Friday, January 24, 2014

From Pet to So Much More

It's amazing how selfless pets are, especially considering how selfish us humans can be. We expect from them a constant companion. We confide in them our secrets. We burden them with our sorrow, which they take on as their own. We turn to them for comfort. We drag them through our life changes and ask them to change. We might move them several states away, a few times. We move their homes. We change their routines. We introduce and remove other humans and animals. We take, demand, require, and decide. They give, obey, trust, and adapt.

The bond between us and our pets is like no other. It stands to reason, then, that there is no good way to prepare for a goodbye. No matter how many times you might feel ready. How much you might know it's coming. Or how much you know it's time for them and it's for the best. Selfishly, a part of you always expects they can stay around.

Today, we lost a treasured companion. Tigger was always so much more than a cat. She had an old soul, a spunky personality, and unlike so many other cats I've known, was always available when needed. She loved interacting with everyone and had a purr that rivaled a boat engine. She was the runt of her litter and was left in my uncle's barn as a kitten, deemed unworthy of keeping around by her family. But, I think that's just because she was meant for ours.

We shared our lives with Tigger for 19 years, and she gave her whole 19 to us.

She was in good health until recently, and she went peacefully while with my mom. For that, I am eternally grateful. But, I'm also heartbroken. It's really the only way to feel when you've lost a friend you've had the majority of your life.

For awhile, I questioned the decision I made to send her to my mom's this summer. But, since Hayley was born and Skitzy (our other cat that Tigger was kind enough to tolerate for 8 years) was gone, I knew she wasn't getting the same attention she used to and the attention she still wanted. She actually found a surge of youth being around other animals and my mom. And, she lived out her last several months surrounded by love, attention, and friends. I don't know that she would have stayed as long as she did had she been here.

To Tigger. The one creature who probably knew and remembered more about me than I would ever care to admit. She graciously lived with, throughout her life, six other animals. And, she made friends with all of them. She lived in seven houses. She lived in two different states, twice. She made several long roadtrips over 11 hours. She survived the birth of a new baby and adjusted.

She was a good friend and will be missed.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

From Motivation to Inspiration

I suffer from a very serious condition called Domestic Block. It's similar in nature to Writer's Block, but people suffering from DB will often be found staring idly at a wall with a puzzled look on their faces, or clicking away at nothing on their computers, or even wandering their homes looking lost. You see, people with DB forget all the things they need and want to do around the house whenever they have the time to tackle such projects. They may be overwhelmed with a mental task list while chasing kids around, showering, or running errands. But, given the time and freedom, they can think of none of those things they have to do. It's a very aggravating condition.

I make lists. I LOVE lists. Sometimes, though, I try to make a list only to be struck with Domestic Writer's Block, a secondary condition associated with DB. I can't think of what foods I need for the week to make food; I can't think of things to make for dinner; I can't think of the chores around the house I need to do; and I can't think of the projects I've been meaning to attempt. Until naptime is over, or I'm stranded without a phone/pen & paper, or I've fallen asleep for the night. Dangit.

Recently, a friend sent me a helpful link to a premade agenda with tasks lists already filled out for the days of the week, all the way through the year. Wow. I know there are lots of sites and blogs that talk about various things to schedule for yourself to do on a daily/weekly basis, but this one actually has the list completed. And, it's free. Yay! (Sound good? You can find it here.)

I printed out the first month as a trial for myself. Here's what I like about it: I don't need or want to do everything on the pre-assembled list. However, it does inspire me to add tasks I do want to do. And, that's where this post's title comes from. The friend who sent me the link commented that it is helping her stay motivated. I need motivation in lots of areas (hello, working out), but in this area, I really need inspiration more.
For me, Pinterest is a place where I (obviously) pin ridiculous things I will never have/do/try, but it is also a place where I pin things that inspire me to other things. There are a lot of things on my boards I will never use, but there are also a lot of things I do in life I don't pin. It can, of course, be a time waster. There's so much to get lost in. But, I also know that it helps me by providing DIY organization projects that inspire me to think outside of the box (store) and look around for items in my house to repurpose.

Today, after printing the premade agenda for the week, I followed about 5 of the items and then added 7 others. Like clean my Keurig. Reorganize my coffee station (might have come from standing at the Keurig for an hour while I cleaned it). De-static my upholstered ottomans. Dust behind the entertainment stand. Write a blog post. Eat some pretzels and Nutella (side note: why was that not on the to-do list??)

Anyway, doing things I could cross off the "stock" list and then adding and crossing off things I needed/wanted to do made me feel pretty accomplished. Which then motivates me to spend this evening catching up on a few work projects. And, because it's one of the best shows ever made for TV, Parenthood.

So, I guess I really should have called this From Inspiration to Motivation. Except, none of this motivated me to work out today. Especially not the Nutella indulgence.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

From Mom Work to Mom + Work

This week, I started a part-time (10ish hrs/wk) job, with the potential for additional hours/responsibilities. The challenge for me is that we aren't sending Hayley to a daycare or parent's morning out program. The morning out program may eventually come to pass, but for now, I am still staying home with her for financial and logistical reasons. Also, she can be pretty fun to hang around with.

