Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Walking a New Path

I am a master at not believing in myself. It is an incredibly annoying trait. Not only is it annoying to myself, but it gets the eyeballs rolling of those around me as they try to encourage me. I can easily come up with an idea and then quickly put myself down, telling myself, "you stupid girl, you'll never be able to do it." The negative self talk puts the fuck in frustrating. Huh.

Earlier this year, I was at it again. I was telling myself that I couldn't do "it." "It" was a new job opportunity. I received information that a local nature preserve was looking to train folks to become teachers in their children's programming. This is intriguing to me and is something I would love to do. It's certainly a large step away from my past life as a veterinary technician, but it is in the realm of science and nature. Once I read about it, I was excited as hell. I immediately called their office and spoke to the educator in charge. I asked her questions about the training program and then registered myself. Hanging up the phone, I felt that familiar chill of self doubt crawling from my brain. In 10 seconds, I went from, "this is an awesome opportunity" to "dumbass, you'll suck at this."

Why? No reason. Okay, many reasons. As we all know and I have talked about over and over and over and over - I went through a lot of crap as a child and as a young adult. I was tormented by peers. I was told by peers and adults that I wouldn't amount to much and that I was useless. So, I get it. I get why I have a lot of insecurity. Still, I'm in my 30's. I have a remarkable understanding about what happened to me in my past, how it shaped me, how it influenced my way of thinking about myself and others. At some point, I need to shake it all off. I need to acknowledge everything that happened, say hello, say thank you for the lessons, and move the fuck on. I'm still not 100% there, but I keep moving forward. Understanding why I think the way I do about myself makes it all the more frustrating. It's like I'm someone else looking at myself - I can see why the self doubt is there. I know it's pretty much silly at this point. I just can't stop it.

There I was, a few weeks away from beginning a training program and my mind was constantly telling me all the ways I could fail. I wouldn't be smart enough. No one would like me. I would be too awkward. I would be too shy. I'd be too ugly (for real - this is the dumb shit my brain comes up with). I would be that girl who fell into a mud pit and got eaten by some rare giant scorpion. We don't even have scorpions in PA. They would think I suck and I wouldn't be hired and on and on and on and on.

This is what I deal with inside my head constantly. It's a never-ending battle between me, myself, and I. So what do I do? I typically tell myself to shut up. Yeah, I have loads of self doubt that totes chews up my soul, but I somehow manage to move past it. There's a lot of anxiety. Lots of pounding heart beats. It's all worry all the time, but I somehow get myself to wherever I need to be.

We started training this Spring. They do a two week training course where they take us through various trails and demonstrate their programs. After those two weeks are completed, you spend a lot of time observing other teachers in the actual classes before you can begin teaching on your own. The job itself won't begin until the Fall for me.

Training was a lot of fun. First, I got to spend a lot of time in an area that I have loved for a long, long time. We walked through many of the trails, taking note of all of nature's little surprises - the smell of spice bush and garlic mustard, salamanders under logs, raccoons up in trees, owl pellets, owl wash, the sounds of various birds, praying mantis galls, larval and nymph stages of bugs under stream rocks.......I had been hiking these trails for years, but there was still so much that was new to me. We tested samples from some of the waterways and observed aquatic life, both plant and animal, in order to determine the health of the specific ecosystems. We had a fantastic group of people. Our ages varied from 20's to 70's. Everyone was passionate about nature, learning, and the opportunity to share knowledge with children. We all worked together so well and got along happily. The weather was.....Spring. One day it was hot and we wore t-shirts and the next day we were in Winter coats, hats, and gloves. A few days later, we were happily walking through the stream to look for specimens, noting how refreshing and cool the water felt.

My favorite part of the training was working in the stream. We would turn over rocks to look for snails, crayfish, eggs, larva, and nymphs of many insects. We found many crayfish. There were water pennies a'plenty, Mayfly nymphs, planaria, caddisflies, snails, and so many more baby creepy crawlies. I love bugs so I was constantly shouting, "this is so cool!!" every time I flipped over a rock and gently brushed a critter into my specimen cup (all critters were safely returned to their stream once we were done observing).

