Perfection

Keeping The Christmas Card Real

 

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You guys! I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. Over the years, the number of cards that our family receives has dwindled. I get it. I haven’t sent a card out in over ten years. So, consider this my huge THANKS for those of you that still send us some love even though you know it won’t ever be reciprocated in the form of envelope, stamp, paper, or photostock. With all the posting I do here and on my social media accounts, and with my limited funds going towards playing Santa for six kids, I just can never seem to justify spending another $50-100 on this out-dated tradition.

Please consider this my most sincere apology. I want to make your pantry door look as festive as mine (and let’s face it, my kids would look really good up there), but I just never do it. I’m sorry for being the epitomy of The Christmas Card Scrooge. Always receiving, never giving. My guilt is as unpleasant as the grinch’s termited smile.

Over the years, Christmas cards have got a bad rap — that they are only for the prideful braggers. A family member and I chuckled the other day as I mentioned how lovely their Christmas cards were on their wall. They mentioned that they were all the cards from the spouse’s side of the family because they were the only ones still playing the game of having it all together. I laughed because LG and I had the exact conversation the day before; we wondered why a large majority of our cards come from his side. This year there is literally not a single Christmas card up from my family. Is it really because my family can’t keep up? Is his family just more traditional? Do they have more money to throw around? I have a few pretty well-to-do family members. Do they have more to brag about? Surely it can’t just be that certain people buy into the picture perfection more than others. Doesn’t everyone buy into that? I got some pretty real cards this year from the hubby’s side that made me chuckle and even breathe a sigh of relief. (I’m talking to you Julie and Newell -thanks for the wandering children stories.)  I felt solidarity in the insanity we call parenting. My sister-in-law whose husband is in the Air Force has literally hundreds of cards on her wall every year. LG and I always laugh because we don’t have friends. “Is it just a military thing?” we always wonder. Or is our bare wall just evidence of our social ineptitude. Probably a little of both. Probably also, her wall is the result of her consistent Christmas card tradition.

Well, as in everything in life, I am learning to accept it is what it is. Whatever that is, I don’t really know, but I need to let the Christmas card mystery die. It’s most definitely monopolizing a little too much of my mental capacities…and let’s face it, those are already a little limited.

As I was doing the dishes last night, I constructed our real Christmas card in my mind. I thought you all might like to hear it.

LG had a midlife crisis in May. He quit his job which was promptly followed by 5 months of grueling unemployment. As least it wasn’t with a mistress. Ha. He’s finally employed again, and 2017 was the year we discovered that it only takes exactly 5 months of unemployment to make it okay that he now lives two hours away during the week. In the good news, he’s mentally healthier than he ever has been. Some therapy and anti-anxiety meds have made him happier than ever, and he’s really enjoying his work and the challenge of being a .net programmer.  He is the primary pianist at church which has been an awesome reprieve from scouting, which we aren’t really sure we want to support anymore unless they let our hetero daughters in.

AG got a great compliment from her literary theory professor. The fifteen-page paper she turned in about postcolonialism in collegiate humanitarian travel may be publish-worthy with just exactly eighty more hours of work. Yahoo! But really, I survived this year which is major bragging rights. It was a doozie. Thanks to all my friends who chipped in one-week post LG’s mid-life crisis, so that I could travel to Nicaragua on a once-in-a-lifetime collegiate humanitarian trip that I would later write about. My consensus was I loved the trip, but I definitely was guilty along with the rest of my group of postcolonialist oppression. I’ll send the paper your way if you offer up some free editing! This year I got my first passport, and I also was hired by UVU’s Art and Design Program as an administrative assistant. I can’t wait to work for my beloved university while I finish my degree. Just 40 credit hours left. My running is still hanging out in the wings waiting to be reclaimed. One of these days, I’ll wake up at 5 am to do it. Or not.

