Day One of Two

This morning was my first shadowing experience at the local hospital. Just as I’d thought, I was on my feet all day. If I pursue work as a Patient Care Assistant I’ll definitely invest in a couple pairs of shoes with gel inserts because it’s no exaggeration to say that 98% of a PCA’s day is spent on her feet. I was only there for 4 hours and my feet were just fine, but that’s only 4 hours observing vs. 8-12 hour shifts lifting, “running” from one room to another, etc.

I had a capable and efficient instructor today who gave me a very good sense of the job and what it takes to do it well. Even though I was only observing rather than doing the work myself it’s easy to see how an 8-12 hour shift could fly by on the busiest of days. Today’s experience gave me much to think about tonight and many more questions for tomorrow.

I have a steep learning curve as I have no experience in the medical profession other than from the patient side of things and even that is somewhat limited. What I do know after today is that I am up to the task and that it would be the perfect entry level position in patient care, especially if I plan to pursue a Nursing degree in the future. That said, while I feel up to the job I’m still not quite sure how the day-to-day changing of bed pans, linens, dressings, etc. would suit me. It’s one thing to watch that being done and even doing it from time to time, but this would arguably be a significant part of the job on a daily basis. It doesn’t gross me out or make me queasy or even uncomfortable so much as I’m just not sure that’s how I want to spend my time daily. I’ll sleep on it and approach it fresh tomorrow for Day Two of my shadowing. Until then…

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Friday the 13th

I am having a wonderful day! I attended an afternoon meeting at my son’s preschool on facilitating parental involvement in school beginning in Pre-K through high school. Afterwards, I had a lovely chat with my son’s teacher, Mrs. B, the much beloved Mary Poppins in our life. And, as an aside, I even got to meet the highly competent Superintendent of our public school system who’ve I’ve been wanting to introduce myself to for some time now. And I didn’t forget to drop off my collection of Box Tops for Education in the school Secretary’s office. All in all, a great afternoon spent at school – one of my favorite places in the whole world. I don’t know exactly what it is but I thrive and flourish in the school environment. I did as a kid and I do as an adult. It’s probably because I am a self-affirmed and self-proclaimed geek. Nonetheless, a great day at school and on Friday the 13th no less!

My husband is at work, my son is with his Grandma and Grandpa for the rest of the day, and I’m going for coffee tonight with my girlfriends. A day just for me. It just doesn’t get much better than this. And my shadowing dates at the local hospital next week have been confirmed. I’ll only do 4 hours a day to start for a total of 8 next week. If I sense that I’d benefit from further shadow time before making a decision about whether or not I see myself as a PCA (Patient Care Assistant), and ultimately want to commit to the program, I have up to an additional 11 1/2 hours to find that out as well in the weeks/months to come. Time will tell. I am so very excited about this opportunity. In the meantime, I have a little Nursing Program research to do. I will also schedule a meeting with the hospital’s education department coordinator when I’m there next week to learn more about the PCA program and what it has to offer.

It’s almost 4 o’clock here and the blowing and drifting snow continues outside my window. It’s been steadily snowing all day long. Given that we live in the Northeast and that this is the first real cold and snowy day of the season I feel quite fortunate. It doesn’t hurt that I’ve been inside for most of the day, at home and at school, and don’t have to be out in it. Though I do have a couple errands to run this afternoon if I can pry myself away from the computer before coffee tonight. Hmm…running around town in the snow for the next couple hours or staying home where it’s warm and toasty. Decisions, decisions.

On that note, I’ll close for now as time is a tickin’. Happy Friday the 13th!

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Happy New Year!

It’s 2012. For the past couple months I’ve been journaling old school in notebooks but I figured it was time to get back to blogging. So here I am.

I spent the last week and half of November and the first couple days of December in the hospital. It seems that what I’d dismissed as a recurring and extremely painful bout of indigestion spanning over 3+ years was actually gall bladder issues that resulted in acute pancreatitis and surgery to have said gall bladder removed. What normally is a simple outpatient surgery was complicated by the pancreatitis and resulted in 10 days in the hospital prior to gallbladder removal.

