Let’s Party: Off the Train and Onto the Bus

The Last Six Weeks of 2015.

The end of 2015 felt like a freight train rushing along on the tracks, making every obligatory stop along the holiday/end of the year line, and then some.

We celebrated Thanksgiving with more than 50 Australians and Americans in our humble abode.  We baptized our youngest into our crazy Catholic faith. We celebrated three birthdays. Our oldest son came one step closer to being an adult, clocking 17 years on the planet, and our youngest son celebrated his first birthday.

We mourned the deaths of five family members, friends and colleagues in these few short weeks.  Each one was painful and heartbreaking in its own way.

The train kept going all the while.  Festivities began. The house was decorated.  Christmas cards were mailed.  The Elf on the Shelf noted and reported behaviour to the big man. School ended. Presents were wrapped. Carols were sung. Church was attended. Santa was visited. Work ended. Christmas parties were attended.  Cocktails were drunk. Prawns and Christmas pudding were eaten. Jesus was born. Santa stopped. Stockings were stuffed. A magical pony, among other Christmas wishes, appeared under the tree.

Holidays.

That morning, Christmas morning, the train stopped.  It had arrived at its final destination.  We all got off.  All the rushing, planning, organising, attending and doing just stopped.  The holidaze was over and the holi-days began.

Smiles and cuddles and giggles were abound.  The lazy days began between Christmas and the Epiphany.  The days when you do not know what time or day it is.  The days when the true Christmas spirit has filled your soul with joy and it just lingers there, like the end of a summer day at dusk.

These days were filled with playtime, kids, beaches, coffee, long walks, movies, barbecues, workouts, totem tennis, ice cream, canoes, kayaks, bowling, Jenga, puzzles, books, smoothies, art, unplugging from technology, first steps, fireworks, Christmas crackers, boccie ball, adventures, cheese, wine, naps, cuddles, running in the rain, friends and family.

A stay-cation was just what the doctor ordered.

The Party Bus.

The holidays are now over.  Today I went back to work.  This year I did not mind going back to work. I like my work. I like writing. I like having some time to myself. What I minded was leaving my kids. This morning, 6 January, on the Epiphany, I have had an epiphany.

I enjoyed my kids and our unscheduled time more than ever over these past two weeks. I realised that they are only this little for such a short time, and I have to savor as much of this time as possible.

I am making a commitment to me and to them this year:

I am going to weed through the barrage of possible things to do this year and only do what is best for my kids and my family.  I am going to stay off the train.  I am going to reflect and play more and consume less – thanks Alex De La Cruz.  I am going to spend less time having coffee with my friends at a cafe while my kids sit in the pram (US translation: stroller) and more time having milk shakes with my kids at parks.

I am going to follow the routine that works for our family and break our routine when it does not. I am going to turn off my phone more and take more unplanned adventures. I am going to do more of the healthy things that keep me sane and successfully brought me out of a rough battle with post-natal depression in the middle of last year: running, yoga, meditation, prayer, writing, finding time in nature and playing with my kids.

I am going to say no more often.  I am going to say yes to my kids more. I am going to be more of an unfucker. I am cutting out the negative in my life. I am celebrating and focusing on positive people, language, inner voices and outlooks.

Life is about perspective and how we choose to see the world.

I choose to be positive.

I choose happiness.

These are not resolutions, as much as they are building on the foundation I laid down last year.

As a friend of mine once said…you are either on this bus or it will run you over.  (Or, perhaps it will just leave you behind.)  I like my 2016 bus and I hope you will get off the train and find your own party bus.  You are – of course – always welcome to join mine.

Here is to a year ahead of adventure, joy, and enjoying the short time we have here on Earth.

 

 

 

 

Here is to Those Teachers

Today is the memorial for Prof. Dennis C. Smith, one of my professors from graduate school at the NYU Wagner School of Public Service. He was a teacher, a mentor, a friend. He challenged us to think. He inspired us. He taught us to be realistic, accountable and thoughtful in our lives and in our work. He taught me the difference between outputs and outcomes and why that matters. I also remember him never wasting my time but always having time for us, which I sincerely appreciated.

He is one of those teachers who just stays with you over time. Thank you Dennis for all you gave to your students. You are missed.

Today I am grateful for Dennis and for all of those teachers who have stuck with me over time. For those of you who helped shape who I have become. I know that I challenge the people in my life, to a point of insanity sometimes, because of you. I question everything because of you. I want to understand more – all the time – because of you. I want facts and logic and proof and I still trust my gut because of you. I want to teach and help because of you. I am proud of who I am because I was blessed with so very many amazing teachers. You worked tirelessly day in and day out. You taught me to love learning. You taught me strive to be better each and every day of my life. You taught me to pass it on.

Thank you for teaching me to go out into the world, to make a difference and to care about the process.

I am eternally grateful.

Sewing Up the Seams: Post Natal Depression and the Myth of Superwoman

Fraying.

Today I unraveled. It all just got to me. My husband traveling for eight weeks, my eight-month-old not sleeping for more than two hours at a time, for a week. My seams unravel more often than I like to admit, but this time they unraveled (disintegrated)…and I just couldn’t keep up. I locked myself in the bathroom for a good five minutes, twice today.

