03 January 2013
A new year, a vaguely arbitrary human construct in the vastness of the universe, symbolic nonetheless, gives many a sense of new beginning, a chance to make changes, a point in time to fashion new hopes, the start of a 365 day journey. For me it is a place I look back on the "last year" and look ahead at all the potential of the "new year." The last year has served to strip me down, break me, and leave me metaphorically naked. I guess in so many ways I could view this as a fresh start, almost like being reborn. And yet, all I really feel is lost.
At the beginning of a journey it would seem that you are not lost, usually you know where you are because you are starting out from a known place. At the end of a journey, I assume you would also know where you are, otherwise how would you know it was the end? In a life journey, the end is pretty obvious and rather certain. I guess I am not at the beginning of a journey, nor am I ready to be at the end. I find that I must be in the midst of one. In the last year, I started a new portion of my journey and I guess I must have lost the map. Both circumstantially and through conscious decision I find myself wandering in uncharted territory. It seems time to chart where I have been, learn to embrace my fear of the unknown and build the strength to forge ahead. Only then, I may have any hope of finding new and extraordinary wonders. It is time to start making my own map. I think I need to lighten my load and to do that I need to get rid of some baggage and make room for new tools and treasures.
Lightening the load. Please do not feel obligated to read further. Some of what follows may seem like whining, it is intended only as a cathartic exercise, for me. Anyone who wishes to understand why I feel lost, may find insight in what I need to purge.
I find myself constantly coming round to this internal need to reach a place of honesty about my current place and situation. I have so many thoughts on the whole thing I am not sure I can get it all out, and it is sure to be a little less than clear in some areas. I am not clear myself on some things, but am in search of understanding and this may help.
Life has been a blur for the past 3 years. Many changes, many decisions, many ups and many downs. Three years ago, we were living with my grandparents in order to save money for a house of our own. This plan was a bit less effective than originally intended due to the fact that I was laid off from my decent paying job, just shortly after hatching the idea. We looked at it as a blessing due to the fact that it would relieve some of the burden of my being without work. I puttered for far too long, dreaming up poorly completed ideas and eventually getting a fill in job as a administrative substitute with the school district. I became desperate for a place of our own, letting too many silly ideas and knee jerk opinions push me into a blind pursuit of "independence."
Long story short, I pushed us into the first place that seemed workable. We had a list of necessities and I managed to justify a great deal to make the place we now live fit. I just wanted to be me, to be an adult, to have "my own dirt." There are many pluses to our decision, there are many minuses too.
Fast forward to the honest truth. We live in a single wide mobile (I initially insisted on referring to as a "manufactured home." Pride and denial talking.) It is quite possibly the least ideal structure to live in the Colorado Mountains, at 9000 ft. We have a lovely property with loads of potential, but very little possibility of my insane ideas ever coming to fruition. (But maybe 2013's action word, believe, will lead to better opportunities.) This is not so much the tragedy I make it out to be sometimes, though comments made shortly after we got our "home" made it hard for me to feel good about my forcing us into this place. At the outset the whole thing seemed workable and freeing.
My second knee-jerk decision in retrospect seems like the beginning of the downward spiral. I decided I wanted to add a little person to our lives. There is so much "beautiful" about this decision, it makes me feel guilty to even shed light on the troubled aspects of the whole thing. But honest is honest. We made a "plan" and then it promptly went completely a different direction. Again long story short, we were more successful than initially imagined and everything went into fast forward. All this was very workable. I was going to handle budget, insurance, etc. to make sure we handled things to the best advantage. It was going to be great - a grand adventure.
Then Ivan lost his job, and with it our benefits. It is a scary place to be in the midst of a pregnancy and suddenly have no care. This led to a mad scramble, a lot of avoidance of certain "options", a lot of putting pride aside and many hard decisions. The story of the scramble alone is a somewhat interesting story in itself, but today we will leave it at that. The end result of a lot of tears, research, phone calls and interviews was that our only option was to accept the assistance of the state. I felt like the worlds eyes were on me, judging. I have heard enough cruel comments in my life about "low life creeps living off the government" to make me more than ashamed. It was a hard decision, but I justified it by putting my child ahead of my pride. I figured, we would be as undemanding as possible, and we would get back to where we were, things would sort and be fine.
Pregnancy was fun, I loved the whole experience. I got used to our situation, Ivan went back to work at his old company, still no benefits, the company was too small and profits to low to offer employee benefits. Ah well, it was a decent place to work and a necessary service to society. It would all work out, right?
