Friday, September 27, 2013

Stress Less: Tips and Tricks from A Flighty, Reactive Person

At one point today I was:

1. Recording minutes during a leadership meeting
2. Receiving texts stating my youngest needed to be treated with a ventilator at the doctor's office
3. Receiving texts stating my oldest was locked out and alone after arriving home from a half-day at school
4. Answering emails about a missing yellow folder that needed vital signatures
5. Responding to a request for assistance with an executive-level presentation needed yesterday
6. Trying to eat a salad covered in high-fat dressing
7. Attempting to ignore guilty feelings about said salad high-fat dressing

I got in the car about an hour past my normal commute time and as I sat in the consequential traffic, I ran through my mental task list. Tick, tick, tick....Yes, did it...yep, knocked that out...waiting on that....finally completed that...totally didn't do that...need to do that....completed that...dang I forgot about that....sigh.

Everyday. This is life, everyday. Go, go, go.....lists and calls and demands and pressure. It's not just me. Change a few words up there in that task list and you've got any person, on any given day, minus maybe that old guy from Up.

After a long day like today, I can think of nothing I'd like more than to relax. Unfortunately, it's not that easy for me. Most relaxation techniques just make me pass out like a narcoleptic.

Oh, read in bed! 
Yes! Oooo I've got this great book I....DEAD.

Take a long bath! 
How nice! Bubbles and....DEAD.

Get a massage! 
Ahh, that feels gre.....DEAD, DEAD. 

I guess it's ok to fall asleep...I mean, I wouldn't fall asleep if I didn't need the sleep, right? But I find myself bummed out about it later.....I don't want to pass out, I want to consciously have that time to decompress...knock some "me time" things off my list (yea...I've even got a list of to-dos for relaxation...I hate you Pinterest...I hate you so damn bad). 

I'm not one to categorize myself into a "fitness" person or a "crafter" (read more about why categories like this suck by clicking here). I'll try just about anything at least once. So I've explored a little, attempted a ton of different relaxation techniques, and tried to stay open to just about anything. What follows is a list of my favorite tricks; all of them keep me awake and completely distract me from the day's chaos:

The BodMan: Move your body in a way it's normally not moved. I'm not saying exercise.....although I do exercise, the very thought of it adds to my stress. Exercise has its place (specifically, the good feeling after you're DONE exercising has its place)..but that's not what I'm talking about here. I'm saying find something you don't always do, but can mindlessly wrestling a dog, dancing around your living room, sitting at a barstool without slouching, painting a wall, attempting something new with your hair (seriously, that makes your arms BURN!) moving some furniture around, tossing a frisbee, laying down with your feet up in the doesn't matter what it is as long as it feels different and requires absolutely no thinking on your part. Sometimes I lie on my floor and check out what's under my couch. No jokes here, people.

The Task Killer: I have a list that literally haunts's the "house" list. There's ALWAYS something to do around the house. Every now and then, I'll pick one to-do, and I'll actually do it. Moving boxes. It takes no mental effort and I feel good afterwards. Sweeping out the garage, stacking logs, picking weeds, wiping down and organizing may not be fun, but it takes my mind off the insanity of my day and leaves me with one less item on my house list. I know it sounds crazy, but the next time you're overwhelmed, toss in a load of laundry and then wipe down the tops of the machines. Seriously.

The WalMart: People watching and clearance aisle. 'Nuff said. 

The Outside: This one is obvious, but important to mention. I'm not big on bugs, heat, or extreme cold. I do, however, like taking two minutes to step outside, breathe in some fresh air, and then come back inside. Sometimes just running down to the end of my driveway to grab the mail works. My latest trick? I planted some mums in my front yard. They're pretty and I like looking at them, so I will go outside and walk around, just looking at my flowers. It's not thrilling, but that's the point. I'm doing nothing. I like doing nothing. 

