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Sanity Check by J.G. McGlothern July 30, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — heartwriter @ 8:37 pm

Sitting on the beach this week, my new friend suggested I write a blog about controlling clutter. When I said maybe she should write it, she balked and in so many words said, she’ll come up with topics, if I write them.

That is how I feel about house cleaning.  I know what needs to be done and I know how I want it to all look and where I want it all to go…..I just want someone else to do it. Since I’m the only “live-in-maid” and we don’t hire someone else to clean our toilets, I’m the gal. My husband is actually better at the deep cleaning, dusting and vacuuming than I am.  But that’s not the stuff I notice.

I notice the clutter. The four pairs of shoes in the hall.  The pile of mail on the kitchen counter.  The unfolded laundry on my bed.  The overstuffed desk drawer. Quite regularly I can let myself get overwhelmed by it all.  Frustrated by the disorganization, I start folding, only then to get distracted by the shoes in the hall as I open the closet to put away the towels.  In the kids’ room putting away the shoes, I see that the fish bowl hasn’t been cleaned in….awhile.  So the dance begins. Going from one room to the next, making no noticeable progress.  The bed still has clean clothes on it waiting to be folded, the mail still needs sorting. 

My environment helps dictate my mood, my feelings about myself, definitely my attitude.  I have always kept a tidy living room.  It is a small room and the first you enter from the front door.  It is the room I know I can go in for a sanity check.  I can sit and read, play the piano, or just simply look at the orderly pillows on the couch, see the clear-of-clutter coffee table and feel a sense of calm. I do freak out when my husband leaves the Sunday paper scattered in “his” piles all over the living room.  The ads pile.  The already-read pile.  The don’t-want-to-read pile.  The want-to-read later pile.  But after years of living together I know come Sunday evening there will only be one small pile in the reading basket next to our armchair and the rest will be in the recycle bin.  My one room back to how I like it, giving me peace of mind.

If there is a lot to do to reclaim my environment in the manner in which I prefer it to be, I find ways to bring about order without spending hours and without going insane deciding where to start.  One counter. One corner.  One room. One step at a time.  I clean off the smallest counter in the kitchen which is the first one I see when I enter the room.  I keep the coffee pot, utensil container and my small yoga frog on it and that’s it.  The small green statue a symbol of how I want to be. Calm. If I use that space to make a sandwich, make a pitcher of lemonade, then I can quickly clean off that mess and reclaim my small orderly space.  Instead of thinking the entire kitchen needs to be spotless before I can be “happy” or “calm”, I am learning to be sane with a smaller expectation. My husband knows to put his dirty coffee cup on the other side of the sink.

It sounds anal. Perhaps insane.  But rather, this simple change in behavior keeps me from going totally nuts by expecting to have a spotless home. I am still honoring my need for order but learning to accept one counter instead of all of them, one room instead of the whole house.

 

What’s Today’s Date? by J.G. McGlothern July 27, 2009

Filed under: From The Heart — heartwriter @ 10:08 pm

I love it when people pull dates out of thin air and attach them to events with meaning.  If I’m in a conversation with a friend, arranging schedules and I say, January 10th I have a dentist appointment, can you watch my son, and my friend might say, oh, sure, that’s also the same date as my great Aunt Hilda’s birthday, she died three months ago.  Right there in the middle of an ordinary day, talking about something as normal as finding someone to watch my son for a couple of hours, there has been a brief human connection, a sharing of something meaningful. Not that the dentist and child care aren’t meaningful, just that remembering someone’s great Aunt Hilda and what a nice person she was has more heart connection.

I can’t remember what year I met my husband, but I can tell you the exact day. December 31st. I can’t remember what year my parents’ divorced, but I can tell you their wedding anniversary, minus the year. July 11. I do really well with months and days, I just put the exact year out of my brain.

