The Stomach Flu as a Metaphor for Life

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This week all three of us had the stomach flu.  It was, in a word…gross.  The stuff that comes out of a body that’s dealing with a stomach virus is disgusting – enough said.  Add to that the weakness, stomach cramps, nausea, headaches (although that may have been caffeine withdrawal), and the burning of sensitive skin in sensitive areas due to the caustic chemicals being expelled.  Never mind the panic that sets in when you don’t think you’ll make it to the safety of the bathroom in time.  Or the fear of leaving the house, even after you’re no longer feeling like death warmed over, just in case you’re not quite done being sick.  Ahh, it’s been quite the week.

But now that it’s mostly over, I’ve been thinking about how I can learn from even this experience.

A few weeks ago, my sweetie decided to do a cleanse.  This flu acted much like that cleanse – it rid my body of every possible bit of waste, including 5 lbs of weight.   And it made me realize that there is quite a bit of waste in my life that I could also be getting rid of.  Some of it is concrete and some of it is more abstract. 

"Three weeks after throwing something away, you'll need it again"

For example, we have a lot of stuff in our house.  Even though we did a major purge just seven months ago when we moved, we didn’t get rid of everything that we could have, and we have accumulated yet more stuff.  Our small 2-bedroom apartment always feels crowded.  The 65lb dog may have something to do with that, but I also think it’s because we have too much stuff.  Do we really need the tower of DVDs that we haven’t touched in over a year except to dust it?  Do we need two scratching posts in the living room and a cat spa that never gets used?  A whole whack of reference books that we never refer to because it’s easier to look it up online;  a shelf full of video games that no one has time or energy to play (psst, don’t tell my husband I said that);  and a storage room full of who-knows-what because we don’t actually need most of it.  So, I may start my spring cleaning a little late and freecycle a few more things. 

But there are not just physical things in my life that could go away.  There is emotional waste as well.  I realized this (again) when reading my friend Karina’s blog about how she managed a really crazy set of circumstances this week.  She talked about controlling one’s emotions in difficult situations – not ignoring them, but taking control.  That is something I struggle with a lot, it seems.  I am usually an easy-going, happy person.  Just ask anyone who doesn’t live with me.  But for some reason, ever since I became a stay-at-home mom, my blood boils very quickly when I’m stressed or pressured.  

If you’ve got kids, you know about the witching hour – a period of time near the end of the afternoon when everyone goes a little nuts.  In our house it starts around 5pm when I realize I haven’t started making dinner, but I’m too exhausted to think about it.  And the Bean needs to have her dinner, and I don’t just want to feed her cheese and crackers again, but I do because she’s too hungry to wait for me to cook something.  Or I do make her wait while I cook something more nutritious, and she’s cranky and throws every toy I try to give her onto the floor.  And the dog and cat both want their dinner, so they are tripping me up in the kitchen.   And then my sweetie calls to say he’ll be home in half an hour, and I still don’t even know what I’m going to make for dinner.  And then the dog wants to go out, and come in, and go out, and come in.  And suddenly there I am yelling at nobody and everybody, but especially the dog.  Whew! 

All that negative energy that comes out of me is not something I like to have around.  It’s garbage, trash, waste.  I want to get rid of it.  I went out for a walk this morning and thought this through.  I need a strategy so that I don’t get myself into the situation where the demands of my family stress me out like that.  Does it mean the Bean gets to watch an hour of Sesame Street some days while I make dinner?  Maybe.  Would it help to feed the animals before they start to drive me crazy?  Probably.  Can I figure out earlier in the day what I am going to make for dinner?  Definitely.  I need to do some spring cleaning of my stress triggers and get rid of the ones that create the negative energy that can ruin the end of an otherwise great day. 

So that is my project for this week.  Plan ahead more, be more thoughtful about how it’s all going to work out, and have a plan in place to alleviate the particular triggers that make me into Monster Mommy. 

I’d love to hear what kinds of things you do to make your witching hour go more smoothly.  Ready, set, COMMENT!

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Ode to My Mother

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Mom having a picnic with the Bean

My Mom is my hero.  She hasn’t always been, but that is what makes our current relationship so sweet.  We’ve been through it, and come out the other side with a wonderful friendship.  So, let me tell you a few things about my Mom.

She is so incredibly caring about other people.  She really connects with young and old alike because she truly listens to what they have to say.  I don’t think she realizes how much her ability to listen touches people’s lives.  When my husband’s grandmother (Nannie) was dying from pancreatic cancer, my Mom came to the hospital to sit with her and read to her from the Bible.  She listed to Nannie’s stories, the ones we’d heard so many times over the years we could recite them, and asked questions that had never even dawned on me.  She was truly a comfort to a dying woman, and also to us as we grieved.

My mom works at a university bookstore and talks to most of the students at one point or another throughout the year.  That’s a lot of kids to meet.  But somehow, she manages to connect with some of them, even just over the cash register, and gets invited to weddings and graduations.  She goes to support the students when they are in the school play, or when their art is being featured in an art show.  And when we’ve been out running errands or having lunch in the town she works in, we invariably run into a student who says to me, “Oh, you must be Beth!”.  She really connects! 

