Tuesday, September 20, 2011

I Ran

It was amazing. It's a feeling that has been lost to me for too long. And it's been lost to my family.

Depression led to exhaustion, which led to little or no physical activity beyond what was actually required each day. My kids would call to me to catch them in the back yard or across the school yard. They'd ask to race to the van afterschool. I would run a few feet smiling and laughing with them. They loved how I always let them win.

It wasn't a choice. My body resisted every step of the way. If I did manage to get going, I could be completely winded by less than 1/2 a block. Running late to pick them up at school was painful. Parking is never good there unless you arrive early. Being late means you are parking a long way from the door. Being late means you better run if you are going to be there when the classroom door opens. Even harder if I've got Angel Baby with me, then I've got to carry her because her little legs don't go that fast.

Encouraging independence in my boys, I would wait outside and watch for them instead.  They could show how grown and responsible they are by remembering all their things.  Good life skills, right?  Everyone needs to learn how to organize themselves.

But I hated it. I thrive on being there. There is a small moment of happiness, love and surprise in my kids when I'm standing by the classroom door. They are fresh, I can see exactly how the school day made them feel. If I wait outside, those thoughts fresh in their minds have faded after conversation and play with their friends on the way out.  I miss out.

It's like when the trucker gets home from work. 15 years in now and I still love to be right by the door when he gets home. I like to welcome him. I get excited like a little girl, looking forward to the way the day changes when the whole family is home.  It's a thrill that I miss if I'm busy in the kitchen.  It's not expected and it's really not necessary, but it feels good.

Today, both boys wanted to come home for lunch. Art normally stays, but I allow exceptions to keep things fun. I was running a bit behind. The close parking spots were taken, so I squeezed in as close as I could. I hopped out and ran. Straight to the doors of the school. A speed walk down the halls to the other end of the school to meet Art (because we just don't run in schools, do we?)  I made it to the closed door just as the lunch bell rang.  

He was happy to see me there, happier that he didn't have to walk all the way home.  He gave me his little mischievous grin and said "race you!" He slipped out the side door and across the playground towards the front of the school. 

A few months ago, I wouldn't have even thought about it. I would have turned and walked back through the school to meet up with Macboy and walked slowly along to the van. We would have made it home in a decent time, no pressure.

But today, I smiled back at that goofy grin. Today, I jumped up and ran after him. We came around the corner of the school just as Macboy was coming out the other door. And seeing the smiles from both of us, he joined right in. We paused before crossing the street, then raced the rest of the way to the van.

We were seated in the van and laughing. They instantly shifted into telling me how the morning went and what's in store for the afternoon.  I didn't spend the drive home trying to catch my breath. I wasn't winded. I was happy and giggling right along with them. I made them try to guess what I'd made for lunch. Macboy didn't even complain that Art was invading 'his space' as he normally does when Art comes home with him at lunch.

I am so grateful that I really started to see the sunshine again. I was in place so dark, truly believing that 'this is it'. That the hard painful realities of each and every day were just plain old truth. That it was good for them to learn responsibility and take care of themselves. It was certainly easier than acknowledging what I was missing.

Before, I ran from life. I hid from reality. 
Today, I ran for fun. I ran for play. 
And it paid off in so many ways.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

September Is Better Than New Years

Have you ever felt this way?  Even before I had kids going to school, September has held a strong power over me.  In January, the routines are the same after the first. You are already in a groove and have to be well motivated to get past any rut you might be stuck in. I have never made any big sort of New Years Resolutions. At least not any that I could keep!

With September this is just not the case. I have been permitted the luxury of being able to work from home. This meant that there were no real time commitments through the summer and many long lazy mornings and late nights. For us, September restores structure to a disorganized life. It imposes schedules and deadlines which we hadn't faced for months.

I can't just allow the kids to stay in PJ's because I'm behind on laundry, I have to stay on top of it so they have clothes for school. I have to get up at the same time every day because they have to be up. I get a free pass, like a get out of jail card, to start over.

What better time to revisit my own personal agenda?

What makes me love my job?  What energizes me? What do I want to write and how to I want to spend my time?

I still have Angel Baby here during the day and that keeps me from becoming too wrapped up in schedules or lost in work. She forces me to take breaks, which I appreciate. I use her little distractions to stop, do something important (play, cuddle, sing, dance, pay attention to HER), and then I can switch tasks if needed.

