Thought I’d Something More to Say

Lately, Daniel has been curious about whether he is bigger than us. He’ll ask when he’s standing on the floor and once again when he’s on his stool at the kitchen counter.  He’ll ask about his hands or his mouth or his head, and each time we answer some variation of, “No, sweet pea, you aren’t. You will be one day, but please don’t be in a hurry to grow up. Please enjoy being little while you can.”

I tweeted earlier in the week, “being an adult is bullshit.”

I don’t really think being an adult is bullshit. Not really. Mostly. But I contrast how much I chafed at the endless restrictions and how eager to grow up I was as a child with the anxiety, stress and responsibility I have now as an adult. My mind is never quiet. It is always thinking about what comes next: planning dinner, getting out clothes, do we have clean uniforms which means someone needs to do laundry if we don’t, is tonight a bath night, is it time to get the bedroom prepared, do we have homework, what are we sending back to school, is tomorrow hot lunch or do I need to pack lunch, each thought a staccato beat in my head, drumming relentlessly.

I think the holidays are where I see the biggest difference between a carefree childhood and care-heavy adulthood. As a child, I basked in the magic of the season. I dreamed about gifts and Santa. When it was time to eat, I sat down at the table. I performed in chorale performances, musicals, plays, blase about the audience. What I wore for the holidays was a priority: velvet, lace, satin, something festive and adorable, hair rolled, a living doll.  On Christmas Day, the focus was on me and my reaction to gifts, keenly watched to observe a gasp of delight or grin.

As the adult, I am the maker of magic. A festive holiday dinner means that I must cook it if I want it to happen.  I research and identify gift ideas, doling them out to family requesting them. Christmas Eve means long hours of assembling gifts and putting them out after Daniel is in dream land. We are the bleary-eyed ones in the morning when he pops up, rested and raring to go.  We are the ones hoping for the delighted gasp or a grin as he sees what Santa brought him.

Then there are the other holiday tasks: making cards, addressing them, mailing them. Deciding whether we schedule a family portrait. Putting up decorations. Buying more decorations when the ones you bought last year no longer work. Trying to make memories via watching holiday specials, going to see light displays, attending special performances. Baking cookies. Listening to holiday music.

No wonder I feel so exhausted and stressed.

I love being the maker of magic for Daniel. Truly. I want him to feel and experience the magic of the season. I want to fire his imagination and see him become excited as he counts down to Christmas. I love seeing his face as he notices his gifts for the first time, and I want him to feel that he is special and that this is a special time of year.  But there is no denying that it is a lot of work!

I don’t think I realized until recently how you shift to the periphery as an adult. You’re backstage, the director. Pulling the strings, choreographing the steps and routines while the child is the star. If my work is good, it’s invisible.

Tired of lying in the sunshine staying home to watch the rain
You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today

I spent so much time wanting to grow up that it came as a surprise to realize I was grown up.

And then one day you find ten years have got behind you
No one told you when to run, you missed the starting gun

I think I always thought I’d get a memo or something: KeAnne, you’re an adult now. This is your life. Your one life. You’re living it, doing it. There are no do-overs.

So it comes as a shock to realize that I am in the middle of the only life I’m ever going to have. What I want to do is hit pause. Imagine having the ability to freeze your life, to stop the world from spinning.  You could take a breath and assess, catch up, regain equilibrium and make plans.  I could feel in control of my life instead of feeling like my life is either out of control or in control of me.

To live deliberately.

It’s funny because I only now truly understand what that phrase means. Bad English major!

To live deliberately, something that seems impossible to do when all the responsibilities and must-dos and should-dos are hammering away inside my brain.

Or maybe I’m a weirdo. Are there people out there who have it together, have no worries or anxieties and blithely live their lives, confident that they are living the best life they can?

So my darling boy, please stay young as long as you can. I want your thoughts to be only on playing and having fun. On how many sleeps there are until Santa comes and whether Mommy and Daddy bought a special treat for you. On the love you have for your cuddlies. Enjoy it. Because one day, all to quickly, the world will be too much with you.

The Facades We Create

I spent a lot of time in the car today, driving to and from people and places.  I received a few compliments on how nice I looked (thank you!), which I thought was interesting since on the inside I was a bundle of nerves and anxiety.  Those comments made me think about the facades, the armor we wear.