It was sad when the training program ended. Our daily walks and talks through the woods were a total bright spot for me that month.

I began my observations last month. Sadly, the teaching season is winding down - but it'll pick up again in the Fall. I've followed along on a bunch of classes, getting ideas on how to teach different concepts and how to deal with the many unpredictable curve balls that Mother Nature will throw at you. I still have many, many classes that I need to observe, so I was surprised when the director of education emailed me and asked if I would like to try teaching one of the classes. It was a program I had observed several times already and she felt that I would probably be ready to give it a shot. For the first time, you go out with a supervisor so they can support you and critique your teaching style. Naturally, I said "YES!!!" immediately. I was assigned to a class of wee folk a week later.

So, what did Jenn do? I freaked out, of course. All the self doubt came flooding back. In the week leading up to my first class, I had dream after dream about being unprepared - I would forget the curriculum entirely, I would forget to show up at the proper time, I would get lost. I even dreamed that I showed up in a fabulous ball gown and impractical shoes for hiking and the kids all screamed and ran away the moment I said my name. I'm terrified - TERRIFIED - of public speaking and I had visions of me just flubbing all of my words with a shaky voice. The forecast said it would be 95 degrees and humid, so I had visions of me either fainting or walking around with buttcrack and underboob sweat. Glamorous.

The day came and I sent my little dude off to school and gave my daughter a kiss before leaving her with my husband. I listened to Preston and Steve on the way to the park in an effort to calm my nerves and take my mind off my fear. I arrived at the park 30 minutes early and walked into the office to greetings from the other teachers who would be out that day. I quizzed them on whether they had ever felt nervous for their first class - they had - and if they dreamed about being unprepared. They laughed with me about my ballgown dream. I gathered all of my field supplies in my backpack and headed outside to wait for my class to arrive.

Making small talk with the other teachers, I started to feel more calm, but my heart raised the roof once I heard the school bus coming down the street. I watched as a swarm of wiggly kindergartners emerged from the bus, dividing themselves into pre-determined groups. Each teacher took a group and went on their way. I waved at my group of kids and motioned for them to follow me out of the parking lot and into a small clearing so we could say hello and get acquainted. "Hello! I'm so happy to see you all. My name is Jenn and I work at (insert name of park). I'll be taking you on a little walk today and we're going to see what we can discover. How about you tell me your names." One by one, each child told me their name as they eyed me up and down. After our introductions, I gave them my two rules (I stay in front. Don't taste anything) and we were on our way.

"Miss Jenn, will we get poison ivy? My uncle has poison ivy and he almost blew up."
"Are there any bears, Miss Jenn? How about snakes? Can they bite?"
"When is lunch? I'm huuuuunnnnnggggrrrrrrrryyyyyyy."

I taught them about leaves of three and how we should let them be. I told them we don't have any bears, but we do have snakes and - if we are very quiet - we may see some of them and their friends. Lunch? That would be after class.

We walked along our trail, looking for things of certain colors, noting different smells and sounds. We circled a pond and found many frogs. One of the students found a lightning bug, so I scooped it up into a bug container with a magnifying glass lid so the kids could get a closer look at it. We thanked Mr. Lightning Bug and let him go after each child had a chance to look at him up close. We stopped to smell the spice bushes, telling each other what we thought it smelled like - cereal, candy, peppermint, and.....poop (there's always one). We looked in the tree hollows and talked about who may live in them. We heard various birds, including the elusive pileated woodpecker. I sprayed spiderwebs with a mist of water to make it show up better in the sunlight. We found many harvestmen ("daddy long legs"). We made tea out of various smelly leaves and then left it in a compost pile. The kids observed how the sun makes shadows and they worked on finding different patterns of shadows among the plants. We felt the slimy goo the protects spindlebug larva that was deposited on plants throughout our walk. I sprayed the kids down with a squirt bottle of water because it was so hawt. We felt the different textures of bark on the trees and looked for shapes made by branches. I ended up going through the trail pretty quick and we had a surplus of time, so I took the kids to a spot that's good for seeing a variety of birds and some showy blue jays and cardinals popped by. We went to a smaller pond where the kids saw more frogs, a baby turtle, and they got to hear the frogs croaking. They also saw many dragonflies darting over the water.

