sharing my life experiences, reflections and insights as a mother, a writer, an Occupational Therapist and and a spiritual being having a human experience

Posts tagged ‘real life’

March 21, 2016

Writing

Writing is my passion. It is who I am.

I remember getting my first diary. It was a gift from my sister for my 10th birthday.  I remember because I have this diary and every diary and journal after that first one. When I have read through the entries of my childhood diaries, I have realized that I remember the events described in the pages because I wrote them down.

Parenting and Work

When my oldest son was born, November 10, 1997, we had a plan in place.  I would return to work full-time after a 12 week maternity leave and my husband would stay at home with him while he grew his business.  I was able to return to work at 32 hours a week and remain fulltime.  Before my son was born, this plan sounded great.  I remember telling my co-workers that the father could be the primary caregiver as well as the mother.  My plan was that once my husband’s business grew enough,  I would reduce to part-time hours.  In 1997, I could work “prn” and earn double my full-time hourly rate. It sounded so easy, I could work 20 hours per week (without benefits) and make same amount of money as I did working 40 hours. 

Birth and Bonding

I had hoped for a natural birth but only took the hospital birth class and one offered by my NP at my OB-GYN office.  I wound up being induced with an epidural but was so glad he was born without a c-section.  I intended to nurse for 6 months because that was what was recommended by the AAP at the time.  I was very happy to have a healthy baby boy yet boding with him took time.  Parenting was a whole new experience for me. When he was 12 weeks old, I had to return to work. It was the most difficult thing I ever had to do. 

Motherhood and Parenting

Going back to work was so difficult for me. I was glad he was home with my husband when I went to work and I don’t think I could have left him otherwise.   I wanted to be home full-time with my baby!  Don, my husband, told me he would get a job so I could stay home. We had a plan. He had quit his job to be in business full-time for several reasons but a big one was because he wanted to be involved in his child’s life and be there. His previous job required regular travel.  We both knew we wanted to raise our child and not have the child in day care. We shared the parenting experience and he worked when I was home.  Yet, from that moment when I returned to work, my goal became to find a way to work from home. 

Employment and Working from home

I remember researching working at home opportunities. All I remember about that is ordering some ribbons to make some bows for a company, but the ribbon was tiny and I never made any of those bows.  It was 1997 when my first child was born and we had the internet because my husband wanted it for his business but I did very little on the computer back then.

My job changed dramatically in 1999 with the many healthcare changes that happened. I no longer had a job 4 miles from home working 3 full days and 2 half days.  I had to drive to two different nursing homes, one 45 minute drive and the other a 90 minute drive and work in both each day to keep my job. My salary was cut by 15% and my benefits changed including less paid time off and higher healthcare costs.    I did that for 9 months and managed to change my hours to working just 4 days per week and remained full-time but started job hunting.  Because of the changes in healthcare, there were not many jobs to be found at the time. 

In 2000, I found a new part-time job in home health care. I had more flexible hours and could do my paperwork from home.  Moving from full-time work to part-time was a big jump. Also, having to manage my own schedule was a significant and challenging change for me.   My income was half that year being part-time compared to full-time.  (as a side note: when my husband quit his job to go full-time into his own business, ( because  I pushed him to do so saying I could support us) our combined $100,000 income went to $50,000 that was 1996.  When I returned to work in 1998 at only 32 hours per week, my income was $42,000).  I share all these figures to truly paint the picture for you.  We choose to live on less because being home with our child was more important to us than having a bigger house and a newer car. We were looking at moving to a new home in 2000 but because  our lower-income, we had to suspend that plan.  My husband’s business was slowly growing but I remained the primary breadwinner for some time.

An Idea Is Born

I attended my first LLL meeting when my oldest was 3 weeks old.  I was looking for support with breastfeeding with returning to work.  Being in the room surrounded by moms and babies and children, even nursing toddlers, was an eye-opener to me!  I swore I would never nurse my baby past age one. Yet, being surrounding by attachment parenting moms was a new world for me. I can remember  talking to a mom of a 3 month old. She worked as a nurse and worked nigh shift so she was home with her baby in the day.  I can hear here saying something to the effect of, “aren’t they wonderful “(meaning the babys).  I was still bonding with my baby and adjusting to motherhood at that stage.  I know deep inside of me, my soul knew that this was the life for me. 

