Categories
Marriage

Pizza, used cars, and marriage: Here’s why all three require compromise.

I saw a post on Facebook the other day that I could, unfortunately, relate to more than a few times. I’ll share it below for your viewing pleasure:

pizza-used-car-marriage-compromise
There you go, running off with a “pizza” my heart… *ba dum tiss*

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has been in a situation like this before. Have you ever let someone have their way because it was easier to deal with at the moment? I know I have.

In fact, I was actually in this scenario a few days ago. Except replace the frozen pizza with a used vehicle, and now we’re talking some serious business.

Our poor 22-year old Jeep finally kicked the bucket last week. It clocked in well over 200,000 miles, and it happened to be my husband’s first and only car he’d ever owned. And he did not take great care of it. The fact that it was still in one piece after all of the crazy stories he’s told about it is a true testament to how well Jeeps in that generation were built. They are very hard to kill.

Anyway, we found ourselves at a car dealership, arguing over whether we should be getting another Jeep that was newer, a truck that was not so new but could be great for our work, and how the hell we were going to finance the whole damn thing. We brought his dad along for the ride, and for some sound mechanical knowledge and judgment as we looked at our choices.

Near the end of the day, I was fed up. We test drove two Jeeps that were well out of our price range as “viable” options. I felt like I kept my mind and my options open for Dan. But as soon as we got around to the truck I had thought was a great deal for what it was, Dan immediately started dismissing it.

“There are dings everywhere, it’s got a broken tail light, there are some weird noises coming from it… This thing is beat to crap.”

“Well, duh.” I thought. It was a USED truck. And I wasn’t trying to break the bank, either…

After a reluctant test drive, and a few words with the sales guy about fixing the tail light and the minor paint chips at no charge, Dan’s dad gave his ruling.

“It’s a good truck.” He said. “Runs just like mine. You probably won’t find another one like this for the price it’s at…”

Here’s where Dan got upset. He still wanted the Jeep, and he still had very little interest in the truck I had found. I’m not proud of how I reacted, but I snapped back at him:

“Well, since Dan doesn’t want the truck, we might as well not even look into it or try negotiating the price. If he doesn’t want it, then we’re not getting it.”

Now didn’t that sound familiar to the pizza story just before that? Of course, when you and your spouse are deciding on a pizza that costs 8 bucks versus a $25,000 work vehicle, the conflict in the more expensive situation is going to be much worse. Dan could have the first choice of all the Digiorno pizzas in the world for all I cared. But dropping this much money over things like the sound system, the screen display size on the dashboard, and petty cosmetic details on a work truck? That’s where I drew the line.

Now from Dan’s point of view, he was frustrated. I had apparently chosen the last car we bought (even though I previously understood we had both agreed on the choice made together) and he was growing resentful of having to drive his old beat-up Jeep around. Now was his chance to finally get a car that was more up to date and that he could make last for a long time. He didn’t care how much it cost us financially, he just wanted to finally have something nice for himself to drive, too.

It doesn’t help that we both have different ways of going about buying a car. I want to negotiate the prices. Dan is happy to trust the sticker price. We also both handle money differently in general. I tend to be the saver, while Dan is the spender in the relationship. I grew up with less of the green stuff in my pocket, so I’m definitely a bit pickier about where it ends up going.

At the end of the day, we were both exhausted. Now, I broke a cardinal rule here for our financial health’s sake: I told his parents about how much money we actually had for a down payment. Since we’re business partners, after all, they really needed to know the severity of the situation we were dealing with. We just couldn’t afford the options that Dan had presented to them. They were not happy. So naturally, his mom started lecturing him about money, and this didn’t help the tension between us at all.

We went to dinner after we had finished shopping around. I ended up feeling defeated, and Dan felt even more resentful towards me after his own parents ended up siding with me. I didn’t know what I could do to make the situation any better. Enter the awkward silence and uncomfortable glances.

Luckily, we were able to find something that could fit our needs and our budget the next day, and we were able to get over what had happened before. Sometimes, the solution to the problem doesn’t come that easily or quickly. If there was anything to take away from this whole thing, here are three key points: Know what you want. Readdress expectations if needed. And always keep an open mind.

I cannot stress how important communication is here. Any relationship has certain amounts of giving and taking to them, and it’s certainly a delicate balancing act at times. It becomes a problem when you let the little things like the pizza scenario build up until you have a car-buying situation, and then you both end up blowing up about every little thing in front of the in-laws. Having the ability to work through the little grievances before something bigger happens is crucial.

There’s also always the possibility that an agreement is never reached. And that is okay, too. Sometimes it may take a little time to figure out what is going to work best for both parties. And thankfully for us in this case, we found a compromise. That compromise was a Jeep…

Which is 15 years old and has fewer zeros in its price tag. See? Compromise.

Categories
Life

Why I love being a working mom.

