On sadness, change, and grief…

I took a break from blogging last week, because my husband was home all week and because I’ve been going through a rough time.  Let’s just say an event brought up a lot of feelings to my surface, and my cup runneth over.  I’ve had some sleepless nights, some good cries, and some real talk with my husband.  The reality of this move is still settling with me, but yet it does not feel settled at all.  I’ve realized I’m mourning the life we left behind – the one I didn’t think I’d have to leave – and I’m not ready to let that go yet.  They say that the depression stage is the final one before acceptance, so maybe I can hope this is progress?

In all my wallowing, I’ve realized just how much I’ve taken my husband for granted.  And so today, I sat down and this letter to him just poured out of me.  I’ll post it here as a mode of self expression.  Perhaps I will say all of this to him in not so many words.  The military lifestyle is not for the faint of heart.

Dear husband,

I know I haven’t been the most pleasant thing to be around lately.  I have been quiet, and sad, and a little selfish by wallowing in my feelings.  I have been short with you, maybe a little too reliant on you for help with the baby, maybe even a little mean at times.  And at other times, I have required you to be up late with me because I can’t sleep, or hold me while I cry and pray that you can figure out what to say to me to snap me out of the funk I’m in.

I know you have feelings, too.  You work so, so hard.  Long hours, short nights.  You never stop when you get home, either: take the baby on a walk so I can cook dinner in peace, take her outside and push her in the swing, feed her the dinner I cooked.  Every other night it’s your turn to give her a bath, read her a story and then we both put her to bed.  And then you do the dishes from the meal I cooked (although usually we do this one thing together).  After the kitchen is cleaned, either you or I (lately it’s often you) have to make your lunch for the next day, set the coffee, wipe down the countertops.  Maybe we have an hour to veg on the couch, but then it’s time to get ready for bed.  Lock up the house, check on the baby, brush teeth, get all of your clothes out for work the next day.  Sometimes lately I don’t let you sleep as much as you need, because I am lost and need help.  And then it’s morning, and you are gone before I am awake, and everything starts all over again.

And then I am home all day with our daughter, with mostly my thoughts for company (toddlers aren’t very good at empathy).  And I feel sad.  Because I don’t have any friends really, in this new place.  Because I’m lonely all day, and I don’t like this new town we moved to, and I miss my home and my family so incredibly much that sometimes I feel a small hole in my heart.  And I’m sad because I don’t want to wish away this time, when our daughter is so small and snuggly and sweet.  When I feel the last years of being truly young playing out to true adulthood.

My mom says I am grieving for that life we had but chose to leave behind.  It was a risk, we said, and risks can have big payoffs.  A big promotion, a big bonus, new opportunities.  But the only opportunity I want open to us is the one we left behind.  I want to go back.  I would still go back.  I’m not sure my mind will change on that.

But I know we can’t go back.  We can only go forward, and I still don’t know how to do that yet.  This is not the town for me, the people, the lifestyle.  I am lonely and not confident anymore, like I was where we used to live, where everything made sense.  Where made sense.

What will become of me now?

I am sorry for my selfish sadness right now.  I hope it won’t last long, but the truth is I just need to be selfish at the moment.  I need you to be there for me, even if I can’t be there for you in the same way.  I need you to tell me over and over and over again that it will be okay, that this time is a blip on the radar of our life together, that life will go on and I will find happiness.  That you will lose sleep with me sometimes, and let me cry, and help me through this.

Life isn’t always supposed to be easy, and I get that.  This is a difficult time in my life, in our lives, but I don’t want it to be wasted.  Maybe I can embrace the difficulty, pray about it, and let it build me up even stronger.  Maybe.  But I don’t feel my strongest these days.  I feel sensitive and sad.  And I need you to see me through to happiness again.  And I promise that if you can do that for me, I will one day do it for you, too.

