Monthly Archives: December 2013

Happy Anniversary!

Our EasierSaidBlog is one year old! Last November, when we started discussing the idea for a joint blog, I don’t think either of us knew how it would go and whether we’d be able to keep it up, but in January we launched it and have been muddling through ever since.

At this reflective time of year, we thought it might be interesting to interview each other and share our perspective on the last year of writing together.

KitKat, what did you set out to do by starting a blog and do you feel like you’ve accomplished that?

I think there were a couple things wrapped into doing the blog for me. First, I had a constant “to-do” item on my list to start journaling. When you mentioned doing a blog together, it seemed like a good way to be held accountable to get that checked off. The other, bigger piece was it was always the talks with you and other friends that got me through times my mind was spinning. Whether it was talking over inane things, kid concerns, wishes and wants, or feeling overwhelmed, simply talking it through always ended up lifting my spirits and let me know I wasn’t alone. The blog seemed like another release to let out some of those thoughts and to share with others that none of us have it perfectly under control, are above making mistakes or have it all figured out.

As far as accomplishing what I set out to do, I did stick with it so my “to-do” was accomplished. As for the less tangible goal … when I wrote about Learning to live in the maybe, I had friends—some I haven’t had a chance to talk to for a long time—reach out and let me know they were there for me without judgment and no matter what happened. They didn’t need details, just wanted to support me. So I’m not sure the blog has helped anyone else feel “not alone,” but it has certainly reminded me!
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Stormy, do you have favorite parts of, or experiences about, the blogging process?

Well, it sort of changes how I look at the world. I think you’ve mentioned this as well—how you look at odd situations or funny experiences and think of them as “blog material”… The interesting thing is, sometimes episodes that seem ripe for documenting just don’t translate into the written word very well. And other things that seem simple can take on new dimensions when you start writing about them.

The other thing that I find fun is looking at our blog stats—reach of readership, who follows, likes and comments. We’ve been read in 44 countries! Who is reading us from the Maldives? Introduce yourself and say “Hello”! And let’s not forget the copious offers to help us with SEO. (Hint to same: We’re both marketing directors, if we were concerned with site optimization we’d hire someone we know to do it, not an Internet spammer.)
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KitKat, what has been the biggest challenge of doing a blog?

TimeTime! Though once I do sit down and write it always calms me to be doing something reflective and just for me, finding the time to do something that isn’t a “have to” is tough. A kid who won’t go to sleep on time, an unplanned work project taken home, or an extra hockey game scheduled can all derail a planned time slot to sit down and write.  

For this blog post, the biggest challenge is my kids are on Winter Break so I am writing this with a ton of chatter in the background and a house strewn with holiday gifts. It is hard to think, much less write, in such chaos.
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Stormy, have there been any posts where you hesitated before pushing “publish” or decided not to make public?

Yes! Basically any of the posts about my mother. For a grown woman, I’m ridiculously self-conscious about my mother’s opinion of everything I do. I know she would be appalled at some of my posts, but the process of getting these frustrations down on paper is strangely cathartic for me.

There are other posts where I might hint at something from my real life, but keep the details veiled. Like Stormy’s identity, I don’t like to reveal everything about myself to the masses. I need to maintain the illusion that I (mostly) have my act together. (LOL)
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KitKat, where do you find inspiration for your topics?

It seems my life is full of inspiration for topics, the good and the bad. Kids for sure. Girlfriends. Family. The biggest, though, seems to be wherever my mind is wandering at the moment I write. There have been lots of times, for example up at the cabin with a girlfriend, that I will jump up in the middle of a funny conversation and jot down an idea. Friends and family have grown accustomed to that. The funny thing is now I have this long list where, at the time each was jotted down, my brain was already creating the post around the idea. But when I actually have time to sit and write, the inspiration has passed and I end up writing about something that is currently on my mind—even when I struggle with knowing that my list has the potential for more interesting posts than where my brain landed on the day I write. 
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Stormy, have there been times when you have had writer’s block or struggled with a topic?