The kids would argue now and then about who got to walk right behind me and I found myself having to tell a few of them to go to the back of the line because the pushing and shoving was a bit too much. One little girl was very quiet and would be easily pushed to the side by the other kids when we would stop to observe something. And they would never let her move to the front of the line. So, for the last part of our walk, I brought her up front with me and I could tell that it made her so happy.

At the end of our walk, I thanked the kids for visiting me and learning with me. I got a few hugs before they headed back to their bus for the almighty lunchtime.

My supervisor and I went back into the office to review my day. She said I did quite well. Her critiques were that I went a little fast and I could have spent more time at each stop. I think I was so nervous about being too slow that I ended up overcompensating. Now I know that I can really slow down and take my time when I am showing the kids something. All in all, it went quite well. I can teach that program again in the Fall when it starts up again. Then, as I observe more of the other programs and get comfortable with them, I'll be able to teach those as well.

So, that is life right now. There's a new beginning right around the corner and I am very excited about it. I'm glad I never listen to my self doubt. I am psyched about this opportunity. Being able to walk kids through these trails and getting them excited about nature is the best thing. Nature and it's preservation are extremely important to me and I am fortunate to have a chance to make a job out of passing that on to children.

Much love and happy trails!!

Friday, January 30, 2015

2015: Just Keep Swimming

My last post was depressing, so I am going to try to pick it up a bit.

2015 is here. I'm 20 days late in announcing that fact, but the world would literally stop spinning if I started doing everything on time. So, truly, I am saving the world.

I don't make New Year's Resolutions to a point. I have a rolling list of goals that I try to reach throughout the days, weeks, and months of every year. So, 2015 didn't start with me stating I would specifically do certain things because it is 2015. Rather, my many unmet goals of 2014 rolled over into this year.

Now, to completely contradict mysef, I am going to tell you some of my goals for this year. These aren't New Year's Resolutions, though. Those fail. These are goals that I will reach, dammit. There is no particular order here.

Muscles. I have slowly been working on adding some more muscle strength to my body. I am a very tough girl and I have a lot of strength, physical and mental. I seem to have week shoulders and wrists. It's weird. I can lift very heavy things and I pack quite a punch, but my arms get extremely tired in dance class. I specifically get tired in my shoulders and part of my upper arms (mainly triceps) and my wrists. I have a lot of wrist injury as well as chronic tendinitis in both of my elbows and wrists, so that probably plays a part in it. In my style of belly dance, Improvisational Tribal Style, we hold our arms up a lot. There's quite a bit of arm involvement in many moves. We also utilize movements from our wrists called floreos (these are inspired from Flamenco). I have also taken a few classes in sword work and those things are freaking heavy. I want to continue to work on increasing muscle strength in my arms as well as the rest of my body.

Sewing. Dear God Almighty, I want to learn to sew. I can sorta hand sew. I can stitch things onto other things and make it okay. My stitches are questionable, but functional. I really want to learn how to sew with a sewing machine. My mom has sewed for nearly her entire life. I wish I learned from her as a child and I really don't know why I didn't. I know that once I was older I was nervous to learn because I didn't want to suck. My mom would never make me feel bad if I didn't pick it up - it's just my own insecurities that stopped me. A few months ago, a friend attempted to teach me. We dance together and we were going to put together some costuming out of stuff we already owned. To be fair, my sewing machine was being a bit of an asshole, but I definitely presented a challenge for her. It took me a long time to figure out how to thread the bobbin. In the end, I sewed a wee little bit, but it was scary knit fabric and it looked like I had sewed it blindfolded. I'm not ready to accept the possibility that I may lack whatever it takes to learn to sew. I will keep on trying and I hope to have something to show for it this year.