It wasn’t how I would’ve chosen to end 2011, and yet as so often seems to happen in life, it was exactly what I needed to jump start the New Year. It’s amazing what one can come up with when confined to a hospital bed and walking the halls on the surgical floor contemplating the eternal question, So, now what? It seems that in order to take a long overdue step forward in my life I had to have my gall bladder out. More precisely, I had to go through the experience of enough discomfort and down right pain in order to ultimately force me to do something, anything, to get out of the rut that I’d so comfortably and seamlessly created for myself.

So, at the fabulous age of 41, I’ve decided to tiptoe my way into a new profession, the medical profession. Meaning, after observing the PCAs (Patient Care Assistants) and RNs working on my surgical floor, I decided to inquire about becoming a PCA. My first step was to obtain a sponsor for the program, which I did, by contacting the Nurse Manager on my floor after getting settled back home last month. Next, I’ll shadow on the floor where I was a patient to determine if I feel up to the task and if the job and the environment suit me. If all goes well, I’ll continue on in the hospital’s PCA program. I am very excited about this new opportunity. I’m also very excited that I’ve maintained an interest in something, other than my marriage and son (noble interests to be sure), for more than 5 minutes for the first time in at least as many years.

My hope is to continue writing, both journaling old school and blogging, in the months to come, chronicling my experience. Oh, and by the way, it hit me like a ton of bricks while in the hospital that I have a major obstacle, one that has plagued me nearly all of my life, that I’ll be struggling to overcome while pursing this new opportunity. That obstacle? Trust. Trust in others. Trust in myself. And trust in God and the Universe. May the Trust be with me.

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Willfullness or Lack Thereof

As I glance at my last post which was two months ago I can’t believe I’ve been away from my blog for this long. Typical of just about anything I’ve stepped away from for more than a couple days, I’m finding it difficult to get started writing again. It’s not so much that I have nothing to say as it is that I’ve lapsed from the routine of doing so and I don’t feel nearly as sharp, witty, or filled with pithy anecdotes and observations as I did when I started this back in March. Be that as it may, I will endeavor to pick up where I left off or perhaps just start over all together. Whatever the case may be, this morning I felt compelled to get back to it, so here I am.

Today marks the end of my son’s first week back in preschool post-summer vacation which is likely the main reason I have the time, in addition to the inclination, to sit down at the keyboard and type away as I did back in the Spring during his first session of preschool chronicled in this very blog. He’s had a stellar first week of school. The pre-preschool of sorts back in March has paid off and then some. This school year is off to a great start with no more tears at drop-off and dare I say a certain excitement at the prospect of his morning at school with Mrs. B and his preschool friends. I am thrilled. He’s really taken to the routine this go round and seems to be far more engaged in the whole preschool experience. I for one am basking in the 2 1/2 hours all to myself for 4 out of 5 mornings a week. By those last few weeks of summer I was more than ready for the school year to resume whether my little guy was or not. Although I am amazed at how quickly those couple of hours fly by prior to pick-up. When this all started last Spring those hours seemed more like a mini-day of sorts. Now I blink and it’s time to pick up my little Boo. Needless to say the transition this go round has been so much smoother for both mother and son. Now we’re the “old pros” at this whole preschool thing rather than the wide-eyed newbies. It’s a good thing.

I found it a bit amusing this morning that while the title of my post came ever so quickly, the content itself is a little sketchy and hard to write now that I’ve been away from it for the past couple of months. Clearly I’m out of practice and lost more than a bit of my writing mojo over the summer. I must admit I’m not so amused by the fact that this doesn’t seem to be an isolated incident in my experience. In other words, my willfullness (or stick-to-it-iveness per se) or more to the point, my lack thereof, isn’t limited to this blog. I am loathe to say that it is a recurring theme in my life. I am driven, focused, and invested in a project, activity, what have you at the very beginning but as time, distractions, and dwindling interest pop into the equation I am notorious for slowly losing steam until yet again I’m back at square one thinking to myself, how can it be 2 months since I sat down and wrote at the computer? I really enjoy it more than anything I’ve done in quite some time. Why wouldn’t I make it a priority every day?

