Stress (aka: Stresssss)

Oops…I just caught myself massaging the back of my neck. Again. And chewing on my pinky fingers. Again. Which may not seem like a big deal to lots of you, but to me, it means one thing.

STRESS.

Stress Sources

Wait, what stress? I thought I was just coasting along, my usual relaxed self. (Okay, correction: Relaxed for a Type-A personality. Relaxed for an INTJ). But we all have our own little signals that tell us when our bodies are experiencing a lot of stress. Some people overeat when stressed. Others smoke, or drink too much, have bouts of insomnia, or a myriad of other physical or psychological symptoms that spring up when our plates are just too full.

So what should we do when we recognize these symptoms? According to the American Psychological Association , we should identify the sources of our stress. Hmm, let’s see…

My oldest teen has caught a nasty case of Senioritis — that annoying and highly contagious bug that high school seniors often catch this time of year, when they feel so invincible that they slack off in school, convinced that they won’t fail. So I get to take off the sweet, cookie-baking mommy hat and put on the steel-edged hat of The Enforcer.

Stress.

My ex-husband has decided to initiate court proceedings to have my child support officially decreased, thanks to my shiny new full-time job. Despite the new job, however, it has been a challenge to keep the budget balanced while raising three teen/tweens as a full-time single parent and saving for college expenses. So a potentially big income cut would be a serious blow. I’ve just begun hunting for a second part-time job – something to help make ends meet once our household income drops. Bye-bye free time.

Stress

The older teen just headed off on an expensive school trip with his band — the only trip I’ve been able to send him on for all of high school. Senior prom tickets are really expensive, too. So is his recent dental work. Also, my teen daughter, the former gymnast, has fallen in love with dance. “Hey mom, can I take a second dance class at the studio?” And the twelve-year-old keeps outgrowing his clothes. And did I mention how much it costs to feed three kids this age nutritious, homemade meals filled with fresh vegetables? Oh boy. Kids are expensive.

Stress.

I just finished a bout of medical testing  (an endoscopy, a colonoscopy, and even a special endoscopy where I got to swallow this cool miniature camera). The doctor found nothing, except for signs of gastritis. Gastritis which sprung up around a year ago, and was likely triggered by — you guessed it —

Stress.

Effect of Stress on the Body

It is astonishing what stress can do to our bodies, even when we think we’re handling it well. Kind of stresses me out to think about it. Luckily, there are things we can do to help us manage the way we deal wih stress. Here are some great suggestions from the Mayo Clinic:

  • Regular physical activity
  • Relaxation techniques, such as deep breathing, meditation, yoga, tai chi or getting a massage
  • Keeping a sense of humor
  • Socializing with family and friends
  • Setting aside time for hobbies, such as reading a book or listening to music

I’m pretty good with most of these, especially the sense of humor part. Very important stuff. But I still kinda suck at the socializing part. But know what? Today at work, I got to spend lots of time socializing with coworkers (in between moments of working hard, of course). And know what? It’s like a magic pill for this stress thing. Despite the enormous pressures I’m feeling, I’ve barely reached up to massage my neck or chew my fingers all afternoon.

Uh-oh — trying to come up with a nice, neat way to end this post is only adding to my stress. So I’ll just tip-toe out of here and hope none of you notice. Time to go and…

DE-STRESS

 

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Winner! (aka: My Parenting Trophy)

I did it! I won a trophy!

Not just any trophy, either. The Best Trophy Ever.

Finally, after years of driving my three kids around to their events and watching them earn gymnastics medals, soccer trophies, science team trophies, and scouting awards, I finally had my turn.

Okay fine. It’s not like I’ve never earned awards before. After all, I grew up at the beginning of the High-Self-Esteem-Trophies-For-Just-Showing-Up era, when every kid was a winner. Of course, the moment the coaches’ backs were turned, the “real” winners stole the conch and Piggy’s glasses, then danced around a bonfire. And those trophies? Their fate was to be crammed away in some cardboard box in the garage until Mom tried to push them off on her grown kids. (No thanks, Mom. I’d rather keep the memories).

But today was different. Today, on the day before the last day of school, I opened an envelope that my 11 year-old son handed me. Every sixth grader heading off to middle school next year wrote thank you letters to their parents — a tradition carried on through the years at his school. My kid, who isn’t usually the mushy, sentimental type, wrote a love note that brought tears to my eyes. My heart cartwheeled in happiness.

