or developmental issues. I seriously doubt this one time will be detrimental to the baby in the long run. It was stupid and I shouldn’t have been so hasty, but I can’t go back and change it now.

So I guess this is my first real dose of parenthood. All parents make mistakes when raising kids. And our critical society is usually quick to point it out and lay on the guilt trip. But nobody’s perfect.

I didn’t have to admit my mistake to anyone. And I know I could receive backlash about it. It was an early lesson. For one, I need to stop being so hard on myself. I believe good parents do the best they can with what they know and what they have in life. They aren’t perfect, but they are trying to do the best thing for their kids. Even if someone else doesn’t think it’s the best thing. There are too many opinions out there. You’ve just got to trust yourself and your instincts and do what you believe is right.

Secondly, it’s easy to judge when you’re not the one in the hot seat. We should all learn to stop being so critical of how someone else is living their life. And on the other end of that, we also must learn to work through and past the criticism we may receive for our decisions and our mistakes. Even if that means powering through it while covering our ears.

So here’s to starting out 2017 with a dose of forgiveness towards ourselves and giving other people permission to live their lives and make their own decisions without our judgment. After all, we’ve all got enough of our own lives to live without dictating someone else’s.

Have a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year everyone! Be good and gracious to yourselves!

 

 

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Let Go

When I look back on my life, I begin to see what was probably obvious to everyone else: I’ve been a control freak. In college, I tried so hard to find new friends that I effectively scared them away from me. Instead of letting things happen organically, I tried to force it.

As more of a tomboy, I sought out the friendship of boys. And as anyone could guess, that often led to trouble during my college years. I found myself on accidental dates. Or worse: the time I asked an acquaintance out for coffee.

I really wanted a friend and he was someone I admired. I knew he had no romantic interest in me. I just wanted to talk and maybe become friends. He didn’t reply to the message I sent. That’s the last time I remember interacting with him.

There were so many times I did this to myself. I worried and clutched tight when I really needed to let go. Letting go is one of those things that sounds so simple yet always leads to a struggle. It could be key to happiness for so many people, myself included.

If I could just let go of my grip, some of the bad things would blow away. And that would leave my hands open to receive the good things life has to offer. This is the great lesson at this time in my life.

I switched to a new job. It’s not perfect for me, but I really can’t complain. The atmosphere is tenfold better, which was enough for me to accept a pay cut. Except I actually ended up with a raise instead.

Everything seems to be lining up, except one tiny detail: it’s temporary. It could end if funding doesn’t allow them to renew my contract. And as a recovering control freak, that is downright terrifying. (Perhaps this is when I am forced to recover? Can a control freak be forced to do anything she doesn’t want to?)

Maybe life’s trying to help me with this self-improvement project. This job could be exactly what I need in ways I could never have guessed. Worrying isn’t going to help my situation. So I’m trying to just sit back and enjoy the ride, wherever it may lead.

It’s time to let go of the worry, anxiety, and anger. It’s time to start fresh with open, empty palms. That way, when opportunity sweeps in, I’ll be ready to catch it.

Cheers to letting go.

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Real Life Villains

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You really don’t know what you don’t know until you know it. Wrap your mind around that sentence.

I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster ride. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the past five months have been the most challenging work situation I’ve ever had. I’m not going to go into specifics, nor would anyone really care to hear them. Let’s just keep it simple and say that I found myself in a job that is ill-suited to my skill set and personality. On top of that, I have an antagonist mixed into the situation. I can’t just quit (financial reasons) and finding another job has also been a challenge.

I’ve been trying to take a step back and look at things from a different perspective. Turns out, trying to see things my adversary’s way was helpful, but not nearly as helpful as an outsider’s fresh look on things.

There’s a nice piece of advice for fiction writers that has always helped me with my stories. It is this: Everyone is the hero of their own story. For writers, this means that your villain should not be evil for the sake of being evil. He or she won’t see themselves as the villain, even while committing evil acts. In fact, he or she may feel justified by what they do.

Everyone is the hero of their own story. This phrase can also be used in the real world. Think of your biggest adversary. From your perspective, they are bad people who only wish to make your life more difficult or to stand as an obstacle to your goals and dreams. It’s easy to paint them as awful human beings.