My oldest, Harrison, developed a love for road signs at an early age.  You can read more about this here.  I became more involved in the attachment parenting world and learning from my son how to be a mother.  From these two aspects, an idea was born.  I envisioned a conscious parenting website and called it, “Mommy, Daddy, STOP”.  My meaning in this name was “Mommy, Daddy, stop what you are doing and pay attention to me because I will be a baby and a child for a short period of time and spending quality time and quantity time with me is important.  And stop reacting and just parenting the way you were parented, but consciously choose your words, actions and your method of parenting.” By this time, my husband’s business had morphed into a website business and he secured the domain name for me even before I started the website.  I spend time writing about parenting and created a notebook full of ideas for my website.  As I write this, I am picturing my notebook with colored pen marks and realize that I need to find this notebook!

Flash Foward to 2008

I finally created the site on the Ning platform with the help of my now 10-year-old son. And I created a homeschooling website on Ning as well.  I was motivated to finally jump in and do this  because my husband had lost his job August of 2008 when I was three months pregnant with our third child. Backing up…My husband sold his website business in summer of 2007 and then went to work full-time for the man/company he sold his business too.  This was a wonderful opportunity for our family. We had regular income for the first time in years and I was able to not work outside the home for the first time in years.  And it was what I was waiting for to even attempt to have a third child.  I had my second child in 2002 after a year of attempting and one early miscarriage.  I was working in home health care and was able to very slowly return to work when she was 8 weeks old. Literally working just 3 hours per week for several weeks before increasing to about 6 hours per week and slowly increased to an average of about 15 hours per week.

Ning Websites

In 2008, creating a website on the Ning platform was free of charge.  Ning is a platform for creating a social media website which was new and fresh at the time with the growing popularity of that big social media website, you know, Facebook.  I also found work again, prn work as an OT at a local nursing home that summer without telling them I was pregnant.  I needed to bring in some income while my husband rebuilt his business and before my new baby was born! I also poured my time into primarily my homeschool website thinking it would be the one to first bring in income, eventually.  I had no initial plans for making money, I just knew the site would benefit the homeschooling community at a time when it was difficult to find out about homeschool support groups and area resources.  I trusted in the universe that somehow over time, this pursuit would bring me income in order to be home full-time with my children.  And I began posting articles on my Parenting site; the tag line for Mommy, Daddy, Stop was : consciously parenting our children, our parents, and ourselves. 

Baby number three is born in 2009

I worked until mid December of 2008 and then went on unpaid leave. When you work prn, you don’t really “go on leave” you just don’t sign up to work any hours.    He was due January 4 but my other two children were born before their due dates: 12 days prior and 4 days prior. Jason was born on January 8, 2009 in our kitchen, an elective home birth with a lay-midwife.Yes, that story is for another post. I remember getting called from a co-worker after a few months asking if I would be coming back to work.  I told them I wasn’t ready to come back to work yet.  We managed to live from savings and eventually credit because I wanted to be home full-time with my baby for at least a year.  And I did not return to work until after he was  a year old but our financial situation was demanding it and it was a crazy hard decision for me. 

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What does it all mean?

What does it all mean?….  A conversation with myself

I was writing on an online journal community that I belong to, when I felt myself fading out and wondering, “What does it all mean?”

I knew I needed to pause and think about that some more.  I immediately knew I needed to write more about that. So here I am.  Now what?

I have been in a ‘funk” lately, a sort of semi-depressed, laissez- faire, just going through the motions way of living.  I know there is anger that goes along with it, anger about everything that has happened from my husbands heart attack to our financial situation.  And stress over finances and my own health and my husband’s health and my children and their needs and issues.

Reading over that list, I see that what is really going on is that I have way too much on my plate and so I have been avoiding or maybe just pushing through and doing what needs to be done.  When I put it that way, it doesn’t sound so bad because after all, I am trying despite all that is going on in my  life.  Sure, I can think of things I am not doing, but hey, there are many things I am not doing because there is only so much I CAN DO.  Let me say that again, to myself,  THERE IS ONLY SO MUCH I CAN DO.

I needed to hear that. And I don’t mean it in a defeatist way.  I am functioning as a human, having a human experience, however I phrase it, I am human.  Sure, I believe I am really a spiritual being.  But maybe right now, I am just human. Well, sure I am more than that yet maybe right now.  Hmmm… I don’t know.

