Anniversary Advice to a Younger Me

Today is my 18th wedding anniversary. To celebrate, I am going to write a post directed at 25-year-old me.

Dear Michelle of 18 years ago,

Your wedding went off without a hitch. You got the important part down and even though your reception/party afterward wasn’t what many other people thought it should be, it was a celebration of you and Craig and your marriage. Over the next few years as you attend many weddings, you’ll think a lot about your own and whether you short-changed yourself. I’m here to tell you — 18 years later, it does not matter, and you had a wonderful party that was very much YOU.

You thought you would never be in a place where you would desire children, but your heart softened in just over a year and you opened up to the idea. It was the best thing you ever did. Being a mom is most likely the greatest joy in your life (at least 18 years later) and having a successful marriage is the foundation for that joy.

You are ambitious and you want to move so fast through the corporate ranks. Let 43-year-old you fill you in: you never quite go as far as you always dreamed and hoped you would, and you’re (usually) okay with that. You struggle through your child-bearing years to understand that sometimes you just have to understand your niche and do a bang up job on that. But once you figure it out, you set about doing the best damn job of process automation and improvement and people management you can in whatever department you are in.

Speaking of career aspirations, you struggle also with the idea that you are not able to be 100% mom to your children. 43-year-old Michelle is here to tell you: you are the best mom you can be because you work full-time, maintain a stable and organized home, partner with your husband and raise your children to understand boundaries, goal-setting, limits and all that comes with growing up. No, you didn’t nurse your babies (I know, you’re just getting used to the idea that you even have babies) and you struggled with that, too. But in the end you understand that you did what was the best thing for your family at all times.

I think you’d be surprised at where 43-year-old Michelle is with regard to Catholic faith. A seed was planted in your couple counseling sessions with Fr. Tank before you got married. And while you didn’t respond and cultivate that planted seed until about 6 weeks after your first child was born…when you got around to it, you worked very hard at it. You should be proud to know that you and your husband not only embraced the Catholic church’s teachings on marriage and family, you even helped others along the way to try and understand them, even if others didn’t agree or sign on full-force like you.

If there were one thing 43-year-old Michelle would like to tell 30-year-old Michelle as far as faith goes, it is this: Remember that every walk in faith is a journey and you don’t know where on the path others are. And don’t be surprised to find yourself in different spots along the way. Sometimes when you think you have it all figured out — almost as quickly as that feeling comes, it is gone and you can feel lost.

You already know that marriage and life is not all roses; you grew up in a divorced family, abandoned by your father (something you won’t admit for several more years) and emotionally tormented by your relationship with your mother (something you still deal with at age 43). But you will have at least one experience where you will feel the depth of despair. You will cling to your husband like you never thought you would have to and you will claw and grasp to feel close to God as you make your way through. It will change you in ways you cannot imagine and even 43-year-old Michelle cannot really put into words.

You will feel great pride in your children and you will wonder how the heck God deemed you worthy to bless you with them. Sure, there will be the typical moments when they will break your heart, or something in their lives will break your heart. But overall, you will pray more prayers of thanksgiving (at least by 18 years of marriage) than prayers of sorrow regarding your children.

A small bit of advice and then I’m done: Cherish every day. Be grateful every minute. Time is fleeting and before you know it, you’ll look in the mirror and realize you have more gray hair than blonde and you wonder just when you stopped looking like you did in your wedding photos. You’ll be preparing to send your oldest off to college (or preparing for a college student continuing to live at home while attending school to save money), worrying about ACT scores, college admissions, in-state or out-of-state tuition and scholarships. You’ll watch your children navigate the crazy waters of puberty and adolescence thanking God some gadgets and technology were never around when you were their age.

But you’ll also hear your 6-year-old sing the words “She’s an Angel…” to have your husband ask him, “Who is an Angel?” and hear him say, “Mommy” and ask to be picked up and he will give you the sweetest hug and kiss.

And in that very moment, time doesn’t fly and you can’t believe the sweetness of your marriage, your family, your life.

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New Year’s Eve (12/31/16) — with one extra kid, Sophie (Sarah’s bestie)

Happy Birthday, Sarah!

