Twelve months of new initiatives to save my soul and my sanity

Most of what I have blogged about so far this year are issues around personal, inner-spirit change. Mine, specifically. And this afternoon, as I was (very glamorously and fabulously) hanging up the wet laundry to dry (er, change that to frugally, perhaps?), a thought occurred to me. I have twelve complete months ahead of me and the number twelve is not overwhelming or too daunting, so that if I do just one new behaviour or make one different choice each month, if nothing else, I’ll be closer to reclaiming my soul and my sanity.

So, to start the year off right, I’ve decided that the emotional and mental energy that I use trying to convince other people that I mean what I say, that I am sincere in my compliments or kind observations is actually draining the life out of me.

So, I give. I am sitting this dance out.

For the next month, if I say something nice to someone, for example, “You look great!” or “You’re so funny” or “That slab of cake you’re eating really brings out the colour of your eyes.” and I get any response other than “Thank you!” or “Effin’ A!”  or some other positive and accepting response, I am not going to try again. I am not going to argue and try to convince the person that they look good, that they are funny or have the cakeiest looking eyes ever. Conversations will start to sound something like:

Me: You look so nice today!

Other: Yeah, sure. I’ve gained a ton of weight and my hair looks like shit.

Me: K.

or maybe like this:

Me: You are so funny! You make me laugh! *laughing*

Other: Yeah, but you don’t really think that I’m funny.

Me: K. You’re right. *no longer laughing*

And just maybe, if I have enough of these conversations, change will happen and I can start having these conversations:

Me: You look so nice today!

Other: Thank you!

Me: You’re welcome. I love it when you look so happy!

or even:

Me: You are so funny! You make me laugh! *laughing*

Other: Thank you! *looking pleased and also laughing*

It seems like such a small thing, but I feel like it would make a significant difference in my overall outlook and emotional wellbeing if I could just stop trying to make anyone believe me and accept the truth, as I see it, rather than just giving them the space to feel however they choose to feel. I can no longer own everyone else’s insecurities and issues. I have enough of my own.

And no, I’m not going to turn into a blistering, blustering, angry asshole (how is that for a colourful visual?). I am still going to offer sincere compliments and kind observations, but I am no longer going to do the “Noooooo, you are lovely! Yes, you ARE!” dance with people. I’m sitting this one out. If I say it, I mean it. If I meant to say that I thought you looked like ten pounds of chum in a five-pound sack, well, chances are I wouldn’t say anything at all. Because, while it shouldn’t be true, I do find that unfortunately, I am in fact, a complete failure as a liar. So simply dreadful, that I refuse to even try anymore.

So, the next time I tell you that I like your face, do not tell me that I don’t. Do not ask me why I like your face and try to make me justify it. Do not try to make me convince you that I like your face. And do not try to convince me that I do not, in all actuality, like your face. Either, just accept that I like your face or I’ll accept your (baseless) assertion that I don’t. This dance of insecurity and neediness is no longer my jam.

Reclaiming my sanity, step one.

~A.

 

Giving thanks and asking questions

I love blogging. I love sharing information, recipes, stories and issues with everyone who reads the blog. I love writing something that resonates with another person, makes someone think about an issue in a new way or brings an issue to someone’s attention for the first time. I love the give and take of blogging, the sense of ‘finding one’s tribe’ and the sharing of ideas and quips. The thrill that I feel when any one of you leaves a comment or thought, sends me questions or emails, shares my posts with others in your social circle is akin to the thrill that I get when presented with a fresh-from-the-oven gooey pizza (and I can promise you, my excitement is almost pathological in those moments). My cup, she runneth over. And please do not even get me started on the jubilation that a new follower, reader or ‘Like’ can induce. So, for that, I must give enormous thanks. But thanks are cheap. So I’m giving thanks AND asking for your input (it’s that give and take one thing in motion, see?).

And now – the whole Question!

