Categories
Life Work

Don’t wait until you have your sh*t together.

Just be like Nike and go do the damn thing.

Let me tell you, life can get hectic. It’s been difficult to even come up for air at times. I haven’t even taken great care of the blog lately, but hopefully, that will change after implementing a few habits that will fit some writing and web page maintenance into my daily routine. But I don’t have to have it all figured out to do some amazing stuff. Here’s how I go about doing it.

Keep learning as you go. (And never stop.)

My education does not end at my bachelor’s degree. Sure, I don’t have to show up in a classroom to learn these days, but I’m always learning something new. Whether it’s on the job, or while I’m enjoying some time off, I’m still learning every day.

It may look like I have it all under control on the outside. Some days, I do. But there are definitely days where I’ve gotta wing it and see what happens. It involves a bit of risk-taking, which I’m also still learning how to do. I’ve always played it on the safer side of things since that is how I was brought up. Now I am discovering how rewarding it can be to take the chance to pursue what I want.

Stop procrastinating.

Procrastination has always been my worst enemy. I’ve been hesitant to pull the trigger on some things because of whatever excuse I could figure out. Some were legitimate concerns, such as financial cost, time commitment, etc. Others were quite plainly, just dumb. (Ex: *deciding to scroll through my phone on social media for 2 hours instead of doing something useful*)

Hustle while you wait.

I had to switch my mindset if I wanted anything to change. And it was hard. It took several weeks to really start getting this through my thick skull. I went from thinking “I want to do X, but…” to thinking “What can I do today to get to X?” and it has been life-changing. I stopped focusing on my barriers and started focusing on the actions that I can do in the present moment that would help me get there.

This part of the habit-changing process is boring, tedious, and ruthless. It is the ugly side of every transformation. Nobody really discusses this part. Because it’s not motivating or sexy. It’s hard work. It can even get really painful. This is where you get into the rhythm of doing something regularly, even when you don’t feel like it.

Go get what you want.

Add a 2-year-old toddersaurus rex into the mix, and it can definitely get easier to give up and throw in the towel sometimes. This is where persistence is key. If I fall, I’ve got to get back up. That’s really important.

Sometimes that means writing a blog post while on the kitchen floor playing with cars and a teddy bear with my daughter, who insists that her mama should play. And while chasing a cat out of a Christmas tree every 10 minutes or so. No matter what, I’ve gotta press on. Every minute counts.

Think of the long-haul instead of short term success.

Recently, we’ve put a house in rehab on the back burner because of other jobs and projects that had greater priority. (because of money!) One of the most time-consuming parts of this thing so far has been laying down the new flooring. I knew that if we tried to do it ourselves, we would never make our 2020 deadline we set for ourselves for the house to be complete.

Thankfully, I was able to bring on some additional help who had some experience laying down flooring because frankly, I had none. Zero. This was the first house I have tried doing this sort of thing on. And with just two of us, it took 10 hours to get the majority of the flooring down. (Not bad for a couple of rookies!)

Find the silver lining in every situation.

Sure, it would have been easier for me to just give up and have my hired help do all the work, but I wanted to learn, too. I didn’t want to lose my opportunity to learn something useful for future projects.

Just because I didn’t have the experience in something, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t give it a good try. I approach anything unfamiliar with that mindset. I just need to try. I don’t need to know everything or have all my sh*t together to do something today. I’ll get there.

It took a lot of trial and error for us to get into a groove. But as we learned, we got faster and more efficient at laying each part down correctly. And little by little, the house was transformed. It started to look amazing. Change is hard, so there’s definitely strength in numbers. The people in your corner can make all the difference.

Focus on today.

There’s also another way to look at how important the present moment is, especially as a parent.

Whenever I come home from my day job, it seems like my daughter grows just a little more each and every day. She’s also learning new things and slowly changing herself as well. It’s amazing to see how much she’s changed from last year.

PJ went from crawling and cooing into being a talkative, bubbly and fiercely independent little girl who can run circles around me today. And next year, she will change even more. It’s a wonderful, yet bittersweet thing for me to witness. And she’s definitely not waiting until she feels like she’s got it all figured out. She’s just going for it!

Categories
Parenting Tech

Why I’m teaching my kid to be nice to Google.

Okay, this sounds totally like a first world problem. Because it is.

While browsing the internet the other day, I happened to come across a post about why kids should be taught to be polite towards their Google Assistants and Amazon Alexas out there. I believe it simply comes down to the golden rule. You know, the whole treating others as you would like others to treat you kind of thing. Maybe I’m also slightly worried about how much smarter computers are today than they were back when I was a kid. I’m sure there are people out there who think there will be an artificial intelligence uprising someday from human misuse and neglect.

I am not one of those people… But hey, it never hurts to be safe, right?