As I wrote that, I began to wonder because I don’t feel like I am particularly grounded or functioning from a very “in my body” state of being.

This is making my head spin.

I am more confused now than when I started.

Let me go back to my question, What does it all mean?

Nothing.

It means nothing.

I put meaning into my own life.  I give it all meaning.

Wow, that feels  too heavy,like  too much.  Why do I have to put all the meaning there?

Maybe I do not need to come up with an answer but just stay in the question.

I am in a state of wondering right now.  I am living and doing things and wondering, What does it all mean?

I feel this urge to ‘fix it”- to bring myself out of this undefined state of uncertainty.  I feel troubled that I am in this place.   And yet, part of me, is ok with it.  Part of me is OK with not knowing and being in the question.

It is temporary.

This too shall pass.

I can be ok with being here right now, in the question.

So much has happened and so much is going on in my life and it has left me wondering,

What does it all mean?

June 18, 6 weeks post MI, A message to my soul

This is my first moment to breathe in a long time.  I worked 20 to 25 hours outside the home for 10 weeks (Feb to May), about double the hours I had been working, and still homeschooling three kids, ages 13, 9 and 2. The week that the extra hours ended and I was relieved to cut back from working every Sat, Sun, Mon and  Tues to just some Saturdays, Sunday and a few hours on Tuesday, my husband had a massive heart attack.  It’s been just over 6 weeks from that day, May 4, 2011.

I used to go out about once a week by myself to a coffee-house (to drink tea) with my lap top and journal and write and work on my website and play games.  It was my alone time where I was only responsible for myself, a needed break and recharge for a homeschooling mother of three as well as a chance to reconnect with my soul and my passion, writing.

Over the past week, it has become more obvious to me that I am experiencing “burn out” or caregiver overload.  My husband, Don,  has been home for over 4 weeks and improving but only watching the kids in small increments of time and not at night yet.   He is still recovering and so I play the role of mother, homeschool mom, wife, caregiver of my husband, Occupational Therapist for my husband as well as still working a couple of hours at a time when I can as an OT at the Nursing Home where I have been working for a while.

Today, the youngest two kids and my husband went across the street where our neighbor has agreed to give our shaggy dog, Olive, a much-needed hair cut.  My oldest is still asleep or maybe just in his room, he’s 13.  The house is quiet.

The last time I got to enjoy a quiet house was when my husband was in the hospital and I would wake up around 3 am, because I couldn’t sleep more than 3 hours when he was in the hospital for 12 days, and I would come to my lap top in the kitchen and get a few things done and then write.   I have been missing that early morning time to myself.  The lack of sleep caught up with me and shortly after my husband came home from the hospital, I slept well and slept in. Now I am ready to live on less sleep again, not 3 hours, but wishing for alone time in my house.

I am not religious but a spiritual person and I get daily messages from Neale Donald Walsch, author of the Conversations with God series of books.  His messages are sometimes very fitting to my day.  They became very timely when my husband, Don, was in the hospital.

And a few days ago one of the messages was very loud:

June 17, I got this message:

On this day of your life, Gina, I believe God wants you to know…

…that your Inner Life is begging you for some attention. Can you not hear your soul calling to you?  Please do not ignore this call any longer. Please do  , “Yeah, yeah, tonight.” Or…”Okay, I get it.   I will meditate every morning…”Stop everything right this minute. If only for 90 seconds. And say hello to your soul. Reconnect. Touch in. And listen to what you are trying to tell yourself.

So I set my blackberry down but I didn’t have to pause for even a second and my soul screamed, “BLOG, BLOG BLOG!!!!!!!!!!!!” at me.  I stayed quiet for a few minutes and tried to be in the silence.Writing has always been my form of meditation. When I journal, I find my own truth and things become more clear to me. Creating my blog recently, has been my way of finally sharing my journaling and my truth, something I have felt compelled to do for many years.  Despite 30 years of journaling, I only started my blog less than a year ago.
Yesterday, Neale sent a great message about choosing how we feel and I decided to choose to have a great day.  It worked for most of the day, but when you are in “burn out”, unless you stop and take time for yourself, no amount of choosing happiness in your day is going to prevent that burn out from seeping out into your life.  For me, in the form of yelling at my kids (loosing my peace and falling away from the parent I choose to be) and just feeling disappointed at the end of the day.  I had a sore neck yesterday and it lingered despite me exercising and stretching.  I was blaming it on my pillow and the fact that my two younger kids sleep with me and sometimes on top of me, reason enough to feel achy in the morning.  And today, the sore neck was still there.