I’ve loved her for almost 17 years at this point.

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Because from that first amazing moment that I found out I was pregnant with her…I was so deeply in love.

She’s my first child, my first daughter, my first everything. The first time I cried from a heart bursting with pride was watching her perform after a week-long theater camp. I’ve been amazed MANY first times over at this point. There’s a reason I often tag my Instagram photos #shesamazing. It’s because She. Is. Amazing.

She’s smart. She’s witty. She is a workhorse. She is strong. She is loyal. She is caring. She is sensitive. She is confident. She is everything I wish I had been when I was 16.

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She’s the best big sister. She’s responsible and compassionate She spends time learning about her siblings — what they like, what they don’t and what makes them “tick”. She is fierce in her protection of them and isn’t afraid to make it known.

And she’s so amazing that I have a hard time taking credit for any of it. She’s so amazing that raising her hasn’t felt like as much work as I always thought it would be. She’s so amazing that to know her is to love her in every sense of that cliche.

I could never write words that would be enough to describe how much I love her.

I am honored that God allowed me to be her mother. It continues to be one of the greatest joys in my life.

Happy Birthday to my girl, Sarah.

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You’re a strong, beautiful young woman.

Nothing can stop the force that is you.

Happy Sweet 16, my girl.

Our Catholic High School Decision Has Been Made — 3 year old unpublished post

Well, look at this: I found this in my drafts. I wrote it THREE YEARS ago, but never published it. Part of me wants to change some words here and there, but then…these were my thoughts then. A few things have changed (see the bottom of the post for my thoughts), a few things have stayed the same. At the time this was written, only one of my children was set to attend public school and now all five of them attend public school.

Okay, I’m going to take a deep breath and publish (after I add my current-day thoughts to the end). As you read the next few paragraphs, please keep in mind that I wrote this three years ago and that there is more to the story at the end. 🙂

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Recently, we decided that our children will attend public high school. We’d been discerning diligently for the past 7-8 months, but the hope of providing Catholic high school education to our children had been on our minds for even longer than that. There were many things we considered as we discerned. I’ve been able to compartmentalize them into three main categories: the expense; the extra-curricular opportunities (sports, clubs, etc); and the environment (Catholic and otherwise). Our comfort levels with different aspects of all of those were based on our experiences. Craig attended Catholic school all the way through high school. I attended Catholic school from grades 1 through 8. After that, I attended public high school.

For the purposes of this post, I am going to focus on the financial expense of providing a Catholic high school education. It seems, unfortunately, that Catholic high schools in most of our country have gone the way of being “Private Schools with Mass.” The tuition to attend the Catholic high school in my area is pretty close to what it costs to attend any other private high school in our city. It might be a little less expensive (by $1000-2000) but when you’re talking $10-12,000 per year, that’s not that much of a discount. Many families like mine – those who have accepted alarger-than-average amount of children, often expand the family beyond theability to provide Catholic education through high school. I’m not even going to touch the college expense. My kids will know from the get-go that paying for college will be largely on them.

To hear many Church leaders (Priests, Bishops, etc) speak, you would think that the Catholic Church wants to provide a Catholic education to anyone who wants it. And I do think the desire is there. The problem is that a Catholic education is exclusive to those who can afford it, and sadly, many families cannot justify $10,000+/year tuition for four years for each kid in high school for a family the size of mine. I also know of families smaller than mine, for whom the Catholic education is out of reach. I know of families larger than mine that make it work, too. I think that’s great and God has blessed them abundantly for their sacrifice.

Our diocese is building a new Catholic high school about an hour southeast of where I live. I signed up to contribute to this effort. I made a 3-year-commitment of 1% of our take-home pay for this campaign. At the time, we were still thinking that our kids could perhaps attend Catholic high school. But now that the decision has been made to send them to public school, I can’t help but note the irony that I am helping pay for a new Catholic high school to which I can’t even afford to send my kids.

There has been much said to me and around me about the financial assistance available for Catholic high school, but the reality of the matter seems to be that there just isn’t that much to go around to everyone who needs it. Even if the first year was made doable, the following years could crush us financially, and once your kid has started going somewhere for high school, you really don’t want to move them, so we’d be stuck if we started…at least for our oldest. I’ve heard that endowments for the private schools in our city are much bigger than what is available at the local Catholic high school, which only puts added pressure on the finances (of both school and families).