But seriously, have you ever seen anyone say nasty things to an Alexa to see how it would react? I’m sure there’s no negative reinforcement for those kinds of situations yet, but there is currently some positive reinforcement for kids who are polite to Alexa while requesting the song Baby Shark for the millionth time. Google Assistant will even be delighted if you use the words “please” and “thank you” while issuing voice commands to it and responds in a brighter demeanor when the user is being polite.

I start to wonder if this positive response could also train some rude as hell adults to become polite as well. I know many. And I can be one at times, I admit. How would we sound if we talked to others as we talked to Alexa and Google Assistant? Probably pretty rude and awkward.

The positive reinforcement after using manners on Google could help my daughter when addressing others for help in the future (i.e. not screaming “HEY GOOGLE, TURN ON THE TV!” to some poor person next to her) but it would also allow her to treat things with respect and care.

I like to think I take good care of my car, for example. I give it regular oil changes, wash it, keep the inside clean, and try not to drive like a jerk. It is one of the nicest things I currently own and have been able to pay for with my own money, and I view it as an important investment. My car is relatively new, and with the proper care, does not break down and is fairly reliable.

Our Google Assistant that lives in our phones and in our homes helps us multitask, set reminders and dates on our calendars, and even gives us some entertainment every now and then. (PJ loves asking Google what different kinds of animals sound like.) It is a useful tool in our home, and we take care of it so it can continue to be helpful.

While the jury is still out on whether AI can help or hinder a child’s development, there are definitely still some learning opportunities for both parents and kids while using these tools to aid in everyday life, and the technology will only start to become more commonplace and continue to get even smarter. That is if we are still following Moore’s Law, which basically says the speed of computer processors would double and chips would shrink in size every two years.

Still, there’s a whole other side of the discussion with kids and AI concerning privacy, whether or not to detect potentially violent situations in the home, preventing unauthorized access to certain content on the internet and keeping kids from going crazy with their parents’ credit card info on the internet, etc. But that’s a tangent for another post. This is how I’m trying to make good use of the technology to better my own daughter’s development.

Right now, our Google Home devices don’t always detect PJ’s voice, mainly because she is still getting a grip on the English language herself, and the device can’t always guess what she could be trying to say since she is still getting the hang of pronouncing certain vowels and such. For example, the “W” and “U” sounds are the trickiest for her to master currently. But there is a way for her to be detected as a child in Google’s eyes, and that is to create an account for her for the device to detect her voice and follow some setup steps for privacy and access restrictions. We haven’t gotten that far yet, though. She’s only 2 years old.

With our experience so far, we’ve learned that keeping PJ engaged with the tasks she uses Google for and not merely just barking out voice commands is essential. This enables her to reflect on her actions towards the device and not just merely enforce repetition (even though that alone in some cases is a good learning tactic). It also seems to be helping her foster a sense of curiosity with the world around her and makes her more inclined to ask questions. Lots of questions. Even ones that Dan and I would have never even thought of. It’s so interesting to see things from a child’s perspective sometimes. Juice up that innate, child-like wonder with the power of a seemingly magical internet genie in your kitchen, and it opens up a whole new world.

At the end of it all, I want my child to learn one main thing about things like Google and other powerful devices she may handle in the future. And that is to treat these things with great respect. Information can be used for bad things, even if it is thrown up into the internet for good intentions. I believe it’s better to be safe than sorry in some cases. We definitely take the power of the internet for granted these days, and it’s still hard to believe that I was alive and grew up in a world that did not even have it merely a few decades ago.

So it seems fitting to end this post with the following quote from my childhood: “With great power there must also come — great responsibility!”

Okay, Google. Get me a good recipe for pancakes (please!).

Categories
Holidays

Why Friendsgiving is better than Thanksgiving.

Let’s be real. Any occasion that gives me a pass to pig out on tons of delicious food and to see family members is fantastic, but there’s just something that’s extra special about surrounding myself with my friends and making a new tradition with them. These people in my life don’t come to the Friendsgivings I host by obligation; they actively choose to take the time out of their own hectic and ridiculous schedules to eat, drink, and be thankful alongside my family. There’s something really meaningful to me behind that.

I also like to open my home to those who don’t have anywhere to go during the holidays. Not everyone has a place to celebrate, and this alone can be depressing during a time where everyone is expressing gratitude for their families, significant others, etc.

It’s important for people to feel like they can be welcome and belong somewhere. 

So, what exactly is Friendsgiving?

At its core, it’s a gathering of close friends sometime before or after Thanksgiving. It’s like an extension of the holiday to include friends and other people who you wouldn’t think of inviting to a family event. Since the origins of Thanksgiving came from a place of fellowship and thankfulness, wouldn’t it be fair to extend that kind of celebration to include both family and friends?

According to Urban Dictionary, the term “Friendsgiving” officially became a thing in 2009 and has been celebrated by many since then. Since most people in their 20s and 30s nowadays are waiting later in life to have families of their own and delaying things like marriage and mortgages (because expensive), Friendsgiving is another way to create a sense of community and unity, and frankly gives us another reason to party, relieve holiday stress, and eat more delicious food.

