Space.

A few months ago, for this week, I scheduled Owen for a goalie camp with his soccer club. They have a number of camps in different locations all summer, but this one was perfect – in the same town as my job.

On Sunday night, surprised I didn’t get an email with information and directions, I went online to check the registration.

It wasn’t for this week. It’s NEXT week – the week we are away at the lake for our annual vacation.

I’m working on figuring out with them what the hell happened – the guy in charge of camps said they did move some camps, so hopefully I didn’t just completely mess up my dates.

But in the meantime, Owen didn’t have camp this week.

I’m fortunate with my job that I can bring him with me to work – my coworkers adore seeing him, and as long as he has some kind of screen to keep him occupied, he’s actually fine there.

But it means that I have NO break from parenting and responsibility.

Yesterday I woke up feeling claustrophobic with everything; packing for the lake, work, juggling my workout schedule, parenting, dishes, laundry, animal care… BAH.

So I asked our babysitter if she could stay a little late. Thankfully she agreed. And I totally went and did a little shopping, then had dinner with friends.

Walking around the shopping center, I could feel myself lengthening, unwinding, relaxing, breathing a little deeper. I found a pair of cute sandals on sale. I had a cocktail and a salad for dinner. And I laughed and chatted with my friends and smiled the whole way home.

I often feel guilty for my need for Me Time, like I’m a crappy mom because I need it so much. I mean, really, think about it: I have one kid who is pretty well-adjusted and a part time, flexible job. I get an hour a day to myself to work out. Really, I have it good. Suck it up, Karen, and be an adult.

But then I realize: a few hours to myself with no responsibilities refreshes and relaxes me. Getting space makes me a better mom, more able to choose happy and love over stress and frustration.

I need space. It’s just part of being me.

So I’m going to keep trying to make space for myself, especially for the next month or so while Jeff is traveling for work.

Do you need Me Time? How do you make space for yourself?

 

Posted in Challenges, My Tribe, Out of My Head, Parenting, Rants, Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Life Tetris – Travel Edition.

Two nights ago, I completely lost my shit on Owen after a long day of juggling my schedule to make his day work, yet getting nothing but defiance and attitude from him. I screamed so loudly that my throat hurt afterwards. It was awful.

Top three Lowest Parenting Moments right there, people.

In the silence that followed, where I was literally biting my tongue to keep myself from saying anything more, repeating to myself, Love, Karen. Start with love. Love. LOVE! and breathing from my belly to help calm down… Owen asked quietly, When is Dad coming home?

It’s been three weeks, and we’re struggling a bit.

At the end of his first week of travel, Jeff told me that his project was extended and that he’d be on the hook to be traveling most of about 10 weeks, instead of the 3 which we originally thought.

From my perspective, we’ve been waiting for this to come for nearly a year now – ever since he took the position with his national organization; we’ve been fortunate that he has been able to work on his clients remotely before now.

And it’s not like he’s gone for weeks at a time, either. He leaves Monday morning and is home Thursday night.

But still, it’s tough. I take everything day by day, juggling as much as I can with the hours I have in a day. By Friday, I’m done with decision-making and scheduling and I can’t even deal with the question, What do you want to do for dinner?

Owen is struggling, too, and it’s at a level that I can’t always see. The defiance and attitude and frustration with me, likely, has a lot to do with missing his Dad, and he’s taking it out on me. Maybe not consciously, but it’s there.

And it requires a lot more patience from me, which I currently don’t have.

So round and round we go, Owen and I.

It’s hard.

This weekend is Jeff’s annual fishing trip to Ontario with his cousins. Owen and I are traveling separately to visit my grandparents – a trip that I am now really excited about, because it means we aren’t home on a weekend where Jeff is also away.

But because Jeff is getting home on Tuesday, it means he’s not traveling next week. We have him home for nearly a whole week, which will be good for all three of us.

And our week vacation at the lake is only three weeks away.

We can do this.

Right?

Right.

 

 

Posted in #BrainDump, Career, Challenges, Marriage, Out of My Head, Parenting | 2 Comments

Books vs Electronics.

Jeff won a Kindle Fire a year or so ago, which he never used. So this past winter I stole it so I could watch episodes of The Magicians on Amazon Video while I was on my bike.

It’s been sitting in my attic, next to the (mostly) unused trainer now for a few months.