The Gamer: Video games are incredible because they allow you to escape. I love video games. I love them so much, I wrote a blog post about my favorite video games. Check it out by clicking here!

The Pandora: Ever feel like you should have a soundtrack? Me too. So I tried it out once. Turns out, your entire perspective changes with a lil bit of music. I grabbed my earbuds, put on my Florence and the Machine station on Pandora, and ate dinner with my music. It was crazy! My peas were like little green orbs of bouncing joy. I couldn't do it for too long...the fam was kinda getting creeped out by my spastic glares and shoulder shrugs. Nonetheless, it was a neat way to clear my head. Careful which channel you pick, though. Wouldn't want to go all emo.

The Big Bang Theory: Absolutely nothing on this show reminds me of my own life. Not a thing. Glorious. It is creative, funny, entertaining, and plays over and over on the one channel I get with my antenna. Other incredibly distancing shows include White Collar, Law and Order, and How I Met Your Mother. I know TV is not a creative suggestion, but it's a huge standby for me and I would be lying by omission if I didn't throw it in there. 

The next time you find yourself running through lists and wanting nothing more than to run away, try one of these techniques. If you hate it, you've lost nothing but a few minutes of your time. If you love it, you've gained an important tool in your stress-less kit.

Thanks for reading everyone and HAPPY FRIDAY!


Friday, September 13, 2013

Children vs Childless: Get Your Box Out of My Face

I've been wanting to write this post for a while and finally got the push I needed from a friend's Facebook status. She posted something similar to this:

If you're looking for a good punch in the face,
please remind me about how I don't
understand anything because I don't have children.

The writer? She's a teacher. Before teaching, she was a nanny. The girl knows kids. 

Now as a mom, I know there are certain elements of childcare you never fully grasp until you have a little rugrat of your own....midnight puke sessions....those small, teeny feet taking their first steps....the consuming, ferociously strong pull you get when watching them wave bye-bye. I could go on and on.

But my Facebook friend knows this. She even made mention of it in her post...admitted she may not fully grasp everything there is to know about raising kids....but she's certainly no idiot, either. 

So why is she being condemned? I'll tell you what I think....I think the person who said it shoved my friend into a box lined with flimsy stereotypes and bad experiences. 

Yes, some people are genuinely clueless when it comes to kids....but **hey hey!!** some of these people are also parents. We've seen the incredible actions of the world's worst parents....having kids doesn't mean you're instantly blessed with the complete guide on how to care for them. Any parent who denies this is plain lying...unless that parent has cared for 11 children...should you meet this parent treat them like the golden reservoir of holiness they are and send them directly to my house.

Some of the best parenting advice I've ever received has come from my best girlfriend.....who,, has no children. It's not about her birthing count, it's about her brain. 

The same can be said about a bunch of other boxes people try to shove us into.....wanna know a few of my favs?

Box 1
Southern Girl vs Northern Girl: I love country music, but can't stand those songs about country girls shakin it. I can shake it. What about me shakin it. I was born in Park Ridge, Illinois...can I still shake it? I get the whole "being proud of where you come from"... but shakin it? And looking cute in short shorts and plaid shirts? Hell, I can do that. Gimmie one.

Box 2
Working vs At-Home: Stop, just stop. There is nothing good about this box. I've done both, multiple times now, and it's different for everyone. I don't suck because I work and I don't suck because I don't want to work. I won't suck when I stop working and if I work again I won't suck then either. Enough with the "empowered people keep careers" and "working people don't care about family." It makes me sick. We are all people.

Box 3
Sons vs Daughters: Ooooo I can feel the sting in your eyes as you read this one! Very hot topic. I get it. Boys are different from girls. Raising them, therefore, can present unique challenges. I like to think every child presents unique challenges as every child is a completely different person, but if you'd like to place the bulk of the reasoning on gender, be my guest. Just don't shove me in that box and expect me to sit there quietly and take it. I will destroy that box...because I'm telling you what....parents are parents. Raising a child is challenging. Accept it at that and be compassionate. Tossing out isolating statements like, "you'll never understand, you don't have boys...." is completely nonconstructive and jacks me directly into defense mode.

