When I have an anxiety spike, I buy tea.

cup of tea

The calendar doesn’t lie: Summer is almost over.

I am simultaneously relieved and disappointed.

I love sleeping in during the summer. Now that the kids are old enough to help each other get some cereal and find an appropriate tv channel, it was rare to see me out of bed before 8:30.

Days without structure and routine really appeal to the laid back, okay, lazy mom that I am. Being able to pile into the car at a moment’s notice to head to the river, meet friends for lunch, or even take a road trip is definitely my style, too.

But the Cabin Kids are all up in my business, all the time:

Which doesn’t suit the changes I am trying to make…

Captain and I have decided that I need a job. Though it’s less of a job decision and more of a housing decision. We’re finally buying property to build our forever home on and if we want to maintain our lifestyle, an extra income is mandatory. We’re keeping it modest, but the mortgage is still going to be a substantial increase from our relatively low rent.

Working from home with kids who are used to you being at their beck and call is a serious pain in the ass. Kudos, seriously, to those of you who have juggled that particular type of chaos, because I am failing at it. Miserably.

Once school starts, two of the Cabin Kids will be in school full time, one half time, and the only one left at home will be The Kraken, who still, blissfully, naps every afternoon. I plan on using those two hours of naptime in the afternoons to get some work done, then finish up what I need to in the few hours between when Captain gets home and we put the kids to bed.

As awesome as the plan sounds, I am feeling super anxious about the change. What if I fail? What if I just can’t juggle being a fully functioning work at home parent with my health and mental wellness goals? I am already counting on squeezy applesauce packets and GoGurts to make mealtimes for the kids easier. What if, for as many unnecessary things that I cast aside until I get my bearings, our life is total and utter chaos until our home is built and we’re settled in enough space with school bus service for the kids? Will I have the energy and desire to put the extra effort into my relationship with Captain that I need to?

Needless to say, my anxiety is spiking again.

And for some reason, when I find myself struggling to breathe without pressure in my chest, when there is a headache constantly lingering behind my ears, when the slightest thing makes me crumple into tears or explode in ridiculous rage, I go looking for a cup of tea.

But it can’t be any cup of tea. It has to be a new tea.

Suffice it to say, I’ve anxiety shopped for tea a few times in the past year…

cupboard of tea

I buy the tea thinking that it will be the catalyst for a new routine: Have a cup of tea while I blog in the morning. Finish a chore then curl up with a book and a cup of tea. You know, the romantic, cushy version of life that usually involves a hot, steaming beverage.

For a few days, it does help me stay grounded in my new goals…

cup of tea

For the most part though, it just takes up space in my cupboard.

Brave Enough to be Me

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It’s 3:30 a.m. Another night of being too itchy to sleep… it could also be the prednisone I am now taking that is making it impossible for my mind to switch off. If nothing else, I know now that I can function very well, thankyouverymuch, on very little sleep, with the right drugs.

I can totally see how people get addicted to prescription meds. As one of my favorite bloggers, Jen Mann of People I Want To Punch In The Throat frequently laments, it’s quite the well kept secret. Not sleeping well? Pop a pill! It will give you energy! Out of focus? Take this! It will keep your mind on track! Libido need a kick in the pants? Try this new medication! Your partner won’t know what hit them!

Anyway, this post wasn’t intended to be idle chat about the new steroids I’m taking in lieu of my anti-anxiety meds. This post is in response to the creeping doubt I’ve been feeling lately.

I know recently I said I was saying Fuck You to my biggest hater. But it’s far easier said than done.

I look around me, and surrounded by so many people who know what they’re doing. They have a voice, they have a plan, and they know what they need, and want, to do to make their goals a reality. But sometimes it just feels like my world is too crowded by talent. Too full of so many people saying the same things in vastly different ways, how on earth could there ever be room for my opinion, my way of saying things, too?

And then there are the times that I do venture out, put myself out there, in places aside from this little blog and my meager facebook fan page, and I am rejected. They say it’s not because of my work, but because it’s just not a good fit. My voice doesn’t quite jive.

I need to find my niche. Is there a “Nothing In Particular” niche out there for writers and creative hopefuls?

