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The Grind. How Can We Escape it and Simplify Life?

I grind my teeth. And, I clench my jaw. I was reminded of this at the dentist last week. But how do I stop from clenching when I feel overwhelmed? I feel overwhelmed this week…and often. As my editor just remarked, “You’re doing too much. Try to take a break from the book, because you’re rushing it.” I was trying to wrap up writing my book, but it isn’t ready to wrap up. That’s the thing about writing a book: it evolves, changes, and you, yourself, can’t predict the turns it takes and even how it ends. It’s not ready, and I can’t force it, even though I need a break. I wanted to check off the box: book complete. Check. Done. But I can’t. I can’t check off many things. The to-do list just continues to grow, or one thing is added as another is completed. I’ve got to stop clenching my teeth about this before I have none left!

These are nice teeth, and not my lips. But I wish I had sugar lips!

So what are things we can take away from our to-do list to simplify? Here are some constants in my life that will never be “done:”

  1. Take care of the kids. I do this six nights a week alone one week, and four nights a week alone the other. There is no getting around it, as they are still in elementary school. I could work on letting them be more independent. For example, I still cut their food and give them baths. Shh, I know. Don’t chastise me! But, I sort of like that they need me. I bring them snacks, clean their rooms, play with them all the time. In short, I create some of this “stress” there. Maybe I can work on that.
  2. Go to work. I can’t change this. We all need a paycheck. And I like my job. But, yeah, it takes up a lot of time and headspace. I think about it when I’m not there, and I check my emails at all hours. I can work on that too.
  3. Walk my dogs: I could hire a dog walker, but why even have the dogs? I LIKE walking them, but it also stresses me out when I haven’t, or when I’m rushing to work, and getting the kids out the door, and they are imploring me to take them on some long walk with their sad, little eyes! I guess I could get up earlier. Oy.
  4. Writing: I want to finish my book. I have 300 pages. I need to finish it. I want to continue to write my blog. I love writing it, and I love reading blogs. I need to make the time, or the quality suffers.

Well, okay. OMG, you know what I left off that constant list? Take care of MYSELF! I just realized that! Self-care. This is something we often forget, right? It takes a back seat, and then I go to the dentist and find my teeth are worn down. Or I cry for no reason when I listen to Piano Lounge music on Spotify while driving. I’m like bawling to some Kate Bush song and thinking, “Wait, why am I crying right now??” This happened yesterday. Then, I realized I think I’m just to freaking busy and overwhelmed.

Sorry to vent. I know we all have a lot of must-dos and should-dos.

I also need to stop apologizing.

But, first, I’ll work on grinding my teeth.

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How Do You Know You’re “Home?”

There is a reason “Home” is called “Home,” and I’m not quite sure where mine is right now. I’m sort of in between worlds. See, I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio (Go Browns!), but I have lived on Cape Cod every summer of my life– and now year-round for 14 years. That’s a long time! I think I finally qualify for the “local” special at the diner, and I can legit say I hate summer people (even though I don’t–just the traffic).

I’ve lived on Cape Cod longer than I’ve lived anywhere, other than Cleveland (15 years). I spent many years in New York City (10) and Boston (3). But, now, I guess Cape Cod is my home, or well, it’s where I own a house and raise my children and have a job. So that’s home? It doesn’t always feel like it.

The reason I bring this confusion up is this: my partner lives in Cleveland, many of my best friends live here, and a lot of my heart is, well, here.

But my children are not.

Here’s a typical “home” in Shaker Heights, Ohio (where I grew up)

So yeah.

I thought about this today when the airplane was landing in Cleveland, and I could see the snow covering the acres of flat ground. The familiar grey sky had cover from Lake Eerie, and I felt a sense of relief.

“Ah, I’m home,” I thought, stepping off the plane and seeing the “Welcome to Cleveland” sign in Hopkins International Airport.

But, when I was taking off in the plane, I cried. I cried because I missed my kids. I saw them this very morning, but I felt so far away, and I was scared. I was scared that maybe something would happen on my flight, and that I’d never see them again. And maybe I was a terrible parent for flying and leaving them behind, even though they are safe with their father for the weekend. I sent my daughter a text on her Gizmo (for those not in the know, a Gizmo is like an Apple Watch for kids, where they can get a call or text from their parents or send a limited set of texts). I said, “I love you so much! I miss you already.” I also texted my parents (who now live on the East Coast).

When I arrived in Cleveland, I was greeted by my boyfriend, and we then met up with my best friend from high school for lunch. It was so nice! I was so happy and thought, “Yay! I am home!” This is where I’m meant to be!

But part of me is missing.

A big part. My kids.

And I know, deep down, this is not where I live. I’m just a visitor.

I just wish it could all be one. I wish I could feel whole in one of the places.

Wherever I am, someone I love is missing.

So what makes a home a home?

You tell me.

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Revisiting Being a Stay-at-Home Parent

I am revisiting being a stay-at-home mom since the pandemic and brazenly quitting my job. I haven’t done this since 2007, and I have to say it’s interesting? Well, first off, looking for a job, particularly now, is fairly rotten. I hit up all the job sites, like Indeed and Glassdoor, in addition to going to actual websites of places I might like to work, and I have not had much success. It takes forever, and you have to enter a lot of search filters, leaving you eventually tired, exasperated and cross-eyed. Plus, I don’t even know what I want to do. I clicked on a wide array of positions, including being a Door Dash delivery person, an online social media designer, a development director, and a reporter. I freaked out that I’d get murdered with being a delivery person, so I opted out of that search.