Friendsgiving is also a great way to reinvent things. Who says we need to have turkey with all of the fixings? Who says anyone needs to spend hours slaving over a stove to bring a dish to the occasion? It’s definitely more casual than your average American Thanksgiving, flexible too. Some of us need to work on the holiday, and/or may not be able to make it to the actual event. Or maybe we just like parties. Any of these are valid reasons to hold one of our own.

In my group of friends, I don’t think anyone would be opposed to ordering a bunch of pizza and picking up some drinks for the occasion. Hell, some grocery store sushi as a side dish could also be a strong possibility. There are no rules, bring what you want, come as you are. The whole point is to kick off your shoes, relax, and stuff your face with no judgment.

(Personally, I think I would definitely get some weird looks if I brought some sushi to my family’s more traditional Thanksgiving meetups.)

My friends and I also like to play games. Card games, video games, whatever we’ve got available to have a good time. We aren’t the sports-y type (unless it’s League of Legends or something else nerdy) and the TV is only used for music purposes, or streaming a binge session of Breaking Bad or Letterkenny near the end of the night.

We also don’t care about how well dressed we are, either. Wanna go all out and dress up? No problem. Wanna wear your comfy pants? Fine with me. You do you, boo-boo.

And this may not look like a Friendsgiving that you may have attended in the past. Every meetup is different depending on the people you get with. Since it’s a relatively new thing, everyone’s got their own take on the occasion. Maggie from thekitchn.com writes in her 10 commandments of Friendsgiving to avoid paper plates and fold-up tables if possible, and to bring your A-game by providing legitimate place settings for each guest with real plates and silverware. Emily from Buzzfeed recommends securing a veggie dish that isn’t smothered in a casserole. Even some workplaces like Google have adopted the Friendsgiving shenanigans in place of their Thanksgiving potlucks of the past.

After some quick research, and by this, I mean maybe a dozen of Google searches on how to go about hosting a Friendsgiving, the three main rules of thumb seem to be these:

  • The host cooks the turkey and gravy (or whatever main dish).
  • The host delegates or makes a signup sheet for the side dishes.
  • Remember about friends with allergies while cooking.

I think the thing I like most about it is that the whole affair is intentionally low-key, no matter how you decide to have it. There’s so much stress during the holidays, so it’s nice to just not give a f*ck about traditional expectations once in a while. During a time when the weather sucks, work becomes hectic (service/retail, I’m looking at you!), and when you may have to deal with some family drama, there’s at least a way to unwind from it all while venting to your friends about everything. Usually, they’re in a similar situation and don’t mind lending a sympathetic ear.

Do you celebrate Friendsgiving? Share with us how you celebrate!

Categories
Food

Reviving a 50’s era recipe: Grandma’s Chocolate Texas Sheet Cake

So, I’m going to do something a bit different.

I’m going to post the recipe here. Yup, right upfront. Without boring the people searching for a Texas Sheet Cake recipe about my stories and memories of this thing. It’s definitely been a hit at parties and potlucks that I’ve brought it to, so go ahead and give it a shot! Let me know what you think I could tweak or improve on this in the comments.

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And here’s the more legible version below. This thing looks like it’s been handed down a few generations.

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With love and sprinkles, of course. And yes, that is the family cookbook behind it.

And that is the recipe, folks! If that was all you wanted, then you can stop reading here. But I guess there is not much more to tell, just that it was a favorite of mine while growing up. We ate this stuff at picnics, graduation parties, wherever there was a casual enough family gathering, basically. I fondly remember this dish as a nice summer dessert. I actually liked this cake cold, since it was either kept cold in a cooler or in the refrigerator before it was served.

One tip though: It is best to frost this thing while it is still warm. This seems to help the icing really get into the sheet cake and helps make it moist and sweet. I’m definitely not an expert baker by any means, but this was just my experience with it.

Happy baking! Let me know if you end up giving it a try sometime.

Categories
Self Improvement

Failure is awesome! How I avoid getting stuck when I feel like a loser.

Failure is good. Repeat with me. Failure is good.

Yet for the longest time, I was deathly afraid of it.

In the past, I would do anything in my power to avoid a mishap or a faux pas like it was the damn plague. It was so bad, it crippled me in situations where I needed to jump in and make an urgent decision, or caused me to act irrationally in front of other people. This fear of failure, quite ironically, made me fail even more sometimes. The anxiety from it all prevented me from learning valuable lessons from my missteps in my life, both personally and professionally.

This fear of failure still grabs ahold of me sometimes, but I find it a little easier nowadays to shake it off and try again. Instead of spending my energy obsessing over the things I didn’t do right, I now look at it like this – what actions worked and what actions didn’t work? I’ve failed at so many things. I guess you can say I’m awesome at failing. The master of fails! This is because a failed attempt means that I’ve merely discovered something that doesn’t work. That is great information to use for another opportunity to try again later… and then probably fail again. But wait! Another failure means more information to add to my knowledge arsenal. Sooner or later, I can get enough of whatever it is needed to do the thing… and finally, succeed.

