Validation

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.

ValidatedI really like to be validated. Is that crazy to admit? I really like when people agree with me, say I’m right, or tell me I’m on the right track. Really, I just love being complimented in general. That might sound really vain, but, I promise you, it’s not. Or maybe it is. But I don’t mean for it to be.

I walk around all the time second guessing myself. “Am I doing enough? Did I say it right? Am I good enough?” These questions and more float through my head a million times a day. So, when someone offers me some kind of validation, I lap it up. It’s evidence that I can use to shut out all of those self-deprecating questions constantly hammering away at me.

But, the truth is, I rely too heavily on validation from others. If I’m not getting any validation, all those questions nagging away at me get even louder and more obnoxious.  I start to feel like it’s true that I’m not enough, and, more than that, everyone else knows it too.

It’s not healthy.

I have to learn to be my own validation. To be kind to myself. To be compassionate to myself. To be supportive of myself. To encourage myself. To believe in myself. Kind words from other people will never have the kind of power that would come from genuinely loving myself.

G is for Get Up Earlier

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.

wake up happyI almost feel a little guilty writing that I should get up earlier, especially after my last post. It seems that as I write these posts, I’m discovering that I need to cut out the things in my life that don’t matter, and make time for the things that do matter. I’m also discovering that I have somehow completely reversed the meaning of these two things.

The truth is, I do better when I get up earlier. I am not a morning person, so I like to keep my eyes shut for absolutely as long as I can. Sometimes this means there are already several children in bed with me begging me to get up before I crack an eyelid. The days that happens are usually much more hectic than the days when I get up before my children.

When I initially planned my A to Z topics, I figured I’d talk about how many more things I could accomplish if I would make a habit of getting up earlier. I could have my coffee, pray, exercise, start the kids’ breakfast, etc. I had all kinds of ideas about things I could do with those extra minutes before the children come thundering out of bed. I figured having all those things accomplished would make me more productive, and, somehow make me feel less stressed.

For some reason, I have come to assume that productivity was the cure for stress. Boy was I wrong. Trying to combat stress with more and more productivity is just fueling the fire. I’ve been like a rat on a wheel powering my own destructive cycle. But, despite that, I still think there is something to be gained from getting up earlier. The gain is just different from what I expected it to be. What I gain isn’t productivity, it’s peace.

When I get up earlier, I have precious quiet moments to myself. I can think my own thoughts and sip coffee while I watch the sky slowly illuminate with morning light. I can take a shower so I start the day feeling refreshed. If I chose to pray or exercise, that’s great, but not because it’s productive, because both things make me happy and bring me peace. Getting up earlier isn’t to make extra time for things on my to-do list, it’s to make extra time for me.

SST: He Traveled & I Survived

Since I have my computer back at my disposal, I thought I’d join back up with the ladies at Small Success Thursday. Admittedly, I’m not their most faithful participant, but it’s a linkup I really enjoy nonetheless.

2014-10-22 11.51.09

View from Hubby’s plane.

This will probably seem like extra small potatoes to many women out there, but my husband had a business trip this week, so I was at home with the kiddos. This is a rarity for our family, one that I dread. I know many women whose husbands travel regularly, and, of course, there are military wives whose husbands are gone for very long stretches. (THANK YOU SO, SO MUCH for YOUR sacrifice! I recognize that the military families sacrifice just as much as the soldiers who are sent off to serve.) I suppose it’s because my husband’s absence is such an anomaly that I struggle with successfully making it through his trip. I rely heavily on Josh both logistically and emotionally, so it’s a big change for me when he’s gone. Regardless of the reasons why I struggle, the fact remains that I do. So my small success is that I survived his trip, and it was actually the best I’ve ever done in his absence.