The other day, I had an unfortunate comment thrown my way, and I’m sure other moms who are out there working crazy schedules and trying to balance home and personal life can relate. I’ve heard some crazy stuff for the past few years, but I was totally unprepared for this sentence to be said right to my face:

“You spend more time with work and friends than you do with your own daughter.”

Ouch.

Needless to say, they were pretty much implying that because I wasn’t home very much, it meant that I was a sub-par mom. This person also happened to be raised in a very different time and environment than I was. Maybe they were just having a bad day or something.

Still, I will never, ever allow others to guilt trip me into thinking that being a working mother is bad for my children. I’m actually really sick and tired of having to try and explain myself or justify my reasons for working (besides the obvious income, duh). I don’t know, it seems that I can’t ever win with this mothering thing. Literally, once I had my daughter, it seemed like everyone all of a sudden had an opinion on how to raise my kid.  It can certainly be frustrating at times.

Maybe it’s surprising to some people, but I love to work. Seriously. Whatever I end up doing, I want to do it well and go above and beyond where I can. It’s been in my blood since I was younger. I love learning new things and honing my own skills. Pushing myself to my own limits is something I try to do daily. It also helps that I’m just a tad bit competitive.

I know I’m not the most nurturing type of person sometimes, but I have a lot of other qualities that are mom-worthy. Here are some of my reasons why I love being a working mom:

1. Being a positive role model.

Now, I’ve never thought of myself as marriage material, let alone mother material. I knew that it was a big deal having a kid, especially watching my own mom raise me and my little sister on her own growing up. She was a huge role model for me, and probably one of the main reasons why I continue to work hard today. And I want to be that same kind of positive influence in my own daughter’s life – to encourage her to do what she loves and to pursue her dreams.

I was also delighted to find a study that shows girls who grew up with a working mother tended to surpass the career achievements of those who did not, and also earned 23% more than those with mothers who did not work. (It also showed sons who had working mothers were more likely to contribute to household chores and spent more time towards childcare!)

2. I have a college education in something I enjoy doing.

And I want to use it, damn it! I didn’t spend so much time and money on it for it to start collecting dust.

But until I can get a job in the 419 involving market research, keeping up my copywriting skills and staying up to date on the latest market studies, digital marketing tools and strategies will just have to be the next best thing for now. Being able to use my skills that I have acquired to help others in need is amazing. I just have a natural curiosity about everything and anything, and that helps me continue to learn long after graduation. So you can stop me at any time if I start asking too many questions… it’s just what I like to do!

3. My current lifestyle is nice.

I’m not going to apologize for wanting to earn more money to afford nice things. I grew up sort of poor. Nice things made me nervous (and sometimes still do, I’ll admit. I’m afraid I’m going to break or ruin something…) After working 12-hour shifts during the week, updating and maintaining the blog, and doing household-y things like cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, whatever the thing is – I like to treat myself every now and then. And I freaking deserve it.

4. It keeps life interesting.

My husband also works from time to time, but his work is more seasonal and his schedule is way more unpredictable than mine. Lately, we’ve been swapping war stories about our work environments; mine being in a warehouse and his being on job sites all over Toledo. It gives us a chance to reconnect with each other at the end of the day and there’s always a story to tell each other.

5. My kid has a stronger relationship with her grandparents and dad.

This was something I really wanted my daughter to have, and I am fortunate enough to have a supportive mom and some kick-ass in-laws to help us out in raising PJ. What’s really neat is since both of our families are extremely different, it will give her plenty of exposure to different beliefs and ideas from a very young age, and she will be more tolerant of different views later in life. She has a lot to learn from both sides, and I’m excited to see what she takes away from these amazing people.

Whether a mom decides to stay at home or go back to work, I believe they all deserve some mad respect. After all, they are raising tiny humans. That is really hard work and should be something to be proud of. Keep fighting the good fight, mommas!

working-mom-is-awesome-mom
I love my daughter.
Categories
DIY Home

An update on the thing we did.

So! I completely forgot to give an update about our house that we picked up to rehab. I wanted to drop some before and after photos before we handed the keys over to the lucky family who now calls the place home! This place came a long way from what it once was.

See if you can guess what photos are the before and after!

We re-mulched with the landscape fabric (I didn’t get another pic) and updated the house numbers.

Since we were already on a shoestring budget for the project, we weren’t able to bring all of the ideas we had for the place to life, but it sure did turn out nice anyways! We think some of the imperfections that it still had at the end kept with the home’s unique character.

The bathroom makeover was definitely the most dramatic one of them all.

Missed the subway tile backsplash I wanted to do, but there’s always next time…

It is truly amazing what a fresh coat of paint and a little elbow grease can accomplish! We hope this home serves its new family well! Now we wait for our next project…

Categories
Health Work

Here’s how to say no: Advice from a recovering people-pleaser.

I felt compelled to jot this sentiment down here since it seems like everyone around me finally started to recover from their holiday hangovers. I’m just now getting back into the swing of things myself. After time off, it may seem inappropriate or invoke feelings of guilt to decline projects or tasks that come around. But becoming a “yes man” can do more harm than good sometimes. Believe me, I’ve learned this the hard way more than a few times. I’ll still relapse every now and then and bite off a bit more than I can chew, but I just have to remember that I’m only human… And that I need to do things like sleep and shower to keep me sane enough for the next day.

