Friday, December 10, 2010

Those $#%! hormones!

We did it. We had another baby. That's three - three for me! But my hormones this go-round were out of control.
The worst part for me was the tiredness, which led to depression. I've never been depressed before, and I have to admit that I was scared. Those feelings can be completely overwhelming.

I wondered if anyone of you had this problem. Are you willing to share you stories?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Yahoo article on medical overtreatment

I can't say that I was shocked by the numbers in this article. What does leave me aghast is the fact that so many people are undergoing painful treatments that do not prolong life but incur incredibly large debts. I can't say how I'd react in this situation: I think I'd want to explore every option to save my husband and kids, but would I want them to do the same for me? I can't be so sure. I don't like the idea of leaving my family with massive debt. And I probably want to have some peace and comfort in my last days on earth -- to spend with those I love.

Articles like these shows the need for better education. If Americans were well-versed on their choices I think the ratios listed might be very different.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Mental health

Having children is a huge physiological step for most parents. Not only does a woman's body change to accommodate the baby, parents need to prepare for the mental challenges of kids. And they can be daunting: with every child you are adding a new personality to the family. An unknown personality that needs constant attention and love (as will any other children you currently have).

But there really isn't much written about parents' prenatal mental health. If you consider Planned Parenthood's numbers that up to half of all pregnancies in the United States are not planned, well, is it any wonder that the soon-to-be-parents are not mentally prepared for the upcoming challenges? This is an area where we need more research and more resources. If moms- and dads-to-be are not mentally healthy at the time of their child's birth, then how can we expect the new family to get off to the best start possible?

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer time blues

It's started. The kids have been home all of a few days, and today they plaintively wailed, "I'm bored!"

My retort was, "Who can change that?"

Perhaps it wasn't the most sympathetic answer, but I do believe my kids need to take more responsibility for their time and actions. I know they can't drive themselves to the pool, but they can play with one of the gagillion toys they HAD to have. Or they can read a book, play in the sand box, on the play structure, draw, color, make a get my point. There's always something they could be doing; they just expect me to make it more entertaining.

But I was on deadline. I literally had to finish my project. It's a combustible combination. I get stressed, they get annoyed, and all hell breaks loose. But it doesn't have to be that way. Which is why I sent them outside to play. The connection with nature is imperative to both their mental and physical health. Of course it'll only last about another 15 minutes, but that's more than enough time to finish this blog post.

Now if I could just get to the vacuuming....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Frankly, Scarlett, I don't give a damn.

I've been saying something to that effect now for the past few months. Not because I don't actually care. I do. Really. I simply don't have the energy to continue.

Ever been there? Portia's last column was on sleep - or the lack thereof. That's been one of the problems. When you don't sleep well - at all - everything else seems to be in a haze. And it's hard to care about fog.

Still, relationships need to be maintained. The only other alternative is to let them collapse. Because I happen to love my children, I don't want that to happen. So it's time to start making an effort. Big time.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What's your sleep routine?

I'm not an insomniac, but I could be. I bet you feel that way sometimes too. And there's a very simple explanation.

We don't maintain healthy sleep hygiene.

I know, funny word. But my dad's a therapist, and it's really called that.

Now, if you're a mom, you've spent a little bit of time investing in your child's sleep habits. Our routine takes anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour, depending on the night. It's a slow easing in to a restful night, and the payoff has been great. My family is so pleased to watch the kids and always compliments us on how good they are for bedtime.

I wish they could say the same for me. I can be utterly, completely physically exhausted and my mind races. Did I remember to dot the i and cross the t? Did I word this e-mail appropriately? Wouldn't that be a great headline for my next article?

So I talked to my dad. He reminded me of an important fact: Beds are for for two things—sleeping and ... well, let's just call it couple time.

I'm going to share his advice, because it makes such a difference in my life. You need a routine, just like your kids. The last hour of your day should be spent on non-intellectual activities. (Books are still OK, as long as you don't read in bed and it's reading for fun.)

Give yourself a break. Sleeping makes you a happier, healthier, smarter person. Routine might sound boring, but sometimes boring is beautiful.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

The bomb

We had a major emotional blow up this morning. Tears, screaming, time spent in room to calm down.