A whole day can go by without me knowing the date, but when I need to look at the calendar or write a check and I see, Oh, it’s the 5th, I immediately remember, It’s so-and-so’s birthday, even if I haven’t talked to so-and-so in thirty years.

Today’s date, July 27th, has been on my mind for a few weeks now. I know it marks the day my dad died. But when I woke up this morning and started thinking how I would honor my dad today, I totally forgot what else the day signified.  So when I announce to my husband and children during breakfast, Hey do you know what today is?, and start to get all choked up, the minute I say the date, July 27th, out loud, I am able to mask my unexpected tears with another announcement, Our puppy is 8 months old today. They say, Oh, and smile, going back to their Cheerios and nectarines. But for me my breakfast now has a little more meaning and I can stop and toast dad in my own little way, with my own little minute with my papa. The day doesn’t stop. There are piano lessons, and sports camp, play dates, and clothes to pick up at the cleaners, but in between these tasks, I can breathe, take a moment, and say, Hi Dad.  Adding more meaning to packing a lunch and reminding the dry clean lady, light starch please on the shirts.

So when I call my sister, the only sister who would even want to talk about dad, I’m not looking for a teary walk down memory lane, just a few moments talking with someone who also remembers dad. And who also loved him despite his madness, his sadness, his crazy ways. My sister forgot the date, dates aren’t her thing, but she remembered other things.  She remembered that dad liked hot summer days and talking about his feelings.

When I pick flowers for dad’s grave later today, I won’t be all sad and miserable. My eyes will be filled up with happy tears, tears that add just a bit more meaning to my day.

 

Just Five More Minutes Please by J.G. McGlothern July 24, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — heartwriter @ 4:19 am
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Doing what we love can get shoved to the back burner when we become parents.  I am learning that what I love can be packaged into small increments working well with my short attention span. Working even better with young children. 

Right now for example I am sitting at our computer in our cozy home office.  My five year old son is sitting on the file cabinet, sharing my desk, drawing pictures of dolphins.  My daughter is behind me in the rocking chair writing in her journal. I suggested she write a poem on swimming, so she interrupts only occasionally to ask, “Is back-stroke one word?” Or “How do you spell synchronized?”

Writing not only keeps me whole, I love it.  So I will pull out my pen at a stoplight, pause during cooking stir-fry to write words in my notebook, let my children yell, while I plunk out another sentence on the keyboard.

A mom I know reads constantly.  She always has a book going.  She doesn’t let her two girls or making dinner get in the way of reading another chapter. 

I have always wanted to be one of those people, who always had my nose in a book. They look so smart. So this summer I have started to become a book geek, finishing one book and starting another the same hour.  I hang out longer in the bathroom (hey, if my husband can read the sports page there, I can read my novel), stay up later turning pages and am now in two book clubs.  I feel smarter. Just kidding, just happier.

 

The Right Place by J.G. McGlothern July 21, 2009

Filed under: mom writer,writer mom — heartwriter @ 11:13 pm
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Decisions must be made every day.  Huge decisions like deciding where to move, what job to accept, if this spouse is the right choice.  Little daily decisions like the brand of face wash to purchase, which route to drive home, what to wear, the right words to use in an email. Our lives are full of options.  A plethora of decisions to be made.  Then throw kids into the mix and now you have even more choices to ponder.  You are not only deciding things for yourself, you are making decisions for another being.  It begins with the epidural.  Do you take the drug route or go tough?  Then you are faced with the disposal or cloth question.  Swiftly it moves to which pre-school to enroll your child.  We can over whelm ourselves, get worked up into a tizzy.  We plan, research, discuss, lose sleep, play out scenarios in our heads until we are blue.  Is it okay to give them sugar cereal, go without sunscreen, watch three hours of television just this one time? Then when the second child comes you say screw it, the first one turned out fine.