Ironically, learning how to say no has allowed me to become even more productive, despite taking on fewer assignments. Know why? Because if I don’t have a million and a half things to do, life becomes less stressful. Less stress allows me to focus better on the things that do matter. It also prevents me from binging on Taco Bell because of the self-induced time crunch I’ve put myself into because I haven’t carved out time to pack a proper lunch or dinner. Saying no isn’t just good for my physical health either, it is also wonderful for the soul. How nice and liberating it feels to not be compelled to help people all the time, 24/7.

That being said, I understand that there are goals to be accomplished. It’s the new year, and everyone is on that New Year’s Resolution bandwagon right about now, trying to keep to new commitments or changes that will be beneficial in the long run. But old habits also have a tendency to die hard.

If one of your resolutions in 2019 is to take care of yourself, I’d highly recommend starting with this magical word. And look, you don’t have to be an ass about saying no to things (unless you really want to, I’m not judging you). There’s plenty of ways to decline politely and with grace.

Here are some baby steps to get started:

1. Say the actual word out loud.

Not something like “I’m not sure” or “I don’t think so”… Just “no” should suffice. If no seems too harsh, you can also try some other decently firm options:

“Not for me, thank you.”

“I’m afraid I can’t.”

“Thanks, but I’ve got a lot on my plate right now.”

2. Save the explanation.

This will save both time and energy. You also don’t want them to try to find a way around a fabricated excuse to try and win you over. Sure, the whole “my kid is sick” thing can work, but only so many times before someone starts to question what you could be feeding them.

3. Remember opportunity costs.

Nothing comes free. What would it cost to take on another request? Sleep? Money? Time? That desperately needed venti quadruple shot caramel macchiato from Starbucks?  The choice is yours. Would it be worth it?

4. Don’t procrastinate.

Sure, you can hold off your official answer if you’re not sure about your decision yet, but this will only satisfy whoever you’re answering to temporarily. They’ll be back.

5. Keep your boundaries in check.

If you’ve said no once already, don’t be afraid to say it again. If they start to be pushy or rude about it, then you can just ignore them. Or be rude back. Whatever is your style, I guess. Just remember to reinforce your position. Don’t be a doormat.

6. Prioritize.

If this happens to be a work thing, and your supervisors are asking you to tackle more than you can handle at the moment, you can always say something like “I’m game to take on this project, but I would need a few weeks to get it done right. How would you like me to tackle this while working on tasks A, B, and C?”

7. Go on, be selfish.

I get it. It can still be hard sometimes to say no, especially when it happens to be towards your toddler who is now throwing a tantrum in the middle of the grocery store because you wouldn’t get them a candy bar. Or when your mother in law tries to guilt trip you for the 10th time this month. Remember to put your needs first and take care of yourself.

Go on, embrace your inner Ron Swanson.

ron swanson nopeee

 

Categories
Children Parenting

Why I didn’t go all out on a first birthday party. (And still won’t on the second one!)

Since 2017, April 3rd will always be a very special day for the Cervi family.

It was on this day that our daughter entered this crazy world. She didn’t even have a name when she was born. She was “Baby Cervi, Girl” until I finally declared her official name right before we left the hospital a few days later.

I never planned on having a huge party for such a tiny human. It just wouldn’t have been our style. She didn’t even know what it meant to be celebrating a birthday in the first place, much less knew how to hold a fork in her hand. So until my kid knows what a birthday is, these sorts of gatherings are mostly for me and Dan. Hear me out on this one:

When it comes to birthday parties for kids this young, it really should have the vibe of a glorified playdate.

playdate_dads_first_birthday_party
I’m sure these guys were either getting bored at the party or maybe they were in an intense conversation about gaming. Possibly both.

My (almost) two-year-old daughter isn’t too hard to please – she likes shoes, books, shiny objects, and to run around without a care. If I tried to plan out birthday party activities at her age, she would most likely rebel and want to do her own thing. She’s more interested in being independent at this point, and certainly does not like being told what to do. Her favorite word lately? This word is no.

You see my point?

Just go onto Google real quick and search for something like “first birthday ideas” or something similar. It won’t be too long until you run into some pretty elaborate birthday party themes. These are pretty cool looking for those Instagram photo-op kind of pictures, but with so many little details and extras that go into that kind of thing, I’m sure it also involves an extra level of planning, stress, and definitely spending more time and money into things that a toddler would not appreciate nearly as much. Such as intricate “smash cakes” that look like miniature versions of cakes that could be found at weddings or gala events. They’re gorgeous, but definitely over the top for a baby.

cake_in_a_cup_toledo_ohio_birthday_smash_cake
These things are amazing.