This is where I’m meant to be, because this is where I am

Happy Monday!  I’ve been cooking up some great things in the kitchen this week that I plan to share once I get all my images loaded, but in the meantime I thought I would share this post I wrote a while back, as I continue to deal with accepting my lot in life these days.  I know many, many military spouses or anyone who has had a huge life change can identify.  I’d love for you to share your thoughts…

On Friday I received some perspective from the most unlikeliest of sources.  Seriously, I never would have expected this person to offer me some food for thought that would actually leave a lasting impression on me, and that I’ve been thinking about ever since.  It led me to some pretty profound conclusions I am making about my life, namely the acceptance of what my life is, despite my willful denial.

My husband had this boss back in Washington who was always a bit of a challenge for him.  They had a constant personality clash and while they got on and worked together fine, Sean was never quite sure how to read his boss.  I was friends with his wife, as we had babies about 5 months apart, and several things in common such as a graduate education and professional jobs/goals.  Still, I was never able to feel close to his wife for much the same reason that my husband was never in his boss’s club of favorites.

Anyway.  This former boss of my husband’s was in town for work, and we were chatting at a social function.  I think Sean had informed him that I was having a hard time settling in here, because one of the first things he said to me was “So you know, there are a ton of fun things to do here in Florida.”  I sarcastically replied, “Oh really?  Are you sure?” (I’m snarky like that).  And then he went into all the fun things he and his wife used to do when they lived here a while back.  I appreciated the input and really do plan to make the most of this place, when I’m ready, but I also told him I just really belong in Washington and I hope we can go back there soon.

To which he replied with the aforementioned profound perspective that I was not expecting.  He said to me, “The way I see it, you guys moved back ‘home’ to Washington after being in Hawaii for five years, and that really pressed ‘reset’ on your life as a military family.  You got all settled in close to your family and everything familiar, and moving to Florida was like ripping you out of your comfort zone again and reminding you that you actually are a military family.  It will just take time to realize that.”

Mic drop.

Jaw drop.

I played it cool and acknowledged that that was indeed true, all of it, and that I was sure I’d get used to it in time.  But as we left that evening, I couldn’t stop thinking about what he said.  This guy had maybe said three sentences TOTAL to me in the past 3.5 years, and here he was giving me some advice I had never heard from anyone, and which had directed my thinking in a completely different direction.  I like to say I am so much more than a military wife, and I am, but I have to acknowledge that being a military wife is part of me too, and I am who I am today in large part because of the last eight years of my life.

sunny-person-woman-sitting

It was easy to acknowledge being a military wife in Hawaii: I was a newlywed, living in paradise, and therefore excited and proud to be living that lifestyle.  But I also had just graduated college, and had goals that had nothing to do with being a military spouse.  And I met a lot of spouses who seemed like their only goal in life was to be, well, a military spouse.  I was married to the man I love who also happened to be in the military, I wasn’t in love with a military man.  If that makes sense.  Then when we moved to Washington, I was back home.  Everything was familiar and comfortable, and though Sean traveled constantly, my life felt like it went back to normal and it was easy to forget that I was even a military spouse at all.  Heck, all my family lived three hours or less away.

And then we moved to Florida.  And all I do is complain about my life.  And everything is an adjustment again, this time with a small toddler in tow.  And my goals have changed a lot since then, many of which can not be achieved while we live this lifestyle.  And all my family is 3,000 miles away.

And so I struggle.

So I’m having a long and hard think on all this.  I appreciate the perspective and admit it was deeply profound, but it also doesn’t make the transition any easier.  My stepmom, who is a mindfulness coach, explained to me a few weeks ago that this is where I am meant to be, because this is where I am.  Sounds pretty zen, doesn’t it?  But maybe that’s the simple truth of it: despite my wishing I wasn’t here, it is indeed where I am.  I am here with my husband who doesn’t have to travel for the next 2.5 years, my sweet daughter, and sunshine.

So much sunshine.

Maybe that will have to be enough for a while.

