Okay, something wasn’t right in my last post. I made (another) mistake. I set my steps goal at 1,100 miles. Now, I thought this seemed like a lot of miles, but I calculated it like four times to be sure it was right….and it was still wrong.

I average five miles a day. I wear a FitBit and am obsessed with making my daily goal of five miles or 10,000 steps. So, if I did 5 miles x 44 days that would be 220 miles. This is a big difference from 1,100 miles, indeed. This actually bums me out. BUT! I am not slipping back in to the funk. Instead, I am going to turn this around.

Because this is about setting a goal to reach beyond—something for me to strive towards, something more than just the average day—I am going to set a goal of 300 miles. In the next 44 days, I will log 300 miles on my FitBit.   And, the FitBit is not always accurate. For example, when I log 10 miles on the bike at the gym, the FitBit registers it as only about 1.5 miles (and I wear it on my shoe to catch the motion of my feet). But I am going to go with 300 miles logged on the FitBit.

Now, off to the gym to log the first set of miles and then, back home to start over (again) with a positive outlook.

I have a cold. I know, no big deal. Technically, it’s not even that bad of a cold. But I haven’t had a cold for years. And it’s coming on the heels of a prolonged period of funk.

My husband is off from work today. It’s what we refer to as RDOs (required days off) or what you might call a weekend. He works six days on, three days off so for him, the weekend is a constantly moving target. Knowing that last night when I went to bed, I took a Nyquil and entrusted him with the first part of the morning routine in case I overslept. I should have taken two (which is the recommended dose). I woke up early and couldn’t go back to sleep. But, like promised, my husband set his alarm and hopped up to get the morning routine rolling. When the first kid looked in and saw me still in bed, he asked, “Are you sick?” Me still in bed threw him for a loop. I reported to him that I was fine, just waking up easy after the Nyquil.

I really am fine. After caring for such sick children just before Christmas—one with Influenza A+B and one with a horrible respiratory virus that included four days of high fevers and such a productive and relentless cough it led to vomiting on more than one occasion—I am technically barely even under the weather.

But I am hopeful it’s figuratively a little more than just a cold. I am hoping it’s the capstone, the bookend, the final ‘dammit’ and finally the end of a funk that has been hanging over my mood since our return from vacation in mid January.

I don’t know what my problem is. Maybe winter blues; maybe it’s hormones. My best guess is it’s a little bit of both. But whatever it is, I am ready for it to leave.

On Saturday, I was driving Sam to a pre-dawn hockey game and I found myself wishing we were on our way to someplace new. It was dark and quiet; the road was empty just like it was when we left for all of our vacations over the past year. I am longing for those good, warm times full of adventure and laughs.

That need to flee has been hanging around. I want us to all run away together. I need something to look forward to, something to yearn for. But instead, right now I feel like nothing is holding my attention.

It’s been a one-woman pity party around here. I have felt like the sole survivor on an island—everything has been happening around me. I have been turning the crank for everyone else’s machine to operate but mine has been left idle, taken out of service and left to rust.

I know. Boo hoo me. But, sometimes it just is what it is. The feeling of being last on the list around here has persisted. My feelings not considered, my efforts going overlooked, and my continued commitment to all things “our family” ignored. It’s not that I don’t know they love me, it’s that they are all busy with their own stuff and sort of ignore me.

Seriously, I keep wanting to yell like a child, “What about me?” and maybe even stomp my foot a bit. And don’t comment that you care about my feelings or you are not ignoring me…comment and tell me you have felt this way too, that I am not alone in feeling like this. I am not, right?

And, I know it’s my own fault. I am responsible for my own behavior and that others only treat me the way I asked or allow for myself to be treated. Time to demand more. More respect, more gratitude, more acknowledgement. Time to put myself back in the driver’s seat and take control.

So this is it. First, I am giving myself something to look forward to. The first day of Spring: 44 days away. And I am setting a goal: log 1,100 miles on my feet during those 44 days.

