Topsy Turvy

“Don’t do that,” I scolded Levi as he tried to crash into me with one of his attack hugs.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because, I’m all topsy-turvy.”

“What do you mean, ‘topsy-turvy’?” he queried.

“I mean I can’t stand up straight. I can’t balance.”

He considered that for a bit and understood by replying, “Oh, you mean you’re tippy!”

Yes, I’m all topsy-turvy today. Last week, our first week of full day schedules, and I was so proud. We had our stuff together. We woke up early enough. We had enough time for breakfast. We had enough time to make lunches the night before. There is never enough play time, but we digress. And, it all sort of worked.

And, then, I woke up Friday morning. I had one of those sore throats that make me wonder if I am getting strep. It actually started the night before, Thursday night, which resulted in several throat examinations, where I stare in the mirror positioning my tongue just so I can shine a flashlight down the full length examining, past my tonsils into my throat for white spots that are likely not food. I can see some white spots where my throat is sore, so I continue to watch the right side of my throat.

The next morning, when I woke up with it even more sore, it wasn’t even red! Let alone a showing of any white spots. So, I started to chalk it up to allergies and did what I could to ease the pain. I did not go into the office lest I be tempted to torture my sandpapered throat. I got work done outside of the office on my new little white computer, instead. The head was clear, the brain was functioning. It was just a throat thing.

Until Saturday morning. At which point I woke up to a full-fledged cold. The aches. The pains. The runny nose. Oddly, the sore throat had disappeared.

This was our little hitch in the road. Because I was not feeling well all weekend, the grocery list didn’t get made. The menu didn’t get planned. And lunches didn’t get prepped (save Daddy’s) the night before. And, Monday still existed, and we still got to school on time, though not as early as I would have preferred. And, why? Because mommy was all topsy-turvy with a cold.

Well, I’m feeling better now, thankful for the leftovers re-imagined twice, equalling semi-quick and quick meals that keep on giving. And, hopeful for tomorrow and a cleaner start.

The Everyday

Levi Lego
Levi playing legos with Daddy.

There was a time I would get really bored with the day-to-day, yearning for something else – travel, excitement, something more. There was a time that, when single and living alone, I would visit my sister every weekend. There was a time, when single, that I had enough discretionary funds that I could take a weekend trip wherever in the lower-48 and it wouldn’t break the bank.

But time has shifted, costs have shifted, and my family structure has shifted. There is an interesting thing that seems to happen when we become parents. How our focus switches to this small thing growing before our eyes, and it’s almost as if we don’t always recognize when we let our own needs aside. Suddenly, the desire for that excitement, for me, goes away. It’s more important to make sure the now six-year-old is rested before school. $250 round trip air fare is long since passed no matter that our wages and expenses haven’t really changed (that is we can afford less now than we could 8 years ago).

It struck me last night while talking to an old friend whom I hadn’t visited with in quite a long time. She was talking about saving up for her 10 year wedding anniversary. (I can’t believe it’s almost been 10 years!) We were talking about commutes (she and her hubby have long and longer commutes). And suddenly I was talking about our daily pattern: husband wakes up, goes to work, Levi and I wake up, eat breakfast, get dressed, go to school, go to work, husband gets home from work, husband picks up kiddo, mommy comes home, eat dinner, prep for next day, repeat. And, that’s just our routine, and that’s okay. But, every time I vocalize that routine, I realize how boring it sounds. The same thing, every day. And, that’s okay. It doesn’t feel boring as we’re living it.

There are so many nuances that make each day different and strange and crazy and enjoyable. But, really, that’s it. We occasionally go to the ocean, but I loathe booking up every weekend. The visit a weekend I didn’t mind in my early twenties is long since gone.

Now, I know more about what I need to function. I understand better how this introverted personality and blossoming from a shy person affects how many people I want to interact with at one time and when I don’t enjoy it (loud bars where you can’t hear anything aren’t my favorite unless I can zone out to the band’s music). I prefer smaller, more intimate settings where I can learn about something cool from a few people at a time. And, I need that refresh time to keep all the stories straight, lest I forget. I need to be able to revisit the details, without chiding myself over a something that may or may not have mattered.

There is a part of me that misses the whimsy of my twenties. A part of me that misses the ability to throw some clothes into a bag, buy a quick plane ticket and go… But, there is a larger part of me that takes solace in the routine of everyday. A larger part of me that more or less doesn’t mind it. Perhaps it’s because i have too many obligations right now and balancing the “must get done” is hard to do with the “what I said I’d do”.

