This is the story of a girl

Who cried a river and drowned the whole world

and while she looks so sad in photographs

I absolutely love her

When she smiles

Do you know that song? You know how you can hear just the words “this is a story” and you can immediately connect the lyrics and sing the whole song 500 times in your head (or out loud) after that? And then your husband (or boss, or teacher, or friend) says “AS I WAS SAYING this is a story about cattle futures and the stock market . . . ” Or, actually, my husband or boss or teacher (if I had a teacher) would never say that. Maybe “. . . about Edward Gorey” or “. . . about intellectual property, counterfeit product sales online and their crossover into phishing fraud.” Or something like that. Anyway – I LOVE THAT.

I find great comfort in the familiar. It’s soothing to me to hear a song I know and love. The cadence, the words, they all flow through my mind effortlessly and, if I love the song, it makes me happy. Like a hug (because hugs make you happy. Unless your heart is cold, black and shriveled up). The same with my favorite old tv shows or the same books I have thumbed through a dozen times or more. The characters are like visiting with old friends and the familiar words are like a salve to my metaphorical open wounds.

On a recent business trip I had to figure out a book to take with me.

(Yes, technologically adept as I like to consider myself I do still have an overwhelming affinity for actual books. I like to feel them in my hands. I like to dog-ear the corners. I fear the term “dog-ear” will go out of fashion in 2.5 seconds due to all the electronics permeating our society. I’m so conflicted).

I have no less than 7 books on my bedside table that I have barely started or not cracked at all, but when I turned to grab one none appealed. Why? Well, there’s a lot of newness in my work life and I just couldn’t stand the idea of embarking on a new journey with a new author and a new story to work through in my already clouded and over-taxed head.

What if I didn’t like it 30 pages in? What if it was sad and depressing? What if it didn’t hug my soul like a tried and true good book can do?

So I chose an old favorite. Through 4 “please watch the safety demonstration in the event of an emergency landing” monologues while “all electronic equipment is switched off” I plowed through my old favorite, smiling at the words, remembering the characters. I found myself immersed, once again, entirely in the movie in my head – how Amelia’s jetty black hair looked (via a bottle, shhh), her blushing indulgence to femininity in her crimson gowns and fancy undergarments, and her painful need to be right and strong ,and her huge heart and conflicted morality. Ahhhh. There is nothing like catching up with old friends on long plane rides.

Or is it catching up with yourself? I have a theory (supported by nothing except my second Diet Pepsi tonight) that when we connect with something from the past – a book, a movie, a song, even a fragrance – it can take you back to the old YOU. The person you were then, when you first loved it, and it can feel like a comfort because it makes you feel like, or connect with – consciously or not – the old you. That old friend that you knew better than anyone, foibles and all, before you went through the experiences that makes you the YOU of today.

Over the summer I made several long car trips by myself (or with my children, but with THEIR electronic equipment I may as well have been by myself) and I had this odd thing happen. On one trip I was in the middle of the Oregon desert, the boys had their headphones on and I resorted to mindlessly hitting “seek” in hopes of finding something interesting. There were 3 radio stations that came in; one was political news (not on your life), the other was in Spanish (and that gets old when you don’t speak it), and the third . . . just happened to be playing a country song I LOVED when I was in high school (and filled with high school angst, I might add). I found myself singing the words before I could even remember the name of the song or who sang it. I just knew that I knew the words and as I sang each verse and got closer to the chorus I remembered the full song and . . . tears. No kidding. Tears. Because that song comforted me when I was a teen and broken-hearted and here I was, so many years later, and BAM! It pulled at my heart and I was in tears. I don’t remember the who, what or why of that broken-heart – I just remember the emotion the song conveyed all those years ago.

It’s like that movie with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks. Sleepless in Seattle? And she’s in the car driving and listening to him on the radio, in a bit of a trance, and he just says something that clicks with her heart (something her mother had said, about love & magic) and she’s crying. Just like that. Those things they reverberate in your soul.

Or is that just me? Bah. Maybe. But that’s okay. I can own it.