When you’re a mom, freedom never feels totally “free.”

So here I am… a fresh latte next to me… The sounds and smells of a bustling Starbucks infiltrating my senses.  Just me and my laptop.  I feel like I’m missing a limb.  Why?

I did a very difficult thing today.  I dropped my sweet baby girl off at “Mother’s Morning Out.”  They have her until noon if I want- the possibilities of what to do with my time are endless, so naturally I will probably just sit here at Starbucks and think about all the things I could do with my time, without actually getting up out of my chair.  I’m literally paralyzed with freedom and choices.

freedom

Is is normal to want to call the nursery every 5 minutes to see if she’s ok?  I’ve blogged a lot about how attached to me and shy Claire is.  That is part of the reason why I finally decided to give this program a try- not only does Claire need to learn to be taken care of by people other than myself, and not only does she need some independent socialization time, but also… mama needs a break.

I went back and forth all last night about whether I would go through with it.  She’s still my little baby, it’s okay if she’s attached to me!  Which for the record, it totally is ok.  I selfishly love that she wants and needs me above all else.  But lately it’s gotten intense and because my husband works such long damn hours, I don’t get a ton of help until dinner time, so I really need a little bit of time to myself.  I’ve been assured it’s a healthy thing to need for oneself.  Currently it just feels like mom guilt.

So, after getting a pep talk from my best friend (all the way from Japan, might I add), I decided to not think too much about it and got us out the door by 8:45 and drove to the church.  The facility is excellent and full of happy little kids, which put me more at ease.  The women running the baby room were extremely nice and not worried at all about dealing with separation anxiety (I warned them several times it might be rough).  They had an electronic check-in system where they print you a ticket and will not let anyone pick their child up unless they have the matching ticket (which also was very reassuring).  I had been explaining to Claire all morning that she was going to go “play with other babies” and that mommy was going to leave but then she’d “be right back,” to which she’d reply “be right back.”  She’s very smart for her age so I thought she would in some way understand what I was explaining.  So then I snuck out while she was being distracted by one of the caregivers.  I waited out of sight in the hall to hear if she would be okay, and when I didn’t hear any crying after a minute or so, I decided I should leave because if she did melt down, it would be even harder for me.

So I walked out, sat in my car… And called my mom for reassurance.  I’m such a cliché.

I’m also in no way the kind of mom I always told myself I would be – you know, the career mom who sacrifices nothing about herself to accommodate her children.  HA!  How stupid I was.  Now that I have a daughter, not only do I know that working moms sacrifice just as much as stay at home moms, but I also learned that I’m a total softie, an emotional blob when it comes to babies and children, and I would sacrifice everything if it were in the best interest of my child.

Which is why it was hard to drop Claire off this morning.  I knew it would be hard for her and she would probably cry (and I might too), but I also knew it would be good for both of us for different reasons.  And it would only be a couple of hours, one day a week or so, and if we both hated it I wouldn’t have to do it again… Although let’s be real, I hope she does great so that I feel like I have a resource at my disposal when I need a break, have appointments, etc.

So now that this if off my chest, I hope this caffeine fuels me enough to get me out of this Starbucks and do something with the next two hours.

If the coffee doesn’t get me out of here, the sound of the man next to me who keeps sniffing back a nose full of snot probably will.  So gross.

Pump the brakes.

That moment when you’re flustered as Hell, crying a little on the inside and completely exhausted…And then your husband walks in the door and without hesitating asks what I would like for him to cook for dinner.

Yeah, he’s a keeper.

Eighteen months is an exhausting age.  I’m just now figuring this out.  Claire is so busy, so full of words, so interested in the world that she tries to do everything all at once.  And asks for things nonstop, because she can.  And throws mini tantrums when she can’t have what she is communicating.  I swear I sit on the couch for maybe five minutes and then I’m up chasing her around, cleaning something, fixing something, sweeping up something, changing a diaper.  It never ends.

