It’s Thanksgiving Eve Eve, and I am reclined having completed a solid round in the kitchen this evening. Not only does tomorrow mark a new chapter in my life (will share more after the morning), but it is also the first of new traditions for my blended family.
In consideration of what has worked well the past two Thanksgivings since blending our family (keeping it simple and feasting with just us 7) and what has not worked so bueno (painting the house the weekend before Thanksgiving), I personally have curated what I think is a really great third attempt. It’s all about paying attention and applying what you have learned. For example…
Our first Thanksgiving, David said was the first Thanksgiving he enjoyed in 20 years.
Our second Thanksgiving? David called me the Pie Police. (And even though I was, I cried.)
This Thanksgiving? I know a few things going in.
One of the things I know is two of my step kids vocally share their love for Christmas like nothing I have ever experienced. They make claims about Christmas and its spirit and how everything is just good and happy.
Last year, Maddox said he “loved Christmas so much he wants to start celebrating Hanukkah, too”.
So – whereas I typically get the tree the second week of December (or, yikes, Christmas Eve…), this year? The tree is priority.
We are getting it tomorrow. We are doing the tree, having the music (which started tonight), lights, pies.
I also know that Thanksgivings, like any one day a year holiday, are sacred.
I often experience myself on Thanksgiving in consideration of the Erins of the past. Thanksgivings where I have been fake tanned & blonde, preoccupied, unaware. Thanksgivings where I was figuring out relationships or how to make a turkey.
Though the actual number of days of my life seem so many, when it comes to Thanksgivings: I have had 40. That’s actually not that many.
You can sit and breathe however many rounds of breath in a single meditation or as your prepping dinner and honor each year whose experiences are stored in your body. Buried in your mind, woven in your tissue and your worldview. You can feel them each.
I feel strong this Thanksgiving.
Not only do I know how to brine a turkey, I know how to use the ways I have grown to love better, be more present and maybe be okay if people get into food early.
I try to remember to think of the Little Red Hen. She would fuss at people to not get into the food. Then a disaster would strike and wipe out all the food and so then nobody could eat it anymore anyway and the lesson would be, be kind. Why fuss when nothing is guaranteed?
Because nothing is guaranteed, is it?
Except for how good my turkey is going to be.
Gosh, I hope I didn’t just jinx that.
Will share tomorrow about my life-changing event. :) erin
I mentioned to David last night that we somehow leveled up in the parenting world. Language has settled in, values have taken root… These things have produced consistent messages to the kids that are starting to see anchors like time around the table and nods of agreement.
There was a while where one of us would process a kid and the other would get defensive. I bet that is common in blending families. If I zoom’d in on one of his biologicals, it would naturally feel like it was in comparison to one of my biologicals. At this point, if I am correct, we have both bitched enough about all five kids and praised enough about each of the five kids to have balanced out and earned each other’s trust that it is not like we were determining who are our “project children”.
Truly – they are all projects.
In my retirement, my bandwidth can get quickly sucked up in the parenting world and what all we need to address. It results, as mentioned before, in a lot of conversation with David about ideas and what we should try and what I envision for us in a year. It also results in a lot of hands on deep diving with each kid. And it is really not efficient to live like that.
Not only do I believe in the fact that at some point you have to stop talking about it and just do the things you think are so important. But it really isn’t practical to coach each kid one on one. Teachers, sports coaches, music teachers and therapists are – for example – great ways to outsource this, even if you don’t have a bajillion kids like we do. Said another way….
I remember thinking I broke Ellen at some point when she was 7 or 8. That somehow my parenting or her dad’s was so screwed up that we had turned this wonderful sweet adventurous girl into a headstrong pain in the ass.
In my regular bemoaning that I ruined my child and now had this selfish, pre-occupied, non-empathetic little girl, I conveniently recognized all of those same traits in myself. :-/
OH. How helpful, I realized in my yoga, we are able to recognize things in others because they are in us.
OH. How helpful, I can’t open Ellen’s brain and re-wire and jump into her memories and change however or wherever she learned this behavior.
I can. I can. I can model and reinforce. Model. Model. Model.
I am going through notebooks (which is literally and figuratively the story of my life) and it has been pretty wild to read entries from 2019: gearing up toward engagement, gearing up toward 2020, so blind to the reality the world can change dramatically. Amongst all the plans and lists and travel notes was this entry of 6 bullet points I had written as advice for myself:
Refuse to defend oneself
Feel their pain
Vulnerability brings healing
In this season of motherhood, I find this list perfect.