One of the most familiar commentaries I have heard from older parishioners who have already put their children through Catholic high school is that it was worth the sacrifice. I have no doubt that if I were able to sacrifice a reasonable amount without hurting my family in the process, I would also find the sacrifice to be worth it, edifying even. I understand that the people who encourage me to send my children to Catholic high school and “trust God” and that “it is all worth the sacrifice” mean well. For them, the sacrifice was doable. I don’t know what most people make, what their financial commitments are outside of Catholic high school tuition and all that stuff. Therefore, I can’t give an opinion on whether the sacrifice they made and what would be required of me would be similar or not. I can only speak to our situation and believe me when I tell you that the amount of money I was putting away simply for Catholic High school was preventing Club volleyball, guitar lessons, ballet, among other activities that I had wanted to provide my kids. I was looking down the road and seeing 16 years of nothing outside of school-related activities and tuition in the budget and I was getting down about not being able to provide some experiences for my kids that I think are important to their growth.

An additional consideration for a family like mine might be that we’d be able to provide Catholic high school for one, but not all of our children. Saving the money I was to put towards tuition – for as long as I was looking at having to do that – was putting our family into a delicate position should a job loss occur or any instance that could happen causing either my husband or me to be without an income for any period of time. I’m talking – beyond the emergency savings – how could we continue to provide this if some tragedy befell our family? And even if no tragedy befell us, but life happened and the amount we’d saved couldn’t measure up to what was required – what if we faced the possibility that our children could not continue at the Catholic high school and we provided for one and couldn’t provide for all? Plus we have spaced our children to the extent that we will be paying for preschool for our youngest during our oldest child’s first two years of high school. Preschool is a necessity for us as it doubles as our childcare; our daily childcare expense won’t diminish until our youngest enters Kindergarten.

The balance in these things is critical in our relationship as a family, I think. Rather than face the insecurity of being unable to provide this for all five of our living children, it seemed the more prudent approach to continue to save the money knowing it could help provide things like Club volleyball, Swim team, music lessons, tennis lessons, and other extra-curricular activities that will provide value down the line. It seems more prudent knowing that money will be available to buy a new-to-us car if the time comes, without taking on the burden of payments. Perhaps we will pre-pay preschool tuition to get a discount. Perhaps the next round of orthodontic treatment won’t be such a hassle.

Once the decision was made, a huge load was lifted from my chest. Yes, sadness prevailed for a little bit. It’s hard to admit that you can’t provide your kids with their desires. And the disappointment in the fact that the Catholic Church can’t fulfill her desire to educate all those who would want to come to a Catholic school is still there.

Discernment

Did the Catholic Church intend to go down this route? I doubt it. The reality of the situation is that Catholic schools are no longer run by Religious (nuns or priests). Paying competitive salaries (and benefits!) for laypeople as teachers and administrators has driven the cost to the point that it is difficult to see a difference between a Catholic school and a private school. The main difference being that at a Catholic school, religion class is a requirement, a chapel/place for daily prayer is available and Mass happens on at least a semi-regular basis. Add to that the fact that Catholics in this country do not support the Church to the level required to provide a Catholic education to all. And – to be fair – most Catholics who are paying tuition to the rate of $10,000/year/kid feel the obligation to pay that and probably believe this IS their financial support for the Church. I know that if I were to pay tuition for Catholic high school, my “first fruits” contribution would most likely have to diminish to cover the cost. Obviously, that’s backwards because it turns my “first fruits” contribution into something else.

I do think something should be figured out. I think there is something wrong when a Church encourages the faithful to be generous and embrace new life into their marriages, but then shuts the door on those families when it comes to education. I know parents are the primary educators of children. Parents should not drop the kids off at the door of the Catholic school expecting all the magic to happen there, and at the end of 12 years, POOF! a well-formed Catholic with brains to match magically appears. But I also recognize my Church’s call to support Catholic education in all ways, including financial. A little more financial support as well as a bit of emotional and spiritual support from the Church with regard to this issue would be most appreciated.

