House Hunting Woes

We’ve been looking for a house for almost a year now, but nothing, and I really do mean nothing is good enough. Every house M. sees has something wrong with it; it’s on a hill, it’s too close to a road, there aren’t enough trees, blah blah blah. I’m almost starting to feel that he doesn’t even want to buy a house!

Living apart has been super rough. I don’t like doing the single parent thing during the week, and I certainly don’t like the mad dash to get everything done together as a family during the weekends. It’s also starting to really cost us to maintain two households. Rent, groceries, ect all piles up at both places. Psychologically it’s not great either. The kids really miss their dad and I really miss my husband.

We’ve been trying to stay optimistic about it, but it’s getting harder and harder to hang on to that fake smile. What was supposed to be temporary quickly turned into six months, and now we are swiftly approaching the one year mark. It’s great that M. has his job & his bosses seem to be very understanding about letting him work a ton of overtime and come in late on Monday mornings, and leave early on Friday evenings. It’s great that our marriage is strong enough to deal with all of this. It’s great that our kids are mature enough to get through this. But that doesn’t make it any less depressing.

It’s time for me to get a job. The littlest is in school for a full day now. I’m nearly done pumping for the surro-babe. It is high time I contributed financially. But…I’m in limbo. Where do I get a job? Something temporary here – or work toward an actual career there where we plan on moving? Do I get something part time during the day, or hire a baby sitter and get a “real” job 9-5? I haven’t worked in 5 years, so I’m afraid of starting and stopping too many new jobs. And honestly, I don’t even know what I want to do! I honestly have no idea what I’d be good at or where to start looking. Somehow my interests just don’t seem to equate into paying jobs.

Art in the Mess: Real Life vs Picture Perfect

One of my biggest anxiety triggers is mess. Mess, clutter, dirt; they stress me out! I’m not a neat-freak and I’m not at all OCD. I think it’s more of a self-esteem thing. The same way girls get depressed about their own bodies when they look at air brushed magazine models, I get depressed about my own home when I see furniture ads (or other people’s homes on Facebook, or walk through Ikea). My parents never cleaned the house except one time a year for their big holiday party. Then my mom would go nuts, begging, imploring, demanding that we all help make the house “magazine ready”. My mom was embarrassed about her own house, which was why we only had people over that one time a year. She was embarrassed, but exasperated and all but gave up by the time we started school.

House-envy is now at a whole new level with online house porn sites like Houzz.com and Pinterest telling us how to make a cute and useful entryway. I’m a stay-at-home-mom who spends most of her day cleaning, so why doesn’t my house ever look like those pictures?! I’ve got all the same furniture from Ikea, yet my 1000 sqft home never looks quite like the adorable 350 sqft displays.

The SOLSTA sofa-bed will give your visitors a comfy place to rest their heads.:

Pinterest version of Solsta sleeper couch vs. My version of Solsta sleeper couch. Hey, it’s $179 couch that I got on FreeCycle. And I live with cats. And kids. This is real life, not perfectly rumbled sheets.

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The reason my house, despite my best efforts, doesn’t look like a display case is because it isn’t a picture enhanced with professional photographers, perfectly placed knick-knacks, and filters. Everything online looks better because real life has been edited, cropped, and sepia-ed out of it. I know this, yet it doesn’t change how I feel about my own house, my own children, my own mess. I still clutch at the idea of someone coming over and seeing my dust and clutter, my cat scratched couch and finger printed walls. I still feel frantic about the piles of mail in the entry way and the rubble of kids’ toys all over the place.

Hahaha! Apparently fictitious children don’t read or play with toys! Gizmodo.com’s professionally shot Expedit shelves vs. mine below.

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So I came up with an idea. Look at the mess in a different way. Look at the beauty, the realism, and the art of the mess. Instead of having the kids pose in front of a pretty tree or a blank wall, I’ve been photographing them IN REAL LIFE doing their normal things, riding bikes across an unmowed yard, reading books amidst clutter, and playing on unmade beds. My mission is to expose the realness of parenting and growing up.

