Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Self-Judgment: My Own Worst Enemy

I've been feeling the need more and more of late to do something with myself. I worry that I'm wasting my life just raising my kids and taking care of my husband and house. I think about all the things that others are doing that I'm not doing and feel less than. I'm not measuring up. I used to do everything I do now plus work and attend grad school. I think about what I could be doing right now: working, going to school, pursuing a business, or just some greater good in the world. I'm not doing any of those.

I've forgotten about all of the reasons that I wanted out of that harried life. I wanted more time, a relaxed life; I wanted a break. Unfortunately, with all of that time for self-reflection, I've gotten quite adept at judging myself and coming up short in several areas. Because for all of my efforts at trying to rewire my brain and let go of modern society's standards, I haven't been successful. I still see myself through the eyes of others instead of seeing how I'm meeting the goals I set out for myself when I quit my job at the beginning of this journey. I think where I'm feeling most vulnerable is that I haven't figured out where I'm going from here. I know that at some point I'll be going back to work in the next year or two. I have absolutely no idea what I want to do or how to prepare for that transition. I haven't been to discern what my passions are and what I'd like to do in my future career. It has brought about all kinds of insecurities because I thought I would have some idea about that by now.

So, I'm clueless about my future and have fixated on the uncertainties of it rather than the certainties of the present. I have a beautiful family, a comfortable life, and great friends. So when that self-judgment monster rears it's ugly head and asks me what I've accomplished in the past year, where I'm going in the future, and what it is that I'm going to be, I need to have an answer. It's been in front of me all this time. I've spent a year being there for my kids, caring for my husband, maintaining my home, volunteering at school, being a friend, and learning how to be me without a career. I'm grounding myself for the future. I may not know what that will be, but I'm sure it will be fabulous.

Monday, June 25, 2012

My Special Daughter

My daughter is special. She was born with Noonan Syndrome, a genetic syndrome caused by a gene mutation which appears to have been spontaneous in her case. She is a smart, stubborn, and often entertaining little girl. She is a ball of energy. She is a loquacious three-year-old with strong opinions. She is also tiny and very thin. She has certain features common to Noonan Syndrome, downward slanting eyes, prominent eyelids and epicanthal folds, low set ears, and a narrow face. From her diagnosis around seven months old, she has been through a battery of specialists and tests. The poor child has seen nearly every pediatric specialist in her early years to rule out any and all problems associated with Noonan Syndrome and help with her growth and hypotonia (low muscle tone). We also had a terrible scare the summer she turned two when one of her lymph nodes swelled up to the size of a golf ball in her neck (insert specialists, batteries of tests, multiple appointments, ending in a biopsy and CT under general anesthesia). All in all, she has been fairly healthy and her condition hardly limits her ability to engage in whatever activities a rambunctious three-year-old may want to engage in. And most of the time I'm able to put it all to the back of my mind. On a day to day basis, I don't worry about how being different will affect her in the future, about how having a syndrome attached to her person might shape her, about how other people will treat her or assume things about her, about how her body might betray her in the future, or about things like how she might feel about having kids and the possibility of passing the syndrome to them. I package all of those things and more into a tiny little box in the back of my head because Noonan syndrome is only a very small part of her. She is so so much more than that.

Then, like today, something happens-something which may seem very small and inconsequential to most people who don't have a child with a syndrome and haven't experienced what we have. I took my daughter to see the Ophthamologist and she was diagnosed with near-sightedness (myopia), astigmatism, and strabismus. The long and the short is that she needs glasses, her strabismus may or may not improve with glasses, and she may need to have patches or possibly surgery.  So by itself, perhaps, it isn't such a big deal. However, it brings that little box out from the back of my mind and pretty soon I'm unpacking it and arranging it in my head like it's furniture that I'm setting out to stay. I start to worry about her wearing glasses and how people will react and how she will feel especially as she gets older. I start to worry about things I haven't really thought about for awhile.  Because having a child who faces obstacles and has to deal with being different really does hurt. For her sake, I'll pack all of that away in a little while. I need to be strong for her because I know that sooner or later those worries will probably become her's too. I just hope that she can learn to move those worries back too. While the world may see her differently, I don't. She is a perfect little girl from her head to her toes.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Losing Myself

I last posted here a year ago. I started this blog as a way to work through my feelings and transition as I moved from a full-time employee, mom and wife to a stay-at-home mother and wife. After I left my job, I just sort of lost myself in daily life. All the build up and anticipation of quitting my job sort of fizzled as I realized that being at home was a lot like a job too.