I had a dream. I eagerly wrote out our birth plan, prepared everything for our natural birth experience, even fighting to find an obstetrician who would support me in my dream. Third trimester arrived, a healthy little girl in our future. It had been a great pregnancy, easy. Baby is breach. I try to cling to the hope that she will still turn, we have options. I try inversions, daily, three times daily, using my ironing board propped up to lay on, clothes pins on pressure points in my toes, flashlights shown to my bulging belly, any old wives tale will do. Bent the ironing board in my desperate attempts to cling to my dream birth. All along I prepared for a natural birth, frankly terrified of a c-section, and more so the spinal anesthesia. Last days, we try an external cephalic version (turning the baby manually from the outside), to no avail. We set the date for my "scheduled c-section." I felt ill. Babies are supposed to pick their birthdays, like magic, a miraculous call to be born that only they can hear. I couldn't even pick her due date, the doctor was off that day. Ambivalence starts to creep in.
Light in the dark. The day after my final appointment before the dreaded "scheduled c-section" I take a job at the school, figuring we set the date, this kid is not coming anytime soon. My water breaks at lunch passing period at the high school. Awkward. Then it all went quickly from there, resembling nothing in my carefully thought out birth plan. I cling to this day to the high points. My baby chose her birthday, I got to experience my water breaking, a few contractions - SHE IS BEAUTIFUL AND HEALTHY.
The darkness closes in. Despite everyone's assurances that I would be fine, no way I would have any trouble after, not to worry about postpartum depression, things did not go well. Dreams were ripped from my grasping hands. Having a c-section is like having the end of a gripping drama erased, missing, lost. I almost feel like I never had a baby. I went from pregnant to having an infant, there was no closure to the 9 months of waiting and preparing. In 15 minutes it was done. I was the least important person in the room that day, cut off from the entire experience. Never even touched my girl before she was whisked away and I was forgotten in an instant. I was okay being second fiddle to our beautiful new life, I expected it. I did not expect to be lost, alone, broken in recovery, slipping into a state of detachment and pain.
I didn't feel a lot that day. It really was mostly just blank. I didn't feel a lot in the days, weeks, months that followed. I was lost. I was alone. Promises that were made were quickly forgotten or possibly avoided. I felt avoided. I know my attitude was off, I know I was hard to be around. The loneliness served to solidify my state. I took good care of my new girl. I didn't find a lot of pleasure in the new tasks, but I did them well. I felt like I couldn't feel. Things seemed dark. I was depressed. Very few people came. I imagined in what seemed like a distant past, that people would want to come. They didn't. I wanted help, but was afraid to ask. Afraid to admit that I was unsure. Few offered. I slipped into a state of perpetual motion. I started to feel pain, not physical, just the ache of regret. Regret for making plans, the regret of the cruel fate, the regret of each day. I regretted not being joyful, I regretted not doing more, I regretted living in a haze of depression. I moved through the motions wanting there to be more.
For a year I went through the motions. My girl turned one. I tried to make it a good day. Something that would look good in pictures, so that someday I could look back and remember how "good" it was. Much of the first year felt like trying to make memories, trying to fabricate emotions. I cared for the little one, I loved her, but why couldn't I feel anything. Some say that when you birth a baby the "normal way" that there is a "cocktail" of hormones that is released that initiates, even kick starts the bonding process. I would believe it. I didn't feel like I had the right connection, like I missed some crucial part of the process. But I cared! I know I did. I just couldn't feel it the right way.
The darkness gets darker. In the last year, the gritty realness of life settled in. Our life slowly imploded. We were holding on by our fingernails already, trying to keep our little ship afloat until Ivan could finish his teaching degree. We would hold out, the job he had would be a great transitional job, good on a resume. We could make it, just a little over a year, we could hold on just a little longer. We tightened out belts, budgeted and budgeted some more, squeezed pennies, accepted a little assistance here or there, putting pride aside for our girl. Ivan's company self destructed in the spring. Our well pump broke, my car quit. I had quit working at the school to be a stay at home mom, one last dream to cling to. Besides, school was just about over, substituting wasn't even and option. Ivan takes a few odd jobs, sends out resumes. The dog itches. I sink deeper into the dark. More resumes sent. Dog itches. More things wear out or break. Nothing can be replaced, some too expensive to fix. More resumes, more itching.
