Category Archives: Uncategorized

#GivingTuesday

I’m that person who would block certain emails in December because I was tired of being asked for donations. I’d see a homeless person digging in the garbage and wonder why they didn’t get public assistance. I’d actually get annoyed with people who had children on the street corner begging for handouts. In my mind it was just a scam. It’s not that I was a heartless Grinch (ok, maybe a little Grinch-like), it’s just that I was jaded.

I was jaded all the way to a loss of compassion. The word ‘homeless’ triggered a stereotypical picture of the old bum collecting cans to exchange for alcohol. I knew they could ‘get help’ if they really wanted to.

As fate would have it, I moved next door to a lady who ran a non-profit. A homeless shelter. We’d take walks, talk about life, and somehow the conversation turned to the work she was doing with the homeless. I’m pretty sure she could see my jaded, disbelieving thoughts as she’d tell me success stories from some of ‘her people’ (I always thought of them as her people).

Then I met some of her people. A family. The mom worked. Took public transport two hours in the morning and two hours at night to get to her full time job in another city. They had three children, the youngest about the same age as my little E, and two more in elementary school. These were good people, hardworking people, who through a series of circumstances, lived in a van behind a grocery store. Suddenly the word homeless had a new face. I wanted to do something for these people. I wanted to help the children living in the van. I asked my neighbor how I could help, and now here I am.

It’s December, and I’m asking for donations from people who might be a lot like I was. People jaded by what they see on the news and in the world. Elk Grove HART is a non-profit with 100% of the proceeds going directly to families and individuals in need. They are doing a fund raising campaign to help raise $10,000 for the homeless right in our local community. If you are participating in #GivingTuesday and are wondering which cause to donate to, this is great one.

Follow the link to donate, or just to read more about the important work happening right now.

 

Stillness

The Dangerous Righteousness of Being Right

Humans are designed to live in a pack. Groups, tribes, and societies, have all played an important role in our collective evolution and safety.  We NEED to feel like we belong to something.

It’s easy to get caught up in a zealot-like attitude when we find a group that speaks to us on a fundamental level.  Animal rights, human rights, religion, race, culture, these issues inspire champions who want to persuade others to believe like they do.

Atrocities happen when people get swept up in the mentality that THEY are right and everyone else is wrong. Somehow the key to all of the world problems rest squarely on the ideals that they embrace, and if people don’t agree with their philosophy, well, not only are they just plain wrong, they’re also frightening.

History has repeatedly shown us what happens when average people really BELIEVE that their cause is the righteous way, the right way, and all other perspectives are ridiculed and excluded.  It is dangerous.

Humans very easily lose the ability to empathize when caught up in the throes of judgment and indignation.  The dangerous righteousness of being right.

We perch on the back of our righteous ideals and never ask the hard questions. Never listen with the intent to understand, and never put ourselves, just for a moment, in the shoes of people who don’t think, act or believe like we do.

Cecil the lion, planned parenthood, race and gender have all been in the recent spotlight. Each cause has firm supporters. People who are thoughtful, caring and really believe they are right. The world needs passionate people. The problem starts when passion turns to fervor, and a need to be right replaces empathy.

The fact is, the more we congratulate ourselves on being right and others on being wrong, the less likely we are ever to come to sincere understanding of any issue.

No matter what group you associate with, or what side you’re on, the ability to approach sensitive issues with empathy, understanding and respect shows true progressiveness.

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.” Voltaire.

being right

Late Onset Postpartum Depression. Welcome back my old friend.

It took me several weeks to connect the withdrawn, irritable, ‘leave-me-alone’ feelings I was having to the return of my old friend postpartum depression.   I wanted to be left alone, and talking to people just took too much energy, and I really didn’t even care enough to try.

My husband kept asking me what was wrong, which just made me more annoyed,  “everything is FINE” I would snap back.  Which I immediately justified  as a perfectly acceptable response to a rhetorical question.   He would come home from work, pick up the baby and say “you need a break”, which just irritated me further.  I didn’t need a break, I loved being home with the baby … it was everyone else in the world I needed a break from.