Organizing family gatherings is another one of her strengths.  It doesn’t matter what the occasion is, she will be happy to host or at least help out.  My parents have a large back yard that is the setting for parties all summer long.  I think she loves doing it.  She certainly gets into the planning, and my sisters and I try to be there as much as we can to help with the execution of those plans.  The important part, though, for my mother is that the family gets together.  And by family, I don’t mean just the blood relatives.  There are many friends who have become family, and I think that’s in large part to my mother’s huge heart. 

Her grandchildren are, of course, the apple of her eye.  Whenever she comes to visit, my Mom will take the Bean in the morning (and it’s very early) at least once so I can sleep in.  She’s cared for her overnight (and for a few days in a row) several times even though we’ve lived far apart since the Bean was born.  She makes a real effort to chat with us on Skype when the Bean is still awake, and will sing Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star until she’s blue in the face if it will make the Bean happy. 

One of the main reasons that my Mom is my hero, though, is that she’s been through some pretty difficult stuff in her life, and she’s come out of it all with an attitude of grace and humility.  She is always trying to improve herself, as a mother, as a wife, as a daughter, and as a woman.  She tackles challenges head on, even if (or maybe especially because) they are scary.   She is a great role model. 

She rides on the back of my Dad’s motorcycle – so cool!  She makes THE BEST cinnamon rolls in the world.  When we were little, she worked very hard to make us each a special birthday cake every year.  Favourites of mine include a bookworm, Raggedy Ann, and an elephant.   She always makes sure to have her “face” on before going out, and she looks fabulous, but I don’t think she realizes that she’s beautiful without her makeup too.

My Mom taught me to sew, although my sewing machine usually only comes out for Halloween these days.  She taught me that you always feel better when the housework is done, although my house still gets out of control on a fairly regular basis.  She taught me that it’s better to be over-dressed than under-dressed at an event, although I still hate to wear nylons.  She taught me to be kind to people, to watch my tone of voice, to be a good friend, and to love unconditionally.  I hope to create those kinds of fond memories for my daughter.

Mom, thank you for a lifetime of care and love.  After becoming a mother myself, it became so much clearer to me how incredibly important you are in my life.  I expect you to bawl when you read this, because I’m having trouble seeing the screen myself.  So let me end by saying…

I LOVE YOU MOM!

Ahh, Motherhood

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Mario, the cat, is 14 years old

I have a toddler, a cat, a dog and a husband.  My husband often says to me, “You’re everybody’s Mother”.  It’s true.  Of course, one would expect me to be the mother of my daughter.  But the cat and the dog come to me for everything too.  The cat usually chooses ME to lie on at night, wakes ME up in the morning when he wants his breakfast, comes to ME during the day when he wants cuddles, even if Daddy is home.  Even now, as I type, trying to get some “ME time” in while the Bean naps, my kitty is on my lap, digging his sharp little claws through my jeans and into my legs.

Sakari, the dog, is 6 years old.

The dog doesn’t tell Daddy that she needs to go out for a piddle.  Oh, no.  Even if I’m extremely busy with something and Daddy is not, she comes to bug ME. Want some playtime?  Ask Mom.  Need your water refilled?  Ask Mom.  Want to go outside? Mom.  Inside? Mom.   ARGGG! 

It’s been a little trying lately with the Bean too.  She is usually quite easy-going and laid back.  But lately, she’s been clinging to me like a monkey.  Maybe it’s time to change her nickname!  She can get around just fine by scooting on the floor in our house, but if I’ve put her down and then leave her line of site for a SECOND, she’s already wailing and scooting as fast as her little legs and bottom can carry her in the direction she last saw me.  It doesn’t matter if I’ve explained to her that Mommy will be right back, or that she can come with me.  She gets very upset and loudly lets me know that I’m not to walk away from her like that ever again.  Of course, it doesn’t always stop me, but it does make it very difficult and stressful to get any housework done.  No wonder the place looked like it needed to be shoveled out with a bulldozer by the end of the week. 

Some love from the Bean

This morning, my Sweetie was still in bed (Saturdays are his turn to sleep in), and I needed to shower before heading off to my Weight Watchers meeting.  So I gave the Bean a bunch of her favourite toys to play with on the bathroom floor and hopped into the shower.  It took about 10 seconds for her to start grabbing at the shower curtain, pulling it out of the tub while water sprayed everywhere.  No amount of pleading, cajoling or admonishments could deter her from this game.  The madder I got, the funnier she thought it was.   I JUST WANT TO BE ABLE TO HAVE A SHOWER IN PEACE FOR ONCE!  That’s what I was screaming in my head.  When it came out of my mouth, I wasn’t screaming, but it may have been loud still.  She laughed. 

But the thing is, as frustrating and infuriating as it can be sometimes to be pawed at, clung to, lain on, cried at, barked at, meowed at, pinched, scratched (oh the list goes on and on) constantly, I kinda like being everybody’s Mother.  Once the frustration dies down or I’ve had a chance to decompress, I’m right back to loving my job.

It feels a little wrong to be writing about the frustrations of motherhood the day before Mother’s Day.  But really, it’s all part of the package.  Any mother who tells you that she never gets angry or frustrated at her kids, and always has only the sweetest of feelings towards them is either on drugs or she’s lying through her very firmly gritted teeth. 

So, now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, I can write a sweeter post for tomorrow.