Obviously I shouldn’t dwell on the fact that I haven’t written in two months and that I am back to doing so now. Nevertheless, given that this isn’t an isolated incident I’m inclined to call it what it is – a general lack of willfullness. Blech. I even hate how it sounds. Dawn has potential but she lacks the will to carry it out. Oy. Who wants that as their legacy? I sure don’t but I seem to lack the will to do anything about it! Ha! Not to mention I have clear and succinct recognition of this fact which means I have no excuse for not doing something about it – other than pure laziness that is.

So rather than sit here and ruminate over lost opportunities, lack of will, and the like I’d best get to the business of following through on some of the things I’ve let go by the wayside recently. Writing is one obviously. Church is another. My son and I had a long summer vacation from that I’m not proud to write. And last, but not least, making not only the time but the conscious and deliberate effort to prioritize what is most important in my life and get about doing it faithfully with joy and conviction. I think I need a nap. Heh heh.

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The Comfort & Joy of Laundry

My son and my husband are at the barber this afternoon getting long overdue haircuts for both. In a couple of weeks my son and I will be traveling down South to visit with my father and his side of the family for a couple of weeks. I’m really looking forward to a little time away with my Dad, non-Mom, and sister (my son’s Aunt who is just over a year his senior) and my little guy. My son, who will be flying for the first time, is experiencing both curiosity and a little apprehension at the prospect of air travel. Much like our car trip down South last summer, I’m billing our trip as a wonderful journey and adventure and he seems to like that characterization. I’m saying this as much, if not more to myself, for while I actually enjoy flying (and even more reaching the vacation destination), I more often than not find that the strict arrival/departure deadlines, packing, etc. bring out the anxiety in me. I feel rushed, agitated, and hurried times 10 (make that times 1000! yet again) whenever I fly. That said, it is my sincere goal this trip to keep that anxiety under control as my son will inevitably take his cues from me and to truly enjoy the journey as well as the destination. My husband, who initially felt disappointment that we’d be going with out him, has just realized that our going without him means two weeks all to himself – something he hasn’t experienced in quite some time – and now he just may be secretly counting the days until he’s on his own (I know I would be).

It’s a hot, humid, overcast day here and I’m reveling in my couple hours of “me” time as well as in getting a few chores done including our laundry which has become a bi-weekly event with my husband working full-time again and my son beginning T-ball and running around outside on hot, sweaty summer days and nights. Although I often procrastinate doing the laundry I actually find comfort in the routine of it. It’s mundane and repetitive yet it has a definite beginning and and end. Not to mention, I love folding warm, fresh smelling clothes (especially my son’s little shirts, shorts, and socks) and putting each item in it’s proper place. For those few hours (or sometimes the day depending on how much I’ve procrastinated doing said laundry) there is a slow, comfortable rhythm to the work and to the moment and I find a quiet peace and solace of sorts in this so-called chore. Even as a child I found comfort in this sort of routine. In what some might call drudgery I found a certain joy and fulfillment. This doesn’t mean that I always do the laundry joyfully, but I do find that once I get over the “I don’t want to do it” phase I generally do enjoy it. Go figure.

I find this same comfort in the routine daily life, of balancing the checkbook, going to see my therapist, the school year, being on time for an occasion or appointment (not including airline travel), and generally knowing what to expect on any given day. Intellectually I realize this is all a construct of my own making to give me the illusion that I have control over some small part of my life and therefore control over my life as a whole. Yet there is a comfort, a sureness, in it which I find soothing and I’ve stopped questioning it so much as being thankful for the simple peace and simplicity it affords me on a given day.