So – if you find me listening to the soundtrack for The Sound of Music in my headphones please don’t mock because I’m probably a major stressball and I’m just reverting to my childhood happy place as a coping mechanism. Back when my mom and I used to pop popcorn and watch this movie every year around the holidays when it came on tv and I felt loved and when I watched Julie Andrews sing and I could breathe and I knew ALL THINGS IN LIFE WERE POSSIBLE.

Ahhh. Sigh. Breathe. Repeat.

Mucho amor, mes amis!

Stef

(No, I don’t speak Spanish. Or French. It’s Frenish. Just go with it).

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My Brain Hates Me

This kind of thing right here? This is killing me.

20120725-064514.jpg

This is today. It’s 7 am and I’ve been up for over 3 hours.

I.Need.Sleep.

So much on my mind lately and it seems impossible to turn off my brain. I recently figured out that slowly counting backward from 100 helps. Not last night (this morning?) though. (Can waking at 3:45 am be considered morning or is that still night?)

You’d think in 3 hours time I could do something useful. Fold laundry? Do my nails? Pay bills? Watch the unedited, full-length version of The Sound of Music? But no, because when it’s 4 or 5 am and you’re bone-tired all you want to do is lay there and try to sleep. Which is maddening. And super stupidly unproductive.

You know what else is maddeningly unproductive and mind-numbing? Staring at this for 6 hours:

20120725-065525.jpgBut that’s another story.

So fine. I’ve showered and I’m getting ready for work. You’ve won this battle, brain, but you won’t win the war.

Hello, Starbucks? Can you deliver grande mocha light frappuccinos hourly?

Yours in sleeplessness,

Stef

I’m not really here

In fact, I’m not really anywhere. I don’t know which way is up, or down, or sideways either. I can’t tell if it’s morning or night, and the work days seem to blend into the weekends.

I no longer have much interest in interacting much on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. I try. I fail. Miserably.

Friends? Socializing? Huh? What are these things you speak of?

Eight years ago I thought having a toddler, a baby, a working spouse and a full-time job was difficult. That was until I had 8 & 9 year olds, a full-time all-ohmyword-consuming job and a husband who acts in community theatre.

This post is brought to you by 7 weeks of my husband having nearly daily rehearsals and essentially leaving me as a solo mom at night and on Saturdays. And it’s brought to you by a vast well of work disappointment (that I won’t speak about here but trust me, it’s vast.) It’s brought to you by a perpetually messy house and some sleepless nights. It’s brought to you by loneliness. And it’s brought to you by Ally McBeal.

Yes, Ally McBeal. The TV show and the character. My best friend and I used to watch Ally McBeal together. Well, technically, I was living in Idaho and she was in California and we would call each other on the commercials to talk about what had JUST happened. Then we would hang up. Then call back again. It was one of those things.

Ever since Netflix came into my life I’ve wished that Ally McBeal was available for streaming. I’ve checked a few times a year. Last week my wishes came true. YES.

As I type this I’m sitting on my sofa with my laptop in front of me and my iPad streaming Ally next to me. With headphones, though, because my kids are watching Spy Kids in the same room. (So, yes, I’m sort of keeping an eye on them. That’s enough, right?)

And I’m loving this.

I’m watching Calista Flockhart in all her floopiness. She was the original Zooey Deschanel, you know. She was quirky before quirky was cool.

Oh, and the unisex! Fishisms! Do you remember, “knee pit?” The dancing baby. Vonda Shepard. The biscuit! And Barry White.  “We got it together, didn’t we? We got it together, baby.”

And , of course, Robert Downey Jr. before he was Iron Man. Younger and devastatingly handsome. And crooning. I just watched this clip:

There’s something very comforting about watching this. I loved him on this show. He and Ally were magical.

For the length of this 40 minute episode I’m not an exhausted mommy anymore. I can forget about work frustrations, I can throw a blind eye to the laundry, and I can even, temporarily, keep myself from saying, “Don’t stand on the sofa! Don’t throw toys at the TV! Don’t fart on your brother’s head!”