Have you ever seen a child learn how to walk? That skill we take for granted took many failed attempts for us to achieve. What about talking? Using the bathroom? Eating with chopsticks?

All of those things required practice, right? And part of practice is learning from any failures along the way.

When I think of the word ‘practice’, I immediately think of my experiences learning how to play the violin while I was younger. In school and professional orchestras, to chamber groups, to duet and solo pieces in competitions. I couldn’t tell you how many times I screwed something up or played the wrong notes during a song in practice or in performance. This was one of the major ways I’ve learned to overcome my fear of failure – and to embrace it as a necessary part of the learning process towards success.

After a while, I began to think that it wasn’t the failure itself that I was afraid of – it was the fear of the unknown. As a human, I am naturally inclined to avoid things that could end badly for me or put me in harm’s way. So when I cannot anticipate the outcome or the consequences of an action or a decision that I must make, it can easily scare the crap out of me. It is a natural reaction for me to have. I just had to learn how to pause and override that knee-jerk reaction to become more comfortable taking risks. And it was definitely not easy. It took years (and more failures) for me to get to where I am at today.

I wanted to list my go-to’s here that I like to use whenever I start finding myself in a rut and when I feel stuck in a hopelessness pit. Some things won’t work for everyone, but the point is to try it out and see how it feels. And to keep failing at it until something works, I guess! Here are some of the perspectives I like to keep in mind when everything just seems pointless.

1. Cognitive Bias is not my friend here.

When I start beating up myself for something that blew up spectacularly in my face, it can get me stuck in a revolving door that makes every failure confirm what I already know at the time – that I sucked and my current attempts have been hopeless.

This bias is supposed to help make sense of the world around me and to help me make decisions in my environment as quickly as possible. But sometimes, it ends up putting me on a negative loop that can knock me out and even pin me to the ground. When I finally get over the emotion that comes with a setback, I try to look at things objectively and outside of myself. Once I get past the fact that I goofed, I can start seeing everyone else goofing up around me, too. And guess what? It’s normal! It’s okay. Just a small stepping stone to where I need to go.

2. I can’t control the weather outside.

There are just some things that I cannot do anything about in life. I mean, what do meteorologists on the weather channel do? They don’t get to decide the kind of weather we have, either. Their job is to merely forecast the weather. What is forecasting exactly? Well, it’s basically another word that means a very educated guess.

So there are going to be other things I can’t control, like getting passed up for a raise or promotion, or whatever other people decide to think about me before passing their own judgments. What I can control? My own actions and reactions. For example, I am still going to do my best to get to my job on time, even when others around me keep showing up late. Persistence is key.

3. Practice Gratitude.

So, I recently tried to make a pumpkin pie completely from scratch. Yes, the pie crust, the filling, even the whipped cream was all made from scratch. And I’m definitely not a baking expert. What happened, you asked? The crust and the whipped topping turned out great, but the filling? It turned out rather bland. It was edible, but it tasted like disappointment.

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The final product. Still not terrible for a first attempt!

But hey, I have the opportunity to attempt the recipe again, and I know what I did right, and I know I can find out after a few more attempts what I was doing wrong. I’m definitely thankful I can afford the basic ingredients for all of the recipe testings that I do in my kitchen!

4. I need to push myself out of my comfort zone to grow.

This can mean changing something in my daily routine to keep things interesting, or even getting rid of a habit or an action that does not add value to my life. But change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit. If losing weight was so easy for example, then the fitness industry wouldn’t be close to being worth $30 billion today – just look at all of the Planet Fitness gyms popping up.

Failure is part of the growth process. Don’t be afraid to make some changes!

5. I am not defined by my mistakes.

It’s hard to not use my accomplishments as a way to validate my self-worth. I still struggle with this one some days. Actually, I only realized this recently while I was listening to Work it Out, which is an audiobook made by Amazon for its Audible app. In the first chapter, Mel Robbins is talking to a woman named Rebecca, who has way too much on her plate and cannot figure out why she can’t say no to additional projects. The reason? It went back to her childhood.

She was scared that if she turned anything down, it would make her less valuable to her workplace. Rebecca was also afraid of failure, too. She felt her accomplishments were a big part of her worthiness to not only her company but also to her husband and family members as well. Apparently, this began for her at childhood, where she would knock stuff off a to-do list for her father to gain his recognition and praise. I realized I was doing the same thing for a long time, and wow, did that wake me up!

There are ways to validate my self-worth without needing to tie my accomplishments and other outside factors into it. Like when I buy donuts on Fridays for my colleagues without expecting anything in return – that is an example of kindness. It’s about the stuff that’s inside that really counts, not what’s on the outside.

