H is for Hope

For the month of April I’m blogging alphabetically about quick, easy, and practical ways to relieve stress. To see the other posts in this series, click here.

H was supposed to be for hydrate. When I am adequately hydrated, I have more focus, am less irritable, and have more energy. All of this things are good for keeping my stress levels down. I’ve also learned that it takes much more than the standard “8 glasses a day” to keep me hydrated. For me, it take closer to 3.5 quarts. Seriously. More if it’s really hot or I’m working really hard. But, for some reason, I struggle to keep myself hydrated. I was going to talk about ways to work on getting all that water in me every day.

Josh and Ben standing on the edge of Lookout Mountain. Chattanooga, TN

Josh and Ben standing on the edge of Lookout Mountain. Chattanooga, TN

But I changed my mind. Because, for me, at this point in the A to Z challenge, H is for hope.

I have learned so much about myself in the last couple of weeks. I had really dug myself into a deep, deep rut. If you’ve been around my blog for a while, you might remember that in the past 5 years I have either been working outside of the home or attending graduate school while I homeschool my kiddos. For two of those years there was an overlap when I was doing all three things. I wouldn’t take those crazy years back for anything, but I really developed some bad habits during that period of my life. Apparently, those habits have stuck with me. My life was so frazzled and so hectic during that time. Things have calmed down a lot since I resigned and graduated, but I haven’t. I’m still acting like I’m running around with my hair on fire.

Working through this challenge and blogging about ways to reduce my stress has really caused me to ponder how I got this stressed out in the first place, what’s maintaining this level of stress, and, obviously, what I can do about it. Spending all this time thinking about these things has really been good for me.

I have felt like I have been drowning for so long. For the first time in a long time, I’m remembering that I know how to swim. I have confidence that I can conquer this stress and regain some sanity, both for me and my family. I’m finally remembering that I am in charge of my life, it’s not in charge of me. For the first time in a long time, I feel really hopefully about today and all the days to come.

SST # 8: I’m Baaack

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330I haven’t written a “small success” post in quiet a while. In all honesty, I kind of forgot about them. I was reading through my Feedly RSS feed (another thing I haven’t done in a while) and saw another blogger’s “small success” post. I was so excited. And then I got even more excited when I realized it was Thursday. So, here I am, back in the small success saddle.

I (almost) hate to do this, but my small success isn’t very small at all – I GRADUATED! Yes, I did! As of May 31, I have a Masters of Theological Studies from Ave Maria University’s Institute of Pastoral Theology!! Can you believe it? I’m still in disbelief. I posted pics and a video of the big moment over at our family blog if you want to see. I really love the concept of reflecting on the small successes that I so often overlook in my daily life, but it would be impossible to look back on the past week and not rejoice over my graduation. Three long years have finally come to a gloriously triumphant close.

If I took my graduate school experience as a whole, I think the greatest “small success” that I achieved in my time as a student is learning to love God with my mind. We all know that we’re called to love God with our whole heart, our whole soul, and our whole mind. (Mt 22:37) The heart and soul have never been a problem for me. Well…execution is often a problem for me. I fall and fail in loving God with my whole heart and soul many times a day. But the concept of loving God with my heart and soul makes sense to me. I understand how to do that. I always have. My mind is another story.

I never really stopped to think about it until I was immersed in this deep sea of intellectual information: history, philosophy, anthropology, laws, doctrine, documents. Somehow, despite being surrounding with what appeared on the surface to be just a bunch of facts and things to memorize, my heart was burning, longing for more. From my very first moment in the classroom, I became one of the disciples on the road to Emmaus. (Lk 24) My entire graduate education became this three year long retreat* where I came to know God in a new and exciting way.

For the very first time, God wasn’t just a feel-good, heart thing for me. I was finally able to connect faith and reason and use them together, as they are intended to be. I’ve always been taught that faith and reason go hand in hand, but now I’ve actually experienced it. Now, I know what it means to love God with my mind. Because of this, I was really sad when I realized that graduation was quickly approaching. I didn’t want to loose this newfound intellectual relationship I had discovered with the Lord. Especially since I had realized that I had barely scratched the surface of all there is to learn about him. Now that I have graduated, I come away from my time as a student with a deep desire to further discover God with my mind, and the skills to know how to do so. Now comes the daily journey, on which I will often fall and fail, to love God daily with my whole mind, as I have finally learned to do.

 


* I have to admit, doing the assignments was far from retreat-like. I slaved and toiled and stressed and procrastinated and drove my family crazy. But, while I was in class, and even when I was on a roll with any particular assignment, it was very much retreat-like in that I was connecting with God in ways that were new and real for me. Just like those disciples heading to Emmaus, my heart was burning.