I think I come off to most people as a little aloof, in control and reserved.  Maybe even regal if I flatter myself. My style is primarily classic.  I’m a devoted Ann Taylor and LOFT shopper with the occasional J.Crew, Talbots and Banana Republic piece sprinkled in.  I do not take fashion risks.  Honestly, if it doesn’t match in some way, I shy away from it.  I do not in any way mean to imply that I’m a good dresser or wouldn’t welcome tips; I’m simply sharing what I’ve identified as my style over the years. This attire  makes me comfortable, makes me confident even if it is a little boring.  I’m a firm believer that if you feel you look good or are at least comfortable in what you are wearing, it gives you a shot of confidence and a boost of morale.

Our big cat, Bit, has a tabby mask and markings, and we used to tease her about wearing a mask.  We’d joke that when we weren’t home, she took off her mask and the real Bit was revealed.  We mused about how we could sneak in without her knowing it and catch her unclothed, her snow white fur revealed at last.

Yeah, we’re weird.

I sort of feel like that, though.  Inside, in places I don’t talk about at parties, I’m a mess of vulnerabilities and self-doubt.  Sometimes I feel like all I am is a huge mess constrained by a suit of skin, clothes and attitude that hold it in check to the rest of the world.  How strong are the stitches holding back the vulnerability and self-doubt? Sometimes I feel so brittle that I worry that one crack in the armor would be enough to be my undoing.

That’s my public facade.  I hope.  On this blog, I sometimes think all I do is express my vulnerabilities.  Sometimes I worry that I come off as a huge mess and am exposed as someone who most definitely does not have it together.  I need this outlet to be able to give voice to the anxiety, worry, crazy thoughts and doubt that swirl around my head, especially after keeping myself together all day.  I worry, though, how I come across.  Do I seem crazy?  Trying too hard? Lacking confidence?  Can I be upbeat one day and morose the next?

As usual, I’m probably thinking too much about this, but it makes me think about the personas we express on our blogs and how we are in reality and in a variety of spaces.  What would the majority of my colleagues think if they read this blog and had insight into my addled thoughts?  Would it soften their perception of me?  Would it make them think less of me?  Would they shrug and move on because they knew all along I was like this?

I think I worry that I’m too much of one thing or another in various spaces.  I am allergic to personal vulnerability at work, but on this blog, do I focus too much on my worries?  How do you reconcile the various personas you have in various environments?  How do you be as real, as authentic (ooohhhh I used the dreaded word) as possible?

I guess the bottom line is that I believe that no one has it together, no matter how perfect they appear.

The Anxious Electorate

In case you haven’t heard, are an alien, or have been living under a rock, today is Election Day in the United States, and we are in the process of electing the next President of the United States.  Many of us hope the next President will be the current President which is sort of a Schrodinger’s Cat equation.

I think we all need a Xanax or Valium or a potent potable.  I am extremely anxious about the outcome of what is projected to be a very close election and based on what I’ve seen on Facebook and Twitter, many feel the same way.  What I don’t know is whether that anxiety is universal; my fellow Obama supporters are admittedly anxious, but I admit that it doesn’t appear that I follow many vocal Romney supporters or if I do, they are staying quiet or I am ignoring them.  Probably a mix of both.

I am nervous.  Four years ago, I watched triumphantly and emotionally as Barack Obama was elected President.  We were still in the first trimester with Daniel, and I felt that momentous things on top of momentous things were happening.  It was a brave new world.  That was probably a foolish, hyperbolic thought, considering how our government works and the reality of getting anything done in this country. But it seemed like old wounds could be healed and the potential for greatness was there.

I’m not saying the Obama has been a perfect leader.  Far from it.  I freely admit that he squandered opportunities and truthfully, Hillary Clinton was our candidate of choice.  But I believe in the Democratic party, and I believe that Obama has the intelligence and ability to make real change in Washington, change that this country desperately needs.

I write that and then I smile sadly because I fear the reality is that it won’t really make a difference which candidate is elected.  Obama will be obstructed by politicians whose primary goal is to make him fail (appalling) while Romney will be forced closer to the center than his party will like by Democrats.  More cynically, I wonder if any of our leaders or our system of government is prepared to make the revolutionary, incredibly difficult decisions we need made for a sustainable future.