Help.

I called my husband, three dear friends and my mom. I then called my counselor and the early childhood centre. I felt defeated. I felt exhausted. I felt lost. I felt really, really sad. I felt the weight of the world on my shoulders. I just could not get a handle on things.

After two hours of being on the phone, I had set up a counseling session, an appointment at the early childhood centre, and two friends coming over to help me during the week.

Family.

Every. Single. Time. I talked to an intake officer, they asked if I had family close by who could help out. Every. Single. Time. I responded after a full thirty seconds of sobs, “Yes and no is the answer”. I have friends who are family, but no they cannot just drop everything and come and give me a few hours to sleep. They have shift work, four kids, a newborn, a new cafe, a clinic to run, jobs and lives. It is just not that easy.

No Judgement.

As I sit here with the voice in my head that just will not stop, I try to let the emotions be cars passing by, with no judgement. I try to just let them come and go without chasing after them. (Thank you Headspace for the image.) I try to go back to my daily meditation. I then try to find that soft place in my head and my heart that embraces compassion for everyone else, and offer myself some compassion as well.

1 in 7.

Post natal depression effects one in seven moms. I officially call bullshit on that statistic. No way is it that low. No way do six out of seven of us not end up somewhere on that scale at some point in the first year of our babies’ lives. Most of us suffer in silence, not surprising I know. As I have been sharing my story, I keep finding more and more moms who admit that at least once they have felt Just. Like. This.

Mending.

I am in the process of mending this ripped seam that feels like all of my insides are exposed for the world to see. And. Judge. I am doing it by reaching out. I am doing it by looking in. I am doing it by not judging myself. I am doing it One. Breath. At. A. Time. I am doing it by dancing in my kitchen with my kids and walking on the beach with my friends.

Not Superwoman.

I will mend these seems by reminding first myself and then everyone around me that I am not Superwoman, and I don’t want to be. I am strong, but I need support and love too. I can still get up and go to work everyday. I can still look after my family and my kids and me. I can laugh and cry and fall apart and sew up the seams one stitch at a time. I can put my big girl boots on and get on with living. . .

Just, please stop calling me Superwoman, it is not helping, and it is not true. And, every mom out there, please join me in not being Superwoman too.

Dancing in the Kitchen

Today, to settle my 10-week-old, I found myself dancing in the kitchen to country music. Kenny Chesney, I think? This is surprising because I used to be adamant that I hated country. Saying things like that usually come back to bite me in the ass, and here it is. I loved it. It was so ridiculous, and so fun, and so freeing, and I was smiling and giggling as my sweet baby boy fell asleep on my shoulder. It was pure happiness.

And it made me think of Gwen.

I wondered about what she had done for her birthday (today!… or ‘yesterday’, since it’s Australia), wishing I could surprise her to give her a big hug, a break from all she does, and share a coffee. And then share a lot of wine as we really, truly, properly catch up on everything that slips through this 9,956 mile space between us.

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I wondered Continue reading

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An Immense Gift

This is a post that seems not to want to come out, at least not in an elegant way. It hasn’t want to come out at all for weeks. As I write, memories continue to flood forward in no order and my mind and emotions are a jumble at best.

One of the most influential women in my life taught me to paint – well. In oil. Starting in 4th grade. She gave me an innate sense of color – mixing paint colors and the color choices I make – that I rely on still and think of daily. She took me on my first (and second, and third) trips to Europe while I was still a teenager. I spent who knows how many hours in her presence, first at the park district, then at her house or at the Art Institute of Chicago, being energized by her seemingly boundless enthusiasm and joy. She had something of a pied piper quality – she could make everyone around her feel Important and Relevant. So much so that she often had a gaggle of students following her, tugging at her shirt and vying for her seemingly endless attention.

The Netherlands. Paris & Auvers. Places etched in my heart as most favorite places and experiences. Crazy, silly experiences Continue reading

Perfect and Precious Bookends

Oh how I love those sunrises. How precious those first few months are as a new mom. And yes, how firetrucking hard.

My little ones are now eight months and three-years-old.

My sunrises have turned into early mornings where I let our toddler sleep in a bit, so I have a few moments to cherish raspberries, giggles and cuddles with the bub. I find that time to be some of the most precious moments of my entire life. Each morning I am overwhelmed with gratitude for how happy our little boy is.

On the flip side, Continue reading

Taking Stock at Sunrise

Five months into a new high pressure job, I found out I was pregnant again. Four *months* pregnant. I guess that explains why I was so tired…

Those six remaining months passed in a flash. I’m laying in bed now listening to the little snuffles and soft breathing of my six week old as the clouds in the east turn pink before this morning’s sun rises.

Being pregnant is hard. Being a new mom (again) is hard. These early weeks as he grows and settles into a routine are exhausting, and hard. But there is some sweet gift that I have had with both of my sons that crystallizes in the early morning under the glow of an impossibly beautiful sunrise morning after morning, my son nuzzled against me, nursing or sleeping in a gentle connection that feels endless, yet is as fleeting as the morning light we’re wrapped in.

The gift is Continue reading