Oh yeah. I definitely need to be in the right mood to write a post. Some topics I mull over in my mind for months before they slowly, painfully make it onto the page. Others come spewing out in 20 minutes of frenetic writing. There’s no logic to it either. Sometimes, the more I have to say about a topic, the harder it is to get those thoughts on paper. 
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KitKat, we’ve known each other a long time and used to work together. Have you learned anything that surprised you about me?

Admit it: He's creepy!

Admit it: He’s creepy!

Big Bird, belly buttons and wool were all oddities I knew you hated. I actually remember tormenting you on your 40th birthday at work when we all hung photos around your office of your least favorite things. I also knew you had my control freak nature and not a lot of tolerance for things you found stupid. So I had no illusions that you didn’t have some “idiosyncrasies.”

I have learned the boss and mentor who “had it all together” is a lot more like me. Actually, I learned just how much we are alike. I also learned that you are great at giving sound advice and not so good at taking it yourself, whether from me or from your own wisdom. I also was surprised about your “whimsical side.” Very out of character and an interesting dynamic. For some reason, I think you will keep surprising me.
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Stormy, back at youanything that surprised you about me? 

The cushion confession absolutely slayed me. And the “wet bread” thing will forever color my menu choices when I invite you and the hubby to dinner. Other than that, no big surprises—by this point, I think we understand each other pretty well. Actually, I take that back. I’m surprised by the fact that you’ve been able to stick with this so long, given all the other demands on your time.
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KitKat, which do you consider to be your favorite post?

That is a hard one! Do The Bloggers and About count as posts? I think those and the initial stories you and I posted were my favorites simply because it was the beginning to our blog. We admitted who we were and started down the blogging path.

I do still get a kick out of writing and reading our joint blogs like the True Confessions and Phobias. I would like to do more of those this year.
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Stormy, do you have some posts or overall blogging plans already on the agenda to tackle in 2014?

We’ve talked about doing a “cabin post,” but I have trouble trimming that down to a manageable length. And I’ve thought I should do one on adoption—but that’s another topic that I could go on about for days. When I can come up with “that one key idea,” I’ll be ready to tackle those topics. Otherwise, I’m just curious to see what unfolds in 2014. I’m sure there will be no shortage of material. 🙂

No more green bean episodes

Unlike Stormy, I do let the holidays get to me a bit. “A bit” may an understatement. As the holidays rolled in, I was reminded not to have another megreen bean episode this year. An episode that spiraled when, after careful planning to avoid the holiday grocery lines on Dec 23, I came home to my family eating the green beans needed for a dish I was bringing on Christmas Eve. Yes, it sounds crazy that I lost it over green beans. But really, when have they ever chosen to eat green beans?! Plus, it was perfectly timed for when I needed somewhere to let my tension explode. I had found my target. Hence, the green bean episode.

This holiday season started like all others. Around September, my mind starts thinking about the holidays. I start keeping my eye out for the perfect gifts. This year, the Centennial Lakes Art Fair that I attended with Stormy was the place I purchased my favorite gift during one of our needed friend-therapy sessions. (We both are great multi-taskers.) As the months go by and not all gifts are as perfectly stumbled upon, I start to feel the tension building.

Being self-aware and remembering my past holiday stress tantrums, I have tried to do a couple of things to avoid becoming a Christmas freak show.

My first step was to stop sending holiday cards. It was always pushed to the end of my list. I never had my contacts organized, so I always ended up addressing my cards late at night with a pile of envelope scraps (from past senders) with no joy involved. Plus, when I did do cards, I had the self-created pressure that as marketing professional I was expected to have a really cool card. Enough years later, I am completely comfortable with the fact that anything I do at work is not something I enjoy doing in my leisure time. Everyone else can enjoy those fun, creative projects.

With that said, I love getting holiday cards. So thank you to those who still send me one without getting one in return! Every year, I think that is going back on the list next year. Just in a more efficient way.

Seriously, we get a lot done! Music and dancing helps get our minds thinking.

Seriously, we get a lot done! Music and dancing helps get our minds thinking.