So, yes, I’ll take my boring life as we continue to learn how to raise our son. I’ll take the monotony of the weeks as we establish and re-establish our routines. And, I’ll be curious what I think of this post in a year.

Balancing Morning Dew

I would get up at 4:00 am. I was living with my parents. Sometimes my mother and father would also be up. There wasn’t much speaking. It was dark. It was often cold. There was coffee, Folger’s crystals, usually. It took an hour and a half to get ready – rubbing the sleep out of my eyes, a long hot shower, getting dressed, the hair, the makeup, the finished product. And, I would drive to work. I’d leave about 5:30 am. Rain, sleet, snow, or simply the dew of the morning dawn, and me. It’d take about 10 minutes to drive the 5.6 miles. I knew all the curves of the road. I felt like a race car driver speeding to the next check point. And, when I arrived at work, there was only one person there.

I would do the necessary check in with the night auditor whom I was relieving. And, then I’d begin my morning tasks. I’d review the guest register. I’d count the petty cash. I’d check the drawers and make sure they were all balanced. I’d check the fax machine. I’d check for messages. I would tidy up any messes. I’d prep the continental breakfast. I’d brew coffee, get orange juice, and danishes from the walk in coolers. And, then, I’d wait. Now that I was awake, it was my turn to watch the morning wake up.

At that point, I had probably close to three hours of quiet time – steadily moving at my own pace while the grounds crew trickled in. Regular employees didn’t show up until about 8:00 am. Three hours, more or less to myself, with maybe upwards of 4 interactions per hour. Quietly left to my thoughts, to ponder, to tidy, to review.

Things would pick up after 8am, and then when 2pm rolled around, the next shift would start, and I would be on my way.

That was the most enjoyable schedule I ever worked. I didn’t know then that my personality lends itself towards introversion. I just knew that I enjoyed the pace. Similarly, I had a follow-up hotel/front desk job where we would check in groups of 200 guests, with pauses between. The pace worked. Our manager staffed us such that there were enough people to handle the swells and we had enough time to get things done. Fast, slow, fast, slow – enough to keep the brain active and catch up.

I have lost that pace. I have lost that natural watching of the morning, following natures patterns as I mock my own patterns in my constructed world. Now, it’s getting up by alarms, tending to others needs, driving, arriving. I cannot show up at work two hours before anyone else does – who would get Levi to school? I cannot leave three hours before everyone else does – I have been relegated to answering the phones. My duties, my extroverted duties run conflict with my introverted nature and a desire for natural patterns.

How, then, can I live more intentionally and balance my days? How can I, within these roles, take back control of the pace that left me at peace?

Getting a Head Start

Day two of days is complete. The dishes are done. The lunches are prepped. The coffee is programmed. Some of the laundry is folded, the dishwasher is loaded.

I am loving day two.

One of the hardest things to do is come home from work – having anticipated needs, taken care of fires, and attempted to stay on task amidst distractions – is to come home from work and again have to clean up after everyone. I don’t know if it’s because we were at such opposite schedules that we couldn’t communicate our needs or desires. But, I am loving this day two of communicating, and helping, and doing the work together so we don’t all have to do it by ourselves.

And now, now, it’s almost 11pm, and the boys are in bed, and I’m having an appropriate quiet time before I venture off for some reading time.

I am hoping day three continues this trend.

Sunday Kitchen Stories

Tonight feels successful. Let’s hope this sets us up for a good week.

Accomplished:

  • Icing the foot, twice
  • Soaking three bowls of beans
  • Cooking three types of beans
  • Baked two loaves of bread (whole wheat, barley flour, unbleached white)
  • Visited Meat Market (food club meat on hiatus via lack of fridge space)
  • Cooked chili
  • Prepped lunches
  • Crock pot roast slow cooking

Sustainability in Coffee

Sustainable Peet's
A glimpse at Sustainable Peet’s, my beans, and my method of brewing.

Barbara Kingsolver talked about her coffee methods in Small Wonder. She and her husband indulge in this one non-local treat, but source their beans from a well-managed farm that focuses on shade grown beans. Prior to reading that some years ago, I never considered the sustainable factor of coffee.

I have been buying my beans from Peet’s Coffee & Tea for about 10 years now. I will switch off between Peet’s, Cafe Mam (a roaster in Eugene, Oregon), Stumptown (another local roaster), and local coffee shops (The Arbor Lodge) that also focus on locally roasted coffee (Coava Coffee).