What are your thoughts on blogs that run contests, giveaways and the like, (interspersed with their regular content)? Are they gimmicky? Are you less likely to take them seriously or more likely to visit regularly to see if they are offering anything for free that interests you? Are you more or less likely to subscribe, Like, Share, and Follow or unsubscibe, Unlike, and Unfollow a blog that incorporates giveaways into their line up? What do YOU think about giveaways and contests on blogs. Yay or Nay? Go for it or Go away?

Please, I want to hear from you! The more comments, opinions, thoughts the better. One of my goals this year is to use 2017 to start realizing my vision for The Keswick Blog. And let’s be honest, between you and me, without readers, and without bringing interesting and engaging content to the table, it is just another online diary documenting my madness for my own amusement. And that is not what I’m going for here. I am already overexposed to my own madness as things currently stand.

Comment here on the blog, on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, email, or whatever your preferred method of communicating is – Contests and giveaways, yay or nay? Why? And what would  you want to see more or less of this year? 💁🏼💁🏻‍♂️

~A.

Conversations with kids thus far in 2017

As some of you know, Miranda and I just returned from an adventure at the hospital that included an over-night stay. While we were waiting for a room in the Hospital for Sick Kids E.R. Miranda announced to me, rather urgently, that she needed the bathroom. So, off we went, dragging the IV trolley beside us in search of a bathroom. We found one close by.

“Oh, wait a minute, honey. The seat is a mess” I told her once we were inside the little bathroom. She looked over her shoulder at the toilet, “Ugh! Who PEES like that?” she asked incredulously. Before I had the chance to answer, she spoke again, in a low voice while looking downward and slowly shaking her head. “Boys.” she said. “Boys pee like that” she sounded so mournful, so disappointed and just so defeated that I had to stifle a chuckle. She cut a comical, yet heartbreaking figure, all six-and-a-half years of her wearing nothing but dark grey cotton tights and 3/4 sleeve purple top, now cut up the side of the left arm to accommodate her temporary plaster cast, which was supporting her broken elbow.  Her other hand was incapacitated by the i.v. drip and sponge block the nurse had just finished setting up moments before. Her beautiful blonde hair a tangled mess of curls, hair elastics and sleep. And, as I hurried to clean up the seat for her, using the hospital one-ply and a prayer (honestly though – who does pee like that? And more importantly, who leaves it like that?), I had to agree with her, “yes baby, boys sometimes pee like that.” And, hoping that she would sense my solidarity and hear me telepathically, I thought “and sometimes, it’s just enough to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. I hear ya, kiddo.”

**************************************************

And then this exchange just happened:

Paxton – Mummy, do you know what I’m really good at?

Me: Everything?

Paxton: Yes. But no. Really. I mean do you know what I’m really good at?

Me: What?

Paxton: I’m really good at sticking my head in a bucket of water and getting an apple.

Me: Bobbing for apples? That’s what you’re really good at?

Paxton: Yup! *beaming and proud as punch*

Me: … *with visions of a 50 year-old Pax living in my basement flashing through my mind*

Thank you, Mr. Einstein for this invaluable insight and truth. I am a believer.

Transition pains and birthday wishes

Lucky me. The New Year and my birthday conveniently occur with only five days between them. This means that I have barely the time it takes to eat a cheesecake before beginning (and failing at) New Year initiatives and deciding (and failing at) birthday initiatives. So, while earlier I blogged about my objectives for 2017, now I find myself trying to put words around more personal objectives and meanings as I pass into yet another (early) year of my 40’s.

It is my birthday on Friday, so the time to get this done is now as short as my skirts once were.

Turning 40 did not hurt. To be honest, it was painless because I did not (and do not) feel it. In my mind, I’m still the deranged, scattered, dippy teenage girl I was (except now I have a credit card, a car and a bunch of kids to drive around). Until now, I don’t think any age has really struck a chord with me. But this upcoming birthday has been bothering me, and I think that I have finally figured out why.

It is because this year, I feel very much like I am on the cusp of a brand new chapter and a whole new way of defining and living my life. And that is terrifying and exciting, devastating and energizing, mournful and celebratory, all at the same time (this may be a side effect of my basket case mental health status).

