Falling Off The Ride Before It’s Finished…

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Right now I very much want to be a person who is happy for other people’s successes.

Right now I am a person who feels like every achievement of another person is a big bright beacon pointing to a giant glaring failure in my own life.

That’s a sad and stupid place to be.

One of my daughters babysits for a truly wonderful young woman in our community who does a great job of juggling several small children and lots of responsibilities. She has a super attitude and is an excellent role model of a person who works hard on herself to be the best she can be even under immense stress and less-than-ideal circumstances. Every time my daughter comes home from this house, she tells me another inspiring story about a meal this woman made, or how organized she is, or how much my daughter loves being at her house. I used to try to mentally compare our house to theirs- ‘I also used to do this or that’… ‘Our house is also this way or that way’ (mind you, my daughter is not comparing at all, and this woman is an absolute doll, and would never compare or judge…) But nowadays I just feel like crawling under the covers and crying when she does this. Because I feel like I can’t compare. Not because I’m not a good mom too, but just because I feel like lately I have fallen down on the job…

Another of my children brought it to my attention (correctly so, and because it was relevant to a discussion we were having) that the level of interaction among members of our family has decreased dramatically. We have taken to all retreating to our separate rooms after supper and just vegging out. When there is stress, we deal with it by plugging into screens instead of each other. This is the opposite of my philosophy on how a family should be, and the opposite of how things have always been, but rather than make me want to spring into action to fix it, his observation made me want to bury myself in the backyard.

I read a friend’s blog today, because she is always incredibly inspiring to me, and has a way of setting me on the right path when my mind is veering sideways. Her post today was exactly what I needed to read (http://avivahwerner.com/ )(I love when the universe throws you goodies like that), but within a short time after getting off the computer, I was back to the same type of thoughts: Her blog is so popular and mine isn’t anymore. I used to have so many more readers than I do now. She is awesome and I am not. (Grant- I know if you are reading this you are wanting to give me a good hard shake about now, but I’m just being honest…)

I know this sounds like I am just big fat depressed, but the reality is that I’m not. I’m functioning fine, and I’m doing okay- there just seems to be a glitch in my matrix where I can’t seem to get on top of my life and I can’t figure out how to fix what’s broken. For a solutions-oriented girl like me, this is pure torture. To live with good-enough-for-now has never been acceptable. And for whatever reason, there seems to be a lot of taking stock going on right now and a lot of coming up short. I’m thinking that a lot of this has to do with medication- that I’m just not thinking clearly and I’m not processing correctly. Even on the blog, I feel like I’m writing more jibberish than quality, but I keep plunking away at the keyboard hoping that what’s just beyond that clouds of my mind will come through. But it hasn’t so far…

It used to be that when I wrote a post, it would almost knit itself together. Sometimes it was a magical thing, that by the time I came to the end, I had a point, even though that isn’t what I started with. I would read it back over and it would just feel right to me. Like I had written what needed to be said. And often, when I had something on my mind that I couldn’t resolve on my own, I would blog about it so my thoughts could coalesce more clearly, and I felt lighter after I wrote- and freer, and better for having done the writing. Now I just feel done.

And that makes me feel sad. And sometimes empty. Like I am missing an essential part of something. But I don’t know where I left it, so I can’t get it back.

Yet…

Another Bite At The Apple

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For several reasons- all of them related to the state of my health- it has seemed like our homeschooling journey had come to a close. This year, I am really happy to see that this is not to be the case. One of my children will in fact be home this year, and although I wish I could homeschool all of my kids (at least the ones who haven’t graduated yet), I am glad that at least I can still go back to being home with this one.

I tend to be a bit heavy on the self-reflection though (maybe you’ve noticed that? hahahahaha), and one of the things I have to be honest about is the ways that I fell short with some of my other kids in the homeschooling arena. While officially I strove to create an atmosphere of independence in their learning, if I am going to be 100% truthful sometimes that was just an easy way of me shifting my responsibilities onto them. It is quite correct that in a perfect world I wanted my kids to all be internally motivated to learn at all times, and to learn what inspired them- to the point that they would want to “take the ball and run with it”. And for certain kids this worked wonderfully, and for certain kids less so. Had I been well and more on top of things, I might have had the stamina to work more intensively with those particular children and get on top of what was happening, but since I didn’t, certain things fell through the cracks. And although all of my children are certainly more than literate, in hindsight I wish I had done better. But, as Maya Angelou said, when you know better you do better.

