Phone Bag

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As with all holiday weekends, many of us spend time with family and friends.  My kids anxiously await times like this so they can spend time with their older cousins.  They idolize them.  As the years have gone by and they have gotten older, my nieces, like many teens, have their phones attached to them.  It cracks me up every time and I know it is a matter of time until Ella is the same way.

I have made it a rule with my children that when we are with family, there is absolutely no technology.  They are to physically be there and hold conversations with everyone.  Of course it is hard when older kids are around and have their phones and are tweeting, Instagraming, etc.  Even though I get moans from my kids (well the tween in the making), they abide by it.  I have emphasized the importance of quality family time and interaction.  They know that it is important to be present especially with their grandparents.  And I lead by example as well.  They see me put my phone in my purse or pocket and I do not bring it out.

After an afternoon of swimming and hanging out with their cousins, we came home and they just went on and on about how much fun they had with “the big girls”.  Then to my surprise, Ella said how they think (my kids and my one niece) we need to have a “phone bag”.  I looked at her and obviously had a puzzled looked on my face because I really didn’t know where she was going with it.  I asked her what she meant.  She explained that she feels there should be a “phone bag” and everyone has to put their phones inside it while we are together.  She then went on to say how no one can be on their phone and only the adults could have them for “emergencies” but had to follow the rules.  I asked her what the rules would be and it was very simple….no texting, no checking email, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc.  I LOVE this idea!!!!  I know my in-laws would too.  So I told Ella that she needs to enforce it whenever we are all together.

As much as technology is wonderful and keeps us in constant touch with the world, it really has changed the way we interact with others.  Think about it.  How many times when you are with family or friends, do you pull out your phone and check social media? I know I am guilty of it but I try not to.  I want to be present and I don’t want to be rude to the people I am with.  So I am going to follow my daughter’s lead and go with her idea of a “phone bag” for all our family gatherings and be more present in my day-to-day interactions with family and friends.

Time for New Traditions

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I have to say one of the reasons I love social media is seeing pictures especially on holidays.  I love seeing what traditions others do with their families.  I LOVE traditions.  But since Ryan has died, I have to admit I have completely slacked in this area.  I think it is because the traditions we were starting are too painful for me to continue doing with my kids.

But seeing some of the fun traditions this past weekend and Ella turning 10 has made me realize that I need to start them again.  I’ve always known that I didn’t have to do the same ones.  But I think I didn’t want to rock the boat all at once.  I wanted to keep some continuity.  I love traditions and making holidays fun so I am really looking forward to trying some new things.  I just hope the kids are equally as excited.  But we all know kids so I will not be holding my breath!

It is time for me to start enjoying the holidays a little bit more and bring back the fun.  Of course I still cry and miss Ryan terribly.  But I want to continue my promise to myself that my kids would grow up with a lot of great and meaningful memories.  So it’s time for some new traditions!

 

On the inside

On the outside I look like any other mom. I look like I am happy.  I look like I am enjoying life.  I smile.  I laugh.  I get out of bed.  I take care of my children.  I take care of my home.  I take of myself.  I have a business. I go on vacations.  I am participating in life. But on the inside I am empty.  I am drowning.  I am dying.  I can’t breathe.  I can’t sleep.  I can’t move.  I suffer from depression.  I suffer from anxiety. I am like many other women out there who suffer from this disease.

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I think I have always suffered from depression and anxiety.  But it wasn’t until my husband’s death that it all came to the surface.  It wasn’t until then that it took over my life.  I can clearly remember when I knew I was no longer able to control the disease.  It was a few weeks following Ryan’s death, my entire body ached.  Every time I moved, the pain was so intense.  I couldn’t sleep.  I couldn’t eat.  I actually lost 12lbs in 10 days. I remember functioning but yet not really being all there.  But I thought it would pass.  The intense pain both physically and mentally would go away.  I just needed time.

Summer came.  We had made plans to go camping with my best friend and her family.  They made me promise not to back out.  So I packed us all up and we hopped into their RV and drove over 2 hours.  I remember making small talk.  I remember laughing.  I remember forcing myself to smile and try to have fun.  Then while we were camping I remember this feeling coming over me.  It was a feeling I had felt before many times.  But for some reason since Ryan’s death it intensified.  My heart was racing.  I couldn’t breathe.  I remember standing there watching my kids play and thinking what is happening and why can’t I control it and make it stop.  I was having an anxiety attack.  My best friend made me promise to call the doctor as soon as I got home.

I had my yearly with my OBGYN and I decided to just talk to him.  He sat there and cried with me.  I sobbed as I told him how I physically hurt.  I sobbed when I told him I just wanted to fall asleep and not have to wake up for a few days.  He grabbed my hands and looked me in the eyes and said you are suffering from depression.  Me?  No…not me.  He said it again and this time I just lost it.  I couldn’t stop sobbing.  I remember saying I have no time to be weak.  I have to be strong for my kids.  He asked me if I ever thought about ending my life.  I assured him I didn’t and that I never would harm myself.  I would never do that to my children.  But I told him I just don’t want to function anymore.  I just want to sleep.  I just want to close my eyes and not think for a while.  That was the truth.  If I could just temporarily “check out” for a while it would be OK.  I didn’t want to permanently check out.  But by saying those words I knew and he knew I needed help.