This whole train of thought was brought on by this graphic from YourTango’s Facebook page:

braveI just want to be me, and be accepted, and celebrated for it. And there are days, more often than not, that I think to myself, DAMN IT, Jessica, get your shit together. No one wants to high five you for thinking about writing, you have to actually do it. There are no awards for people who meant to do great things.

I want to be my weird, makeup inept, tattoo obsessed, pirate loving, purple haired self, and throw caution to the wind and just put myself out there.

What the fuck is holding me back?

Misery at Midnight

It’s just me, the computer, and a bottle of J.D. The honey kind.

I don’t normally do this. Drink straight from the bottle. But the circumstances I have found myself in this weekend are not normal by any means.

I’m struggling to keep my hands on the keyboard. To keep my nails away from my skin. To prevent myself from breaking open new sores. Ever fiber of my dermal layer is in agony. I am simultaneously in pain and itching.

I have scabies.

I’m not sure where I could have picked it up from. I only know of one person who has had a case recently, but we have not been in physical contact.

But I am sure that I would rather be in full blown pitocin induced labor with no pain meds than continue to deal with this.

It started out as some minor itching. I figured I just needed to shave my legs and apply a hefty dose of moisturizer. But shaving and moisturizing didn’t help. After a few days, pink bumps showed up everywhere I scratched. The itching spread from my shins, to my thighs, to my hips, belly, and lower back. Then my arms, hands, shoulders, and upper back. Now they’re even in between my fingers and toes. The itching is creeping into my scalp, and has crossed the barrier of my pubic hair.

Skin mites. Burrowing into my flesh and laying their eggs. Inside of me.

FUCKING. IN. MY. SKIN.

I put on the prescription cream that’s supposed to kill them, but it does nothing for the itching. I’ve taken cool oatmeal baths and bought expensive bars of soap that are supposed to alleviate the constant need to scratch. My body is a mass of itchy bumps and open sores. I can’t help it. I have to scratch. I have to dig them out of my fucking skin.

I’ve changed clothes 10 times a day. Washed everything in hot water. Vacuumed carpets and scrubbed couches like the goddamn POTUS was about to show up on my doorstep. Sprayed disinfectant on every cloth surface that I even glance at.

I can’t touch my kids. Every time I do, I imagine these bugs rushing onto their perfect bodies. Sending them through the same agony that I am in, without the understanding of what is happening to them. This is nightmare fuel like I have never experienced it. My touch is like poison.

I can’t sleep. The feel of clothing is unbearable. The bedsheets send my skin into spasms. I tremble with the effort it takes not to scratch until my nails are nubs and my skin is strips of raw flesh.

This is embarrassing. Humiliating. Disgusting. Overwhelming.

I have never experienced misery like this.

Through chronic pain, depression, surgery recoveries, labor and deliveries, and anxiety, never have I ever been so miserable that I have thought of ways to purposefully render myself unconscious.

But I have bugs digging into and breeding in my skin, so I’m thinking of some ways now.

Which is why my friend J.D. and I have some catching up to do.

Success is no longer friends with modesty.

I don’t know where to begin. The beginning seems passe: Our family is searching for property. The details are tedious: A typical laundry list of needs/wants. The feelings are normal: Eager, disappointed, hopeless.

There are a few things that I have been forced to speculate on though, and to understand I will need to flesh out the situation a bit.

We are a single income family. The Captain makes a comfortable living as a journeyman power lineman. It affords us everything we need, and a few things we want. Each month we are able to put a little bit away into savings, for our 10th anniversary vacation and our forever house fund. I want to go to school to obtain a degree in creative writing, editing, and publishing. Since my husband makes a comfortable wage, we do not qualify for assistance. That little bit every month that goes into savings for a house? Counts against us. Childcare costs for our children would far exceed anything I could make right now if I chose to work, since I have no formal education. Our family of 6, just trying to find a modest home in an area where we can have a garden and chickens without an HOA calling for our heads, has to choose between an education for me and a home that suits our needs.

Of course right now we are choosing the home.

It’s far easier said than done though.