My adversary’s actions often made me an emotional mess. I was angry, frustrated, sad, and hopeless. And then suddenly, I saw the circumstances beyond us both. I saw what this adversary was going through. This wasn’t a walk in the park for either of us. And when I have better focus on the whole of it, I realize that my adversary has it worse.

Now, I’m full of pity instead of anger. It was like a switch went off and my anger was replaced with compassion.

It’s so hard to see beyond ourselves in the heat of emotion. When you’re caught up in the storm, it’s hard to know whether you’re in a hurricane or a tornado. So zoom out. And you might find that your tornado is nothing compared to that giant hurricane along someone else’s shore. This is all easier said than done. I was cemented in place by my own negativity. It took me five months to finally see beyond myself in this storm.

A friend let me in on some information that changed my perspective entirely. It doesn’t fix my immediate problems. But I feel strong. Less weathered. I feel like the lucky one in this.

When emotions spin out of control, it’s easy to burn the bridge without considering the real consequences. So don’t use your adversary as an excuse to act out. Don’t let yourself become the villain. Take a step back. Realize that you can be the hero. But just because you’re the hero doesn’t mean that they are the villain. Even when they might act it out well.

All of us have been the villain at some point or another. Once you realize that, you can move beyond it. You can have better perspective. And perhaps you can be merciful to those who have wronged you. Even if they don’t deserve it.

In the end, it’s a wonderful twist of fate that we don’t get exactly what we deserve. Grace is a mysterious gift. And we could all use more of it in our lives.

Now that I know what I know, I find myself more merciful than vengeful. Life is a crazy ride indeed.

 

The Fire of Failure

Fire. Fire destroys and burns all that it touches. Everything is changed by its caress. There is nothing more than ash when it’s finished. It is the destroyer of all things. Yet it can leave you with a great sense of renewal. It clears the junk away so something new can take root or rest there.

Some trees, like giant redwoods (or sequoia trees), need fire to spread their seeds. Their cones are tightly closed by resin. Fire melts the resin so the cones can open to release the seeds. They need fire to multiply.

I’m in a period of raging fire. It’s burning much of the good with the bad. I’m hoping for something better to come from it, but even my hope seems burned away. I’m not sure where my life is headed or what exactly is happening. But there’s smoke. I’m covered in it. Will fire renew me as well? I’d like to burn away and start fresh. Somehow, I ended up on a heap of trash instead of a hill.

The hardest part about failure is that no one wants to acknowledge it. Every single person has or will fail. Yet failure is considered taboo. And that’s too bad. Through disaster we become improved versions of what we had been before.

So let’s talk about this. I’ll start by taking my own advice. I confess. I failed. In fact, I’m still living in this failure every day, five days a week. I accepted the wrong job. I was given misleading information about the job duties for this position. That was my boss’ fault. But it was also mine.

I let myself hear what he wanted me to hear. I didn’t listen to my intuition or read between the lines to get what he was really saying. I didn’t follow through with my original “no.” Subconsciously (and maybe on a quiet conscious level), I knew this was not the right job. But I ignored it. Although I still refuse to take one hundred percent of the blame, I’m not the hapless victim either.

Just typing that hurts. I hate to admit that luck didn’t put me here. I am to blame. Admitting that to myself is hard. But there it is for the world to see.

I failed.

And I did a good job of it.

Everyone always says that each mistake is a lesson and I feel like I’ve learned from this. I need to trust myself. I’m stronger than I give myself credit for. And I need to stand up for my beliefs and opinions, because no one else will.

No one else is as invested in my future as I am. That’s just human nature. We’re all looking out for ourselves since many people don’t have a communal attitude towards us, especially in the workplace.

Still, the stubborn side of me cries out that I’ve learned all that I can from this mistake. Can we just end this now? I’ve had enough already. But there must be something more for me to learn. Or maybe my stubborn nature is hindering me from truly grasping the lesson. There’s got to be a reason I’m still fighting this.

When I head out into the world every day, I imagine fire raging inside me and destroying everything so I can start fresh. I just have to decide what to fill myself up with. That’s actually a scary thought.