What did we do, you ask? We just went to Cake in a Cup and bought one of their cupcake flavors of the week, and that was PJ’s cake. She absolutely loved it. No planning or mess on our end and she got to experience one of the best local cupcakes in the 419. Sure, we could have just made her a boxed cake, but Mom and Dad were also exhausted. We survived our first year of parenthood, so we thought we deserved something a little nice for ourselves, too!

Besides that, we just had some close friends and family over at our house for a couple of hours to hang out while they watched our daughter try to figure out how to open a couple of presents, and then proceed to play with the empty boxes of said presents more than the toys that were in them. That was it. We didn’t do party favors for the guests, we didn’t even send out invites – we just texted a few people to come over for a bit, and the rest was history.

So if you ever feel like an inferior parent because you didn’t get perfect pictures or things didn’t go the way as planned, fear not – your child will not care. And will not remember anything at all.

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PJ playing with her friend, Karly.

Our daughter is still young enough to get away with simple and inexpensive affairs. We’ll probably do something similar for her second birthday coming up in a few months from now. Once she starts to develop expensive tastes (like her mother), then heaven help us.  We will all be screwed.

So until then, I will be keeping things short and sweet when it comes to birthday parties. As long as I get to spend the day with my daughter, that is more than enough for me.

Categories
Love Marriage

Tough love: Marriage is not for the faint-hearted.

First of all, If you’re married or about to be a newlywed, congrats to you both on taking such a huge step together! If you haven’t already been bombarded by “advice” on how to plan your big day, faced unwarranted opinions about how many kids you should have/what religion to follow/whether to wait until the big night to do the horizontal tango/etc… you will soon enough. Oh, and future newlyweds? You’d better be on good enough terms with your future in-laws, because you’re gonna be marrying them as well, by the way. Really. I’m serious.

Anyway, it’s perfectly normal to be nervous or feel challenged. This is pretty much a legally binding contract, that you two will have to uphold everyday, every hour, every minute of the rest of your lives. No sweat, right? And don’t let my snarky introduction to this entry make you get cold feet or have second thoughts – chances are if you’ve gotten this far together, there’s not much left in this world that could cause your bond to break. That being said, marriage and love is definitely not as easy as those fairytale Disney princesses make it look. Even before the decision was made to tie the knot, there was investment of time and energy into the relationship that made a commitment like this possible in the first place, amiright?

I wanted to share my short experience as a somewhat-newlywed person to help anyone after me get through the rough patches. And yes, those will happen. How you both choose to handle things and support each other will make all the difference in the world, and prevent you from becoming the 40-50% of married couples that divorce (in the US).

Sound good? Great! Then let’s begin…

1. You must choose to love your spouse, even when things get hard.

Remember what I just said about investing time and energy into this marriage thing? Marriage is work. But the rewards of such labors of love are so worth it. I have my husband to help me through this crazy journey of life, and he has me to help him through it as well when things get rough.

Also, it’s not always likely that both him and I will be in a fantastic place in life at the same time – it’s usually more of a see-saw type of thing. I’m the strong one when he gets down, even when it hurts me. Then he will lift me up to the best of his ability when it’s my turn to get the crap hand in life. We tag team problems and issues we face and don’t let those things try to wedge us apart.

2. Marriage is teamwork, not a competition.

Newsflash: you’re both human. Neither one of you are perfect, so don’t expect perfection out of your partner, either. Don’t set up high expectations of how you want the other to be, or you will end up utterly disappointed and resentful. Both of those things can be catalysts for divorce proceedings to take place.

When Dan and I first started dating, we would play Army of Two on the Xbox 360 at his place together. If you don’t know what that is, it’s basically a third person shooter game that is totally dependant on your ability to work together in a cooperative enough way to destroy all of the enemies in your path. You literally cannot beat the game unless you find a way to work together. Like the game, life has these pesky obstacles to throw at you – working together to overcome these things is not only crucial to marriage, it is also oh-so satisfying when you prevail.

3. Make date nights a priority, and continue learning about each other.

Guys, expecting each other to stay exactly the way y’all were when you met is seriously unrealistic. Get that through your head. There will be seasons of life that will challenge you, test those around you, and things in your environment will inevitably change, which can affect you and your significant other. Whether that change is a job, a newfound taste in music or food, or a sudden urge to be social or become a hermit, embrace that change with them. I’ve learned to fall in love with my husband so many times, over and over again.

Dan’s changed a lot since I’ve met him – from an amazing and supportive boyfriend who would bend over backwards to see me smile, to an exceptional father and role-model for our daughter. I am truly blessed and privileged to be able to experience every version of this man for the rest of my life. He definitely keeps me on my toes, in a good way.

4. Find a way to connect every day, even if it’s just a few minutes.

The hectic and demanding work schedules we both have can make it easy for us to just become two ships passing each other in the night. And there are some nights where we are both just so exhausted that it does happen; I’ll end up passing out at 9 pm and he won’t come home until after 11 pm, which means he’s not going to bed until 2 am. We know that this too is temporary, and the season will slow down and allow us to breathe soon. In the moment though, it can be stressful and lonely for both of us to experience.