Abigail got married! Yes, you read that correctly. My first married kid did it exactly how I I didn’t want her to….at EIGHTEEN years old. However, we do love Kaleb, and after about two and a half years of courtship, it was time for them to make it facebook official. Their wedding was all the brainchild of Abigail and it was perfection from top to bottom, except for the bridal bouquet that we had to start late for. We all have ADHD, I consider only one small glitch a major victory. For my Mormon friends still waiting for their kids to go to the temple, know you aren’t alone, but learning to accept others’ choices seems to be a trend of this Christmas card, eh? Kaleb is our family body-guard and personal trainer. He’s a sensitive and loving and generous soul, and treats Abigail so well. Abigail has been working at a local vintage toystore called Blickenstaffs, and she has generously offered to provide daycare for Max twice a week when I go back to work. She may never go to college, and I am working on being okay with that. They have the cutest new puppy named Kita who is the proud owner of her own Instagram account.

Sophia is the amazing eclectic fun-loving care-free girl that she always has been. Her spirit animal is a rainbow cat that pees diet coke. After losing our cat, Kit, to a random accident where she got stuck in our fence that needs to be replaced, Sophia begged me for another. I refused. We still had Rufus and our dog, Olive, which I felt was plenty. It took only exactly 24 hours of me being out of the country for her to convince her dad to adopt the desperate cat in a box at Walmart. They wanted to name him Nic, after the place that made his adoption possible, but we settled on Charles Barkley, the best rebound cat of all time. Sophia continues to pursue her art and occasionally cares about her grades when she isn’t wasting her time on her iphone playing Sudoku or Sandbox. She is a music and technology aficionado, like her dad. She worked at her Uncle Bubba’s restaurant for five months until he fired her. True story. She didn’t deserve it, so I guess we’ll just call it being laid off. But she got an even better job the day after being fired. She now works at Utah Idaho Supply Map World. (Funny story: one hour after posting this, we read this article online. I guess Sophia will be looking for another job!) She’s enjoying dating, driving, and kissing. I asked Sophia what she would have me say about her, and her reply was, “She’s smokin’ hot and ready to mingle.” She’s only partially joking. She really is pure and meek and mild. When LG and I had a really rough summer and quit going to church for awhile (don’t judge until your marriage is in shambles and you are 43 with an above-average-energetic 3-year-old), her and Bella would go all by themselves.

Bella woke up one morning in a model’s body. We aren’t sure what exactly happened, but we blame her friends, the Lawrences, who only eat organic food. Bella is a mini-Alice, but much more gorgeous and taller. She also has way bigger feet. She gets that from her dad. She wants to be an astrophysicist — also gets her science smarts from her dad. She’s obsessed with Wonder Woman — she gets that from her feminist mother. Bella has managed to secure exactly a 4.0 for her first two terms of high-school, and she promises me she will graduate from college, so that I can feel like I actually taught one of my kids something.  A school teacher has to have at least one of her own five children graduate from college. Bella is hilarious, and she often gets roped into helping Sophia with cleaning her room as payment for free rides wherever she wants to go. Bella rocked it onto the sophomore volleyball B team, and she’s only a freshman. She rarely got playing time, but she loved making new friends. We think her new coach didn’t quite see all of her talent that her recreation coach Alice had instilled in her. She wants to play club volleyball, but she can’t afford it with her babysitting funds. Bella is a great kid. She often begs LG and I to take her and her friends to the temple at 5 am before school. She might need some sanity meds, too, like both her mom and dad. Who voluntarily goes to the temple at 5 am?

Caroline is an eighteen-year-old stuck in an eight-year-old body. She is obsessed with YouTube, probably because her parents don’t monitor her screen time as well as they should. She prefers videos about scavenger hunting, get-out-games, kid-toy-reviews, and The Pearl Dude. All of her dreams came true this summer when I found out a neighbor was selling and opening live pearls at a local street market. She became the proud owner of exactly two pearls — twins! Because of all her YouTube watching, she knew exactly which oyster to pick. She is still learning Mandarin at her Chinese-Immersion school, and she has gained a lot of independence this year walking home from school with her friends. She was baptized in July. She starts playing basketball for the first time next week. LG is so excited. She has taken a liking to reading with mom every night because we are working on the whole Battle-of-the-Books list, and she got glasses this month which have helped her significantly with her reading skills.