One of the prayers I have for the kids is that they all let down their defenses. Not necessarily with each other as there is not any fighting in the house or anything like that. But there is a general guard up that quickly interprets “direction” into “discipline” or interprets guidance as limitation. It’s kind of interesting. They feel in trouble or stuck and excuse themselves, make shit up and or quickly interject what they want before hearing what they want was already on the way. Like. They are “jumpy”.
I think, for me, I have to remember the change they all went through and the ways they are growing and being stretched academically and socially during the pandemic. That’s hard stuff.
I think, for me, remembering to get on eye level and inquire lovingly to their real need is essential to continually grow the trust we all have in each other. I don’t need to explain they didn’t need to explain it. I just listen, reassure and follow through. Take it on the chin. Let them think it was their idea in a way.
Living with nothing to hide – being an honest, friendly expression – makes us safe as parents. Not explaining things or offering reasons, just “Yes, and I love you” and “No, and I love you” will suffice.
And even “standing openly” is applicable now as I see my motherhood as an act of generosity. Giving and being compassionate and patient and helpful. Letting the “work” of it all be a side note and letting the “service” of it all be a lifestyle and a calling.
And with all of this, like I was saying to a friend today regarding marriage, being subtle and letting body language and tone of voice be warm and safe is clutch. Building people up and encouraging them, knowing what it feels like to not be having a great day and so therefore not being a contributing factor to theirs.
Using a calming touch and stepping aside for time for yourself are as powerful as being the non critical recipient of another’s vulnerability.
“Blessed be the know it all” is not in scripture anywhere. Man, how I hope we all stop having reasons for everything.
I am not going to spend a lot of time proofing or editing this post. I just wanted to offer an entry real quick as I read through this notebook and find this 2019 advice super relevant to my current day.
Every day I remember I am the Queen and that I make the rules for my life, I grow more something (nicer? compassionate? gentler?) towards the grind of the day, towards the expectant demands of children.
It’s not that it is easy and it is not that I have been nailing it. (Hence why I welcomed these 6 bullets into my flow….) But I do recognize a difference in mothering over time and it has something to do with these things. For sure.
My life is, as it seems, spiraling into control. I realized that this morning, watching The Flight Attendant.
I got up from the couch where I was eating a plate of breakfast hash. I felt it was time to sit and pull a post together.
Before opening up a blank page, I took a look at what was in my drafts:
Truth is, I have started and stopped a lot of thought trains. Trains trying to capture my current mental processing but there are a lot of threads to weave into a quick entry “hey this is life!” post.
How do I capture the humor of my current battle with my robots and the growing list of yet another idea for Google Home (and should I even share that without a patent?)
When I slay the mental math of “what is there to eat” does that officially put me in the mommy blog blogosphere? Like, nobody thinks I should start doing 10 Ways to Max a Pandemic Grocery Run life hack posts, n’est ce pas??
And when it is not how 3 meals were expertly served out of the same cut of meat, I have mindful living quips and anecdotal stories on how the furniture is arranged today to set up for the weekend. But these stories involve the learnings of a new, young marriage and HOW do you share a bit more about that or our house strategy without, you know, being public about our private plans? So those posts I don’t even try.
The only other little snippet suitable for Frozen Spaghetti is the regular processing of the whole why I retired thing. Little glimpses of the things I really miss about my work at Enterprise will pop up now and again. I’ll have an impulse to reach out off a flashback of hopeful moments talking shop on really, really good transportation ideas over exciting lunches in black blazers.
And this is where the rubber hits the road.
This is where self discovery would be at the core of all of this: who is the person that knows what to do with the ideas, has the functioning abode which ticks along a reasonably flexible but consistent schedule and that is actively in the publishing project each day? With so much going on, it is enough to make you think that I need to do that discovery work but the thing is. I actually truly already know that. I followed that self’s gut when I wrote my retirement announcement. I am in the aftermath of self discovery. I am in the living part. And it has been a long time since living meant doing whatever I wanted with my free time.
In a one on one phone call I made before my announcement, I was talking with a VP I had worked with for well over a decade. I told them that even if I had the perfect pitch for the right team or the right team had the perfect pitch for me, that I needed to evolve out of whatever thinking I have been in. Too long in one environment, I think, makes you start to believe certain things about yourself and about how things work.