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My thoughts three years later.

The local Catholic high school has taken great pains to promote their support of larger families and the things they are doing to combat the high cost of sending children to their school. This support comes in the form of a tuition schedule that ensures a family with the third or fourth (or fifth!) kid coming through is not getting burdened with an ENTIRE third or fourth (or fifth!) full tuition. The way it was explained was that it would take into account that the older children will most likely be on to college when the younger children attend high school and, of course, it could be a tremendous burden on the family to be helping with college expense while also paying a large amount in tuition. This is wonderful and I’m so glad they are doing it! For the families for whom the financial aspect was truly the only obstacle, this will most likely tip the balance in the Catholic school receiving the attendance of the children in those families.

Once my oldest began attending the public high school, it became apparent that she had missed the opportunity to start on some activities she may have found enjoyable since she was in the Catholic grade school. Things like Student Council, Orchestra/Band/Choir, Drama/Theater and other sorts of activities that middle schoolers are able to explore without a huge cost to the family were not available to her. Sure, they could have been available to her if we, her parents, had been available to pay for and transport her to extra lessons. Of course the expense of money and time for that were not feasible for us.

Our public school district has wonderful programs and provides the opportunities to any child interested and even provides transportation home at later times for children involved in after school activities. (Dani’s BASA Bus — Before After School Activities Bus — dropped her off at 5:10 p.m.) Learning this sped up the decision to move all of our children to the public schools. It seemed easier to get them involved in things at an earlier stage in their academic years so they would have all the opportunity to explore and discover those things they would desire to be a part of in the crucial high school years where leadership and involvement are so important. Therefore, the financial aspect of our decision lessened with this realization.

Finally, what we can see in hindsight is that a larger school environment has been fabulous for each and every one of our children. At some point, we had thought a small school was the ideal. Lower teacher-to-student ratios lend to the thinking that the child receives more attention, leading to better academic results. However, our experience has been that our children thrive within the larger public school framework. There are more friends to make, more challenges to be had and a diversity that was not as ever-present in the Catholic school environment from which they came.

One thing that Craig and I thought was important — especially in high school — was for our kids to grow and learn in an environment where their beliefs and values might be challenged. We thought it was critical that this happen while they were still in our care and that this should not wait until they left home for college or to enter the military or to enter the working world. I know that as Catholics, we want to make the world as Catholic as we can. We are called to be in the world, evangelizing — by word AND deed — to bring Christ’s Love to all those we meet. Craig and I have watched our children do this in the public schools. Not only do they bring Christ’s Love to those they encounter everyday in a non-Catholic school environment, but they experience it from those around them. In the past, when the subject of sending our Catholic kids to public school had been brought up, it almost seemed like most Catholic parents considered it “a bad idea,” at best and “almost-cruel,” at worst, to subject their children to the public schools and those that inhabit them. Almost as though their precious little lambs would be devoured by those horrible wolves that lurked in the curriculum or in the more diverse, and especially non-Catholic population they would encounter.

I’ve been impressed with the education my oldest has received at the public high school. Sarah has had opportunities for Honors classes, AP class in sophomore year, and AP and dual-credit college courses coming up this junior year. She’s received a Varsity letter in academics for her Freshman year and is set to receive one for Sophomore year, as well. She had the opportunity to earn a Varsity letter in Volleyball as a Sophomore and is on track to earn more in the future for Volleyball. She has made good, solid friends — even though their background is so completely different from her own.

I was impressed with middle school, too. Kids grow up A LOT during middle school and need to be given the opportunity to learn some hard lessons during that time. Dani thrived in the larger middle school environment. She made friends almost from the word “Go!” and she has become independent and has learned so much about herself. She has discovered that others think she is a pretty fantastic person — she needed that! I mean, Dani has always been pretty confident in herself, but in a larger environment, her outgoing nature and kind heart took her places she hadn’t had the opportunity to go before.

