theorangeinkblot

Looking at life through orange colored glasses…

Archive for the month “March, 2012”

The Year of Meryl

I am slowly losing my mind.  As I sat down to type this, I thought to myself- I know I am at home with one of my children and that my husband has brought my other child to an activity.  But for the life of me, I cannot remember which child is sitting in the living room watching TV and which child is with my husband, or which activity they are at.  Is the older one at pottery class? Is the younger one at gymnastics?  Is it Saturday or Sunday?

This is not the first time this has happened.  Two years ago, I hired a babysitter to watch my then two year old so I could go to the dentist, only to forget to go to the dentist once the babysitter arrived.  (I’m completely serious.  I blanked on the appointment and went shopping instead.)  Sometimes, within five minutes of dropping my daughter off at preschool I check my rear view mirror to see if she is still in her booster seat.  For a second, I can’t remember if I’ve actually dropped her off or not (as if I would actually drive through the drop off line and not stop to drop her off).  These increasingly frequent moments of ‘momnesia’ are disturbing.

Admittedly, we are an over scheduled family.  Between the four of us we are participating in dance classes (ballet and jazz), karate, pottery, gymnastics, Girl Scouts, and various volunteer activities.  I spend about 15 hours a week driving the kids and myself back and forth to various schools, meetings, and extra-curricular activities.  There is something about all that driving that numbs my brain and causes me to forget (at least momentarily) exactly who is in the back seat and where I am supposed to be taking them.

Despite having a calendar on the wall, a date book in my purse, and a smart phone that syncs a calendar with my iPad, I still feel like I am only one momnesia moment away from a complete schedule malfunction.  At the end of each day, if everyone has gotten where they were supposed to be (despite being a few minutes late b/c I have initially gone to the wrong destination) I consider the day to be a success.

If I think about this as my definition of success for any length of time it bums me out.  There was a time (even after my first child was born) that success meant something completely different.  I was working full time as an Academic Advisor working with college students.  In addition to helping students with the more straight-forward agenda items of choosing a major and navigating university policy, I presented at professional conferences, created a peer mentor program, and served on various university committees.  I was confident in my professional abilities and respected by my peers.  I looked forward to going to work each morning.  My job was meaningful to me.  I felt a sense of connection and purpose.  I felt successful.

Like most parents, I went into parenthood with no idea of what to expect.  Maternity leave, to me, felt like pledging a very bizarre sorority.  Plagued with insecurity I always felt like there was information that I was not privy too. I just had to trust the process in order to gain access into the secret and exclusive society of competent mother hood.  I knew that I had pledge sisters out there somewhere, but I had no idea how to find them.  I was grateful to have sixteen weeks off from work (twelve of them paid) to bond with my newborn.  But at the end of those sixteen weeks, it was not overly difficult to hand my first born over to her carefully selected daycare provider and return to the place where I felt way more confident.

In the spring of 2006, for various personal reasons, I made the decision to leave full time work and be a stay at home mom.  I thought I might take a year or two off, but then my second daughter was born in late 2007 and being in a different place than I was in after the birth of my first child, I could never bring myself to put her in day care and return to the working world.  It is a decision that I have never regretted, but being a stay at home mom has changed me- usually I think for the better but sometimes I am not 100% sure.

There are women I know who seem to be at their most comfortable and most confident in their role as mother.  It doesn’t mean that they never need a break, or get frustrated, or that they always make perfect parenting decisions.  But whether they have two kids or five, they get a sense of satisfaction out of being a mother that gives their lives a feeling of being complete.   Whatever their individual situations their children seem to be at the center of their lives and their hearts.  They draw their energy and inspiration from their children. They identify first with being a mom.  I have a complete sense of respect and admiration for these women.  I am not one of these women.

I have been away from professional work for six years.  I didn’t realize until recently how much of my perceived value was tied to my professional identity.  Working fulfilled my social, intellectual, and self esteem needs.  As a stay at home mom I had to find new ways to do that and it was harder than I imagined it would be.