1. We ate at home the whole time he was gone. I don’t know why, but I have ZERO motivation to cook when my husband is away. It doesn’t make sense because there are 5 little mouths around the table in addition to mine and his, but, somehow, cooking seems pointless when he is away. Because of this, I usually get fast food or order pizza when he is away. But this time I didn’t. I made dinner all three meals plus snacks for his whole trip! (FULL DISCLOSURE: One night I made a take and bake pizza, but, hey, I still put it in the oven.

Halfway point of hubby's trip. Getting ready to take the kiddos on a field trip. "I think I can. I think I can..."

Halfway point of hubby’s trip. Getting ready to take the kiddos on a field trip. “I think I can. I think I can…”

2. I had the sense to meal plan before he left to ensure we would eat at home the whole time he was gone. Hence, the take and bake pizza. I bought it at Aldi before he flew out because I knew I would likely need a super easy meal one night. I’m not a meal planner, so having this foresight was a big accomplishment for me.

My pre-trip meal planning and shopping also meant that I didn’t have to go to the store while he was gone. Double success!

3. I drove on the crazy DFW roads in the crazy DFW traffic to and from the airport AND to and from Flower Mound, a town about 35 minutes away from us, with all of the kiddos in the car. Ever since I was in a car accident back in 2011, I’ve had some major anxiety issues behind the wheel. I’ve been working on them, and this is the biggest success I’ve had on the roads. I got a bit nervous driving at the airport, but, overall, I was cool, calm, and collected. I was so proud of myself!

That’s it for me. What are your small successes this week? Join in the fun over at Catholicmom.com!

M, N, O, P – Moms Need Other People

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.

 

(L to R) Leila, Me, my sister, Meghan, and her daughter, Mia.

(L to R) Leila, Me, my sister, Meghan, and her daughter, Mia.

I wanted to write this post because it’s a lesson I desperately need to learn.

The problem is I haven’t learned it yet.

All I know is I desperately need a community of other moms.

Sometimes for emotional support.

Sometimes as a sounding board.

Sometimes just to know that there are other people struggling with the same struggles.

Sometimes to get good ideas from. Or share ideas with. Or to trade recipes.

Sometimes to have someone to laugh with. Or have someone to laugh at myself with me.

Sometimes to have someone offer words of encouragement. Or to be that encouragement for someone else.

My kids participated in a new coop this year. It was small and intimate. I loved it. My very favorite part was visiting with the other moms while the kids were playing after their lesson. I had some of the best conversations I’ve ever had during that time – certainly some of the most edifying.

I don’t know why, but I have a tendency to isolate myself. To think I can do everything on my own. To refuse to ask for help when I need it.

Now I know that moms need other people. I need other people. I need to hang out with other moms.

But I still don’t do it. At least not as often as I should. And I never initiate it.

I’m finally starting to understand how much I need other people.

Now I just need to do something about it.

SST # 6: Looking for our New Groove

Small-Success-Thursday-550x330Our sweet Sophia has been here for 3.5 weeks now. She is so perfectly amazing! But having a new person in the house, especially a demanding newborn type that doesn’t sleep very much, throws everything off. I like to imagine that my household normally runs like a well oiled machine. (I have a very active imagination.) But, thanks to our sweet little one, everything that used to run so “smoothly” has gone up in smoke. I don’t say that with any resentment or ill-feelings. Everything is exactly as it should be. Our life as a family of 6 no longer exists, so it only makes sense that there will be an adjustment period while we learn how to function as a family of seven. Before long, everything will be running along “smoothly” again. In the meantime it’s up-and-down and trial-and-error until we figure this thing out. This week I caught a few glimpses of our new life as a family of 7 falling into place. Those glimpses are my small successes of the week.

1. Date night with my hubby! Yes, it’s true! Our sitter was already in the habit of coming over on Monday nights for our childbirth class, so we decided to keep the routine going. We’re planning to have her over every other week for a real date night. I’m so excited! We spent our night out hitting up Costco for food for Soph’s baptism reception and then had an absolutely fantastic dinner at Bonefish Grill. Bonus points because Josh won a gift card for Bonefish at work. I think we spent around $20 for a fantastic evening. And Sophie was so good! I carried her in my fabulous Gemini baby carrier and she barely made a peep. Extra bonus points because I got to enjoy sweet snuggles and baby bonding simultaneously with my date night.

