Monday, December 27, 2010

A Christmas post-mortem

It was a wonderful Christmas!

The time spent with family, the food, the gifts.... everything came together. We even had a light dusting of snow to make it a white Christmas. This has been one of my favorite Christmases in recent years.

I was calm the whole time --- not a single meltdown. That's big for me. I usually work myself into a state of total craziness from trying to get everything done. Then have an ugly meltdown... really ugly. Not this year! I was able to get everything done on my to-do list and still slip in an occasional nap and read a book. I found myself, one night before bed, just staring at the tree. I stood there and enjoyed the lights, the smell of the tree, the presents around it. I felt more present than I have in years. It was magical.

So why is it that I am now craving to go back to work? I'm actually craving to go back to something that wreaks such havoc on my sense of balance. Why is staying home really nice but boring and unfulfilling in so many ways? I really don't understand it. It's not even that I'm looking forward to the work. Don't get me wrong, I find a great deal of fulfillment from my work. But the to-do list part of the job holds absolutely no appeal to me. It's more the idea of being out and about. Contributing. That is what I seem to be craving -- even though I know that I will struggle with it and its impact on the different areas of my life.

Does this further support my growing belief that balance is something I will never fully attain? Or am I just a glutton for punishment? Stay tuned...

Monday, December 20, 2010

Letting Christmas In...

My Christmas season officially kicked off this weekend. The girls and I went to Madisonville for my father's family's Christmas party. It was full of cousins, laughter and love --- not to mention a hilarious round of a gift exchange game. It made me think of all of the fun we had growing up, going to Granny's on Christmas Eve with all of its chaos, food, laughter, chatter, story-telling. I told someone that night that hardly a day goes by when I don't think of Granny. I thought of her a lot that night and wished she could have been with us.

Last night was our church's Christmas pageant. It is NOT a Broadway production, thankfully! A simple script and costumes, only 2 rehearsals and cast with anyone who wants to be in it. It fills up my heart every year and helps me welcome the holiday. This year did not disappoint.

I've tried to bring the holiday into our home this year on a more intentional way. I've decorated differently putting some things in their traditional place and doing other things a new way. It was fun and the girls seem to be enjoying it. I found an idea on one of the other blogs I read that had a Charlie Brown Christmas tree, drawn with chalk, on a door. Since I now have a chalkboard door, I decided to do the same thing. I came home from a date with Jim one night to find that the girls had "decorated" the tree by drawing ornaments on it. That's it at the top of this post. Ignore the still-not-painted trim and walls in the kitchen. But, isn't the door too cute!? Other different things this year... a dum-dum sucker Christmas tree, stockings over the pet's food bowls and glass bowls with bright red ornaments in them on the mantle.

It's only Monday. I still have several days and a long to-do list before Christmas Eve. I want to really enjoy this week....take what comes, take it all in and try to make it memorable for me and my family.

Welcome, Christmas!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Check-In Time

Part of "The Artist's Way" process is to re-read your "Morning Pages" --- those 3 pages you are supposed to be writing daily of whatever is on your mind. I haven't written every day but, overall, I'm proud of my dedication to the process. That's the good news. The bad news is that it makes for a lot of reading! I also decided to re-read my posts here. They have served, in many ways, as a form of "Morning Pages (MPs)" --- especially since no one reads them but me.

One of my goals for this blog was to rediscover things that have been put aside. I wanted to be intentional about work-life balance and friends. I wanted to be intentional about my home life - decorating, baking, the fine art of homemaking. And, from re-reading the MPs, I realized that I've actually made some progress on these goals!

Over the last few months, I've spent more time baking and caring about how my home looks. There are almost always muffins baked now - unless the kids eat all the bananas first. The house has been decorated for Halloween, Thanksgiving and now, Christmas with a renewed sense of passion --- and for Christmas, whimsy. In the "needs more work" category --- um, housecleaning!!! But, I figure, a few dust bunnies never hurt anyone!