This was not just a letter. This was proof. Proof that my children think I’m pretty special. Proof that I haven’t been screwing up this parenting thing. Proof that the experiment is working. Hooray! Yahoo! This letter from my kid is my trophy. The only trophy I need. And I don’t know, maybe I will frame it and hang it in my closet. So anytime I feel like I’m failing in the mom role, I can read my son’s honest, loving words and be reminded.

Hey Mom. You’re doing just fine.
LoveLetter FromConnor

A Hot Not-Date (aka: Spring Cleaning)

I have a hot date this weekend.

But first, let me explain. You see, spring is about to spring. And spring, with its warm, sweet weather and flower-tipped trees, has a way of turning one’s thoughts toward love, and frolicking in meadows, and sunshiny fresh air.

And so, I have a date this weekend, with this tall, well-built, bald man. You’ve probably heard his name before: Mr. Clean.

Irresitible Mr Clean

That’s right. What can I say? Thanks to a super-busy schedule of work and college classes and kids’ activities and sports, I have had very little time or energy to devote to cleaning house. And so, my not-quite-Martha-Stewart but still passable housekeeping levels have slipped to a not-quite-reality-TV-hoarder but still-needs-major-improvement levels.  When I saw Mr. Clean in the store, I fell hard. I couldn’t resist his twinkling eyes, or his promise to turn our messy house into a shining, spotless home. Mr. Clean is just the guy to turn my spring-cleaning dreams into reality.

Wait –you thought I was talking about going out on an actual date? What, me, leave behind my cozy cave of Netflix and books and computers? Me, venture out alone into the real world and try to make sense of human relationships? Very funny. It’s nice to know that my readers have a sense of humor.

Okay, I get it. No one expects a smart, talented, and fairly attractive 40 year-old woman to stay single for very long. The world expects me to get out there, place an advertisement the way one sells a used car. Join a dating site! Flirt with real, live men who are not cartoon models for cleaning products! Start a romantic relationship that doesn’t happen only in your imagination!

zodiac killersBut here’s the big problem: that whole world of mean and dating and relationships is frightening. Like, scarier than Children of the Corn frightening (and let me tell you – those were some creepy little kids). I’m more the type of woman who avoids eye contact or conversation with strange men than the type who looks forward to going out on dates with total strangers, all of whom are probably the Zodiac Killer (no offense to Ted Cruz).

How ridiculous! You say. Cleaning house is far more nerve-wracking than dating. Just think of what fuzzy blue horrors await you at the back of the refrigerator!

Ahh, this is true. Cleaning out my fridge is a frightening challenge. It’s…um…been a while. And yes, the food in the back has probably become an entire new species of living things. But hey – I have Mr. Clean to tackle the dirty work, and even cleaning out my icky fridge seems far less daunting and much more fun than dating.

online-dating no way

See, here’s another big problem: I am bad at romantic relationships. After a failed 17-year marriage and one attachment-free post-divorce fling, I am convinced that I was not made for relationships. Men apparently have these expectations of what a woman should be like, or how we should perform or behave or respond, and I tend to do everything the opposite. Blame it on my alien roots, I guess. But there was nothing rewarding to me about any of it, and a lot of messy emotions and expectations and drama that don’t mesh well with my INTJ personality.

Ugh.

And so, I am spending one of my kid-free weekends cleaning my house, because scrubbing toilets is a lot less confusing than dating. Vacuuming floors is a lot less stressful than the reality of romantic relationships. Organizing my closet is a lot more gratifying than sex ever was. And teaming up with Mr. Clean is far more rewarding than searching for Mr. Probably-Doesn’t-Exist-Single-Guy-Who’s-Right-for-Me. Because after all my effort, my kids and I will get to enjoy a cozy, clean home that smells like fresh, sunshiny air.

Happy (Almost) Spring!

Pulizie di primavera - Spring Cleaning

 

There’s a Song for That (aka: Musical Motivation)

musical discipline Looking for an effective way to motivate your older kids and teens to clean up the house? It’s simple – just sing a song. I use this strategy all the time with my kids, and it goes something like this:

Me: Didn’t I ask you guys to wash the dishes and take out the garbage? Drop what you’re doing and get the work done.

Kids: Aw, but Mom, I need to finish this level!

Me: Video games can wait. Clean-up comes first.

Kids: *Ignore*

Me: You have five seconds before I start singing the Barney clean-up song.