I have also added a shopping weekend with my girlfriend to alleviate some of the stress. The sell of this weekend to our husbands is we agree to do all of the shopping and organizing if we can get away for a kid-free, responsibility-free weekend. A shopping staycation.

Online shopping has greatly improved the quality of this weekend.

Usually I am calm and feeling organized up until this point, the week leading up to Christmas Day. I wrap presents each night as I count down. As long as nothing tumbles, I think I am stress-free. The problem is something always tumbles. Or possibly, I just don’t acknowledge the building stress ’til this final countdown. If I am being honest, the wrong look at a present I chose, a missing ingredient, or the tape running out as I wrap presents could each set me off.

This year though, Stormy’s blog came at just the right time. I read it as I was wrapping presents and looking ahead to some time off. The Holiday Break division of labor. Each of us taking a week off to cover for the kids at home. My shift was pre-holidays, including the extra Friday the school threw in in addition to the other two weeks off! I decided to heed Stormy’s advice and cancel the list of pre-Christmas plans I had made to make the most of my time off.

Instead, I spent four days in my pajamas. I wrapped presents watching The Vampire Diaries in the middle of the day while my kids played too many electronics. None of us had rules. It is the most relaxed I have been. My daughter brushed my hair while I had a glass of wine and played on the iPad, telling me she’d miss me when I had to work again. My 10-year old son let me tuck him in and show him how I used to stroke his face as a baby until he fell asleep. I actually enjoyed doing a lot of nothing and was rewarded for it. The only thing I did was load the dishwasher quickly before my husband got home each night to prove a long-term point.

Well, I made it through without an episode! I keep surprising myself by discovering all of the things a person can make it through, especially with the advice and support of friends.

So to all my wonderful girlfriends: Thank you. Thank you all for getting me through the year and filling it with not only support but fun and laughter. Those who reached out when I haven’t talked to them forever, but wanted me to know they were there; to my walking partner who has been a perfectly timed gift and will be my friend even when not in need; my amazing “mom” friends who make me feel sane and have become my own friends with or without kid connections; my amazing sisters; and my few soul mates–you know who you are.

I can’t wait to see what next year brings us all.

The Ghost of Christmas Past

leethod_1351460522_Target-Lady

If the Crazy Target Lady doesn’t scare you straight, you’re beyond saving.

I have a confession to make: Christmas doesn’t really stress me out. That’s not particularly scandalous, but admitting this during the holiday season feels a bit like a betrayal to my hurried and harried sisterhood. Because, let’s face it: Many of the tasks that comprise “making the season bright” (e.g., baking, decorating, Christmas shopping, entertaining) often fall to the female gender.

I’m not trying to be sexist about gender roles. If we bring Christmas cookies or chocolate truffles to a holiday party, everyone knows the compliments go to my husband, the baker in the family. (Not surprisingly, I have trouble following directions.) But I think there’s some truth in my generalization.

What’s more, when it comes to holiday merrymaking, the motivations of men and women are often different. For example, a man going all Clark Griswold on his house is likely doing it because he gets a kick out of the results. But oftentimes his wife who is going from shop to shop trying to find gifts for teachers and distant in-laws is doing it more to fulfill an expectation than as a labor of love.

I used to be this woman until I realized it was sucking all the fun out of the holidays and really—once they stop being fun, what’s the point? Well, my spiritual side would argue that the point of Christmas is Christ. But I found that the whole religious aspect of Christmas was overshadowed by the incessant busyness and blatant commercialism, as well. Where were the moments of quiet reflection? Where was the magic?

One January, as I was taking down ornaments and swearing to myself that I’d “do it differently next year,” I composed a letter to myself. I’ve always loved “A Christmas Carol” and watching the musical “Scrooge” is a family holiday tradition, so let’s call this missive a “Message from the Ghost of Christmas Past.” The note starts like this:

Every year you do the same thing, Stormy. So this is a letter from your post-holiday, wiser self. I hope you will heed her message.