(You’d be surprised how often that last one comes up).

So thank you Netflix and thank you Ally McBeal. Thank you for being the escape comforting me today.

Happy Friday, y’all.

XOXO,

Stef

Brave Girls Unite

My beautifully brave sister in law posted a note to my wonderful mother in law today on Facebook. I read it. I gasped. I loved it immediately.

This is what I need. This is what all women need. How could I have not known about this earlier?

It’s a site called http://bravegirlsclub.com/. The letter I read was from their Daily Truths emails which seem to always start with “A little bird told me . . . ” and then goes on to give you a daily boost.

LOVE, LOVE, LOVE.

I flipped through some of their Daily Truths and this one stuck with me. This is for my girls down in a hole of despair and pain. Baby, it will get better.

I’ll recreate the whole note here and link to it as well so you can see the pretty graphics:

 

Dear Extraordinary Girl,

The path to the best places for us sometimes must take a trip through the muck to get to the other side of it. Sometimes that truly is the only way.

When we are in the middle of it, it feels senseless and like such a complete waste of time (let alone not very comfortable)When we are in painful places in life, or even just annoyingly uncomfortable places, it’s important to remember that we are headed somewhere else if we want to be.

We do not have to stay stuck there. Sometimes it takes a while to work our way out of it, and sometimes we don’t know how we got there in the first place, but mucky yucky places on the path of life are always temporary if we are willing to work our way out of them.

We are not meant to stay stuck. We are not meant to be stagnant. We are not meant to be in pain for any longer than it is necessary to teach us. We are meant to shine, to fly and to have joy. Even when we are in a place where it’s nearly impossible to do this, there is always a way out of that mucky place. It is always temporary.

Please believe this, beautiful friend.

If you are in a mucky spot, just keep going, keep going ’til you get to the other side of it. It will be SO worth it.

Don’t you dare give up now.

You are so loved.

xoxo

Here’s the link: http://www.bravegirlsclub.com/dailytruths/oct1111.htm.

You tell me what woman doesn’t need a daily affirmation like this and I’ll then prove that woman is really a man. And sometimes men need them too.

YOU ARE SO LOVED. Every one of you.

Stef

Stress, baby – it’s a killer

I had planned to post about books next (today or otherwise soon-ish). There’s a books post coming – because I really do need some ideas for what to read next – but before I could write that post I got sick and I’m pretty sure the major culprit is stress.

I’m not a doctor or a nurse, but I can tell you that I firmly believe that overall emotional health can affect physical health. Obviously, when someone is stressed they can do things that negatively affect their health – binge eating, drinking, drugs, and other unhealthy decisions. But I also think stress can just slowly eat away at your overall health like a gigantic, parasitic leech.

Nom nom nom = die die die.

According to the American Psychological Association’s “Stress in America” report (2010) the common effects of stress are:

Body: headache, muscle tension or pain, chest pain, fatigue, change in sex drive, stomach upset, sleep problems.

Mood: anxiety, restlessness, lack of motivation or focus, irritability or anger, sadness or depression.

Behavior: Overeating or undereating, angry outbursts, drug or alcohol abuse, tobacco use, social withdrawal.

So let me see here – headache: check, muscle tension or pain: check, fatigue: check, stomach upset: check, anxiety: check, lack of motivation: check, irritability, sadness, anger: check, check, check.

Under behavior I would say social withdrawal simply because I’ve been less than social lately- less FB, less Twitter, less blog, and less social, in-person chitchat – but that could be due to time constraints more than anything. Or not. What do I know?

So what is the freaking dealio here?

Well, in a word, WORK. The entire month of September I worked some crazy long hours due to a staffing shortage (freaking people and their honeymoons) and, at the same time, an increase in workload. Then I was given even more work. Then I went on a short vacation last week in an effort to take a FREAKING BREAK but my first day back I worked a 12 hour day because I’m so behind from the 2 DAYS I took off. So how does that help? NOT AT ALL.