I should have recognized the signs, but postpartum depression is an insidious beast.  At least this time around people are aware of PPD, and there was a name to put with the feelings that had plagued me with my first two children.

In the early ’90’s PPD was not known, at least not in the common way it is now.  I struggled with lack of attachment, with feelings of inadequacy, and I finally ended up deciding that I wasn’t good enough to be a mother, and shouldn’t have more children.  My PPD had long lasting effects for my children and myself.

One of the first things I told my OB during my prenatal visits for little E was about my PPD.  Many years after my last child I learned about the disorder through an interview with Brooke Shields. I wanted to jump up and down and wave my arms… That’s ME!!  The knowledge came many years too late for my daughters, but now as a do-over parent I knew more, and would be ready.

My pregnancy and delivery were picture perfect, I had the warm fuzzy feelings for little E right away, and I could not have been more blissfully happy.  I thought I had conquered PPD.   But it had just picked a different time to show up.

My mood began to shift when little E started weaning. He was eating more solids and nursing less.  I began to feel isolated, yet didn’t want to talk to, or see anyone.  I started feeling ‘put-out’ by simple requests from the family, and just prickly in general.   All I really wanted was to be left alone.

It took several weeks to make the connection.  When I finally realized what I was experiencing was PPD I felt a huge relief.  This was something I’ve managed before.  The surprise was the timing.  I didn’t know PPD could show up months after delivery.  After the first few doctor visits with a new baby you’re on your own.  They always ask about mood changes and signs of depression in those first weeks, but never mention that PPD can show up at any time in the first year, not just the few weeks after delivery.

There are many blog posts about late onset PPD.   The mommy community is aware of it, and a lot of women link their depression symptoms with weaning.  It certainly seemed to coincide for me.

This time though, I am ready.   Armed with relaxation techniques, positive thoughts, and permission to self care I will not let PPD rob my happiness this time.

As the saying goes ‘older and wiser’.

image

 

 

 

 

Mid-Year Review. Time management for the Stay At Home Mom

I’ve enjoyed every team leader position I’ve been in.  I was the kind of manager who demanded a lot from my employees, but also mentored and cared about them as individuals.  I worked hard to build a team mentality and the culture of constant improvement.

So what happened to that great manager?

For the last couple months I’ve been struggling to get the most basic tasks done at home.   It seems I end every day exhausted and wondering where the time went.   I look around and realize how little was accomplished, and I am determined to ‘do better tomorrow’.   Then tomorrow rolls around, and pretty soon weeks go by, and before I know it I don’t remember the last time the bathroom was cleaned.  Time management for the stay at home mom is one of the biggest challenges.

So I’ve decided to give myself a mid-year review.   As I’ve told  employees in the past, this is a tool to make sure we are all on track to be successful at the end of the year.  Here’s to success.

1. Time Management.  Rating 1 out of 5.   You suck at time management.  You spend too much time in the vortex that is facebook/twitter/snapchat/texting  and the like.  Your use of electronic devices must be limited starting today.

2. Meal Preparation.  Rating 2 out of 5.  While the family does at least eat, the use of nutritious, vegetable type foods must be incorporated.  Some kind of green item must be used at least 4 times a week.  The use of chicken nuggets and tater tots for dinner must stop.

3. Laundry.  Rating 3 out of 5.  This high rating is only achieved because laundry is out-sourced to the family members.  For gods-sake though, do something with that pile of towels on the couch.

4. Carpooling.  Rating 4 out of 5.  This is one area you excel.  No one has been forgotten, and various trips across town back and forth to school/volleyball/4H and weekend rowing trips have been accomplished without running out of gas or major incident.  You lost one point due to the tardy on an otherwise perfect attendance of your fifth-grader, and that unfortunate day you almost killed the cat.  Getting lost while driving to the Bay Area is acceptable.

5. Communication with extended family members.  5 out of 5. Keep up the good work with your ‘picture of the day’ program.  The grandparents love it and you have a knack for capturing baby E’s daily activities.

This concludes your evaluation. Over the next 30 days  start using lists, time maps and phone timers to help get organized and lets meet again to review your progress.