Anger still festers and it never seems to go away permanently. Frustration and sadness linger. So I try to focus on the good. When contentment and hope get together, there’s no room for the rest of that junk.

So here I am. Still standing. Burning it all away.

From the smoke and ash, I will rise fresh and new.

But not until this fire is finished raging.

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I Do All My Own Stunts

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Maybe it’s an American thing. We want to to do it all on our own. We lay claim to our successes like we accomplished it all single-handedly. And I’m sure that could happen. But likely, you’ve had help with your successes, whether you’d like to admit it or not.

I find it interesting that so many actors and actresses out there claim that they do all their own stunts. But if they do, what do the stuntmen do? The stuntmen are always there during the backstage videos, but rarely given proper interviews. It must be a hard job to risk life and limb so someone can inevitably tell the world that you were never there at all. That you did nothing. But do we do this in real life too? Do we take full credit when it doesn’t belong to us?

We are such a prideful bunch. We don’t like to confess that we don’t have it all together. That we might need a little help. This stunt may be a bit too big for us. That’s okay to admit. There are times when we need to call in the stuntmen so they can do what they are trained to do.

Moving to a new city has been quite the adventure in good and bad ways. Everything seemed to hit all at once. And our checking account felt the strain. We had enough to cover our bills, but I still worried about all the other sneaky expenses that always pop up when you aren’t vigilant.

I believe in God and I believe that He has been looking out for my husband and me in ways we may never know. We received a financial gift from a friend (call it paying it back or forward or whichever direction you choose). We also received an unexpected refund check from the chiropractor. And then my husband’s first paycheck at his new job came in. More than we expected. Things were looking up. And then it started to get a little freaky.

My husband and I went to a small-town grocery store for our shopping last night. It was dark and cold and neither of us wanted to be there (First World Problems, I know). When we got in line to check out, a guy came up behind us. He told the cashier that he remembered what he forgot.

As we were making small talk with the cashier, that guy kept close. He had a container of Tic-Tacs on the conveyor belt, but he didn’t put the little plastic bar down to separate our items. The cashier asked if it was ours. I said it wasn’t. Then he spoke up, “Go ahead and add this in. I’ll get theirs.”

He pulled out his wallet and handed her some cash. Our groceries were almost $60 total. He just had Tic-Tacs. It was so surreal. I stood speechless for a moment. Finally I asked him what I had done to deserve that. He said, “It’s God’s blessing. You guys just get yourself to church this Sunday, okay?”

We just stared at him like he was selling something. “Any church.” He clarified.

We shook his hand and thanked him several times and walked out of the building with him. He gave us his name and then proceeded to hand us the fourteen dollars that he had been given for change. He reiterated the church request. (How could we say no at this point?) Then he left.

I was stunned. I didn’t even know the appropriate way to react, because that has never happened before. My husband said that he made eye contact with him several times in the store and he noticed that he was lingering. My husband was a little alarmed at first, catching that something was going on. But I saw nothing out of the ordinary until the man got in line behind us. Total surprise. I didn’t think people like that really existed. It was pretty amazing. And it came at a good time.

This really is the start of a new phase in our lives. We’ll make it through, even if we can’t do all the stunts. That’s why the stuntmen are sent in. And I just want to extend some gratitude for their part in this.

Thank you to all of the unspoken heroes. Thank you to God for always watching out for us and for letting our lives cross with others on the same mission.

Let us not forget to thank those who deserve it.

Stormy Skies

It’s hard to see the sun when you’re in a the middle of a storm. For so long, I was ready for change. I begged for it and dreamed about it. Now that I’m in the middle of it, I realize how difficult change can be. Not for my mindset, because I’m open and (hopefully) really ready for it. It’s just: Change uproots what you know and replaces it with the unknown.

We’ve moved. It’s official. All of our stuff is in the new house waiting to be unpacked. Our old place is empty now. There’s no turning back. I’ve been working at my new job for  a month and a half now. And it’s been hard. So much harder than I ever expected it could or would be.

The truth is, I’m stressed out and unhappy. But I have to believe this will change after I adjust to the new routine. The job wasn’t what I expected. I feel misled by the description I was given. I feel duped. I uprooted my family’s livelihood for this?!?!