Over a shirt.

I can't tell you how demoralizing that was. Normally, I'm thrilled my kids can and will dress themselves. But my older daughter picked out a shirt that a.) was too big and b.) did not meet dress code.

The fight was on. I literally had to yank it off her. And then - being in a snit - she refused other clothes. Many options were given. All were rejected.

Why does it have to be so hard to simply get ready to go somewhere?

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Logging off...for now

The past two weeks have been incredibly busy. When I finally get to bed, it's more of a collapse into the mattress.

But because I've been barely able to get done what I have to, I haven't had any time to Twitter, Facebook or even blog.

And it's been wonderful.

That's not to say I'm not looking forward to plugging back into my Twitter-feed; this is more a matter of enjoying less computer time. I've become a slave to the device. And I'm not sure that's healthy. At least this past week, I've had to drive, walk and interact with others. That's been too novel a feeling.

I don't want to give up my social network sites. I simply want to harnass the technology to work smartly with my face-to-face interactions. Not overshadow people-time.

Too much thinking

It's hard to get much sleep when your brain has no off switch.

Have you ever noticed that?

We live in a culture that encourages us too worry. Commercials tell us you need a home security system or the bad man will break into your house. You need a car that phones home when you're in a wreck. The milk and meat and additives you unwittingly consumed in your school meals in elementary school are responsible for your cancer.

Psychology tells us a little bit of stress is normal—until you let it take over your life. Of course, there are plenty of times you have very legitimate reasons to worry—sick kids, financial difficulties, job instability.

Just try to temper it by dwelling on the good things, too, OK? Be thankful when the kids are healthy. When you or your spouse find the right job or all the bills are paid.

Now go get some sleep.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Car Debate

It's still raging. I want something that's highly fuel efficient. I need something with all-wheel or four-wheel drive. As my kids age, I really need something big enough to tote my kids, their friends and everyone's equipment. I'd say I'll have four to six passengers 80 percent of the time I drive. Occasionally, I'll need to schlep eight.

That means a big vehicle.

I know I'm going to pay for the choice not only at the pump but also with some moral high ground. I don't particularly wish to be the SUV-driving, CO2-emitting stereotypical American.

But my needs - which are very real - seem to make the choice for me.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Baby fever

My youngest child is about to turn four. That doesn't seem that old - really - but it somehow is. We're out of the baby stage. There are no more snuggles while nursing, diapers to change, night-time wakings, first smiles, first steps, first words.

We have kids, not babies. And the lack of tiny cuteness has been depressing.

The only way to avert my current funk is to have another infant. That means three kids, which seems like a small army. I wouldn't have enough arms to corral them all. I'd be starting over - nauseous for months before I get so swollen I hate to look at my fat fingers and ankles. I'd have to buy maternity clothes, a baby carrier, a bigger car.

But I'd have a baby. For a little while, at least.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

A funny thing happened

I lost my to-do list. So instead, I read a book.

When I finally found my list again, I'd accomplished half of the things on my list. Now I'm more relaxed and I think I got just as much done. Not bad.

I highly recommend it.

Friday, February 12, 2010

School daze

Is my child well enough for school?

I always thought this would be an easy question to answer before I had kids. Boy, was I wrong.

I definitely do not want to be the mom who spreads the germs to the whole school. But my 4 year old isn't old enough, either, to be a reliable reporter of how well he feels. So I'm making guesses based on his demeanor, his appetite, and his energy level.

My point: It's a tough call. If there's no clear sign of illness—fever, vomiting, diarrhea—you're going to get it wrong occasionally. I think most kids fake it at least once, and every kid has probably come home after school one day and puked all over the rug.

Don't beat yourself up over it. It's never an easy choice.

What criteria do you use to decide whether your kids are well enough for school?

But, Mom

I'm sorry, no. We are not going any further don't that road. It's not that I'm a dictator (all the time); it's that there are things you cannot do for your own safety. Scaling dressers, walking in the road by yourself (without looking), going to a friend's house when I've never met the parent are all items I consider extremely dangerous.