Don’t get me wrong.  I love my children and I would give my life for them.  I wake up every morning feeling completely blessed.  I know how lucky I am to have two healthy kids, and I know how lucky I am to be able to choose to stay home with them.  I chose motherhood-twice.  I revel in the joys and struggle through the challenges that come with the territory.  I love being a mom.  I am good at it.  But I don’t believe staying home with my kids to be my purpose in life.  It’s not why I was put on this earth.   I want more.  I need more.

This September, for the first time ever, both of my kids will be on the same schedule.  They will get on the same bus at the same time and go to the same school.  I can sign them up for after school activities on the same days and pick them up together.  I will have a block of seven hours each day to schedule as I see fit.  Obviously there are things I will have to get done (chores, errands, etc.) but I won’t have to use the leftover minutes in between the activities of my family members.  I can give up being a time thief- stealing five minutes here and five minutes there, taking half a day to complete an activity that should take half an hour.

I am calling the 2012-2013 school year, “The Year of Meryl.”   I am not sure exactly what my year will look like.  So far I’ve decided this:

I am going to limit my volunteer activities to those things that are meaningful to me- no more volunteering to do something just because my kids are going to be there anyway.

I am going to set some goals with my writing and create plans to work towards meeting those goals.

I am going to drink beverages at any time of the day I please- without having to worry about needing to pee halfway through the 30 minute drive to my daughter’s preschool.

Going back to work is inevitable but I am looking forward to taking a little bit of time to figure out what I want to do next.  What is my purpose?  How do I create meaning in my life?  What contribution do I want to make?  Going forward, how will I define success?

If there are any parents out there who have had to re-evaluate their goals after a long stint as a stay at home parent, I’d love to hear from you.  What questions did you ask yourself?  How did you decide what to do next?

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Dream a Little Dream, Part 2

I had another strange dream last night (which I remember in astonishing detail):

I am sitting in the backseat of a taxi cab in downtown Chicago reading ‘Seventeen’ magazine.  While stopped at a red light, the door to the cab opens and in climb Oprah Winfrey and her BFF Gayle King.  Oprah says nothing, but Gayle starts asking me about the magazine I am reading.  I tell her I am reading ‘Seventeen’ and she starts saying how she loves that magazine because of the in-depth articles about issues important to women (HA!).

The cab pulls up to my destination – the apartment building where (in my dream) my friend Susan lives.  Oprah and Gayle follow me to Susan’s apartment. Susan is not home but I have a key.  Oprah and Gayle take a seat on the couch in the living room.  I go into the kitchen and start looking for something.  Susan walks in (through a different front door) and is not at all surprised to see me standing in her kitchen.  She begins to tell me about her doctor’s appointment that morning where she had her lung capacity tested.

I tell her that Oprah Winfrey is in her living room.  Thinking I said that Oprah is on in her living room she asks me about the topic of the show.  I explain that no, Oprah Winfrey is actually in her living room.  Susan laughs and looks at me like I am crazy.  I take Susan by the shoulders and lead her into the living room so she can see that Oprah and Gayle are chatting on her couch.  Susan is stunned, but introduces herself and they make small talk for a few minutes.

It is time for Oprah, Gayle, and I to leave so we head out into the hallway.  All of a sudden, my husband appears and tells me to put out my hand so Oprah can shake my hand.  I put out my hand and Oprah puts a handful of assorted pills into my hand.  I ask if any of them are Xanax.  Oprah gives a strange laugh.  She and Gayle get back in the elevator, leaving my husband and I standing in the hallway.

Then, I wake up- utterly confused.

Interpretation time- any takers?

I’m Bringing Sweat Pants Back (Sing to the tune of Sexy Back by Justin Timberlake)

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(Picture credit: http://www.robbinssports.com/augusta-sportswear-ladies-open-bottom-sweatpants-p-2037.html)

I’m bringing sweat pants back.

Some folks might not think that I’m a class act.

