Treat yo’self

Bethany,

I gotta hand it to you this year. I’m really proud of you for following through on the decision you made last year at this time to “treat yo’self,” as Donna and Tom proclaim on one of my all-time favorite shows, Parks and Rec.

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You deserve to be treated well. After all, Mother’s Day and your birthday always fall within a few days on the calendar each year (if not on the same day). You’re a mom. And you inevitably grow one year older each year, unless you’re not reading this since you’ve already died (*crossing my fingers that’s not the case*).

Your husband is a great man who loves you, protects you, ensures your safety and well-being, and would literally take a bullet for you. Holidays, however, aren’t really his thing. You should have accepted this the very first Mother’s Day you celebrated together when you were pregnant, when at 9 p.m. he admitted to having completely forgotten about the holiday (and your birthday), with a deer-in-the-headlights expression on his handsome face. But you’re always hoping for the best and expecting better things might be around the corner; holidays are no different. Last year, three years after that first Mother’s Day you celebrated together, you threw a miniature pity party, yanked on your big girl panties, and made a list of four things you’d do every Mother’s Day/birthday henceforth.

Here’s why: expectations are premeditated resentments. If you sit around waiting for him to treat you in a certain manner, you’re going to grow to resent him if he doesn’t.

11836789_595568329992_4649913107534984823_nLife is too short to live that way. And why expect someone else to do for you what you can do for yourself? You know your worth—you’re the best mom you know. You bend over backward (sometimes literally) for your daughter on a daily basis. You make sacrifices in every area of life for her. You think of every moment as a teaching opportunity. You pray for her continually and seek to guide her in the best way you know how. You give her all the love she could ever want.

You’re rocking the mom thing.

Of course you should celebrate Mother’s Day.

And life? Don’t even get me started…

I think we’ve established that there are a myriad of reasons you need to treat yo’self. And here’s how.

  1. You shall bake your own cake.

This cake is for you. It is not a Mother’s Day cake to share with the other moms you love. You are to bake a cake you like (or pie, because sometimes pie is better than cake) and eat as much of that fattening, sugary piece of work as you darn well please. And you are not to make excuses for it, feel guilty about it, or allow other people to talk you out of it.

2. You shall go out to dinner or lunch on the day of your birthday.

You deserve good food, regardless of the price, and you deserve a break from both cooking and cleaning up from other people who do the cooking (which inevitably happens if your husband does the cooking, even if he’s trying to be nice).

3. You shall purchase a gift for yourself.

You have to purchase something just because you like it. Don’t buy something you need and call it a “birthday gift.” That doesn’t count. This is treat yo’self time, Mama! You don’t have to spend a certain amount of money; it’s about purchasing something that makes you feel appreciated and a little extra special.

4. You shall write yourself a kind note or buy yourself a card and send it to yourself in advance.

Say some kind words to yourself. Force yourself to dig deep and express gratitude to yourself in the same way an outsider might. If you can’t acknowledge, appreciate, and enjoy yourself, how can you expect anyone else to?

I’m glad to see that as you write this blog post, you have a little dab of chocolate cake batter under your fingernails; this means you’ll be able to mark two of these items off your “treat yo’self” to-do list after today.

Remember: you’re stuck with yourself for the rest of your life. You better like you.

Happy Mother’s Day/birthday, my friend.

 

Not wasted

Canning pickled tomatoes from our garden, 2011

Canning pickled tomatoes from our garden, 2011

My husband changes the oil in our vehicles himself. When his brake pads need to be replaced, he borrows tools and goes to work. When we decide to install major appliances, run duct work for central heating and air conditioning, or redo all the plumbing and wiring in the quaint old home we’re slowly renovating,  he recruits a few handy volunteers and hammers away after reading DIY books and scouring  forums and websites. When I point out the need for a new desk, bookshelf, or storage unit, my husband bypasses the prepackaged kits and designs and builds them himself. When he loses a button or rips a hem, he breaks out his miniature sewing kit and repairs it. Himself.