2. I got up with the kids. Since I’m awake quite a bit during the night with the babe, I’ve been sleeping in most mornings. But, one day this week, I was up with the kids at 6 AM. It made for a super smooth-sailing day and got me super excited about failing back into a routine. Granted, it only happened one day, but, like I said, these are just glimpses of what life will be like when we find our new groove.

2014-03-26 12.57.213. Andy learned to change a diaper! My sweet 8-year-old asked if he could learn to change diapers. At first I said no. He asked a few more times, and I finally decided that I need to take help where I can get it. So I taught him. And he did great! I’ve only let him change the 16-month-old. And only wet diapers, not dirty. But he is so proud of himself. And I’m very grateful for the help!

4. I ran an errand BY MYSELF with all the kiddos. I had to go turn in some paperwork at the church and return a casserole dish to one of the guys who works there, so I loaded up all the kiddos and we went. This is a really big deal for me. It usually takes nothing short of an act of God to get me out of the house for the first time when we add a new family member. Not knowing how to juggle them all in public really overwhelms me. But I did it! Well…sort of. We only went up to the Church, which isn’t exactly “public.” (Everyone who’s there during the day knows me.) And it’s only 5 minutes from my house. And only Ben, Sophie, and I got out of the car. And it was a quick errand, so there wasn’t much time for anyone to melt down or anything. But, hey, I put them all in the car and went somewhere BY MYSELF and that counts for something.

So there you have it. My small successes for the week. What are yours? Share them over at CatholicMom.com!

Thanksgiving and High Expectations

Thanksgiving2Recently, thanks to the encouragement of my sweet hubby, I’ve been working really hard at setting realistic expectations. See, I’m a perfectionist, I have a very active imagination, and I put great importance on creating wonderful family memories. These three combined often make for highly fantastic fantasies and deadly disappointing realities, especially related to holidays, vacations, and any other large family events.

Moments ago, I was entering an amazing giveaway over at the Pioneer Woman’s website. (Oh, how I love her!!) Realistically, I have no chance of winning, as there were nearly 14,000 entries when I left my comment and only 3 available prize packages, but the prize was too amazing not to give it a shot. But I digress…

Back to my point.

To enter the giveaway, I had to leave a comment with my Thanksgiving plans. I started to write something about how we were going to my parent’s house this year, but I always come away disappointed, so we’ll likely have another Thanksgiving at our house on Saturday and invite some friends or whatever family wants to come so that I’ll have the opportunity to do it right. But that just seemed to negative to leave on the fabulous Ree Drummond’s site. So I sat for a moment and thought about what I could type that was both honest and uplifting. Suddenly, I had a beautiful moment of clarity. The truth, just as it is, is beautiful and uplifting. It’s only my bad attitudes and unmet expectations that spoil the beauty of the day. I wrote:

“We’re taking our four kids and joining my three siblings and their kids at my parents’ house. My mom does the turkey and the pies and we all bring the sides. I’m hungry just thinking about it!”

It’s simple. It’s true. And it provides all of the makings for my wildly fantastic holiday fantasies.

So why am I dreading it?

As I’ve already given away, the problem is me and my expectations.

While it’s true that my mother will likely do something (or lots of things) that annoy me, and my brother and his girlfriend will likely get in a “disagreement” at some point, and my kids will likely get in trouble for something that’s not really their fault, and my kids will likely do something horrific that is their fault, and my sister will try to disappear to sulk about some comment my mother makes to her…. (Sadly, I could go on and on, but I’ll spare you.)  None of this really matters. If I could just let that stuff roll off, it wouldn’t define the day.