A good thing that comes out of this though is that it makes us miss each other, and we do get to catch up with each other over a cup of coffee in the morning, or over a glass of wine at night, depending on how the day went. Whether it’s for 30 minutes or 5 minutes, I always look forward to reconnecting with him and spending that time together. It’s the little things that really matter. Really.

5. When the grass seems greener on the other side, water your own damn grass.

Comparison is the thief of joy. Especially when you’re scrolling though Facebook or Instagram and get bombarded with “perfect” relationship pictures and sappy messages of love and commitment. Guess what? These people have problems, too. You just may be too busy focusing on the flaws in your own relationship to see the challenges others may face.

Every relationship is wonderfully different for a reason. Practice gratitude daily and embrace the good things you both bring to the table.

6. Marriage is 100/100.

Divorce is 50/50. In marriage, you give the best of you that you can to each other, and you never give up on each other. Forgive each other and lend your ear as frequently as you can to your spouse. (Sometimes people just need to vent to someone!) At the same time, own your own mistakes and treat your other half with the same respect that you would like.

I’m definitely not a perfect wife. I’m not the best mother, either.

But I am enough for my husband and my daughter. And that’s what really matters at the end of the day – that we have each other, always.

Categories
DIY Life

This is what I’ve been up to.

You might have noticed that I’ve been MIA from the blog for a number of weeks.

Yes, I’ve had to put writing off to the side for a bit – bills had to be paid, which required a change of jobs, and a major rearranging of schedules for everyone. PJ did not like the adjustment as much as we did, and my energy has been spent either working, cleaning, or trying to help the little one cope with the time changes and to not immediately collapse into bed once she was down for the night. Yeah, I’m a slacker.

But all that will be for another post later. It’s time to share what we’ve been working on for the past few months among the chaos of life.

We bought another house. This is a pretty big deal.

messy-living-room-foreclosure-home
What the living room looked like after we got the keys.

A while back, my husband and I became business partners with his parents, and we began to take on homes in the area that needed love and attention. When I try to tell people in conversation that I help rehab homes, they think that I’m absolutely crazy. Yup. Especially that I’m doing this in Toledo, Ohio – the quirky city where the crazy people apparently come from. Well, I like to think that we’re kind of like the local version of Chip and Joanna Gaines, except we’re on the edges of vast cornfields in a weird little corner of the Buckeye State, we have to work in snow and ice sometimes, and we may swear a little bit from time to time.

This home had definitely seen better days. The owner was long gone, but I could still feel the memories and energy this place used to have. Photos, letters, furniture, and clothing  scattered around in different rooms, in different boxes and bags. It seemed like a nice Polish Catholic family had once made this place home, with crosses adorning nearly every entryway. Prayer cards for loved ones were tucked away in books, dressers, and also in a small bible, completely in Polish. As we went through the house to see what could be salvaged and what had to be tossed, I was reminded of the home that I grew up in not too long ago.

unfinished-kitchen-cleanup
The kitchen after the majority of the trash and debris was cleared.

I grew up watching my mom deal with the aftermath of the 2007-2008 mortgage crisis. My sister and I didn’t exactly grow up with silver spoons in our mouths during that time. We got by, but money was more than tight. It got bad enough for us to start receiving food stamps and other government assistance. Whether the bills got paid or not, we attempted to stay positive and made the most of things. My mom wanted us to stay in the same school district until we both graduated high school, and sacrificed a lot for us to accomplish that.

When we left our home of 20-plus years for the final time, it looked a lot like this one.

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A funky green vintage tub with matching vanity and sink.

Now I am the one who has the opportunity to walk into these houses, to pick up the pieces and breathe new life into it, hoping to fill it with another family who will love it dearly and cherish it just as the ones before them. I find it kind of ironic that I get to do this sort of thing after experiencing what it was like to be on the other end of the deal. It’s also oddly satisfying, I’ll admit. Being able to take back these homes and give them back to the community is empowering. Definitely, this is some kind of karma coming back around here.

This home is about to be wrapped up and ready to go, but there are still some final touches needed, including reinstalling the kitchen cabinet doors and hardware, paint, and patching up the exterior. I’m so excited to see the finished product come through.

behr-grey-paint-kitchen
I absolutely love this color by Behr.

Now, there seems to be two schools of thought about painting kitchen cabinets: those who think it’s an absolutely terrible and horrendous thing to do to your precious cabinets, and those who don’t want to spend thousands of dollars on new cabinetry. (I was in the second group.) I was a bit worried about how they would turn out at first, as I was literally grabbing color ideas from Pinterest and collecting my favorites on a board for this project. We prepped them first by sanding them, priming them with Glidden Gripper Primer and Sealer, and then finishing them off with a coat of semi-gloss paint. We chose semi-gloss because it would be easier to clean from potential spaghetti night disasters, and it wouldn’t blind anyone with too much shine while trying to cook.

 

diy-paint-kitchen-cabinets
What the kitchen cabinet doors looked like right after paint.