I have always prided myself on being smart and certain. Not muddled, not confused, not unsure. But muddled, confused and unsure is where I have been residing lately, during this ‘life’ changing of the guard, so to speak (and no, I’m not menopausal, thankyouverymuch).

This birthday is a milestone for me. It’s not a traditional milestone, it’s not 40, 45 or 50, but then, rarely in my life have I done things how and when I was supposed to. Chalk it up to a potent combination of the ‘nature and nurture’ forces from which I was created.

This year will be the year that I finally lay to rest my belief that ‘one more baby’ is reasonable, possible and ‘right’. This year I lay to rest my belief that my life circle and purpose is incomplete without mothering one more child. This year I move forward knowing that I have five beautiful, healthy, wonderful(ly infuriating) children who depend on me to help their worlds make sense and who also need me to  love them, protect them, feed them (possibly the most important item on this list), and mother them. Alas, this is the year that I stop thinking of my body in terms of its function and ability to produce and directly sustain the life of another and start thinking of it more as the irreplaceable, important and worthy entity for the sake of MY survival. To sustain MY life. Because my survival matters too.

Change has never been my forte. I am a planner, perhaps a bit of a control freak (as much as hippy-dippy and control freak go together, that is). I’ve been told (more than once) that I do not shift gears very easily or quickly, and as much as I dislike the sound of that or what it feels like it means about me, I have to begrudgingly admit that it is a true statement. I like things done my way. On my schedule. And I’m not terribly good at trilling “plot twist” and moving on when presented with an unplanned-for idea or event. But I am working on it. My personal goal for this year is to be better at plot twists and plan changes. Oh, I’m not giving up my lists, but this year their role will shift from that of an unforgiving dictator to more of a gentle guide for my days.

I’m looking forward to my birthday this year. I’m looking forward to doing the work that I need to do on myself, to be a different, if not better, version of me. I am looking forward to figuring out who I am and how I fit into this world now that my baby years are behind me and my future is still wide open.

~A.

This is the year

So, in keeping with my modus operandi, this post was slated to be published on the last day of 2016 and it is now January 1, 2017. To state the obvious, it goes without saying that I failed to achieve my final writing goal of 2016. Procrastination rules supreme, you can take the girl out of lazy but you can’t take lazy out of the girl, and all that. Moving right along (because enough about me being a slug), I am placing a fair amount of pressure on myself to achieve certain goals in 2017. I’m not sure that I would or could call them resolutions, but they are very definitely (hashtag-less) goals. Despite my joking and propensity for self-deprecating humour, I actually did accomplish a fair amount in 2016. As always though, I am left feeling as though I let myself (and everyone else) down.

And no, not because I’m still on intimate terms with the extra 40 (or 50) pounds I’ve been in a complicated relationship with for the past five years. Not because I have STILL not written a novella, novel or even a really great blog post. Not because I remain a low-wage earner. Not even because my house is still in a state of renovation and disarray, with no end in sight. No. I am left, here at the end of 2016, feeling as though I have let myself down because I know better and yet consistently do not do better.

I know that I should exercise (walk, lift, yoga, whatever), and yet I do not. I know that I should give up chocolate, french fries, Diet Pepsi, chips, meat, refined white flour, sugar and sweeteners and yet I do not. I know that I should be going to bed earlier, getting more sleep, rising earlier and getting more done in a day, and yet, I do not. I know that I should be writing every single day  and pursuing other creative and artistic endeavours and yet, I do not. I know that I should be ever patient, calm and serene with my children, and yet, I am not. I know that I should get those paint cans shaken (again) and get to painting rooms where it makes sense to do so, and yet, I do not.

You see? I know better and yet I do mediocre. I make excuses for myself. I’ll tell myself that I have a  lot to do, I have a lot on my plate with running the house, raising the kids, being a wife and mother, with working more and more hours outside of the home. And of course it’s acceptable that I don’t make time for myself or time to pursue what makes my spirit sing, you can’t make what you don’t have. Of course it’s acceptable that I burn the candle at both ends so that nobody, myself included, has a chance of getting the best that I have to offer. Of course it’s acceptable to take on more and more and more and to not acknowledge how overwhelmed or unfulfilled or unhappy I may be as a result. Of course it is.