These are items that I will not budge on. Ever. So don't keep pushing. The answer will always be no.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Is preschool good for moms?

It occurred to me as I dropped my preschooler off today that I'm the first generation of mothers to have my kids start school so young. My mother had a two-morning, two-hour program, which was then called the politically incorrect "Mother's Day Out." And, as a tangent, I never understood that name. Two hours does not give a mom a day out. It gives her time to shower and eat breakfast.

But back to preschool. My daughter goes for four hours, three times a week. That gives me a whopping twelve hours of professional time. I can increase that to six hours five days a week, which would allow me to work pretty much full time. But here's a question: Is that a good idea? I'm beginning to think the whole reason some women decide to go back to work at least past time is because of the social push to put kids in preschool. If I had my daughter home with me, I don't think I'd feel as obligated to accept as many (or maybe any) freelance assignments.

Now, I think preschool is a wonderful invention. I love that my child is learning at this point in her life when she's excited and willing to soak up information. I also love the fact she's learning to share and understand the complexities of interpersonal relationships.

But I wonder if preschool is healthy for mothers who then feel the pressure to DO something with their time. Up until 40 years ago, handling the household budget and keeping the house, kids and dog clean was considered a full time position.

What's your point of view? Should we feel the need to immediately find work as soon as there is a break in our childcare duties?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

"Mommy, your work is ruining the day!"

So I quit working fulltime because I was expecting No. 2 and I just couldn't imagine a life were I could give two the total love and focus I wanted to give and work full-time.

But last week, my son said to me, "Mommy, your work is ruining the day!" Oh, how those words crush.

Now, to be fair to me, we'd just wrapped up a two-day visit from his grandpa. He'd spent the morning playing with grandpa before we drove him to the airport. Then we followed up with a special treat--lunch at his favorite restaurant, then a play date with his best friend. While his baby sister was napping, I tried to grab 15 minutes of editing before the big event. We we planned a special night out at the Sesame Street Live performance. But my 15 minutes elicited an angry comment from my son.

Friends, it hurt. I try to only work when my children are sleeping or at preschool (a tall order, as you know!) But sometimes you just need a few extra minutes.

Don't feel bad. When I catalog the attention I give my children every day, I realize the guilt is unfounded. They are always the first priority. But to expect ourselves to always be on—ready to play, ready to be the cargiver, the servant—when our children are awake ... that's not reasonable, either, is it?

Trust me. You are an amazing mother. Your children will have countless memories of the love you displayed. Some will come from events you'll never remember—making the peanut butter and jelly sandwich, helping them make that very special snowman. You can't predict what that moment will be. I know, because I've tried. You just have to give your love every day and trust that they see it in your actions.

So don't stress the small stuff.

I said, "No!"

I'm a writer. I'm a writer of magazine and web articles, corporate web copy and nonprofit press releases. I enjoy writing across these industries and for a variety of clients. But my true love is fiction. And I've finally started querying literary agents.

I've also started racking up the rejection letters. This is not a fun part of the process. In fact, it's downright discouraging. I actually wanted to work for a literary agent so that I would better understand the process. That's me: research and learn as much as you can before you dive into something. Unfortunately, working for an agent wasn't a possibility.

I'm sure I'm learning from this process; I'm just not quite sure what as yet. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Oh, how times have changed

My daughter joined the Girl Scouts this year. Daisy Scouts, actually. I didn't know there was such a thing until we went to the first meeting.

I was a Brownie for years; I loved selling the cookies. I'd walk down the streets of my neighborhood and knock on doors, wondering what kind of dog was attached to each bark. Now, the girls and parents get strongly-worded documents against door-to-door sales.

Just one more way the world has changed. And not for the better.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Dear Friend

It's been three and a half years since you died of cervical cancer. I was still nursing my son. I remember crying as I fed him. Crying as I told my boss. Every time I touch something you gave me or see pictures, I feel the ache that you aren't here too.

It had been two years since we'd spoken when you died. Too long. You know how that happens. You always think there will be more time.

We had fun. Remember high school? We called you Queen of the Band Hall? I still have the notes we passed. I read them and laugh. And then I cry. Because they're the last notes we'll ever share.