They’ll say I’m slummin’ it behind my back,

or to my face if they don’t have no tact.

Wear ‘em to the movies.

Love my Hanes ®

I’ve lost my shackles

fashion I’m no slave.

A lot of dollars I am gonna save.

To peer pressure I am not gonna cave.

Wear ‘em to the mall.

Come on ladies

Go ahead get comfy
Pull on some fleece
Go ahead get comfy
Yoga pants
Go ahead get comfy
will never crease.
Go ahead get comfy
Don’t have to press them.
Go ahead get comfy
Don’t worry ‘bout hems
Go ahead get comfy.
You say I’m not in style.
Go ahead get comfy.
but sweatpants make me smile.
Go ahead get comfy.
and get your sweat pants on.

Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.

I’m bringing sweat pants back.

Those fashonistas don’t know how to slack.

Talk to the hand- I will not take your flack.

At least my pants don’t show off my butt crack.

Wear ‘em out to dinner.

Love my Hanes ®

I’ve lost my shackles

fashion I’m no slave.

A lot of dollars I am gonna save.

To peer pressure I am not gonna cave

Wear ‘em to the opera.

Come on ladies
Go ahead get comfy
Pull on some fleece
Go ahead get comfy
Yoga pants
Go ahead get comfy
will never crease.
Go ahead get comfy
Don’t have to press them.
Go ahead get comfy
Never worry ‘bout hems
Go ahead get comfy.
You say I’m not in style.
Go ahead get comfy.
but sweatpants make me smile.
Go ahead get comfy.
and get your sweat pants on.

Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.

You with me?

You with me?

You with me?

I’m bringing sweat pants back.

and I don’t want to hear you talking smack.

or saying in judgment I sorely lack.

When talking comfort I’m the daddy mack.

Wear ‘em to the prom.

Come on ladies
Go ahead get comfy
Pull on some fleece
Go ahead get comfy
Yoga pants
Go ahead get comfy
will never crease.
Go ahead get comfy
Don’t have to press them.
Go ahead get comfy
Never worry ‘bout hems
Go ahead get comfy.
You say I’m not in style.
Go ahead get comfy.
but sweatpants make me smile.
Go ahead get comfy.
and get your sweat pants on.

Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.
Go ahead get comfy.
Get your sweat pants on.

You with me?

You with me?

P.S. Write Back Soon…

Dear Reader,

The only items to arrive in my mailbox these days are from companies to whom we owe money and companies who wish to lend us money.  Of course, there are also coupons and catalogs, in case we have run out of ideas regarding how to spend our money.  Very occasionally we will receive an invitation to a wedding or a thank you note for a gift we sent, but even those are starting to arrive via email.  Some days I don’t even get the mail.  I leave the task of sifting through junk mail and bills to my husband.

As a teenager, getting the mail was my favorite daily task.  The anticipation of finding out if someone had written me a letter was almost unbearable.  I took great pains to increase my chances of getting a letter which means I, myself, wrote and mailed a lot of letters.  My high school years were a revolving mailbox of letters to celebrity fan clubs and pen pals, not to mention the countless chain letters that I sent out to avoid bad luck.

I found many of my pen pals in the back pages of those teeny bopper celebrity magazines.  Kids would place ads listing their hobbies, favorite bands, TV shows, and celebrity crushes, along with a photo, and an address.  I would pick folks with similar interests and we would exchange enthusiastic letters of very serious subject matter (such as which member of ‘New Kids on The Block’ we would most like to date) and debating the important issues of the day (i.e. Corey Feldman vs. Corey Haim).  Most of these pen pal relationships were short lived (apparently it takes more than a shared adoration of Joey McIntyre’s very blue eyes to build a real friendship) but with a couple of pen pals the letter writing went on for years and real friendships were forged.

My good friend, Ronnie, was even more obsessed with letter writing than I was.  Occasionally, when she was overwhelmed with the number of letters she had to respond to, she would toss a couple of letters my way, and I would take over her pen pal responsibilities.  That is how I began writing to Sam, my favorite of all of my teenage pen pals.