We start tying knots in the metaphorical rope. We can hold out. Ivan will have more opportunities as the school year approaches. We hope. Our pride takes another hit. Mustering all my honesty, I relate this detail of my journey. We discover bedbugs. I am devastated. I cry. A lot. We throw our bed away. I don't care much anymore anyway. We have figured it out up to this point. We can do without a bed too. We scour the house, throw tons of things away in my paranoia. We treat the whole house and cross our fingers.
Car still dead, dog still itches, more resumes, and now no bed. Having no bed seems like a last straw where my pride is concerned. I don't want people to come over anymore, it is too embarrassing. I feel even more isolated. Dog must go to the vet he is so itchy he has licked his toes into infection and is ripping his gorgeous hair out. No answers yet, just a lot of expensive possibles. School year starts, still no job. Things seem bleak. We are having trouble making ends meet. Our grocery budget has been tight and now it is taking a hit to pay bills, glad I like beans. Life seems impossible. Pride stripped, we return to Human Services.
Small ray of light. Ivan gets a job offer. He takes it. It pays less than unemployment each month, but we pray it is going to be a good decision in the long run. I give up on being a stay at home mom. Resumes go out. No interest. I go back to the school, at least they want me and the job has flexibility. Dog gets fleas. I see a counselor. I struggle with guilt issues, depression, regret, the list goes on. Dog meets something stinky. Twice. (Poor guy.) We get assistance, I feel ashamed to use it. Think of my girl.
My girl. There was a wonderful thing that happened in the last year. I learned the joy of being a mother. Finally. I learned to feel again. I found me again - in Phoebe. She gives me strength, she gives me hope, she makes me smile inside and out! She is the truth in my life. She has helped me struggle through the things I need to struggle through. She inspires me to love Ivan more. She has taught me to feel again, to dream, to play, to hope, to try to believe.
Things outwardly have in many ways gotten worse. We are certainly "impoverished," holding on by a thread and the good graces of other peoples generosity, living check to check and never having enough. The truck broke in a big way. The dog has been in to the vet consistently to little improvement, I struggle with worry over my "first baby," my fuzzy buddy. Insurance is due this month, I have more money being hedged on my credit card than I have ever charged in my life. We eat by the grace of food stamps, we have medical coverage for the first time in years thanks to Medicaid, kind people have anonymously helped us over the last two months. I push guilt and shame aside every day. But Ivan and I are trying. We work one and a half jobs between us, he goes to school full time, we parent full time, we keep hope. We are working on belief.
There is light in the dark. I remind myself everyday that we are moving forward. That we have hope of better jobs and new opportunities. In the mean time, I am learning to ask for and accept help. I am dealing with issues I should have dealt with long ago, learning to be a better person. I am growing and so is Phoebe. We are all growing together. We are learning to be a better, stronger family. Ivan and I are learning to be a better couple. I am learning to be more honest. I am learning to turn hope into belief. I am finding inspiration and motivation. Discovering who my true friends are, letting some friends go and trying to seek out new friends and directions. We will make it. We have to.
So here I am a little lost. But I am finding my direction. I am embracing the truth of where I have been, lightening my load through honesty, building strength to forge ahead, and learning to use belief as a tool. I may not know what is ahead, and that is a little scary, but I am mapping a new course from here! On to a new part of my journey.
03 May 2012
There are so many benefits it is really astounding! I can plan meals so that they use up the excess ingredients I purchase for a particular meal, which leads to great per serving savings. My menu can take into account the days when I need a quick meal because we have evening plans or days when it would be beneficial to put together a slow cooker meal, such as days when we are out of doors for the majority of the day and it is a joy to come in to the delicious scent of a meal that has practically prepared itself! You can even benefit nutritionally from planning your meals ahead of time! If you only buy the necessary ingredients for that weeks menu, you will have less excess in the house and you can go as far as planning on fitting certain nutritional needs into your menu. I have found this especially helpful with a toddler that gets their nutritional needs met more on a weekly scale rather than a daily one. And I have found that it is impossible to mindlessly snack when you literally have no random junk food in the house. Your shopping is more focused, and so your eating is more focused. You also tend to stick to the plan better, which means you are spending fewer meals simply grabbing something easy. So you save on money and nutrition! The benefits are really quite boggling.
You can make your weekly menu as detailed or as simple as you prefer. I like to try and plan each meal and snack as best I can, because in my busy world it is helpful to have a plan that lays it out for me, especially on the days when I can't think straight and need a piece of paper to tell me what to do next. I also tend to find myself in less of a bind when I have preplanned snacks on hand and either the schedule changes or my daughter has an off food day. I know that whatever she decides to eat that day is going to be healthy and that the plan can easily be switched up or adapted to fit our needs in a mere moment. I can make a meal earlier or later in the week easily, I have all the ingredients already on hand or I can skip a meal entirely and simply move it to the coming weeks lineup in the event we get a last minute meal invite that we just can't pass up or we have to be elsewhere in an emergency. I feel more flexible because I have a plan, rather than the chaos and frenzy of the weeks when I don't have a plan.