As I look over this post now, the day following the afternoon I wrote it, I’m not sure I have anything else to add so I’ll just leave it at that and continue on with the routine of today.

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It Takes a Village

I find myself yet again beginning with a quote passed along from someone else, in this case my Aunt Alice (AA) who reminded me during her most recent visit that “It takes a village” to raise a child. And boy does it ever. And I need to remind myself of that and to be reminded of it by others regularly. Oddly enough I believe I’d first heard this quote over 10 years ago from then First Lady, Hillary Clinton, and shared it in an email I’d sent to AA, her daughter, and several other family members upon the birth of my cousin’s (her daughter’s) beautiful daughter. I wrote something along the lines of, “It takes a village to raise a child and I’m so happy to be part of that village in our family.” At the time I was newly married, had absolutely positively no immediate plans, make that no plans whatsoever, to have a child of my own. And I had absolutely, positively no *!%&?! clue of what I was talking about. However, I thought it was a lovely, less mundane way of welcoming my second cousin into the world and into our family than, “Congratulations on the birth of your daughter/granddaughter!”

Now as I reflect upon how clueless I was all those years ago, and how I must now take these words to heart as I raise my own son, I am most sincerely humbled by those words – “It takes a village to raise a child.” And how sometimes “the village” (or a villager or two) have to remind me of that, more often than not despite myself, as I try to be MOM (a.k.a. all things rolled into one to my beloved little boy). How I must trust that his grandparents, aunts and uncles, our close friends, and his amazing preschool teachers are all in this with my husband and me, rooting for us, encouraging us, and occasionally introducing new ideas or perspectives that we may or may not always concur with but are intended to instruct and encourage.

But the bottom line is that in this inner circle, this village, they’ve got my back – and then some. As such, I must trust that I don’t have to be there (literally and figuratively) every single minute to ensure that all is well because in letting go and letting others “in” I am giving myself permission to not have to be all things at all times to my son, relinquishing a false sense of control, and ultimately not allowing anxiety to govern my thoughts and more importantly my behavior.

In a personal email that my AA sent me a few days ago on this very subject, she was more right than she knew, more to the point, more right than I knew. She knows, deep in her bones and experience, that it takes a village to raise a child up and that my trying to be all things to my son all the time is an impediment to doing just that. I didn’t get it at first, because I was feeling protective of myself and my status as MOM, and I had a laundry list of all the things I was doing right when I replied to her thoughtful email. But it was in my trying to control everything that I was ultimately controlling nothing and unwittingly generating negative energy in the form of anxiety for both my son and myself.

I’ve said it to AA before, and I’ll put it on the record now, I may not always like what she has to say (or her direct, unflinching way of saying it), but more often than not there’s at the very least a grain of truth in it. And in this case, a village worth of truth.

On that note, I’ll take a breath, step away from the keyboard and head up to school in a bit (with my son’s bicycle and helmet in tow) to pick him up on his last day of summer preschool. Along for the ride will be my Aunt, my son’s grandparents, my husband, and the countless other family members, friends, and teachers who are all part of this village that will raise my boy up, and lift me up, albeit sometimes protesting and bristling despite myself, but always humbled by their amazing gifts of love and support. I’ll walk a little taller and less encumbered knowing they’ve got my back – and then some.

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Life’s Little Ironies

“Every morning lean thine arms awhile upon the windowsill of Heaven and gaze upon the Lord. Then, with that vision in thy heart, turn strong to meet the day.” Ah, yes. A gentle reminder on this breezy, sunny, exquisitely cool summer morning that it all begins with looking upward and outward, Dawn. I can so easily forget something so simple and pure. As I was reflecting on this I thought to myself, Who would’ve thought that nearly twenty years after receiving this tiny desk top Words of Encouragement Calendar from a former boyfriend/fiancee (not my husband and darling Man of the Blog needless to say), who by all accounts was neither a man of words or encouragement, I’d be glancing at this quote and many others on a daily basis? What a lovely gift from him, though ultimately a parting gift. Then it hit me, the former boyfriend didn’t give me the calendar – I’d given it to him and he’d returned it along with a box full of just about everything else I’d ever given him in our 3+ year relationship when I broke off our engagement! Ha! Ha! So it seems that in a roundabout way he ended up giving me words of encouragement…from me. One of life’s little ironies.