Then it has seven bullets of advice, addressing topics like:

  • Cookies – “We are never at a loss for cookies at any holiday gathering. Three types…are plenty.”
  • Gifts – “Buy little hostess gifts when you see them. They always come in handy. Keep track of what you get the kids so you don’t buy too much.”
  • Christmas Cards – “Keep it simple. Don’t feel compelled to send to people you aren’t connected to…and don’t worry about the ‘but they sent us one’ game.”
  • Traditions – “These are what make the holidays fun…Make Christmas about events and not things. Smaller gatherings are fun and meaningful.”

These are merely excerpts—my actual instructions to myself were more detailed and specific. I printed out my message and packed it away with my Christmas decorations where it was promptly forgotten until the following December.

The next year, when I pulled out my garlands and stockings the weekend after Thanksgiving, I spotted the note from Christmas Past and decided to heed my own advice. After all, if you can’t believe yourself, who can you trust?

That season, I took a low-key approach to the holidays and was pleasantly surprised. I was relaxed. Nobody died when I decided to skip sending Christmas cards that year. And we still enjoyed all of our favorite traditions. What a revelation! I felt like I owed a debt of thanks to my stressed self. 

Since then, my Christmas preparations have varied somewhat—some years I make more of an effort, some years less. But whatever I do, I do it for the joy of it and not because it’s an expectation. This flexibility has been critical this year as my mom’s surgery and recovery has consumed a good portion of the free time that my siblings and I would have to spend on holiday preparations.

By now my low-key approach to the holidays has become second nature. Yet, I still keep the note to remind me of my frazzled, younger years. There are some advantages to growing older and as Scrooge himself can attest, it’s never too late to master the fine art of keeping Christmas.

“I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” 
                    ― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

The rantings of a bad daughter

I yelled at my elderly mother tonight. If this blog is supposed to be a slice of life—an honest chronicle of being a certain age—then I should be “mature” enough to admit this ugly fact. I’m not proud of myself, of course. As soon as I stormed out of my parents’ house and slammed my car door, I turned to my husband and demanded to know: “What’s WRONG with me?!? Why do I let her GET TO ME like that?!” But my outburst had taken him by surprise, too, so he just shrugged sympathetically.

Everyone pitches in to do yardwork at Stormy's parents house

Everyone pitches in to do yardwork at Stormy’s parents’ house

I alluded to my aging parents in an earlier post. My dad has dementia and my mom has a host of other ailments, yet she’s reluctant to move into an assisted-living facility, even though my parents are no longer capable of maintaining a home and living independently. Now, my mom needs surgery on her hip and both knees. Despite her advanced age (86), the doctor is willing to do the hip surgery because he thinks she “still has a lot of life in her.”

That’s no understatement. While my dad is continually amazed that he’s lived this long and greets every day as a pleasant surprise—a gift to be slowly savored—I believe my mother fully expects to achieve centenarian status. She is in complete denial about the limitations that aging is placing upon her and who knows? If “will to live” counts for anything…or sheer stubbornness…she’ll be leading the chorus of “Happy Birthday” at my 100th birthday.

So if you’re half as astute as I know our readers to be, you’ve likely surmised that the aforementioned “yelling” had something to do with my mom’s impending surgery, her stubbornness, and the general stress a grown woman feels when she’s trying to do right by all the people in her life and constantly coming up short. Short of time, short of patience, short of grace.

box_ornamentsWhile it’s tempting to try and garner sympathy by relaying the whole conversation or past childhood laments, that’s all irrelevant. Overall, my mom has been a good mom. I know I’m not the only grown daughter who has baggage about her mother, and I’m fully aware that these incidents will seem small and insignificant when she’s gone and I’m facing my first Mother’s Day, birthday or Christmas without her.

But it’s sort of like telling the exhausted parents of a newborn to cherish the sleepless nights because “they grow up so fast.” After all, hindsight is 20/20—today’s myopic view is the result of a gray November day, relentlessly busy work schedule, upcoming business trip, Mom’s impending surgery, my equally stressed siblings trying to coordinate schedules to care for Dad, etc. So my mom’s assertion that it’s perfectly reasonable to expect one of her kids to spend hundreds of dollars and take several days off work to fly down with her to Florida so she can retrieve old Christmas ornaments (and let me add that one of her sons did this just last spring, but she didn’t take the gesture seriously enough to pack up the items she wanted to bring home) Just. Set. Me. Off.

