Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Sad but Thankful

I'm feeling really sad today. Really. Sad. Being a grown up sucks. It just does sometimes. Life gets complicated somewhere along the way and it makes me sad. And there are only so many things you can do to "fix" the world, you know? Your situation. I am doing my very best to do everything I can to move us in a good direction, but I feel as if even the people who should be there with me moving in the same direction are sometimes pushing against progress. I'm frustrated. I'm angry. I'm tired.  I'm worn out. I'm sad. I cannot help to change anyone else or make anyone do anything. But I am in charge of my own attitude, so I'm going to do something about that.


Here's a quick synopsis. Two years ago, friends, S was laid off. While his location was going very well and throwing off positive cash to the corporate office, because of some investments made before the 2008 downturn and a larger than acceptable debt load, the parent company was ailing and needed to shed cost.  It was difficult for him to process this turn of events at first, but ultimately it was a good thing. That's right, something GOOD came out of what seemed to be only bad. The good thing was he reduced his stress level, which was high, immediately. He had been under immense pressure and was seemingly given less and less control over changing that situation in the workplace. So, getting out of there was best for his health. And, it allowed him to be fully present and part of BB's birth. And feel like himself again. Restart, regroup. And, I had a great job, we had a low mortgage, manageable expenses, and a great network of family and friends nearby. We made it through, and we were fine. We were beyond fine, actually - we had some very special moments during that time.

He didn't even look for a new position for a while. He took a break. It was most important for him and our family to reset. Once he began looking, it took a while for him to find a new position, and it required us relocating across the country. There were not a lot of jobs out there when he was looking then, and so he cast the net wide. Moving meant selling our house, leaving my job, leaving our friends and family. Changing everything. Finding a new house, a new community, a new doctor, dentist, dry cleaner. A new school, new church, new friends. It was hard. It was a tough transition, because we moved a whole family to somewhere new!


We did it! I lead the charge! I didn't work outside the home, I put my heart and soul and hours of work into it, and I got us settled. We made friends. I found ways to connect. I found where to buy all the things we like to have. We settled LM into preschool and little BB into Kindermusik. LM played sports, we found a home, a great school district, a community. It took deliberate effort, but we really have a place here now. And, for the first time in 22 years, I was within driving distance to my family! We can drive there for short weekends, and they come visit us, and it's really, really nice to have that again. Also, I loved not being in the heat of a Texas summer. It was ah-mazing. I didn't even really mind the winter. It was almost cathartic to have four seasons in my life again. Yes, we miss our Texas family and friends, but we also have new friends and new stronger connections with family up here, and a wider network of love. And an opportunity for new experiences and expanding our mind.

At the same time, S started a job that never, really, from the first day, was what they sold him. They paid to move us across the country, and placed him in a situation that was not of his making and tied his hands from fixing it much of the time. Then, they took on obligations that tied up their cash. And, the personalities were never a good fit. But he worked all the time. He invested in the job. He worked hard. He made inroads even when the road was tough. He wasn't meeting the community much, though, or getting to know this place we now live. He poured himself into a job that wasn't ever great to try to make it work. And then, after only a year, they laid him off. Just like that. After all of this, they did that. Beyond our control, beyond our imagination, beyond fair. And this time, I wasn't working, we had a bigger mortgage, we had less in savings after the big move even though it was paid for by the company, and we are in a place we have just begun to know.


Luckily, due to a wonderful, generous connection I have, I was able to find work fast. This has been such a blessing and has kept us afloat. And the job market in general is much more robust than two years ago, and we are not living in the middle of nowhere. We are living in a place where many jobs are generally available. But, S is still looking for work. In a new place where he has not made many connections. Not that his vast network in Texas lead him to a job there either before we moved, but the network here is even smaller. So we are leveraging every angle. But, it's hard. And frustrating. And sometimes it's easy to dwell on the bad. Or think going back to the familiar is the only way. There has to be some reason we are here and a new path for us to find and blossom along. I mean, look at what happened two years ago - it seemed horrible at the time, but it was ultimately good. There will be good! But all of this is currently making me sad. It's bringing me down. And, I don't like to feel like this.


So, all of this is to say, I need to get out of this funk. There is a world of possibility out there, friends! And we have skills! We have opportunities many will never have! This is just a blip in the road! So, to try to get out of this funk, after writing all of this down, (which is therapeutic in itself) I am now going to list good things about this little ol' life of mine. Because, sister, the good outweighs the bad. It always does. And I - WE - are blessed people. We have so much compared to most humans on this earth. We are capable of so much - of many things - we are not living on Mars - we are living in a wonderful place - we are not without options and new adventures. It's just we aren't sure what those are yet. So here goes - the good in my life:

 - my God. My God has not forsaken me. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. Create in me that which is always good and wholesome and full of love. Even in this dark hour and confusing hour, I can find strength in my faith, which waivers regularly, but I know will always sustain me.