Goodbye dark funk. Hello countdown to Spring.

 

Vacation is over, but we have yet to settle back in to our routine…and it’s killing me. Since my husband and I returned from our trip on Saturday night, he has been battling a kidney stone. Yes, I understand how painful it is. Yes, I feel so bad for him. Yes, I know he doesn’t like having the stone either and wishes he could be at work. Yes, I am taking good care of him.

But…kidney_stone_s1_crystal

I am desperate to get back in to our routine. In reality, as you probably know (this is the first huge lesson of parenting: “I can’t wait to get the baby on a routine.” Good luck because the baby has other plans in store for you.), the routine itself never lasts long. But at this point, I would do anything for just a few days of solid bliss—my regular work day/school day routine.

Honestly, the last time I had a good solid run of a regular day (which I would count as few as three in a row as a “solid run” so not asking for much here, people) was two weeks before Christmas break. The week before break, my middle kiddo developed Influenza A and B and was home all week and then my oldest kiddo developed some sort of respiratory virus that kept him home Thursday and Friday before break. Then break. Then a two-hour delay and two days with no school at all. Then I went on vacation and you know that feeling at the end of vacation, while you are preparing yourself for re-entry when you start to think, “it will be good to get back in to my routine”? I was there. I was longing for the routine of our days, but it just wasn’t meant to be.

Here we are, day six of the kidney stone adventure. Here I am, growing irritable by the continued disruptions to my routine. I know, it’s incredibly childish and sounds completely unsympathetic to my husband’s plight. Just give me this moment to stomp my foot and demand life return to what I often call normal, if even only for a few days.

I need space—every day. I am a bit of an introvert at heart. I mean, I can do all the extroverty things and actually enjoy it most of the time, but then, I need time to quietly be me without anyone else interfering. No questions, no conversation, no outside needs…just me. I need silence and periods of uninterrupted focus. I need freedom for a few hours of having to be here, there, everywhere picking up people, prescriptions, groceries, etc. I need D-O-W-N-T-I-M-E away from the people I love so much so that when I see them next, I love them even more! Even on weekends, I typically get up super early so I can drink coffee, read or watch the news alone, absent of other beings that require oxygen to survive.

I need the opportunity to put myself first, if only for a few hours each day. Those hours during most days are so precious to me. They really count. They really make me feel like I am in charge of myself—I am operating by my own choices and desires. They reassure me that I am in fact in control of my own life. They make then putting the needs of other family members first not seem so overwhelming.

Seriously, I want to vomit every time I hear someone say “me time.” This isn’t “me time” people, this is “alone time so I can think straight, focus, go without an interruption for more than 15 minutes at a time and actually accomplish one thing on my to-do list time.”

One of the greatest lessons parenting has taught me is that I really believe I can do anything if it’s temporary. But, I like to know the duration in advance if at all possible. Travel? I know he will be gone for a week. Surgery? Recovery is expected to take four weeks. The flu? Should be feeling well enough to go back to work in a few days. A kidney stone? Who the fuck knows. I am really hoping I can rally over the weekend and shed this frustration.

I will get up early while everyone else sleeps in, enjoy some quiet time reading and drinking coffee. Drop the kids at swim practice and sit in silence for a bit. I am optimistic about next week and hope that we are preparing to soon return to our routine—if even only for a few days before it’s once again disrupted (as it always is).

As you may remember from an earlier post, I had not been on an airplane since October 2001.  But a scheduled vacation was looming and my stepping foot on a plane had become eminent.

At the advice of a friend who had a fear of flying and with the approval of my doctor, I began taking a half a Xanax at night as soon as I started feeling some anxiety about the trip.  That timeline is now sort of blurry because it was also on the heels of general holiday stress, but I think I really started thinking about it about a week out.  The Xanax at bedtime achieved two things: 1) it helped me get the best sleep possible.  The silence of night can sometimes be overwhelming if you are dealing with anxiety, and 2) waking up with less anxiety helps decrease the anxiety throughout the day. It’s sort of like taking an allergy medication at night to help with your allergies during the day.