The MPs have helped me gain a sense of confidence about my friends --- those I have both needy and not, those that nurture and support me, those that fill other roles and those that I like but don't have to spend a lot of time on (I mean that in that nicest way possible... truly). I have suffered for as long as I can remember from an enormous lack of confidence in the friend department --- hurt feelings if I feel "left out", struggles of jealousy when a "best" friend has more than me as a best friend (the nerve!) and other struggles. I'm not saying that I'm healed but has there been progress? Absolutely! And, for that, I am incredibly proud of myself.

My attention to my family and juggling work demands continues to be a struggle. But I feel good about my efforts to... be a better wife, lover, cheerleader to Jim; to pay attention to Helen and her schoolwork; to support Katie and let her grow her wings. I'm more aware of my role as a wife and mother. I've been more intentional in the way I spend time with them and the way I love them. Work continues to be a demand on my time but I've realized that the pursuit of balance may be something I never achieve. I can only keep trying.

As my friend, Janel, says.... "We don't come to this fully grown". I feel like I've done some growing. The process continues...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Lucky Girl

It's been a hectic week at work and at home. From a work perspective, the week still has one more day to go. I should be preparing for tomorrow's Board Retreat, studying my budget and financials (for the umpteenth time!).

Instead, eating peppermint ice cream and driving around on a hunt for tacky Christmas house lights with my girls won. And now, there is a homemade blueberry coffee cake in the oven --- made with blueberries we picked together this summer at a local farm.

Earlier today, I had the loveliest lunch with girlfriends. Jim planned it as part of his birthday gift to me. Friends I love... who love me and nurture me at a lunch planned by my husband. Perfect.

I'm a very lucky girl.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Both of my girls are home now. Katie arrived, safe and sound, last night. I snapped this picture of the two of them, holding hands, at the airport. If I have done nothing else in this world right, I have raised two amazing young women.

I am thankful.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Balancing Act

Last week's assignment in "The Artist's Way" was about balance. Actuall, it was about "Recovering the Sense of Possibility". For me, I found encouragement to focus on finding time for yourself and others - without turning into a pansy. I walked away from the chapter pondering on the question, "Am I running my life or is my life running me"? The timing of this chapter, along with all of the other things going on in my life, was not lost on me.

After the meltdown of a few weeks ago, I have tried to be very intentional about balance. I've been intentional about how I spent my time, where I spend it and with whom. I've also tried to focus on priorities: my family, my friends, my work, myself. And that has meant drawing some lines and putting up some boundaries.

I thought through some requests on my time from "needy" friends. I set boundaries on how much of my time and energy I would give them. And, I stuck to it. I thought through other requests for my time. In some instances, I plunged in. In others, I said No. Most importantly, in every instance, I didn't feel guilty. MY time was just that - mine. I owned it. I was focused on how to spend it. And it felt good.

I've also been spending more time focused on Helen's academics. Unlike her sister, she does not have a tremendous amount of self-discipline. As a result, she has been struggling at school. Not because she isn't bright or intelligent, but because she doesn't have strong study skills and the discipline to actually study rather than watch television after school. I've been racing to pick her up and bring her back to the office. It has made me feel like a contestant on "The Amazing Race" - but without the hope of $1,000,000 at the last pit stop.

I got my prize today --- or the realization that all of this extra effort has been worth it. She got 100 on some extra credit she worked on last week. She sat down and did her homework this afternoon with minimal nagging from me. She has only watched the 6:30 news since we got home. She seems calmer about her school work. And, more confident. I am thrilled. I'm also realistic. I'm enjoying today because who knows what tomorrow will bring. But for today, the racing around has accomplished a goal. Time and attention for my daughter. There is plenty of work to be done, at the office and here at home. But I made an intentional decision about how to spend my time. And, today, it has paid off.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Running on Empty...