Routine. Routine. Routine. I need routine. I function best when I have specific goals, lists, things to check off, a clear routine, etc. I have slacked off recently primarily due to health challenges and I need to get back into better routines around the home. I want to - and everyone says this - work on getting my cute little butt to bed a wee bit earlier at night and getting the same cute little butt up earlier in the morning. My goal is to get up and hour to and hour and a half before the kids. Typically, I wake up about 20 minutes before my son gets up for school. I think getting up an hour before them allows me to get just a little more work done without distraction. Plus, getting my work done before they wake means I can devote more attention to them.

Better health. I have a lot of health issues that have components somewhat out of my control. My health was a major challenge in 2015. While I have conditions that are chronic, progressive, and don't just go away, it doesn't mean that I have to willingly submit. I am only 36 years old and last year was very troubling for me in the way that my health got in the way of nearly everything. There was an insurance miscommunication (they sent me the incorrect cards and miscategorized my benefits) at the end of last year that prevented me from keeping appointments with specialists. All of that appears to be settled now, so I need to get my butt back into a whole lot of doctor offices and undergo more and more tests. It's not something I am excited to do, but if there are things that can give me definitive answers it would help with moving toward maintaining better health. Additionally, I want to pursue some complimentary therapies. I found success with acupuncture treatments, especially for my esophageal condition. Now, I cannot normally afford acupuncture. I am lucky that I am friends with an acupuncturist and that I can barter services. If not for that, I would have to do without. I am also constrantly striving to nourish my body better. It can be difficult when you are in a crushing financial situation like ours, but I try my best to make sure I am putting things in my body that will not harm it.

Decluttering/More organization. Just.....GAH!!! I have a very hard time organizing things in a sensible manner. I don't know if my brain just doesn't process things in that way or if I just suck. Either way, I constantly have to work hard to come up with an organization plan. Once I get to that point, however, it is smooth sailing. Once I have something organized, I can keep up with it. The challenge to this is my husband. This is constantly a work in progress.

Go to Church. I have a somewhat complicated belief system. I am a Catholic, but I have many pagan leanings. I am also very liberal. Religion is a tough spot for me. I believe in the bones of my Catholic faith, but there are certain aspects of the religion that do not sit well with me. I often avoid services because I do not want to hear hate mixed in with a sermon. However, I like church. I like going to Mass. I have found a couple of churches - plain Roman Catholic, Independent Catholic, and ELCA Lutheran - that I like with priests and ministers that I like, so I want to attend services a little more often. I went to Mass on New Year's Day and the priests homily was just perfect and I was definitely in the right place at the right time.

Become more financially stable. This has been a work in progress for a few years. It's been a major struggle for our family and we are working so hard to get out. I am very much dedicated to this year being the year we truly succeed. I said that last year and the year before that, but I have a much better feeling about 2015.

Visit family. My family is scattered all over the world. I never had grandparents, cousins, aunts, uncles to visit with on a very regular basis as a child. Okay, that is a bit of a lie. My paternal family lives in the same portion of the city where I grew up. However, my grandfather was a bit of a Nazi (as in wearing Nazi armbands on Jewish holidays) and my father distanced himself from them a long, long time ago. Plus, they're dead now. My maternal grandmother passed away last year. My mom's family is large, but very much scattered throughout the country and the world so we do not have regular visits. I have an aunt and two cousins who live two states away and I want to make more of an effort to see them more than our usual once a year. I want my kids to have more of a sense of family. My brother moved 1,000 miles away. He has two children and I have barely seen them in the last 6 years. I really want my kids to know their cousins, especially since my one niece and my son are close in age. Unfortunately, neither of us can afford to make the trips for visits. My mom has mentioned going on a roadtrip to my brother's this Summer. I am hoping we can make that happy.

Pay it Foward. My family has received a ton of help in the past year. I have so much good karma to pay forward. I have been working hard at that, doing the best I can with limited resources. I believe there is always good that a person can do not matter how much money you do or do not have. While I am always in the mindset of helping others (this is also heavily influenced by my religion - this is how I grew up in the Church), I am really hoping to have more resources this year so I can do bigger things for people.