The day before we were scheduled to leave, I went online and checked in and confirmed our seat assignments.  So glad I did as I saw where we were sitting and hated it.  This, I thought, is something I can control in a situation where I feel I have absolutely no control. The diagram of the plane showed a row of three seats and then a row of two seats.  Perfect.  Just me and my husband in our own little row.  That eliminated all the anxiety about the unknown person who would be sitting next to us.  The option to pay extra for the exit row, which has a little more room to stretch out.  Excellent.  Reduced the feeling of being locked in, smooched with strangers.  Just being able to pick, and have the option to select a “better” seat-even at a charge-really did give me a very important sense of control.

The night before we left, I took a whole Xanax and slept as best as I could.  I got up early to allow time for a trip to the Y to do a cardio workout (exercise is incredibly helpful for my anxiety).  Home to shower, finish packing and wrap things up at home so we could head to the airport.

I am not quite sure how to explain this to someone who doesn’t have anxiety, but when I am super anxious, there is a very loud conversation going on in my head.  Maybe not even a conversation, but lots of “noise” that makes it difficult to focus. That noise makes it difficult to talk with others or process information-it’s just too crowded in there.  I become extremely sensitive to sounds, smell and light.  It’s a physical reaction to a psychological issue. For example, Jeff was unloading the dishwasher, which usually is a welcomed self-imitated task, but this time, the clanking of the dishes was amplified ten times and every crash of a plate reverberated in the tight space between my ears.

It’s difficult to hold conversations when I feel like this and of course, at this moment, my kids are all three simultaneously talking to me.  I had to escape as quickly as I could before I became overwhelmed and let those feelings take over. Once the anxiety takes over, it’s difficult to regain control.

Then, soon I found myself actually on the way to the airport.

I listened carefully to advice from others.  I had a light load for a carry-on and wore comfortable clothing, including a scarf that would allow me to sort of curl up next to the window and create a cocoon. I started a new book I was eager to read and I was fairly confident would hold my attention. I had my headphones and a good playlist. I had handi-wipes and hand sanitizer galore in case I felt something was covered in germs and it would make me feel better to clean it.  And believe it or not, I even had a mask in case something gross happened and I needed to protect myself from germs.  I knew that the odds of me actually putting the mask on were like 1:99, but just having it reduced my anxiety and provided an answer to many “what ifs” that were swirling around in my head.

This was it.  I was going to fly.

Once we got through security and to our gate to wait it out, I would estimate on a scale from zero to ten, my anxiety was hovering around a seven.  I took a quarter of a Xanax.  Now, my doctor has told me before that a dose that small probably doesn’t really do anything, but for someone with anxiety, just the act of taking it makes me feel better and more in control.  Once they started boarding, I took an additional half of Xanax. I could feel that one working before I even got on the plane.

IMG_4457Once on, I felt pretty good (with the exception of the detached molding on the exit door) and within minutes, we were up in the air.  I set the timer on my phone for the projected flight time so I knew how long was left along the way.  The flight itself was fine.  I was fine.  I did it.

And, as we all know, our fears about things are often much scarier than the reality.  Indeed, that was the case here.  I had created an experience in my mind that was so much worse than the reality. The universe also played along and made sure this first return flight was on time with no delays, nonstop and on days with good weather.  The plane didn’t feel dirty and the seats are like pleather instead of how they used to be cloth (aka germ traps).  It doesn’t matter how it happened, I am grateful I completed the mission.

Once we landed, got through customs, collected luggage, found our transfer, boarded a bus to our hotel and completed the drive, we were greeted with this view and I was so glad I made a commitment to overcome this obstacle at any cost.

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ThinkKit Day 28: your sights on the next year: what’s one step you can take to support a goal you have for 2015? Whether it requires a written plan, a list of supplies or ingredients, or even a flowchart: getting your plan down in words should help spur you into action.