Afterwards, we moved on to prep the remainder of the kitchen for paint, including taping off the windows, baseboards, ceiling, and removing the electrical outlet covers. I originally wanted to finish the kitchen with a lovely off-white subway tile backsplash, but time and budget constraints killed that idea. Maybe one day I will be able to install this cherished and sought after look in another kitchen…

progress-kitchen-diy-project
The kitchen is coming together nicely.

While I was waiting on my father-in-law to make some plumbing repairs, I went ahead to work on the yard and landscaping to try to clean up the curb appeal of the home. An important thing to note here: I am still learning on how to do certain things. I am a DIY, grab a task and run with it kind of person.

I literally Googled how to mulch for certain plants, how to edge sidewalks, how to not kill the existing plants after weeding and trimming the beds out, etc. Did you know that there are different types and colors of mulch for plants that attract monarch butterflies? My search history is going to look a little weird for a while.

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Before picture of the front porch.

After I was done mulching, I had realized I forgot to do something crucial to prevent future weeds from popping up – and that was to apply landscape fabric before the mulch to keep the sunlight from germinating pesky weed babies. D’oh.

I will get around to fixing that issue once the weather decides to cooperate and stop being so freaking hot and humid. I seriously cannot wait for fall weather.

landscaping-mulching-front-porch-diy
Progress photo. Edging and mulching made a big difference here.

I don’t want to make this post freakishly long with all that we did, so I’ll post a part two sometime in the near future, once we finish up the remainder of the project and I get the chance to resize and upload all of the photos I’ve taken to document our progress. I’ve got more things to talk about now after taking a break from the blog, so thanks for sticking around! There will be more to come very soon.

siggy

Categories
Health Tech Work

Why “unplugging” from the internet is important for me.

I fondly remember the camping trips I used to take growing up. We loaded up the car until things were starting to spill out of the doors, ran around the house a bit to make sure we didn’t forget anything (except the kitchen sink) and headed towards our favorite camping spot. It wasn’t too far away from where we lived, but it was far enough to be out of the noise of the city, and away from any responsibilities and obligations that we had back home. This was our vacation ritual almost every year, and we all looked forward to it every season.

Once we arrived, the bags got unpacked, the food got cooking, and our phones got turned off and packed away for an entire week. Yes, all the way off. Not on silent or vibrate. We went completely off the map.

Nobody could reach us easily and we could enjoy our family time in peace. I feel like this practice would cause some panic attacks now – but it seemed to be completely normal to do this sort of thing only 10 years ago.

Ha, “only” ten years ago. Look at me throwing around decades of time like it’s nothing. Psh.

2000s-childhood-photo-cringe
Here’s a cringy childhood photo from the early 2000’s – proof that I really am getting older.

So why is it so hard to disconnect these days? Well, the internet is a lot more than what it was back in 2008, cell phones can now do so much more than just contact people, and a sort of obligation of availability seems to have taken hold of a lot of people. We now have online presences to maintain on our social media profiles and websites.

I think we’ve gotten to a place as a society where if we decided to unplug from our online lives, people will actually become concerned that we’ve died or something. (I’m still here, WordPress!) We’ve forgotten that we also have lives offline that need tending to.

The whole morning routine is even impacted by technology. Checking email, catching up on the news, even working out, it all usually involves being online or connected to our smartphones and/or the internet now. I have always done my best to keep a healthy boundary between my offline life and the online world. There are several reasons why I do this, and the biggest of these is to make sure I can stay healthy and productive IRL.

Even my husband and my in-laws will get irritated with me every now and then because I don’t always have my phone on me. There are certain days where a smartphone would be a distraction to me, and if I’m at work or on a job with them somewhere, I will more than likely not have my smartphone physically on me.

Just look at my life for the past few weeks:

  • I’ve picked up more hours at a part-time job, and my employer would not appreciate me updating my blog/Facebook on the clock.
  • We’ve closed on a “fixer-upper” that needs some TLC before someone in Toledo can call it a home, and have been chipping away on the to-do list for that. (Another post on that later!)
  • I have a 1-year-old.
  • The laundry has been piling up.
  • I have friends to hang out with.

… You get the idea, right?

Besides being in a busy season, here are some other important reasons why unplugging needs to be done regularly for me.

For Mental Health

I think of it like brushing my teeth. It’s annoying, but it needs to be done every day or some funky stuff will start happening in my mouth. The same thing applies to my brain. And my eyes. My head will literally start to hurt from all the light of the screens I stare at for hours, and looking at perfect, flawless photos of friends and other things I follow 24/7 is definitely not good for my mental mojo.

Turning off the computer and putting my phone away lets me be more aware of my surroundings, and allows me to be grateful for my life around me. It is good to live in the moment.

For Work

It really wouldn’t be safe for me to be distracted by a YouTube video while trying to use sharp and dangerous power tools that could cut off my arm. I can only multitask to a certain extent – and the more places my attention is, the less effective my work is.