So that’s what I’m hoping this time around. I’m hoping that I will be able to keep the lessons of the past in front of me on those days when I really feel like just crashing into bed. I’m hoping that I will get the fortitude to plow forward through schoolwork when what I really need to do is rest. I’m realizing that getting a do-over in life is a precious gift that happens very rarely and I really don’t want to squander it.

But at the same time I’m a little bit afraid. After all, I am not homeschooling my little ones for a reason. *h and I chose to give up on a principle that is very important to us because we saw that it just wasn’t a viable option given the reality of what I struggle with on a day-to-day basis. I am talking a lot to the child who will be home about being responsible for learning on the days I am not up to supervising- but this time coming from a different place. I am setting up systems that I hope will be easier to manage, and will be easier to maintain. This child is now older and wiser and also in a different head-space than the first time around. Whether this year will be a success remains to be seen, but the weight that I am attaching to it as an experience of redeeming the failures of the past almost dooms it to fail now.

So I know that what I really have to do is to free my mind and just do what I do well: teach my child. The irony of this year is that in order for it to succeed I have to remember the lessons of the past without staying mired in the past. The blessing of this year is that I have so many children going away and now I have one coming back. The crux of this year is that I will need to work on self-growth at least as much as I need to work on homeschooling. And maybe that will be the best lesson of all for my child to see.

Whatever happens, I’m sure I will keep you posted…

An Epic Year

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A few days ago was Epic’s first birthday. I won’t tell you exactly which day (or his middle name) for fear of identity theft ;) , but I will tell you it’s been an Epic year…

I thought about doing a great birthday party for him (which my kids moaned and groaned about every time I brought it up- especially since we don’t do birthday parties for humans because I think they are narcissistic and excessive…yes, hypocrisy noted :) ), but that didn’t end up happening for various reasons. In the end, the actual day passed quietly and without fanfare, but my boy did indeed turn one, causing me to look back and reflect over how quickly the last year has gone by.

Epic is no longer a one and a half pound ball of fluff; he now bends the scales at a whopping eight pounds and a few ounces. This may not sound like much in comparison to, well, anything, but for a boy who used to fit in the palm of my hand, he now seems huge! (By way of reflection, I will point out that when he was weighed at the vet’s office, I had to laugh that he is currently smaller than my firstborn son was when he was born…) He has lost his puppy cuteness and developed a certain mischievous little boy quality that is alternately endearing and maddening depending on what he is doing and who is assessing his behavior at any given time. He still attempts to lift his leg and mark things in the house from time to time (maddening and truly gross- and what’s up with that anyway?), but he will also play like a kitten with certain toys, instantly morphing into the cutest pet in the world… He snuggles under my covers with me some time during the night (super sweet) and then wakes up when I do by kissing me on the mouth (so gross I could die, and meaning that every single day I wake up with my hand over my mouth and nose feeling like I am smothering. Decidedly not endearing and 100% maddening- but clearly not enough so that I would consider having him sleep somewhere else. Yes, I am whipped by an 8-1/2 pound dog. But I am also someone who would have slept with my chickens if I could have! hahahahahahahaha).

He refuses to be completely potty trained (what is it about little dogs???), and is positively addicted to smelling the girl dogs in indecent places. Yuck. But he sits on my lap when I read books and calms me down 194 notches, which is a big plus in my world. Most of my kids love him, except when they are getting Epically frustrated by him, and our dog pack wouldn’t be the same without him. When our mixed dog barks, he barks. But when our husky howls, he mini-howls. He puts back his head and lets loose with this pint-sized little husky yowl, and more than one person who has heard him from the porch has asked us if we have husky puppies in the house. When the big dogs play something, he is right there with them, and he has all of the big-dog moxy I knew he would (and then some- he is my dog, of course…)- but he will still bark at strangers as he backs up and hides behind things in fear in our very own house. On walks he will cower at random things (like if a person is holding something unfamiliar -not my dog at all…), but if he thinks one of our dogs is getting hurt, he will go to the mat to defend them against anything (YES! my dog!).