I have joined up at a local gym and have been doing well getting there at least three times a week. The benefits far surpass simple health. My Trucker is getting some quality Daddy time without mommy interference. Yes, I do interfere... not intentionally, but simply by being here. They will almost always ask me anything before they ask the Trucker.  I am the one who is here the most.  I am getting breaks to focus on something wonderful... something other than my mom-duties, employee-duties and wife-duties. I am getting time to focus on ME.

The kids are getting to bed earlier, which is giving me time to unwind at the end of the day again. An hour or so can do such wonders for the following morning. Not to mention the change in my quality of sleep!

I am focusing on adding variety to our meals and also trying to eat regularly myself.

Simply put, September forces change and this time, I'm prepared with ideas of what I want to change.  I'm proud to say that my goals for September have been working very well. Here's the mid month recap:
Start strong, stay strong  I'm proud to say I'm doing well. Strong Start, strong days.
Exercise at least 3 times a week  Right on track!
Play with all three kids at least once every day (even if only 10 minutes)  The best and most FUN of my goals is going great!
Teach Angel Baby Something new  So far she is counting from 1 to 11 and recognizes most of the numbers by sight.
Eat Breakfast every day  This needs work, but I'm getting closer and I haven't had those days where supper is the first meal of the day.
Make Time for marriage (don't forget the hubs!)  Going well and one of my favorite things to focus on!
Be present, stay focused  I slip occasionally, but I am catching myself and returning to the moments.
Expect and allow imperfection  I'm feeling more calm and finding less chaos, it seems the less pressure you put on yourself, the easier it is to get things done.
Relish the small things This surprisingly takes more effort than you would think. It's so easy to overlook the little things in the face of a larger distraction.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

The Search For The Perfect Planner

Sadly, this tale has no happy ending.  Ultimately, the planner that I need doesn't exist.  I'm a work at home mom.  I try to volunteer at the school, spend time with the family, add time for writing and exercise and of course, fit work into the demands of daily life. I split my days into 15 minute increments to keep track and I run from the time I wake up until the wee hours of night most often.

So, I need a planner that is small enough to carry around and fit nicely beside my computer when I'm working. I need a planner with a to-do list that I can move from day to day.  I need a month at a glance, a week at a glance and a day by day that shows everything from 6 am to 2 am.  I created a form for myself that had my day only, this worked great, I could flag work hours vs. home hours easily. To make it large enough to actually write in, it takes a page per day. This page doesn't have room for much to-do or action items, so I need a separate list. 

My work tasks are logged in an internal system and my time is also entered there. Logic screams that I should only be tracking my time in there. But there are errors. Occasionally, items don't save properly and occasionally the user (yes, me) makes mistakes and has nothing to compare it to.

Enter the time tracking cell phone app. This works great for tracking my time on the go, but then it gets messy. The reports don't break things down in a great way for me to quickly enter my time on the work system. The paper planner wasn't great for time entry either but at least I had back up. In order to get a list from the app that I can work with, I have to email it to myself, then spent time sorting and filtering and transferring the time.

There are so many things I need to keep track of, and ideally it would be all in one place, right?  I'm trying to track my fitness and exercise. I need to keep track of how much water I drink, because I never drink enough. I'm trying to track my work hours. I need an ongoing list of to-do's for the homefront. I need a list of appointments and outings. I need to keep track of the kids daily needs (so I never have to try to remember when the last time Angel Baby had a bath was) and their events.  I need to keep track of my blogging for two reasons, first of which is to make sure I do spend time writing and second is to make sure I'm not spending TOO MUCH time writing.

The worst part of it is that if it is not written down, it will likely get forgotten and I will have to spend hours going over my open tasks for work, digging out school calendars, staring at the missed cleaning jobs or checking for empty dresser drawers in the mad search for school clothes.

My brain went downhill seriously each time I popped out a baby, I should have stopped earlier!

Once upon a time, I used my pretty Flylady Control Journal. It managed a lot of my routine items. I still couldn't fit work into it and I still needed my calendar for other items, but it kept me on track. The problem was that it was too big. It took up too much space. A big Binder, no matter how pretty, just always seemed to be in the way. So it got forgotten.

I stress myself often over the perfect way to manage everything. At times I just give up on trying to manage anything.  I know that I can do this, I've done it before. I don't have to do anywhere near as much as I did in the past. It's silly to think that those things matter. Really, if you are going to look at my baseboards and check for dust... you deserve to find it!  And really, it doesn't matter what kind of planner or agenda you have if you don't have the motivation to do what's in it!