Maximus is a walking hurricane. He tried to tackle a complete stranger at a restaurant last week, and almost succeeded against the 6-foot-man. He was so close. Just a few years away from his NFL goals. Max loves throwing, hitting, jumping, shooting, climbing, and pretty much every other action verb. He is killing us. We get ten years older every day. We are convinced God waited to send us a boy until we were too old to hurt him. It’s true what they say: Boys are the little devils that can melt their moms hearts. One minute he smacks me across the face with a toy gun, and the next he is kissing my cheek telling me how much he loves me. I feel like I’m in an abusive relationship. He is a sweetheart that doesn’t sit still and refuses to go to nursery. Next week, he’ll be a Sunbeam at church, so I’m really looking forward to LG taking him to primary and watching him run back and forth from his class to the piano instead of clinging to my skirt while I’m trapped in a tiny room with 30 toddlers. Max really is exactly what we always wanted, but we often wonder why we wanted a boy so badly? He is more challenging than all four of his sisters put together, but he brings us all a lot of joy each time he wrestles one of our cats.

So, there you have it. Our real Christmas card. We really don’t have much to brag about, except for a new awesome son-in-law and Bella’s 4.0, but we do love each other, and like it beautifully showcases in the newest Pixar movie, Coco: family is a pretty great thing to have.

We hope you all had a Merry Christmas because so many of you made our Christmas the most remarkable we’ve ever had. Who knew 5 months of unemployment would end up with so many Christmas presents from generous friends? It almost makes us tempted to try that again next year…or not. Here’s to 2018 being the best year ever. We’re hoping that by next Christmas, Max will be able to sit through a whole movie.

Here’s a photo, in case you forgot what we look like.

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They Coached the Coach

“What better way is there for me to spend quality time with my kids than to be their coach? I have to take them to practice anyhow.” That was my reasoning at the beginning of this season when as a  mother of five and a part-time college student I was already feeling stretched. Little did I know that my kids didn’t need me to be their coach as much as I needed them and their team to be my trainers.

volleyball head

I’ve loved volleyball since I can remember. I played on the JV team in high-school, and quit before I had the chance to reach any braggable level of competetive skill. But for a recreational league I knew I would be “good enough”. When I showed up to coach training they didn’t even warn me that coaching has very little to do with skill and a whole lot to do with modeling and mentoring.  They let me learn the hard way. Best gig ever.  Learning the hard way is my super power.

Let me just start by confessing our season record. 1-7. Yes, that’s one win and seven losses. And, yes, you can stop reading now if you are anything like I was eight weeks ago in believing that the wins are all that’s important.

You see, my lesson #1 was this:
Winners are not those who never fail but those who never quit.

I started with a really inexperienced team. We got our butts kicked over and over again, but I taught them the basics and told them to master them. I promised them if they could just get down their bumping and serving we would be good for the tournament.

These girls never quit. They kept working. And on Saturday we have our last tournament game. We go into it 3-0. Yes, three wins. Zero losses. If we win tomorrow, we will be the league champions. They never quit. And I’m so glad I never did either.

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Lesson #2: Actions speak louder than words. Actions are determined by thoughts and beliefs.

One time when we were losing badly, I hurriedly sent the team back on the court without the traditional team cheer. I was distracted, frustrated and worried about how as a coach I was letting my team down. I had just ran on about mechanics and with the impatience of the official raining down on me, I pushed the team along without any encouragment, a sweep of the hands and a, “Just go.” My daughters informed me on the way home that Olivia had looked at them both with anxiety all over her face. She felt bad. Coach was mad and disappointed. My lack of positivity brought the whole team down.

what you say

That brings me nicely to my third lesson:
You can only teach someone who wants to learn. You can only learn when you want to be taught.