So my plan of attack has been to get us up and out of the house as much as possible.  I take her to story time at the library, we run errands, and she has Kindermusik class once per week.  We go to the park, we have appointments, we go to the store and window shop just because.  And in truth I think I’ve been over doing it.  I’ve also had a bunch of doctor and dentist appointments on my end because I’m getting established with a new doctor, had to do some routine testing, had a couple cavities filled (story of my life), and then came down with an ear infection of all things.  I’ve been exhausted, grumpy and not very patient lately, and I couldn’t figure out why.

So today Claire and I stayed home.  I didn’t go to the store or run errands, we didn’t go to the park, I didn’t have any appointments or obligations.  I was able to actually get some things cleaned and organized, play in the backyard with Claire, and take care of some lingering phone calls and emails.  I really needed today, and I know I will be more ready to take Claire around town tomorrow for music class and to make a nice dinner for a friend coming from out of town, and do a workout, etc.  But I had to stop stretching myself so thin.  It’s all about the eternal quest for balance, am I right?

I read a blog a while ago (forgive me for not being able to find it) whose sentiment stuck with me.  The author is a stay at home mom also, and the message of her post was about gentleness.  Gentleness for mommas who spend their days raising their babies.  Don’t expect so much of yourself, do what you need to but don’t make yourself crazy… Some days you just can’t do more and that’s ok.  And that has resonated with me ever since, because I am a type-A, motivated and hard-working person.  Yes, I stay home with my daughter and spend a lot of time reading books and playing with her, but I also have to feel like I’m constantly productive.  And on days (weeks) when Claire demands so much of me, I have to learn to give myself license to slow down and be gentle with myself, so that I can be gentle with my daughter.

lavender
Stop and smell the… Lavender (my personal favorite)

So thank you to my husband for coming home to a frazzled, disheveled wife and seeing that she needed him to take control of things for the evening.  I realized I needed to slow down just a little, and because of that, Claire is happier and more relaxed today too, which makes my job a lot easier.  Instead of running from this store to that appointment, we sat on our back patio and played with sidewalk chalk, and snuggled on the couch and watched “Sesame Street.”

And today I am totally okay with doing that and nothing else.

Decreasing anxiety, increasing purpose

I realize it’s almost the new weekend, but I’ve had some thoughts from the previous long weekend I wanted to share.  I haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and churn out a post this week because I have a very cranky and irritable little girl who is pushing out a molar…Not fast enough.  On top of that I’m fighting off another cold so yet again this household is a bit of a mess.

Anyway, last weekend was super productive for my little family.  We are continuing to let all the dust settle in our new house.  I don’t recall it taking as long to feel this way when we moved last time, but that was probably because last time we moved “home,” and this time, well, I hate Florida.  I know, news flash!

Here’s a confession of sorts: I have literally painted the walls of every home I’ve ever lived in with my husband (and really as a kid, too).  I hate painting, but love the effect, and so I do it.  I painted walls in our crappy military issue house in Hawaii that had no natural light and no backyard, just to cheer myself up about being lonely on a small island while my new husband was deployed.  I painted the walls of our second Hawaii home because it was a lot nicer and I wanted to make the space feel like a real home.  When we moved to Washington, I went crazy and painted a ton of walls and even did a striped wall in the first home we ever purchased.  And now in Florida, again to cheer myself up and because I’m more experienced and know the house needs some warmth and depth, I’ve started the process over again.

After taking several weeks to decide on a color, and investing in four different sample colors and painting them up on our wall (which I NEVER do- I usually have an exact color in my mind and when I find it, I go for it! Not this time), I finally painted an accent wall in our bedroom.

master-wall1
I went from two paint choices…
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To four…
master-wall3
After a week of staring at them, I still wasn’t sure so I had to paint a bigger square of the one I was thinking about picking…
master-wall2
And I picked it!  Boy do I hate painting.  Just looking at the room like this stresses me out.  A necessary evil, I tell ya.