I'm trying to start afresh again and really find my passion. Find out where I fit. I love some aspects of being home, others not so much. But I don't want to wake up five years from now and realize that I've just been doing the daily dance instead of building the life that I'm meant to live.

So here it is, plain and simple: I'm more than just a mom, I'm more than just a mother, I'm more than just a housekeeper, home organizer, laundress, short-order cook, and nurse. I'm me too. I've let that slip away a little. I need to find her again. Figure out what makes her tick. While I love taking care of my family, that is not all that I am.

I'm determined to figure it out now. I let myself just be for a year. And now the work begins. Today, tomorrow, all throughout the next year. I need to focus on me. It sounds self-centered and egotistical. And perhaps it is. But more than just a mother and a wife, my family needs a whole and complete me. It may mean going back to work, going to school, starting a business, finding a volunteer passion, or none of the above.

We'll see where my journey takes me. I'm not just along for the ride anymore.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A New Job

I'm taking on a new job in the next month. I will be the coordinator for my daughter's school garden. I will be running the garden docent program and managing the garden itself. I've been a garden docent for the past two years for my daughter's class. This has involved a monthly lesson/activity in the garden with the class focused around growing things in the class garden bed and relating the outdoors to what the kids are learning in class. It has been a great experience. The kids love being outside and learning about plants and animals. The previous garden coordinator is moving on after nine years in the garden. She asked me to take over for her. I was hesitant to take on such a big task at first. I knew it was a fair amount of responsibility. I did finally decide to do it. I love the program. I'm excited to be working on it. It's a volunteer job. I won't be earning any money doing this. There is such a big difference between working when you enjoy something versus when you don't. I spent Saturday morning weeding in the school garden. If I didn't love the garden, then it would be a big chore to weed in the hot sun all morning. It wasn't. I knew why I was doing it. It's a worthwhile effort. I'm going to try to keep this in mind as I look forward to a new career. Life if too short to be working at a job that you hate.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Why It Can Be A Good Thing To Stop Paying Off Debt

My husband and I accumulated a whole bunch of debt in the first few  years of our marriage. We were finishing college, had a surprise baby, and made some rather foolhardy decisions along the way. Fast forward 10 years. We haven't been accumulating additional debt in the past few years except for some small student loans to pay for my husband's Master's Degree. This substantially increased his income in the short- and long-term so I think it was a good decisions. However, even though we've been budgeting and working on saving and paying down debt for the past five or so years, we haven't paid it off. We haven't even finished paying off our credit cards.

Someone might look at our financial situation and say that we haven't been aggressive enough at budgeting or putting extra penny to our debt. Some of that criticism might be warranted. We haven't even in the best of times always been frugal or careful with our money. Part of the reason that we haven't paid off our debt or at least our credit cards in the last five years are because of different events in our lives where we've had to hold off paying off debt to save or deal with reduced income. I consider this a type of holding pattern. We weren't adding to our debt in any appreciable way. We were paying what we needed to to stay current with our bills, but we also weren't making significant progress on the debt either. My husband's seven month stint of unemployment in 2007 was one of these times. My unexpected two months of bed rest during pregnancy with my second daughter and also the period leading up to and including my maternity leave. We had to divert money that would have normally gone to debt during this time to savings and/or bills.

But...There is a big but to all of this. Sometimes we have to make important life choices that cause us to move from debt repayment to a holding pattern. One choice for us was the decision to have a second child. Our daughter was four years old when we decided to have another child. We knew time was running out if we wanted the siblings to be close in age. It was the right time for our family, but it was a difficult time for our finances. It all worked out. We were more disciplined. We saved money for my virtually unpaid maternity leave. It all worked out.