Today I downsized. I'm going to depend on sticky notes and a small student agenda. Just a week at a glance type of book, exactly like the one my kids bring home from school, only smaller.  I'm not going to fill it with details. I can map out my tasks generally, note my hours for work as a total, list appointments or commitments and I can find a way to track my fitness if I want to. The point of exercising is to just go, I'm not hugely concerned about when or how, just the IF. 

I'm a compulsive planner. There is always a better way to do everything. But this time, I am doing something completely unlike me and I'm letting go of the details. My September goals are attainable and simple. This is one area where I will allow the imperfection and just try something different.

How do you keep track of your time?  Got any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Something To Look Forward To

The sun is shining in a beautiful blue sky today. I've got a bounce in my step that has been missing too often lately. I have the scent of the remaining birthday roses floating across the table in the light breeze from the window.  It's a great day.  

Looking Forward!
Nothing special, really. Laundry and working. Not a big list of exciting plans. Just another Wednesday in my life.  But I feel good.

I was having a really hard time figuring this out. What is different?  Surely having the kids back in school didn't MAGICALLY make things better. This is only day 4. Where did this peace come from?  I've been sleeping better, eating better, exercising more. I'm managing my time like it's easy. Floating from one thing to another.  So what happened?

Macboy was kind enough to shed light on this situation.  You see, he hates school. He has since kindergarten. It's not any specific thing, he has good friends and he likes his teachers. What he doesn't like is wasting time. And repeated practice of a skill you possess feels like wasted time. He loves math and science because you can 'do something with it' but he loathes writing. Writing notes that are already written in a text book?  WASTED TIME.  Summarizing a book to a teacher who has read the book, (aka. book reports) WASTED TIME.  The rough part is that many times I agree with him. He learns in a different way. I had to write everything to remember it. Once I've written it with my own hands, it's pretty much cemented in my brain.  Not him. He doesn't even look like he's paying attention but can often repeat everything you just said.

Back to the point here, he has been coming home happy every day so far. He didn't have the massive stress levels before the first days that we've experienced every year so far. There were some signs, but nothing huge. He's getting himself out of bed in the mornings and he's ready to go.

I asked him what is different this year. He said "nothing." I probed a bit, as I'm likely to do, (which usually turns out bad because I remind my kid of a problem he had forgotten) And he said that summer was just about too long. There were too many rainy days, too many hot days, too many friends away, all of that.  He said the beginning of summer is great because you know that you have two months to just do whatever you want. 

Being back to school gives him something to look forward to. I was moved by this observation. Really shocked. He is absolutely right. Everything feels better when you have something to look forward to.  The days go better. When I'm moping around the house where all I can look forward to is making dinner for everyone and then washing all their dishes, I'm not very happy.  But I've found somewhere to go, something to do for just myself and I love it. I have never been one to enjoy exercise (wonder where my kids get it) but I love this membership I've got. It's not about reaching my goals or losing weight or anything like that. 

I can spend my day looking forward to a break. Some time to myself, for myself.  And the difference is huge.

I let this thought steep in my brain for a while and then I brought it up with Macboy again. I mentioned that I was surprised he was looking forward to school everyday. It's a great thing to know that you have something to do everyday. Things aren't quite as boring, even though sometimes the days seem to go a little too fast.

He looked at me kind of puzzled. I reminded him of our conversation a few days before. Then he laughed at me.  

"Mom, I don't look forward to GOING to school, 
I look forward to 3:30 everyday when it's done."

No matter what it is, no matter how big or how small, give yourself something to look forward to and you will keep moving forward!

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Shifting Focus For September - Goals and Plans

Start strong, stay strong
Exercise at least 3 times a week
Play with all three kids at least once every day (even if only 10 minutes)
Teach Angel Baby Something new
Eat Breakfast every day
Make Time for marriage (don't forget the hubs!)
Be present, stay focused
Expect and allow imperfection
Relish the small things
I need to keep myself moving ever forward. There will be no going back to those dark places I was in over the summer. I'm confident I can do this and I'm taking the right steps to get there. I'm not aiming for perfect, I'm looking for comfortable, happy, relaxed. School has just started and we are planning our last camping trip of the summer, after this weekend life will slow down and then I can seriously look at my situation and figure out what has to go. There is something that just makes it 'too much' and I need to remove it. Just not sure yet what it is!

September will be a great month.