Words of encouragement. We all need them. I find joy in sharing words of encouragement with others as well, often more than hearing them myself. Looking for that one thing that someone feels is special about themselves and highlighting it or perhaps even calling attention to a trait in someone that they, or perhaps no one else, has ever noticed. Often that can be a challenge, to say the least, and on more than one occasion I’ve had to dig deep to find those words and share them truthfully with someone I may have initially deemed unworthy of my time or attention. And again, one of life’s little ironies, these are likely just the sort of people I should single out for those precious words of encouragement.

I am also reminded in the quote that opens this post that looking upward (and thus not at one’s self in attempts at self-actualization, realization, improvement), whatever you want to call it, is it’s own reward. And that when I’m seeking God’s purpose in my life, rather than searching for it it in my own genuine, yet misguided manner, my own insecurities, foibles, and anxieties (and I admittedly have the anxiety gene times 10 – I know you’re thinking, “Times 10! times 1000!, non-Mom) seem far less daunting. And though words of encouragement may not always come, or come when I feel I most need them, they ultimately must come from within myself. And the only way I’ve found so far to try and sustain that (and there are ups and downs; I clearly don’t always do this and I “forget” to do this daily) is by looking up to God. That’s the goal, albeit a lofty one, it’s good to set the bar high. In order to feel secure within I must first look up.

Incidentally, in this brief moment of clarity as I’m working on looking upward rather than inward in my bumbling quest to feel strong both inside and out, a lovely and unexpected thing happened. I went for a walk with my neighbor. She and I moved into our neighborhood within a few days of one another just over 7 years ago. Our backyards overlook one anothers and we began our friendship by talking over the fence and at the insistence of her eldest son, who was probably about my son’s age now, 4. He won my heart with his articulate manner, bubbling energy and amazingly earnest, cherubic baby face. I marveled at what a joyful, kind soul my neighbor was and is and we began our Tuesday night walks and blossoming friendship which have continued through the births of two more children (my son and her newborn son), my postpartum depression, and the beginnings of preschool and elementary school respectively for our sons.

Anyway, at the start of our walk yesterday evening (while my son and his Grandma were at library story time together), I was sharing with her the separation anxiety my son has been experiencing this past month as well as how great it felt to just be, the two of us walking, having adult conversation, without the whir of our combined 4 boys in our orbit. She was feeling the same about being out of the house, her husband home with her newborn son. I can’t quite recall what I said exactly, but quite unexpectedly and openly she looked at me and said, “Dawn, you’re such a good Mom.” I stopped walking, looked right at her and exclaimed without a second thought, “God love you for saying that!” (not something I’m generally known to say by the way, it sort of just popped out) and hugged her tightly. And it hit me right in the heart, right at the moment when I most needed it (and I knew I needed it); she spoke those 5 words, “you’re such a good Mom” that I longed to hear from someone other than myself in the midst of a stressful time. And quite frankly at a time when I certainly wasn’t feeling like the world’s greatest mom, I was mainly just feeling a bit weary and glad to have an hour to myself with my friend, there she was with words of encouragement.

I took my friend’s kind words to heart and later that evening I looked up and quietly said, “thank you” because I knew that God knew that I needed to hear them. When I least expected it I was given the most precious words of encouragement from a fellow Mom, herself weary from caring for a newborn and having had many of the struggles with her now elementary age boys that I’m now facing with my preschooler, yet taking the time to not only acknowledge me, but in the words of my paternal Granddad, to lift me up in my time of need. Here I am. I may be a bit weary in the moment, anxiety prone times 10…make that 1000, and all too comfortable with looking inward rather than looking upward to God and outward to others AND “I’m a good Mom.” I don’t have to be perfect to be perfectly at peace with myself and others. One of life’s little ironies.