I love you. I remember the night your sister died. It was the worst thing I ever thought could happen. Until you got cancer.

I wish I'd been there for you more. Your family says it was a relief when the end came, because the pain was too great. And I hate that. But I think about you. I hope there is a part of you I can pass on to my children.

I look at my own kids, and I think, not them. No way. But your parents had three, lost two. How could that happen? I don't know. But it haunts me. And I'm not the only one.

We love you. We remember.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Yay for you!

One of my old college friends has a 2 year old, and they have a charming ritual. Every week they make a birthday cake. It's a different type of cake each week, but it's the event that counts. He's celebrating special time with his mommy. She's celebrating the miracle that is her son.

Seems we don't do enough to celebrate ourselves and our families. Special occasions are nice, but these special routines we develop to nurture our families and ourselves demonstrate a love that goes beyond a moment--it's a love you work at and build on everyday.

What rituals do you use to celebrate your family, yourself, and others?

Un-united States of America

For the past ten years, I've been waiting for politicians and political pundits to stop acting like three-year-old protecting a toy in the sandbox.

It hasn't happened.

Yes, I know we're not supposed to talk about politics. Nor are we supposed to talk about religion, but I'm noticing we're talking about both - slyly, for our own agendas - quite a bit.

I've been studying the history of Santa Fe, NM. The Spanish - for all their faults (which were many!) - were able to intermarry and coexist relatively peacefully with the natives, Africans and other groups that were either already in the territory or came to it. That is part of our legacy as Americans. Unfortunately, I still do not see this as the mainstream course of action. People seem to like to fight. Often and loudly.

What happened to respect thy neighbor? What happened to offering someone the dignity of listening to their opinion without talking over them? While I may like my ideas better, they are mine, not yours. And it's relatively rare that I will be able to change anyone's views, whether it be on something as trivial as cereal brands or as major as the environmental legislation that has stalled in D.C. That's OK as long as we can recognize a common goal: leaving our country better.

I am quickly moving from frustration to fear. Our country is polarizing on two opposite ends of the political spectrum; each feels its camp has all the right answers. This is the exact fiasco Abraham Lincoln warned against: "Nearly all men can withstand adversity; If you want to test a man's character, give him power."

But perhaps the most apropos quote is the one by Gore Vidal: "Politics is made up of two words. 'Poli' which is Greek for 'many,' and 'tics,' which are bloodsucking insects."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Gloating: A one way ticket down

Oh, the political kibitzing has reached new heights today over the vote that occurred in Massachusetts yesterday. Shortly thereafter, the gloating began. Then the speculation. What did the vote mean?

I don't really need a talking head to tell me, thank you very much. Because there are certain things we're all capable of deciding for ourselves. Maybe you think people voted for Brown because it was a referendum on Obama. Maybe someone else thinks it's because Coakley ran an awful campaign.

You decide.

But don't let the TV tell you.

I hear a lot of gloating today, but it's really a tempest in a teapot. One state, one seat, one vote. We all remember Kennedy as a cultural and political icon, and personally, I don't think he would have approved of either candidate. So the results really don't matter that much, do they?

The problem is, when either party gloats--in defeat or victory--there's payback coming. Because gloating is the first step in complacency. And who wants a complacent government?

One final thought: I have many friends of different political persuasions. I may disagree on issues or candidates, but I most of all want to respect them as people who have reasons behind their beliefs. And ultimately, gloating is a slap in the face to them--and to their core believes. So I'm going to practice a little restraint and respect today and try to respect the people I know--and those I don't as well.

My feminst manifesto

I have a super woman complex. No, I mean I really tend to pressure myself to be better than anyone else. When I finally sat down to unravel the root cause of this issue, I realized that it was all my mom's (generation who were at) fault.

I am a woman of the post-feminism movement. That means I have the right to do as I damn well please. But that doesn't mean I can do anything I please without complaints, sidelong glances and suggestions on what it means to be a woman in today's society. You know what? I think there are a multitude of activities and dreams that I have the right to pursue. So do you. Here's a brief list of what I can do. I'd love to see you add to it.