Then I remember the cute farmhouse we’re renting and how it really does feel like my own. I already have pride in it, even though it’s just a rental. And I like it so much better than our last rental. Also, there are adventures to be had in the new city. I’m so excited to get to know some new people and to explore a place with so much opportunity.

It’s just….the career. This is the awful pattern in my life. And I’m really tired of the vicious cycle. To top it off, my husband is still job-searching and the bills are still coming in. And we have to replace the engine in his truck (a repair costing around $5,000). With Christmas days away, it compounds the stress. When I hear Christmas songs on the radio, Scrooge rises up in me and declares, “Bah Humbug!”

I’m trying to make the most of it. This too shall pass. And I do see a break in the clouds. I do feel like there’s hope. I’m not sure why or how, but we will get through this. And in less than a month, we get a fresh start with a brand new year. We can hope to see more positive months ahead. Time will tell.

Until then, I’ll keep staring up at the clouds, trying to see past the gloom to the shining sun behind them. Perhaps this calls for a fresh cup of tea.

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Trials and Triumphs

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Life is crazy. On my previous post, I was having bad luck in finding a new job. But right after that post, everything turned around. And now I have a new job. In a new city. Just like I wanted. Crazy, huh?

And now everything has changed.

Sometimes you don’t realize the friends you’ve made until it comes time to say goodbye. I’ve been so wrapped up in some of the things that weren’t going right that I missed some of the wonderful things I already had in front of me. I wanted to get out of this town so badly that I tried to distance myself from people. I didn’t want to make friends that I would have to say goodbye to someday. Or become so attached that I decided to stay. Looking back, it was all because of my ego.

I wanted to feel more important and bigger than what I thought I was. But truthfully, I’ve always been big and important in my own way. I had just lost my confidence. I didn’t feel like I mattered. But it was all in my head, because I matter to many people. Despite trying to keep my distance, I got sucked in. I made friends. And it’s bittersweet that I get to move on. I finally get what I’ve been wanting for a long time now. It’s just as sad as it is exciting. Goodbyes are never easy.

When my husband and I moved to this city over five years ago, we knew no one. Yet we’ve met so many great people here. This job that I’ve complained about has brought me where I am today. I couldn’t do this if I hadn’t gone through the trials and triumphs at my previous position. Today was my last day. It’s strange to call it my previous job.

Truly, whatever you’re going through, no matter how long you’ve been there, it is for a reason. And it may not be the reason you think of.

I used to wonder what lesson I wasn’t learning. It was the only way I could explain why I was still stuck in my circumstances. Now I see that I wasn’t doing anything wrong that needed corrected. I simply needed to grow stronger. I needed to regain the “mojo” I lost.

I’ve learned how to be more fully me. At work, I was able to take off the mask and let my real self out. And it was empowering. I lost the meek demeanor I had taken on. My confidence is back, but I am not as arrogant as I once was.

I needed to be knocked off my feet. I needed to rebuild to become a better version of myself-and that had to start from the bottom. This has not been a fun transformation. There have been dark, dark moments and bouts of hopelessness, despite the appearance of calm happiness.

I knew my circumstances were not terrible. I just longed for them to be better. I longed to fly, even while feeling the joy of running. I just wanted more. And now I’m reaching out for it.

I don’t look down on where I’ve been. That job, that city, and that community helped the transition. If anything, I owe a debt.

It is wonderful to feel this enlightened and positive after years of lingering on the negative. I see now that I am blessed with a capital “B”.

I didn’t always see what lay before my feet. I didn’t see the light because of one shadow on the wall. But I’m better now. My eyes have been opened. I’ll look back on this phase in my life as a time of tumultuous change, but not the change of darkness. It was a painful molding process. Change can hurt. But often, we look back and see that it was for the best. And if we don’t change, we don’t get that lightning moment where we realize that all is not lost. And we have so much more than we realize.

I go on to the next phase with a new job in a new location, just as I hoped. But now, I’m strong enough to do it. Thank God the world isn’t as I once perceived it. For all the terrible things out in the world, there is also good. And it can be so easy to miss out on the good things if we accept the bad as truth. Today, my truth has changed. And I choose to seek out the positives.

I choose a new path.

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