Yesterday I ran out of gas. Not with my car but with my ability to juggle everything, do everything, be SuperWoman. And let's just say, it wasn't pretty. After a good night's sleep and a relatively calm day, I am assessing the damage and figuring out how to put the pieces back together. One of my favorite lines from "Anne of Green Gables" is "Tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it". I got that today and am incredibly grateful for it.

The last two weeks have been filled almost non-stop with activities: Work deadlines, errands, field hockey games, quick recall matches, an amazing trip to visit friends and the everyday mechanics of being a working wife, mother, friend, daughter and sister. I knew it was too much -- I kept saying it to myself but I didn't do anything to stop it, manage it, control it. Instead, it controlled me. To make things worse, I actually ADDED things to the list. And what do I have to show for it? Exhaustion, embarassment, frustration, tears....

Today I got back on track. I took care of myself. I took care of my family. I took care of my work. And I feel better. I spent time doing the things I wanted to do -- even if it was mopping the kitchen floor and going to the grocery. I spent time in the office and did some good work. I nurtured my creativity --- doing my morning pages (even if it was in the afternoon) and baked some amazing banana muffins. I spent time with my family and really paid attention. I feel better.

I don't think the tank is totally refilled but it has more in it than fumes. And compared to yesterday, that's amazing progress. It was a day with no mistakes in it.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Nurturing My Creativity....

Here is another assignment from The Artist's Way class. In this one, we tore up pieces of construction paper while thinking about negative thoughts or blurts that hindered our creativity. Then we used the pieces to create something positive and reflective of an affirmation we chose.

My affirmation? I can grow and nurture my creativity.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

I started this blog with the very best of intentions --- to channel my journey into the afternoon of my life. Well, apparently my afternoon has been pretty busy. I haven't posted anything since July.

I recently started a class based on "The Artist's Way" by Julia Cameron. It's a process to recover your creativity through different exercises and spirituality. The first assignment from our class leaders was to draw and circle. Within the circle, we were supposed to show where we are in our life that has brought us to the class. I chose the theme --- "afternoon of my life".
My assignment is at the top. Other than the 3 year old coloring of the sun, I like what it says and how it looks. I'm so proud of that adirondack chair I could bust! What I've found from this journey, so far, is an awakening of my desire and interest in creative activities. Is it some kind of placebo effort or a true reawakening? I guess time will tell. Regardless, I'm enjoying it and the effect it is having on me.
So far this weekend...I looked for flowers and gourds to decorate the house for fall.... brought the fall decorations downstairs to decorate inside..... made homemade cookies.... made 2 pots of soup.... finished knitting a hat.... started knitting a dishcloth.... made a list of other knitting projects to work on and gotten reacquainted with this blog.
I was making the cookies when I realized that I didn't remember the last time I had made homemade cookies AND that it really wasn't as hard as I remembered. Is it because I'm older now and didn't have little helpers with me? I was cooking to nurture my own soul as I mourn the sudden death of a co-worker on Friday. I'm sure that channeling my energies into making lunch for my friends had something to do with my feelings of "Wow... this isn't as hard as I remember". All I know is that I have several dozen cookies packed up and ready for the office AND two crock-pots of soup simmering in the kitchen. And, a huge sense of satisfaction for a weekend well done.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Be Careful What You Wish For.....

So I have this great idea where I will be intentional about embracing the afternoon of my life. I will reassess how I spend my time. I will try to find enthusiasm for things I used to enjoy. I will find time for creative activities. And, while I didn't say this, I'm pretty sure I didn't expect that this journey would have... well... bumps in it. It was all well and good when I hit the "publish post" on my very first entry.

Then this week began and here's what has happened so far.....