I am impressed by his Renaissance-man-meets-Survivor-man nature. I am grateful for the tens of thousands of dollars we have saved over the past three years due to his willingness to expend hours of effort to complete intricate tasks that other men would never consider tackling. And I am, honestly, simultaneously annoyed by his ability to find satisfaction—even joy—in seeing tangible results materialize after conquering tedious, time-consuming projects.

I just don’t get it.

I’m not exactly the Proverbs 31 kind of gal, at least not in terms of burning the midnight oil to darn socks, knit potholders, design scrapbooks, grind my own wheat, or milk goats, all with a pleasant grin plastered on my deliriously exhausted face.

I tip my hat to women who have more effectively honed their domestic prowess and still seem to have excess energy. I feel worn out just writing about being so busy.

I’d rather purchase slacks that can be tossed in the dryer than spend my time—even seconds—slaving over a hot iron. I love baking fresh bread when I have a hankering for it, but I don’t want to commit to waiting for dough to rise every few days before slapping together a simple sandwich. I don’t mind going camping, but as I told my husband the first time we met and discussed it, I want to sit around the campfire and appreciate nature. I don’t want to piece together tent poles, cook real meals over a fire, or do anything that would really require exertion. I love handmade cards, home decor, and scarves—but I have no desire to spend hours learning these trades myself. That’s what Etsy.com is for.

In short, I want to spend my time on things I enjoy. Otherwise, I feel like I’m dropping seconds into a bottomless pit, wasting time I can never get back.

My obsessive desire to avoid wasting time is both a character defect and an asset. If I keep it in check, this desire fuels me to watch only the television shows that make me laugh and teach me new things; I don’t find myself sitting on the couch watching reality shows while scarfing down chips and dip anymore. This desire helps me choose friends wisely. If someone doesn’t build me up and contribute positive meaning to my life, I probably won’t feel the need to invest much time in that friendship. The desire to spend my time wisely keeps me focused on what matters most, most of the time.

However, when the pendulum swings too far in the other direction, my obsession with spending my time wisely makes me cranky as I try to rush through the minor tasks in hopes of having time to mark more items off my ever-present to-do list. I find myself lending half an ear rather than fully listening to my family members on the phone, my mind swimming in a sea of unmet goals. Ironically, when I obsess about every second spent on something I deem unnecessary or unimportant, I miss the beauty of the moment.

For three years, I’ve had a note tacked to the bulletin board above my desk with a scribbled phrase smiling back at me.

“Time enjoyed is not time wasted.”

While watching my husband carefully measure a board yesterday, I noticed the subtle smile on his face as sweat trickled across the creases in his eyes. He’s not working, I realized. He’s enjoying what he’s doing.

He has an uncanny knack for finding the sweet spot in life. He doesn’t avoid mundane tasks. He just chooses to take pleasure in doing them himself. He would rather do hard work himself and reap the reward of satisfaction in a job well done than save time by hiring someone to do it. He likes saving money, but I think he likes creating and building and fixing things even more.

Because he chooses to enjoy what he’s doing, he never wastes his time.

Maggie, August 2013

Maggie, August 2013

Last night, I nursed my growing 10 month-old daughter to sleep. She fussed and did her best to fight off the urge to close her eyes but finally succumbed to slumber. I held her little sticky hand in mine, sang her some of my favorite songs, and watched her eyelashes flutter.

I spent 30 minutes propped up in the recliner, singing and caressing my baby.

Having nursed my daughter for 10 months now, I have spent at least 45,900 minutes nursing Maggie—and that’s not taking into account the early weeks when she nursed more often and for longer periods of time. But who’s counting?

Soon, she will drink from her own cup and run away from me, toddling around on her adorable chubby legs. A few years later, she will want to talk to her friends instead of babbling with me and her father. Before I know it, she will be waving goodbye and pulling out of the driveway in her own car rather than sitting in my backseat, sipping on apple juice.