This morning I decided to go out and take a walk by myself again (something I also used to do several times a week and have been trying to get back to) with my music.   I was checking Facebook on my blackberry, because I did that yesterday and had fun hosting a game of “Name that Tune” to my Facebook friends and I read this message from  Neale Donald Walsch on Facebook:

Your soul talks through your body, which gives you a here-and-now experience of your truth. If you want to know your truth on any subject, look to your feelings. Checking in with your body is the fastest way of doing this.

My first thought was, “My neck hurts, I wonder what my soul is trying to tell me.”  I kept walking, not giving it much more thought. When I got back from my walk, it occurred to me that the reason my neck hurts is most likely not my sleeping arrangement or my pillow, but the fact that I have been communicating with my friends and trying to connect with others via Facebook on my BlackBerry at night and in the early morning.  Let me paint a more clear picture: using my touch screen blackberry while laying on my back, my arms over my head to type and to read message.

I had symptoms of shoulder capsulitis  not too long ago, likely from the same situation, too much supine position BlackBerry typing.

So clearly, my soul’s message is this:

Find a way, no matter what I have to do, to have time on the computer, sitting upright with good posture and  good ergonomics and write, blog, journal. 

In other words: spend less time on my blackberry  and more really writing on the computer!

…Thank you body and soul for giving me that message. My mind has taken it in. Here I am.

Turning Point, a new start for 2011

Quoting David Wilcox from his album Turning Point, from the song Turning Point:

“you can live your life completely

that true path you’re hear to find

Or stay scared, leave your destiny behind

It’s right now, here’s the turning point in time”

 

“just one thing can kill this dream

To compromise your vision”

“we find our truth, or live some lie”

“It rides on this decision”

-David Wilcox, Turning Point

I can recall a number of times in my life that have felt like “turning points”.  As I embark further with my writing journey and putting myself out there with my blog, I feel more deeply this idea of my pivotal point in my life.  I believe it is about stretching out of my comfort zone and each time I do that and in bigger ways or ways more in line with my truth, it is pivotal, transforming.  Sure, it is usually scary as hell as well as exhilarating.  For me, the older I get, the more challenging change feels.

The past year, has been the most challenging in all of my 41 years of life.  My husband had been underemployed for over a year, after selling his business and taking full-time work only to lose it one year later, not laid-off but worse, made a “contractor”, leaving him underemployed and unable to collect unemployment. And I was 3 months pregnant with our third child.  We had waited to have a third child until he had full-time work so I could be home full-time.

I reluctantly agreed to go back to work after my youngest  turned one year after much resisting because I really wanted to be home full-time with him and my older two children.   Something I was not able to do with either of them during their tender early years. I kept thinking my husband would have full-time work or the work he had could turn into full-time work, but it didn’t despite all his job searching and interviews. My one year old was fine with me being gone a few hours a couple of times a week, but my pain went far deeper, 12 years deeper when I had to return to work full-time with my first-born, 3 month old son.

And as I began my journey, working prn outside the home again, my daughter’s quirks and issues at night-time snowballed into full-blown OCD.  Financially challenged, with credit card debt, maxed out home equity loan, homeschooling with three children, 12, 8 and 1, working outside the home and flubbing our way through dealing with our daughter’s OCD.  My husband had found more regular work at the same time my daughter’s issues got worse, working 3 days a week, 20 hours, several counties away with over an hour commute each way.  Good that he had this work, yet it was not quite enough to pay the bills and the travel time added stress to my daughter who is challenged by any kind of change.  Not to mention, the stress on our 11-year-old car with 150,000 miles that needed much work before all those miles were added to it.

Some think two parents working both part-time and sharing child caring is ideal, but it brings its own challenges. It is a balancing act of two different people being in charge as the primary caregiver and having to shift gears frequently between working outside the home mindset and parenting.  My husband and I share similar beliefs and values in regards to parenting and life in general and yet we are two different people.  It took me years to realize, we did not need to parent identically.  Yet, shifting roles as primary caregiver has always been a challenge especially if my husband is working from home and a challenge for our children.  We managed well when we were able to pay the bills but add the stress of insufficient income for a long period of time (despite having savings to use, when you are 41 and 52, you really don’t want to use up all your 401K money) and it magnifies the issue.