On Monday, I saw an ad for a book series called “The Secret of Spellshadow Manor” with a note that said, Harry Potter fans, you will love this series! I went to check it out on Amazon, and saw ANOTHER ad for a free 30 day trial of Kindle unlimited.

As many books as I want to read in 30 days? Yes please!

So I dusted off the Fire, signed up for the trial, and downloaded the series.

And after reading one book on the Kindle, I have to admit: I’m completely torn.

I LOVE paper books. They make me happy. It doesn’t matter if it has that new book smell or I’ve found a handwritten grocery list used as a bookmark in a library book – I love them equally, without reservation, with all my heart. I love the feel of a book, turning the pages, the smell, everything.

Books – real, actual books – make me so happy.

But here’s the thing: I read books too fast. (I once read Stephen King’s It in a day. Albeit a long day where I did nothing but read and my parents made me stop reading to eat lunch AND dinner… but I finished it that day!) So books don’t LAST. They are over too soon.

And whenever we travel, I have to bring a number of books with me, which I end up finishing early in the week. Not only do they end up being dead weight in my bag on the way back, but I’m also bored on the way home.

So I love the idea that I can have as many books as I want in one small device. I don’t have to schlep to the library to take out books I want. And with the 30-day-unlimited books thing, I can get the book I want to read right away – I don’t have to put it on a hold and wait a couple of days until it’s available, then schlep to the library to pick it up- instant gratification, baby!

I can read from my library if I really want to; they have electronic books I can download to a Kindle.

But I have to say, I HATE the actual act of reading on the Kindle.

First of all, it doesn’t even LOOK like a book. I’m basically reading a computer screen. And I worry that reading at night is going to affect my sleep with its Blue Electronic Insomnia Light.

It doesn’t smell like a new book, and I can’t find handwritten grocery lists in it.

And it definitely doesn’t give me that feeling when I first open a book – that shivery wonder of what’s ahead whenever I slowly turn that first page.

It’s totally not the same as a real book.

I’m going to finish out my 30 days and enjoy the sheer number of books I’ll be able to get through, but then I’m going to go back to the library and get real books.

Do you have a Kindle? Do you like it?

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, Challenges, Mindless Posts, Other Stuff, Writing. | 3 Comments

Missing.

Six weeks ago, Owen came home from school with a note that said he had decided to try some instruments in his school’s music program, and he was a candidate for the cello.

He was SO excited about the idea of playing an instrument; for a couple of days it was all he talked about – trying to decide between the cello – which his school thought he should play – and the viola, which he said he wanted to play. Ultimately, he went with the cello.

In the meantime, though, he convinced me to dig out my clarinet and play something for him.

After I graduated college, I played in a community wind ensemble for a few years. I gave up playing for good when I was pregnant with Owen – my first trimester exhaustion was enough to kill my desire to drive to Cambridge for the evening rehearsals and then drive home.

Not just that, but I was discovering an uncomfortable truth: I didn’t have the ability to play the way I heard the music in my head. I could HEAR it the way it was supposed to sound, but I just couldn’t make it sound that way.

So I quit playing altogether. And I do other things – I sing in the car and listen to the classical channel a lot. I tell myself that it’s okay to be a music appreciator. And it’s been okay.

When I pulled out my clarinet and tried to play some of the music I saved, I was completely intimidated. Holy shit, did I actually PLAY THIS STUFF? Wow, I used to be good. I tootled around and fudged a couple passages to Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto.

He was impressed, then bored satisfied. He hasn’t asked me again, though he has said we can make a family band once he learns how to play.

My clarinet sits in my office now, just under my writing desk.

I haven’t stopped thinking about it.

Making music was a part of my life for so long that I wonder if it’s keeping me from feeling whole. I have this feeling that maybe there’s a part of me buried somewhere.

And I have this THOUGHT that keeps niggling at me.

I want to make music again.

I honestly don’t have the time right now to try and play the clarinet again; I can’t commit to the practice time I need to get up to speed. I know it’ll come back, but it’s been 10 years and I kind of suck, and my days are spent already playing Life Tetris, and I’m not willing to trade off my triathlon training or writing for music.

BUT. There’s a chorus that rehearses on Monday nights two towns away from me, where new members are invited to audition for placement (aka: they won’t cut me!) in September. They do two concerts a season and take the summers off.