 - my S. He is my love, our Daddy, our smart guy. He makes us laugh, can pack a mean suitcase, makes some of the best pizza in the world, can wash, fold and put away laundry, and he is very handy. He knows how to read books to little guys, throw any kind of ball you're interested in catching, calm an upset child, give a fabulous hug, dance a mean jig, and even clean a toilet. He loves us. I could go on... He also can run a multi-million dollar company and is a whiz at controlling costs and motivating a team. He has so much to offer, so much great experience, and is so ready to be back at work. I want this for him, and I want it today! (patience is not one of my strengths...or S's for that matter. Ahem)

 - my boys - MY BOYS! What a blessing I have in my boys! What a joy they are, what amazing little beings they are, what a lucky woman I am to have them in my life. I mean, seriously, the fact I have these boys...I don't have the words to express what that has meant in my life.

 - my brain - it's always been an asset. Ha. I am a fairly smart girl, and I have great education and some even better experience. I have worked long enough to know what I'm doing but not long enough to not be able to keep learning.


 - a fabulous family, near and far, that love us and care for us, and want only the best for us. We love them. We are so blessed with these people. These God fearing, loving, lovable, positive, generally happy and healthy people. We have all of our parents who are fabulous grandparents to our children, and wonderful sounding boards and friends to us. We have siblings and cousins, aunts and uncles and others. We are not alone. We are part of one crazy mixed-up group of people that love us. And that is wonderful.

 - friends in many places! Dear friends of many, many years from school days, college days, old work colleagues, church friends - you name it, we know some amazing people. They do all sorts of things with their lives, and they are all good humans, and they are so good to us. I wish I could talk to all of them more often, I wish life brought us back together more regularly, and I wish only the best for all of them.

 - my health - excepting that I am fat as a tick and need to desperately lose weight and move more, I am in good health. So many people I know cannot say that, so I have my health, and I also have a healthy family. These are amazing things.

 - a history of good jobs and a good network - wherever that network is, and no matter how helpful they are or not, we have a good history, and that's more than a lot of people can say.


 - a house that I love. It was important to S that we buy a house here - not rent - buy - to be settled, to give the boys permanence and stability. And, while it was no easy task, we found a great house in a great neighborhood with wonderful neighbors. I love where we landed. I feel like Someone lead us there. There is a peace about the space and place. The boys fit there well. It is a good place to grow. And, by the way, this house has heat. And running water, sewers and electricity. Windows and doors that lock, and many more things much of the world would love to have. It's a great house. A wonderful thing. 

 - transportation that gets us where we need to go. So many people don't have this luxury. It is a luxury for sure!

 - my job! Something to keep us afloat. And, wonderful new people to meet and work with, and new skills to gain and new things to learn, and new situations where I can help others. It's taken a while to get settled in, but I'm getting my feet on the ground and feeling good.

 - fall leaves, crisp air, sunsets, a warm summer evening, snowballs, the new life of spring, walking barefoot in the grass, feeling the breeze on my face, sitting around a cozy fireplace, swimming in the salty ocean water, feeling the waves push up against my body, digging the sand into my toes

 - kissing my sleeping child, reading a good book, a warm bath, my bed at the end of a long day.

 - egg salad, pizza, ice cream, chocolate, green beans, a great salad, walnuts, asparagus, popcorn, Tex-Mex.

Clearly, this list is representative of the things I have to be thankful for. But, it's a good start.


See there? I'm already feeling better. I can keep on keepin' on. And by writing all of this down I can look back at it in a little while and laugh at my worry. I can make it! We will make it! We can do it - we can keep our eyes on the prize. We will be fine. I will not be sad.

It is not lost on my how this whiny post is really that - whiny. I - we - are privileged beings. We haven't begun to know the misery others face. I know nothing about really having to suck it up and live. I only know the tippy top of slightly uncomfortable middle-America suburban despair. And now I can remember that a little better now than when I started this post. Thanks for the therapy session!

See you soon.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Halloween Recap

Before yet another holiday is long past, here is a recap of Halloween! Something that happened only three days ago!


First up, the pumpkins. Hopefully sometime soon I can share the photos from our fall shenanigans at pumpkin patches and what not. We picked two pumpkins out of a pumpkin field and we received one more at a halloween festival. The boys set out to decorate them using a new set of carving tools S found at Target. They decided to score the picture into the pumpkin, instead of cutting all the way through, and score the backside so you could see it glow. It worked pretty well. LM was the producer and director of the operation, choosing the designs and dictating their flow. 


adam and cheese its


While the carving was going on, BB and I were very helpful. BB moved all around the house, occasionally requiring someone to retrieve him. Then, he decided to rummage through the pantry. In there, he found some cheese-it packets left over from football snacks. He decided to pulverize those for us. I took photos, of course, including a selfie. See how helpful we were? I know! So helpful!

The pumpkins came out great anyway!

Now we move on to the costumes. LM had his face painted at a harvest festival we attended, and we went to a halloween festival at the sports complex with his little friend Clayton. Friday morning, BB's Kindermusik class dressed up, so he participated. Then, there was a class party at school and the actual day of Halloween neighborhood shenanigans.

The cutest batman around.

sports complex
Posing for Mom

with clayton
With Clayton

Clayton has been the same thing for Halloween for three years. He really likes this costume! I think it's so cute, and clearly his mom made a good investment!