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I call this one Shoes Left on Carpet. Everything about this is upsetting to me, but I’ve found that looking at it for what it is, my five year old’s sneakers that he’s left at the foot of the bunk bed in a tiny, junky room, from a tiny, junky house that we rent, calms me. Life with kids (and cats, and chickens, and husbands!) is sticky and messy and crumbly and glittery and gross and endearing and amazing. I don’t want to deal with anxiety over something as insignificant as sneakers left on a carpet or crumbling drywall or peeling wallpaper. I want to rejoice in the fact that I have a super cute five year who makes his own bed and sometimes remembers to keep his stinky shoes off of it.

I’ve started an Instagram account to document the Art in the Mess. Please feel free to follow me @mazymom.

It Wasn’t Rape

It wasn’t rape because he was my boyfriend. 

It wasn’t rape because he was popular. 

It wasn’t rape because he was funny & talented. 

It wasn’t rape because I followed him into the woods. 

It wasn’t rape because there were already “rumors” about me. 

It wasn’t rape because he didn’t finish and I didn’t bleed.

He loved me, so I had to stop crying, because I wasn’t hurt, broken, injured. Nothing happened that I wouldn’t have wanted anyway. If I just didn’t talk about it, neither would he. He’d protect me against what people already thought about me, against those rumors. I was just using him to be popular anyway. He felt so sorry for me. He’d helped me actually.  He made people like me. He made me a Prom Queen. I was lost and invisible without him. Didn’t I owe him that?  Didn’t he deserve at least that? 

I had been reduced to nothing. My “no”s were too feeble. With no one to believe me, how could I fight back? “Nobody wants to hear about your problems anymore, Mazy.” It would have just been more drama, more noise, and I was spent. So, even though I cried “no” and “stop” and pushed back, I didn’t call it rape. It wasn’t rape because I didn’t say it was and that was something I could control. 

Vacuum Therapy

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This bad boy showed up at my house the other day. Hubs was on the Dyson Website to replace a motorhead for the Animal that I already own and found that the newest model came with TWO motorheads; one for carpet and a soft spongy one for hardwood floors. The motorhead for the Animal was still under warrenty so that was replaced free of charge, but he plurged anyway and got the Absolute to go with it. So yes, now I have an “upstairs vacuum” and a “downstairs vacuum”. I am aware that this makes me nothing but a spoiled brat, however it is still cheaper than therapy and medication to cope with my floor OCD.

I love my Dyson Animal. Just love it. It makes me happy to vacuum the carpet in the bedrooms. There is just something so soothing about those carpet Vs… But the Animal just wasn’t as good on the wood and kitchen floors. I found myself not bothering, just going for the broom or dust mop. My floors were clean, but not CLEAN. And for me it mattered! I tested out the Absolute on “clean” floors. I had swept and mopped the hardwoods and kitchen floors the night before, so they were passable. Then I went over them with the new vacuum as soon as it was done charging.

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That’s how much MORE dirt this sucker was able to pick up! It’s both gross and fantastic. Now I take one pass each night with the Absolute on the downstairs floor and one pass with the Animal on the upstairs carpet and feel confident that I am living in a cleaner enviornment. It’s more than obsessivly cleaning; it’s blissfully cleaning!

He Was Mean Because He Liked Me

 

