Friday, October 17, 2014

High Five for Friday: Giving Thanks

Don't let the title confuse you: this is not a Thanksgiving post. (Is it November? What day is it again?)

It was one of those weeks, with a Friday morning that was the icing on the proverbial cake. The universe is just trying to keep me humble. I get it.

And you know what? Those hard parenting weeks make the less eventful ones seem easy peasy. (Also, a note to all the internet advice-givers: when someone googles nosebleed + mattress + how to, they aren't looking for "You should have used a mattress pad!" It's even less appreciated at 5:30a.)

No, it's simply one of those times when I feel the need to take stock; to review all the little things that make life good. The things you look forward to after Kiddo goes to bed. The first-cup-of-coffee-in-the-morning kind of things. Because they add up.

Commence glass half full thinking.

I found a new hair stylist! If you recall, I got overwhelmed by all the salons on Yelp, couldn't decide, and went about cutting my own hair. It turned out quite alright in the end, but when you need a big change, you go to a professional. (You have to draw the line somewhere, I suppose. Also, you probably shouldn't use fabric scissors to chop your locks. But hey.) And so I'm several inches lighter and feeling much more fancy free. She made the cut (see what I did there), so next up: a dye job. Let's do this right.

I am obsessed with Pretty Little Liars. When it premiered a few years ago, I remember thinking I should watch it. Last Sunday, feeling a little bored, I decided to give it a go. And in what can only be described as a bout of binge-watching, I nearly made it through the first season. As soon as Kiddo is tucked in for the night, I try and sneak in a couple more episodes. Bedtime be damned! A small part of me wonders if I'm a 14-year old masquerading as an adult, while the remaining 95% thinks this fanaticism is totally legit. 

Netflix is, like, totes ma goats earning its keep this month. (Slap me.)

Thank goodness joggers came into my life this month. It took a while to find the right fit for me (returns by mail = gah!), but I got there. Styling them, however, has proved trickier. The other day, while out and about running errands, I passed a store mirror and realized I looked like I had set out for the day still wearing my pajamas. Not cute and a little embarrassing. I'm working on it. This jogger styling tutorial was timely. [In case you were wondering, I bought the zip-pocket track pants and colorblock track pants, both from Gap. Size down!]

I was so bummed to find that a couple of my records skipped badly, including the one with our wedding song. (Which took over a year to find. That's what you get when you choose a lesser known Van Morrison song from an obscure 1989 album that is out of print. But I digress.) Mario, aka The World's Best Husband, bought me a new record player for my birthday. It turns out my old junk store player was to blame in all but one case. (Thank goodness!)

The first hour of the Today is kind of nice. No frills or commercial breaks every 90 seconds, just the news. In a casual way. More than anything, I was up and functional before dawn which made me feel like a member of some exclusive club. I enjoyed the ritual of it more than anything. I don't know if a tiger can change her stripes, but when it come to being a morning person, but I'm sure trying.

Also, TGIF. For reals.

{Linking up with Lauren}

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Thoughts on letting go (of the small stuff).

 Last night, as I was doing those last few things to close up shop before bed, I thought Thank goodness tomorrow is Friday. We all have those weeks when we wonder how Friday didn't come two days ago. As was the case for me.

Mario is in San Francisco this week, attending a conference for work. That lucky duck is getting inspiration from the likes of Tony Robbins and Oh, and never mind the Bruno Mars concert. Sometimes I wonder if we live in the same universe.

In the meantime, I've been holding down the fort here on planet Earth. It's been a melancholy week weather-wise; I'm getting a feel for the typical Pacific Northwest climate. Not too cold and a little rainy (but seldom a downpour) with periods of sunshine. Last night I slipped on wool socks for the first time, but the heat remains off... for now.

About a week ago, Kiddo took a tumble during an after school activity and hit the back of his head. After becoming quite ill on Tuesday, we learned he likely has post-concussion syndrome. The symptoms should subside in the next week or so, but it meant a whole day devoted to finding out what was wrong while working to get him better. For those moms with school-age kiddos, you understand how having one home sick can throw off the whole week. Most importantly, though, he's okay.