Stop sucking at make-up. I can't girl. I do not wear make-up regularly. First, I am just gorgeous as I am. Stop laughing. Second, I have extremely sensitive skin and cannot wear 99% of the make-up out there without breaking out. One of the only brands that hasn't bothered me is Bare Minerals and it is extremely expensive. I was given their powder foundation and pencil eyeliner as a gift, so I use those. Third, I suck at application. I won't even tell you how many YouTube tutorials I have watched and I still can't apply more than a very basic line of eyeliner. No wings for me. I can do simple eye shadow as well. It's enough so that my face doesn't disappear on stage. As a belly dancer, I wear make up to perform. when you look at Tribal belly dancers, their make up is amazing. Mine is meh. My teacher held an in class make up tutorial, which I found extremely helpful.

Belly dance. I just want to keep striving to be the best dancer I can be. I could definitely drill at home more often and need to commit a specific amount of time each week to doing that. To tie into my my Pay It Forward goal - I want to give back in some way to my studio because I have been given so much in order to even take classes. I have no clue how to manifest this, but it will come. Back to the dance - there are specific goals I have in mind for my technique. First, I need to work harder at executed left-sided moves. Like many people, my left side is weaker than the right and it's harder to execute moves. Second, I want to increase both my strength and flexibility. Third - zills. I need to play better. Finally, I need to work on my nerves. I used to shake like a leaf in class when it was my turn to lead. It's stupid, to me, because I have nothing to be afraid of. I think it is due to a long held fear of people laughing at me....rooted in my past. I no longer shake in class. I shake during performances. This is especially frustrating because I was never shaky during my first few performances. It just started to happen in the last 2 or 3 performances. Pisses me off. I have two performances (how many more times can I say that word?) coming up in a couple of months, independent of my studio's student troupe. One will be the first time my own little troupe will perform. I hope my nerves take the day off.

So those are a few of my goals for the upcoming year. Here's to hoping I succeed in meeting all of them. Much love!!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

2014: Whiplash

True to my procrastinating form, I am writing my 2014 review weeks after the New Year has arrived. At least I'm consistent.

2014 was a very harsh year for so many people. I saw many, "dear 2014, fuck off!" posts on various social media sites as the year came to a close. It was brutal for a good many of my friends. It was just ones of those years that seemed to be messy for a large number of people. This includes my own family.

We started 2014 out with the usual New Year hopes and dreams, promising ourselves that it would be an incredible year. Life had already been a struggling for the year or so beforehand and we were optimistic that everything would turn around. In some ways, it did, but every step forward was met with several steps back. It was a recurring theme for the year.

I have incredibly mixed feelings about 2014. While we struggled in so many ways, we were also met with incredible kindness and help from literally all over the world. Living in poverty prompted me to share our story, which I did on my friend's blog, Poor As Folk. My story went a little viral and people from all over donated to our family. We received monetary support to help with our bills and food, as well as clothing and food and goodies for the kids. We also received kind words, advice, prayers, support, hope, commiseration from all corners of the globe. Knowing that so many people were thinking kindly about us and cheering us on was the greatest high. Additionally, many people shared that they had thought unkind things about people living in poverty and what I had written inspired them to look at the situation differently and soften their hearts. Experience all of this goodness from people was nothing short of awe-inspiring and I still have trouble finding adequate words to express how it affected me and my family.

Of course, when you become so exposed there can be a negative side. For the first time in my blogging life, I experienced actual hatred coming from people. Me and my story were the subject of many a thread on message boards, reddit, Facebook, etc. I read untrue and unkind things about and my family from people convinced that I was trying to scam the world. To this day, I am still discussed in such a manner and people still come to this blog  to leave comments accusing me of duping the public. I can lie and say it never bothered me. Of course it did. I don't like being accused of lying. I definitely don't like being accused of stealing. I've never had much negativity on my blog, other than people yelling at me for my language or telling me I'm a dumbass for hugging trees. So, it was all new to me. However, even in this bout of negativity, I would have people emailing me to say they found my blog via these message boards and they read something of mine that inspired them or helped them - I had quite a few share some emotional releases about their own miscarriages. I still don't know how I feel about it. Part of me wants to really lash out, but what does that solve? Some minds cannot be changed because they do not want it. It doesn't matter how much I explain, how many of my real life friends say, "she's legit, yo!" and how much I attempt to understand where they are coming from (and as someone who fell for an online scam a long time ago I do get the mistrust), they don't want to hear it. Another part of me completely believes that quote - "Don't let people pull you into their storm. Pull them into your peace." (Kimberly Jones) So - hugs. Finally, there is another piece of me that's like, "fuck it. Let it go. Move on." So, fuck it. I cannot let *those people* drown out those who have shown me love and support.