We were actually just all around the kitchen table eating lunch talking about our plans for next year.  Everyone in our family has a goal and I loved hearing them share them.

My plan is simple.  And you can read about it here.  It is summed up by this book that I got for Christmas.

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ThinkKit day 27: Time to show off your handiwork: what did you make this year? Share something personal, like a song or art. What inspired you? Was the finished work what you initially imagined? Or a work project – what was the process? The end result? Share your vision…and your work!

Interesting. I fashion myself quite the crafty one, but apparently, my year has been absent of any homemade creations or artistic expressions–or, at least any homemade creations that I took a picture of (other than food).  Perhaps 2015 should include more personal expression.

ThinkKit Day 26: What place stood out for you this year? Outdoors or indoors; a huge gathering or a tête-à-tête? Where were you? Who were you with? What feeling did you have when leaving? Were you inspired? Refreshed? Or…confused and glad to be gone? Whether it was exciting…or awkward: give us a hall pass out of our own room for a few minutes.

There are two places I love to go–both in the warmer days of summer.

First, the lake.  And, by the lake, I mean the Lake of the Ozarks to stay with some of our best friends in their great lake house.  It’s a full six hour drive from our house, but there is something about this lake for me and this place.  It’s a house full of boys with only two girls (me and my friend) out of 9 people and a dog.  The lake water is so clean and warm. Our routine is established and works well.  We eat great food, drink, relax, laugh, read…and that’s about it. There are no distractions of restaurants, no places to visit, no attractions to go see.  This is it: the lake.

Traveling with other families is hard and so is being a houseguest.  But, for some reason, with our two families it works.  We have been friends since our youngest boys met in preschool about 7 years ago.  They both used to lay on the floor and cry together when she and I would leave them for the day.  It was heartbreaking.  They quickly became friends in the classroom and the preschool teacher suggested that perhaps our families should get together out of school to help the boys ‘adjust’ a bit more to school.  It worked and we have been friends ever since.

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The lake also represents some more meaningful things for me.  I am not a lake girl.  I always had a pool in my yard when I was growing up and if I couldn’t see my feet in the water, I wasn’t getting in. I didn’t mind the Gulf or the Caribbean, even the Atlantic on a calm day but I do not like lake water.  For some reason, on Lake of the Ozarks, I am able to convince myself most of the time that it’s okay.  The water is warm, like a bath; the lake is so clean and the giant trampoline thing is too fun to pass up.  I swim in Lake of the Ozarks.  That, people, represents a huge fear overcome.

I grew up snow skiing but had never water skied.  Do you know what it’s like when you sit on the back of the boat and watch your kids pop up out of the water and ski and you think, “Huh, I think I can do that.”  But then, then you try and you realize how almost unnatural the experience is.  It took me a full year, but I finally got up on water skis. I did it. And, when I finally got up, I was so excited, I let go of the rope (my husband describes it as a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit).  I also mastered the knee board.  I am not kidding when I say that getting up on skis was part of my inspiration for getting back in shape, losing weight and building muscle.  It worked.  And, I look forward to this summer getting up on skis again because I have lost even more weight and built even more muscle.

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A second place I love in the summer is Devon, our swim and tennis club.  Officially known as Devon Country Club, we often joke about that “country club” part.  It’s a time capsule.  Very little has changed since it first opened in the late 1950s.  My dad remembers climbing the fence as a kid and swimming on summer nights–it still looks the same.  That sameness is part of what makes Devon so comfortable.  It’s hidden away on a big lot surrounded be trees.  It’s private alright, but not because it’s super expensive or members have to be vetted. It’s private because it’s hidden.

This is the kind of place where we don’t see our kids all day.  They play tennis, basketball, sit on the benches and talk, swim, play board games, play water games, play sand volleyball, eat, and organize a football game.  All while I am either chatting with friends or reading quietly in the sun.  Here too is another personal accomplishment. It sounds like I am being a snob, but again, the issue of always having my own pool made public (or even club) pools kind of gross. I never swam in them.  And now, here I am! Swimming at Devon and loving every minute of it.