Kids: Noooo! Anything but that! *Scramble to get the chores done.*

Okay fine, fine. It doesn’t work every time. In fact, thanks to the invention of super-expensive, high-quality, noise-canceling headphones, my kids are now immune to my Mary Poppins treatment. But when their ears are free, my voice allows me to become the all-powerful Enforcer. teens-headphones-ignore

If there’s one thing I learned from my years of teaching young children, it is that music can be a very powerful motivator. There is a song out there for every mood, need, or occasion in life. Need a boost to get into an energetic workout? Crank up the volume on your techno/electronica playlist. Need to relax and unwind at the end of a stressful day? Try some mellow smooth jazz or new-age tunes. Need to motivate your kids to clean up the house, improve their manners, or be kind to one another? Nothing motivates like singing the lyrics of Laurie Berkner, Raffi, or Disney showtunes. mary-poppins singing

Seriously. Want to see a sleepyhead teenage boy climb out of bed at record speed? Just belt out Let it Go at the top of your lungs. Works. Every. Time.

Now if only I could find some lyrics to motivate myself to stop procrastinating on my to-do list…

Happy 1st Divorceaversary!

celebrate-divorceToday I am celebrating my 1st Divorceaversary. Woohoo! Although I have technically been a single woman for around two years now, today marks the day my seventeen-year marriage officially came to an end.

Shameful, you say? No one should celebrate their divorce, you say? Well, I respectfully disagree.

I married my ex-husband when I was only 21 years old. Fresh out of uni     versity, starry-eyed, and far more in love with the dreamy idea of being the perfect Christian wife than I was with the man I married that day. Really, I was nothing more than a naïve virgin in a very expensive dress who believed, like most young brides do, that my marriage was a special, sacred thing that would last until death did us part.

Then this thing called real life showed up.

I will spare you the dramatic details and bad memories. But believe me when I say that choosing to divorce my husband was one of the wisest decisions I have ever made in my entire life. When I walked out of the court room one year ago with the final judgment in my hands, I whooped for joy. I sang aloud. I went home and Snoopy-danced in celebration of this new life, and new sense of freedom. If I had happened to have one of those supportive groups of girlfriends, then surely I would have followed the trends and thrown myself a divorce party.

Happily Divorced Of course, there are some things about a divorce that are not worth celebrating. Some of the changes kind of sucked. Like the child visitation part (not fighting over who gets the most custody, but fighting to get a rather unwilling ex to visit with his kids much at all). And the big financial changes that come with divorce aren’t very fun, either. For many new divorcees, I am sure that there is some sort of mourning period, as well. After all, most couples who have been married for more than a decade are probably close; their lives and routines intertwined to some extent. This was certainly not the case for me, or perhaps the transition to singlehood would have been much more difficult.

But there are other things that are definitely celebration-worthy. Hooray, an end to all the ceaseless fighting! Hooray, no more forced sexual interactions! Hooray, no more having to constantly defend my opinions, thoughts, or choices! Hooray to at last having the freedom to be myself, to grow, and to blossom. Hooray for my kids, who also benefit from a far more stable household! And even a hooray for my ex, who is hopefully realizing that divorce has freed him to pursue the type of woman who will actually make him happy, instead of trying to transform me into someone else. A toast to freedom, and to happiness!

If I weren’t cake intolerant, then maybe I would celebrate this special day by baking one of the crazy divorce cakes I’ve come across on the internet, like these:

I dont cakeDoDidDone Cake

Perhaps I could celebrate by having my old wedding ring redesigned into a lovely pendant, like this:

Diamond heart pendant jewelry

Or, more likely, I will spend the day focusing on the blessings that surround me, like the three great kids who make life awesome every day. And studying, since I have returned to school, and it is now finals week. And maybe, when the kids are not looking, I will turn up the music on my Divorceaversary playlist and Snoopy Dance around my bedroom. Because I am free to do so.

Hey Mom! (aka: She Must Be Nuts)

Exercise, sleep, humor, writing, black Jelly Bellies… No, that is not a wish list. Well, not exactly. Those are my five favorite ways to cope with stress. And I have been seeking them a lot lately. Especially the jelly beans.

I know, I have been blogging less frequently as of late. Blame my ridiculous schedule. You see, I am a full-time single mom of three great kids (because every mom is a full-time mom). I also have a part-time job where I get paid a small amount of actual money to support said three kids. And a part-time internship where I get paid no money, but am learning how to become a Tech Goddess (one day). And I am a full-time college student.