This also applies to my writing. I find if I do it too much, my creativity suffers a bit. If I allow myself to unplug and experience the world going on around me, then I can jump back into the online world later and put those things on paper (or on this blog) for others to read about.

For My Daughter

There would be something seriously sad about missing a big moment of her childhood now because of my inattention due to my smartphone. Or from working too much. Or from being away a lot.

PJ is growing up so fast. Walking has now turned into running – sometimes clumsily into random objects. I really need to keep an eye on her now!

She is a big reason why the unplugging time for me is absolutely mandatory. PJ will not be this little forever, and I’ve got to cherish every moment that I can before I miss it.

For My Husband

Unplugging is definitely a thing that we both can struggle with sometimes, and I know he loves his time online with his friends playing Overwatch or PUBG on the Xbox, and then zoning out on Netflix after a long day. But we’ve both come to a shocking realization – everything on our bodies is starting to hurt and we are getting older by the minute.

There are so many things we want to get out and do together before we get so old that we can’t move well anymore – and we also need the time together to keep our relationship solid. Even if it’s just a few minutes in the morning sipping coffee together in the kitchen before we head to our jobs. Quality time offline to connect and check in with each other is so important!

For Freedom!

*cue screeching ‘Murica eagle here*

wat-eagle-reddit-murica
“lol wat?”

It is so liberating to not have any strings attached when I decide to go offline and to explore and to just live my effing life! As I’m wrapping up this blog post, I’m already thinking about what I’m about to go do next on a rare day off. I’m waiting for Dan and PJ to wake up from their naps. Maybe we’ll go to the park or something, but everyone is definitely looking forward to spending family time together today until Dan has to report to work this evening.

Gotta take advantage of chances like these to relax! I’ll be back soon with the story of our latest project soon.

 

Categories
Holidays

My top 5 last minute ‘gifts’ for mother’s day.

While I’m all for any excuse to get out of the house and pamper myself with special dinners and spa days and extravagant things, it’s not always realistic or practical to do such things. I’m sure there’s still a lot of you out there that wish you could buy your mom a private island and the entire solar system. (Or something.) But we’re obviously strapped for cash these days, I get it.

Since this is my second mother’s day, I thought I would share my quick list of things that I can think of that can help show your appreciation and won’t break the bank.

1. Favorite food.

Unless she’s got expensive taste, this is always a nice treat. Some favorites of mine are chocolate covered strawberries, some wine, and anything covered in cheese.

2. Get coffee.

I mean, you can literally do this together, but this is more along the lines of getting together and catching up with each other and having some quality chat time.

3. Give her a minute.

Or better yet, a whole day free of any responsibility! Do the dishes, laundry, mow the lawn, balance the checkbook – just make sure if there is anything that doesn’t sound fun to you, don’t let her do it. It may be hard to do but let her have the day off!

4. Support her hobbies.

Unless it’s something expensive like collecting diamonds or something ridiculous, get her something that she’d enjoy, whether that’s gardening supplies or sports equipment or whatever. If you can’t buy anything, then spend the day doing something she loves to do and just hang out!

5. (Hint, you are her greatest gift.)

It’s true. You came crashing into her world and turned it upside down for a while, but just know that at the end of the day, the retailers can try and make bank off of this occasion, but you can’t buy her happiness. So no worries if you haven’t been able to drop stacks of cash for the last few Mother’s Days, just know that you are enough and just go spend some time with her!

And I realize that there are other situations that can make that difficult (i.e. a rocky/damaged relationship or no relationship at all/being raised by someone else). If that is you, take that time and go spend it with your biggest supporter. Whether that’s your dad, a certain grandparent, or even a friend. Let them know that they’re awesome today.

And don’t let yourself feel inadequate because you can’t buy the world for them – just know you are enough.

Have a great one, guys!

Categories
Health

Parents, we need to talk about mental health issues.

Warning: This post contains strong language and triggering content.


“We want to do a lot of stuff; we’re not in great shape. We didn’t get a good night’s sleep. We’re a little depressed. Coffee solves all these problems in one delightful little cup.”

I think the above quote from Jerry Seinfeld describes my current relationship with coffee almost perfectly spot on. It gives me a good kind of anxiety that helps me cross things off my to-do list every week. Like I’m in control of something in my life.

Now, I hate to admit it, but depressive episodes still happen to me every once in a while. After PJ’s first birthday passed, I thought I was going to be in the clear from postpartum depression, and this emotional and hormonal crap could be put behind me.

Well, yesterday just proved me wrong.

Seemingly out of nowhere after being productive and finishing up dinner, I started feeling sad, which caused me to ruminate about all of the things I couldn’t control in my life, reliving all of the bad things that were happening to me while I saw everyone else around me thriving, happy, and unaware of my emotional anguish and pain. That set off the thought pattern of depression – that I am useless, I’m a burden, I suck at everything, I’m a piece of garbage (but at least I know I’m a piece of garbage human being, and that makes me feel a bit better).