Elementary school was fantastic, too. Helen grew up in 5th grade. And she was given the opportunity to do that with more kids to interact with and teachers pushing her out of her comfort zone a little bit (with a safety net!) Since 5th graders are the oldest kids in the elementary school, I think there are more opportunities for growth and responsibility than at the smaller Catholic school that has K-8. Helen leaves elementary school eager and ready for the challenges that lie ahead in middle school. The boys thrived, too. Dominic loves school — I don’t think he cared where he was in school — and made friends with the same interests he had — Minecraft, Angry Birds, Star Wars, Comic Books. Vincent was quiet and reserved, but received a lot of praise for always being kind to those around him and being a hard worker.

I know this got a little long, but when I found this old post, I just knew I had to publish it along with a few thoughts on “the now.”

Let It Go (Let it Go)

At a recent family gathering I said something about the way my mother would have handled some sort of issue (I can’t even remember the exact circumstance we were discussing now!) and it was said, “You really need to let that go.”

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The fact that I write about what I dealt with growing up, or continue to deal with now, with regard to this relationship I have with my mother, has nothing to do with harboring any sort of ill will. As I stated before, I love my mother — in that sense that I want what is best for her. But, I don’t have a huge amount of affection for her. She doesn’t have much affection for me, either.

Stating that doesn’t mean I haven’t let anything go.

Flashback 16 years ago: I was expecting my first child whom I had learned was a girl. It was kind of a shock to find out I was having a daughter. I had always pictured myself having a son first. Maybe that was because growing up I had an older brother and always took a bit of pride in the fact that I did (though our relationship varied on the closeness). Regardless of why, it simply is what it is (as they say) that I felt a bit uncertain and even a some fear at having a daughter.

It was at that time that I started to think about my relationship with my mother more from my mother’s point of view. I wondered if I had been unfair in my judgments of her and her lack of attention towards me in my life. As I began viewing the relationship we had from her end of it, I  gave her quite a bit of credit: She was a single parent (wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy); She was tenacious about her schooling and her future career as a nurse; She was a single parent TO FIVE CHILDREN; She was alone in life — obviously not by choice, so that had to be difficult.

From the time I had Sarah even through having four of my children, I made a conscious effort with regard to my relationship with my mom. I made sure to call her regularly. I found a Mother’s Day card or a Birthday Card at the appropriate times, or I sent her flowers. While pregnant with Dani, we even spent a WHOLE WEEK at her home in the mountains, far away from anything to entertain us — isolated and at her “beck and call” so to speak so she could talk and talk and talk at us. (Side Note: at that visit, I found where she had pictures from my youth. there were pictures of my siblings, some pictures of us with our Dad. I spent an entire afternoon looking at them. i asked her if I could take them with me. She refused. She had them all thrown haphazardly into an end table, most likely the way they had been for years, never been looked at, sorted or shared — but yet, she refused to allow me to take them. I was angry about that for awhile.) My years of conscious effort included many phone calls of me getting off the phone curtly and with frustration at her telling me negative things about someone in my family — usually my father, but sometimes a sibling — that I simply couldn’t bear to allow her to do. I believe during that time is when I was gathering my strength to set boundaries. I had small children and was learning the value of setting boundaries for them, and abiding by the boundaries set by them and my husband, and it is then that I began to realize the fault in most things with my mother lies in her inability to identify, set, accept and abide by emotional boundaries we all have (or should have).

I’m not sure what happened that caused me to realize that all my conscious effort was never going to make a difference. I COULDN’T MAKE HER INTO THE MOTHER I WANTED AND NEEDED. So, I have not ever cut her out of my life entirely, but I stopped making the effort that I had for those 8 or so years.

During those 8 years of effort, I let a lot of things go. And honestly, I’ve never taken them back on. I’m not angry with my mom anymore. I’m not. I’m sad. I still long for a mother-daughter relationship that I’ll never have. I mourn it in my own way. I cherish every wonderful (breathtakingly wonderful sometimes) moment I have with my daughters.

I think I am glad I heard that: “You really need to let that go.”

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Hearing that helped me think about it and realize that I’ve let everything go.

Letting something go doesn’t mean you excuse the behavior or explain away the results as “nothing big.” The results of bad behavior exist whether or not we “let it go.” The chasm in a family relationship still exists when one person hurts or neglects another. Even when we “let it go” we learn and move on from it and act accordingly.