All I want is a home that’s big enough for us to live without our kids constantly being on top of each other. Cabin Girl deserves to have her own bedroom. As of now, she is tucked away in the corner of the playroom, where her siblings constantly trash her things and jump on her bed. I want space for laying hens. An extra 1/8 of an acre would be an awesome bonus so we could have milking goats. We need green space for the kids to play and practice their sports. Room for a vegetable garden so we can be partially self-sufficient. A few fruit bearing trees for jams and canning. We want a mini-homestead with a modern twist. A place we can invite friends and family for weekend bonfires without disturbing the neighbors. A quality school and a caring community. We have had to scratch ‘nice view’ and ‘proximity to natural water’ off of our want list, as needs trump wants.

But even what we need is out of our reach.

Because we are too middle class.

It is not enough to have a budget of a quarter of a million dollars anymore.

It is a luxury to grow your own food and raise your own laying hens.

It is frowned upon to be self-sufficient in a family friendly community.

It is looked down upon to want modesty in our world of excess.

I am not ashamed of wanting a manufactured home. It fits our needs and suits our budget. It has walls, a roof, hot water, and air conditioning. It will hold our memories and help us raise our children just as well as any stick-built home.

But modesty and quality are not traits that blend well anymore.

Because success means stone pillars and expansive lawns of perfectly manicured grass. Huge 4,000 square foot homes with a shop to contain all the boats, atvs, and gun safes you could ever need. Custom decorated foyers and memberships to dancing academies or spots on competitive league baseball teams.

To us, success would be a yard our kids could play in, food they can have a hand in growing, animals they can have a hand in raising, and a modest home they feel excited to invite their friends to.

It is beginning to feel like there is no room here for our version of success.

I’m saying, “Fuck You” to my biggest hater: Me.

Their Fucking Red Lipstick

I had an epiphany recently, thanks to my love affair with Project Runway and Project Runway: All Stars: I’m a mega bitch. Not to others, though. Just to myself.

It’s really thanks to Lori Goldstein and a little interview snippet that QVC shared during commercial breaks that I started to realize maybe I needed to rethink the way I talk about myself. In my internal monologue. Okay, I guess I talk to myself outloud sometimes. FINE, all. the. time.

In the commercial she’s wearing several different funky outfits, all her style. Almost none of the pieces are anything I would ever wear, but I still think, “Damn, she’s rocking it.” Put me in those clothes and people would be all, “Oh, are you letting your toddler dress you for the week?”

The more I saw the commercial though, the harder I thought about it. “I actually like that vest,” I’d say to myself. “I love the color of her pants.”

“But it would never work on me…”

Jumpers. Skinny jeans. Fluorescent colors. Red lipstick. Shin length skirts. None of those things can be incorporated into my wardrobe. As much as I love them, they look too weird on me. Out of place. They work on these people I see on TV, but they’re pioneers. They are leading the charge in what it means to have style and a sense of fashion.

Lori, though. Lori says, “…make these clothes your own. Buy one piece, or 100 pieces; whatever works for you! What is so exciting is that everyone is really making it their own.” And she means it.

This week I’ve been trying something. I’ve been wearing the outfits that I put together in my head when I buy new clothes or shoes. High heeled ankle booties with my skinny jeans. Long maxi dresses and oversized shrugs.

Short skirts, long sleeves, and ankle boots.
Short skirts, long sleeves, and slouchy ankle boots.

It’s not contained to just clothes, however. My writing, for one, always feels out of place. The timing isn’t right. Or the platform is better suited for a different voice. The theme might be right, the subject matter and technical aspects are spot on, but the delivery is off. Like a pair of jeans that’s just an inch too short, if I was a hair different (and by ‘different’ I mean closer to average), we’d go together like rama lamma lamma ka dinga da dinga dong.

The suckiest part in all of this is that I see others who, like me, don’t fit that average mold and I think they’re amazing. More than that, I cheer them on. Breaking the made-up rules we have for ourselves left and right with their style, their voice, their lifestyles.

Case in point: Women in bikinis. I want to wear a bikini so badly. But I can’t. Because stretchmarks. Because jiggly thighs. Because weird armpit-fat sideboob things. I will rip my physical appearance in a bikini apart up one side and down the other so hard that there are barely shreds of myself left to shove into the control top skirted one piece I always fall back on. I could, however, see a women with a body identical to mine, blemishes and cellulite included, and think, “Whoo, look at her rocking that bikini! Way to go, mama!

WHY?!  Why does this person who I have no freaking knowledge of deserve celebration more than I do? Am I so much better than her that I should be holding myself up to insane standards while cheering her on for just being the way she is? What makes her so much better than me that I can applaud her self confidence but bitch-slap myself for thinking I am vain for feeling good about myself?