Since taking a step back, and making the choice to stop sweating the small stuff, life has felt a lot calmer. The transition from perpetually fretful to zen hasn't been as easy as making a declaration to do so. It takes effort and involves frequent, but much shorter, relapses.

Have all the boxes been checked and the question marks converted to periods? Not even close. But I'm making the conscious decision to go with the flow. Though zen isn't synonymous with leaving things to chance. Far from it. But I spend a lot less time trying to force things, which usually backfired in the productivity department anyway.

Am I still going to finalize my post-collegiate resume? Absolutely! Am I going to apply for the jobs I want, even if scoring them may be a bit of a stretch? Yes! I fully intend to put myself out there. But I'm not going to ruminate and stress over the fact that I didn't get my resume finished this week. Or that I didn't apply for a single position.

Taking care of a sick kiddo is far more important; there's simply no contest. And I feel quite accomplished in my ability to be there for him when he needed me. In the fact that I single-parented a sick kiddo.

I can see the silver lining rather than the laundry list of things that didn't get done. (I think there's still carpet sunder all that dog fur.)

Baby steps.

Monday, October 13, 2014

An attitude adjustment is in order.

After getting real with myself last week, I've come to a place of quiet calm. In talking with Husband, he make me realize something: getting to stay home while I figure out what's next is a luxury few are afforded. I don't have to toil away at an in-between job while I take care of Kiddo, rewrite my resume, search for work, build a grad school application, and study for the GREs.

I have a husband who regularly tells me to do whatever it is that makes me happy. And he means it. I can go back to CrossFit or try pilates. I can take a photography or pottery class and explore my creative side. I can start a new blog about the trials and tribulations of getting into grad school. Just the other day he told me we could move again so I can pursue a graduate degree in Marine Biology. I can do whatever it is I choose to do without the constraints placed on so many moms.

I am fortunate, and I try not to let that fact slip by unnoticed. To let it get lost in the minutia of the day-to-day. But I do anyway. The world is my oyster and I've no right complaining. Which I have been doing a lot of the past few years.

On Saturday I attended an all-day CPR class for health professionals. It's required for my grad school application, and a must-have for the healthcare jobs I am searching for. It made sense to be proactive, forgo a Saturday, and get it out of the way.

As I sat there, chatting with my classmates during breaks, I came to realize just how many options I have to consider where others do not. There was a young single mom who settled for a short tech program because she needed a decent paying job fast. And a 20-year veteran dental assistant who was bored in her current position and looking for more. More education and more mental stimulation. Then there was the lady who was unable to bend over far enough to administer rescue breathing and couldn't continue. She was there as a condition of employment and I've wondered ever since if it cost her a job she wanted and needed. (Not to mention the embarrassment of being asked to leave in the middle of class.)

I have a million potential directions to go and it's not too late to try any of them. It's just a matter of deciding which fork in the road to take when I reach it.

I never thought I'd be that mopey person who sees daily existence as her lot in life; something that holds me back rather than frees me to be anyone I want to be. (The latter being the truth.) I've become quite miserable over the past few years, and I'm actively working to change that.

Admitting that I have a bad attitude is hard. Humbling. Embarrassing. And while I don't walk around with a frown on my face, I am often one spilled glass of oj or stubbed toe away from being a sourpuss. Weeks can go by and I feel happy. Optimistic. Chill. But simmering under the surface is a nugget of resentment, frustration, and annoyance just waiting to rear its ugly head. I keep score more often than I'd like to admit.

And while I know that much of our outlook and personality is determined in our first few months of life, I also know that the way I've been acting is not indicative of the true me. Being mopey is contrary to who I am as a person. It doesn't feel normal to be a curmudgeon. When I'm light and happy and let the little things roll off my back... that feels like I'm wearing the right skin.

I probably can't make myself an extrovert. Or Type B. Or anxiety-free. Fundamentally, that's who I am. But the attitude that things are perpetually hard? That can be changed. It's time to act the way I want to feel. To see the opportunity that is all around me as opposed to closed doors.