Our bedroom is quite large, with a big beautiful picture window that looks out onto our backyard, and vaulted ceilings with crown molding.  The walls were the builder grade “greige” (grayish-beige) color they were when the house was built fourteen years ago.  I know for a fact this home has had two owners, and I can’t understand why no one would want to paint this big, plain, blank slate of a room.  It really is a pretty space but needs a little warmth and a little dimension.  And because I don’t have the time or energy to paint the whole thing, I painted the wall behind our bed as an accent wall.  Voila!

finished-master-wall

Painting the wall the bed sits against really anchors the room to this one feature wall, and draws the eye to it.  It is a warm, muted gray from Lowe’s called “Bleached Shadow,” and I just love it.  I also love the contrast of the wicker wall decor (that I spray painted from a bronze color once upon a time #crafty) above the bed, as well as the light upholstery of our headboard against it.  I am now in search of some more wall decor because I’ve realized this wall is HUGE and needs some subtle art to really show it off.  I’m also on the hunt for new lampshades, as I’ve had the current ones forever and I’m on a crusade against beige these days.  But despite the improvements I still plan to make, thanks to the painting I feel like the room has more purpose.

The process of painting really helped my anxiety, too.  Lately I’ve been having spells of anxiety where my chest feels super tight and I have a hard time taking deep breaths, and though I realize my life is still in upheaval despite my best attempts to settle into our home, I can’t pinpoint one specific thing that would cause me anxiety.  So last week I started working out a bit again, and I also knew that there were several things I wanted to do around the house that have been nagging at me for a WHILE, so I decided to throw myself into a project since I didn’t know what else to do.  And this week I have to say, my anxiety has been a lot better.  Maybe I was just yearning to express myself creatively in this house finally.  And also maybe I really needed to workout.  Like really.

Now I’ve got the bug again and have several little projects I plan to do:

  • Hang bathroom shelves in the master bath room (I already did this promptly after finishing the wall but am saving that for my next post)
  • Finish hanging wall decor
  • Rip out the much hated vertical-blinds and slowly replace them (that will be its own post too- I can’t wait to describe to you how much I truly hate verticals.  Like a lot).
  • Paint sun room and create a true play room for Claire
  • Add curtains to sunroom- if you don’t know what to do with a room but feel like it’s missing something, I beg you to hang some curtains.  You don’t have to spend a fortune, and it adds instant drama and warmth.
  • Paint kitchen table and chairs- I have chalk paint and materials at the ready, I can’t wait to get started!
  • Plant bulbs in planters and cheer up the front and backyards with Spring flowers.

Who knows, maybe we will cross some of these off the list this weekend!  Until next time!

 

Help, my toddler needs social skills.

I am taking on a new endeavor in my life as mother, and indeed in Claire’s life as toddler (though I am loathe to admit she’s a toddler yet): socialization.  Ah, the perils of being a stay at home mommy, and therefore, a stay at home child.  Especially when you’re the first child and have no other play companion than mommy (reason enough right there to try for two kids, if you ask me…).

It became abundantly clear to me last week that Claire needs to be around other children, and yes, away from mommy.  I signed us up for Kindermusik classes, which I had heard good things about and since Claire is obsessed with nursery rhymes and loves to try and sing along with me, it felt like a natural choice in activities for her.  I knew I needed to get her (us) into something to get her out of the house and maybe even meet some other moms for me to befriend.  I said before that even though I’m a mil spouse, I like to make my own friends on my own terms, not always because our husbands happen to work together.  But that’s a topic for another day….

kmusikbanner

We arrived for the music class and it was adorable and full of babies exactly Claire’s age.  The other kids had obviously either been to these classes regularly before, or maybe had siblings or something, because they were running around the room, dancing and playing their little musical sticks and chasing each other.  It was really quite cute and entertaining to watch all their different littler personalities.