As a woman, I can:

* run a business as well as any man - and make more money doing so
* stay at home to raise my kids (and maybe never again use that expensive college degree) while being a supportive wife
* wait for someone to open my car door only if I feel like it
* fix a broken electrical socket or transmission
* take a night off and let my spouse deal with the kids
* be frustrated and grumpy without it being labeled PMS
* dress as professionally, sloppy or as sexy as I want
* dream of simpler times when I didn't have to make as many financial decisions
* re-balance my stock portfolio
* buy my own car
* refuse to mow the lawn, enter the attic or deal with dead animals
* squash my own bugs
* expect to be loved and respected and never degraded for wanting to do what is best for my family and myself

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

That fine line

Portia mentioned recently that we as women take on too much. I definitely have this problem. It's the "should" curse. More than likely you live it without even realizing it.

Here's a list of items I feel I should do every day (though not in any specific order):

Write an article
If I'm not writing one, I should be researching and pitching one
Spend hours of quality time with my children
Actively learning something new
Wash, dry, fold and put away all the laundry in the hampers
Clean the dishes
Help my children learn to clean up their messes (and then following up to ensure said mess is actually cleaned up)
Spend quality time with my husband
Walk the dog - at least two miles
Spend at least 20 minutes building my platform through social media
Visit with my friends
Make a healthy, nutritious dinner

This is a partial list, but you get the idea. How can one do so many things? I can't. If I try, I do many of them poorly. Which is why my gift to myself is to stop saying, "I should do...." Maybe I should, but I can't do it all. It's time to accept that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Mom didn't tell me ...

... That I would cry when my babies stopped nursing.

... That it hurts when you put their baby clothes away.

... That you can take an absurd number of baby photos and video and it will still never be enough.

... That every day they're going to look older—and cuter!

... That you can celebrate poop in the potty with more enthusiasm than any award you'll ever receive.

What's a frenemy?

It's a hard world out there, and we need all the friends we can get, right?


But ... What if someone isn't your friend?

Here's a quick test to decide:

Your friend:

Likes spending time with you—and seeks you out

Makes you feel better about yourself

Offers support and congratulations when good things swing your way

Do you know anyone who failed this test? Is this someone you have regular contact with through work, social activities, or even social media like Facebook or Twitter?

Fire them. Or if you can't excise the cancer (hey, I understand--it's your sister and she's super competitive), at least tune it out.

If you want a positive life, you have to be a positive force. That means being a good friend or neighbor, opening yourself to good people and blocking the bad, and generally supporting others with love in your heart.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Early to bed, early to rise

I love that phrase, and I like the concept. But I don't live it. I wish I did. On mornings where I'm up first (like today, when my morning started at 4:45 a.m.), I use the time to write. But this only works if you also go to bed early. Otherwise, you're just asking to fall victim to post-lunch slump.

Here's my concern. I think women take on too much. If you're like me, you're often the last to bed, perhaps the first to rise, and the self-care you need just isn't happening. When I hear the to-do lists of my friends and colleagues, I realized we're all part of a not-so-exclusive club: an over-committed, over-worked, and under-paid sisterhood. Is this true for you? Check out the poll at the top right-hand corner of the page and let us know if you're in the club too.

Friday, January 8, 2010

But where do you live?

Ever been to someone's immaculately groomed house? I'm always envious at first. No whatnots or geegaws. No magazine stack or letter piles. No dishes in the sink, no coffee cups on the table or toys on the floor.

After the first bout of admiration fades, I begin to notice other things. No books on the end table. The fluffy towels are for guests (read: don't touch) and the pillow arrangement on the bed is so intimidating I don't feel comfortable resting there.

And I wonder, where do these people live? Do they drink and eat, read and sleep? Or is every action a chore, because the house must be meticulously maintained at all times?

Where do they live?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

For Naught

Time magazine proclaimed the decade from hell is over. I'm always leery of such claims. When someone says, "Whew! Glad that's over!" I cringe. I'm just superstitious enough to think it's all been jinxed and what comes next will make what came before look like a picnic in the park.

Oh, how I hope I'm wrong.