The coming posts will get down to the nuts and bolts of the meal plan, in that I will be sharing my own tired and true recipes that will help in meal planning. I will also add tips and ideas as they seem fitting. My hope is that less and less you will find yourself facing the dreaded question of "what to have for dinner tonight." Happy eating.
13 January 2012
How often we find ourselves at the end of our day and wonder how we could possibly not remember what we had for breakfast and where the twenty dollar bill we had earlier got to, how often. Frightening really, the times we come to our destination and find ourselves musing about the drive, as we don’t remember a single turn of it. Is it possible that we are missing characters in our own lives? Quite possible, it seems to me. More importantly, how can we replace these vague moments and forgotten turns, with something more lucid and engaging, even ultimately more satisfying? Possibly the best term I can fill the void with is “Conscious Living.”
Conscious Living is a way I remind myself to be a player on the stage of my own life, to live in the moment and savor more of life at every opportunity. Simply choosing to be more aware and conscious of the life we are moving through can have benefits beyond even the awakening experience. As we move into a New Year, symbolically filled with potential and new opportunities, I would challenge any and all to live consciously. Wake in the morning and resolve to pay more attention, act with more purpose, and be accountable in your own existence.
There are so many examples of how Conscious Living can change our little worlds it is hard to know where to start! So many ways we will benefit from the extra thought put into an action or decision, so many ways we could potentially save time, money, even heartache. The most simple and mundane example could be getting behind the wheel. There are studies that indicate that we would have vastly fewer vehicle accidents if we could eliminate even part of distracted driving. Some interesting studies can be found at www.nhtsa.gov, the website for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. As individuals how easy would it be to simply choose to be more aware behind the wheel? We could all easily practice more present moment thinking, choose to pull over to use cell phones (there actually was a time when we all survived without them), never eat behind the wheel, leave 5 minutes earlier to eliminate distraction from being late, dress before we leave our homes, and the list could go on and on. What would we benefit from these simple (though difficult for many) acts? On the somewhat insignificant end we might see better traffic flow. Bigger possibilities might include lower car insurance premiums, even if they are only for you as the individual who improves your driving record, but maybe as big as better premiums overall! On the earth moving end of the spectrum, we could lose fewer loved ones as we see fewer accidents on our roadways. This is Conscious Living in action, and all it takes is a simple decision to be present in your own life moments.
There are so many other ways that choosing to live consciously can find us in better places. I hear so many times how people cannot figure out where their money goes. I can tell them exactly where it goes. It goes into the cup of coffee they “had to have today, because today was just ‘one of those days.’” They needed it, but how quickly the moment is forgotten. How quickly the fact that most days are “one of those days” is also forgotten. Then there was the snack that was picked up with the cup of coffee because breakfast was forgotten in the hurry out the door. After that there was the quick bite at noon, because who has time to pack a lunch these days? By the end of the day twenty dollars, and probably more with the convenience of credit and debit cards, has slipped though tired fingers mostly unnoticed. How easy it would be to save a few hard earned dollars if we just thought about each one of those transactions. Simply waking up in the morning and pledging to think about your actions through the day could be an enlightening experience for many and if that enlightenment led to even a few small changes, perhaps it could even be a life changing experience. Maybe more money could be found in the budget when you put a cap on the unconscious spending you do throughout the day.
How many projects would go better if we put just a tiny bit more thought into them? If we simply live in the moment and think about what we are doing. Numerous trips to the store could be avoided, messes and damage lessened, just for a bit of thought and planning. We would probably forget fewer things as we leave our homes and we would probably lose fewer things while we were out! We would probably find that we are capable of very good decisions when we put a little thought into the equation. Our diets might even improve if we live a bit more consciously! We might find ourselves eating something new, rather than simply plodding along in the same rut, because we never think about what is outside of the rut. We might ultimately eliminate that irksome moment in each day when we anguish over what to make for dinner, because we have already given it due thought!