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It’s a Tough Job

And nobody ever said it was going to be easy. Being a parent, being a Mom, is the most challenging role of my life. I had no idea of what I was getting into, mercifully so, because had I even the slightest inclination (without my son’s beautiful blue eyes gazing up at me coupled with his sweet yet willful soul tugging at my heart on a daily basis) I would’ve run for the hills and never looked back. And believe me, there are mornings as we’re getting ready for preschool and he’s crying about not wanting to go yet again as we pull into the school drive that I’d love to do just that. My boy cries despite the fact that he almost always has a wonderful time there with Mrs. B and his preschool friends, whines and spouts crocodile tears clouding my sincere belief that we are doing the right thing by sending him to preschool now rather than later (a belief not shared by darling husband), and quite frankly forces me to face my own painfully shy childhood and separation anxiety issues that are of course played out in their own unique way as I watch my son struggle with similar issues now. I am faced with all of the above and more daily and I must say that at times I am just plain exhausted. Yet somehow I get up every day, put on a happy, albeit rumpled and resigned face, and get on with it. If nothing else I hope my son sees this example, tucks it away for future reference, and perhaps even channels it somehow as he goes about his day. As I type this I can hear my husband saying as he’s known to from time to time these days, “He’s only four years old.”

One of the things that makes all of this more painful for me is that I have the wildly delusional idea that if I don’t get this, the whole parenting and raising a child thing right (whatever “right” is), that I will screw my son up for the rest of whatever. Intellectually I know that whatever I do, the good, the bad, the indifferent, I/we will manage to “screw him up” in our very own unique way, and our son, just as my husband and I have, will figure it out (or not) in his very own unique way. Quite honestly my husband grew up in a household that was, in my estimation, about as close to perfection as one could get. His parents were very much together (and still are to this day), he grew up with 2 brothers (one older, one younger), and a bevvy of neighborhood kids and extended family members who all flocked to their home where there was always food, fun, and love to go around. His mom would’ve given Mrs. Cleaver a run for her money and then some – and still does to this day. His dad was the picture of stability and there for every game, boy scout adventure, and father/son opportunity that presented itself. And even in this real life nirvana of sorts (my SIL has termed it Hayestopia), while my husband is nearly as steady and calm as they come, there were bumps and bruises not unlike my own having come from a close, yet strained and very insulated and isolated, divorced family of 3. In other words, no family, no person, is perfect. No one is exempt from pain and suffering. And as much as I’d like to protect my son from suffering, I realize that is neither practical nor desirable. We all have to make our own way in this world and if we’re lucky (as both my husband and I were and are) we have a family who loves us and wants what’s best for us and simultaneously screws us up in our own wonderfully quirky and unique way.

My therapist and my son’s teacher have told me that I am fortunate that my son is both intelligent and articulate enough to share feelings like, “I am feeling sad. I think I’m going to cry.” Or how about yesterday’s classic. As we’re sitting in the drop-off line and he’s crying, “I don’t want to go to preschool!!” he notices that I’m sitting quietly looking out the car’s front windshield without so much as a word of comfort and loudly exclaims, “You’re not listening to me!” I had to stifle a laugh because 1. I’d been listening to him all morning long and 2. quite honestly, in that moment, I had “turned him off” and he noticed it and fast. Unbelievable. That said, I truly am struck by both his willingness to share his feelings and at the level of drama which accompanies them. I remember as a kid having many of these same feelings of separation anxiety from my parents from the time I was a little older than my son all the way into young adulthood, yet I kept them to myself. My way of coping was to be the brave little soldier, stuff it down and suck it up, and make it appear as as though I had it all under control. I have a strong tendency to do that to this day. That is not to say that I wasn’t an emotional person, I was and I am. Just ask my Dad who is, at least outwardly, as linear and rational as they come and probably wonders how he ended up with a daughter who is so emotionally aware and motivated. Just as I wonder the same about my son’s never-ending saga of “I don’t want to go to preschool…there are no mommies there!” and how he manages to share each and every feeling that he’s having in that moment only to go and have a stellar day at preschool.