This is a holiday weekend --- and a long weekend from work. In the course of one afternoon, I find out that Jim has invited our friend, Alan, and his family to stay with us over this weekend. And, before Alan and crew arrive, one of Jim's old girlfriends will be in town and ---- yep, you know where this is going --- he has invited her over for dinner. The good news is that both sets of guests are lovely. Jim is a great ex-boyfriend. All of his ex-girlfriends are lovely, actually. Well, except for one. I know that we will have a lovely evening and that the slumber party with Alan's family will be lots of fun. But, seriously, both things... in one weekend.... is God somewhere smiling, laughing and pointing His finger at me?

But wait, there's more...

I spent some time this week reflecting on how much of my time is spent on work. Not just being there and doing my job but feeling guilty because I have left something undone to come home. Or checking email when I'm not working. Or, on the flip side, realizing that I haven't done any of Helen's camp paperwork because I've been working.

I am tired of feeling like my position isn't being respected. I am tired of having too much on my plate and not enough soldiers to handle it all. And I am tired of feeling like there are certain expectations of the position that I can't meet. And, then, before I bust from inner turmoil, I talk to my boss. It goes pretty well but involves rambling (from me) and hurt feelings (from my gently put words about his management style and my struggles with them) for him. I leave his office in a rush --- got to pick Helen up from day camp --- and feel terrible. Beyond terrible. Tears streaming down my face, "I'm a whack job, what have I done", terrible. Conversations with Jim and a colleague from work and an email to Rob (my boss) seem to have settled my heart but I still feel badly. And the worst part, I don't know what to do. I'm left wondering... "What in the Hell do I do now"?

Embracing the Afternoon of My Life....

I've probably read "Gift from the Sea", written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh in 1955, at least twenty times. I bought it to take on a trip to Florida when Katie was about 4 years old. That was fifteen years ago. I had no idea then that it would turn into one of the most meaningful books I've ever read. I had no idea that it would help me figure out how to juggle being a wife and mother - and still find space for myself. The timelessness of Anne's words and thoughts have nurtured me, supported and guided me like few others have. It is one of the most important books in my life and stays, permanently, on my nightstand.

I was reading GFTS last week during our annual trip to the beach. I don't know what it is about the beach, but it just seems to feed my soul. I'm almost like an addict - I can never get enough time at the beach. There are certain times when I crave the peace, the pace and the respite I get from listening to the surf, feeling the salty mist on my face and feeling the sunshine just fill me up. I like reading GFTS at the beach - it's like getting two meals at once. During this latest trip, I spent most of my reading time in the 'Oyster Bed' and 'Argonauta' chapters of the book. These chapters talk about a woman's life as her children grow older and seem to need less of her time. It is during this time -- as she and her husband grow older, too -- that a woman moves to the 'afternoon' of her life. The 'feverish pace of the morning' has passed and, at last, there is time for other activities. There are more opportunities to take time for oneself, to try or re-try things that previously had to be put aside.

Reading these words was like discovering that one missing piece to a puzzle. You know the one... you've been searching endlessly for it, convinced that it is lost and then you find it. It's right in front of you, where it has been the entire time. I realized that there were countless things that seem to have gotten lost in the waves of work, parenting, being a wife and just trying to survive it all. Things like spending time journaling, baking and trying new recipes, decorating the house, yoga, taking care of myself. I realized that I wanted to reclaim some of these things -- or keep them lost, if that was where they belonged. I realized that it was time to being embracing - and enjoying - the 'afternoon of my life'. As Anne says in GFTS, "Perhaps one can at last in middle age, if not earlier, become completely oneself".

But how... How do I find the enthusiasm for doing and being more than just someone who seems like her life is running her? I looked to GFTS. Anne suggests spending time in creative activities. On the ride home from the beach, I came up with some of my own: be intentional, fake it until it becomes real, be more selfish with my time, reassess how and where I spend my time. Be accountable. So I've decided to incorporate these thoughts, ideas, wishes and adventures into a blog. A creative activity that will serve as a framework for the reassessment of my life and priorities. Sure... a blog. Why not?

And so it begins.