Box 4
City vs Country: I live in a suburb. I would someday like to live in a place with land, fresh air, and plenty of room to roam. I also love heading into the city...I squeal like an idiot every time I see huge, tall buildings. I guess I don't belong in either box....I don't know how to drive a tractor and I have no idea how to ride an elevated train. Hey, but you know what? I betcha I could learn...just like a city person could learn how to live in the suburbs...and a country bumpkin could learn how to hail a taxi.

Now would they want to? Well, guys, that is the real question.

You see, at the heart of the box factory, there lies a fierce pride in who you are and what you stand for. You don't respond well to young punks running in and turning years worth of work into cheap, easily-attained knowledge....nor should you. Long-lived expertise deserves respect (remember that golden parent of 11??).

No, I'm not saying we should lessen the cornerstones of someone's identity and livelihood, further weakening a crumbling platform of social collaboration....nope. Not that.

I am saying, instead, that the experts should treat the inexperienced with kindness.

Hey, childless person who criticizes parents for "losing themselves" in their kids, be nice. Invite your parent friends to a park near their house. Ask them about their kids. Be a real person.

Hey, parent who criticizes childless people for "not knowing jack" about kids, be nice. Those people can be glorious fountains of unique ideas and perspective, not to mention a welcome escape from kid talk. Ask them about their weekend plans. Be a real person.

I am guilty as charged. This blog is called Flaws, Forgiven, right? Where would we be without a little lesson for Jen embedded in here....

I get impatient real quick. I deal with stupid, stupid people all the time who box me in and make me so mad, I could scream. I gotta get over it. I've found stupid people everywhere...with kids, without kids, with money, without money, friends, family, from all over the country. Ignorance needs to be pitied, nothing more. Maybe they'll someday understand, maybe not. Guess you could try and help them, if you can trust yourself not to kill them. I'm working on that one.

In general, however, you'll find the majority of the population is an expert in one or more things. Identify your expertise, but don't hold it above the heads of others. You never know what they are truly capable of. That city boy could be your best detassler. That choir girl might be a blast at the club. Your mom friends might be awesome at organizing large events and your non-mom friends might be awesome at chalk creations. Stop with the boxes and start giving the benefit of the doubt.

Ending note: The girl in these pictures, while not the Facebook poster I mentioned above, has also never had a baby. Notice...she seems to be doing just fine working her magic on mine... :) Have a great weekend everybody. 


Friday, September 6, 2013

Diggin' For Rainbows

I went to my daughter's Curriculum Night last night. Her school hosts them every year, normally within the first week. It's a brief, informative event where parents squeeze into teeny little chairs and try to not act uncomfortable. The objective of the evening is to explore the learning goals for the year. We're introduced to lesson plans, given a snapshot of what a report card will look like, and told about the testing each kid will undergo at multiple points throughout the school year. It was nice and the teacher gave us some good info. 

Have you ever seen the movie Matilda? Remember Miss Honey? That's my daughter's teacher. She's the sweetest, nicest, most beautiful teacher I've ever met...very easy to talk to, highly communicative, and my kid is crazy about her.

Before I left for Curriculum Night, my big girl had suggested I take some time to explore and "look for the owls." She said the whole classroom was decorated in owls because her teacher thought they were all so wise:

It was really sweet. They really did have owls everywhere ~ an owl alphabet, owl cubbies, owl locker cute. My favorite part of the whole night, however, was when I went looking for my kid's artwork on the wall. You see, it took me all of about two seconds to find my daughter's contributions. In every assignment she colored a rainbow.

I stood there, staring at how bright and bold and beautiful her little ice cream cone was, imagining her coloring it and using all the crayons in the box...taking the extra time to dig out each individual color and then shove it back again. Such a pain in the ass, but so worth it. I was a rainbow colorist, too. All about it. I ate rainbows for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

I remember thinking: Please don't ever let her stop coloring rainbows.