A very wise woman once gave me some of the best advice to use when faced with making a decision.  Choose the one that brings you the most peace.  I constantly am sharing this gem of wisdom.  Sure for some that makes it even harder, arguing both give them peace or neither does. I like to consult all parts of me. My head, my heart and my gut.  Usually settling on the gut.  For that makes sense to me, feels right, gives me the most peace.  Another wise woman told me this when making a big decision.  “Picture yourself on your death bed.  Will you regret the decision you made?”, she asked me when deciding to get a puppy this past winter. The decision was completely up to me.  Everyone in the family wanted it.  I can live without a dog and I would be the primary caretaker. It felt right in my gut. I was super excited.  On my death bed, I would have regretted not letting my kids have a puppy. Six months later, our puppy is one of the best decisions I have made.  He has brought so much joy to our entire family and has turned out to be super easy.

Walking my daughter to school these past two years has introduced me to new friends.  Friends I can call on for help, laugh hard with over a cup of tea.  It is true that you become friends with the parents of your children’s friends.  I fought that for awhile.  I am so glad I didn’t look elsewhere for our daughter to attend school, go on ten interviews but instead chose the school her dad went to, the one we can walk to in less than five minutes, including the wait at the one long light. 

My children have been taking swim lessons at the same pool for over two years.  I now look forward to seeing the familiar faces.  I choose grocery stores in the same way.  Does it feel right?  Do I like the familiar faces? 

I had the experience of not liking a certain place where my child took a certain class.  The people didn’t feel right.  So I moved on.  My gut wasn’t at peace.

As I walk in our neighborhood I couldn’t imagine raising our children anywhere else.  We love our neighbors.  The library, grocery store, bagel shop, barber, cleaners, are all within two blocks.  We can walk to get a good margarita, refreshing Slurpee, hot cocoa or cup of coffee.  Don’t worry the kids stay home when I walk to get a margarita but you can bet I order a Slurpee just as often as they do.  This place just feels right.  The same way I feel when I am faced with a decision and finally settle on my choice.

 

Jesus Talk by J.G. McGlothern July 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — heartwriter @ 8:41 pm
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One night last week tucking my 7 and ½ year old daughter in to bed, she says, “If Jesus is a boy then God must be a girl in a pretty brown dress.”  Where does one pick up from there?  Faith and imagination tied together in a hilariously lovely sentence.  Who I am to correct her and tell her God is not human and wouldn’t wear a dress?  What right do I have to congratulate her and agree with her about viewing God as female?

We teach what we know then we try to not be so controlling about their opinions or ways of expression.  We expose them to as many different spiritual ways as we can.  We offer a regular connection, Sunday mass, daily grace, meditation, yoga, reading, communing with nature, whatever works for us and feeds our soul – then we let go.  Trusting their soul may get fed differently than ours.

Having children is such a normal time to question our own spiritual walk.  Before kids my path was firmly grounded in God and Jesus.  Now after kids, I see Jesus as an example of how to live our lives, God still as the number one, but now God has more faces.  He is my sleeping son, my daughter’s questioning mind, the neighbor’s challenging demeanor, the stranger’s gentle smile, my husband’s patient wisdom. 

Earlier this summer tucking my five year old son in to bed, he says, “Mom, I’m done with Jesus for tonight, he is just so big.”

When our kids ask and we don’t know the answers the best thing we can do is say, “I don’t know, what do you think?” Then don’t ignore the God questions but together discover the answers that bring about love and peace, engaging in conversation.  When it comes to God, it is neither good or bad, right or wrong, this way or that way.  God is all, in everything.  The cool part is discovering new ways to find God with our children.  They have become my teachers, my shamans, my Buddha, my seers.

 

Heart Explosion by J.G. McGlothern July 9, 2009

Filed under: mom writer — heartwriter @ 9:46 pm
Tags: , ,

On the 4th of July, visiting friends in the mid-west, my heart dropped out of the sky.  Having a wonderful time, my daughter pulled me into the bathroom and whispered into my ear.  She and her little brother had been getting along with all the other kids – having a blast.  It was getting dark, soon we’d be watching fireworks down at the lake.