Want tips and tricks to getting organized, and time management for the stay at home mom?  Me too.  Share if you have some, check back to find out what I’ve learned.

 

tick-tock
tick-tock

 

 

 

 

What do you want? Why is one question so hard to answer.

The question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ is a common one children and young adults hear.  My college bound daughter hears it in every conversation – “so, what’s your major?”.  But what about the forty-something rest of us.  What do we want to be when we grow up?

Good data is scarce regarding how many times a person will change careers because it is difficult to determine what exactly constitutes a career change.  Therefore, I will use my life as an example as I try to figure out why it is so difficult to answer the question- what do you want?

My first career, at the age of 21, was working law enforcement for the state of California.  I switched to Realtor about ten years later, then research agriculture about 3 years after that. I have had three real career changes in my life, and I am still trying to answer the question ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’.

Starting this blog was due, in part, to my desire to be a writer.  All my life I have enjoyed reading. I wrote children books for my brothers, then decided I didn’t have a talent for it when the books didn’t hold their attention.  Looking back, I think it was a defect of the audience …  not the reading material (sorry mom, but I’m pretty sure your sons are defective).

‘What do you want’  is a hard question to answer, partly because there is a certain amount of guilt attached to it.  I have a beautiful, healthy family, a husband who fully supports my decisions (most of the time), and the opportunity to do whatever I want.  Do I want to be a SAHM (stay at home mom), do I want to jump back into my career and continue advancing, or do I want to do something totally different?  The real question is what is going to be fulfilling to ME.  To answer that question, you have to know yourself.

I would love to do something that makes a difference in the world, change lives, triumph over evil, vanquish the dragon.  Even if the dragon is just the two bottom teeth of a 5 month old baby.

I spoke to a friend yesterday who told me to focus on the things that really matter.  Not how clean the house is – which is a good thing because right now my house is scary – or how quickly the Christmas decorations come down, but live life to the fullest by enjoying the moment.  Stop trying to figure out ‘what next’, and enjoy what is.

I am going to take that advice.  And make a chart (every decision is better with a pros and cons chart).  Instead of asking what I want, maybe ask ‘what will fulfil my desire to be a hero and slay the dragon’?

Next course of action.  Define the dragon.  Be the hero.  Clean the house.

The Dragon
The Dragon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

America, A House Divided

I’m not Republican or Democrat.  I’m not liberal or conservative. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, but I also believe that a fetus is a tiny human; and that choice should be carefully weighed. I believe climate change is real, but hate that the Nobel prize was sold out for a political circus to Al Gore. I am not white, black or brown.  I don’t fit neatly into one of those little boxes on a form. I suspect there are millions more like me.

The big news last week was the relative size of K-Dash’s naked butt. Interesting. I don’t care that she took the pictures, posted them online or predicted that they would go viral. She obviously knows more about the American people than the pious majority. If she wants to strip down for the sensation of it all, more power to her. If there wasn’t a market for it, we wouldn’t be discussing it now.

So how does a country get back to talking about real topics?  Does it take a celebrity getting #naked and adding a slogan? What does that say about the future of our nation, what does that say about Americans in general. The only thing we can agree to talk about is a naked butt.

American politics are polarizing this nation. Immigration, Gun Control, Presidential Effectiveness, Health Care… the list goes on. Republicans hate women, democrats hate all citizens except the illegal ones. Race issues continue to dominate news topics, and I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we just stopped.  Stop calling it a black vs white thing, stop pointing fingers about who-hates-who the most, stop trying to make every news story sensational to the point that it just adds to the dysfunction of our country.

Problems exist, yes.  BUT, like my therapist said, you are what you focus on.  If you focus on the problems without working on solutions you will never be free from your issues. America is having serious PTSD and the more we continue to focus on negativity, the longer our recovery will be. WE are the problem. We feed into the polarizing news feeds, WE tag, tweet and share the stories of how democrats are ruining the country, how the president is a joke, or how republicans are gun toting lunatics.  The problem is US.