(A to Z Fail)

FSo I’ve obviously fallen way behind in the A to Z Challenge.

I had two major papers and an exam all due around the same time. Being the organized and responsible person that I am, I waited until the last minute to get started on any of it. I’ve pretty much been working around the clock for the last week scrambling to get everything done. Now, I need to get started on another paper that’s due Monday.

Nevertheless, I’m determined not to completely fail at this A to Z Challenge. It may take me until the middle of next week to get caught up, since I’m supposed to be writing a paper and not blogging, but I will persevere. Or at least use my A to Z entries as a way to procrastinate when I get stuck or bored with my next paper…

In the meantime, stay tuned. And be patient.

Somehow, it will all come together.

J is for Juggling

All April long, I’m blogging alphabetically about Adjusting to Life to Life with Baby Number 5. Click here to see all the posts in this series.

busy momAdding a new baby to the mix shakes things up. Changes your routine. Makes everything different. This is exactly as it should be as you learn how to be a family with your newest little member.  I recently found this awesome analogy written by a woman who just had her third child.

“Adding a new baby to your family is a bit like adding a ball of fire to your juggling routine. The norm is thrown off balance, management of the unknown ball of fire becomes a big priority, and you find yourself living in chaos as you try to not drop all the balls at once into a fiery heap. Eventually the fire fades, the balls equal out, and a new normal takes over.

Having done this adding game three times in the past four years, I find that even though the initial addition is always difficult to juggle no matter how many times I’ve done it before, the new normal resumes more quickly each time. For that I am thankful.” [Read the rest here.]

I can’t think of a more perfect description.

I definitely feel like I’m juggling these days. But, this time around, my ball of fire isn’t my newborn, it’s my school work.

As I desperately try to wrap up these last two month of graduate school, it really feels like it might all come crashing down and engulf everything in flames at any given moment.

My sweet husband keeps patiently reminding me that the end is just around the corner. Intellectually, I know he’s right, but it still seems so far away.

I’ve ordered my cap and gown, my graduation invitations have arrived, and we’re starting to work on party details. But, somehow, graduation seems farther away then ever. How is that possible?

A is for Anxiety

Every day for the month of April, I’m blogging about Adjusting to Life with Baby Number 5. This is the first post in said series

sound-of-music-andrews_lWhen I originally decided what I wanted to write about each day of this challenge, I thought I’d write my “A” post about how awesome a baby is. Not as in the everyday, overused connotation of awesome, rather,  in the true meaning of the word. I was going to write about babies being “awe-inspsiring.”  But, I touched on that the other day. Aside from that, the first moments, and even days and weeks after, I found out about our sweet Sophia weren’t exactly awe-inspiring. They were somewhat panic-filled. And, as they say, it’s best to start at the very beginning. Because of that, like my title says, A is for Anxiety.

Sophie was somewhat of a surprise. When we got pregnant with her, I had just completed my second year of grad school in a three year program. I was working in a really bad, borderline abusive work environment. AND we had a 7 month old, not to mention 3 other kids, whom, by the way, I homeschool. Life was more than busy. A new baby was not on my radar. Yet here she was. There was definitely a pink plus sign on that white stick.

I had no idea how I was going to juggle everything plus newborn.

I felt bad for our little Leila, who wasn’t going to get to be the baby for as long as she “should have” been.

More than anything, I had no idea how this new baby was going to get out of me short of some alien osmosis procedure because I had pretty much decided I was never, ever going through labor and delivery again. (I had a really bad experience with Leila’s L&D and I was no where near emotionally recovered.)

My head and heart swarmed with all the reasons I shouldn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t have another child. Especially not right now. But I looked back down at the stick. It didn’t seem to care about any of that because it said I was going to have another child. A couple weeks later, my doctor officially confirmed it. Despite all my reasons why this shouldn’t be happening, it was. I had a sonogram picture in my hand of my little 4 week old baby. We had become a family of 7.

 

Me Time

me-timeA couple weeks ago, my sweet friend took my boys to her house for a day of cookie baking, playing with playdough, and swinging at the park so I could relax with Leila. We’ve been trying to work this out since right after the baby was born. The initial intention was for me and the little princess to take a nice long nap together. Now that she’s 6 months old (WHAT?? How did that happen??) I’m not desperately in need of sleep like I was at the beginning, so I figured I’d spend the day grocery shopping or catching up on homework. Since it was the end of the semester, and I still had two papers to write, a test to take, and a final to study for, school won out. I put the baby to bed, sat down at the table with my computer, Bible, concordance, Catechism & course notes, and tried to get to work.