“Mama,” she whispered into my ear.  “Don’t tell dad, but I think I’m fat.”

 “What?” A knife pierced my heart.  I wanted to scream. I pulled her close, kissed her all over, told her how beautiful she was and asked her, “Did somebody say something to you?”  I didn’t get anything back.  She shook her head no.  I prodded.  She didn’t divulge any more than that one comment from outer space.  She is 7!!!  She has always been Miss Confident with her body, soul and spirit.  Comfortable in her skin.  I wracked my brain for more ideas.  Had she overheard me, another adult, say something about our bodies?  Was she comparing herself to the lean, leggy teenagers we had just met?   What triggered this?  Never before had she made such comments.

Oh, I wanted to yell, run, hide – swoop my little girl into my arms and protect her from any possible hurt.  My little girl.  My beautiful little girl.  Was she going to be labeled like I was as a child as “the husky one”? Was she going to grow up with all skinny friends and wish her body was different than it was, like I had?

At the age of 41, I’m working on loving my body as it is, learning how to accept what I have and not look into the mirror and say, “If only”, but “I love you as is.”  Years of unlearning old behaviors and thought patterns.  Here is my opportunity to teach my darling girl new thought patterns.  But there is absolutely nothing I can do about the society we live in.  Nothing I can do about the magazines she’ll one day look at or movies she’ll one day see.

She eats healthier than many kids I know, she plays soccer, swims and loves to run.  She just happens to have my genes.  She chooses water over juice, fruit over candy.  A phrase that I can handle over husky, but also grew up with, is how some would describe her, “big boned.”  Why do we even have to have phrases or words to distinguish our bodies?  Why does it even have to be pointed out that her body is a different size than other girls her age?  She is also two inches taller than many of her friends. If her doctor isn’t concerned and she is still growing, did I mention she is 7, does it even have to come up now in her life?

Today, five days later, I got more of the story.  It dates back to the playground, early June, when a girl, (the same one who told her what sex was…see Sex Talk April 27th’s blog) said out of the three of them standing there, my daughter was the most fat.  I can’t call the girl’s mom, I can’t yell at the girl. I can only love my daughter, teach her how to be healthy.  But the number one thing I can do …… is start believing my body is just as worthy to be loved as the skinnier gal walking down the street.

 

Potty Talk by J.G. McGlothern July 2, 2009

Filed under: mom writer — heartwriter @ 12:04 am
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Why is it, that it always comes down to poop? Having a son, we have gone through the potty talk thing twice now.  Two annoying phases.  Nothing makes a boy giggle more than the words “butt”, “poop,” or “pee.” Why is that exactly?

When we were in these phases I tried many tactics: taking toys away, rules of saying the words only in your room out of mom’s earshot. A friend tried soap in her son’s mouth, which worked quite well by the way, so all I had to do was threaten with that punishment, and BAM, results baby. But the tried and true very best way was to do nothing. Just by simply ignoring my son, he stopped with the potty talk.

The funny thing about all this is that as adults we never stop talking about poop.  At cocktail parties with good friends, it is not uncommon for Metamucil to enter the conversation. Recently at a book club with mom’s from my daughter’s school, just getting to know each other, we shared diarrhea stories. So men and boys aren’t the only ones to blame for bringing up the topic.

So I will end of course with my favorite poop story that has now become my son’s favorite poop story.  When our son came into this world we didn’t get much warning. Yes, I knew I was pregnant, I’m not a teenager or from the South.  He just came out fast.  So I was given the epidural when I was already dilated to ten centimeters. Drugs then push woman, with no time for that totally unhelpful, silly breathing they teach you in Lamaze class.  So when I was holding my dear one, I was quite numb from the belly down and had no idea what was going on under the towel draped over us.  When the nurse took him away to clean him off we discovered he had pooped all over me.  A metaphor that doesn’t skip over me at the end of a tough day with my son.