A Mighty Girl's photo.
This post showed up in my newsfeed today on Facebook. I agreed with it & it struck a chord, so I reposted it. A few friends chimed in with comments lamenting the fact that it does still happen today, in 2016. They see it all the time at playgrounds, in schools, and don’t know how to react. So they don’t.
It’s great that we all agree that this is wrong, but the fact that ADULTS see it happen and don’t do anything about it is just as bad as the ill-deed itself. Ignoring it is enabling the bully (and they adult saying it), causing the problem to thrive.
So what’s the big deal about a little teasing? What if it’s because the boy really does like the girl? Really, there isn’t any harm right…it’s just a phase, right?
I grew up in a small town where this was all perfectly acceptable. At daycare, when I was about 7, a boy trapped me under a plastic kiddie slide and shook me so hard my teeth rattled. It hurt and it was scary. I was told he liked me & sent back out to play. In fourth grade my best friend was repeatedly slammed into a fence. The boy’s hands were around her neck as her head wobbled back & forth. “Boys can play rough,” she was told. “Go play by the swings instead,” she was told. I witnessed another friend in middle school being slammed into a locker, presumably because the boy might have had a crush on her. I was tripped, shaken, pulled, and tossed and simply told to ignore it or assume that some kid liked me. In gym class while running the mile for our yearly physical fitness test one boy jogged up alongside me. “You know I’m going to break your legs,” he said with a huge grin. Even though I was the best, I still came in second that day.
I was becoming afraid of boys, of attention, and saw no point in bringing it up to any adult. After all, I was just popular, right? The message that I was getting was that boys liked me & they showed it by hurting, and I was supposed to be flattered, and possibly like them back. If for some silly reason I didn’t like them back then I was the one who had to remove herself from the area, who had to pretend it wasn’t happening, who had to give up a little. Instead of wearing any armor, I had to curl up into a ball and wait for the danger to be over.
When I was a teenager I was dragged into the woods where my boyfriend wanted to have sex with me. I was supposed to be happy that someone liked me, that I was good enough for sex. I couldn’t complain in college because he didn’t mean to hurt me. I was told by police that my harasser & stalker “just liked me & wanted attention” and “thing like this tend to happen to pretty girls.”
I wonder if my relationships with boys & men would have escalated to rape, stalking, fear, bruises if an adult had stepped in and said something when I was 7. If someone told that little girl that it was not acceptable behavior would she have been stronger? Would she have had armor instead?
Please don’t use this line and please don’t let others use it. It sets both children up for a very screwed up, confusing history of what healthy relationships are. The concepts of like/love and relationships become very warped when adults permit violence (and it IS violence) among children in the name of “love”. It teaches the bully that he or she can take what they like by force. It teaches the victim that there isn’t really anything wrong…maybe they are wrong. It’s hurtful to both parties and probably not true.
A Mighty Girl

When girls get teased or bullied by boys, there’s often someone who pulls out this tired phrase: “I bet he likes you!” Joanna Schroeder vividly remembers finally going to a teacher about a boy’s constant harassment at age 11, and how that phrase made her feel: it “filled me with a shame so profound, I never again told an adult about something a boy did to me.” In her recent article, “You Should Never Tell Your Kids He’s Mean Because He Likes You,” Schroder writes, “You’d think blaming bad behavior on a crush would be dead and gone by now, but it’s not.” To encourage parents and other adults to think about what “he must like you” really teaches, she breaks down the four reasons we need to stop associating mistreatment with romantic affection.

Schroeder argues that “I bet he likes you” is a covert way of victim-blaming. “Your child did not ask for this negative attention, regardless of the aggressive kid’s intention. Even if your child was acting flirty or teasing, nobody asks to be hurt.” That victim-blaming “tells [your child] that you are not a source of support for them when they need you most.” Dismissing bad behavior, she says, is also bad for the bully: “Bad behavior is bad behavior, regardless of the reason why. A child — whether it’s a boy or a girl — who is harming another needs intervention so they don’t continue the behavior…. Instead of asking the child who is doing the hurting if they like the other, grownups should ask the child to imagine how their friend felt when he or she was hurt.”

Equally importantly, Schroeder says that “kids’ friendships shouldn’t be romanticized. Kids need the opportunity in childhood to have friendships with boys or girls, regardless of their gender, without grownups introducing the adult notions of romance or attraction. Strong friendships with kids of all genders are important for kids, and parents shouldn’t make their kids feel funny about them.” If bad behavior from a male friend is immediately associated with romantic feelings, kids will begin to believe that friendships between boys and girls are inherently different than same-sex friendships. And even if a crush does develop, she points out, “one child’s crush should never become a burden to another.”