2014 forced me to seriously change my perspective about myself in several ways. I am a very stubborn person. I do not like to admit to myself that I can't fix everything. I've always been a fixer. Friends in a fight? I'll fix it. Friend in trouble? I'll fix it. Got myself in a bind? I'll do it myself. I don't need people. If people come and go, that's fine. I'll live. I can do it all on my own. I have prided myself in my ability to unfuck a lot of things and be totally independent. To finally lay it out on the line that things in my life were not okay was both frightening and freeing. I had hidden our financial troubles from friends and family for over a year. I had hidden my marital troubles for a long, long time. In 2014, I released it. I admitted to myself that I hadn't been doing a good enough job for myself or my family. I couldn't make everything better on my own. I couldn't make everyone like me. I couldn't save everyone. Financial struggles aside, I also had to deal with the truth about certain friendships and the hard truth about my marriage. I had been holding onto a group of friends, not speaking up about things that bothered me, letting hurtful things slide for a while. I didn't want the "friendship" to change, but I was forced to realize some of those people were toxic and that I needed to separate myself from the bad seeds in the group and stick with the good ones, letting myself understand that I would never "Fix" things the way I wanted. I had to be okay with that.

I also needed to learn to shut the fuck about the, "no one loves me," refrain that has played in my head for decades. Yeah, I can let myself go back to my school days and also to experiences in my young adulthood to see why I have had a hard time trusting people and letting them in. However, I also needed to realize that I'm 36 years old and the time for letting the past shape me has passed. I was too busy wondering, "gosh, does she actually like me or is she just pretending," to fully appreciate all of my friendships - and that's not good for any kind of relationship. I am constantly down on myself, telling myself that I am too weird and too odd for people to truly love me. Really stupid shit. To go back to our financial trouble - I had mountains of people helping me. My friends in my offline life held me up more times than I can count. They listened without judging and just held my hand through it all. They still do. I love my friends with all of my heart and I thank God for them constantly. I had to allow myself to feel worthy of their love, too. Clearly people like me, love me, respect me, and want to see me succeed. You don't get that from being a terrible person.

My health was another giant struggle. I have a quite a few chronic conditions that have been with me for many years. The biggies involve my heart, my esophagus, and my ears. My heart has almost been a non-issue for most of my life. It's problems have generally been manageable blips on the radar. I knew my esophageal issues (I still do not have a firm diagnosis, but they are leaning towards achalasia) had potential to become worse, but things had been quiet for a long time. Things with my heart and my esophagus changed a lot this year. I'm sure the mountains of anxiety have not helped my health one bit. In late Winter/early Spring, I began having frequent attacks with my esophageal condition. With these attacks, which come without warning, my esophagus spazzes, peristalsis halts, and food (sometimes just liquids) gets stuck. This causes extreme pain, lots of unglamorous drooling, and can impact breathing. Often, I can just wait it out and it will pass after 10 minutes. Other times, it won't stop no matter what I do. The risk there happens with the breathing as it causes pressure in the chest, makes breaths very short and shallow and can bump up the heart rate. The worry about loss of consciousness at that point. The unstoppable variety happened quite frequently this year, landing me in the hospital a few times. It's very frightening because you cannot breathe well at all and the pain is severe. The last time was right after Thanksgiving, when my 8 year old son was my hero and was able to call 911 (naturally, such an episode leaves me unable to talk). The remedy is a combo of IV drugs in an attempt to calm smooth muscle and, if that doesn't work, endoscopic interventions. Maybe I'll blog about it someday as it's way more involved in that and I know other people suffer from similar issues. As for my heart - she's been naughty. There have been many days an nights of pretty bad chest pain and rhythm disturbances. My cardiologist has seen me more in the last year than in almost all of the past 20 years since I began going to the practice. We've been trying to get to the bottom of everything, but my insurance company has stood in the way of needed diagnostics.  So, it's been a trying year. Every other week to every week has been quite a challenge with my health and it has lost me A LOT of work and has been a real drag. It's also forced me to look at how I take care of myself. Like most moms, I take care of myself last. I need to be better about that. Having my experience at Thanksgiving has really made me evaluate our family emergency plan. I am so glad my son knew what to do, but I know I need to step it up and have solid plans in place for situations such as these.