Categories
Children Parenting Summer

Why I try (and still fail) to keep a summer sleep schedule.

It’s officially summer!

We just had our first camping trip as a family down at Harrison Lake State Park a few weeks back, and it didn’t turn out too bad. The planning part wasn’t awful. Gathering all of our supplies that we needed the week before the trip was a bit hectic. Honestly, the worst part of the whole planning process was the packing that had to be done near the end. I had lists, upon lists, upon lists to make sure we did not forget anything, had things prepacked in advance before the day of departure, and we still managed to forget essential items.

Also, we thought we could survive without coffee for the whole week. We were sorely mistaken. I’m definitely investing in a percolator and a manual coffee grinder for our next excursion. Or, I could just pack some instant coffee or get some preground stuff and just make some good ol’ fashioned “Cowboy Coffee“. However I decide to do it, I’m definitely not leaving home without the caffeine bean again. Yes, I know have a problem, thank you.

After going on this trip, I became curious about sleep schedules for kids during the summer, since it seemed like everyone I knew had a different way of approaching the subject. Some held very strict standards, and every event or item of the day was planned around bedtime. Others were more lenient and allowed their kids to stay up late during the summer, but would then go back to bedtimes once school started back up again. Of course, this all varied depending on factors like the child’s age/developmental stage, the kind of schedules the parents or caregivers had and based on what the kids liked and what they didn’t like. It was interesting to see the different strategies that everyone had managed to make work for them. And I saw that these methods got tweaked over time as the kids got older, or after a big change in schedule occurred.

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I think we’ve all seen this gem floating around the internet lately, and I can definitely relate…

According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is recommended that preschool-age kids get between 10-13 hours of sleep per night, while older kids get between 8-11 hours a night. This is because it can be harder to readjust sleep patterns when fall comes back around, and days start to become shorter and the sun starts to set earlier. If their circadian rhythm gets thrown off, it has been shown to affect future habits in sleep, diet, and activity levels. A Japanese study on a group of 400+ 18-month-olds also found that those who had earlier bedtimes with enough nap time during the day had shown positive effects on neurodevelopment.

From what I remember, my mom didn’t really enforce a sleep schedule on us. (But I also don’t remember anything significant before the age of 15.) My mom worked and was definitely a busy person during the year, but she never had to enforce a bedtime. I think she let us learn the hard way what would happen if we decided to stop sleeping. We knew how to listen to our bodies and figure out when we needed to sleep during the summer. So enforcing a summer bedtime on my own daughter, even while on a vacation, was completely new territory for me to wade into.

Anyway, we rented out the only cabin that existed in the whole park, and it was amazing. The reason why Harrison Lake held a special place in my heart? It was clean. Quiet. Peaceful. Felt like miles away from home, even though it was only an hour drive. And it was also a big part of my childhood. I would go with my mother and younger sister almost every year. It was our way to unplug and unwind for the summer, and I had many fond memories of the place. Now with a husband and child into the mix, I had hoped to be able to completely unplug once again and enjoy alone time with myself once again. My hopes were shattered that first night as PJ was still adjusting to her new environment, and Dan continued to use his phone to play games. I remained committed to my tech-free decision despite this. My phone was off and out of sight, and I don’t regret it.

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At first, I was devastated. I began thinking about how I may not get the chance to have a quiet moment during my first vacation that I’ve had in years. PJ stayed up late for the first few nights in, but then I think she realized she was getting tired during the day. Luckily, there were few tantrums and was able to take a few power naps.

Once PJ adjusted, she became the happiest little girl on the planet. She ended up LOVING the trip, and I am excited to report that we will be planning another trip before the camping season ends. She loved being outdoors and exploring. And my heart melted as I got to watch her enjoy the simple activities I used to enjoy when I was younger.

Watching her eat a s’more for the first time was absolutely hilarious.

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While I did struggle with my conscious about putting her to bed while the sun was still out most of the time, that feeling of guilt quickly disappeared once I saw her snuggle with her favorite teddy bear and blanket and rolled over into a little baby burrito to prepare for her snooze. I wasn’t a complete control freak for the whole week, either. I let her stay up way past her bedtime for a couple of nights to roast some marshmallows with our guests and watch the stars with us.

When we got home, it was super easy to get her back onto her regular schedule for the summer. The first night home, she was eager to get back into her bed, with all of her familiar books and stuffed animal friends she missed while she was away. Now, we’ve never heard her say she actually wanted to go to sleep until we returned from that trip. We really must have worn her out! This whole thing was a success in my book.

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At the Homestead Ice Cream Shoppe in Archbold, OH.

So in my experience, a sleep schedule during the summer works for us. This is only my two cents about it. And there are definitely days where I suck at enforcing it. There are definitely pros and cons about sleep schedules, especially during the summer, but for now, this method seems to work for my family. I’m sure it will probably need adjustment down the road, but as long as everyone is happy for the most part, I’m okay with it.