But, unfortunately, I do the same thing every time. I arrive hoping for the best but expecting the worst, and right away I start keeping score. Each time something less than ideal happens, it impacts my hopes for the whole day. Usually, after I’ve been there for about 30 minutes, I’ve gathered enough evidence to decide that, once again, my holiday is going to be ruined.

And, if that weren’t bad enough, I walk in the door loaded down with all of the baggage from past ruined events. This means that I view little things as catastrophic because in my heart and mind I’ve combined their minuscule hurt with all the hurt experienced in the past. Suddenly, and before I’ve even had time to realize what happened, I’ve got a mountain where there was really only a molehill.

I’d be lying if I didn’t tell you how horrified I am to realize that I am the source of most of my holiday pain and frustration. But, more than that, I’m grateful. Relieved. Liberated. Hopeful. Maybe, now that I’ve gained some much-needed perspective, I can actually get around to creating some of the wonderful family memories I long for instead of grieving for unfulfilled fantasies and aching over wounds from the past.

This year is going to be different. This year is going to be wonderful. And it’s all going to start with me and my newfound realistic expectations.

(Is it just me or is this a great time to cue up some Michael Jackson??)

No, Really, I AM an Introvert.

introvert fishI’ve told my husband for years that I’m an introvert. He’s always disagreed. He says something along the lines of, “I’ve seen you be social when you want to be. You’re really outgoing. You’re an extrovert.” Truthfully, until I read the Huffington Post article the other day, I didn’t fully understand what it meant to be an introvert. All I meant was that I often feel awkward in social settings and being around people can be so exhausting. Turns out there’s even more to it that that. While both of those traits do fit in with the introvert experience, there’s so much more about my personality that makes sense now that I’ve read that list. Yesterday, I touched on some of the highlights for me. Today I’m going to add my commentary to each of their 23 points. Maybe it will be enough to convince my sweet husband that, even though I have high energy and do enjoy socializing with people I know, I really am an introvert.

First, I’d like to point out that in the introduction the article states that a lot of introverts can be social butterflies and pass as extroverts. I think this is why my hubby refuses to accept that I am really an introvert. Just because I don’t hide in the corner, doesn’t mean I’m not an introvert. The article says that the social aspect is really only a small piece of this personality.

Next, I find it fascinating that the American Psychological Association considered listing “introverted personality” in the DSM as recently as 2010. I certainly understand what they may have been considering. At times, being introverted certainly can feel debilitating. But, overall, it’s not really something that holds me back. It’s just something I have to cope with and make accommodations for. It’s just part of who I am.

Now for their traits…

1.You find small talk incredibly cumbersome.

Oh my gosh! All I can say is AMEN! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been told, “I used to think you were such a b**ch until I got to know you.” Umm…thanks? Glad you took the time to get to know me. I’m really not a b**tch (well…at least not most of the time), but I think this trait is why people perceive me that way. I don’t think I’m better than you, I just really can’t stand having to talk about nothing. To me, it seems like we’re both above that.

This trait is also is to blame for the awkwardness that ensues when random strangers approach me to talk about how cute my baby is. I can tell you all about my baby, but, my guess is, you don’t really care. I just don’t know where else to go from there. You said she’s cute. I said thanks. Now what?

bill lumburg2. You go to parties -– but not to meet people.

You’re having a party? Awesome! I love parties!! But if I could get the guest list in advance to ensure the ratio to people I know to people I don’t know is within my comfort zone, that would be great.

Sure, it’s nice to know a lot of people, but getting to know them is pretty tricky. I think if more people could master good introductions, this would be so much more bearable. You know, when someone says, “Oh! Mary. I want you to meet my friend Suzie. Suzie blah blah blah blah (insert some kind of relevant information about Suzie’s life, career, pet iguana.) Being able to start a conversation with real information helps so much when meeting new people. Otherwise, see # 1 about my dislike of small talk.

3. You often feel alone in a crowd.

I’ve written about this before. I thought this was just the result of my lifestyle choices. Most people treat me like I’m some kind of three-legged freak, so I often feel like one. Maybe there’s more to it than that?