It’s easy to let myself fret the entire 30 minutes each time I feed her, and believe me, I’ve done so plenty of times.

A better option is to enjoy being where my hands are, whether I’m nursing my baby, grading students’ essays, or sweeping up rice puff piles from the kitchen floor.

Because time enjoyed is not time wasted.

Mama said, part 7

“Starving kids in Africa would love that pork chop,” my mom stated, twirling her spaghetti around her fork.

My good little eater, Maggie

My good little eater, Maggie

I rolled my eyes and huffed and puffed. I fidgeted. I kicked the table leg.

“Then give me an envelope. They can have it,” I narrowed my eyes.

Bad move, Bethany.

In one fell swoop, my plate was removed from the table, I consumed a tablespoon of peanut butter, and my mom swatted my heinous hind end and sent me to bed a full hour before sunset.

And that’s the way it went on more than one occasion. My mom didn’t tolerate whining, and she didn’t put up with picky eaters. Sure, she let me eat my spaghetti sauce separate from my noodles. And she didn’t make me eat green beans very often since they were my absolute least favorite food on the planet. But by and large, my mom cooked, and we ate. Period.

The only other choice was to eat a big spoonful of peanut butter and head straight to bed. As an adventurous, fearless, and athletic girl, this option was usually more dreaded than downing canned spinach.

Despite its employment as a discipline tool, I grew to love peanut butter. My favorite sandwich is a fried peanut butter and marshmallow creme pile of goodness. My favorite snack is peanut butter and graham crackers. My favorite childhood snack is Cracker Jacks. My favorite dishes at most American-Chinese restaurants are pad thai and kung pao chicken.

Clearly, I’m nuts about peanuts.

My fabulous peanut butter cookies

My fabulous peanut butter cookies

But after having a severe allergic reaction on Monday, most likely to peanut butter, I’m grieving the loss of all that delicious stuff. It sounds silly, but I’m really going to miss peanut butter. Not a huge fan of meat, I literally ate peanut butter on a daily basis—partly for the protein, but mostly for the pure love of the stuff. I mourn the loss of the opportunity to bake the most amazing peanut butter cookies on the planet for my daughter someday. I will not be able to mimic the best discipline tool ever for picky eaters, employed many times by my mother—eat a spoonful of peanut butter and go to bed early. I won’t pleasure in the delightful combinations of peanut butter and caramel, peanut butter and banana, peanut butter and chocolate… alas.

After moping around for a few days, though, I decided to do myself a real solid and put my big girl panties on even though I honestly didn’t feel like it. I started reading labels on items in our pantry. We scoured the shelves of Wal-Mart for peanut butter alternatives and found a few substitutes. I vowed to look upon this situation as an opportunity to improve my diet and to shed the 10 stubborn pounds of baby weight that have perched themselves happily around my waist.

A wise woman I know once said, “Stop making mountains out of molehills. It’s like pole vaulting over mouse turds.” It’s just peanut butter, after all.

I don’t want to spend any more time missing what I can’t have. I’d rather enjoy what I can and be grateful for what I have.

Excuse me while I savor this almond butter, please.

Merging

I’m pretty sure I’ve never cried so much in my life.

Maggie experiencing spring for the first time

Maggie experiencing spring for the first time

Since having my daughter in November, my perspective has changed. Everything old-hat seems new again. All the colors bloomed into brighter versions of themselves. Frowns and smiles and silly sounds thrill my soul. Seconds count. Life matters more.

This isn’t my first spin on the merry-go-round of emotions that motherhood entails.