My kid is napping happily in her room as I’m wrapping this up. I’m just so blessed to have such an awesome kid. Whether she sleeps well or not, she’s amazing. While she sleeps, I will continue to be grateful for these rare moments to myself in the kitchen, nibbling on my favorite dark chocolate and sipping my afternoon Sunday tea.

Life is good, guys. Enjoy the little things.

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Some things never change. (From left to right: Me, my mom, and my sister Tabitha.)

**Special thanks to my sister, Tabitha Marquis, for these awesome photos!**

Categories
Home Life

Practicing gratitude.

This has been one of those mornings where I woke up just thankful to be alive.

I’m getting over a severe stomach bug that had rendered me useless for the past 24 hours. It’s funny how you take basic bodily functions for granted until you become violently ill. I’m just glad that I can keep my food down now.

My appetite has returned, my aches and pains are gone, and I finally am able to indulge in my morning coffee once again. Hallelujah!

Today started off kind of cruddy, though.

I woke up to the cat banging things around the house. He does this when he gets hangry. Next, the fridge was looking a little neglected, with none of our usual breakfast staples like eggs, fruit, etc. We were also out of bread. I ended up cooking beans and rice for breakfast, since it was all we had in the pantry.

Then my husband started talking to me about the bills, before my morning coffee. Probably not the best idea. During this, the cat came out again, bit my ankles and drew blood because he was still not fed yet.

In one swift movement, I cut my husband off, picked up the cat, tossed him in the bathroom and closed the door. Probably not the best way to deal with that, but those bites hurt! And I didn’t get to eat or have my coffee. I was hangry too, dammit.

——–

Whoops! This post is about practicing gratitude. It really is easy to slip back into a negative pattern of thought.

So now, let me rewrite the morning above in a different light.

——–

I woke up today with no aches, nausea, or chills. It was definitely an improvement from Monday’s crap and I felt relatively rested for the first time in a while.

PJ was awake and playing peacefully in her bed. When I walked in the door to get her for breakfast, her face lit up to see that mom was still home during the day. (She usually doesn’t see me during the weekdays.) We ate an odd, but healthy breakfast of black beans and rice, with some broccoli and cheese. Both PJ and Dan gobbled it down. It was great to remember that I could still manage to make something out of nothing when the kitchen was a little empty.

Dan began to talk about the bills that could be paid once he gets a check from the last odd job he did with his parents, and tried to get me up to speed on what I missed while I was passed out for the entirety of Monday. Meanwhile, the cat was still being crazy. (I can’t make that part sound positive, no matter what I do.)

After the cat was fed, we all had a pretty chill morning. And for the first time in months, my daughter was in a cuddly mood. So we shared some snuggles on the couch while we watched Word Party. I was one happy mama.

——–

It’s amazing what a little change in perspective can do, isn’t it?

Sometimes, I just have to pause and take a hard look at what is really in front of me. There are a lot of days where it’s just easier to default to complaining, comparing, and just not being happy with what I have. It requires less energy for me to do this. These days, I have little energy to spare. Guess what happens then? I tend to become a bit negative about things when I’m tired or when I’m feeling sick.

Fortunately, this is something for me that can be changed with practice. It’s a change of habit in my own thought patterns. It sounds really dumb and silly on the surface, but it’s true.

Lifehack has some pretty good tips on how to practice gratitude here.

For example, in my first version of my morning, I had no bread for breakfast. Our family sometimes runs on toast alone. In my second version of my morning, surprise! We still had no bread.

Despite the fact that we didn’t have bread, eggs or fruit, I improvised and thought: Well, I have rice, a can of black beans, and some broccoli. Not a typical breakfast, but it’s a meal.

Instead of focusing on what I didn’t have, I switched my focus on what I did have to work with in the pantry. Some food is definitely better than no food at all. And I know how to make sandwich bread in a pinch, but that still feels a bit ambitious for me at the moment. Maybe later. We’re not gonna starve.

Second example: In the first story, I was mad about how much the cat was bugging me. In the second, I was thrilled to spend some quality time with my daughter. Both of these things happened, but in the second version of my morning, I chose to focus on the positive things, which included those snuggles I got from PJ. I haven’t received those since she was just a few months old, so that was awesome.

So of course, there are going to be good things and bad things that happen during the day. Some days, the bad can outweigh the good. This is when I believe it is very important to try and see the silver linings that may be present to get through the nastiness of the day. It may be the one thing that saves my sanity for the moment.

I honestly have it pretty damned good most of the time. And I’m super thankful for that.

Hey, there are definitely worse things out there that I will (hopefully) never have to experience… Like cleaning out the bathrooms at a McDonald’s. Or at a Taco Bell. Or any bathroom that I’ve had to use recently with my stomach bug. My heart goes out to you and I weep for you. You have my sincerest apologies. I am thankful for you.