I think back to a time when, logically, things were harder. I was balancing a lot, my personal finances were highly unstable, I lived in a tiny apartment, and I had zero idea who I was or what I wanted out of life. And you know what? I used to wake up to the flutter of excitement in my belly every morning. I loved my (entry-level) job. I would wake up at 6a on a Saturday and go grocery shopping because I liked the ritual of shopping in a quiet store with a latte in hand. I exercised almost every day after an 8+ hour shift and was happy with my body as a result. I worked with people I liked and had a well-balanced and fulfilling life.  

How is that possible? I often wonder. I had almost nothing compared to what I have now, and yet I was happier. Why? Because I was grateful for what I had and saw the potential in almost everything.

I'd like to find that girl again. Because she's still in there.

And because I'm fairly certain I'm not alone in all of this, I'm starting a new blog series based on this desire to be happier and more fulfilled where I am now. I'll be talking about the aspects of building a better life. I am obviously no expert on the matter, but I'm positive I share many of the same concerns as other moms, wives and employees. I'm also sure I can learn from you and you can learn from me.

I'll make mistakes and have mopey days along the way, but the end goal is to unveil a better version of myself. To see the silver lining more often than not. To hold myself accountable to this new mindset.

First order of business: think of a name. Finding Fulfillment, Living in the Now, Look on the Bright Side, and Project Silver Lining are contenders. (I'm terrible at naming things.)

[Linking up with Kimberlee, Leeann, and Christina]

Friday, October 10, 2014

High Five for Friday: Birthday Edition


Today is my birthday! I have a more thought-provoking post about turning a year older waiting in the wings, but today I intend to focus on the rainbows, butterflies and fifteen million Facebook birthday wishes. (Does anyone else forget they have more than five FB "friends" until they all start showering you with messages one day a year?)

I don't tend to make a big thing of my birthday. There are no "birth month" celebrations or fancy parties. This morning I took Kiddo to school, had pancakes with a stellar man named Mario, and got my official Washington driver's license. I also inquired about a haircut to touch up my diy chop job. Later, later!, we have an out-of-town cross-country meet and a couple of errands. I clearly know how to party.

Some of my favorite days, my most memorable days, are those normal-ish ones spent with the boys. Days where I ignore the dog hair tumbleweeds rolling across the kitchen floor and order pancakes and a mocha without a single pause to consider their calorie content. Where I buy a pair of boxers Husband doesn't need because they have robots on them or a book just because I like the cover, even though they are destined to land on the bottom of a drawer or at the end of my rather large literature queue. A day where I buy the superfluous bottle of lotion just because it smells like cupcakes.

I have a feeling today is going to be one of those days.

Last weekend I let Husband drag me into the Apple Store in downtown Portland. I was all My phone is fine! and he was like It's archaic! Upgrade already! I don't swap out my electronics very often, clinging to them well into their geriatric years. I'm quite fond of my 6-year old laptop and was still smitten with my 4-year old iPhone 4. (The salesman, upon laying eyes on it, actually exclaimed Oooh myyy!) But, well, an iPhone 6 made its way into my hand and the rest is history. It turns out it shouldn't take four minutes to transfer a photo from VSCO to Instagram. Who knew? (Though I'm still unsure about the camera. It's like those HDTVs that make everything look like a BBC program. I'm so uncool.)

Misty mornings are pretty darn magical. Until this week, I had yet to experience a proper Pacific Northwest fog. Yesterday, after waving goodbye to Husband and Kiddo, I walked out to the end of the driveway only to become convinced I was in a Harry Potter movie. You may send all correspondence to: 4 Privet Drive, Little Whinging, Surrey, England.

Every once in a while it's necessary to put aside your grain-free diet for the sake of pancakes. Because life without pancakes is no life at all. Also, blueberry + oatmeal pancakes must be good for you.

The realization that you have crow's feet (or a crow's toe, as it were) on the eve of your birthday could be a lot to take in, I suppose. I'm actually rather smitten with it. I think it makes my smile look more genuine.

Mario has been working from home this week, which has meant mornings spent drinking coffee over our respective computers. I really never get tired of hanging out with this guy—even after all these years.

 {Linking up with Lauren}

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

It starts (and ends) with me.

I have a confession to make: I've been wound waaay too tight the last few weeks.  I've been waging an internal battle over my health and well-being (i.e. food + fitness), my education, my future (both personal and professional), and my quality in terms of parenting and marriage. I've been impatient with my kiddo, snippy with my husband, and fretful + stressed everywhere in between.