As a people we have lost our respect for the country and the freedoms we used to stand for.  Abraham Lincoln said “A house divided…cannot stand.” Our house is divided, and the only thing we can agree to talk about are celebrities and their naked parts. It’s time to focus on solutions, stop feeding into the sensationalized news stories about how a black person did this, or a white person did that. The fact that those adjectives are still being used indicates how far we still have to go.

If each one of us took personal responsibility to focus on this country’s strengths instead of how ‘the other guy’ is wrong, we could change the direction we are headed. Like a marriage, if all you do is criticize and look for faults, you will see them. If you have an open heart and remember why you fell in love you can work on the issues and still maintain the integrity of the relationship.

America needs people who are willing to work on the issues, and still focus on the positive. We don’t have to agree with each other, but we do have to respect each other. It’s not a Democrat thing, or Republican thing, it’s an AMERICAN thing. We are all on the same side, and that’s what we should be talking about; the strengths that unite us. Not another naked celebrity.

Lincoln
Lincoln

The Secret of Life in one conversation with a stranger.

I’m convinced there is a secret to life, a little gem of wisdom carefully guarded. I’m always interested to talk to people who might know the secret, or at least have been on the earth long enough to give me a clue. So far my search has turned up nothing but several very good friendships with old people, and interesting sidebars from complete strangers.

I met Hugh yesterday. He had clear blue eyes and a sharp wit. I told my husband that, just maybe, I fell in love a little.  My husband wasn’t threatened though – the man I met was 92.  Fierce in memory, but frail in body.  We were sitting under a pergola in Foster City watching the boats row by.  He looked over at little E and said, “my son was about that age, seventy years ago”.  I raised my brows – he didn’t look a day over eighty himself. For the next 40 minutes we talked about life.

He’d been married three times. Not today’s version of three times, but three times a widower.  The first to cancer, the second to stroke and the third… well, the third he supposed, to old age.  It’s rare to hear of anyone dying from old age.  There’s always an underlying disease, and maybe there was.   But at ninety years old, it’s ok to say they died of Old Age.  He wasn’t bitter that he’d lost three loves, but said he was lucky to have found three loves.

He said he was living in Florida when his wife died. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do, when his son called to say they had a spare room, and he could use some help in the office. His son was in finance, he pointed across the way, “in that building right over there”.  Hugh said that might be a good idea, he’d think about it.  Two days later a first class ticket to California showed up in the mail.

He packed up, sold everything and moved back to California. He’d lived in Michigan, South Dakota, and California before Florida.  He said when he moved to the LA area from South Dakota he almost turned right around and moved back, the smog was horrible, even back then.  But they’d found a little rental by the beach, and it turned out just fine.  I asked him what the secret to a long life was.  He said no secret.  He ate what he wanted, didn’t care about all the health craze they have now, GMO’s and  organics.  But looking at Hugh I could tell he had a secret.  Maybe it was just that he appreciated every day, and was grateful for what he had.  I don’t know, he never told me the secret.

Looking at his iPhone, he told me his son would be there any time. The gadget in Hugh’s gnarled, yellowed hands looked out of place, but he navigated twenty first century technology with no problem. When his son showed up he said “you’re one minute early”. It was clear that this was a tradition for them.  We chatted there for a few more minutes.  His son’s wife was over taking pictures, she took thousands of pictures he said, and never deleted any. I told them before little E was born my camera had about 250 pictures on it, but now it’s over 3000.  Being able to document life with a screen shot is one of those little things easy to take for granted.

At the end of our conversation they just wandered away. I wish I had taken a picture of the old man on the bench holding hands with my little E.  One gnarled and yellowed at the end of a long life, and one plump and pink and just beginning. But they sat there like old friends, maybe sharing some critical secret that I am still searching for. Or maybe there is no secret to life. Maybe, like Hugh with the blue eyes, you just live it the best you can, grateful for what you have.

Hands
Hands

College bound. Reflections from a mom

Next fall I will be sending my daughter away to college. Like other college Freshman, she’ll be on her own for the first time. My doubts and fears are already surfacing. Did I prepare her enough, is she world-wise enough, will she be taken advantage of, will she make good choices. Her world is about to expand, and now I’ll be on the periphery.