Being a parent is truly the most difficult job in the world. I sense that being someone’s Mom is particularly so. It is simultaneously emotionally revitalizing and draining, filled with intense joy and heartbreaking despair, and quite frankly the most underrated and yet most important job one can take on if she chooses to do so. The hours are long and sometimes thankless, the connections are for eternity, and no matter how wonderful you are there’s always that little voice in your head saying, “My child will be sharing this particularly unflattering moment with his therapist no doubt in about 30 years” (if you’re lucky). That said, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Except for about 15 seconds every single morning in the drop-off line at preschool as my dear boy is wailing for the hundredth time when I think, “I could just turn right instead of left and run away for the day.” But I don’t. Because I know that in a mere two and a half hours that little boy with the big blue eyes and loving heart will be there waiting just for me. It’s a tough job. It’s my job. And it always will be, no matter what.

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To Write or Not to Write

I’ve noticed in the last couple of weeks that I have not had the drive to sit at the keyboard and write, and not just the blog, but emails, notes, etc. I’d like to blame it on the sporadically hot weather that’s made our upstairs and the computer run about 10-15 degrees hotter than the rest of the house or that we’ve had out-of-town guests and the occasions that accompany them for the last week and a half or so, but it’s more than that. I’ve been consciously avoiding the inevitable – the time is coming, and arguably is overdue, for me to start writing about my postpartum depression.

It hit me earlier today when I was sitting across a picnic table from my Aunt Alice and we were discussing a wide variety of topics (as we are known to do when together), some more emotionally charged than others, and I nonchalantly mentioned something about the actress Gwyneth Paltrow (who I admire and whose website goop.com I recently subscribed to just for fun) and her unexpected bout with postpartum depression upon the birth of her second child. I’m not sure if it was in my tone or expression but my Aunt matter-of-factly said something like, “And that’s OK that she suffered postpartum depression.” And I replied, “Of course it is.” And I wholeheartedly believe that and I think no less of her because of it. But there was an unspoken subtext in which the “Of course it is.” was followed by, “For her.” And as I was driving home I laughed a little bit at my double standard in which it’s OK for a gorgeous, famous, accomplished person who I know only by way of the roles she’s chosen and interviews she’s given to suffer postpartum depression but that it wasn’t OK for me, a quirky suburban homemaker, wife and aspiring writer to essentially be human. How odd is that? I’ll give a pass to a starlet who by most accounts is just that, a “star”, the so-called picture of perfection in looks and life and I’ll wholeheartedly embrace her flaws, but I won’t be nearly so generous with myself.

So it seems to me that the time is rapidly approaching for me to dig deep and dig in and start talking about the messiest of the messy stuff in my life which is by far my mind blowing, nearly life blowing, bout with postpartum depression. Two quotes come to mind as I prepare to embark on this journey. The first is one I just read today in my Words of Encouragement calendar: “The charm of a woodland road lies not only in its beauty but in anticipation. Around each bend may be a discovery, an adventure.” The second is one that lies deep at the heart of who I am and was provided to me at least a hundred times throughout my life by my most dear and amazing Dad, “If it doesn’t kill you, it’ll make you stronger.” Suffice it to say, as I’m writing this now, it didn’t kill me. And God-willing by sharing my discomfort, shame, and yes, disgust, at and with the ugliness that was my postpartum depression, I will continue on this amazing journey of discovery and life just a little more joyful and far less encumbered by useless shame and self-derision. Life is too short to not fully be, or at the very least attempt to be, one’s true self. Our masks, our fears, and our facades of bullshit serve only to keep us from true relationship with our loved ones, our God as we know (or don’t know) it, and ultimately and most profoundly from ourselves. In the weeks that follow I will be saying, Here I am, bumps and bruises, flawed and nearly broken, and ultimately scared as Hell of what you may or may not think of me, but nonetheless, Here I am.