Sometimes all it takes is Kiddo's decision to wear a bow tie to school on a random Tuesday morning or unwanted auto-formatting in Word to cause the dam to fill and the ugliness to spill over.

Is it too much to ask to be Lorelai Gilmore? (Minus the boy trouble.) I just want to wake up every morning and walk to Luke's and run my own inn, or whatever my perfect Stars Hollow job would be. And darn it if I don't want to drink the Founder's Day punch before noon some days. But I digress.

I've been working toward a solution, but came to realize my solution was part of the problem. Instead of making a decision, and sticking too it, I was flitting from this to that which only served to make me more unsure, unsettled and many other uns.

In my attempt to be flexible, I made myself miserable. I was weighing too many options and not pursuing any of them with any sort of conviction. (Oh, the hemming and hawing I've done!)

So while a little plasticity is a good thing when it comes parenting and dinner plans, the same can't be said when it comes to making decisions about overarching life plans. Inactivity, masquerading as I'm considering all my options, lead to decision-making paralysis, meanwhile sucking the morale right out of me.

No one is going to knock on my door and offer me The Perfect Job; a genie won't magically make all my wildest dreams come true (and show me what they look like, exactly); and a CrossFit coach isn't going to drive my arse to class every day. It just doesn't work that way.

Yesterday, after consulting with a college advisor (possibly with the irrational hope that she had some sort of wondrous solution to all my problems), I had a heart-to-heart with Husband. He is one of the sagest people I know. We sat in the car and hashed it all out. I took a break from my usual default defensiveness and got real.

And just like that, things became quite clear.

The truth? I'm deathly afraid of doing the wrong thing. Of regret. I fear that finishing my education will cause me to miss cross-country meets and conversations across the dinner table. Fear that I'll wake up one morning and Kiddo will be a man. Fear that I'll let the people I love down, but more likely, myself. I'll have my career, sure, but I'll have to live with the fact that, in the pursuit of my own fulfillment, I missed out on aspects of my son's life.

And so goes the emotional minefield that is motherhood.

I remember back to when Kiddo was little. Like, 3-years old little. My job at the time required that I work Christmas morning. It wasn't an all day thing, just an early morning shift. Still, I wasn't there when he woke up and saw the tree and all the presents and had that bright, beautiful look of wonder small people get. He doesn't remember, of course, but I do. All the time, in fact. I remember sitting on the bathroom floor crying because I wasn't there. Because I missed it. It wasn't that I didn't want to work, I like working, but that day it was at the expense of spending the earliest part of Christmas morning with my son. I never want to feel that sort of angst again.

How do I reconcile the fact that I don't want to be a stay-at-home mom, but also don't want to miss a moment of my child's life? And what about those moms who don't have a choice? Do I have any right agonizing when I have so many options?

So here's the fundamental question(s): How can I be fulfilled as a parent and an individual, and is it possible to have both?

My chosen career requires 7-8 years of higher education, with a year or two of full time work in between. There's simply no way around it. There will be (more) late nights and weekends bent over a book and more time spent away from home than I'm comfortable with.

There will also come a day in the not-too-distant future when Kiddo pursues a life of his own. And when that day comes I must have something of my own, lest I be crippled by the realization that my one and only child has left the nest. I know myself too well to let that happen.

Complicating the issue is the fact that my understanding of myself, my identity, is totally and completely intertwined with my role as a wife and mother. I know that about myself, too.

There comes a time in each woman's life when she has to ask herself Who am I, really?; without applying the filter of motherhood or wifehood or employeehood. I'm there now. It's time to strip all that away and get to the crux of who I am and what I want.

I've been a mom and a wife for nearly all of my adult life. And although I regularly go through periods of introspection, I have yet to dig deep enough to make real, meaningful, life-changing progress.

The time has come to figure out just who I am. No one can do it for me, and discontent is the consequence of putting it off any longer.

It's time. My time.

Commence Project Sarah.

[Photos taken a couple weekends ago at Multnomah Falls. Waterfalls are simply awe-inspiring, says me. Although unrelated to this post, they go well together. You know?]