But I couldn’t.

It was just too quiet. How do people think when it’s so quiet? It was so quiet I could hear the water moving in the fish tank! I just couldn’t focus in all that quiet! (I know, I know…something’s wrong with me…) Needless to say, I didn’t get much work done.

Since I’m never, ever home alone, (Literally. I don’t know if I’ve ever been home alone since we started having kids.) I decided to have a “me” day. First, I was totally bummed because it’s FREEZING outside. I would have loved to grab a Bud Light Lime and go lay out in the backyard. Cold aside, there were still good times to be had.

So just what did I do with my stolen time? Well, let me tell you:

  1. I listened to lots of old favorite songs that I would never, ever expose my kids to. We only listen to kid songs or Christian music when the kiddos are home. We decided to use media as a force to backup our morals instead of questioning them for as long as we are able. We know that the time will come when the situation will reverse.
  2. I jumped on my bed. Yes, I really did.
  3. I danced around wildly to my blaring old jams. We dance around all the time, but it was still way fun.
  4. I took some selfies on Photo Booth.
  5. I watched the Teen Mom 2 season finale.
  6. I had a few facebook conversations with old friends. (I so much rather would have had lunch with them, but they are far away. A phone call would have been nice, but facebook allowed me to talk to several of them at once. I guess sometimes I don’t hate facebook after all.)

All of this silliness lead to a few epiphanies. Being rather thick, none of them hit me immediately. They’ve been slowly developing over the weeks that have past since that day.

Epiphany Number 1: (Thanks to my school friend, Callie.) I’ve been a total hypocrite about silence. Not a hypocrite really, just every bit as much in need of learning the value of it as everyone else I meet.

Epiphany Number 2: (Thanks to my spiritual director.) I absolutely have to let go of the “shoulds” that I impose on myself.

Epiphany Number 3: (Thanks to a car ride to Missouri with my sweet husband and confirmed by this little article.) I have to start taking care of myself. It’s my job, not my husbands. He can certainly help, but, ultimately, it’s my responsibility.

I know I often make false promises about what I plan to write about next, but my intention is to write more about each of these epiphanies and link them to this entry. We’ll see how that plays out…

me-time-word-artIn the meantime, the moral of the story is it’s ok to take care of myself. In fact, it’s more than ok, I have an obligation to do it so that I can properly fulfill my other duties. I’ve heard this millions of times, but never really took it to heart. Maybe I even quietly thought that it was something that only wimps needed to do. But as one who has spent the last 6 months (or 3 years…or 14 years…depending on when you start counting) feeling as if I’m one straw away from a broken back, I finally see the truth in it. It’s time to start taking care of me. Now I just have to figure out how to start doing that.

It’s Not Me; It’s You.

Dear Procrastination,

This just isn’t working out. It’s not me, it’s you. I need you to pack your things and move out immediately. I just can’t waste any more time with you.

I can’t say that it hasn’t been fun, but that’s just not good enough anymore. Please don’t make a scene, or conjure up all kinds of ideas of things we can to do together. This really has to end. Now. Besides, I’ve met someone else. His name is Productivity. Granted, he and I don’t seem to fit together as naturally as you and I do, but I’m determined to make it work. He can take me places you can’t. It’s as simple as that.

I’m sorry to be so harsh, but I don’t see another way. I’ve tried to drop hints and show you how we’re growing apart, but nothing seemed to be working. It just has to end. And I felt like you need to know exactly why.

I’ll certainly look back on the time we spent together fondly, but I’m looking forward to getting to the point where I don’t miss you anymore. I’ll be better off without you. I know I will. I just need you to accept this and move on. You’ll find someone else. Someone better suited for your romping. We’ll both be better off; you’ll see.

The time we’re spending together is in vain, as I’m just growing resentful. When we part, I’m left feeling angry and even used. I just can’t do it anymore. I don’t care if you don’t understand. This is the way it has to be.

Please try and forget we ever knew each other so intimately. I’m not looking back and I won’t change my mind. Starting now, I’m moving on. Really. I am. Yes, it’s hard for me to walk away. But I just have to be strong. I can get past you. I will. I’m done. I’m not falling for you again. Forget moving out of my life. I’ll leave. I’ll be better off for it, you’ll see. Years from now, when we meet again, you’ll hardly know me, and you’ll be exactly as I left you. That’s why it has to happen now. Goodbye, Procrastination. I’m leaving now. Like Fergie said, “Big girls don’t cry.”