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Me with Liz, summer 2011

I was lucky enough to be a stepmom to an amazing little girl for almost six years. And even luckier, she still likes me and wants to spend time with me, even though she is a month from graduating from high school and is practically an adult (who I am incredibly proud of) in every way. She gets embarrassed when I post mushy sentiments on Facebook about her, but she doesn’t delete them. She even suffers through a little cheek pinching now and then. She drives two hours to come stay with me, crawls through caves with me and my husband, licks the bowl after I concoct cookie dough, watches sunsets, kisses fish when she catches them, and opens her heart to me from time to time, too. She keeps me updated on celebrities, catch phrases, and other cool cultural trends. A few months ago, when I gave her a mini dress to wear with leggings, and explained that I was simply too old to pull it off, she responded, “Well, it’s good that you recognize that, Beef.” She makes me laugh and tells the truth and loves me.

My experiences and emotions as a mother obviously multiplied when I had Maggie.

And my love overflowed in the form of messy snot and tears when my two favorite girls met, and my past and my present merged.

It’s hard to explain what it means to watch joy and adoration twinkle in the beautiful eyes of the two babies you love more than any others as they meet for the first time, the grown-up girl scooping up the baby girl into her arms, kissing her chubby cheeks, and holding her close.

Many times, people ask me if I regret decisions I’ve made in my past. Divorces, mega mistakes, traumatic events, financial turning points. Because I’ve spent half a dozen years taken a dozen steps over and over again, I can honestly say no. As the Big Book so aptly puts it, “I do not regret the past nor wish to shut the door on it.”

I have no desire to wish away the things that have made me who I am today.

Liz and Maggie, March 2013

Liz and Maggie, March 2013

If I could change the past, I wouldn’t be here right now, tearing up yet again while remembering the most precious introduction I’ve ever had the privilege to initiate.

I would skip over much sorrow. But I would rob myself of even more joy.

First

First time I had sex, I was raped.

First marriage failed.

First gymnastics meet, I dislocated my elbow.

First job in my field, teaching English, was perhaps the worst job I’ve ever had in my life.

debbie downer*Cue Debbie Downer waaah waaaah.*

Clearly, my track record of firsts isn’t necessarily full of gold star stickers and smiley faces.

That’s just not been my life experience.

Until I met my husband. I’m not sure, but I suspect that God has anointed him with an innate sense of what I need and the uncanny ability to meet my needs without my saying a word.

When I met him, things changed.

In reality, I think my perspective simply switched gears, probably thanks to three years in my twelve-step recovery program. I started noticing every first in our relationship, and I’d never done that before. I began to cherish all our moments.

On the porch of my old house, October 2010

On the porch of my old house, October 2010

First time we met at our mutual friend’s birthday party. First time he called me a few days later after my sister sent him a Facebook message, begging him to call me so I would shut up about him. First double date with that same mutual friend and his fiance.

And all the firsts he introduced me to–and still does. First time going to dozens of local landmarks and beautiful places. First time taking a road trip on a four-wheeler. First time on a boat on the White River. First time catching trout and going limb-lining for catfish. First time going hunting (successfully securing venison for future date nights, I might add). First time baking cupcakes from scratch. First time being serenaded by banjo.

Emptying his pockets to purchase our new car :).

Emptying his pockets to purchase our new car :).

First time in my life that anyone has ever paid enough attention to my eyes lighting up at the sight or mention of things and then making those things happen–whether it be a rickety old farmhouse that no one else might want, a safe new vehicle for our baby, or a genuine Rambo knife.

He knows me.

And the most beautiful thing is taking place in our lives.

We have the opportunity, every single day, to create firsts with our daughter. And thanks to my husband’s hard work and his commitment to our family, I get to be here at home with her to see each first as it unfolds.

Maggie's first visit to Lake Dardanelle, 4/6/13

Maggie’s first visit to Lake Dardanelle, 4/6/13

First time petting our cats or letting our dog Clyde lick her chubby fists. First time seeing a tractor scooping up dirt. First time touching the base of an ice-cold glass. First time rolling over and shining with glee and pride in her accomplishment. First time seeing a river or a lake. First time going to church. First time dancing with her Papaw, waltzing through our kitchen. First time being held by the people we love the most.

Great memories. Positive experiences. Joyful smiles. God-filled goodness.

It’s like my life has started all over again.