I know what you’re thinking: She must be nuts! Well, some days I think about this full load and am inclined to agree. But most days, I look at my three great kids and think…ahh, that’s why I do it.

It is not easy to be a student when you are also a mom. I can be seated in my favorite chair, laptop in front of me, in the middle of taking a complicated exam about networking protocols, when I will suddenly be interrupted by—

“Hey mom! Do you want to listen to the story I just wrote?” (Well, of course I do).

“Hey mom! I need some help adding MLA style citations to my essay.” (Sigh. Fine, fine).

“Hey mom! I need you to bake some cookies for this thing at school tomorrow.” (Can’t you bake them yourself?). “But yours are way better! Please?”

And so, I have learned to accept that C’s, too, are a passing grade. At least during this stage of life, when no one really cares what your GPA is. I have also learned that it is okay to sometimes let the housekeeping slide for a day or two, and that I will really, really regret it if I procrastinate on online class assignments, and that some of the best dinners are the quesadillas and apple slices prepared by three great kids while you’re busy at the computer. And yes, maybe I am a little bit nuts for wearing so many hats – not to mention managing several blogs. And maybe I will always be stretched a little thin as a single mother. But the thing is, the world needs more Tech Goddesses. And my kids need a Supermom who will drop everything to have a Family Movie Night or bake cookies or help with homework. And me? Well right now, I need a handful of black Jelly Belly candies, and maybe a nice glass of Pinot Grigio.

La Cosa más influyente (aka: La Pregunta del dia)

(He decidido escribir esta entrada en castellano, porque es un idioma que me ha encantado desde niñez, y porque es solo por escribir o leer que tengo las oportunidades para practicar a expresarme, y un dia, todavía me gustaría tener fluencia  en la lengua – aunque de veras, no sé cómo se sabe cuando uno tiene fluencia.)

La pregunta del dia: ¿Qué es la cosa más influyente que has hecho últimamente?

balancing act

Fácil. Este año, he regresado a la universidad. Pues, no exactamente a la universidad – no a donde me licencié en Educación Preescolar hace muchos años, pero a una universidad comunitaria, para estudiar Ciencias de Computadoras. Sí, yo sé – es una carrera muy lejos de enseñar a los preescolares. Pero la verdad es que yo era muy joven cuando elijé mi primera carrera, y lo único que supe hacer fue trabajar con los niños pequeños. Ahora, soy más vieja y madura (pues, espero que sí, jaja), y pienso que ahora llega el tiempo para hacer algo nuevo (y algo que tiene más oportunidades para ganar suficiente dinero para mis hijos y yo.)

adults returning to school

 

¿Y por qué a mí me parece algo influyente regresar a la universidad después de tantos años de criar niños, etc.? Ahh, es que mis hijos ya pueden ver el buen ejemplo de su madre. Me pueden ver levantarme cada mañana a tiempo, llevarlos a sus escuelas, ir a trabajo, ir a mi escuela, recogerlos de sus escuelas, cocinar la cena, limpiar la casa, hacer ejercicios, y luego, despues de todo eso, tambien hacer los deberes y estudiar. Mis hijos ven todo esto, y pienso que les inspira estar disciplinadas tambien. Y que les inspira pensar más en fijarse en sus propias metas. adult learning Kid watching parent on computer

Es un pensamiento que me da mucha motivación en esos días cuando no tengo ganas de levantarme tan temprano o seguir la rutina o hacer mis deberes. Es como sí estoy en un pedestal, y mis hijos me están mirando. No puedo permitirme flojear, o mis hijos podrían llegar a pensar que está bien si ellos tambien flojean. Tengo que tener éxito en mis estudios, para que ellos puedan creer que también pueden tener éxito en sus estudios. Además, tengo que hacer todo esto con una actitud positiva, para enseñar a mis hijos que es mejor hacer las tareas de la vida con una sonrisa, y sin queja, aún si no le gusta lo que hay que hacer.

Allí está – la cosa más influyente que últimamente he hecho, y que sigo haciendo; no para mí, pero para los que recurren  a mí por guiarlos en la vida, y que dependen de mí para ser su ejemplo y su inspiración. ¡Ojalá no les falle!

gotta be supermom

Hay que ser Supermom cuando eres una madre soltera con la custodia total de los niños.