When trust is broken, “letting it go” helps us heal, but it doesn’t rebuild the trust. Trust is a two-way street and one person making a conscious effort for eight years will not rebuild that trust when only that person is making the effort.

I find it interesting how I am able to work through these sorts of things now. Over time, emotion has emptied, and I often am able to view both memories and current events with a matter-of-fact-ness not possible when angry or hurt. Sure, I am still sad at times for not having the sort of mother-daughter relationship of many people I see. but I don’t wallow in it — I’m busy cultivating my relationships I DO have in the present.

I think the best way to describe how I view my relationship with my mother is that it “just is.” I love her, but I don’t have affection for her. I know people who have wonderful relationships with their parents would read that and possibly think I am ungrateful. But they don’t understand — and they should feel grateful that they don’t — what it’s like to have a mother who is simply more interested in herself than anything or anyone else.

 

This and That

Mother’s day came and went. It was actually a nice one. I ended up talking to my mom the Friday before, so no obligatory feelings to call her on the day. We had a nice time and my kids all gave me the most wonderful hand-made gifts! But honestly, just having them here with me in my life is the best gift of all.

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The school year officially ended. My children have all been “promoted” to the next grade. all the report cards have been viewed.

I’m declaring 2016-17 a resounding success.

The summer has begun with gusto. Memorial Day weekend was spent cleaning and purging this house in which we so clearly live. As I worked, I kept thinking about all the times I have told people, “Well, we live in our house…and it looks like it.” And then I chuckled every so often because it is TRUE to the very depths of all meaning.

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A meme I thought was funny…and true!

Sarah chose to enroll in an online class this summer to get her required Personal Finance  class out of the way. Of course, she’s making way for a horrendous (read: quite difficult) Junior year. She piled on so much work for herself that I insisted she enroll in a study hall. She fought me on it all the way until…one of her favorite teachers mentioned that it would be a good idea. Hey, I don’t care who convinced her — simply that she was able to be convinced.

Dani chose to enroll in health/P.E. this summer to get that requirement out of the way and make way for Art classes. This is also because choir and theater have become priorities for her, so getting required health/P.E. done in the summer is a smart move. Probably a move she’ll duplicate her Freshman and Sophomore year for similar reasons. She was excited to see friends in her class when she arrived on Tuesday. Dani is such a social kid. She ensured she got a Worlds Of Fun pass by offering to pay for it through giving up her monthly allowance for 6 months. Her motivation: being able to hang out with friends there this summer.

The younger three may not have chosen to go to the summer program offered, but I signed them up anyway. Actually, the boys were excited. It’s been a bit of a challenge to get Helen on board with it, but I think we’re all good now. It’s four weeks of stuff for them to do, gets them out of the house, doing engaging activities.

The great news is that once summer school is over, I am off work for a week (vacation!! yes!!) And that week will be followed by two weeks off work for Craig to hang with the kiddos. And by then, we’ll be on the downhill slide to starting another school year and will be bustling about buying school clothes, shoes and everything else.

We found out some sad news a few weeks ago: a family that houses some of our very best friends of all of our ages, is moving away. It’s only about 3 hours away, but we’re all feeling the loss pretty acutely. They haven’t moved yet, which means the kids are looking for all sorts of opportunities to get together and using the upcoming move as reasonable motivation (“But mom!! they leave a in a few weeks, we HAVE to go do XYZ before they move away!!!”)

The good news is that since it is only 3 hours away, perhaps we can still see them once or twice a year with some good planning. If there’s anything I am good at, it’s planning road trips!

So that’s all that’s going on these days. Oh and I am still going to weight watchers, though I changed meetings and decided to go to the center by my house. I just couldn’t do Wednesday at 12:30…at least, that’s my excuse for my inability to stick to stuff. One week “back on the (accountability) wagon” and I was down 4.2 lbs at my meeting today. So that’s nice. I’ve also been taking an extended break from Crossfit. I was missing my sleep in the mornings. Now that I’ve been sleeping in until 6:00 a.m., I am having a hard time getting back to getting up early. But, what the heck…weight loss is 90% what goes in my mouth anyway, so I’m getting that part under control. I’ll get back to the Crossfit…or maybe I won’t and life will be fine either way.