Life is a journey.  Parenting is a journey.

I am happy to say I can look back over the past year and see all the challenges and struggles and all the mistakes we made and see that I am coming through it.  It is a process and the challenges are still there.  We have learned, often the hard way with what “not to do” and continue to learn along the way as we find help for our daughter as well as figure out how best to juggle our finances.

The 20 hour regular contract work my husband obtained in March of 2009, ended or slowed down significantly in November of 2009 and so I began working as much as I could outside the home, hoping to continue my writing pursuits with my dream of earning income from my writing (something I am passionate about and can do from home ).  I kept on writing and working and parenting.  And that voice in my head said, “but you can make far more money working as an Occupational Therapist than as a writer and there is lots of work out there as an OT”.

And then, I hurt my back and hip on New Year’s Eve 2010.  I have hurt my back before and have had long-term issues with my hip but I have bounced back quickly with chiropractic and acupuncture intervention, walking and stretching.   This time was the worst and for over a week, I couldn’t  walk without lifting my own leg and taking pain medication,  600 mg of ibuprofen 3 times a day.May not sound like much but I count on one hand the number of times I have taken ibuprofen in the past 10 years.  I have moved to a more natural approach to diet and health and have been the healthiest I have ever been in my life with this approach.  And so to take that much pain medicine and still have severe pain, felt like a huge setback not to mention how it was interfering with being a parent and with living.

With this experience,  I realized, sure, I can more easily make money working as an Occupational Therapist, OT, but if I hurt myself, I can’t work as an OT and yet I can still write.  That silly voice in my head needed that slap in the face.

I made time to write despite my pain.  (I discovered that my lap top makes a great heating pad.)  And I began healing and could walk without severe pain and even was able to go to work with restrictions of no heavy lifting for a few hours.  They needed me to work and so I  made sure the patients I saw were high enough level to not need physical assistance.  I then saw how I need to take it slowly as I was exhausted after working just 3 hours as an OT 2 days in a row.

Here I am just 17 days after the mind numbing pain experience began, out at a coffee-house writing.  I have been reflecting on my life and experiences even more deeply than I have over the past year.  Each time that I am able to get out of the house and have several hours to myself, I am able to dig deeper and as I write, I learn more about myself, my journey and the person that I really strive to be.

I see more clearly the message in David Wilcox’s words, a song I have listened to many times over the years.

“you can live your life completely

that true path you’re hear to find

Or stay scared, leave your destiny behind

It’s right now, here’s the turning point in time”

This time to myself to write is vital to  my being.  It is my therapy for everyday life challenges and essential with the exceptional challenges I have had in my life and  in particular, those with my daughter.  When I return home after being out for the afternoon, I feel excited to see my family and energized to take on  day-to-day moments.  I see things with greater clarity and perspective.  Sometimes, and more often than I like to admit, as I look back, I then have a let down the next day, knowing that my time to myself is “over for the week”.  I get lost in the “daily grit and grind” of life and caring for three children, one very young and energetic and one severely affected by a mental health condition which has impacted our entire family challenging us in more ways than imaginable.

I hear David’s song and I share these lyrics even though they are not sequential, I picked the ones that struck me the most:

“Your compass is within you

You’re holding out for something real

How long the distance

Getting by and getting through

Your heart’s strong insistence, says nothing else will do

But it’s hard to breath inside some cheap disguise”

-David Wilcox, Turning Point

I make no resolutions or promises in this new year to do or refrain from certain things.  Instead, I take the oath to continue on my journey of life and self discovery, aiming to be a better version of the person I strive to be.  I accept my shortcomings and mistakes as part of my journey.  I strive to focus on my strengths and tune into what I do want to see in my life to draw more of the same to my life. I aim to spend more time writing and thus working on myself which is key to helping anyone else in my life.  I must first put on my own oxygen mask before I put on my child’s.

Every moment in my life is a turning point.  I make a decision in every moment, a decision  of who I now choose to be.  My only goal is to be “the grandest version of the greatest vision ever I held about who I am”.*

(*Thank you Neale Donald Walsch, and the Conversations with God books for that phrase and concept.)