But not Claire.  Nope, she was stuck to me like super glue and had this wide-eyed look of being completely overwhelmed.  The poor thing had no idea what was going on, and wouldn’t lose touch of me for one second.

Towards the end of class, which I spent encouraging her to stand up and wiggle, play with her little instruments or sing the nursery rhymes I knew she knew, she warmed up a little bit, but was still very silent and wouldn’t wander far from me.  I considered it a success when she walked up to the basket (many steps away from me) with all the other littles to put her toys away.  She was also upset that I wouldn’t give her her snack cup, because she’s used to getting that any time we are out, which I now realize is something I need to work on not doing (but hey, it keeps her content so mommy can shop.  Feel me?).

story-time
Stock photo – not my class but this was very similar!

So after this experience, I have my new mission.  We are going to Kindermusik every Thursday, and because it’s a little pricey and I don’t want to pay for any other activities, we are starting to go to story time at the local library every Tuesday morning as well.  This is a similar experience, except far less structured, but full of other babies nonetheless, which is what she needs.

It’s so funny that I never considered that being social will take some work and lots of exposure on her part, because she is so silly and full of personality at home.  When we are around other people though, she turns into a clam!  I know it will just take time to get her comfortable, and I’m glad I started doing this now, because I don’t know how long I plan to stay at home all day with her, and I don’t want going to day care to be a huge shock to her system.  Besides the possibility of going to work, I also want her to be used to being cared for by someone other than me or her dad so that we can have date nights that start earlier than after her bedtime.

On that note, I found a very inexpensive gym just down the street from me that has childcare that a friend told me good things about.  I think this is a good way to expose her to a new caretaker, while also learning to be around other babies.  Plus I have been yearning to get back into working out, so it’s a win-win (I hope).  I told my husband that I was really reluctant to do the gym thing because just the thought of leaving Claire at day care and knowing she will panic and be upset at first stresses me out so bad, and he pointed out that I am already stressed and full of anxiety lately anyway (partly due to the fact that I haven’t been exercising, so there you go), so I may as well have something to actually stress about, if I’m going to do it anyway.  Huh.  Maybe he’s right.  I know she needs this, and I know I need an exercise routine to deal with my anxiety, so I gotta do it.  But I’m scared.

Either way, it is hard exposing my daughter to things I know will stress her out a little, but I also know it’s very important to do so in small doses, because it will make her a more well-adjusted child.  I also realize this is only the beginning of teaching my daughter to grow in healthy ways, and it will only get more difficult from here!  So I try to put that into perspective when I think about dropping her off at the gym day care and the melt down I assume will ensue shortly afterward.  No matter, I’ll go sweat out my anxiety in spin class.

If you like the sound of Kindermusik, you should know they are a nationwide program!  You can find one in your area by going here.

Here are some other ideas for activities for little toddlers, if you’re dying to get out of the house and want someone else to entertain your child for a bit.  I plan to try a few in the near future, too:

  • Gymnastics class- check your local gymnastics studio for “mommy and me” classes for toddlers.  There is one near me and that’s next on my list to check out!
  • Story time at your local library (FREE)- I may hate Florida, but the library here is great and has a huge children’s section with separate rooms for story time and activities.
  • Swim lessons – back home we had a phenomenal YMCA that we were members of, and they offered swim lessons as part of the membership.  Here, not so much.  I have heard of infant survival swim classes that teach babies how to float, etc. in case they fall in water, plus it’s never too early to start basic swim lessons!  At Claire’s age, most of them are “mommy and me” which would be a fun bonding activity to do as well (or send dad to the pool and you go get a pedicure.  Both are excellent options).
  • MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers- usually FREE) – this is a Christian-based mom’s group for women to meet up and socialize/bond over being a mom of little ones.  I have never been to a meeting but have heard great things.  They are also a national organization, and you can find a group here.  If there’s not one in your area, you can even start your own!