He lived in Northern California and despite being the same age, our lives were very different.  Sam and I spent most of my high school years writing long letters comparing our lives on opposite coasts.  I read all about Sam’s trials and tribulations in his world of playing high school football and dating cheerleaders (which was not as easy as I assumed it might be) and I wrote him endless narratives about what was happening in my geeky world of yearbook editing and jazz choir rehearsals.  We shared stories about our parents who just didn’t understand what it was like to be a teenager and were equally perplexed about what the future held in store.

If Sam and I had gone to the same high school, we probably would have never spoken- it would have gone against the rules of high school social order.  But with 3,000 miles between us we were free to ask each other questions, share ideas, and confide secrets.  Sam and I became close enough friends that he flew out from California to attend my high school graduation.

For a long time I kept all of the letters I had received from Sam (and from all of my other pen pals) in a shoebox, which then overflowed to a second shoebox, and then a third.  I have weeded them out over the years but I hung on to my favorites which I still re-read on occasion.  There is something about pulling out and re-reading an old letter that has special meaning that allows me to re-live a moment in time and feel like I am once again there with that person.

In the eleventh grade I had an amazing American History teacher.  I had heard rumors that he was tough as nails and that he would lock tardy students out of the classroom and deny them entry to class.  I was terrified of him before going into that class, but I ended up having one of the most powerful learning experiences of my high school career. My senior year I signed up for two more classes with this teacher and before graduation I wrote him a letter telling him how influential he had been to me and how grateful I felt to have had him as a teacher.   The teacher wrote back to me, thanking me for taking the time to put my thoughts into writing so that he could re-read the letter any time he had a “bad” teaching day and needed a reminder of why he went into teaching in the first place.  I didn’t keep in touch with this teacher after graduation, but I have kept the letter he wrote back to me, and it reminds me of the importance of expressing my gratitude to those people who have made a difference in my life.

I grew up in a world without text messaging.  Email did not become a part of my life until college. Nobody had cell phones.  If I wanted to get a message to a friend during the school day, I had to write them a note and pass it to them in the hallway or cram it through the slats in their locker.  Some of these notes were pages and pages long (and written when we should have been paying attention in class) and contained our joys and worries- both frivolous and deep.  The first boy to tell me that he liked me did so through one of these passed notes.  Sometimes, my friends would argue quite intensely via notes passed in the hallway.

People do the same thing now, through text, email, and social media websites- but I don’t think it’s the same.  Email, texting, and social media require us to be brief and it can be very hard to gage tone or intent.  When I write an email I constantly question- have I written enough to be clear? Have I over- shared?  When I sit down to write an actual letter (you know, with a pen and paper) I feel free to actually say what it is I want to say.  Instead of writing from my head, I write from my heart.  It is a chance to communicate without feeling pressured to be concise, or without worrying if my intentions are clear.  There is something personal and intimate about a hand written letter as opposed to an email which can be forwarded and shared with the click of a mouse.

I haven’t received a real letter in a long time, but I know if I found one in my mailbox I would feel great knowing that someone had taken the time to sit down and write to me.  Technology has enabled us to communicate more efficiently and in real time.  But nothing has replaced the letters I used to receive and I miss them.  Emails may come with documents attached, but letters come with emotions attached- joy, sadness, excitement, closure- and that is what makes them so special.

I would like to start a letter writing campaign- in support of letter writing.  I want to invite each of you to take a half hour and sit down to hand write a letter to someone important to you.  Make it a letter they will be happy to receive- one they can pull out time and time again when they are in need of a lift.  Maybe tell somebody something that you’ve been meaning to tell them for a long time.  If you were to sit and write that letter, who would be the recipient?  What would you tell them?  What are you waiting for?