We're now currently in a holding pattern now. Living on one income doesn't afford us extra to pay down our debt significantly right now. It was one of the reasons that it was difficult to leave my job. I knew it would make our debt repayment just that much harder. But, here is the but again; it was the right choice for me and our family. My job was making me emotionally and even physically sick. I didn't like the negative, unhappy person I was at my job. It hasn't been the best choice for us financially. Cutting your income significantly is never an easy thing to do. But it has been good for me and good for our family.

I'm not advocating people stop paying off their debt to save for a luxury vacation or big screen TV. These are things that should be delayed until debt is paid off. However, there are certain reasons that putting off debt repayment can be a good thing. My daughter is one of those good reasons. The mental and emotional well-being of myself and my family is another.

So, here is my counsel for those considering a decision that might put them off the debt repayment track. Think carefully and objectively about it. I stayed at my job for a good three or more years beyond when I started really disliking it. We waited at least two years after I wanted another child to actually try. A good dose of time and reflection is important. If paying off your debt is important, then you should think through it carefully before making a decision that will cause you to delay it. Also, be sure that you will be easily able to transition back to debt repayment at some point. You need to have good habits in place before you jump off the track so that you can easily jump back on when your income improves or your situation changes.

Life isn't all about money. We get only so much time to live our lives. Don't be a slave to money either the accumulation of it or the dispensation of debt. They are important, but sometimes money needs to take the backseat so you can live life to the fullest. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Costly Kids: Lessons for Kids

My family lives in a great area with tons of cultural, natural and entertainment opportunities within 20 miles. Many of these activities can be free to low cost if you utilize the free museum days or purchase a year long membership. We could do something every day of the week if we were so inclined and barely scratch the surface. I try to expose my kids to as much as possible. I hope that some of it sticks or sparks an interest or at least raises their awareness of the world around them. There are some things that I would like to expose them to further: music, art, athletics. and dance. My oldest daughter has started pestering me about taking martial arts classes. When money was a little easier to come by, I would have enrolled her in a class as soon as she indicated an interest. In fact, I did do that more than once. She has taken violin, karate (when she was much younger), gymnastics, yoga, art, science, and probably even more.

Now, that money is budgeted more carefully, I'm hesitant to add another monthly expense to our plate especially with her spotty history of staying committed to any particular thing for long. So this time, we've written up a contract. She has her part of the agreement: attend class weekly, put effort into it, and practice at home at least three times per week. I have my part: pay for the lessons and be supportive by taking her to class and paying attentions so that I can help at home. I think it is important for children to develop a proficiency in something to help develop self confidence. We've been down this road quite a few times. I'm hopeful this time that she'll stick with it and give it her best. It is a significant financial investment that we won't be taking lightly this time around. I hope I can impress upon her the importance of that.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Garden Update: First Harvest

I started a garden a few months ago. It was a rather singificant investment of time and energy. It is a hobby of mine, but I set out to garden with an eye to at least breaking even on the money investment with the return of fresh produce. So far the harvest hasn't been bountiful. We've harvested enough pole beans for about six meals, which is probably the equivalent of a bout 6lbs of beans. The pole beans were Cascade Giant. Their beautiful green and purple flecked skin was beautiful, and they tasted great. The pole beans on the teepee are spent. The cost of growing the beans was just about $2 worth of soil amendments. The seeds were old seeds that I bought a few years ago and had sitting around. We've harvested one small head of purple lettuce. We've also been picking strawberries and blueberries as they ripen, just a few at a time. We had something attack most of the lettuce so that has been a loss. The tomatoes and cucumbers are looking good. Some of the tomatoes are starting to ripen. I'm hoping we'll soon be supplied in all the tomatoes that we need for the summer. It's a good thing too because tomatoes are at least $2 a pound right now. All told, we've probably harvested about $16 worth of produce from the garden. It hasn't been a great savings to our budget, but it has been a tasty addition to the dinner table.