4. Networking makes you feel like a phony.

This is reason # 1 that I couldn’t hack it in Mary Kay. I loved so much about that organization, but I can’t network. I feel like such a fraud when I try. What’s worse is I felt like, even when I wasn’t networking, people would think I was phony, assuming I just wanted to sell something to them rather than just hang out or be friends.

5. You’ve been called “too intense.”

There was a group at the fraternity house where I used to hang out that would sit on the porch and talk for hours. We would talk about all kinds of things: philosophy, books, movies, science, music, history… Everyone always said we were being “too intense.” That we just needed to grab a beer and let loose. We were much more content sitting with our beer and talking about all sorts of things. That’s not to say I never “let loose,” only that I was frequently accused of being “too intense.”

6. You’re easily distracted.

I find this particularly interesting. I have ADHD, which also involves being easily distracted. I’d love to see some work done on how ADHD presents in introverts vs. extroverts. Apparently, I have no hope. Between the two, I’m not likely to ever finish a task, or even a sentence….

Maybe this is why I long for the beach. I get lots of down time.

Maybe this is why I long for the beach. I get lots of down time.

7. Downtime doesn’t feel unproductive to you.

I crave downtime. I need it. If I don’t get enough of it, I can’t function. I just end up breaking down. When I was working at our church, I had to take Thursdays completely off. I worked 10-12 hours on Wednesdays, and it was usually my last day of work for the week. On Thursday, I had to veg out. I worried that I was just being lazy, but I knew that I needed it. The kids loved just having a day to chill. They thought I was being “cool.” I was just trying to stay sane. Now that I’m not working outside the home, I still need it, just not in such massive quantities. This is the added benefit to the quiet time we have each day. I get to sit down with my coffee or lunch or whatever and recharge. It makes for a much smoother evening when I’m running on fresh batteries.

8. Giving a talk in front of 500 people is less stressful than having to mingle with those people afterwards.

I talked about this one yesterday. I’ll just sum it up by saying this is so true!

9. When you get on the subway, you sit at the end of the bench -– not in the middle.

Always! Or at church. Or the movie theater. Or anywhere. I need to be able to escape easily. Luckily, my kids make for a handy excuse. “I might need to slip out with the baby, so I should sit on the end.”

I also strategically pick my spot at tables in restaurants. It has to have a combination of a good view (I don’t want to be staring at the wall) and an easy escape. Interestingly, I rarely do escape, but I need to feel that I could. I can’t stand to feel trapped. 

10. You start to shut down after you’ve been active for too long.

Yes, yes, yes! This is part of the reason I had to take Thursdays off in # 7. The same applies to play dates, shopping trips, even vacations. I need a good balance of activity and down time.

That's not me, that's my beautiful sister. And that's my hubby...being an extrovert?

That’s not me; that’s my beautiful sister, Meghan. And that’s my hubby…being an extrovert?

11. You’re in a relationship with an extrovert.

Most definitely. Having read this list, I’d be interested to find a similar list of extrovert traits. I’d love to know what pieces of his personality are tied to his extroversion that I’ve never noticed. Major plus to being in a relationship with an extrovert: I let him handle the small talk whenever possible. I just stand there and smile.

12. You’d rather be an expert at one thing than try to do everything.

So true! There’s so much to learn about everything. You can always go deeper. I can’t imagine being satisfied with surface level knowledge of everything with no deep knowledge of anything. I need to go deep. I need to understand why.

13. You actively avoid any shows that might involve audience participation.

Umm, of course. I would die if I had to be that sap that got called on stage.

On the same token, there’s nothing worse than being in a workshop when the presenter says, “Now I want you to turn to your neighbor and share your responses to these three questions…” Can we not? I came to hear you, the supposed expert, talk, not the random lady sitting beside me. More than that, I don’t really want to “share” anything with her. I don’t even know her.