I am a troll. I am a hater. I say the worst things about myself, always. ALWAYS. Whatever horrible thing you may think about me, I promise I have thought it 1,000 times and worse.

No more though. Starting now, I am just going for it. I will be one of those women I admire for owning themselves. Their style. Their voice. Their path. Their destiny.

Their Fucking Red Lipstick
Their Fucking Red Lipstick

The Balancing Act That I Suck At

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If you’re a follower of my page, you know that I’ve been quiet. There are a lot of things we’re waiting on right now and I’m having a hard time processing it all.

I’ve become more active in the blogging community, despite my lack of blogging efforts, and the excitement about this years blogging conferences is becoming rather infectious. I had resigned myself to not going, as what’s the point of going to a blog conference if I’m not really blogging, and the cost of airfare is super restrictive. But today someone mentioned that there are some killer travel deals going on right now, so I peeked. $500 for round trip airfare across the country is far more affordable than it was a few months ago.

With a little creative thinking, I could actually go to BlogU.

I thought about and even asked around regarding setting up a crowdfunding site for myself, but the idea of asking people to help fly me across the country felt odd. An adorable fellow blogger‘s husband set up a site for her, and within 6 days they had raised enough money to get her registered and booked for the conference. It was an amazingly sweet gesture by her husband. I feel that asking for myself is a bit tacky though.

Captain happened to call while I was in the middle of this mental struggle, so I put the question to him, “Should I crowdfund my BlogU trip?”

To which he responded, “Absolutely not.”

Because we have problems asking for financial help. As a single income home, we are blessed in that we don’t struggle to pay the bills, enroll our kids in extra curricular sports, or afford preschool. We manage quite well. We could be doing better, sure, but as of now, we want for nothing. All of our extra money, when we have it, goes straight into our ‘Forever House’ fund. We’ve never been frivolous. My vacuum was nearly 10x more expensive than my wedding ring. We don’t do fancy. I’m a bargain hunter through and through (aside from the vacuum… but the importance of that investment was drilled into me from an early age, and with 4 kids, it is worth every. single. penny).

I felt myself get teary-eyed, because after 4 kids, the hormones never really leave. Everything makes me cry.

“If you can get back into blogging regularly, make it the thing you’ve been wanting to do and talking about, then I will pay for you to go myself,” Captain explained.

And I totally started crying. Because this was the 2nd time in 12 hours that he had proven I needed to have more faith in him and his desire to see me happy and successful. He will back my children’s book and he will back my blogging/writing/marketing education.

It’s a frightening thing, being reliant on a single person’s income. It’s hard not to feel that money spent on myself is a waste. What do I really need money for that wouldn’t be better invested in the kids? But I deserve an investment in myself, too. Despite how terrible I am with housekeeping, how much I loathe grocery shopping, the procrastination I carry on with when it comes to taking care of myself, I am still a person who deserves care and attention. And I’m so grateful that I have a husband who see that.

Especially when I don’t.

So all that to say, Captain has offered me the incentive I needed to get back in the game. Even if it means taking my laptop to preschool drop off and writing in the car while the boys are in class and The Kraken naps. I’m making it a goal to post something new on this blog once a week, and submitting an essay to other blogs and/or anthologies once a week. Since I’m terrible at balance, it is incredibly likely that non-preschool days will be spent in pajamas, eating snacks for 2 of our 3 meals, with a constant stream of Disney Jr. and Nick Toons on the TV. But at the end of the day we will all be alive and fed, and I will be writing again.

I can do 2 original posts a week. I can do this. I will do this. Not just to get my tickets to BlogU to meet the incredible community I’ve come to love being a part of, but to show Captain that his faith in me isn’t misplaced.

I deserve the opportunities he’s giving me. I’m going to prove it.

I Aided in Fear-Mongering, and I’m Sorry

There’s really not much to say aside from that.

I used to be staunchly opposed to GMO foods.  I was, for a while, on the fence about vaccinating, and turned to a delayed schedule for our 3rd child, Mr. Monkey.

I wrote long rants about the money-grubbing of corporations like Monsanto without thinking about the money being made by corporations in the organic food movement (which I have deleted from the blog; truly, they were bad).