The great thing about the new role is the ability to work any hours, from home. That said, I am feeling the challenge of balancing play time, work time, other work (additional side project) time, house duties time, meal time, errand time, and oh yeah, maybe me time. With everything else we have going on (more on this later this week), it is definitely filling my plate. Lucky for me, I love a good challenge.

I posted this article on Facebook this week. It's a fantastic (and quick) read. I encourage you to take a few moments to look at it. But, if you don't, the gist is the author working through "owning" being a mom. Just a mom. Because as progressive as we like to think we are as a society, there is still a stigma around staying home with your kid(s). My good friend, Niki, did her master's thesis on women opting-out of the workplace (taking a break to focus on family). Bug her for a summary of her paper and results...maybe an upcoming post for The Take3??

Anyway, when you do choose to be a parent at home, it is an emotionally taxing decision. As is choosing to work. I don't want to marginalize either choice, so I'm just focusing this post on the choice to stay home. But, both choice deserve equal respect. For me, it was incredibly challenging to find an internal justification for staying home. Even though I worked remotely (mostly from home) for 18 months before Hayley came along, dropping the external work role felt...awkward. Almost wrong. I kept a side work project as a contractor, partly to give my mind a reason to stay sharp in the working world, and partly to feel like I was still contributing, both to the workforce and to the household income.

The thing is, I was trying to justify a decision we made. I know I don't watch TV, binge on junk food, and shop all day. My family knows it. My mommy friends know it. But, I still felt the need to justify what I was doing, if only for myself. The article really speaks to me in needing to completely dedicate myself to my mommy role. Because it is my full time job. The difference is I know the employers pretty well and I don't have a blood-pressure-skyrocketing commute. Sure, the pay is pretty awful, but I've had jobs on the outside that weren't all the great in the check department.

Maybe it would have been easier to own if I had interviewed with my husband and a few other people. If I had prepared to discuss the ways in which I would enhance the organization and support my coworkers. If I had negotiated days off (really wish I had done that!). If I had waited to receive an acceptance email or call, welcoming me to the new position. Maybe then I would have mentally acknowledged this as a job. One that is recognized in the world, and one that I can claim at any event and in any group, without having to quickly say I also kept up my contracted clients. That I also volunteer. Yada, yada. My title could simply be Mom, and I would be okay.

My office/playroom (from Instagram...follow me here).
After much reflecting at onset of the new year, I truly can say I am proud of what my husband and I chose to do, and I am blessed we had the choice as an option. Sure, it's been unbelievably tough at times. But, all jobs have their challenges. Mine just has a way cuter boss. And better office. And stress-free commute.

So, even though I am adding more to my workload with a new job, it is really more for the mental sharpness, resume updates, personal passion, and bank account assistance reasons. I may not even mention it to every person who asks what I do (unless it helps the company to do so). Instead, I think I will say I started a small enterprise about 2 years ago, and for the past 15 months, I have been in charge of leading and shaping the primary product for future growth. While juggling day-to-day operations of the facility, balancing the budgets, vendor negotiations and ordering, and human resource functions. Or, I could just say I'm a mom.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

From Lazy to Fancy:: Cupcake Edition

So it's a cold, gray Saturday. My husband and I have the itch to do some home-cookin'. My immediate attention turned to dessert (because it is important to plan and prepare, and maybe sample, that before anything else). Of course, I hopped on Pinterest, scoured my printed recipe pile (housed in an organized book), and searched the pantry. Then my 15 month old says, "cupcake". Clear as day. Graham heard it too. Either that or we both wanted cupcakes and she actually said something like "ccckkcckkaaa". Anyway, she said cupcake. Kid is a genius.

I needed a quick and affordable recipe. I found a strawberry box mix in the pantry and remembered finding ways to doctor those on Pinterest. God bless Pinterest. I found some Nutella (a pantry staple) and some strawberries I had to use in the fridge. The dream was starting to come together. A few hours later...

Strawberry cupcakes with Nutella buttercream, garnished with a chocolate & Nutella dipped strawberry.

At the request of one very pregnant lady (c'mon baby!), I am sharing the recipe with you. But it's embarrassingly simple, so let's call it a technique. Here's the technique::

 I'm-Lazy-But-Wanna-Look-Fancy Cupcakes 
  • 1 Strawberry box cake mix, prepared as follows: follow package instructions for temperature and egg amount. Double the amount for the oil, but use melted (and cooled) unsalted butter instead. Add 1 tsp to 1 T of vanilla, depending upon taste preference. Use milk instead of water.
  • Nutella buttercream: Buttercream is a very easy frosting if you have a stand mixer. And you should have one. Use one stick (1/2 cup) softened (room temp) unsalted butter. Add 1 T vanilla. Add about 2-3 T of milk. Add about 1 cup of powdered sugar. Start the mixer (using wire whisk attachment) on lowest setting to carefully incorporate powdered sugar/milk. As it starts to be more of a combined solid, increase the speed to medium, gradually. While mixing, add about 1/3 (or more) cup of Nutella, heated slightly in microwave (and slightly cooled) just to change consistency to a more pourable spread. Increase mixer speed to medium high and mix until frosting is light, creamy, and spreadable. If you need more moisture, add milk 1 T at a time (decreasing the mixer speed to add). If you need more solid, add powdered sugar 1/2 cup at a time (again decreasing the mixer speed while adding). You really can't mess this up. 

