Friday, April 11, 2014

Giving up Rushing for Lent (Again)

Two very wise creatures

Now that Lent is almost over, I can confess that I have given up rushing (again) and that I forgot that I had done this last year. So, there is still work to be done here. Yes, when driving. My instinct when driving is to increase speed when the light turns yellow, to go at least five miles an hour above the speed limit, to never wait behind someone making a left hand turn if it can be avoided. I have experimented over the past few weeks with noticing these impulses, and sometimes doing the opposite. The interesting thing is that waiting behind that car in the left lane is not that bad. It doesn’t take me any longer to get places than it does when I rush, and when I arrive, I am much calmer. Hm.
Besides on the road, the time I notice the most rushing is in the morning with my son. No wonder our mornings can be so unpleasant and full of conflict when I’m always rushing us. I realized that part of the reason for this is that we have to get to school by a certain time for him to eat breakfast there. So I experimented for the past two days, and fed Daniel at home, and it changed my whole attitude about our morning. I didn’t care nearly as much about when we arrived at school. Interestingly, we actually got there in time for breakfast, but the whole morning leading up to it was so much more pleasant for both of us.

Lent is almost over, but I hope to take these lessons with me. Rushing only makes me less happy, and doesn’t get me there any faster. Maybe Mr. Rogers was right about taking our time, like he was right about so many things.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Where Have I Been?

Just pretty. No relation to text.
Seriously, it's a good question.

Well, for the past month, I've mostly been sick with headaches. You can read more about that at 4 Broads. I am thrilled to say that I have been headache free for five straight days, which I think means the cycle is broken, and I'm on the road back to health. Goddess-willing.

I've also been writing a lot about breastfeeding, and one of those articles is going to be published in Bitch magazine - yippee - as soon as I finish writing it.

I've been editing lots of work for other people. If you need help with editing, or know someone who does, please contact me. I love editing other people's writing. It gives me some kind of sick satisfaction. So much easier than creating my own work.

But yes, I'm still creating my own work. I'm finishing up my first novel. For real this time. I'm working on poems and essays, and even a 10 minute play.

I have a new website in the works too.

So that's a little about me. What are you up to this spring? I'd love to know.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

9 Ways to Like Winter More

Nalu and I huddle for warmth
Okay, it will never be my favorite time of year. I don’t love that I have to wear a knit hat and four layers of clothes, inside my house, just to stay reasonably warm. But I’m trying to look at the bright side.
Work with me, people!

1) Plan fun events. Carl and I have concert tickets for Feb. 28. My mom and I are going to see a favorite writer speak next week. I have two birthday parties coming up. In winter, I can't rely on fun just happening, I need some guarantees. Plans help.

2) Get a vacation on the calendar. Even if it's not until July, you can start dreaming about it now. My mom and I just bought plane tickets to Paris for April, and boy has that put a spring in my step.

3) Spend time outside. I know, it's freezing - literally. We still need fresh air. Bundle up and take the dog, the kid, or yourself for a walk. Even 20 minutes will help. I promise.

4) Have things that force you to leave the house at night. It gets dark so early. If I'm home, I'm likely to curl up in front of the TV, which is okay sometimes. But if I have a plan to meet a friend or hear a lecture, I may have to drag myself out of the house, but I'm always glad I did.

5) Start a book club or coffee clatch or sewing circle. I really wanted a writing group and I couldn't find one that worked for me. Desperate, I started one, inviting a few friends and acquantainces. Not only does it get me out of the house every other Thursday, I get to share the joy and struggle of writing with people who understand. Priceless.

6) Appreciate time to hibernate. Catch up on Oscar nominees, Downtown Abbey, whatever you missed while you were enjoying those long summer nights.

7) Take up a winter sport. Ice skating, skiing, snowboarding: these are things that could help me to enjoy winter. (So they say. I've yet to try this one.)

8) Take baths, sip hot tea, make soup. Strictly winter pleasures.

9) Visit museums. Winter is the perfect time to rediscover the joy of dinosaur bones or Matisse or medical oddities.

What have I missed? Seriously, I need help with this one.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Make a List, Check it Twice

A few weeks ago, I asked my co-worker Evan how much time he spent in Wegman’s when he did his food shopping. “30 minutes or so,” he said. I was spending, on average, 60 minutes each time I went there, and not coincidentally, way more money than I planned to. “It’s all about the list,” he said. I told him I usually had a list. "But do you stick to it?" he asked.
What a concept.

Although I have a list when I go to the store, my eye wanders, especially at Wegman's. Maybe I do need that hot wing cheese dip. Or that new brand of granola, or the chipotle hummus. Maybe the blue corn tortilla chips are healthier. With so many choices, my trips there became endless, overwhelming, exhausting.

The next week, I took Evan’s advice. I made a comprehensive list and went into the store, determined to only buy what was on it. It took great discipline with so many temptations: the funky car magnets I’d admired, pita chips for the aforementioned hummus, pepperoni for our pizza – but no, I stood firm, stuck to the list, and got out of there in 30 minutes, on budget. Amazing.

As I resisted each impulse to buy something not on the list I realized those urges came from a scarcity mentality – I have to buy it now, because maybe I won’t have another chance. I’m not sure what that’s about, but once I realized it was driving my buying choices, it was easier to say, no, I food shop at least once a week, if I really need eggs, I can get them. Having a list helped me feel more secure that I wouldn't have to do an extra grocery trip for a forgotten item.