Sure, there are cliques, sometimes drama, gossip and I have even gotten wrapped up in it sometimes.  But even with all of that, there is always a chair for me to sit in and read.  There is always a friend for my kids to play with.  There is always a teenage lifeguard to greet me with, “Hi Mrs. Parmelee.”  I look forward to every summer spending time there with friends and my family.

Many memories have been made at both of these special places and I look forward to making many more with my family and friends in 2015.

ThinkKit Day 25: Today we’ll keep it short and sweet. Share a photo from your year that highlights giving, thankfulness, traditions or finding peace. What does the photo represent to you?

These photos capture some of our holiday traditions.  I think it took us a few years with kids to find and create our own family holiday traditions, but we definitely have them now.  They are made from a little bit of his childhood and a little bit of my childhood and a whole lot of our life together.

We have a picture of every child visiting Santa since 2000 (which, obviously at the time, there was just one tiny infant on Santa’s lap).  These photos are each placed in a holiday-themed frame and displayed during the Christmas season. They are probably my favorite Christmas decoration we have.  I love looking back at the kids.  And, we don’t dress them up.  Instead, we tell them to wear their favorite things so that when we look back, we see who each of them was at the time.

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The boys sleep later and later each year.  This year, it was almost 9:00AM before they finally woke up.  They have to wait at the top of the stairs until we get set up with our cameras just right to catch their expressions.  And this year, like many years past, the boys also had to sit and wait until Jeff was able to come home from work for a few minutes to join us for those Christmas morning moments.  Notice the new pajamas, which are of course opened Christmas Eve.

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We still have one holdout on Santa.  So, the rush is to see what Santa left and this year, everyone was very excited.  Our Santa doesn’t wrap. Once they burn through the Santa discoveries, they open gifts from us and each other.

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ThinkKit Day 24: What are you thankful for? Maybe it’s from this year – or maybe it’s something in your past that resonated with you recently. And – we hold people, places, and things in equal regard: a sense of gratefulness can take many forms.

Saying thank you is extremely important. Acknowledging someone’s kindness and thoughtfulness is part of the giving process. I get it. I know this, intellectually.

But practically, thank you notes are a thorn in my side.

My kids’ birthdays are all two weeks a part (16 Oct/31 Oct/17 Nov). So, when they were little, we would have one big birthday party for the family. I would make cute invitations with all three boys on them and invite the crew of 25 or so over to celebrate. Each kid would have his own cake and we would sing happy birthday three times. It was so fun; those were some great memories.

One year, after the party, I remember lamenting to my mother that in addition to all the other things that were making me stressed out, I still hadn’t sent thank you notes for the boys’ birthday gifts from the party.

“So don’t,” she said. The idea seemed impossible to me. I mean, how could I not send a note? Certainly people would notice and would think badly of me for not following etiquette.

“Really?” she persisted. I had convinced myself that in fact, really, they would notice. I sent thank you notes because you had to, right?

She convinced me that something had to give and this was an easy thing to let go of. I let go. I resigned myself from the idea that I was going to actually complete the thank you notes. I threw away the stack of cards I had before me that needed writing. I crossed it off my list and moved on. It helped relieve some stress.

Guess what? I don’t think anyone noticed. At least, no one called me up and asked where their thank you note was. And, even more proof of this fact is that they kept coming to the birthday parties and bringing gifts. They were giving to give—not to get a thank you note. Huh.

Emily Posts says thank you notes for gifts are only really necessary when you are not there to thank the person in person. I make sure as often as I can that I repeatedly thank the person—in person—for their thoughtfulness and kindness of a gift, of hosting us for dinner, of whatever…I hug and thank and look in the eye and show my appreciation.

Now, what if you are not in front of the person when you get the gift? I understand the need for a thank you note. In addition to thanking the person, the note also represents confirmation that whatever was sent has in fact been received. But I am not picky about what form this acknowledgement takes: card, email, text, whatever.