I was there for her first smile, her first tooth, her first day of school. I was there to celebrate with her the victories, and wipe away the tears of defeat. But I won’t be there for her college firsts. I won’t be there to comfort her when she gets her heart broken for the first time, I won’t be there to fight her battles, to chase the demons and banish the monster hiding under the bed. No, I’ll be three thousand and twelve point six miles away.

I didn’t go to college until I was in my thirties. I didn’t have to be smart at 18, but she does. She needs to understand that there are people out there who are users, men who are takers, and people who pretend to be your friend when really they’re not. She also needs to know that there are good people in the world. People who care, and will stand by your side no matter what. Those are the kind of friendships that last a lifetime.

It is the double-edged sword of a parent. If you do your job right, they don’t need you any more. They are self-sufficient, independent people who hopefully know their own worth. The best I can do is hope I’ve given her the tools needed to be successful.

These will be my parting words, “have fun – but not too much fun, work hard, but take time out for play, protect yourself, but have an open heart. Most of all, find your joy”.  And when she does, I hope I get a call. I’ll mark it in my book of firsts; right next to the picture of a little girl in pigtails, holding a lunch box, missing a baby tooth.

College bound.
College bound.

Is That Your …. Grandchild?

It was bound to happen eventually.  Someone would mistake my baby for my grandchild.  I was prepared for it, there’s no way to be a Do-Over mom and not have that go through your mind when you’re pregnant.  “My daughter is 21, I AM old enough to have a grandchild”.  That thought is right after the one about how old you’ll be at graduation.  When it happens though, it still makes you shrivel up a little on the inside.

My daughter and I were in the baby section, I was holding little E, she was pushing the stroller.  We started chatting with a nice lady, who was about my age, and was telling me all about her new grandchild.  It was like the far away toll of the bells.  You can feel it in your bones when they start to chime.  I knew what was coming.  “So is this your first grandchild?”  “No, Actually he’s my child.  And that’s my child too….just All Grown Up. No, it’s fine, really.  Anyone could make that mistake, yes she was pushing the stroller, really don’t worry about it.  Haha (Poor Me) congratulations on your new grandbaby”.

We made almost as speedy of an exit as the lady did.  My daughter and I trying to comfort each other.  “do I LOOK like I just had a baby??”  No of course not!  “do I LOOK like a grandma??” No way! It was horrible.  And we will never shop together again.  The End.

The reality is, we will probably shop together again.  I enjoy her company, and she enjoys that I sometimes buy her things.  So I just need to be OK with people assuming I’m a grandma.  Maybe this is my Karma for making my mom a grandmother at the tender age of 38.

I don’t have any words of wisdom for other Do Over moms out there.  Maybe I’ll figure out a less awkward way out of a conversation like that.  Maybe I’ll just let people assume I’m the grandma.  Maybe I’ll run like mad the next time I hear the bells start to chime.  I have a feeling I will be dealing with this kind of thing a lot in the years to come.

If anyone out there has dealt with this before and knows of a graceful way to handle it… I’d love to hear from you.  From one ‘You-Have-A-Kid-Old-Enough-To-Make-You-A-Grandma’ to another you don’t look a day over … twenty five!

Big Sisters
Big Sisters

 

 

The Challenges of Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding.  It will be ok.
Breastfeeding. It will be ok.

If it wasn’t for my mother I would not be breastfeeding.  My son is three months old and nursing did not come easy or natural for us.  It was a surprise because I had breastfed two other children with no issues.  From the start he had a hard time latching on, he fussed and pulled away.  He seemed hungry all the time, but then would fall asleep after only a couple minutes on the breast.

I got nervous that I didn’t have enough milk (thanks to ‘helpful’ family members), so I tried to pump in hopes of increasing my supply. The first few times I pumped was horrible.  After thirty minutes all I had was a few drops at the bottom, and sore nipples.    Eventually I was able to express a couple ounces, then I was worried that I was taking milk away from the baby.  I became a neurotic mess.  I felt like a terrible mother because I was starving him.