I never once double checked sources in articles claiming the detrimental effects of biotech and vaccine technology before sharing the articles.

I allowed myself to become a mouthpiece and free advertising for people like Food Babe, who railed against the use of BHT in health and beauty products, but has been making money from selling just such a product through her website.

It wasn’t until Neil DeGrasse Tyson and Bill Nye stepped into the conversation regarding GMOs that I realized I was sitting smugly on one side of the fence, refusing to even look in the other direction.

I cannot say that I am 100% sure of my positions on anything now**.  I guess that’s what skepticism will do to you.

But I CAN say that I won’t be a platform for the propagation of misleading information anymore.

And I’m humbled and truly sorry that I ever was one.

 

**The entire Pirate crew is fully vaccinated though, because I do believe that the minimal risks are worth protecting our family and community.

Not all 12th Man Seahawks fans are band-wagoners, but why does it even matter?

hawksquatch

Friends.  The air here is palpable.  It’s electric.  It’s exciting.

There’s a frenzy broiling beneath the surface of this town.  Everyone going about their daily lives with an extra layer of exuberance.

I live in a place that has a history with Russell Wilson.  He played baseball in the stadium that stands next to the fields where my kids play soccer at in the fall and spring.  Every time we go by, my kids exclaim, “Mom! That’s where Russell Wilson played!” And it’s so cool.  My husband, the Captain, practically swoons with delirium.  Raising our kids to appreciate the things we do is important to him.  And, boy, do we love football.

I grew up in a house where football was the highlight of our television year.  Sitcoms could come and go, news broadcasts were a dime a dozen, cooking shows weren’t even acknowledged, but football… Football was the lynchpin of our Mondays, Thursdays, and Sundays.  Before my siblings and I ever really had interest in the game, we would spend Sundays going about our business while my mom hooted and hollered at the players on the television.  If anyone ever wonders where my louder than necessary attitude came from, you need only peek inside my childhood home during a football game.

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We’re a Seahawk, Packers, Redskins family. ((Sorry, Nana. You make silly faces.))

 

As I got older and became more interested in football (read, after my skulky, attitudenal teenage years), I put an effort in to learn about the game.  As I started to understand the process, the rules, regulations, and the roles that various positions played, football began to be a source of entertainment for me.  It helped that the Captain, who is as big of a fan as my mom, is ever-so-patient with my, still, consistent questions.

My decision to learn more about football wasn’t completely because of interest in it though.  With family and a spouse that devoted so much time to watching this game that they love, I felt that I had two choices: Be a part of it, or find something else to do.  For me, it was a simple choice.  There are few things better than snuggling up on the couch with Captain, enjoying snacks, and sharing in the triumphs of our team.

Our team, which is the Seattle Seahawks.  As fans, we are called the 12th Man, because the franchise decided 30 years ago that their fans were so important that the fans needed to be honored with an official place on the team.  If you ever watch football, you may have come across a team getting a penalty for having 12 men on the field, since only 11 are allowed to be in play for each team at any given time.  But the fans embodied such a fierce love for the game, for the men who put their bodies on the line because they loved the game, too, that the number 12 jersey was officially retired, just for the fans.

Recently, the 12th Man has become less of an honorary position and more of a physical one.  The Seahawks have led the nation in false starts due to the noise level the 12th Man can incur.  Seismic activity has been recorded as the 12th Man goes wild for their team’s extraordinary plays.  It’s an amazing feeling, to be part of the tidal wave that comes crashing down on a team visiting the Emerald City.

It’s an amazing thing to be a 12th Man.  We do, however, catch a lot of crap for it.  To be fair, there are extremists anywhere that ruin the name of many things for many people.  The same is true with football fans.  There are those who are too cocky, too brash, too loud-mouthed, and just too much altogether.  So the rest of us are maligned for it.  The term ‘bandwagoners’ is tossed around like a hot, filthy brand to mark us as ‘not real fans.’

But, we don’t care.  And our team doesn’t care.

So often we flit through life from one popular thing to the next.  Diet crazes, fashion statements, music trends, and pretty much anything that a bunch of people ever said, “HEY, that’s cool! Let’s do that!” to.  It’s human nature to seek the newest and coolest, latest and greatest.