Categories
Life Work

Confessions of a recovering workaholic.

The path to succeed is never linear.

Let me start by saying that I’ve been feeling extra guilty for not being able to update here much lately. Work has taken a big chunk of my time, leaving little wiggle room for much else for me, including things like sleep and showering. Our first family vacation is just around the corner now, and I’ve been scrambling to get the last little bits of stuff together before we drive away and shut the world out for a week.

But I’ve been here before. Actually, I’ve been in worse situations, where there was too much work and not nearly enough down time. Not too long ago, I managed to graduate college debt-free by taking 18 credit hour semesters, working three jobs, and actively participated in two other student organizations. All while helping a family business get off the ground.

Now that was hell. 60 hour work weeks feel like vacation to me now.

There will be periods of time where I’ll have a sort of mini existential crisis. This is when I’ll wonder what the hell I’m doing with my life (not fully utilizing my bachelor’s degree is one example) and whether it is beneficial to me in the long run. Sure, things can get depressing while pondering the above, but it is an important thought process for me to have.

You see, people like to think progress is like A, then B, then C. When in reality it’s basically jsGjdkslHkdnskd- (literally slamming my keyboard) then maybe you get money for it. God, if life was really that predictable and stable looking, I feel like people wouldn’t be freaking out about nearly everything as much.

Running out of money and dealing with severe burnout was not in my master plan of obtaining a bachelor’s degree. I don’t think anyone finds any pleasure nor strives to work themselves to the point of sleep deprivation and forgetting to do things like eat, sleep, and neglect basic hygiene things like showering. No wonder people are all smelly and depressed these days. Fortunately for me, the resulting crashes from overworking myself had positive outcomes. I learned to slow down to stop and smell the roses without feeling guilty about it.

Growing up, my work ethic was born out of necessity (for things like eating) and at the same time trying to keep up with the kids that had money to do extracurricular things. School field trips, social activities, club fees, you name it. Sure, I could work long hours and suck up the pain associated with that, but I was smart enough to know in the long run that working this way 24/7 is just plain unsustainable. But I wanted a lot of things. And the only way at the time to get myself those things was to work my ass off for them.

While it takes a certain degree of madness and dedication to accomplish any big goal in life, the best advice I can give anyone with a full plate is to make sure to come up for air every once in a while. All the work, bills, and general chaos that is life will still be waiting for you after that much-needed break. Don’t let the little things kill you.

Now here’s the part where you really came for – How to not die of burnout? Maybe you’re in the thick of it and need some tips on how to manage when breaks are apparently not an option? Now let me stress this – please take time to take care of yourself. You are useless to others if you don’t put on your own oxygen mask first.

Anyway, here are my somewhat embarrassing and sometimes nasty things I did to get by during the worst of it.

1. Be resourceful and find many uses for everyday things.

Is it day 7 of dirty hair and the dry shampoo decided to run out? Baby powder to the rescue. Don’t have the money for shaving cream? Conditioner works wonders. Not only does this save time and avoid stressing about the little things, it is also very frugal and can save money down the road.

2. Be efficient about time management.

Use notes. Calendars. Reminders. Auto-payments. Anything that can help clear up some mental capacity in your head is great. I’m not ashamed to say I will always use calculators to check my work when crunching numbers. I don’t always trust my math skills, and it saves brainpower for worrying about other silly things.

It is also known that simplifying parts of your daily routine helps to keep that mental space clear. School and work uniforms actually do us a favor – they require little effort or thought in the morning to throw on, and they help reserve that mental energy for working or studying.

3. Don’t be picky.

If things don’t go to plan or play out like you’d like them to, don’t fret. Also, don’t spend your precious energy force to fix things that were perhaps never meant to be fixed in the first place. Focus on what you can do yourself. Don’t allow the actions of others or anything else outside of your control make you feel stuck in a loop.

This is something that is also easier said than done for me. I’m still learning how to let go and let live. If this starts to overwhelm me, I give myself a mental “time out” and start to focus on my actions and how I react to certain situations.

Taking a day off for a breather isn’t the end of the world either. Those things that need to be done or conquered will still be there the next morning. So please rest if needed!

4. Start saying NO.

Imagine you’re sitting at the dinner table during the holidays with some distant relative who keeps insisting you haven’t had enough to eat, but you’ve eaten enough to feed a whole village in one sitting and you just can’t take anymore. You politely have to decline or risk your stomach rupturing.

Simply apply the same visual in your work, your personal life, or whatever when that plate is overflowing. Those who mind won’t matter and those who do matter won’t mind. Your health and sanity is what matters most at the end of the day.

Categories
Children Parenting

#Relatable: Parenting in 140 characters or less.

Ah, the joys of parenthood.

Here are some of my favorite relatable tweets as of late, if you happened to be curious about what parenting is really like.