I hated when people looked at him and said – he seems a little skinny.  I felt like slapping them.   Yeah.  My baby is skinny, yours is fat.  We all come in different shapes.   It didn’t help that part of my neurosis was a hypersensitivity to any and all ‘looks’ from people.  I felt judged.  I was sure they were tsk’ing to themselves about that poor skinny baby.

At our six-week check the doctor said he was at a low percentile in weight, and said we may need to supplement (with breast milk of course).  The doctor wanted us to come back in the following week to recheck weight.  I called my mom from the parking lot of the doctor’s office in tears.

My mom was an OB nurse and lactation consultant.  She was also a La Leche League coordinator.  She encouraged me to keep trying.  She assured me that babies gain weight on their own schedule, and not all babies are round and chubby.  It’s ok.   As long as he had wet diapers, and hitting his milestones he was fine.  He was healthy and strong, he was already holding his head up, he was just shaped different, he was long and lean.  She also said it’s fine to bottle feed too.  She said the best thing to do, is what is right for YOU.

The only reason I stuck it out breastfeeding little E is because I KNEW that my boobs worked.  I had already breastfed two other children.  If I had been a first time mom, I would not have had that confidence, and would have given up.

We just hit month three last week.  Things are much better.  Breastfeeding is working like I remembered.  Little E is gaining weight, he is eating fine, sleeping fine and overall a (mostly) happy baby.  He still has some digestive issues.  He is hard to burp, and when he does it’s like a 50 year old trucker.  When he passes gas it sounds like it should fill a diaper, but nope, just gas.

During the worst part of this breastfeeding nightmare I was doing research every day trying to figure out what I was doing wrong, and what I could change to make it easier.  I consolidated a short list of what I think might have helped.

1. I hope I don’t get hatemail for this – but he sleeps on his tummy.  Yes, I know the thing now is  ‘back to sleep’, but anytime I laid him on his back he screamed – like in pain.  I tried every wrap out there, finally gave up and put him on his belly to sleep (like I did with both my girls).  I’m not saying everyone should do this, but it worked for me.

2. Little E prefers nap time in his own bed.  He was overtired and very fussy for the first couple months of his life.  We tried co-sleeping , but it didn’t work for me.  Once I started putting him down for naps in his bed (instead of waiting until he nursed himself to sleep and laying him down in the bassinet, or carseat, or anywhere else I could think of to get him to sleep more than 10 minutes) it seemed to work.

3. Latch issues – when he would pull off and cry, I immediately switched sides.  He would nurse for a couple minutes and then do the same thing.  I’d switch sides again.  For a while nursing was like a circus act.  But it seemed to help.  I don’t have to do that anymore, but for a week or so it got him eating instead of crying.  I don’t know why that worked, but it’s out there on the internet so I must not be the only one.

4. Breastfeed only on one side for several feedings, then only on the other side for several feedings.  Something about hindmilk/foremilk.  I did this for a few days.

5. Burping – don’t let anyone tell you that breastfed babies are less gassy!  He has always been gassy.  I finally learned to take him off the breast and burp him during feedings.  Sometimes it takes 15 minutes to get a burp out – I keep trying.  I can hear the bubbles in his stomach so I know they’re in there!

6. Diet changes – I just mention this because I tried all kinds of elimination and reintroducing, and nothing seemed to make a difference for us.

7.  Gas drops – I used Little Tummys Gripe Water and Major brand gas drops.  I used them together and it seemed to settle his stomach a little during the worst times.  If nothing else it made me feel like I was doing something to help.  Placebo effect maybe.

gasdrops

Maybe the most helpful thing of all was time, patience and a good support system (thank you mom).   There’s nothing wrong with bottle feeding.  But if you’re determined to nurse, and things aren’t going easy for you, don’t give up.  Don’t listen to all the helpful family members who say “just give ’em a bottle”.   It gets easier, and it WILL get better.  Oh – one more piece of advice from my mom.  Drink lots of water… and have a glass of wine, it will be ok.