If half of the 12th Man is made up by bandwagoners, I say, ‘Welcome!’

If you, my neighbor, wants to climb aboard this train of excitement and skill and sweat and tears and hooting and hollering, then don your colors, whatever they may be, and scream loud when your teams gets that touchdown.  Revel in the thrill of the goosebumps that will take over your body when a pass is dropped or an interception is made.

It’s not for love of the colors, the uniforms, the wins or losses, or the glory (I’m also a Buccaneers fan. There is NO bandwagon for them).

It’s for the love of the game.

I’ll see you on Sunday.  I’ll be the loud one with the blue and green hair.

#GoHawks

No longer a life-giver.

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I should be packing and cleaning.

But my heart needs to bleed a bit, and I’ve ignored my heart far too much these past few months.

I sent off a piece of myself today.  The last bit of life I had to offer my children.

My last ounce of breastmilk.

Off it went, zipped up in numerous bags, packed in a brown paper envelope.

Left in the fate of the mail system.

To the doorstep of a women who says she can immortalize it for me.

She will turn it into a keepsake.  A ring that will be the centerpiece of my Mother’s Ring set.

I could get it back in as few as 6 weeks… Likelier that I won’t get it for a year though.

My sorrow is sharp.

The Kraken is weaned, my supply is gone.

My breasts and my body are no longer nourishing or life-giving.

They just are.

And that’s a difficult pill to swallow.

Hello, New Me.  Different Me.  We have a lot to learn about each other in the coming New Year.

The Day My Last Baby Turned One

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Our last baby, The Kraken, is one year old today.  While nothing is different, everything has changed.

muffincollageAs I journaled these thoughts, she was in her car seat, sleeping off her first birthday photo shoot.  A tradition I’ve loved having for each of my kids on their first birthdays.  A tradition that I experienced for the last time this morning.

Last night, as she nursed before bed, I cried and held her a bit tighter.  My last chance to savor my last baby as just that: A baby.

While she will always be THE baby, there are so many things that are taking her babyhood away from me, much faster than I’d like.

She’s walking now.  Starting to talk.  Honing her fork using skills.  Interested in more complex things.

The baby sweetness is still there, it’s just tinged with the promise of growth and development.  It’s a tinge that I have a serious love/hate relationship with.

When we choose to have children, we get to experience them as babies.  We know that one day they’ll walk and talk, eventually walking their way right out of our homes and into their own lives.  We don’t have babies so that we can just have a baby forever.  The baby stage is the most fleeting, and so is seen as the most precious.  I think it helps that babies are just inherently sweet and adorable.  We came into this thing called parenthood knowing that they would constantly be growing and changing…

But, oh, if I could just have this baby remain a baby for a little while longer.

I won’t miss the sleepless nights, the spit-up, newborn poop, or the general constant worry that comes with the tiny baby stage.  But, I will miss just about everything else as we go from bouncy seats to high chairs, mobiles to stacking toys, and bassinets to toddler beds.

With my other children, each transition and new stage was met with the promise of being able to experience it again with the next baby.  Now, as we fold away the most recent set of clothes that have been outgrown, the finality of these transitions is overwhelming.

Never again will I feel the rush of bringing a new life into the world.  Never again will I experience the tingle of that first let down.  Never again will I experience, so intimately, an infant’s contented sigh as she slips off the breast into precious sleep.  Never again will I have someone who has such need of me that we are nearly the same person.

The cutting of a first tooth, the first baby babbles, the first food pictures.  First words, first steps, first haircuts.  No longer will they be ours to announce.  We will no longer be the givers of the gift that is sharing a baby’s growth with loved ones, we will be the recipients.

I won’t say that I’m not slightly relieved to be moving into the next phase of our lives.  Being free of the Groundhog Day effect that adding babies to a family has on life plans is something that we’ve been looking forward to for a while.  It is, in all honesty, an exciting and liberating feeling.  But it is bittersweet.

My gratitude for being able to have the experience the growth of not just one, but four healthy babies cannot be expressed.  So I am packaging it up in a sentimental box, to be reopened in moments of quiet reminiscence as we plow ahead into the new world that awaits us as a family without a baby.

The firsts that await us now may not be as cherubic in nature or execution, but they will still be gifts, and I cannot wait to see them.

Happy birthday to my littlest, who will always be my baby.

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