My daughter Bella has been struggling with her serving the entire season. Last night before the game I was determined to get her serving perfected before the game started. I took her aside and dug in. “You need to keep your arm straight. Hold the ball steady. Don’t start so far back.” She refused to move up six inches. The more I tried to explain how her balls were falling short that exact length, the more she shut down. She ended up in tears. It’s not a proud moment.  Thankfully my husband came over and asked me, “Alice, is it really worth it?” She didn’t want to learn what I had to offer, yet I still wanted to stuff it down her throat. Both she and I had really fragile feelings for the whole first set. It wasn’t worth it. Unless you call her first two perfect serves from too far back worth it. Like her mama, she is out to prove a point. For the record, I know now I was wrong. I’ll never forget the horrible sinking feeling I had while watching her sit on the bleacher and cry.

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Lesson 4: Change is progression.

I’m the kind of person that holds my ideas and opinions tightly. I feel like if I need change I failed. Volleyball has reminded me that the only thing that defines failure is being too rigid to progress. At the beginning of the season I was using a lot of practice time on cardio and strength building. I realized early on that my team needed more time on the ball. I had to completely change our practice outline.

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And last:
Always, always, always focus on the positive.

It took me six losses to figure this out, but on a positive note, I guess there are slower coaches to be found somewhere. In the beginning of the season, I kept harping on the girls about what they were doing wrong. They couldn’t  bump the ball for the life of them, and so I determined to force competancy on them.

Meanwhile, the other teams were not just mastering bumping, but also learning new skills too.  Or so it seemed to me. I decided that I had to change my approach. I started finding ways to compliment each player. I dished out praise like Halloween candy. I demonstrated and allowed time for practice and encouragment. I continuously repeated how much I believed in them. I told them the could win. They started to believe it.

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I can’t really explain the beautiful experience it is to jump around a court like a crazy kid with a team full of girls that you know you helped to learn the lessons of champions.  Last night, as I watched them high-give and congratulate each other with joy written in each smile line, my heart swelled. I was so grateful that they coached me way more than I could have ever coached them.

Update (next day)

We won. My favorite part was when we all sang “We are the Champions” in celebration.

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Work through your Suckiness

My friend Donna is super amazing. She’s a great cook. She’s got it all going on in home decor/fashion. She’s insightful. She’s pee-your-pants-hilarious. She also takes gorgeous photos in NYC. You can follow her instagram feed here.

[Note to self: next time when you blindly type in /donnashoots at the instagram url close your eyes. If you miss that essential underscore between donna and shoots, you get some eclectic-fine-art-nude-photographer.]

Anyhow, I’ve always had a huge respect for Donna. She’s brave. She always follows her heart. She knows herself and goes after what she loves. I have enjoyed watching her photography evolve and improve.  I’m sure Donna is going to love being mentioned in this post entitled “work through your suckiness.” For the record, Donna, you have never sucked, at anything, but your photography gets better every day and I loved it from the get-go.suck

A while back Donna shared this youtube video which shares Ira Glass‘s (yes, I just had to look him up.) idea of working through that gap between the beginnings of your creativity (which always kind of sucks) and what you know as good art (which you will never quite reach if you give up because you suck.) <<<<< Longest sentence ever. Pretty sure that is a run-on.  Let’s just chalk that up to my beginnings of suckiness.

The video is well worth the watch.

I’ve been pondering on this video for weeks. I have this big dream of being a “real” writer. I’ve been working on a book for years and have only completed three really crappy chapters. Months ago after a gruesome hour-long writing session where I finished a few sentences and edited the crap out of everything else, I decided that I should never even expect myself to be good enough. I should just let go of the dream and teach English instead. “Let’s face it: I’m never going to be JK Rowling,” I said to myself, “Shoot, I can’t even hope to be Rick Riordan.” (Don’t get me wrong. teaching English is also a life-long dream, and I will be amazing at it, but I just never want to be one of those teachers that teaches because they can’t do. You know what I mean?)