Despite those cynical, dark thoughts, it is Election Day.  For a few more hours, we can sit on the edge of our seats, watching the will of the people revealed.  That is worth acknowledging and honoring and regardless of which candidate is elected, publicly I will respect him as the holder of the greatest office in the world.  I make no promises about what I say behind closed doors 😉

Election Day anxiety manifests itself in interesting ways.  When Jimmy was getting Daniel’s room ready tonight, he felt compelled to have the following conversation with the stuffed animals in Daniel’s room:

Jimmy: Well, cuddlies.  Today is an important day.  Today is Election Day.  I just wanted you all to know that we voted for cuddly rights today, and in our home, we support that any cuddly has the right to cuddle any other cuddly he, she or it wants.

Cuddlies: Silence.

OK.  At least the cuddlies know where they stand in our house.

Happy Election Day.  Let us all inhale and exhale, being thankful this day comes only once every four years.

Surviving Type-A

Bloggers and superheroes will rule the world!

The post title is a bit of an understatement.  I did more than “survive” the conference.  I had a really good time, learned a lot and met great people.

I had some major social anxiety for the first few hours I was there.  I arrived after the opening keynote started, so instead of creeping in and finding an open seat, I checked in to the hotel, picked up my name tag and then wondered around until the keynote finished, following along via Twitter.  I felt uncomfortable and out of my element until lunchtime, which is usually how I feel in new situations.

I did wonder why this conference made me so nervous.  I’m used to attending conferences and events.  I’ve even presented a few times.  Why was this conference so nerve wracking? I concluded that this conference was different because I was attending it for personal reasons.  I wasn’t hiding behind my organization or my professional self, so what impressions and conclusions attendees made were conclusions about ME.   I felt like an exposed nerve most of the time.

I did find my conference groove.  I never ate a meal alone, and I did exchange business cards.  I attended the evening parties but skipped the after parties because I needed some time to myself to decompress. And I decided that was ok.  I found my courage and introduced myself to people I particularly wanted to meet and had only one reaction that wasn’t as … friendly… as I hoped.  I realize that I am painting a picture of myself as a shrinking violet and not confident.  What I’m starting to realize after the last few months is that I’m not confident in myself when I am all I have to fall back on.

I was able to take away something from every session I attended, and there was only one session that made me roll my eyes at the speaker. A few points:

  • It’s a necessity to know what you are passionate about and why you blog
  • No matter whether you have 1 reader or 1 million, your voice is important and powerful and never forget that
  • Creating viral content is more calculated than serendipity.  Think about your audience and what would capture their attention and be sharable (I’m disappointed about this conclusion.  Also?  If you have enough $$$, you can buy the means to make content go viral)
  • Don’t simply write; tell a story.  The most important relationship in storytelling is that between the reader and the story; leave room for them to have their own experience with the story.

I want to come back to passion.  Two of the sessions I attended emphasized knowing what you are passionate about.  In the first session, I was stumped.  I wrote down “social media” and “manufacturing.”  Then I realized they were professional passions.  I couldn’t think of one personal passion.  Granted, it was in the context of thinking of something about which you are passionate that you could turn into a speaking opportunity. I couldn’t think of one topic about which I felt confident on speaking personally. That’s really sad.  I’ve got some work to do there. The second session relying on passion was about using your writing for good.  This time when we were ask to think of a topic about which we were passionate and would like to bring awareness to, I immediately wrote down infertility and surrogacy.

I had to come to Charlotte to discover that Jenna (@frelle) lives 20 minutes from me!

I wasn’t happy about that.  I could write every day on infertility and surrogacy, providing some caustic response to the latest infuriating news item on surrogacy tourism or stupid tv show (I’m looking at you, creators of The New Normal).  But I don’t because I don’t want to be pigeonholed as an infertility blog (not that there is anything wrong with that.  I realized, though, that just as I tell people infertility will always be a part of me, I need to own it.  It’s a cause about which I care deeply and personally, and I’m ready to get involved in some advocacy efforts.  There are a few local options that I am looking into, so hopefully there will be more to come.