  • Frost cupcakes once cooled (duh), and then garnish with a dipped strawberry. 
    (Dip strawberries by melting 1/2 cup chocolate chips--any sweetness you prefer--and add about 3 T of nutella. Easy to do this is the microwave...30 seconds on, stir, and repeat until melted. Let the chocolate cool ever so slightly then dip strawberries. Place on baking sheet, lined with wax paper, and let harden in refrigerator. Once set, gobble all but a few down, put the rest on the cupcakes, and take a picture.) 
 And, now you too are fancy. Even when you're lazy. Oh, and Hayley was pleased with her dessert decision. Even though she didn't get to eat the frosting. Or the chocolate on the strawberry. If you have met Hayley, you know why I didn't think she needed any extra sugar. I did give her a piece of cupcake and a plain strawberry as a reward for a good idea.


Wednesday, January 1, 2014

From One Year to the Next

Happy New Year!

From our New Year's celebration 2011. It's good to live in this state.

It really hasn't hit me that another year has come and gone. My time measurement has been off since I stopped working full-time. As in every day is a blur and I'd be just as surprised to learn that it is, in fact, Wednesday as it is 2014.

Anyway. I hope you had a fun and safe sendoff for 2013. I did a little reflecting (before falling asleep at 11:30--shameful, I know). 2013 was a year of change, for sure, but then, is there a year where things don't change? I haven't met one of those yet, and I'm not sure I would want to. Good or bad, change means things are moving forward. Even when we can't see the pieces falling together, things are shifting and arranging themselves in our lives to create a change. To that end, I want to explain why I hate resolutions.

Resolution. Meaning: firm decision to do or not to do something. In 28 years (gulp), here's what I've come to learn about being firm about a decision. Be prepared to change your mind. Things rarely go the way you would expect or plan them to happen. Unforseen events, new people, tragedies, windfalls, and interruptions arise in the middle of a plan. Some people focus on those disruptions and get stuck. And that is unfortunate.

Maybe you can tell by the setup of the blog. Or by its title. Or by the description. Or by the posts. But, I am all about transition. That includes transitioning my plans to fit the situation. I am, by no means, all-knowing. Despite what I may try to convince my husband. I can't predict the future, and I definitely have absolutely no idea what God has planned. If anyone does, please give me a call. I have questions. 

So, I don't believe in making resolutions because I know it will only set me up to feel as though I've failed myself when I don't meet some or all of the plans. Even though it's just life. I choose to not shoulder that kind of responsibility. Instead, I take a quick rearview glance at the previous year(s) and then think about where I am in life. And then I think about the things that I hope for. I don't even limit my hopes to the coming year. I take what I've learned, what I've gained and lost, and what I missed and open my mind and heart for the things I hope for in my life. 

This doesn't mean that I make wishes on stars. I know that those things I want for my life will all require effort, work, and commitment. But I also know I won't be in control, and I know if it's not a part of the Almighty's plan for my life, it probably won't work the way I think it should. Instead of making a list of resolutions (aka certainties I must achieve), I open my eyes for possibilities of what I want in my life. I also open my mind to the idea that new things may come along for me that I will never even know to hope for or expect. 

Here's the bottom line: this sort of free-falling isn't for everyone. There are personalities that hold firmly to the adage "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail," and they would call this a planning fail. For me, though, it is planning. It's planning to take risks, to know what I want and ask for it, to reach for things but be okay if it doesn't happen. It's planning for a person who absolutely hates strict diets, restrictions, deadlines, permanent endings, and, oh yeah, absolutes.

Here's what I hope for myself for 2014::
  • I hope to spend less of my day stressing over getting things done despite a crazy toddler and more time with my crazy toddler.
  • I hope to hike in the mountains in the fall. I've missed the color for a couple of years now.
  • I hope to read more books and watch less TV. Maybe I should put the books on the TV screen...
  • I hope to get back to some grown up stuff. Some work, some friend time, some hobbies. Maybe even some music that doesn't talk about marching ants, picnicking teddy bears, or twinkling stars.
  • I hope to shore up my wardrobe. Actually, I'm not sure I used that term correctly. So I hope to learn that term and align my wardrobe with my current style (as opposed to the things I still have from college/pre-baby years). 
  • I hope to learn more about my camera and take more photos.
  • I hope to find a forever-ish house. At least one that I can envision growing into and loving.
  • I hope to be an inspiration, even if only for Hayley, and set an example of a life well-led.  
And, I'll leave you with this::
Year’s end is neither an end nor a beginning but a going on, with all the wisdom that experience can instill in us. Cheers to a new year and another chance for us to get it right.
--Oprah Winfrey