One of the interesting terms for the last decade being bandied about is "the naughts." I wondered if the term referred to the double zero starting the decade or the amount of money/job growth/ increase GDP that came from the decade. Maybe both?

Whatever the case may be, the last decade was not good to most Americans. Some flourished profoundly; others lost their jobs, retirement savings and homes. Will the next decade push us once again into a time of flourishing prosperity? Perhaps. But for now, I'm just going to be glad with what I still have. Because it is more than naught.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Getting ready for the big dance

The slow season is over. The fall isn't a busy time for me. I have some freelance writing and editing assignments but it's not the revolving door of projects I face the other eight months a year.

So I tried to make the most of it. I continued to edit my first book, drafted two more, and started a fourth book. It's ruminating back there and sometimes I visit it, write a little, and chat.

The writer's lament: there's never enough time. And I know if I felt that way before, it's nothing compared to the months ahead. To keep myself centered, I'm making a promise now. No matter how crazy the deadlines, I will spend at least 30 minutes with my writing projects a day.

Thirty minutes isn't that long, right? The time it takes to shower and get dressed in the morning. Fold a load of laundry and start the next. Even cook dinner.

It's my job to find those little time savers. Because daily writing time is more than a gift I give myself every day. It's a driving force, a necessary part of my life. And I need it to feel fulfilled.

What fulfills you? Can you give yourself 30 minutes every day?

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pressure Cooker

I'm a TCU alum. And for the first time in my generation, TCU went to a BCS bowl this year. The kids on the team were under extraordinary pressure. The last championship for the school was in 1938. Talk about a dry spell.

Last night's game was a very big deal. My facebook page has been smeared in purple and GO FROGS! notes for days. I can't tell you the number of friends who bought tickets to Phoenix for the game.

And the team lost.

Now, a loss in and of itself really isn't a big deal. It's how the team lost that is so much more painful: Andy Dalton, the quarterback, threw three interceptions. His receivers dropped passes in the end zone. Clearly, the pressure was simply too much. And Murphy's Law prevailed once again (when you REALLY need something, you don't get it).

Most of us are able to avoid a colossal TV meltdown. These kids - from 18 to 22 - had their worst fears realized while broadcast to millions. As a mother, I wonder if the pressure placed on these students is simply too much, too soon. In the scheme of their entire lives, how much - really - does one bowl game matter?

Today I hope the team's fellow Frogs are being supportive and remembering just how far these kids had to come, how deeply they had to dig to claw their way to national prominence. That is a victory that will more than likely be overshadowed by a bitter loss. Unfortunately, that's part of life. You win some big ones and you lose many more. The key, I'm beginning to realize, is the journey and the lessons learned from it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

I'm sleeping with someone new

She's a redheaded diabetic named Ginger, and it's causing quite a stir in the house. Our two other cats pace outside the bedroom door and howl, knowing Ginger is snuggled into the bed covers in between my husband and me.

Ginger's grandma's cat, and grandma has been sick. After spending nearly a month boarded at the veterinary clinic, Ginger was starting to get a little testy. She's used to a lot of cuddles. So we brought her home and learned to administer her daily insulin shots.

Ginger's an important reminder about what really matters in our lives. For grandma, who lost her husband of sixty-plus years in September, Ginger is her lifeline. Her companion, the first thing she asked about when they took her off the ventilator.

We feel the weight of this responsibility. Somehow Ginger's well-being seems tied to grandma's recovery. So sure, we're pampering Ginger right now. And our cats might be upset, but they'll get over it when Ginger goes back home to her own momma. Until then, this cat can sleep with me anytime she wants.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Holiday hype

I love the holidays. I'm typically on an emotional high from Halloween through New Year's. No, I'm not vibrating in anticipation at the thought of presents like my kids. I love the holidays because it's the one time of year we see all of our family. Each year, there is the renewed hope that this year we can all get along well. We love each other after all.

Then reality settles in.

People are not always nice. This is a fact of life. Unfortunately, one comment can lead to hurt feelings, which can lead to tiffs. I immensely dislike this part of the holiday season.

So for upcoming 2010 holidays, we're considering spending less time with our extended family. Maybe that will cure the unnecessary holiday hurts.