I had come to recognize that there were things I believed about myself and about how things work that actually were only true within my place of employment. Not that they were wrong, bad or untrue – but what I said on that phone call when describing this was really, really necessary: I needed the saran wrap off my brain. I wanted to feel myself think and be unboundedly creative.
When I experience moments of shock or pressure that there is a litter box in the living room (basement being remodeled) or that it has been weeks since I have had that sweet “all the laundry is done and floors are clean” moment, I can get really hard on myself. It is a mix of feeling behind and out of sorts. I’m smiling now, editing this post, I totally get this now.
So last night, on NYE, the game I got out to play was super strategic and – though surely fun – virtual school and TikTok literally dissipated my teenagers’ attention spans and the comical groaning was just a little much while I tried to read the instructions. We called it and started a movie. I sat at the table, aware of how loose the seams were across the board. I let it make me feel really bad. Actually, I think I might have cried.
In hindsight, I think I felt like I didn’t execute the plan right. Felt like this on Christmas Eve, too. But as this pandemic holiday season serves a real lesson in knowing where you want to be and what you value, it is unique in that it shows you all the pieces without them all lined up and recognizable. << I think this is a universal truth.
I went and gave David a hug and cried about how stupid I felt trying to play that game. I lamented my choices and ruining the night. He rubbed my head and told me I didn’t mess anything up.
I felt pretty and full of love for my family. And even though I had this weakness, I felt like I was surrendering to the beauty of everything going on. I mean – my life has changed absolutely dramatically in the best possible ways. The pieces are not going to line up yet. The seams are loose and each day we get up and we do what we want and don’t do what we don’t want, we start to draw them in. David is teaching me this.
I went back out to the kids and Ellen gave me a hug. I apologized through tears that I didn’t have fireworks for them to shoot off at midnight. She looked at me like I was crazy and reminded me she hates fireworks. I laughed, she does hate fireworks – they make her nervous. It was funny because my distortion was proof that I was missing the moment, the point and the embrace.
She brought her guitar down to the table and started learning Walk Me Home by Pink while the other four kids came as if via magnets to the table, joined up teams for a round of Old Maid. (laughing now… a MUCH simpler game lol.. oh man, it feels good to laugh about when you know your kids and think “ok – Old Maid, not Risk”. I mean, it’s not that they’re stupid…. but… #yikes lol)
Ok – anyway, Ellen went on to play the chords to Hit Me Baby, One More Time as well as some Brandi Carlisle and of course Taylor songs. We played cards and sang until the ball dropped. (Which, Maddox pointed out, doesn’t actually drop and is either a conspiracy or a rip off.) Then, though I was tired as hell, I changed and curled up on the couch in the room with the litter box and watched Tangled with my teens, Ellen and Aria. I make Ellen laugh with my fatigued unfiltered and under the breath flow of consciousness commentary and she makes me feel good when she shares this with her friends.
Ah, my friends….
I am learning the relief of walking by a pile of laundry or not fussing about my tech stack: iPad waiting for illustrations, laptop waiting for words.
And, it is true: Google and Apple really do need to make these “stupid f*cking robots” (as I tend to mumble) a lot better.
But even if Siri and Hey Google don’t figure out how to intersect in some really wonderful life giving ways for me, they still at least take and display pictures of the unfolding of our wonderfully colorful life. Which is nice of them, I guess.
In watching the out of control spiral in The Flight Attendant, I realized how grounded I am in my self and in my life. And all the churn? The litter box and the constant need to tweak the system? This is the spiraling into control. And not corporate control like I have grown to know it.
This new kind of control requires NO estimates or timelines. It simply requires me to show up and be myself. Self control.
In closing, David told me this morning he does not make New Year resolutions. He simply “sets his goals whenever he wants and goes after them”.
He reads, he gets certified, he does new things with technology, he learns about what he wanted to learn about, he picks up a new instrument, he downloads the software and plays with it, he looks up the place, the recipe, the book and – boom: he evolves. He goes to sleep at 8 (9:30 on NYE), he gets up at 5, he loves coffee and his wife and his family and he doesn’t mind rinsing and repeating as long as there is an adventure around the corner.
And just like I know the truth that the best way to parent is to demonstrate not instruct, I think I recognize the best way to learn is to apply.
I am thinking husband may be an incredible teacher.