[Also, I got a new set of VSCO filters and applied them with abandon. Because, why not?]

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October: the dawn of a new era (+ other equally melodramatic statements).

Did we skip the month of September? 

Summer ended, school began, then... 

October arrived.

We're just shy of the 3 month mark in our new life. And now that October has rolled around, it's really not so new anymore is it?

It's not our new life. It's just life.

Case in point:
  • I can no longer claim newness when the nice policeman asks me why I (still) have a driver's license and license plates bearing the seal of the State of New Hampshire.
  • The USPS notified us that they won't forward our magazines anymore.
  • I can get myself to and from downtown Portland, and most other essential and nonessential places, sans GPS.
  • I'm taking a college course at a local college and they gave me second-tier resident tuition (which saved me 300 bucks).
  • I'm making my own deodorant, downing raw ACV, lusting after Birkenstocks, and my #1 favorite place is the farmer's market at Portland State University. (If that's not fodder for Portlandia, I don't know what is.)

And so today not only ushers in my favorite month of the year, and also my birth month, it makes it all seem so official. I'll look back and say "October was the month we became natives!" Or something silly like that.

Also, let it be known that I seasonally decorated our mantle. It's official: I'm a card-carrying blogger. (Or I've never had a mantle to decorate + I'm unemployed + I've been reading Martha Stewart Living like I own stock + we have yet to buy a second television and something had to be done with that space. But who's counting? Craftiness is craftiness.)

I heart you, October.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Thoughts on living the dream.

When you make the leap into something new and unknown, you always wonder. Wonder if you'll be happy. Wonder if it will be everything you hoped it would be. You spend a great deal of time holding your breath; steeling yourself for the homesickness or disappointment or inevitable Did I do the right thing? moments.

Here we are, entering week twelve of our new life, and I can honestly say moving to the Pacific Northwest was the best decision we could have made for our family. The house, the school, the culture... we were absolutely meant to be here.

Finding happiness, contentedness, is something to celebrate. Especially if you weren't sure it was possible.

As we move into the cooler fall weather, and our new normal feels more normal, I still find myself in awe that we made this leap. In the months and years leading up to The Move, it all felt more like a pipe dream than a plan. But we did it.

Friday evening we got word: the sale of our New Hampshire house was finalized. It was the one thing that prevented us from truly moving on. Oh, the heartache and stress that poor house caused.

The moment the ink dried on those documents, we were able to literally and figuratively close the door on that chapter in our lives.

And while I desperately miss my weekly coffee date with friends, and the sense of community we found in our last couple years living there, it isn't goodbye. I'll go back from time to time, I'm sure, but as I walk the streets of New England, I will no longer feel trapped. 

I now accept that period for what it was: an important leg of our journey. A necessary one, I've come to realize.  I no longer view it through a fog of discontent; returning will be a happy thing.

Although I still spend some days fretting about this and that, for the most part life is good. When you find the place you're meant to be, things just seem more effortless. You relax a little, opening yourself up to bigger and better things. Life feels less temporary, so you start living with intention.

You lift your vision board off the page and start making it happen.

This is not to say everything smells like roses all the time. Parenting, marriage and pursuing that dream career all take work. Some days, hard work.

If it were easy to become your best self, living your best life, it'd be difficult to recognize (or appreciate) when you actually achieve it.

These are the things I ponder when I lay in bed on a lazy Sunday morning.

And because I aspire to see the glitter in the sidewalk, here are a few of the things that make life grand:

Coffee table dinners + family movie night.
This kid.
This cider, shared with Husband. [It is good.]
This Anthropologie candle. [I seldom get excited about fancy candles, but this one wooed the heck out of me.]
The discovery of blue pumpkins. Enough said.
These Bucketfeet shoes that arrived just moments before we left for Sam Smith. It was a rookie move wearing brand new shoes to a concert, but these bad boys left nary a blister. Seriously stellar footwear.
My first mums. Ever.
Vista, the heated blanket.
This guy. He's such a card. [Also, note to selves: splitting an order of biscuits and gravy is still too much food.]
Apples + peanut butter.
Kiddo's love of sushi, which lends itself to mother/son date nights.
What are you loving? (Look on the bright side!)