Big Time Rush = Big Time Trip Down Memory lane

My older daughter turned 9 last week and as her birthday present I took her last night to see her favorite band, Big Time Rush, in concert. In case you do not have a child in the tween to teen age range, to understand Big Time Rush, imagine ‘The Monkees’ for today’s teeny bopper generation. The band was formed as part of the Nickelodeon show of the same name, a show about 4 friends from Michigan who form a band and move to L.A. They sing all original songs which apparently gained enough popularity to release an album, and send the band out on tour.

The band is made up of James, Logan, Carlos, and Kendall (in that order in the below picture taken from the Nickelodeon website).

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Each guy has been assigned their own personality trait so there’s someone for everyone to crush on. James is the “hot” one (note the totally amazing hair), Logan is the “smart” one, Carlos is the “funny” one, and Kendall is the “boy next door” type. Since I have always been a sucker for a guy who can make me laugh, I have to say Carlos is my favorite. If I were 20 years younger his goofy smile would be plastered all over my bedroom walls.

The last time I went to a concert filled with screaming teenagers, I was one of those screaming teenagers. So I was curious to see if anything had changed in the world of ‘boy bands that make teen-aged girls swoon.’ Little has changed. From the over priced merchandise, enthusiastic shouts of “Marry me, James!” and the intricately decorated “BTR Rules!” posters (complete with blinking LED lights) to the many slightly amused yet slightly terrified parental chaperones, it could have just as easily been a NKOTB concert from my teeny bopper glory days. The only difference I noted was the use of social media in getting the concert goers pumped up before the show. The kids could tweet from their cell phones and their messages would then appear on the jumbo vision screen, and the Big Time Rush website.

Luckily, my own daughter has not quite reached the celebrity crush phase- she was actually there because she likes the music (and the TV show) but there was plenty of hormone induced screaming to go around. I have never been so happy to have ear plugs, and I made a few friends by handing out extra pairs of ear plugs to extremely grateful parents.

The four guys pulled off the show with a fearless adrenaline fueled energy that would make even the most seasoned parent cringe. The set was built of scaffolding, steep ramps, firefighter style sliding poles, and of course, had a trampoline at center stage. Every time they bounced, flipped, or somersaulted from one side of the stage to the other, I said a silent prayer for their safety.

There were the prerequisite fireworks and other pyrotechnics, several costume changes, and tons of cheesy boy band choreography. But my favorite part of the concert by far, was when the band pulled two girls from the audience on stage and serenaded them.

The girls looked like they were about fourteen, give or take a year, and they had two totally different reactions. One girl looked as if she had been transported to her own personal fantasyland. She had a dreamy look in her eyes and leaned her head on Kendall’s shoulder for the entire time five minutes she was up there. This was her moment, and she was milking it for all it was worth. When Kendall asked her how she was feeling, she blurted out a gushy, “I love you!!” I could almost feel her trying to memorize what every second felt like so she could visit her new happy place whenever she chose.

The other girl could not stop shaking with nervous excitement. Her legs were perpetually bouncing and she alternated between hysterical crying and hysterical laughter. Half the time she was biting her nails and when Logan took her hand in his, I thought her eyes were going to pop out of her head. I am honestly surprised that she maintained consciousness through the entire experience.

I cannot imagine either of these girls having a more exciting moment in their young lives. Which begs the question, what do you do when your life peaks at 14? They are now the envy of their peers, and everything they experience from here on out will be compared to that moment. Those are hard expectations to meet going forward.

All in all, the whole concert experience was a little surreal. I was instantly transported back to my fourteen year old self. My celebrity crush was Kirk Cameron- I had 174 posters of him on my bedroom walls, ceiling, and furniture. He didn’t sing or dance, but I thought he was totally dreamy. What I would have done to have had five minutes to lean my head on Kirk Cameron’s shoulder. What can I say, you dream the dream.

I laughed at those girls last night, but only because I remember feeling and acting the exact way they were feeling and acting. I was excited for them, knowing that they were creating memories that they will relive twenty years from now when they take their daughters to see whoever the teen heart throbs are in 2032.

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