Hands down, the best session I attended was on blog design co-presented by North Carolina’s own Melissa Culbertson, Brittany Vanderlinden and Laurie Smithwick. You may or may not have noticed that my blog lacks design and while I love to think that my writing is compelling enough to make up for that oversight, I know that’s not true.  Their two-hour session was full of great info, and I think it pushed me over the edge to do something with this space.  I’ve been stuck in a vicious cycle that goes something like this:  I want my own domain (I actually own but haven’t done anything with it) but if I move to my own domain and self-host my blog, will I need to come up with a new blog name and re-brand myself?  And if so, what should it be?  And then I sort of throw up because I’m talking about branding myself and that is so absurd. And repeat. Hmm.  Maybe it comes back to that personal confidence I wrote about earlier.

So yeah, Type -A Parent Conference was great, and it was a perfect first bloggy conference.  I highly recommend it.  I returned with an overflowing brain and full of inspiration.  Thanks to the hysterical Cindy for thinking I’m occasionally funny even though I’m not 46 like she thought. Angie, it was great to meet a fellow former English major! Jessica, I’ll be emailing you to schedule a play date for our boys soon! Tanis, I enjoyed our geopolitical discussion on Canadian – US relations and I’m sorry for my epic coffee breath when we met. Tonja, thanks for participating gamely in our inappropriate table talk. And thanks to the always awesome Fadra for being a friendly face when I needed one.


Family portrait in the wind and rain

Daniel started preschool on Tuesday, and it went…ok. His teachers took each child into the classroom one at a time, and they did it so masterfully that I don’t think Daniel realized what was happening until the door was closed. After that, a few of the parents went down the hall for the “Tissues and Tea” meeting that was supposedly our orientation but that I began to suspect was really more of a time-killer because this week, our 2-year-olds go only for an hour.

At 10:30 we marched down the hall back to the classrooms and the doors were open. When I entered the room, Daniel was sitting on one of his teacher’s laps, reading a book. The teacher told us he had cried when two other toddlers crowded him while playing, but that the crying ended quickly. I heaved a sigh of relief and held out my arms, and he ran to me. I picked him up and carried him out to MIL’s car, and he wrapped his arms around my neck and buried his head in my shoulder.

We had survived the first day of preschool.

Daniel is a little slow to warm up to strangers, especially other kids. I know that this behavior is pretty normal for his age, but it makes me worry about whether he will embrace preschool. I think he will. Eventually. He likes the toys, and he likes the teachers, but the jury is still out on the other kids.

My Sweet Boy and I

His preschool is a church-run preschool. MIL and I researched many preschools and visited a few. We visited the preschool associated with the Catholic church at which he was baptized, but we agreed that we didn’t like it. It was kind of dark and gloomy, and the director was terse and smug because they had a waiting list. I didn’t feel like she actually liked children either, so we crossed it off our list.

We both had a really good feeling from the preschool we chose as soon as we toured it. They were welcoming, and the director obviously loved children and cared deeply about the preschool experience. And even though I am not religious and normally shy away from religiously-affiliated activities, I felt that my Doodle would be safe, protected and cared for there. My instinct was confirmed when J and I had to travel to Florida suddenly for his father’s funeral. We would be gone during the preschool lottery for non-members and making sure we were able to secure a place was a big concern. MIL called the director, explained the situation, and she let us register early, and that kind act secured my loyalty.

His class is the "White Bunnies"

As the first day of preschool approached, my anxiety has increased. Daniel has been cared for by us and his grandparents almost exclusively since birth. I know he isn’t used to other children and is a bit reserved by nature, so I know preschool will be good for him, but oh how I have worried. I have worried that he won’t adapt and will hate preschool. I have worried that he will think we have abandoned him. The preschool gave us literature on separation anxiety intended to help our children, but in some ways, I think I am having separation anxiety.

As of today, Daniel’s first week of preschool is over. He didn’t cry today but according to his teachers, he needed lots of hugs, which they are happy to give him until he feels comfortable.

My sweet boy. I’m glad he’s in a preschool that will give him the comfort he needs and let him adjust at his pace. I’m sure that making friends with the other little boys and girls will follow.