Don’t Let the “Buts” Override the Joys

“Talking About Our Problems is Our Greatest Addiction. Break the Habit. Talk about Your Joys.”

A few weeks ago an old high school classmate of mine shared this on her Facebook page. It immediately struck a cord with me, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it. Mainly because It’s.Just.So.True. Rarely do I call my dad up with something “good” or send one of my fellow mom pals a text with something great that my kids did. Most of the time it’s simply me bitching. Me bitching about my kids. Bitching about my husband. Bitching about the weather. Just me bitching about anything and everything. Yet over the past few weeks as I’ve been ruminating on this idea, every time I try to think about something I’m grateful for, there always seems to be a giant BUT at the end. I’m grateful for my health…BUT I hate the feeling of getting old. I’m grateful for my kids…BUT boy do they drive me crazy. I’m grateful for my hardworking husband…BUT why won’t he do X, Y or Z? And it just keeps going on and on. I know I’m a Negative Nelly. I’ve been that way for as long as I can remember. But geez, even for me sometimes I think enough is enough. So I decided to write a post (mainly to prove to myself that I CAN remain positive for once) about my JOYS. The things that make me happy. And there will be no BUTS. The buts are my addiction and it’s true, I do need to break the habit. So here’s my first attempt.

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One of my greatest Joys over the past few weeks has simply been the generosity and kindness of my gal pals. Recently I had a minor procedure done and was laid up for a few days. Now everyone knows I hate asking for help of any kind. I don’t know why I do, I just don’t ever want to be a “burden” on someone else. Yet these ladies simply took charge. I had homemade dinners delivered, goodies for the kids, milkshakes for me. I had numerous additional offers and daily text messages checking up on me as well. Even the women I work out with got together and all signed a card for me. Now these woman will all tell you this was “no big deal” for them, but I beg to differ. Some of these woman work. They’re all raising families, being chauffeurs, cleaners, chefs. Yet they went out of their way to help me. And they did it on their own. That is some good people right there. No buts needed for this Joy.

Now it would be wrong of me to write about my Joys and not mention family. However seeing as I feel this is just a “given,” I’ll keep it short and sweet. My family has each other’s backs. We’ve been around the block a few times in the Village of Hell and we’re are all sorts of crazy, weird and impossible, but that’s what I’m most thankful for. Because given a choice between The Cleavers or The Conners, I’d take the Conners any day. They’re a lot more fun. So even when my phone calls and texts are about 95 percent me talking about my problems, I can always count on my dad to remind me that “this too shall pass” or my faithful cousin, who’s a few years ahead of the parenting/life game than me, to talk me off that ledge. They’re my forever Joys. The lemonade to my lemons. (Sorry, sometimes, I like a good ol’ cliche!)

About a year ago, in my forever hunt for cool vintage items, I met a local woman who has a sweet little antique business that she runs out of her home. Recently she asked if I’d help her with the online portion of her business. Um, hello?! I get to look at and fondle beautiful, one-of-a-kind treasures AND get paid for it?! YES! This woman is grateful for my help, and I’m beyond grateful for simply having the opportunity to “do what I love.” I don’t necessarily believe in all the “you meet everyone for a reason” garbage that people like to say, but I certainly could not be any happier for having met this woman…despite having spent way too much money on all the pretty things that she sells. At least now however, my guilt is justifiably a tad less.

Now obviously there’s a million and one other things that bring Joy in my life. It’s candy corn season. The trees look freaking amazing. My kids are doing well in school. And my husband recently discovered what is currently my new favorite beer. Overall life is good. But it’s just so damn easy to spend so much time focusing on the buts and the negative side of things. (Candy corn makes me fat. Falling leaves means snow is coming. My son writes like he’s in preschool. Beer makes me fat. – See how easy that is??) But here I am, attempting to work on Amy 2.0 and trying just a tad harder to consider that my glass might just be half full instead of half empty. And on those days that I simply can’t do it – a 6-pack and a bag of candy corn make a damn fine way to end the day.

Motherhood Ain’t for Sissies

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My Perfect Angels (said no mother ever)

Motherhood is f*cking hard. And lately it seems like every day I’m doing nothing but  failing. Over. And over. And over. I suppose maybe it’s the fact that it’s summer and my three kids are constantly in my face All The Time. Or maybe it’s the fact that not only are they in my face nonstop, but they are fighting nonstop. Over NOTHING. Over looking at each other. Or not looking at each other. Or breathing. Or maybe it’s the fact that no one seems to listen. Like ever. Until I’ve practically gone hoarse from yelling so loudly, but even then it’s questionable if they’ll actually listen or just merely acknowledge I’m speaking to them (or in this case yelling). Or maybe it’s the fact that I take the time to cook dinner every single night and no one eats anything. Yet I get asked for a snack at least every three minutes all day long. But when I offer a minimum of four healthy choices for a snack all hell ensues and tantrums are had by all simply because the only thing that can cure the apparent aching hunger pains of my kids is fruit snacks. Or maybe it’s the fact that anytime I even attempt to do something productive, three hurricanes follow right behind me and destroy everything. Maybe it’s the fact that my middle child is going through some serious shit and I don’t know if I’m capable of handling it, let alone handling it properly. Or the best one yet – maybe it’s the fact that I idiotically decided to try and go a week without having a drink. Pure madness, I know.