And my marriage. That is another blog post all it's own. The end has been coming for a long time, but this year has really solidified it. It's something we both know, but are not ready to fully accept yet. It's not for a lack of love or respect. Obviously, my husband has worked his ass off for our family and I will always love him for that. Unfortunately, there are many things that we may not be able to overcome. It's been very sad and frustrating. I have been living for quite a few years with the hope that things will get better, but the reality isn't supporting the hope and I may have to learn to live with it. For now, we are trying. There is a lot that is broken. We have both been ready to give up and throw in the towel so many times, but we are still here. Who knows?

I wanted so badly to end 2014 on top. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was worthy and that I could kick ass and overcome everything. That was my plan. I completely failed. As some of my readers know, I have beat myself up a lot in the past few months. I have cried, bitched, whined, hated on other people, hated on myself, wanted to give up, hated myself for failing my children and my loved ones. The end of 2014 had some dark times that quite a few friends saw me through. I have been disappointed in myself and disgusted.

I mean, I even got the Instagram and posted pictures of food and coffee. That's rock bottom. (I needed to break the negative vibe in this post).

I just can't do that anymore. I have kids. I have to keep my eye on the light at the end of the tunnel. I will not fail my kids. They deserve a mother who will not fail them.

I don't do resolutions for the New Year. Rather, I have goals at all times. For 2015 - I will make this year my bitch. Good things, people, good things.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Life: Near and Far

I've always wanted a kitchen window
Not long ago, I was having a conversation with an acquaintance while shopping at the grocery store. She mentioned that she always wanted to write, but never took action. I encouraged her to write. I shared that I have a blog and that writing helps me declutter the brain. She said, "Oh wow. I don't know how bloggers do it. I love to read blogs, but I couldn't compare. They have such pretty houses and nice things and such pretty pictures. No one would want to see pictures of my house."


I certainly don't have a pretty house or nice things and I was, at the time, a little puzzled by her generalization regarding bloggers. I later did some internet searches and discovered "lifestyle bloggers," which is what she may have been talking about. I see what she means - lots of (filtered) photos on blogs and Instagram showing very bright, cheerful, organized homes and pretty, fancy, sparkly things....mostly from HomeGoods and Target, it seems. I was all, "ooooh" and "aaaaaaah."

I decided, I need in on that action. I can be a lifestyle blogger. I can show you pictures of my house. Right? Sure, as long as you don't mind reality. I'll show you the perfect pretty moment and then the big picture. There is always a bigger picture.

NEAR: Look at my pretty, pretty plate. Isn't it nice. I am obsessed (bloggers are supposed to say that) with these plates. It's Ikea. Such a nice plate. Simple design, evoking nature. I bought it because it's and oak leaf and I like oak trees.

FAR: This is where it was residing when that close up photo was taken. Mmmmm....dishes.

NEAR:I am a belly dancer. I write out class notes in a little journal. I also use it to write notes about upcoming performances, costumes, music, etc. I noticed a lot of people take close-ups of their journals, usually with some religious verse written down...and a vase of peonies written down. Bonus Jesus book in this photo along with one of my flower hair clips.

FAR: The reality of my dinner table. This is the "clean" version.