This inner dialogue from BoJack Horseman really hits the nail on the head of the kind of thought process that happens to me while I’m in a bout of depression:

“I don’t deserve breakfast. Shut up. Stop feeling sorry for yourself, what does that do? Go get yourself some breakfast you stupid fat ass.”

“These are cookies, this is not breakfast. You are eating cookies. Stop it. Stop eating cookies and go make yourself breakfast. Stop it. Don’t eat one more cookie. Put that cookie down. Do not eat that cookie. I can’t believe you ate that cookie.”

(I shouldn’t be able to relate to a fictional character so much, especially not one like BoJack.)

That fun voice in my head decided to pay me a visit after being on vacation for a few months apparently. I was completely unprepared to deal with it. I was feeding PJ dinner and she was throwing a fit. Dan decided to attend an evening church service out of town, my in-laws were at a barbecue somewhere else, and I was in no shape to drive her to my mom’s in that mental state. I felt trapped.

Luckily, as I was about to get into the really bad part of it, my father in law shows up at the door, told me the barbecue was pretty boring, and that they would be more than happy to take PJ for the night so I could try and recollect myself.

These guys win the in-laws of the year award. Seriously.

It was breaking my heart to have PJ witness this latest meltdown. I needed someone to come get her while I had to deal with this on my own. Again. She was even trying to feed me dinner and could tell something was off with me. I put on a brave face, told her that mommy wasn’t feeling well, then sent her away with her Paw-Paw before collapsing on the living room couch in hysteric tears.

“This too shall pass… This too shall pass…”

I poured myself a few too many glasses of red wine, then settled in for a Netflix binge session, and managed to keep myself spaced out until Dan finally got home. Then he got the lovely task of helping me decompress and getting that voice in my head to go away. I needed him when the depressive episode started, but I also know it’s unrealistic and unhealthy for him to be there to walk me through this sort of thing every time it happens.

I’ve also been dealing with this sort of thing for a while in college, but it never registered to me that it could be depression. I just dismissed those negative feelings and chalked them up to stress and insomnia issues from the heavy workload I was taking on at the time. I was taking up to 16 credit hours and working three different jobs. I coped with everything by drinking, partying, and smoking hookah.

But now I’m a parent and an unconventional work-near-home housewife. I go to church (almost) every Sunday. I can’t go party with my friends like I used to in order to decompress. No more drinking and being irresponsible for a few hours out of each day. I have to be responsible 24/7 now. I can’t break out the hookah either while PJ is awake, and at the end of the night, I’m just too exhausted to care about anything. I’ve been trying to find new ways to cope.

The good news is that I’ve replaced some of the bad habits I used to have with good ones. I’m gonna sound like an old lady here, but gardening really helps keep my mind out of that downward spiral. I love working in the dirt outside and being in the fresh air, and most importantly, not being stuck inside the house.

I’ve also taken up a morning yoga practice with the free Down Dog Yoga app. Back when we made more money, I had a YMCA membership and I would take yoga classes there. I only was able to get a few classes in before falling pregnant and ultimately canceling my membership. But I’ve gotten back into it and it helps me stay grounded and be more aware of how my body is feeling.

That, in turn, has also helped me clean up my diet in the past few months. I’m eating my fruits and veggies every day, drinking plenty of water, and taking vitamins as needed. I’m basically doing all of these things that are supposed to help with mental issues just short of taking medication for it, as I cannot afford those treatments or any sort of therapist at this time with our miserable healthcare situation.

So I was devastated when yesterday still happened, despite all of this positive change, and so I had reverted back to an unhealthy old method to numb myself of any feeling. I’m at least able to function today, but I’m still beating myself about it a little bit.

All I can do for now to keep this thing at bay is to stay busy, get out of the house regularly, and make sure to take care of myself with good food and regular exercise. (Words of encouragement would also help! It sounds dumb, but it does help.) It sucks that there is still a great stigma to this sort of thing in the US, but I am comforted to find that I am not alone in this struggle. There are other people who are dealing with this sort of thing have created these communities online to help each other out.

And while it is terrible to see suicides happen, the notable deaths of people like Robin Williams, Chester Bennington, and most recently Tim Bergling (aka Avicii) due to mental illness have helped to show that this thing can affect even the most influential, powerful, and most amazing people on this planet. These people, along with other living, high profile individuals who have struggled with these illnesses are coming out with their own experiences and helping to create a dialogue about mental health that has been badly needed.

Another scary thought ran through my head recently, too: If I haven’t been taught how to regulate my emotions, how well would this kind of thing end up for PJ if she experiences this? How would I be able to help her get through it? I don’t want my daughter to develop bad habits like I did. She deserves to be more educated about these issues. Much more than Dan and I were growing up.

We shouldn’t feel ashamed to talk about mental illnesses, because they literally affect everybody. From those who are suffering themselves, those with loved ones who have these issues, and for those with friends and peers who are struggling. Let us not argue about how or why this thing happens, but let us create a united front on how to deal with it and get help.

So let’s talk about it!