Then I watched this video and realized that the only difference between the great writers and myself is time, patience, and practice….well, and 5 kids (they are pretty opposing to most of my goals.) I’m always grateful for any encouraging and inspiring messages I get in my life. I need them. I think most people do. That’s why I’m sharing this with you today.

This “work through your suckiness” theory is applicable to everyone in whatever they are doing. Every day I am tempted to quit at so many things, but especially as a mother. However, I always keep working at it. I’ve evolved. I’m a much better mother now than I ever was 15 years ago. (There’s a special place in heaven for oldest children.)

So, keep at it, my friends. Do what you love, even if you suck. Eventually you won’t suck as bad.

And that’s your most sucky message of the day. Just keep singing, y’all. Even if you embarrass yourself on your American Idol audition.

Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with an imperfect mother.

Watching this video this morning solidified one of the aspects of motherhood with which I struggle. It’s a common theme to be addressed around Mother’s Day: perfectionism. I didn’t think I had it, but I do. While taking this journey to learn more about myself as a mother, it has been brought to my attention that one of the reasons I am often unhappy is because perfectionism is a myth, especially as a mother.

I ran into an old mission companion of mine at the library the other day. I tried to pour  my heart out to her explaining how stuck I am feeling. I said, “I just don’t enjoy being home.” And then I asked, “Are you happy at home?” She responded that she was for the most part and that she just needed her creative outlet and she was good. “I painted a picnic table yesterday”, she said with a smile. “I was good for the day.”

I was like, “Wha–, What?” I just don’t get it. “That’s it? You get 10 minutes of crafting a day, and then you’re good? You don’t ever feel resentful. You don’t have any further ambition that you feel is being stifled?” She looked me straight in the eye and said, “Not really.” I couldn’t tell if she was being truthful. I am sure she thought she was, but I just couldn’t believe the answer. “She had to be lying to herself'”, I thought. I tried to search within myself for the truth. She said, “You just need your own creative outlet.” I said, “I’m not really artsy. I don’t like crafting. I don’t do home decor. I love to write, but it’s all I can do (as I pointed to my 3 year old climbing the shelves) to get out a blog post, which usually takes me less than a half an hour. I don’t feel any kind of release or accomplishment when I do that.”

And then came my answer and I was so glad I had ran into a listening ear. I continued, “If I could sit and write a book all day that may give me some happiness. I also love photography, but it doesn’t necessarily make me happy. I think for those two things I feel like if I can’t sell a million copies or inspire people with my work, what’s the point?”

And the lightbulb knocked me upside the cheek. How ridiculous I sounded! I’m a perfectionist and it’s keeping me from my happy place.

Yesterday I read this beautiful letter from a mom to a child starting school and I had further recognition of my reluctance to admit my weaknesses as a mother and how I am unknowingly projecting that need for perfection onto my children. I loved this line:

We do not care if you are the smartest or fastest or coolest or funniest. There will be lots of contests at school, and we don’t care if you win a single one of them. We don’t care if you get straight As. We don’t care if the girls think you’re cute or whether you’re picked first or last for kickball at recess. We don’t care if you are your teacher’s favorite or not. We don’t care if you have the best clothes or most Pokemon cards or coolest gadgets. We just don’t care.

We don’t send you to school to become the best at anything at all. We already love you as much as we possibly could. You do not have to earn our love or pride and you can’t lose it. That’s done.

We send you to school to practice being brave and kind.