A-Ha!

Some things all came together for me the past few days.

I’ve been struggling with the weight thing (again, some more and still).  No surprise there, right? It’s the story of my life.

But that’s what helped some things click! I thought, “Why am I only happy with myself if I weigh less than I do now?” Because I think that is a critical question that I need to ask myself and find the answer.

Lately, I’ve listened to my thoughts as I speak with and encourage my pre-teen and teenage daughters through life. I like the things I say to my daughters and the things I think about them. Of course, I love them all very much, so there’s rarely a negative thought that goes through my brain about them.

One thing I have always said about my daughters is that God blessed me with three unique daughters inside and out. Not only are their personalities as varied as the stars in the sky, but physically, they are unique, too. I have never been able to use much in the way of hand-me-downs among my girls because their bodies are so different! And I’ve always expressed that to them in this manner: You girls all have different body types, God makes us all different, and you’ll find that you all have your advantages (thinking about whether one of them might be taller, one might have more muscle tone, etc). So when it comes to hand-me-downs, there’s never been pressure to wear big-sister’s clothes. Ever. Because 1) most of the time it didn’t fit and 2) almost just the same amount of time, they don’t like the same things!

Now flash back to when I was about 7 or 8 years old and a box of hand-me-down clothes arrived from a cousin. A cousin, by the way, who was a very different body type than me — and hers was a body-type preferred by my mother. I tried on a pair of pants that were too tight, but I got them hooked and zipped. “You look like a sausage, Michelle.” And she laughed, but then tried to stifle the laugh as I figured out she was mocking me. Then she said, “Yuck. Just take them off.” Then, I couldn’t get them unzipped and off and basically, the pants were ruined as my mother ripped them off me. I think the ripping was done mostly in annoyance and anger at least that was how it felt.

I relay that story to give you an idea of where my lack of love for myself and my displacement of worth started. With my own girls, I have never told them they look like anything other than who they are and whether clothes fit well or not. And it’s never their body type’s fault that clothes don’t fit well — it is because the cut is not for their body type or the sizing was off.

As I have thought about how I discuss this with my daughters I have wondered, “Why can’t I do that with myself?” Why is it that there is something WRONG WITH ME when I can’t wear a certain size. Why can’t I say to myself, “Oops, wrong size, get the size tha fits!” Or why can’t I say to myself, “That style/cut doesn’t flatter your God-given body” instead of killing myself with diets to make my body look different than it does?

I have NEVER looked at my body and simply said to myself, “That’s your body.” and left it at that. There has always been a negative adjective as long as I can remember. And even if the adjective was positive, it was still an objectification, not a true appreciation for my gift in my body.

Oh sure, I’ve stated how wonderful I believe my body is, that it’s strong — but only in the context that I can lift heavy weights, or birth big babies. Because then being strong is USEFUL, not beautiful, USEFUL. But I’ve always had this lurking issue with my body not being “delicate” or “feminine” however beauty was defined for me growing up. Because beautiful people have small, delicate bones. You see…my whole idea of what is beautiful — when it applies to me, personally, anyway — is completed messed up!

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Let me share with you my psyche on any given day. What follows are scenarios that occur every day and most likely at least one thing that flies through my brain in that moment.

While getting dressed: I wish these pants were size 8. I used to wear size 8. I loved myself when I wore size 8. Size 12 is ugly. Ugh.

While thinking about eating something for breakfast/lunch/dinner: If I eat bread, that’s a sure 2-pound gain on the scale, even though it’s the first bread I’ve eaten in 10 days. Damn, I wish I could eat something more than an apple for breakfast. If I drink 2 24-oz tumblers full of water before I leave the house, then I won’t want the diet coke. I wish I didn’t want diet coke. Man, I love bacon…I wish I could have some bacon for breakfast. An Italian sub is my favorite thing to eat in the whole world — especially when it’s been two weeks since I had one. I want to eat what the kids are eating.

While walking by any window where my reflection is possible: Ugh, my butt is so big. Why can’t I lose this weight? I wish I weren’t so fat/big. Why does my butt stick out like that when I walk? Why do I take such big steps, it make me look fatter than I am. No, I’m really that fat.