14. You screen all your calls — even from friends.

Yes! A million times a day. I can’t help it. I hate phone calls. I thought the article described it perfectly. To me, it really feels like you just jumped out of my closet and shouted, “BOO!” I just can’t deal with that. I’ll call you back when I’m mentally prepared to deal with you. Oh, and when none of my children are screaming. Waiting for those two stars to align could take a while. I’m sorry. This truly is a case of, “It’s not you, it’s me.”

15. You notice details that others don’t.

I’m incredibly detail-oriented. I never would have guessed this is somehow correlated with being an introvert.

16. You have a constantly running inner monologue.

When I first read this I thought, “Doesn’t everybody?” Apparently not. I find this fascinating.

The description also mentioned that introverts need to think first and talk later. This is so true. This is why the thought of taking Q&A’s petrifies me. Not because I won’t know the answer, just because I need to process my thoughts for a minute before answering. I can’t just start talking. I need to think for a minute. This is also why I hate being called on in class. I really did do the reading assignment. I just don’t answer very well on the spot. I need a minute to think.

17. You have low blood pressure.

Always. Even when I’m pregnant.

18. You’ve been called an “old soul” -– since your 20s.

When I was a teenager, my friends always told me how wise I was, especially when we were dealing with boy problems or parent problems. I never really understood why. It was usually after I verbalized what seemed to be incredibly obvious. Maybe this is why? I don’t really know. This hasn’t happened to me in years.

Final Four games at the Alomodome in San Antonio, TX. 43, 715 in attendance!

2009 Final Four games at the Alomodome in San Antonio, TX. 43, 715 in attendance!

19. You don’t feel “high” from your surroundings

This is the only one that I can’t immediately identify with. Perhaps, neurochemically (which is what the article describes) this is true. I have no way of knowing. What I do know is that I love huge concerts and sporting events and other ginormous situations. I think it’s awesome to be part of something so big and so exciting where everyone is so passionate about the same silly thing. I love that.

20. You look at the big picture.

Always. Even when I don’t want to. The good news is, this is probably why I never got in any “real” trouble in college. I did a lot of questionable things, but I was never willing to put my scholarship in jeopardy. This ruled out a lot, since getting in trouble with the campus or the police certainly would have done so.

21. You’ve been told to “come out of your shell.”

For as long as I can remember. Usually, my solution is to surround myself with people who are out of theirs. It seems to camouflage the fact that I’m perfectly content in mine. Or maybe this just leads more people to thinking I’m a b**ch? (see # 1) Who knows?

22. You’re a writer.

Indeed. I always have been. I’ve kept a journal since the 7th grade. When I was in 1st grade, I started writing letters to my parents explaining why I was running away. (That was probably a tad dramatic, but I’m just illustrating that I’ve always been more comfortable expressing myself in writing.)  Maybe one day, when the kids are bigger, I’ll make something substantial of it.

23. You alternate between phases of work and solitude, and periods of social activity.

This is so true. I’ve touched on this in # 7 and # 10. I definitely have a threshold of activity. I have to have a balance between work and fun and rest. When that balance gets out of whack, I get very stressed out and very cranky. I don’t think as clearly, and I don’t operate as productively. It’s not just being lazy; I really need the downtime to be able to function as a normal human being.

This need makes weekends challenging for me. I have two days to hang out with my husband, to unwind with him, and to get things done with him. I usually don’t balance it out very well, which leaves me disappointed every Sunday. I always feel as if we wasted the weekend. Maybe now that I’m more conscious of the way I cycle through these things, I can plan more balance, and, thus, get more satisfaction out of our weekends together.

Singing and dancing on stage with the band at my friend's wedding. I think it's moments like this that make my husband doubt that I could possibly be an introvert.

Singing and dancing on stage with the band at my friend’s wedding. (I’m the one in the blue dress, just right of center, behind the bride) I think it’s moments like this that make my husband doubt that I could possibly be an introvert.