I might not be able to practice my clarinet in the car while I’m driving, but I sure can practice singing.

I think I might try it.

 

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, Ancient History, Challenges, Goals, Wellness | Leave a comment

#MicroblogMondays: Bedtime Magic Rediscovered.

Microblog_Mondays

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

**********

As it turns out, Jeff’s been having the same sleep issues as I have. We sleeps fine when he’s in his hotel all week but has trouble when he comes home on the weekends, just as I do. We both believe it’s the bed.

So I did a little research on Friday.

A side note: Did you know you can buy mattresses on Amazon? AND THEY ARE REASONABLY PRICED? I legit thought we were going to have to spend three grand on a new bed AND go to a furniture store to try it all out. But apparently in 11 years the internet has become a viable channel for the purchasing of bed frames and mattresses.

After a particularly bad night of sleep for both of us Friday night, over coffee on Saturday morning, we went ahead and bought a new memory foam mattress from Amazon which was highly rated by a number of websites. Because we currently sleep on a traditional bed with a boxspring, we needed a new frame as well, so I found a platform frame on Wayfair that was on sale.

Both were WAY less expensive than I expected.

Both are being delivered tomorrow.

The internet totally rocks.

In the meantime, this weekend, Jeff took down our frame and headboard and put our old mattress on the floor. I feel like I’m in college again – sleeping on the floor WHEEEEEE! – but I have to be honest: the past two nights I’ve felt a lot less movement and have slept pretty well.

So I have high hopes for my sleep in the coming weeks.

Posted in #BrainDump, #FindingMyHappy, #MicroblogMonday, Challenges, Marriage, Mindless Posts | 2 Comments

Bedtime Magic

Made it to Thursday! Woooo!

The weeks are LOOOOOOOOOONG when Jeff travels, not going to lie to you.

But I’ve discovered an interesting little fact: I actually sleep through the night when he’s not here.

This is a big deal, people.

I NEVER sleep through the night. I’m usually good for at least 2 or three wakeups a night; bathroom breaks or changing my position or being too cold or too hot or just general waking up.

Last week, the first night I slept through the night and first woke up at 5:30 – with my alarm – I thought it was a fluke.

But I’ve done it pretty much every night since.

Yeaaaaaaaaaah.

Um, go travel some more, Jeff!

I’m going to put it on the bed. We have a bed and frame that I’m pretty sure we bought when we moved into our house nearly 12 years ago. It’s perfectly comfortable, but I do feel it whenever Jeff turns over.

And he’s wiggly. There are many nights where he’s completely asleep but JIGGLING HIS LEGS. You know, like that nervous thing someone does when they hate to be where they are, that foot wiggle thing? Yeah, he does that in his sleep.

So my current theory is that I can feel his sleep jiggling, and it wakes me up a tiny bit – not enough that I’m aware it’s him, but enough that all of a sudden I’m awake and I have no idea why.

I’m going to test it this weekend, of course – he’ll be home tonight! But I bet it’s time for a new mattress.

Meh. I hate mattress shopping. Do they have any where you can’t tell you’re sleeping with someone?

Do you sleep better when your spouse is away?

 

 

 

Posted in Challenges, Marriage, Mindless Posts | 1 Comment

Body Language.

People who didn’t know me before running and triathlon often assume that I have no issues with weight or body image. Often someone will be talking about putting on weight, then say to me, You don’t have this issue, though – you’re so thin. I bet you have a hard time keeping weight on!

Which is so far from the truth, I can only laugh.

I started hating my body when I was a little older than Owen, when I went for a beach trip with my cousins, who were tiny and cute in their swimsuits, while I – a head taller – felt like The Hulk stuffed into my pink polka dot bathing suit.

Then my teenage years, then college, where I packed on the pounds… then infertility, pregnancy, postpartum.

When I lost weight, I expected I’d FINALLY look at myself in the mirror and love my body.

It hasn’t worked that way, though. For a long time I still saw myself as what I called Fat Karen every time I looked in the mirror, – and I kept trying to lose more and more weight. I weighed myself daily. I controlled my calories probably a bit too closely. I ran really fast, and more than was scheduled, and hated my rest days because it meant dinner anxiety, where I fought myself over eating salad versus a meal my family wanted. And I was hungry all the time.