Now I could really go into quite the violent rant right now about my job, but this isn’t the place for it and if I did it could potentially get me fired (hmmm) so I won’t do that. Suffice it to say – I’m perpetually short-staffed and I do the job of about 3 different positions so I’m always pulled in 15 different directions at one time.

Monday – first day back from vacation and a 12 hour work day. Seriously didn’t get up from my desk to pee and grab some lunch until 3 pm.  Ridiculous. Came home at 8 pm, made dinner, promptly developed a headache – a headache that has not abated since Monday night.

Tuesday – headache all day. General feeling of malaise. Slammed at work, but determined to not work a 12 hour day again so I worked a typical day – 9-6. Felt marginally better at home when I was making dinner, but after dinner I sad down for bit and began to feel an overall ick. A little achy and shaky but not full-on FLU ick. WTF?

Wednesday morning – woke up with the headache, still have the ick. Stayed home with the intention of working just a little and then resting but, instead, I can’t catch a break and I’ve been working ALL DAMN DAY. At least I’m in my yoga pants, yo. (On a conference call as I type this).

Allergies are an issue, for sure. But this is MORE, and I’m pretty sure it’s stress.

So what’s the answer? I don’t know, but I think working more towards a healthy work/life balance is the best first step. I try to do this a lot but sometimes I execute it better than others. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have a lot of control over it.

I can’t slack off on my job otherwise I’ll lose it. I can’t request to do the “mommy schedule” without it negatively impacting perception of my work ethic/goals. (I know this. Just trust me on this one. LAME.)

I’m the primary breadwinner at my house (my husband works freelance and is the primary at-home parent) but I have to be mommy too. I sacrifice going on the field trips, being room mom, working on most of the homework, etc., but I try to be there for them when they need me and I take time off as needed. But as my work demands it I’m there for them LESS than I wish I could be. Yesterday my little dude called me when he got home from school and asked if I was going to work late again. I hate that.

Guilt and stress? Check.

My husband put his arms around me this morning and said, “I just want you to be healthy.” Me too, dear, me too.

Does it come down to working less and possibly sacrificing the security of my job at the same time?  Is there a happy medium?  Sometimes I think I find it and then it all goes woefully wrong.

I’m trying to get my work/life balance figured out so that I don’t have more health issues. I’ve been putting off going to the doc knowing that I’ll have to face that reality of a few things I need to change or start on some meds. I started working-out this summer to get healthier – but with the increase in work that has fallen by the wayside as well.

Sometimes the idea of working on my health just seems like so much WORK and it’s easier to just push it to the back of my mind. Please tell me I’m not alone in this feeling.

The whirlwind of life at it’s finest.

So do you all have any bright insight into how to manage life and stress more effectively? I would love to hear it. What do you do to keep yourself healthy? How do you deal with stress?