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Real Life is NOT Debt-Free

The title of today’s post is courtesy of my dear friend and fellow mom of a preschooler plus 2, Lorelai (who I hope likes the blog name I’ve chosen for her by the way). And she is absolutely right. Real life is not debt-free. No truer or timely words have been uttered at our Friday Night Club of late. Both true and timely from a financial as well as philosophical point of view.

The following is a snippet from an ongoing conversation that Avril and I have been having about whether or not she should essentially throw caution to the wind and travel to New Zealand (and across the International Date Line no less!) for the first time ever. After much back and forth discussion this is how we left about 2 weeks ago:

Me: Well, what’s the worst that can happen?

Avril: I’ll be in debt.

Me: But you’re already in debt.

Now granted, she didn’t hop right up and book that flight abroad. However, after 10 days of rumination and quoting the above conversation to her inner circle, and knowing Avril, to anyone who would give her proper audience, she booked that flight. Awesome. I should also add that Avril is not one to be frivolous or in any way careless when it comes to her finances. She is a practical, Type A personality and doesn’t harbor debt lightly. She is also adventurous, willful, determined and just about the most fearless person I know. To be quoted by her to family and friends on this issue makes me smile.

At this point in my dialogue, I must point out that I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a throw caution to the wind kind of girl. I’ve spent most of my adult life consciously debt-free. I grew up in a family that taught me if you can’t afford it, you don’t buy it. And if you do buy it, you pay it off immediately. My husband also grew up in a family that did, and does, the same. This is a sound piece of advice and philosophy and I do not take it lightly. I’ve followed it to the letter for 38 of my 40 years on this earth. And then my husband, like so many others, was laid off from his job of almost 15 years and our debt-free lifestyle became a debt-tolerant one out of necessity. We did everything we could to avoid credit card debt, including decimating our savings, and it came down to this. Are we going to pay the mortgage or the credit card in full every month? Let’s just say we’re still living in our home of 7 years. My husband is back to work full-time and we’re paying down our debt incrementally. And so it goes…Real life is not debt-free.

I’d also like to point out that I’m getting a big kick out of myself, and out of all of my Friday Night Club girlfriends, who have known one another for 25+ years, and are just now really talking about this stuff. You know, the messy stuff of life including debt, marriage, being single at 40, divorce – you name it, we’re getting big and getting brave and actually talking to one another. And I, for one, feel free and energized and alive!

This is real life, my friends. Real life is not debt-free. And if it is (more in the day to day and philosophical sense, but yes, also in the financial realm) then maybe you’re not doing something right. For years I played by the rules, connected the dots, and lived between the lines of a life that was dictated by rules and regulations that were not my own. They were borrowed and applied from generations of play-by-the-rulers who went before me. And I got a lot of good stuff, amazingly good stuff from that – things like personal and financial responsibility, accountability to myself and to others (most notably to God), and a strong sense of right and wrong. Along with that I got a good dose of strictly black and white thinking that lacked nuance, compassion, and understanding of myself and others. It demanded perfection that caused me to shrink in the face of adversity, scorned risk while simultaneously coveting it, and closed me off from friends and family who love me as I do them. Most strikingly, the “shoulds”, “have tos” and “what ifs” cut me off from myself, from who I am, and from who I long to be.

So if I have one piece of advice to pass along to my beloved son it will be this – Live life and live it with conscious abandon. It is messy, complex, and amazingly beautiful – just like you, my precious, precious child. And God-willing, it won’t just be the words but my life that boldly proclaims, as did Lorelai most succinctly, Real life is not debt-free. Amen and halleluia.

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