What if the only criteria for motherhood was love? And what if I admit that I will love as well as I can and that it still won’t be perfect? Nobody can love perfectly. If I could change this one little glitch in my motherhood mantra, I believe I could change the world, one future mother at a time. I have four daughters, I owe it to them to learn to be happy being an imperfect mom because really, like the rest of us, that is all they can aspire to be.

Monopoly on Self-Protection

monopoly

Well, I am back in therapy. This time it is marriage counseling (for the second time.) I know, I know, I should add this fine fact to my resume – expertise on the couch – wow, that sounds kinda dirty.

It’s interesting to me that when one is in therapy they just learn the same lessons about themself over and over. Like my husband explained, “it’s like peeling layers of an onion.” And I would add, each layer just seems to make your eyes sting a little bit more.

One little tidbit about me is that I self-protect.  For whatever reason I have abandonment issues, and I cling to very destructive tendencies as if they were a cobra and my only chance at a meal when I am starving. I may get to eat, but more than likely I am just going to get bit. The bite may not kill me, but it’s keeping me from eating.

I am still trying to process (you know you have a good counselor when they make your mind reel) what I learned from my last session on Friday, but several of my self-protection methods are: keeping high standards so that others won’t meet them and will inevitably let me down (making me right), staying a step ahead of everyone so they can’t touch me, and maintaining walls the size of China’s so that no one can hurt me. The degree to which these things are causing me pain is yet to be determined as my awareness is in infancy, but I certainly recognize that they are keeping me from the emotional  intimacy I desire. I think our therapist read this article before our session. Good stuff.

So I am trying to work on allowing imperfections (in me and others), staying present, and being vulnerable. I suck at all three. I believe if I can let some of these unproductive and self destructive tendencies go I will learn to be happier in life but specifically in my life at home. Sometimes it can be overwhelming.

Yesterday while playing monopoly as a family I got a glimmer of hope. It happened towards the end of the game (after being reprimanded several times for being on my phone – someone took it away, wandering off to cook dinner and dessert – missing many rent payments on my properties, and generally just being a crappy game player who doesn’t know how to live in the present.

As the players got more and more desperate for money, they got increasingly grateful any time they received some cash. I thought of the similarities between the game and my bankrupt soul.

As I was able to force myself to be present during the game, the little moments I have been missing all these years were HUGE to my soul: all the girls training Caroline to tell everyone to “pay up”, Sophia lamenting because she only passed go three times the whole game, Bella being super-focused on her desired property negotiations, and me landing on boardwalk the turn right after I forced Abigail to sell her hotel.

The hope lied in the fact that I have only one way to go: up and out. Even if I have to sell all my properties to do it, it’ll be worth the sacrifice to get closer to those that I love. But maybe perhaps there is a merciful God and He’ll help me to win the game without selling a single property. When I get to the end, He’ll say, “See, you just needed to trust me.”

What defines the perfect woman


June Cleaver – what exactly is her role on this earth?

Alright, I have been on here a lot today, but I am finding this rather therapeutic. I am going to make this quick and it may not be too funny, but I HAVE to get something off of my chest. Alright, I was just writing specifics of why I feel the way that I do right now, but my husband warned me that I may lose friends. What is it with our society? Why can’t we all just be honest about the way that we feel without worrying what other people might think?

Well, to make a long story short….a friend of ours is pregnant AGAIN. They will have more children than us now and I AM HAVING THIS TOTALLY CRAZY REACTION to the news.

We do not want any more kids right now, and may never want any more, but once you hear that another woman is going to outdo you with her child-bearing skills, this crazed “I’ll show you that I am more perfect” mentality comes riding to the surface. It is scary. I know it is all wrong, but why do we women do this to each other? It starts in Middle School and it NEVER stops.

If we could all just be honest about who we are, then maybe no one would come out looking like the ms. perfect june cleaver that we know she is not. Personally, I just like to throw myself out there. It’s too bad that too much honesty can make a woman really imperfect.

Gotta go to bed.

P.S. I think perfection is found in making other people feel that they are better than you, not visa versa.