But, then, I stumbled upon what may be my real talent and niche: Camp Counselor Philanthropist! Since school has yet to begin here in our town (first full day is October 13 #brutal), I started Camp Alex: Endless Summer. It’s essentially impossible for working parents now when kids are home all day, so I am helping them out while simultaneously entertaining my own children by having them over for camp. Win-win!

Here’s a look at Camp Alex. First, we have Puppy School, in which the dogs do math and get grades. The kids do “drop-off,” bringing the dogs upstairs with treats, and I do “pick-up.” At this time, I am versed on how well they behaved. For example, today, Poppy got an A+ and Winnie struggled with some addition and got a B+

Didn’t make Honor Roll

Around noon, we have lunchtime, which consists of whatever I can find in my fridge that they might like: edamame, french fries, grilled cheese and gummies.

Healthy!
Questionable

Next, we have play time on the trampoline and on the slide. One of their favorite games, which I created a long time ago as a disciplinary method, is “The Crab.” It’s really quite simple: find some tongs, and chase them around with the tongs biting at their ankles (gently, of course) and their knees. This is the crab! They absolutely love it, and it only costs a pair of tongs! Cheap, officious and fun. Next, we have pool time, in the baby pool, and finally quiet time with puzzles and crafts.

It’s interesting how we fall into things and unknown talents, like me being a camp counselor, during difficult times. I’m making the most of my staying at home during COVID, because I know it could be short lived. I don’t miss being in the office cubicle even one bit. The paycheck? Er, well, that’s another thing. For now, though, these kids laughing is a pretty good payoff.

My kindness rock garden

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A Happy Family, or Just Make Believe?

What defines a “Happy Family?” I ask this after buying a Barbie set that was called “Happy Family,” and it was comprised of a pregnant mom, a dad and one little girl.

I have never seen a pregnant Barbie before, and I was excited to play with it. To my ultimate shock and surprise, her belly actually comes off, and a tiny baby is in it! Like, a full-grown, breach baby (head up). And, you can even turn her stomach inside out, and it’s flat again. Like, the “Happy Family” Mom loses the baby weight immediately! She is as good as new!

The Happy Family did come with some accessories, including a brush (for post-birth glamour shots on Facebook?), a pre-digital camera (imagine waiting to see the photos of the birth after developing the actual film?), and two cell phones. There was no laptop, so I don’t know how the toddler was going to go to school on Zoom, or how the Dad would surf the internet while mom was in labor.

And why are they happy this way? I’m thinking this mom’s not so happy. I mean, she can’t be! First off, she had to give birth in her underwear (see photo). Second, in the accessories, there should have been a bottle of wine and some Chinese food for post-delivery. Third, they could have added in a nanny or a wet nurse? I mean, just to take the pressure off when they get home…

The real question is: what would the “Unhappy Family” look like?

I, too, used to think that a Happy Family looked very similar to what was in this toy box: a mom, dad, and two kids. Well, now, I have the two kids, but I am divorced and their dad lives fifteen minutes away. I would say we get along well, so we can also be called a happy family. And, if you add in new spouses or children, that can be an even bigger, happy family? I don’t know! I wonder if Matel would be open to creating a new “Happy Family” comprised of two sets of parents and stepchildren? Or maybe a single mom and a sperm donor? Or a single dad, or two dads, or two moms and three kids? I know several happy “families” likes that! The list could go on, which leads me to the next point.

I am pretty sure this barbie was recalled, and we found like the last one, an aberration, in Marshall’s yesterday. I bet others took issue with the idea of a Happy Family being depicted as such.

What do you think? Please leave a comment!

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(My) School is in Session! And, Home Ec Returns!

I have officially taken matters into my own hands, and I began homeschooling today. I needed some sort of routine, not only for myself but also for my children. Here was the situation: I was on the couch with coffee, thinking of maybe turning on Bravo to waste away the early morning hours while the kids were asleep, and, lo and behold, they were awake! And again on their iPads.

I started to feel pangs of guilt and was torn between Million Dollar Listing and being a good parent. It was a tough one… Ha! But, I am proud to say, I yelled up the stairs, “Kids! Get dressed! Brush your teeth! We are having school today!”

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Breakfast is served (Dannon smoothie), and pencils are sharpened!

They were confused. “Wait, what?” That’s right, peops. Make the bed, pull your act together, and we are done with this lackadaisical, sedentary, gluttonous behavior (I was sort of talking to myself). I had them each pick out a chapter book. She picked Junie b. Jones, and he picked out something about sharks and walruses, one of those “Who Would Win?” books. You know who is winning today? ME! I kicked it into high gear, created some math worksheets, and I taught her about carrying over and subtraction. (Oh, and I had to use my fingers to count once. That’s kind of embarrassing? Shhh).

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She even got dressed in a glitter headband. I think she was excited!

We did reading, wrote an essay (okay, a few sentences about the problem in the book and the solution), math, and then…get this: I had them do laundry! That’s right. This school brought back Home Economics. Remember that? That’s kind of old-school. Well, it SHOULD be mandatory curriculum, because my children are seriously lacking in the folding laundry department, and I could use some little elves to help around here.

Remember when our parents had kids just to do chores? I feel like I was born with an apron and a dusting mitt on. (Sorry, mom. No, you did a good job, but I mean so did I…with cleaning).

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Cursory folding job. Grade: B-

It’s only 11:00, though, and they are done with school. Next up: recess outside. I guess this is a half-day. Contact me if you’d like to sign up for my school. There will be an (A) cohort and a (B) cohort, scattered drop-offs, mercurial schedules, lots of emails, and no remote learning. Mmmkay? Oh, and have them dressed ready to do chores!

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