I don’t know the particulars from each, but common themes include well-managed forests, fair wages, and farmer controlled prices. This isn’t necessarily found in all roasters – just themes I look for and note when I can find it.

My favorite, by far, though, is Peet’s. I enjoy the experience of walking into the store. I have a friend who has worked their longer than I’ve been choosing their beans. And, the coffee is fantastic. I started with their signature blends (Major Dickinson and Arabian Mocha Java), but as I tried more coffees my preferences have tightened to specific origins: Africa and the Americas. A kind barista suggested I have a sophisticated palette, yesterday, when I thanked him for giving me a chance to review the offerings.

I love my smooth, bold flavors that wake your mouth up with every sip. I love making the boldness creamy with half-and-half. I don’t mind drinking it black. I love the smell. I love the concept.

When I consider that I started drinking Folder’s Crystals, based on what my mother was drinking at the time, my indulgence has certainly turned into an investment. I sometimes feel guilty about that – comparing what we indulge in today versus other times – thinking that I’m bathing too much in a lap of luxury. But, my coffee is like other food. I want to make sure we are putting good quality into our bodies and the people who work really hard to get this product to us are paid and treated fairly.

So, I was thrilled, yesterday, when I walked into the store and saw the stand advertising their Panama Reserve. The storyboard explained that the family who produced these beans are dedicated to preserving the Rain Forests of Panama. By securing ownership of the land that buffers the rainforest, they protect the sensitive habitat there.

I continued walking around the counter to collect my drinks (one for me and one for Levi), and was pleased to see a resurrected brochure describing the Sustainability Initiatives Peet’s enacts. A recent initiative is ensuring their roasting is done in a Gold LEED certified building. One of the reasons I started drinking the coffee is their direct relationships with their farmers. And, I was surprised to learn about their targeted philanthropy that focuses on education, kids, and the grounds around coffee.

It oft surprises me the push back sustainability gets, because it’s not supposed to be something that takes away, in the end. What sustainability is trying to make sure is that we all have enough for us and for our children and for our children’s children. In this one brochure Peet’s captured that sentiment: take care of the families that produce the product, make a great product, and take care of the land that is important to the people and the product. Et, voilà, a sustainability plan that makes sense is born.

Here’s to your sustainable morning cup.

Catching Up in Photos

Sometimes Levi gets a hold of my phone, when it’s locked. He used hit number after number, locking it up further with wrong combinations. Now, he’s realized that he can at least play with the camera. And, so he does, until I come along.

So, today, I bring you a few photos taken by Levi and me of the last few days and weeks.

Time Changes

In one week schedules will change, and our schedules will be the most aligned since before I started working outside the home (for like a real paycheck and stuff). I am thrilled and terrified. The last time my husband worked days, I felt like we squandered it. We weren’t thoughtful and spent it, like we do now with these split shifts, catching up.

Everyone has their own normal to deal with. Some people have so called easy kids and harder familial issues or budgets. Some people have children with health problems and super supportive spouses. Some people have to deal with the crap in their own heads which becomes an obstacle for success in so many ways.

Our normal is genderfied roles (whether we like it or not), the inability to properly train our now six year old to do chores, and backwards schedules. My husbands weekend ended as mine began, for so long, and now we will have ONE overlapping day, and evening meals together, every day of the week.

No more will family nap time be something we can count on, though. And, in this family of introverts, it’s the most restful, restorative quiet time one can ask for.

We started last week pretty good. Right now, there is time to get the uniforms, lunches, and clothes ready for Monday. But, I haven’t set the full menu – my brain lacks the creativity at the moment. I have the shell, it’s just waiting to be filled in. I doubt I will every be consistent like Fly Lady suggests with leaving the kitchen shiny the night before. It is what it is, and the day starts, and traffic, and co-workers, and chatter exhaust me and all I want to do is read and write. (Kind of like right now.) Needing quiet doesn’t give one the necessary motivation to put the wheels in motion for a good week, though. Oh the conflict and balance abounds.

And, this is why I write. This is why I call it a balancing act. On one hand in slivers of views, to some, I know they think I have my act together. And in others, like this, while I look at all the undone things, I feel like failure unable to do it all. Gimpy feet, chores, laundry, divisions of labor, all meshing together in one gobbly-gooky mess, and we march on, hoping the next day will be as good or better than the last.