Yours,

Stef

A spoonful of sugar

Friends, I’m writing with a heavy heart. Someone I love very much is hurting and I can’t help her. But I can sympathize. And, even more importantly, I can empathize
Babydoll, I’ve been there. 
I have SO been there, more than once, and I’ve looked down at the depths of my despair, sprawled out in front of me, and I have crawled back up out of that pit. More than once. The thing is – it gets easier because the 2nd time, and the 3rd and the 4th, you recognize the path better. You see the signs and don’t let yourself get quite so far down that it’s harder to come back up. Oh, my girl, I have been there. 
But I’m okay right now. My little family unit – we are okay right now. Like, literally, at this moment. But tomorrow could change. And yesterday may not have been as good as today. 
Marriage & divorce, sickness & health, babies & kids, money (lack of) and bills, time and energy leeches, housecleaning, cars, pets, grocery shopping, dentist & doctors appointments, lack of sleep, lack of motivation, fear, worry, resentment, anger, and, finally, hopelessness and despair.
Show of hands: who has been there? Yes, no?
If any of you said no than, please, walk away right now. This blog, today, isn’t for you. Much love to you – but get the hell outta here and come back when you can say, “Oh yeah, I’ve visited that big-fat-monkey-ball-sucking-place and I have your back.”
Here’s my hand. Way, way up high.
I have lived, for long, long periods of time, with nary two pennies to my name. When I have maybe paid *some* of my bills and had 10 days until my next paycheck, $20 in my bank account, and four mouths to feed, two cars needing gas (to take us to daycare and work everyday), and somehow we all survived. I would make myself sick with worry (sometimes that still happens, but I try to let it go). I thought if I didn’t pay my bills by the due date something awful would happen. Or, at the very least, my power company, or credit card company, or whatever, would judge me and I didn’t want to be one of “those people” who didn’t pay their bills. 
You know what I’ve learned? Eff that. Life is too short to let something stupid like money dictate my happiness. I try, more than ever, to live in the moment these days. To enjoy the time I’m with my kids and not spend that time worrying about something that, at that moment, I’m powerless to fix. 
JUST LET IT GO.
But what if, just for arguments sake, that you’re broke and barely getting by on one paycheck. Your kids seem determined to throw every elbow they can at you – including getting diagnosed ADD, or Autistic, or OCD – and rant and rampage and say every mean thing they can to tear down your already fragile confidence. You know, you really do, that they aren’t doing it to be mean but because they are scared and confused and don’t know how to express it so they are lashing out at you – their rock – because they simply CAN and they know you’ll still be there. Because you are their MOM and you live your life for THEM. That, coupled with your guilt, all-consuming, mind-imploding, never-ending, wrack-your-body-until-you-are-sick GUILT for making the hard, hard decisions you have made that, yes, may sometimes seem to be a mistake but in moments of great clarity you KNOW, in your very heart, that it was absolutely the right decision – for you and for your little angels. But what if you just don’t have that clarity all the time and the guilt, and the arguing, and the signs of mental anguish you see in your kids, and the lack of money, and the all-consuming oh-dear-god-I’m-just-going-to-die feeling doesn’t go away. What if it doesn’t go away? And they still need you to be their rock? 
I’m not a psychologist and I don’t have any fancy answers . . . but I say: go to your happy place. Sound cliche? It is. Totally. But this is how you crawl out of that pit. This is how you shrug off the despair. You find your happy place. Your happy thoughts. Your silver lining. The brightness in an otherwise dark and dreadful sky. 
Let me ask you this: What is good in your life RIGHT NOW? Name one thing. Then, tomorrow morning, name two things. Then, tomorrow before bed, name three things. Before you know it you will have climbed out of that pit and, damn, if the world isn’t much, much brighter. 
Will your troubles be gone? Nope, not at all. They don’t just disappear. (I’m not delusional, after all). It’s all about perspective, honey-child. You know that old saying that you can catch more flies with honey? The same is true for walking through a quagmire of problems. Be confident and optimistic and things tend to work out a little better. Or at least you feel better about it and that’s the part that matters, right? YOU choose how you deal with problems. You, or me – we – are humans with thinking brains and, hopefully, above-average reasoning skills (my readers, you see) and we can conquer the negativity that threatens our healthy perspective. Ooh, I like that. Let’s say it again, shouting, in all caps:
HEALTHY PERSPECTIVE.
Can you parent effectively if you are simultaneously wading through a deep, dark pit of despair? No, right? Are you taking good care of yourself then? No, right? Then let’s turn on our thinking caps and dial into the healthy perspective channel. Then we can parent with love, compassion and understanding rather than guilt, fear and anger.
Choose to be happy. Choose acceptance – in your lot, in your kid’s foibles, and in the consequences of your decisions – and let.it.go. Let it all go. Choose to honor the decisions you made with faith in yourself. 
I love you, my dear girl. You are not alone. You are smart and beautiful and kind and devoted. Please don’t, any of you, forget that ever. Bring yourself back from that pit. Love yourself. Do what you need to to understand that. You deserve it and you need it. To be the best mom, person, employee and just the YOU in you.

Gentle readers – holla back if you’ve been there, por favor. Let’s build up one of our sisters. Mwah.