The ultimate triumph of the list came the following week when I took my list, my new discipline and my toddler to Target. Somehow, I found everything that I needed and was back in the car in 30 minutes. With a toddler. This might not be walking on water, but for my world, it was miraculous. 

The list made me realize how susceptible I am to clever marketing, how distracted I am, how tempted to buy things I don't need, and have never considered until they catch my wandering eye in the store.

Could this possibly work for Christmas shopping? If you try it, let me know how it works out.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

My New York Times Debut

In case you missed the big news, I had my New York Times Debut on October 13 - the Sunday Times, no less.

In response to an essay called A Feminist's Daughter Finds Love in the Kitchen, I wrote a response, which they printed in the Style section. I'd love to hear your responses to the essay, a subject near to my heart - how to balance our own needs with our children's.

Thank God my mom gave me great advice, so I could submit it to The New York Times!

Friday, October 11, 2013

It's Okay to Feel Sad

Daniel's face at drop-off is sadder than this

Each morning, when I drop Daniel off at school, as I say goodbye, he clings to me. He says, “I want my mommy to stay,” makes the saddest face anyone has ever seen, and often bursts into tears. I hate this.

But with the help of some friends and some books: (thank you How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk) I realized that I was making it worse by denying his feelings. By saying things like, “You love school,” or “You’re going to have fun today,” or “You’re okay,” I wasn’t permitting him to have his feelings. In point of fact, I didn’t want him to feel sad, because then I felt sad, unsure, guilty, and I hated that.

Once I realized that I’d been trying to gloss over his feelings, I began saying, “This is the hard part, saying goodbye. It’s okay to be sad.” This simple statement, said with sincerity, defuses his sadness pretty quickly. Earlier this week, he actually let go of me, and I didn’t have to peel his little fingers off my hand or leg.

A friend said to me recently that he found in parenting his children, he was really parenting himself. This started me thinking about how I don’t acknowledge my own “bad” feelings. I do have a naturally sunny temperament, but I also have a tendency to stuff or deny feelings like sadness, guilt, anger, fear. Because I don’t like feeling them, I pretend that I don’t. Each time I tell Daniel it’s okay to be sad, I’m telling myself the same thing. I need that message as much as he does, maybe more.

Besides changing my strategy at drop-off, I also try to remember that everyone’s life has good and bad, comfort and discomfort, every day. I cannot prevent Daniel from experiencing discomfort. Of course I hate the idea of him suffering, but knowing that it’s not my job to prevent it allows me to breathe.

So what can I do? I can acknowledge his feelings, listen to him without judgment. And I can give us all some extra leeway during transitions.

It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be overwhelmed. It’s okay to be guilty and unsure. The more I accept these feelings, welcome them even, explore them with curiosity, the less scary they are, the less they rule my life, the more I’m free to enjoy the good.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Rancho Relaxo No' Mo'

This is what a week on Maui will do for you.
Summer in the Ackerman household is Rancho Relaxo. Carl has about eight weeks when he’s not teaching, and though he works part of the time, he is home more than usual. Daniel stays home with Daddy while I work, we spend long weekends at the shore, we loll in Lake Ontario with the Ackermans. This summer, Carl and I spent 10 glorious days in Hawaii. In a lifetime of great summers, this was one of the best I've had.

And now it’s over.

End of summer is hard every year. We transition from Rancho Relaxo to Rancho Insane-o. Jumping back into the school year routine is a bitch slap. Carl wakes at 5:30, I follow by 6. Must get dog walked, everyone fed, dressed, with daily lunch and necessities in hand and out the door by 7:15. This requires organization during weekends and evenings – food must be bought, lunches packed, laundry done, etc. Which is all fine. I like our school year routine. In fact, by the end of summer, I crave the structure and routine of fall. I need time at home, dates with friends, quiet time to write. But these first few weeks are always an adjustment.

This year, Daniel began preschool. So into the regular transitional mix we added learning how the school works, what Daniel needs during the day, how to help him adjust to being there four full days a week, what drop-off and pickup will be like. When the first day was hard (as everyone said it would be), a torrent of second-guessing and fear overcame me: was I doing the right thing? Was I a selfish mom? Yes, we need my income, but shouldn’t our child’s well-being come first? Is there another situation that would be better, easier?

Day two was a lot better than day one. Daniel’s teacher told me how she had held him until he fell asleep at naptime, which told me everything I needed to know about how kind she was. I ran into an acquaintance who taught preschool for 25 years. She said, “Preschool teachers have a special love for the little ones who have separation trouble. He will feel that love.” I knew she was speaking the truth, and that God had sent her to tell me that. I reminded myself that I had done my due diligence. I hadn’t just willy-nilly signed Daniel up for this program. I had prayed, meditated, researched, visited, discussed. Now I had to give it a chance to work, knowing that usually it takes a week or two to adjust, and even though I’m uncomfortable now, the reward will be great if this new situation works for us.

I’ve intensified my self-care over the past two weeks: made time for a massage, rested more, attended church, fed myself well, bought a new pair of boots (one consolation of fall.)

Share your wisdom with me. What helps you (or your children) adjust to change? How do you take care of yourself when things are hard? I know that most of the country is in transition in these first weeks of September. How can we help each other survive Rancho Insane-o?