Together with my OBGYN and later with a therapist the decision was made that I needed to be on medication.  It took some time to get the right medication that would work for me.  I remember over the course of 8 months playing around with medication.  At first, it seemed to work.  But then as life continued, we had a lot of adjusting to do.  I remember taking a medication that worked but it caused me to gain 25lbs within 3 months!  That certainly didn’t help me feel good about myself or my life.  But thankfully I was able to find the correct medication and dosage that has worked thus far.  Once the old medication was out of my system, the weight melted away.  For me medication and therapy has helped me tremendously. Do I feel I have my depression under control?  Not completely. But I know, for me, this is what I need to do.

It is hard for some people to understand just how much depression affects your every day life.  I don’t hide this from anyone.  But I don’t go around telling people either.  I feel very fortunate that when I go into what I refer to “my funk”, I don’t ever get to the point where I want to end my life permanently.  But when I am in “my funk” it is extremely hard to function.  I not only hurt mentally but physically.  I just want to check out for a little or go into a sleep where I am not having to deal with anything and then slowly come out of it.  It consumes every ounce of you.

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Some people think this is a sign of weakness or an excuse.  I have been told I just need to suck it up and deal with it because being sad is not going to change anything.  This isn’t something I want to feel.  I want to be able to handle the bad times like everyone else does.  I want to be happy~truly happy. But I can’t.  I do the best I can.  I know I put on a brave front for more than just my children.  I know I shouldn’t have to and have actually begun not to.  I am open with my children.  They see me take my medication.  They know I take it to help me so I am not sad all the time.  They know what they can handle.  If I hide it, I am letting them think it is something to be ashamed of and it isn’t at all.

Suffering from any type of mental illness is not something to be ashamed of or ignore.  It is important to find the help you need and to start the long and sometimes painful process of trying to find ways to help you learn to live with it.  Not everyone will understand it and that is OK.  What works for one person may not work for you.  There is no quick fix.  It isn’t a once and done thing either.   Accepting this and focusing on what YOU need is so important.

I have begun to let people in my life know when I am struggling.  I no longer hide it. And the people who are the closest to me sometimes know before I do that I am heading into “my funk”.   I just took a major step in this area.  The holidays are my favorite time of the year.  But they are so hard anymore.  I really had a hard time this past holiday season.  I just wanted to escape.  But I felt I needed to be strong and deal with it for others. Well this holiday seasoning I am doing something I have said I wanted to do since losing Ryan.  I am escaping.  We are going away over Thanksgiving.  We will not miss any of the holiday season.  But it will be a little escape before it all begins.  I need this.  We need this.  So we are doing it.  I know there will be people who think escaping isn’t the answer and that is OK.  But I know there are people who understand the need to escape from reality even if it is just for a little bit.

Oh Pinterest

Oh Pinterest how I love and hate thee…

I am not going to try and deny it.  I am going to own it right here….I AM ADDICTED TO PINTEREST!  I absolutely can spend hours on there (and I have).  Where else can you find ideas about crafts for your kids and crafts to make out of your wine corks on one site?  Where else can you find tips to remodel a bathroom and decorating ideas?  Where else can you find outfits already picked out for you all the way down to the shoes?  Where else can you go and find the right quote that describes just how grateful you are to just how plain irritated you are? Where else can you find things you THINK you can do and fail miserably at trying to do it?

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I have had successes with a lot of things I have “pinned” onto my variety of boards.  I created a nice little framed picture for the house.  I have used some of the gift ideas for teachers.  I have had success with some of the recipes as well.  By far my greatest Pinterest success was learning how and actually removing wallpaper from my kitchen.  I’m telling you the pin I found on a do it yourself solution was fantastic!  Here are a few of my successes~

My kitchen project this past fall~

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Recipes gone right~

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BUT Pinterest, oh pinterest WHY?  Why do you make something look so easy when really it’s not?  I have attempted to recreate some handmade ornaments that I found during a search under “Easy Holiday Crafts for Kids”.  I’m here to tell you there was nothing easy about some of them and the ones that they claimed would provide “hours and hours of fun” for your children were lies!  Lies I tell you!  And it’s not just the hands on ideas that are misleading but some of the recipes as well.  Just the other night I attempted to make (can’t believe I am admitting this) Cheeseburger Calzone for my picky eater.  Mine did not look anything like the end result I pinned.  It looked more like I just slopped it together.

Holiday Ornaments gone wrong (these are the only 2 picture worthy)~

Ornament gone wrongDid NOT provide hours of entertainment

These didn’t resemble snowmen or reindeer on Christmas morning but I get an A for effort!

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Will these failures stop me from my pinning addiction?  Absolutely not!  It’s a nice little escape from reality.  It’s informative and is a great resource.  But mostly it is just fun!  I am currently redecorating my house in my mind…thank you Pinterest!