I wish he was better trained, but I will confess to acting like that just kind of happens, and not really putting in the work to make it happen. I have offered to pay one of my kids to work with him, but that doesn’t seem to be falling into place. Plus Epic is a little bit of a brat. Ha! Epic just came to sit on my lap at the computer, requiring me to stop what I was doing, kiss him all over, sing 8 rounds of an off key made-up version of a non-existent “I love you so much” song, pet him a lot, and wistfully put him down so I could finish typing. So you can imagine why he is not well-trained. Because I am a marshmallow. Yes, I will face down thugs in the street, but no, I will not put my 8-pound dog in his place. Do you sense a problem? (disclaimer: that is not entirely true, and I am exaggerating for literary effect)(disclaimer #2- the part about him being on my lap and what I did is 100% true)

In any case, it has been a great year with my sometimes great dog. I am happy I have him, and happy he is in my life. I can’t believe he is already one, and I can say honestly that the year has zoomed by- do you all remember when I got him? Phil said he looked like a Barbie accessory (the best description ever!), and Grant said I needed and epic name for him. The rest is history.

Thanks as always to all of you for sharing the journey :)

Home Is Where The Rockets Are

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Yesterday a very interesting thing happened to me. In quick succession all of the major US and European airlines cancelled their flights to Israel after a rocket fired at the Tel Aviv airport made it through the Iron Dome and landed on a house two miles away. Citing security concerns, the airlines diverted a flight in the air, and stopped all flights for the next 24 hours (this ban has now been extended, so for all practical purposes, Israel is isolated thanks to the terrorists).

A voice that has been a mere whisper in the back of my mind became at that moment very loud and insistent. It said: “Go home! Go home!”

In times of trouble and strife, I have a very strong nesting instinct. I always want my kids home if there is supposed to be bad weather, or an illness outbreak, or political unrest. I stock up even more than usual on food, and I cook and bake like a woman possessed. I like to have everyone in the house by dark, even though several of my kids are now “big”, and if *h is out of town I like him to check in (a lot) so I can be sure he is okay.

But the idea that I would go back to live in Israel is a totally new thing for me. I lived there in my early 20s, and although in an idealistic sense there is no better place on Earth to be, the reality of life there was tough on me. I had trouble with not being fluent in Hebrew, and although I eventually achieved a somewhat clumsy basic understanding, it was nowhere near what I needed in order to function comfortably in another country. Ideologically I was ready to eschew every comfort of American life, but as *h and I started having children it was harder on me to be away from family. After a while we moved to the US, and I never really thought about going back to Israel.

Flash forward to yesterday. As things have been escalating in Israel, I have been feeling more and more connected to the people there. I think this is at least in part due to the very ugly rallies that have been going on in Seattle (not the one I wrote about, and I’m not sure if they are happening in other places…). We live in a very diverse area, with all types of people in close proximity to each other. We have more people in Muslim dress around here than I saw even in the Middle East- but everyone seems pretty chilled out. But at the rally a few weeks ago many of those people marched and carried signs talking about throwing more Jews into the ovens, and how Hitler had it right, etc etc etc. Lovely, huh? After the rally, some of the marchers went looking for “Jewish targets”, which thank goodness they didn’t find- but there’s nothing like finding out that some of your neighbors are not feeling so neighborly toward you to make you glad you have at least one country in the world where you will always be welcome…

In any case, it surprised me very much that my reaction to the world shutting off Israel was that I should get there, STAT. On the other hand, I suppose it shouldn’t surprise me very much at all. In many ways my reaction to stress is to walk toward it instead of to shy away from it. Will I actually go? I can’t really say. Since I don’t make decisions in a vacuum, this will have to be something my family thinks long and hard about. In the meantime, what I do know is that this experience continues to be a wake-up call for me about the state of affairs in my new hometown. Who would have thought that I would move from bad-rep Detroit to politically-correct Seattle only to be in the middle of a potential war zone? You couldn’t even make this stuff up…

Conduct Becoming

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A few days ago we went to a pro-Israel rally in Seattle. Similar rallies in other cities have brought out violent counter-protesters, so we were a little unsure about what to expect here. There was a very large police presence, along with private security, and I’m sure more than a few plainclothes law-enforcers walking around as well.

The people who organized the rally began by stating the message of the event: that they were there because they wanted peace for ALL people in the Middle East, Jews AND Arabs. That this was a PRO- rally, and not ANTI- anything. That they knew there were counter-protesters there, who were likely going to try to disrupt things, but to please not engage with them or argue with them, or shout back at them…

Interesting.

There were several speakers, and for the most part, the counter-folks stayed quiet in the back, flanked by plenty of armed police. Good call on the part of the Seattle PD. One man, a bit out of his senses, came up on the side and stared yelling lots of curses, interspersed with some super-hateful rhetoric about Israel. People tried to ignore him, but he was walking closer and closer toward to speaker.