But writing a note for a gift I receive in front of someone for a regular gift-giving event like a birthday? I have let that one slide—almost completely except when absolutely necessary. And, before you get all high and mighty, I do make my kids write thank you notes for gifts they receive if they have a birthday party and their friends bring gifts. Why? Because they must first learn what is expected, then they can decide how they respond to those expectations and how much value they place on meeting the expectations of others.

Thank you notes have come to represent—for me—a formality only reserved for strangers, or acquaintances but not meaningful friends and family. I think to think that friends and family are okay with me spending time on things I want to do instead of what I have to do; I want the same for them. Sometimes, something has to give, people. And if I can’t cross “feed boys dinner” off my list, but I can cross “write thank you note” off my list, I know which one I will pick.

ThinkKit Day 23: You’ve ranted. You’ve raved. You’ve freestyled, soapboxed, and even waved a magic wand or two. Today, let’s keep it positive. Who (or what) is doing something good? Share a story of your positive action, whether it’s a favorite charity, foundation, or nonprofit – or just an individual whose penchant for do-goodery makes you feel all warm and fuzzy.

Want to know who or what is doing something good? The truth is, anyone can do good. It doesn’t have to be a big public display of giving, it doesn’t have to involve money or even necessarily any extra time.

It annoys the living crap out of me how hard some people work to be nasty. It’s so much easier to just be nice, people!

Make eye contact, say hello, and pay a compliment to a total stranger. And if you don’t think this matters, try it. You will see the person you complement light up in their eyes and even your own disposition will improve.

I find myself wanting to yell to some people, especially people who work with children, YOU MATTER! Your attitude, passion, your words, your interest in kids—all of that matters far more than you might think.

It reminds me of when I delivered Phillip. I had the most amazing nurse; I will never forget her. Her name was Sarah Napier and she—more than any other single thing—made my first childbirth an amazing experience. I had prepared for a natural birth and Sarah was completely on board. I can still see her holding my hand and hear her calming voice. She just made everything a little better; I knew it was going to be okay. She had all the power that day, really she did. I was completely vulnerable and at her mercy. She chose to be nice; that made all the difference for me.

Shortly after I delivered, Sarah’s 12-hour shift was over and a new nurse came in to take over. She chose to not be nice. And, it wasn’t so much that she was mean, but she was unattached—not present. She was going through the motions, settling in to the routine on the first few hours of her long shift. It felt like I was the only thing keeping her from being where she really wanted to be (which, of course wasn’t at all true. She had several other patients too). She moved about the tiny delivery room like a robot, checking her boxes and tracking vital signs. Her touch was cold, her voice almost somber. Finally, I looked at her and gently reminded her of my current reality. “I know you do this every day, but this is my first baby.”

I honestly think she had forgotten that for some people, this is the moment and she can influence that with her attitude, words and body language. While it wasn’t all of the sudden rainbows and unicorns, she certainly dropped the hard exterior and at least made conversation and eye contact. Her touch softened and her words were delivered with a hint of sincerity.

Words, touch, eye contact, a smile—it all matters. A lot. You can make a huge difference for someone in need of something, even if they don’t know they need it. The hard thing is, you never know when you are going to make that difference and you often won’t know you were the one who made the difference.

When we were in Asheville, TN over fall break, every time I would encounter a kid living on the street (there is quite an extensive homeless population on the streets of Asheville), I was intentional to meet eyes and tell them someone somewhere misses them. It drove my husband nuts. “You don’t know that for sure,” he would say. But I insisted that everyone had someone somewhere who missed them and maybe just hearing it would change things for one of them. One of them would go home, wherever that might be.

A teacher’s encouragement changed my middle son’s course in school. That teacher, after years of feeling like he was swimming up the creek, showed my son he could do it. He put his faith in him and my son delivered. It changed everything—forever.

Remember that your words matter. You matter.