Then I totally bonked during two marathons I ran because of underfueling. I started to get slower and slower because of overtraining. And I was tired of being hungry.

So I stopped.

I haven’t counted calories in a few years, and I’ve stopped weighing myself, and my coach holds me accountable to make sure that I’m not overdoing my training workouts. And I largely eat and drink what I want, without anxiety or fear.

I still don’t like the me in the mirror, though. I’ve gained weight, and it’s more than I like to see, and it gathers in my belly and my thighs, and every time I look in the mirror it is ALL I could see. There are days where I look at myself, roll my eyes and say something like, Ugh, and walk away, refusing to look at myself for the rest of the day. Or I change out of a cute dress into something else because the dress makes my belly look huge.

And it strikes me that this is no way to live. Goodness, how awful is it that I can’t even LOOK at myself? Where’s the self-love in that? And how can I teach Owen about tolerance and love for others if I can’t even look at myself in the mirror?

So I’m doing an experiment.

I stand in front of the mirror, every day, tell that mean voice who wants to talk only about my flaws to shut the fuck up, and I stand there until I can find something nice to say. I stand there and look at myself until I find something I LIKE about my body, something I can keep with me all day.

For example, yesterday, the purple dress I wore made my skin look amazing – I’m tan from being outside and since it’s summer my skin isn’t dry and cracked for a change. I look active and healthy, and I love that about myself.

I’ve only been doing this for a short time, but I have the sense it will be really helpful.

 

Posted in #BrainDump, #FindingMyHappy, Challenges, Out of My Head, Strategies, Wellness | 1 Comment

A Vacation Day.

I love my kid SO much, but the summers are hard for us: we really seem to struggle, relationship-wise. We fight a lot. A LOT.

He wants no rules or boundaries around his computer use, for example, and we are enforcing time limits.

He wants to sit in the front seat all the time, which I am not comfortable with, safety-wise.

He wants to stay up until 9:00 every night, no matter how tired he is.

Every boundary we set, he questions and argues and tries to negotiate – mostly with me.

I know this is because of me; I believe really strongly that, as a parent, my responsibility is to listen to my child’s opinion on something – even if I disagree. And it’s really important to me that Owen feel heard and given space to feel whatever it is he feels.

So that means I hear it all.

I know this is part of having a kid – especially an only child, who often is more comfortable with adults than with other kids, who, because we try and treat him equally and fairly, feels it’s unfair that there are rules that apply to him and not to Jeff or I.

But woof. It’s exhausting.

And I really, really hate being the enforcer parent, the one he argues with; there are days where I feel like he’s angry with me all the time. That’s not the kind of relationship I want with him, one where I’m tired and frustrated a lot.

Do we really have to fight about this? Can’t he just trust that I’m his mom and know what’s best for him?

But I’m his mom, and it’s what I need to do. He’s a kid, and his questioning will serve him well someday.

I get it.

Doesn’t mean I have to like it though.

Yesterday, Owen woke up  tired and grumpy (again, probably went to bed too late, but whatever!). At breakfast, he asked if he could skip camp for the day, because, Mom, it’s really hard sometimes to start the week.

Which I totally get. Mondays are hard.

But there it was: the challenge.

I could say no, and enforce the boundary that we paid for camp, he goes no matter what. If I did that, he’d fight me on it, and we would start yet another week off with a fight, and Jeff is traveling, and this is exhausting, and god, why can’t we just have a normal day without any fighting?

Also, it’s summer. My boss doesn’t work on Mondays, and three out of four of my coworkers are currently on vacation. I worked late last week, too, which means I was ahead of my hours for the week.

Really, Karen, can’t you just take a day and hang out with your kid?

So I said yes.

I did have a few conditions: I needed to go to work for a bit, but he could come with me and play the computer for a bit while we were there. I also needed to swim for a half hour, but I could do that at the pool in the afternoon when we were there.

He agreed.

And it was one of the most enjoyable days I’ve had in a long time. I got some items crossed off my work to do list. He actually swam a few laps with me when I did my swim there. We played catch in the pool for a full hour. We played frisbee.

At dinnertime, he was like a whole other kid; cooperative and helpful. When I told him we couldn’t watch a movie because it was 8pm and it would be too late (and also, his screen time that day was up), he didn’t argue with me.