The key to our harmony? I hadn’t learned how to talk back yet.

As I said, I’m not looking for sympathy. I don’t deserve it. She’s 86 and she raised me and that’s enough justification for me to go recover a moldy Santa or two. All I really want is to get this anger out of my head and onto this blog post, so I can let go of it and do the hard work of trying to regain my patience…because I know I’ll desperately need it in the days ahead.

And if any of you can relate to this story—and know that you’re not alone in your frustration—then that’s the silver lining.

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Postscript: This was obviously written a couple of weeks ago. My mom has since had her surgery and although it went well, the recovery process (with mom in a transitional care unit and dad at home with us kids trading off staying with him) is about as challenging as we all expected. However, I’m so blessed to have an abundance of siblings who are working peacefully together to shoulder the burden, and I empathize with all of those who must navigate the challenge of elderly parents on their own. My siblings are truly my parents’ greatest gift to me.

Just Breathe

True to form, it is about a month away from the end of the year and I finally decide to check out my progress on accomplishing my vision board. Not exactly true to the philosophy behind it, but that’s exactly the way I work: Procrastinate and then excel in crisis mode.

KitKat's vision for 2013

KitKat’s vision for 2013

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised how well I had done … maybe there is something to this envisioning. My board’s subliminal messages seemed to have seeped into my life.  In fact, I didn’t even remember having “Needing Las Vegas” on it and I just booked a girls trip to Vegas. Check!

On the downside, I didn’t quite create the ass and stomach I envisioned. And, even with my talent of getting shit done when the pressure’s on, at age 44 that goal is going to take time and work. If I wanted to be realistic, perhaps it is a vision that might not be attainable past the age of 30. But I refuse to give up on all of my dreams just yet.

Well, back to the board … one thing that seemed like a big miss and easy to do was yoga. I used to be a die hard. I loved how it made me look,  how I felt and what  could do. It’s why I put it on my board, yet 11 months later I still have not reinvested myself.

This I know I could do. And, it is probably the perfect time for it. Between being insanely busy at work, the holidays, and my “hockey mom” role starting up again, I could use some “me time.” Add on having had two cars totaled in the past two months (one just a few days ago and thankfully escaping with only bruises and repeat car shopping torture), I obviously need some focus. Plus with the weather turning cold, the thought of escape to a heated room has its own appeal.

So the past few weeks I have been spending a lot of time at yoga. It is addicting. One hour of sweating and contorting into poses I almost forgot my body could do is my new release. I also forgot how wonderful it was to have someone reminding me to breathe. Seems like that should be natural, but for me it’s like I have been holding my breath ’til I walk into that room and then I can finally let go.

Also as a competitive girl, even with myself, I was impressed with how quickly it all came back. My body could contort into ways I had forgotten. My mind is so quiet when I am challenging myself into poses. This may sound simple. Especially if you’re a true yogi, since isn’t yoga about a quiet mind and focus? But for me it doesn’t happen. My racing mind only quiets when my body is pushed into an extreme. And even then just for a moment.  Once I accomplish the challenge my mind starts congratulating myself. Next I start thinking about what else I could do that I haven’t tried and should add to my list … and the race goes on. No I will never become a true yogi. It just is not natural to my nature. As much as I wish it was.

Then there is also the added benefit of focused time at the end of each class to get my list organized in my head. This is supposed to be the time to completely quiet my mind and let all go. My best move during savasana was realizing that’s impossible and to stop fighting it. (The more I am told to relax, the worse it is.) Instead, I embrace the chance to lay in a lovely position with no other demands on me except sorting out the list in my head. I have no problem twisting that into reasoning that I am following the advice given to me each class: It is  your own practice and do what your body feels. Listen to yourself.

By the way, why is breathing so hard? … Or is it just me?