Uh oh.

So you know those moments that you watch unfolding in slow motion? This was one of those. I looked over to see if anyone was doing anything, and everyone else was looking around to see the same thing. I walked in front of the security guard and looked him straight in the face to see if he was showing any impulse to jump in and stop this guy. Nope. And here comes the guy, lumbering toward the speaker, closer in to the crowd (which, incidentally, had kids in it) shouting expletives the whole time. Well, that was no good.

So, I stepped in front of him.

I stood facing him (he was about 6’4, so this threw him off big time) and blocked his advance. He tried to step around me, and I blocked him again. He stopped yelling and this got some attention, I think. I kept my hands in my pockets, and my eyes shifting between his hands and his eyes. Kept taking his pulse. He shouted on and off, and we kept dancing, but now I was backing him up- away from the crowd, away from the speaker, and away from the kids. This went on for maybe a minute, and then I realized there were like a dozen police standing there. They took it over and got him across the street, and I went back to my family.

The question is: do I go looking for trouble? I don’t think I do, but I also don’t think I am averse to taking action when something needs to be done. I think there can be a fine line between being a person of action and being careless. I hope I always have the judgement to be a person of character and to be driven by principles and not ego.

And I hope no big bullies try to get in my way ;)

Newsflash: I AM the CEO

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A few days ago *h came home to find 8 large bottles of water on our front porch. This was quite concerning to him, since, being from a small island nation (England), he gets the heebie jeebies whenever he sees food packaged in large quantities.

Yes, after all these years of me buying in bulk, *h still hasn’t fully embraced the idea that to feed and care for a big family takes mucho stuff. It’s not that he doesn’t try, bless his heart, but he still thinks that a 5 pound bag of flour sounds like a lot (we buy the 50 pound bags). If I don’t specify how many of something I want at the grocery store, *h will sometimes buy 1, rather than calling home and asking me how many he should get. This is because he knows his fears will be realized and I will likely ask him to buy about a dozen. Poor guy.

He also got very stressed out that we have “too much” cereal downstairs. Now, in my mind “too much” of something like cereal means that either we don’t have space for it, or that there is so much that it will go stale before we can finish it. In his mind “too much” means we have more than a few, or more than we need for our next meal, or more than he remembers having in his house when he grew up (one at a time maybe?). Currently we have about 20 boxes. When I told him that, in the event of a crisis, that would not even last us a week he was mortified. Apparently he didn’t realize that we have two teenage boys in the house. And I won’t tell you how quickly we go through 20 boxes…

So this got us talking about exactly what is in our pantry and what quantities of each thing item we have on hand. *h feels overwhelmed by the stock and I feel vastly underprepared. Since I can recite the foods and the counts off the top of my head at any given time, I usually have a pretty good idea of the state of affairs of the Bass family situation. This is how I broke it down for *h:

I don’t come to your job and tell you that you have too many files or too many computer windows open or too many staplers on your desk. I don’t try to rearrange your things in your briefcase or micromanage your meeting schedule, so PLEASE do not try to manage my job either.

Basically, I am the CEO of the Bass family.

*h can be the CFO and we can work together to run the company, but I was really feeling like there were too many chiefs and not enough indians. I don’t think it is unreasonable since I do the shopping (or at least some of the shopping- and the menu planning and list making) and the cooking that I should also be in charge of inventory control. We are not in debt because of food-hoarding, nor or we struggling to find space in cramped quarters because I have jam-packed our house with food and supplies (although in my dreams I would). It’s not like we have a zillion cans of cat food and no cat because I impulse-buy things we don’t need, and I certainly don’t buy even half the amount I think I should buy to store up for a true emergency (this is something I think needs to be negotiated with the CFO and not done behind his back…). So I truly don’t understand the buttons this pushes in him- except that this is not how he grew up.

The first time I went to England and realized that people had no basements and very little storage in their homes, I got a little bit of insight into the buy-only-what-you-can-use thing. Their fridges are tiny compared to ours, but their stores (the shops! or shoppes?) are like a few blocks away at all times. So everyone is constantly walking on over to the shops to get about 10 minutes worth of groceries which they then carry home and cook. What culture shock it must have been for my in-laws the first time they came here and saw a gallon jar of mayonnaise in my fridge! hahahahahahaha…

I remember the first time I brought home a 5 gallon bucket of laundry detergent from Costco. *h came home from work and was absolutely incredulous. I think he thought I was pranking him or something. He really thought we would never use it up. Ha! The next time I went to Costco I brought him with and his eyes were wide with astonishment- I guess that pretty much sums up America in a nutshell. We like to do everything big and excessive. But if you have a large family, buying in bulk is awesome.