What’s come together for me is that I do not like myself very much.

I have also begun to think about whether I need to change something. Now, obviously, some kind of change is needed, but I think — for as long as I’ve been trying to change things — I’ve been trying to change the wrong things. I try to lose weight so that I will like myself more, like my appearance more, like my clothes more, etc. I workout because it makes me feel good to “win.” But at my age, I’m not going to win all that much, so I’m left wondering WHY I do the things I do and I’m left with the fact that CrossFit and the workouts help me like myself more. It gives me something to “brag” about and make myself feel better about how I look (which I don’t like) when I can do really cool things like back squat 200+ pounds or do a chin-up. When I changed jobs a couple years ago, at the root of that decision was the fact that I wanted to like myself more because I thought if I could sell lots of newly constructed homes, I was going to seriously bring in some money. And when I did that, it wasn’t going to bother me any more that I hadn’t escalated to the higher levels of management in Corporate America. Because I was tired of seeing men and moms-of-two-or-three-(not-five) get Vice President after their name, while I sat there as a front-line operations manager forever.

The common theme to all of this is that I attach my self-worth to things that are not intrinsically ME. In my screwed-up brain, I’m a better wife and person when I wear a certain size of clothing. Or I’m a better person when I don’t come in dead-last at the workout. Or when I make a certain amount of money I’m a better person than I was when I made another amount of money and I think I’ll be a better person when I have a certain title after my name at work. The way I see myself, I project onto the world and think that is how the world views my worth, too.

All of this started somewhere, obviously (and I bet you can guess where…I could give blog post after blog post detailing significant memories). No matter what, though, as a 43-year-old wife and mother, it is my decision to make in order to stop this nonsense.

But how? How does a 43-year-old woman learn to like herself after spending most of her life loathing herself and feeling as though she is loathed by others, especially people who are supposed to love her unconditionally?

I know I’ll get there. My wheels are still turning in this brain of mine. I think recently, I finally got them all turning in a more positive direction.

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WW Weeks 4-5

Last week, I missed the meeting and the weigh-in due to attending a funeral during that time. I also happened to eat some Chipotle that day. Oops.

The good news is that at weigh-in today, I was the same weight I was two weeks ago. anyone who has done Weight Watchers knows that a week off the weigh-in can be death to the plan. And honestly, for me, it kind of was still. I didn’t do so hot with the eating plan and only recently got back on track. Back on track enough to have not gained anything when I weighed in today.

Because…

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This week they were talking about Self-Compassion. they talked about that a few months ago, too. I am terrible about this. I’ve done a lot of self-reflection recently (not just about Self-Compassion and my lack of it) and of course, i can see my lack of self-compassion (i.e., giving myself a break every now and then) take root at a very young age.

We had an assignment to come up with two ways we would be kind to ourselves this week. I have such a hard time figuring this out because I’m gonna be honest, my first thing I think of is a splurge in the food department. Now, that’s gonna go directly against what I’m trying to do. Because a splurge in the food department means a night out at a restaurant, or partaking in one (ahem, too many) of Dani’s decadent desserts (Dani has become quite the baker/chef).  So, that’s really not the best way to be kind to myself.

I usually don’t budget money to buy myself anything. I need new clothes for a LONG time before I finally just buy myself something new. For example, I am in SORE NEED of some new workout pants, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. Because — well, a kid in this house almost ALWAYS needs new shoes or something. speaking of shoes, it’s time for new running shoes…sigh.

Maybe I am thinking about this the wrong way. Maybe the goal isn’t a TREAT — like food or new clothes. Maybe I should be looking deeper and yet, more simply. Obviously, I shouldn’t do the negative self-talk that I inevitably do when I don’t weigh what I would like or don’t fit into my favorite clothes. so I suppose I could really try to be mindful of the negative self-talk and nip it in the bud when it starts. I don’t know. I know that having a little compassion for myself is important. After all, when I don’t do as well with the eating-thing or the tracking-what-I-eat-thing or the weight-loss-in-general thing — I’m way harder on myself than I would be with my friends.

Any ideas?