Not.

So this  year, this year of 2017, will be a kinder, gentler year for me. A more accepting and relaxed year. No, I’m not quitting my family, marriage or work (going from low to no-wage earner is not an option), but I am going to work on actually (rather than just thinking about) making myself more of a priority and giving myself the time, care and attention that I NEED in order to be happy, fulfilled, healthy, and truly able to do better in all areas and give more to all the people in my life. Because the more I deny myself, the more that I am denying the people around me, which is counter-intuitive to my ‘healer and helper’ nature (stop snickering! I am very nurturing when I’m not being pulled in twenty directions at once).

So, instead of a list of resolutions (a.k.a. promises that I have no real intention to keep), this year I’m going to say ‘yes’ more and ‘no’ less. To myself.

How about you? What are your plans for 2017? We all have the same 365 days, what we choose to do with them is what will make the difference between having a year that we enjoy and celebrate and having a year that we merely survive.

~A.

Parenting is just one long conversation with myself, apparently.

Like many parents, I spend a fair amount of my life time and energy stressing out about and arranging for my kids to clean their rooms, organize their belongings, purge broken toys and to donate outgrown and un-played with games, and generally try to keep the chaos that surrounds them to a minimum. And my smalls are awesome. They never say “no,” they just don’t get the job done. Either they forget and start playing, or they stuff crap everywhere so that it “looks” cleaned up but it’s one bursting cupboard door away from a “random crap tsunami.”

But today? Today was different. Today, I really thought that I had finally achieved a new level of success in my quest. Today, one of them had *finally* taken my words to heart and actually cleaned off the top of his dresser without me asking/telling/cajoling. It was pure magic, I tell you.

This is what I saw when I walked up the stairs and glanced down the hall toward his room:

This is the K’Nex ferris wheel set that he received for Christmas. He spent a lot of time building it and is very proud of it. So, naturally, I assumed that this pride of accomplishment had finally given him the motivation that he needed to finally clean off the top of his dresser without being asked, so that he could display his build.

I was woefully, dreadfully wrong.

After taking a moment to marvel at how great the cleaned up area looked, I made a mistake. I glanced down and to the right.

Everything else that once cluttered his dresser top, now lies in a hoardy pile beside his dresser. 😭

This is not progress. This is not the direction in which I was hoping to go. Ugh.

Three days until the New Year. Think there’s still time to impart the importance of not living in a disorganized, hoardy mess? Yeah. I didn’t think so either.

~A.

Miscellany with a side of stabbiness

Everyday, I update the little Christmas countdown board. When I forget, my 10 year-old is very good at making sure that a) I know it and b) I fix it. So, that’s covered.

The shopping is coming along. There’s already WAY TOO MUCH stuff in this house and Christmas isn’t going to lighten the load any. I quest to declutter is a losing battle right now. I’m feeling quite defeated, I must admit. But, on the upside, I have enough Lego now to build myself a new minivan when mine gives up the ghost.

My weight and my stress level are creeping back up, so I know that it’s time to do something about both those things. Likely tending to one will resolve the other, so really, I just knocked that list down by half. Go me!

Airmiles announced this week that Airmiles will no longer expire. Well, that’s just fucking great. Now that I redeemed almost all of them because I’d rather have shit I didn’t want or need that lose TEN YEARS of collecting effort. Not impressed. Less than a month before they are all set to expire, Airmiles ‘changes its’ mind.’ Um. fuck you very much, Airmiles, you asshole.