Over the years I have found cheaper ways to buy in bulk than Costco, but I still get lots of things in mass quantity. *h has reconciled to the idea that his wife is somewhat eccentric, and I guess he just chalks it up to that. But I truly save the family buckets of money.

And if there is ever a problem, we can always eat cereal.

At least for a few days ;)

Unhole-y

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For the last few months one of my sons has been out of school with health problems. At a recent doctor’s visit, they picked up something rather concerning with his heart, unrelated to the original condition.

A trip to another doctor the next day confirmed that there was definitely an issue in his heart, and it was definitely concerning. We got an appointment with a pediatric cardiologist, and when that office got his records they called us and asked if we could come in the next day.

And you know that’s never good.

So, off we went to the cardiologist, who was really nice. Unlike many adult specialists, I must say that all of the pediatric specialists I have dealt with in Seattle seem to be patient and warm, willing to explain things without being condescending. They all take as much time as you need, in spite of everything I am constantly hearing about how doctors are spending less and less time with their patients. And this cardiologist was no exception. We were there for quite a while, since my son required a whole battery of tests. There were several things that needed to be ruled out, the most concerning of which was a hole in his heart that would have required surgery.

And I am very relieved to announce, to nobody in particular, that my son is hole-free.

It’s so bizarre how when something like this is weighing on you your world becomes all tunnel-vision. The other thousand things that were on my mind took a distant second place until this was resolved, and after we got this news those other things seemed way less important.

That’s not to say that I have put everything into correct perspective and I am now here to share with you the secrets to better living! Ho, no, my friends! I am still sweating the small stuff and perseverating over minutiae. To wit:

* Another of my kids has a job every week to collect all of the garbage and recycling from around the house and take it to the curb on Thursday night (our pick-up is on Friday morning). Consistently- like, without fail, this dear child with leave some of the cans full and untouched, and SWEAR that those cans are not supposed to be taken out or that nobody said to empty them or that they didn’t have trash in them, or some other excuse. This morning had me wondering what kind of spouse this child would make (overreaction, anyone???) if this is the type of shoddy work they do when they are given a job…

* I will regularly lie awake at night thinking about things like whether it is cheaper to throw leftover food in the trash (we pay for garbage collection and we only get to put a certain amount in the container each week) or in the food waste container (which is enormous, but we pay for bags to collect it in that we use in the house. We have tried just using a container and dumping it straight into the outside bin, but that doesn’t work well for our family. I don’t want to talk about it.). Can we afford $10 a month either way? Yes. So why do I care? Because I do. Truthfully I would be better off getting the extra sleep, but tell that to my brain.

* We keep extra blankets on shelves in my laundry room. They need to be refolded neatly (technically they don’t need to be refolded. In truth I would just prefer for them to look neater…), but most of the time I am too sore and achy to do it and nobody else really cares about it. It’s the kind of thing that I could probably get someone else to do if I asked them to, but I had an OCDish parent growing up, and always resented having to do crazy tasks to impossible standards for no particular reason (other than someone else’s mental illness) and I am loathe to inflict similar hell on my own family. On the other hand, this causes me real stress every time I walk into that room. Welcome to my tortured mind…

I could probably go on and on, thinking of examples to entertain you (or horrify you completely) about how skewed my worldview continues to be. I have a good friend who very poignantly talks about how important it is to have a mindset of gratitude, and I think remembering that would help me as well. I think the more I can count my blessings, the less brain space I will have for silliness like the best way to stack bowls in the dishwasher.

I am trying very very hard to use the extremely limited time I am out of bed these days to be of service to others, and at least at those times transcend my own limitations. Some things I can do even in bed, and here is a great one that has touched my heart. It’s a project online that matches up people who are willing to do acts of kindness and compassion in the merit of an Israeli soldier. It matches you up with a soldier who has requested to be in the program, and any time you do a meritorious act, you are asked to please sort of “spiritually dedicate” it to him. Here is a link to the website for more information:

http://www.shmiraproject.com/en-us/home.aspx

I don’t want to debate the situation in the Middle East with you right now, so let’s not go there. Let’s just hope that we can all be a little more compassionate, a little more loving, a little more holy, and a little less hole-y.

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