Back to Reality

As I begin to put away my Christmas decorations and return to the every day reality of life, I am reminded how my reality makes me sad more times than I would like to admit.  I think back to our first Christmas without Ryan.  I remember being sad but not to the degree that I was this past Christmas.  I mean this is the 4th Christmas that it has been just me and the kids.  Why was this Christmas different than before?

The thing is when you suffer a major loss whether it’s the death of a loved one, a divorce, loss of friendships/relationships with family, a loss of a pet, or anything that is truly devastating to your life the loss never goes away.  Many people think the person who has suffered the loss should feel or act a certain way at certain moments in time.  The reality is no one grieves the same way and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.

From my personal experience I am still grieving and there are times I am not even sure if I have even begun to grieve.  From the moment I was told my husband died I went into survival mode.  My focus has always been my children.  My son celebrated his 4th birthday the very next day.  I made him a Lightening McQueen Cake at 10:00pm that night.  I can still see the looks from family and friends that were still at the house.  As a matter of fact someone actually said to me “What are you doing?  You don’t have to make Hunter a cake.”  I looked up from mixing the batter and simply said “It’s his 4th birthday.  All my kids wake up on their birthdays to their cake.  He will have his cake.”  And I continued to make his cake.

 

Lightening McQueen Cake

Lightening McQueen Cake

Sometimes my reality gets the best of me.  This holiday season has been hard.  As a matter of fact a lot of things anymore have been hard.  I am one of those people who will hide it and hide it well.  You could see me at preschool drop off/pick up with a big smile on my face.  You could see me at school functions or any of my children’s functions and I am smiling, laughing, and seem to be enjoying life.  The reality is….I am sad. I am devastatingly sad.  I am sad for so many reasons.  I am sad because my children do not have their dad here on earth with them to cheer them on at football.  Or give his girls flowers after their dance recital.  I am sad because I see they are starting to realize their loss.  I am sad that they have said to me that they “hate being different” than other families.  I am sad that my husband is not here to see what amazing children we have.  I am sad that he is not here to see them grow up.  I am sad that he is not here to help them work through their growing pains.  I am sad that we will not grow old together.  I am sad that we will not go back to Paris.  I am sad that we will not have our monthly date nights.  I am sad.

 

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It’s hard for people in my life to truly understand why I am still sad after all this time.  It’s hard for them to understand that I know I need to find time for myself but my reality is there is no time for myself.  I have 3 young children.  These children need me to help them with homework.  They need me to get them from point A to point B.  They need me to be there at every football game and every dance recital.  They need ME.  I am not trying to sound like I am a martyr.  I am a mom.  This is MY reality.

So as I resume my normal reality, I remind myself that I will have these moments of sadness.  Sometimes the sadness will be right there in my face and sometimes it will just linger in the background.  This is MY reality to live.

 

New Year New You

This is something that we hear days leading up to the New Year and days following the New Year.  I have to be honest, I am not a fan of resolutions.  I am an instant gratification type of girl so the thought of working at something and knowing it will take time to see results just makes it seem impossible.  Every New Year’s Resolution I ever made in my young adult life centered around losing weight and standing up for myself in some area of my life.  Out of those two resolutions I would be successful with the losing weight for a short time and obviously since it was a yearly resolution, I wasn’t very successful with maintaining it.  But I was successful at it.

The resolution to stand up for myself was always unsuccessful.  I just let people walk all over me.  I allowed this in many areas of my life~personal relationships, family relationships, friendships, as well as my professional relationships.  I wanted to please everyone.  I wanted everyone to like me.  I felt everyone knew more than I did or they were better than I could ever be at something.  Why?  Why would I think that was OK.  Why would I allow it?  The answers didn’t come until my mid-30’s.

The thing is I knew inside I was able to do whatever I wanted to.  I knew I had to work at it.  I knew it would take time.  I knew I was a good friend, good daughter, good student, good teacher, and later on a good wife and mother.  I knew I deserved success and happiness.  I knew I deserved respect.  But none of that would happen unless I decided to believe it.

Unfortunately many of us, especially women, don’t realize this until we are much older, become a mom, or go through some sort of major loss in our life.  But when it happens it is such an amazing feeling but at the same time it is scary.  The release of having to always be a certain way is hard to put into words.  There’s a huge weight that has been lifted off your shoulders.  You begin to walk with more confidence and people react to it.  You begin to attract the people who deserve to be in your life.  The ones who will cheer you on, build you up, and help you remember you are capable of anything.  But with this new confidence comes conflict.  Conflict with the people who you have allowed for so long to treat you poorly.  This conflict can either continue to help you grow or, if you allow it, knock you back down.

For me, the conflict has been a battle.  I am not the same person I was at 18.  I am not the same person I was at 27.  I certainly am not the same person I was at 36.  I have people in my life who continue to cheer me on and challenge me to step out of my comfort zone because they believe in me.  I have lost people who were a major part of my life because they liked the old me.  Sometimes the old me still comes out.  But I like the new me because it is the true me.

So as this New Year begins, if I had to make a resolution it would be to be me.  What would yours be?