1. When you want that chocolate bar, but your child wants everything you have.

2.  Good enough is phenomenal in my book these days.

3. We can only keep up this charade for so long…

4. It’s hard to understand sometimes.

5. Not into GOT myself, but I’m sure some may appreciate this one.

6. Life is hard.

7. One of PJ’s first words was “Google”. She still loves talking to Google every day.

8. Those were the good old days.

9. Hell, I get this while trying to take food/shoes/books/anything of current interest away from PJ for five seconds…

https://twitter.com/Melicious_Mama/status/1128003304644964359

10. I miss my old Saturdays.

 

Categories
Holidays Uncategorized

What I really want for Mother’s Day.

It’s funny.

I have to keep reminding myself that I’m a part of this whole deal now.

Every time I think of Mother’s Day, I immediately start wondering what to get my own mom. Not the fact that I have been a mom for a little over two years now. And I really still have no idea what I’m doing.

I have a two-year-old now, and she’s wonderful. But full of temper-tantrums and fussiness lately. The “terrible twos” or “terrific twos” or whatever the hell you want to call it, she’s got it now. Sure, there are bad moments, but also a lot of great ones I get the opportunity to witness.

Dear reader, if you are reading my post and wondering how money is going to magically appear for a gift you probably can’t afford, fear not! I have some ideas for you that don’t cost you anything but a bit of time and sweat equity. If you have the cash to spend, great! I also have ideas for you, too. But don’t feel like you have to go crazy.

I am a very busy person. (What mom these days isn’t?) As such, I love things that save me time and money, as well as my own sanity. I have become so scatterbrained at times, even the simplest of tasks may not be done unless I write them down or put them in my calendar. So here are some ideas from my own hectic perspective. Keep in mind, these are things that I would like, and not necessarily every mom would want. I’m probably a bit weird.

Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

coffee-is-my-friend
I cannot brain until I has the coffee.

I somehow manage to wake up at 4:30 in the morning most days of the week. However, I really can’t start my day without this miracle in a cup. It would just not be possible. This is also one of the nice little things I have for myself to start my day off on a positive, caffeinated, and awake-enough-to-function note. I have a coffee grinder at home, so I like to have the whole bean stuff on hand. Nothing beats freshly ground awesomeness in the morning.

And a helpful beverage container for on-the-go.

yeti-tumblers-are-freaking-awesome
These have been life-savers during long days (and nights).

If you wanted to make a great pairing to the above, I definitely recommend one of these babies. I have two that have been through hell and back, and they still work wonderfully. I definitely wouldn’t mind adding more to my collection.

A helpful subscription service or membership.

treat-yo-self-box-subscription-box
Someone get me this. ASAP.

From subscription boxes like Smartass and Sass, grocery memberships like Costco, and the almighty Amazon Prime subscription, there are many options out there to choose from. If it helps me knock off stuff on my lengthy to-do list, or is just a nice way to treat myself at the end of the month, I’m down for it.

Cleaning services for the win.

maid-cleaning-services-send-help-plz
Did you see my sink? I need help.

Personally, I wouldn’t care if it was a professional or a friend coming to my aid here – I could always use a hand around the house and the yard to keep things clean and tidy. Seriously, it’s like a huge weight lifted off of my shoulders when I come back to a clean home after a long day of work.

Seriously, this one’s great if you know a new mom who is probably sending out SOS smoke signals from the burnout she could be experiencing. Even offering to cook dinner one night would not go unnoticed!

A chance for some alone time.

black headphones with mobile smartphone

A chance to recharge my batteries? Hell yeah, I’ll take it.

A moment of silence after weeks of noise, screaming and lack of personal space? Yes, please.

A nice, long, hot and uninterrupted shower that allows me to shave, exfoliate, and make me feel like a goddess again? Yes, yes, and yes.

I’ve always loved my alone time. After dealing with people all day (no offense, I love people most of the time), this allows me to reconnect with myself and how I am feeling. It’s definitely something I wish I could do more often.

Whether you offer to babysit or give the money to afford a sitter, this gift to me is a godsend.

Money for therapy. Or a spa day.

love romantic bath candlelight

Anything to help take care of my mental and physical health is a must these days. Making time for self-care is essential to my well being, and without it, I wouldn’t be able to kick ass as much as I do during the week. Whether it’s a gift certificate for a massage or a friend to vent my frustrations to, both are amazing things to have.

Wine and chocolate.

No picture or explanation needed here. Just because life.

A playdate without kids.

Moms need to stick together, but we also seem to be eternally exhausted. Can we just binge watch Netflix shows in our pajamas together? With some pizza and the above wine and chocolate, it would be perfect for me.

A thing from my own kid.

No matter what it would be, it would make my heart melt. It could be a picture of them, a picture they drew, or something that will remind me of them during the day, especially when I’m away.

And one last thing… Sleep!

alone bed bedroom blur

I need this to function. Allow me to take a nap once in a while. And I’ll be yours. Smitten forever.