Good luck friends at this Monday morning. I hope we can all get our collective-shit together and have a fantastic day.

Catharsis vs. the Naysayers

It feels like this: there’s a pit in my stomach. But, it doesn’t feel bad. Feels kind of good. Like a bunch of thoughts welled up in one coherent thought, in one moment. At the same time, my eyes well up with tears. It’s a physical and mental state, as if the world stopped.

That’s what catharsis feels like to me. All of those emotions and physical sensations at once. You become the moment. The moment of particular clarity when everything just makes sense.

The question begs, how do you hang on to that moment and make something out of it?

Sometimes I share the clear thoughts with others, and the naysayers are quick to show themselves. They don’t bolster you up, the bring you down. They point out all the flaws, all the disappointments, all the reasons why not. Never, never, do they utter why. Later, they might acquiesce and say, no really, I just want to support you. But, that moment is affected.

It doesn’t seem to matter how logical their reasons are, they all go towards bringing the dream down. You have to be a very strong person to hang on to that clarity. To keep it clear, your eyes set on it, to be able to carry out what is now a goal.

This is where I falter. As soon as the naysayers say their peace, and boy do they ever, without an activator in my life, I become weak, and I acquiesce to their so-called pragmatic reasons why not.

A friend chided another some time ago. She was tired of someone close to her always having the next new thing and begging for support. This person, always searching, certainly seemed fickle in their endeavors, not really finishing anything, jumping to the next thing as if to feel the new feeling. But, maybe they, like me, are just trying to find their place in this world.

My mother always told me that everyone beats to the march of a different drummer. It’s so hard finding that drummer, and if catharsis comes in the form of a drummer, all you want is to start marching. And you want your band mates there to march along with you, holding you, bolstering you up as you face your dream.

And the naysayers come. And the band disappears. And you are left, alone, wondering – was it really a Eureka moment after all? Maybe it wasn’t meant to be because the stars didn’t seem to align. Maybe it wasn’t meant to be because you couldn’t prioritize it along side all the busy-ness of life. Maybe we are just too weak to make our dreams come true. Maybe it’s just easier to side with the naysayers, who are also in your inner circle, because it’s too hard to argue, and you have to pick your battles, and sometimes fixing dinner is easier than making dreams.

Let’s revisit Langston Hughes.

What I Know and What I Don’t Know

Let’s begin with a little slide show. (Skip the ad at the end.)

I am not working on the direct advocacy of educating people on the importance of a sustainable society. As such, I don’t feel like I’m reaching my own goals. So, I have met with various people to find ideas on how I can reach my goals.

She assessed that I talk fast. She thought I was from New York or Boston instead of Michigan. She swayed me away from consulting because I don’t specialize in anything – I’m a generalist. She assessed that I have a problem with authority (though she didn’t use those words or even state it that bluntly). And she surmised that the interviews are the problem for me, not the résumé writing.

I was hoping for the smoking gun answer on “this is what I should do.” But, I didn’t get that. The closest I got was with the hour and a half chat the night previous suggesting start ups.

Here’s what I know.

  • I know that I want to educate people on the importance of a sustainable society.
  • I know that I used mark myself as an INFJ, but now, consistently rank as an INTJ.
  • I know that I do not want to be an engineer.
  • I know that I like to think.
  • I know that I like to learn.
  • I know that I’m not afraid to try new things.
  • I know that I need autonomy to get a job done.
  • I know I work best when not micromanaged.
  • I know that I like colleagues with whom to solve problems.
  • I know that I don’t like other people telling me what to do all day long. (That presumes I’m too stupid to figure it out on my own, and I’m repeatedly told that I’m quite smart…)
  • I know I need regular access to creativity, otherwise I feel vacant or void.
  • I know that I need to be in some sort of environmental or social advocacy, furthering the promotion of my sustainable agenda.
  • I know that I don’t want to be a secretary for the rest of my life.
  • I know that I want to run my own organization some day, and be paid a fair wage for doing so.
  • I know that I want to learn how to build collaborative teams, and learn more about how to keep them together working positively for a common goal.
  • I know that I want to work with a diverse team – younger people for their creativity and energy and older people for their wisdom and experience. (Socio economic, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation all offer important perspectives that aid in diversity.)
  • I know that I want to stop collecting jobs and actively work towards a career, a meaningful career.

I was hoping that would get answers around these pieces of knowledge, but it didn’t happen. So, more status quo with some practice. And, on we trudge trying to improve ourselves and fulfill our goals.