And, in more amusing news, last week, I was accused of English being my second language, by someone who, by my estimation, (based on her online writing) is functionally illiterate in English. Are you eff’ing kidding me? To be fair, her exact comment was: “Thanks for the long comment but you may not fluent in English? Read my post again.” Her badly written original question was looking for ways that she could improve her son’s French (“Can anyone give advice if I want my 11 year old son improves his French ?”). I gave her a few suggestions and at the end threw it out there that immersion isn’t for everyone, so not to stress too much if English is a better program for him. Vowed not to help stupid people again. Well, I will, because I can’t say no, but only the polite ones from now on.

Also, if Spellcheck tries, just one more time, to auto-correct “stabby” to “shabby” I am going to get all kinds of cranky. I am NOT shabby. Nor am I “stubby.” But I most definitely AM stabby.

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Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

~A.

Confirmed. We are going to Hell in a hand basket for this one.

I’m a bit pensive today. Feeling a bit older than my years, and much older than my usual 17 year-old maturity level. And for the first time, it occurs to me that somehow, over the years, bit by bit, we’ve taken Christmas from this:

The Nativity Scene at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, NY

The Nativity Scene at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City, NY

and this:

A Charlie Brown Christmas scene.

A Charlie Brown Christmas scene.

and turned it into this:

and even worse (if that’s possible), this:

And the result is THIS. WE have turned Christmas into THIS for our children.

And then we wonder why society is shot to shit, why we are faced with one crisis after another, why people are so rude, angry and aggressive now, why Britain is leaving the EU, why Donald Trump is the POTUS-elect, why a man can receive three months for brutally raping an unconscious woman, why more and more places are legalizing marijuana use and why the middle class and women represent a higher percentage of heroin use and related-deaths than ever before.

Are we using twerking Santa’s and Frosty’s as a salve for our scared and wounded souls and bruised psyches? Or have we just given up trying to regain any semblance of innocence, joy and citizenship, even during the season of peace, joy, love and giving?

31 days and counting until Christmas. Is there still time to undo ANY of this damage?

Reflectively yours,
~A.

The problem is not kids these days. It’s us.

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As much as we want to blame the internet, the kids, the teachers, the schools, the media, none of those things are the problem. This is not a fun message to send or receive. The problem with kids these days is us. Children watch the adults around them (and their parents more specifically) and what they observe shapes the foundation for their views on the world. These observations help to develop how they, themselves react and behave towards others over the course of their day. And let’s face it, the majority of their day is spent at school.

Many parents and adults are polite, considerate, lovely people. They are not the problem (clearly). Many other parents and adults are loud, rude, angry, confrontational and reactive. They are the problem (clearly).

Today, the common thought by professionals in the education and helping professions is that children need to learn how to “self-regulate” and that being a successful “self-regulator” will resolve much of the behaviour and acting out that many schools are forced to deal with everyday, all day, with a greater number of students than ever (at least so it appears based on anecdotal evidence). Behaviours that are often serving as a barrier to accessing a solid education by all students, not merely the ones acting out.

Self-regulation is an excellent idea. It is a great theory. It fails in practice. Why? Because until the PARENTS are able to self-regulate and behave in polite and civilized ways, children do not stand a chance. Until the PARENTS begin to support educators and the importance of being educated, their children will continue to act out.

Children’s behaviour is NOT a school board’s responsibility. Children’s behaviour is the parents’ responsibility and if the parents need support, then THAT is where to school board can provide assistance. Educators and school staff are not there to RAISE children. Schools exist to educate and support children and help to guide them toward successful and productive citizenship. Schools are NOT daycares, babysitters or nannies.

This goal of educating and guiding children cannot be met when parents abdicate their parental responsibilities once their child(ren) pass through the doors of their first school. I have had parents say to me ” meh, it’s their [the school’s] problem to deal with, he’s with them all day. He’s perfectly fine at home. What do they expect ME to do about it if he’s not listening to them (replace ‘listening’ with any of these: hitting, acting out, swearing, fighting, refusing to work, spitting, running away, bullying, etc)?”