It felt like a vacation.

Maybe the pushing boundaries and trying to pick fights with me is really about the fact that he wants time with me.

So for the rest of the summer, I’m going to try and and clear an afternoon or two a week so that he and I can go do something fun.

 

 

Posted in #BrainDump, Challenges, My Cute Kid, Out of My Head, Parenting, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

#MicroblogMondays: The Path Not Taken.

Microblog_Mondays

Not sure what #MicroblogMondays is? Read the inaugural post which explains the idea and how you can participate too.

**********

Maybe it’s because I was 18 and didn’t have the resources to handle the emotional upheaval, or it’s something that happens to everyone in times of crisis, but I have two very distinct time periods of my life: my life before Amy died, and my life afterwards.

They both happened in college, as it were – Amy died after my freshman year. When I came back to school for the first semester of my sophomore year, I felt like I didn’t quite fit back into that life.

The After Me was very different than the Before Me.

I stopped writing, quit being a music major (and colorguard), and took on more “responsible” undertakings. I changed my major to English, knowing that it would help me with the analysis required to be a lawyer, and took Latin classes to bolster it. I became the fundraising manager of the marching band and joined the percussion section.

The professor of the drumline was known for his way of breaking everything down into manageable and repeatable pieces; mastering the basics before moving on to something more challenging. For him, it was okay if you weren’t perfect, but he did expect you to work really, really hard.

From him, I learned that a constant, consistent work ethic yields results. If you want to do something – anything, break it down into small pieces, then focus and work hard, you can do anything.

Because of my experience with him, I am who I am today.

Because Amy died, I am who I am today.

This weekend, though, walking around my college campus, I could see both the Before Me and the After Me.

And it made me wonder.

What was the path NOT taken?

How different would my life have been if my cousin hadn’t died?

Would I have found my way into the life I have now anyway, because of destiny or fate?

Would I have a completely different life?

Obviously I have no answers, but the idea that one event can change the course of someone’s life so completely is fascinating to me, and I haven’t stopped thinking about it since it occurred to me.

What do you think? Is there an event in your life that you can point to that altered the path you were on?

 

 

 

Posted in #BrainDump, #MicroblogMonday, Ancient History, Deep. | 4 Comments

A Weekend For Me.

How is it only Thursday?

Longest. Week. Ever.

This coming weekend, I planned a solo backpacking trip – my first in nearly 10 years. It was the perfect weekend for it – Jeff would be home after a week of travel, we had nothing on the calendar, and it’s the very beginning of my training cycle for my next half ironman, so missing a weekend of triathlon-specific training wouldn’t be a big deal.

I was SO looking forward to the weekend. Silence and nature and hiking and getting away from everyone and filling up my soul… so perfect.

Then the weather intervened. Up north, it’s going to be a whole weekend of rain and wind and colder-than-summer temperatures.

The whole weekend.

Not my cup of tea.

The weather here is going to be okay, though.

So I decided, okay, no backpacking. I’ll just stay home, do my regular triathlon training, spend time with my family. I mean, it’s totally good. I’ve really missed Jeff this week, and it’ll be good to hang out as a family.

But I was really, really disappointed, too.

I spend most of my days playing Life Tetris, juggling all my responsibilities: work and parenting and being a wife and house chores and training and sports and being social. It’s my life and I really do love it, but it gets draining trying to fit it all in sometimes, especially when Jeff is traveling.

I could really, really use some me time.

So, with Jeff’s okay, I decided to implement Plan B… and booked a room on Saturday night via AirBNB in Northampton, MA. The weather there looks okay, so I’m bringing my bike and I’m going to do my long(ish) bike ride on Saturday. And write. And sleep. And I’m going to visit the Peace Pagoda and Montague Bookmill and Emily Dickinson’s grave and the UMass campus to see the newly renovated Chapel.

(No doubt I’m going to feel old, like my time at UMass happened to someone else, and I’ll note ALL the changes to campus and town. It has been 20 years. Eep.)

It’s not exactly the same as backpacking for three days – only one night away. But hopefully on Sunday when I get back to my family, I’ll feel a little more refreshed and ready to tackle another couple weeks of Life Tetris.

 

 

 

 

Posted in #FindingMyHappy, Meditation, Parenting, Wellness, Writing. | Leave a comment