There is even the off chance that you might find life just that little bit more beautiful when you choose Conscious Living. Maybe you will be aware enough of your surroundings to notice the intensely beautiful sunset on your daily commute home. Perhaps you will actually hear the wit blossoming in your young child as you actually pull yourself out of the stupor to listen to what they have to say. You may even find an incredible person staring back at you when you look in the mirror with a new consciousness. We can all be amazing individuals if we only take the time and make the effort, but we must be aware, alive and conscious to really do that!
As you live more consciously you may find that you have more time, because you put some thought into your morning routine, were conscious of the time and your needs. You may find you have more money, because you saw that beautiful sunset and you didn’t need that “pick me up” to get through another day. At the very least you should know where that twenty dollars went! You may find you are more happy, because your interactions are more vivid and real and more meaningful. So many wonderful things are out there just waiting, but only for those aware enough to notice them.
I challenge each person who might read this to just think about what you have read. Just by thinking about it, you have been more conscious even for a moment. Let consciousness become part of your daily life, start to live in a more vivid and clear world. The best part is that Conscious Living won’t cost you anything, all it takes in the power you have inside you already. All it takes is a decision, a decision to bring your world into focus! You might be surprised at the good things you have been overlooking! Live Consciously!
23 November 2011
Pilgrims and Plymouth Rock aside, Thanksgiving is about so much more than our school days history lesson. The holiday was not even formalized until 1863 at the urging of a most vociferous woman, wife and mother, Mrs. Sarah Josepha Hale. Mrs. Hale spent her life extolling the virtues of simple domestic pursuits, championing the institution of family and fostering fierce national pride! While days of thanksgiving had been celebrated throughout the early colonies and states, Mrs. Hale envisioned a greater symbolism for a day of thanks. She quite literally campaigned for a day to bring families together, symbolically uniting our nation as a family of sorts and celebrating the simple act of being thankful.
Whether you are spiritual or not, have a little or a lot, are young or old, man or woman, there is nothing wrong with being thankful. The religious inclinations of our forefathers should not deter any person from taking a moment out of their busy day to find something good about their life and say a little thanks. It doesn't matter if you say those thanks to someone, it is only important that you say them. In fact, for those of you who banter endlessly on my Facebook page about the merits and purposes of Christmas and Halloween and every other day of the year, stop to reflect on the fact that Thanksgiving is simply on the last Thursday of November. Any religious connotations attached to it were and are purely in the heart of the first celebrators and those who still lift up their thanks to God. Reflect on the intent that this should be a day to unify families of all sorts and our greater national family, to find the good in life from the smallest domestic pursuit to the incredible notions as big as faith and freedom! Take a moment to remember what Thanksgiving is not about too! (Even if you are thankful for football and sales!) Take a moment to really revel in the pure simplicity that should be Thanksgiving. Maybe you will even decide to boycott the stores and their Black Friday sales that tear families away from the table and more or less eliminate a day of rest and celebration in the pursuit of profit, fueled by material greed. Perhaps instead you will choose to spend the day with your loved ones, creating memories that can never be bought or sold, silently speaking out for the things you value and believe in.
As we sit down to dinner, I hope more than one will reflect on the innocent joy there is in sharing a meal. How few people, much less families, still share a meal? How much can we gain through this simple act? The connection over a shared meal can be indescribably more fulfilling than any electronic connection we may make throughout a day. I, personally, think love can actually be spread through homemade pumpkin pie! Revel in the satisfaction there is in making something with your own two hands to nourish people you love! The pure and simple nature of Thanksgiving should carry with it no commercial agenda, it should be as religious as you wish to make it, and it should remind us of the simplicity and joy of being with people we cherish. Your family may be your relations or it may be the family you have chosen for yourself. Your thanks may be many, or your thanks may be few. But to be thankful is a great thing. Let Thanksgiving be just that, about simple thanks and simple fellowship. Let us all give thanks and pass the pumpkin pie!
07 July 2011
I guess we will see what recovers over the coming weeks and when in doubt there is always next season!
22 June 2011
This week we have a rose popping open on the rose bush we earlier saved from spider mites. (At least we hope they are gone...) It is a new member of the garden family this year, gifted to us by a friend on Mother's Day at Phoebe's First Tea Party! It smells sweet and spicy, with the prettiest vibrant pink blooms!
We also have chive flowers on the chive plants! The chives are return friends, who were planted last season! I must say chives are so hardy that I might just grow a ton of chives, I mean they taste great on potatoes and even have pretty purple flowers!
Many other things are sprouting, but we will wait for them to get going before we meet them! Now if I can just get the dog to stop eating half the things I plant we might get somewhere with this garden thing! When more things bloom, I will meet you in the garden!