My opinions on raising children, school, and parenting are not popular and I accept that. I did not become a mother in order to have a bunch of new friends, or create my own clique, or to be popular with tiny people. I became a mother to raise good humans and pass down some of the skills and knowledge that I had gathered in my lifetime (turns out some those skills were somewhat less developed than I thought!) and sometimes that means that I am about the most unpopular person in the house, possibly the planet (just ask my kids!).  I am the primary caregiver in our family, and as such it is one of my jobs to set and enforce the majority of the routines, rules and consequences. I do not make excuses for my children’s behaviour when they make poor choices. They must take responsibility for their choices and they are held to a higher standard than “I don’t know” or “well, everyone else…” I do not let things that are wrong slide. We talk it out and problem solve what they could do differently next time. They do not get away with blaming others for their choices. Because they always have more than one choice. We all do.

I am not writing this from a place of infallible, perfect parenting. I am not the perfect parent. My kids are not perfect. One thing that I am though, is constantly aware, constantly watching, listening and seeking better ways of doing things, handling situations, and guiding my children (and the children with whom I work) toward making conscious choices rather than following the crowd, acting on impulse or simply being reactive.

And you know what? Sometimes it works. And sometimes it doesn’t. When it does, great, when it doesn’t, we try again.

One thing that every parent needs to know (in my unpopular opinion), is that it is the PARENT’S job to parent, that as a parent that you, and you alone are your child’s first and most important teacher. With that responsibility comes the requirement to work WITH educators and other helping professionals to ensure that your child is giving and receiving all of the effort and cooperation possible to ensure a successful result. When parents are combative to or confrontational toward the very people they are depending on to raise their children, it only serves to escalate the problems the child, and therefore the school and the rest of the children, must deal with.

This quick post has grown slightly longer than I expected. In the end, here is my wish list for all of us:

  1. Demonstrate the behaviour we want our kids to copy;
  2. Instill a love of learning and a sincere belief in the importance of being educated in all areas of life (i.e. history is not pointless and French is not dumb);
  3. Bring back social etiquette and manners – across the board;
  4. Place the responsibility of parenting back on the parents and provide support where needed and when necessary;
  5. Allow children to be children and to make mistakes without rushing in to ‘rescue’ them from all natural consequences of their choices;
  6. Learn, teach and share problem solving and dispute resolution skills with children from a young age (but it’s never too late to start);
  7. Spend less time on ‘devices’ and more time interacting, in REAL LIFE with our families – no more technological babysitters and distractions;
  8. Realize that not everything is personal or requires your response. If I say that I don’t like the colour blue, and your shirt is blue, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like you, it means that I don’t like blue. Period.
  9. Stop jumping to conclusions or attributing the worst possible meaning to everything. Give people the benefit of the doubt first.
  10. If you’re talking, you’re not listening. If you’re not listening, you’re not learning. If you’re not learning, you are standing still (and possibly moving backwards). Talk less, listen more.

And that, my friends, is my (consistently) unpopular two-cents on the subject.

~A.

Are you in on the craze of the season? Just stop. Please.

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Are you in on this Hatchimal craze?

I’m not. My kids are not. And if they were, I’m afraid that they would be sorely disappointed. Because Christmas is NOT about getting the latest fad or the most expensive doodad. It’s about sharing time with your family, giving gifts that hold true value to the recipient, not just over-advertised, over-hyped and over-priced poorly made and likely soon-to-be recalled pieces of garbage.

Sound harsh? Yup. I probably am. But I feel like I’m fighting an uphill battle to raise good humans, people who care more about other people and the world we live in than they do STUFF.

A lot of people pay lip service to raising kids with manners, a lot of people complain about the quality of education their children are receiving, a lot of people are so worried about keeping their children HAPPY, that they are not actually doing anything to prepare their children for reality.

The reality that people are not ALWAYS happy. That not everybody is going to give you what you want. That sometimes people say NO and you need to accept that and move forward, not throw a fit or fall apart. The reality is that you really can’t always get what you want, but, if you try sometimes, you just might find, you’ll get what you need.

And yes, I realize that I am quoting The Rolling Stones to try to get my point across, but hey, they had it right. So why fight it?