Whatever the case may be, so often lately I’ve found myself losing my absolute shit. To the point where I swear I’m having an out-of-body experience because all the while I’m freaking out at my kids, inside I’m telling myself, you’re crazy. They’re just little kids. Be the adult. Shut the hell up. But yet that voice of reason is just never quite strong enough in the moment to help me pull myself together. Instead that little voice just simmers politely until about 10:00 p.m. when I’m trying to go to sleep. That’s when it comes blazing back to life. And what was once the voice of reason now turns into the loquacious mastermind of guilt. It likes to remind me over and over how I SHOULD have handled the situation. How I SHOULD have remained calm. How I SHOULD have controlled the 18 things that just flew out of my mouth in the heat of the moment that are undoubtedly going to put my kids on the couch of some high-paying therapist sometime during their adult life.

As a parent or even just as an adult I’d say it’s safe to say that at least more often than not, we learn from our mistakes. Isn’t that part of the definition of even being an adult? Having the capability to stop, reflect and learn. Yet why does it seem like I can never figure out how to properly keep my cool in a tense or frustrating situation?! Why is it that these little people somehow have the ability to put this spell over me that sends me straight to Crazy Town? Because certainly that isn’t something that any adult has the capability of doing to me (well, okay my husband does, but I think that’s just par for the course). I seriously feel like my hard drive is frying some days as I’m constantly being hounded with a barrage of “MOM!” everywhere I go with three people yelling out three different demands simultaneously. There are times that I just can’t focus on a single thing or even hear myself think, which admittedly I’ve even shouted out loud before.

I often wonder if these are just “normal” mom feelings or if I’m some sort of uncontrollable freak that needs therapy herself. (Dad, if you’re reading this OF COURSE I need therapy for a laundry list of reasons but that’s not my current point.) On a handful of occasions I’ve witnessed what ideal parenting is like when a child is in the midst of a shit storm and I simply sit back and stare in awe. Because as much as I WANT to be that parent, more often than not, I’m the farthest thing from it. So am I in the minority or are those patient, docile parents? Who knows! The only thing I do know for certainty – and back to my original point – is that motherhood is damn hard.

But after all of this hemming and hawing, at the end of the day, of course I love my children with all my heart and want nothing more than to help them be happy, healthy, good humans. So thankfully, tomorrow is another day – another day to love and forgive my children – as well as myself. Because the two go hand in hand and are equally important. Obviously none of us are perfect, but I like to think that we’re perfect for each other.

Today is Not That Day

In a conversation I had with my father a few years ago, he asked if he’d told me about his new favorite line. He hadn’t so I asked him to share. One of his good friends had recently completed a triathlon, and along the way she saw an elderly woman holding up a sign that read:

“Someday you will not be able to do this, but today is not that day.”

“Imagine,” my dad had said, “some little old lady who used to do those marathons herself, but obviously can’t anymore, standing there with that sign. That’s awesome.” It’s a total cliche, but of course, I too, thought it was pretty awesome. But it wasn’t until I had actually really thought about those words for a few days that I understood the greatness and how they’re applied to my own life.

That said, however, my first thought when trying to apply that to my life today was, “gee, some day my kids will be able to wipe their own ass but today is most certainly not that day.” Which then of course segued into me thinking, “but hey, some day I might not even be able to wipe my own ass but thankfully, today is not that day.” But somewhere inside me I heard the wise words of my husband reminding me that life simply does not revolve around poop (even though at this stage in my life I swear it does) so I once again thought how that phrase could apply to me today. I realized the list is long, but it’s all about perspective. Everyday that list will change, but it’s solely up to me if I want to focus on the “shit” (pun intended) side of things, or if I want to instead, focus on the positive and remind myself that they’re still just little kids who need me. Because deep down I know that someday I’m going to miss being needed even if it is just for a good ass wiping. At least that’s what people seem to tell me.

Everyone walks down their own unique path in life, and those paths help define who you are. For me, if there’s one thing that my own life has taught me it’s that while today may “not be that day,” tomorrow very well could be. So while most days I feel like I’ve done nothing but cut up food into minuscule pieces, changed diapers, counted to three at least 1,047 times, ran the kids here, there and everywhere, on top of putting away the same toys over and over and over, I have to remind myself that this is my current world of greatness and I need to appreciate it for what it’s worth. The minutes may not always be that great and maybe not even some of they days; but the weeks, months and years most certainly are.

I wrote this a few years ago but recently updated it since I felt the story was still relevant and an important lesson that I often lose sight of on a daily basis. Because it’s easy to forget what actually matters and lose focus on the big picture when you’re in the thick of everyday life filled with screaming kids, to-do lists pages long and just constant pandemonium. But at the end of the day, when the kids are in bed and I’ve finally sat down for the first time, it’s imperative for my sanity that I force myself to take a deep breath and remember that today may “not be that day,” but I should always be grateful for whatever that day brought me because tomorrow, that day will be gone.