Here is a side-by-side of LM and BB in this lion outfit.

On to the class party!

The dressed up, and then the K-5 classes had a parade!

Our sweet neighbor friend!

LM's little buddy from preschool that is now in kindergarten with him too!

And Clayton was there too!

Then we went to the classroom for a party!

We read a story...


And we did a fun dance...


And we had a snack!



These cuties came to the party!

And the room moms dressed up as their kids...I know, you're glad I told you. 

Now, on to Halloween!
We were "Lions and Tigers and Bears! Oh my!"

group shot in neighborhood
The neighborhood dressed up and looked great!

smiling lion
Cute little lion.

visiting houses
Then it was time for trick-or-treating...

...and visiting our friends and neighbors.

There you go. We did it up big. And, now we are on to November! Phew! 

See you soon.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Kindergarten is in Full Swing!

LM and one of his buddies from preschool at the back to school picnic.

Since I didn't get a timely "first day of school" post up, let me share those photos and some others regarding Kindergarten this year for our LM. So far, he LOVES it!

Sack races at back to school picnic!

He loves school, is making friends, and loves his teacher and the other teachers at the school. He attends a very small public school, and has only 14 students in his class.

On the first day.




They are learning to write better, read, explore the worlds of science, music, art, yoga, Spanish and more! The school has a chicken coop and a garden, and they are getting to work with those special areas as well.



Because the school is so small, they are clustered by grades, so he does many things with kids in K-2. They also have a "buddy" program where they are paired up with a 7th grader (the school is K-8) and LM has really enjoyed this as well.


Since the start of school, S had the opportunity to be a part of the mystery reader program. He went to class and read LM's current book favorite, Big Mean Mike, to the class. 





They have also participated in harvesting the garden, picking both corn and potatoes. LM's teacher is so great to send along photos of activities as they do them, which is a nice way for us to follow along. The kids dressed up like pirates one day to present their song about the school's guiding principals to the older students. And, they had a big celebration on National Punctuation Day, where they began to learn about punctuation. They have also learned about fire safety and much, much more! This week we will have special senior's day, and right around the corner are Halloween parties and a Veterans Day event. So, Kindergarten is off to a great start!

See you soon.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Mythbusters: Farm Edition


I have just finished up my last farm visit as part of Illinois Farm Families City Moms for 2015. And, I wanted to summarize some of the common myths out there in the media, and used by marketers to make a sale, that were busted for me during this year of visiting farm families all over northern Illinois.


MYTH: "Organic" means "pesticide free"
FACT: "Organic" is a term that is regulated by the USDA and FDA. To use the term organic on your product, you DO have to meet certain guidelines, as outlined here. And, to use pesticides on an organic crop, it has to be an organic pesticide. Organic substances are not all "good for you" - they are just organic, meaning "of, relating to, or derived from living matter." People often think of manure or compost, which are both organic. But arsenic is also organic. The level of pesticide, organic or conventional, is not controlled by these labels, and you cannot really know whether that conventional product has more or less pesticide than the organic. You just know that pesticide that was used fit the organic guidelines. So, just be a savvy consumer and realize what is marketing and what is useful for your family. And wash your fruits and vegetables!


MYTH: There are antibiotics in our meat and milk supply
FACT: While sometimes it is necessary to give an animal an antibiotic to treat an illness, so it does not spread to the rest of the herd, it does not mean those antibiotics are in our food. There are well documented "withdrawal" times for every medicine. Farmers and their veterinarians know these withdrawal times. No animal is milked or sent to harvest until all of that antibiotic has left their system. Additionally, the great majority of antibiotics used on animals are not the same ones being used by humans. What's more, you don't have to even trust the farmer on this! The USDA is on hand all day, every day, at every milk intake plant or harvest facility, testing animals and milk. If the milk or animals are ever found to have broken the rules, the entire load of milk or animals is rejected, the farmer doesn't get paid, and they are put on a watch list. When on that list, they are subject to further scrutiny and testing that costs them more money. Farmers want to follow the rules. Farmers want to make money on milk or animals they have spent money to raise. It's their livelihood. It's that simple.


MYTH: Non-GMO means healthier and safer for your family
FACT: First, it might be useful for you to know why GMO foods were begun in the first place. Along with corn and soybeans, another early successful GMO seeds was for papaya plants, and the seed allowed for an entire crop to be saved from a very invasive virus that, if left alone, would have eradicated them from the planet. You can learn more about that here. Additionally, GMO seeds have increased yield on plants, allowing leaders to feed more people with less land around the globe, where there are increasingly more mouths to feed. GMO seeds require less pesticide use than non-GMO crops. And, in over 40 years of testing, there has not been one test that has indicated there is any change to your food, eating GMO or non-GMO. This is a multi-layered topic, but you should know there is no empirical evidence to support the claim that non-GMO foods are healthier or safer for your family.


This is just the tip of the iceberg of the things I have learned as a City Mom. I am now a more informed consumer for me and my family. I am so very grateful for the opportunity to participate in this program.