Big, radiant colors sometimes get lost in adulthood. I work in an office with gray cubicles, brown carpet, and taupe floors. Most of my work clothes are black, brown, or tan. I wore blue eyeshadow once (it was casual Friday, people....and I promise I can rock it like only a true 80's baby can). I was told it was against the dress code policy. My tattoos are also against the dress code policy...even the pretty blue one on my arm ;)

I make up for it by tacking my big girl's artwork all over my cubicle. I mean all. Freaking. Over. No rules against that yet, but I know I'm on borrowed time. The newer offices have rules against personal items at the cubicle. If my office ever moves, I'd be highly limited in what I could hang at my desk.

To spite the corporate thugs early, I go a little color crazy. I've got twenty seven a few pictures up. Bought a couple pads of heart-shaped, hot-pink sticky notes. Use colorful Expo markers to decorate my own personal dry-erase board. I stuck little pink bows on the corners of my computer monitor and refer to it as a "she"...

Unprofessional, in the standard sense of the word? Absolutely. 

Joyful, bright, and enjoyed by those who visit my desk? You're damn right. 

We're taught in school to be creative, use our minds, decorate the world with color. Then, somewhere along the way to "professionalism," we sense the only way to be successful is to follow in the drab, standard footsteps of leaders before us. This can be especially true for women...I mean, let's face it, I don't think most of the guys in my office even know what color my hair is (dark -they would say dark).....on a serious note, though, women are still struggling to break into male-dominated roles throughout the workplace. Why would they want to reduce their chances with "girly" boldness and individuality?

The most memorable people in our lives are the most colorful. Consider the irony in that statement. 

I went to an important leadership development meeting once. Oh yea, it was big time. I would be surrounded by people who owned many leather-bound books. I was a wreck the night before, pressing my business suits (and by "pressing," I mean shoving them in the dryer after dousing them with water from my showerhead), picking out the perfect shoes, practicing my severe hair bun, working on an appearance that really screamed potential!! I got there and was feeling outfit was right on target. Everyone else wore similar, gray, a little white....We were business people. Power heels as far as the eye could see.

Then, this woman with an enormous, billowing, fringed shawl and a cloud of long, curly, white hair came floating into the room. She had loafers on her feet and bangles glittering up and down her arms. Oh gosh, I thought, she is doomed. These people are going to eat her alive with their eyes. Within minutes, she had captured the attention of everyone on my side of the room. Instead of glares, however, I saw only smiles. Everyone seemed to know who she was...and more importantly, they seemed very, very happy to see her. "Who is that?" I whispered to my neighbor. "Oh she's great!" was the response. "The best doctor ever and so, so funny. Here, I'll introduce you!"

She smelled like mint and cookies. I shook her hand and her blue eyes shone at me. Santa? She didn't look through me, the lowly secretary who was somehow invited to this She looked right at me, asked my name, told me it was nice to meet me, asked if we could just skip to lunch. She was absolutely one of those people you wanted to talk to. She was full of life....full of color. 

Without speaking more than a few sentences, that woman taught me the only lesson I learned that day: Be who you are and be loved. 

I'm sure she encountered severe challenges prior to arriving to her current state...she was an older, female physician. Medical school is no joke, especially at a time when women really didn't go to medical school. She undoubtedly needed to cover her colors on more than one occasion.....but you know what? Colors won. 

For all of you feeling suffocated by your circumstances, stop yourself every now and again and remember your passions. Be it a box of crayons, a walk in the woods, or a picture of a hot rod....everyone has something that fills them with joy and life and all the good things. Don't ever stop coloring your world with things that make you happy. Those rainbow prisms of light we call diamonds? They are dug from dirt. Hi-ho, hi-ho, everyone.... :)

Happy Friday!