But perhaps most significantly, Schroeder writes, “You shouldn’t teach your kids that love equals abuse. Love equals kindness and respect, and it never, ever means touching someone in a way that will hurt them. When you tell your child that they were harmed because another person likes them, you’re connecting pain with love. That not only normalizes being abused, but also abusing others.” And this, more than anything, is why it’s time to put an end to saying “I bet he likes you,” Schroeder asserts. “As parents, we have the ability to change the world by putting an end to harmful old traditions… I’m not sure how the ‘dipping her pigtails in the inkwell’ trope started, but it’s time it ended.”

To read all of Joanna Schroder’s advice on The Good Men Project, visit bit.ly/1OMJheL

To start teaching children — girls and boys alike — from a young age about the need to respect others and their personal boundaries, we recommend “No Means No!: Teaching Children about Personal Boundaries, Respect and Consent” for ages 3 to 6 (http://www.amightygirl.com/no-means-no) and “Your Body Belongs To You” for ages 3 to 7 (http://www.amightygirl.com/your-body-belongs-to-you).

For books about healthy relationships for tweens and teens — as well as titles on recognizing and ending unhealthy ones — check out our new blog post, “20 Mighty Girl Books for Tweens & Teens About Healthy Relationships,” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=11338

You can also find many bullying prevention books and resources for children and teens in our two blog posts: “‘The End of Bullying Begins With Me’: Bullying Prevention Books for Young Mighty Girls” (http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10255) and “Taking a Stand Against Bullying: Bullying Prevention Books for Tweens and Teens” (http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10257).

And, for books to help children learn how to be supportive and caring friends, visit our blog post “Making and Keeping Friends: Mighty Girl Books About Friendship” at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10315

Let the Creativity Begin!

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Amazon delivered my books a day early & I’m thrilled! My brother gave me Keri Smith’s Wreck This Journal last Christmas and while it’s fun, there isn’t as much creatie writing involved in it as I’d like. After checking these out, I think they will be just what I’m looking for.

My primary goal with these “diaries” is to 1. get to know myself a little, 2. let loose a bit & have some fun with something silly & superfluous, and 3. to get over myself. I’m sick of being depressed. I’m sick of being rigid and structured. I’m sick of being unproductive. I know that I’m my best self when I’m being creative, even if it’s guided creativity.

I’ll periodically check back with my creations and a review of these two new buddies.

-Cheers

Broken Finger

The good news is that I didn’t lose the first three chapters and complete outline to my novel. I finally found the flash drive it was saved on before I had to reformate my computer a few months ago. The bad news is that my hand injury is still causing too much pain to write.

I broke my finger a few weeks ago by slamming it in the car door. Yup, crushed the end of my right pointer finger. And I’ve come to learn that I use my right pointer finger an awful lot! Because even the slightest bit of weight or touch is enough to bring tears, I’ve been using my right hand in all sorts of weird ways, which has caused me to develop a bit of tendonitis/carpel tunnel in my right wrist. Yaaay for double pain.

Life in general hasn’t exactly been too encouraging in the writing department either. The constant snow storms (and snow days for the kids), extreme temps (-30 degrees in CT!), and continuing to struggle with chronic headaches is just doing me in. But, I’m going to see if I can force my mojo back. I’ve ordered a few writing prompt journals off of Amazon and I’ve been keeping a running journal with a creative voice. (Hey, maybe I can make my marathon training into a fun story?!) I’m hoping that if I can’t bring myself to write my novel, then perhaps I can still fight off the lethargy and depression with some writing prompts…and perhaps even prompt myself to get back to work!

I have been trying to focus my creativity in other ways too. I’ve made a couple of “dress shirt” dresses for my daughter out of my son’s old shirts and turned a few maternity shirts into running skirts. I’m also working on finally getting around to editing the images from the kids’ photo shoot we did before Christmas for the grandparents. Hopefully I can get those finished up and framed before Easter.

Basically I’m oozing back into regular life. I’m still slow & foggy, forgetful & sleepy, but I’m pretty much “normal” again. It just takes a lot more planning and scheduling than it used to. If I don’t keep a to-do list and write down the day’s goals I will stare at the wall for hours, completely lost on what I should do with myself until bedtime. Maybe in a few more weeks I’ll be my true productive self again.  If not, then I may need a little redirection.