NEAR:Next on our tour: my desk. This is where the magic happens. This is where your Funky Little EarthChild writes all of her words. I have a minor office supply fetish. I am not ashamed to admit this. I spend more time than necessary in the office supply aisle of various stores. Back to School time is like Christmas for me. I'm sad to see my son go back to school, but I love me some pens, paper clips, notepads. Whew...I need to stop talking or I'll need a towel. Here we have my favorite Inkjoy pens in a cup thing. It's CHEVRON!!! I'm so fucking trendy. Also, a container of paper clips, binder clips, and thumb tacks. Wanna get turned on? That cost $0.44 cents on clearance. I know, right?

FAR: Behold, the wonder that is my desk. There's even an empty box of a filter sponge for fish tanks. Why? God only knows. There are receipts, yarn, half finished crafty projects, thank you notes..... Reality:

NEAR: My bedroom is a sanctuary of rest, relaxation, and beauty (and cats):

FAR: When we zoom out of this photo, we get the laundry pile of doom. It has no beginning and no end. It is nothing, yet everything. It will eat your soul. Also, cats.

NEAR: Books are important to my family. We all love to read. I may have gone overboard in my time when the Scholastic fliers came home from my son's school. A nice bookcase will help keep you organized. Yeah, there is a book called "EARTHCHILD" - pretty cool.

FAR: holy fuckballs, we are overloaded with books. Good books. Books about every damn thing imaginable. I need my own library. The bookcase is also a catch-all in this room. As shown here, sometimes me husband just randomly flings books onto a shelf.

NEAR: Finally, there is artwork. I love art. Most of the art on my walls was done by my son. Here and there are prints and paintings that I have picked up along the way years ago. This is one of my favorites - it's bright and cheerful to me. It's an Ikea. So posh.
FAR: This is the adjacent wall. The artwork here is a collaboration of two Renaissance masters: Monkey and Squishy. Monkey first began this piece at the age of 2. His young study, Squishy, added her own interpretation when she reached the age of 3 years and discovered the joy of sidewalk chalk.

You see, there is always a bigger picture. As humans, it's in our nature to compare ourselves to one another. Sometimes this is a great catalyst for making positive changes in our own lives. At other times, we get caught up trying to measure ourselves against what other people present and letting ourselves become a little green with envy.

The internet is an amazing resource. Various blogs, websites like Pinterest, Facebook groups, YouTube videos all provide us with so much inspiration and instruction. Again, sometimes we get stuck in that rut of comparison, getting down on ourselves because our house isn't Pinterest perfect or because our reality would never fit into the highlighted, whitewashed, filtered photographs on a pristine white background. Life doesn't belong on a white background with chevron sparkles and just a wee bit of blue filtering. Sometimes it's messy.

Lately, I have been hearing/reading a lot of comments from other people, primarily women, who feel bad about themselves because they feel like they can't keep up with that they see. They are down on themselves because their bed isn't made or their rugs are spotty or their kitchen counter is full of dishes from yesterday. They say, "I WISH I was (insert well-known very organized blogger name here)." Stop. Those photos we compare ourselves to our only brief glimpses into reality. Even the most perfect Pinterest queen or household blogger has a struggle somewhere. Some of them probably wish they were the image the present. They have dirty dishes, too.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Top 10 Ways to Tell You Have a Boy and the Top 10 Ways to Tell You Have a Girl

Copyright - me. Don't touch.
I see many lists dropped here and there on the web that help parents tell if you have a boy or a girl. "Top 3874897 ways to tell you have boys" or "top 487589758574 ways to tell you have a girl" are popular themes in the parental webosphere.

I've decided to get on the gender list train as well. Why not? Parents could definitely use the help in determining whether they have a boy or a girl. It's not an easy job at all. What would we do without the help of clothing and toy manufacturers to remind us that girls only like pink and some pastel purple and boys only like any color resembling bloodletting from zombies.

I present to you two lists of the top 10 ways to tell if you have a boy or a girl. I have one boy and one girl, so I am naturally some sort of expert. Right?

Top Ten Ways to Tell You Have a Boy:

1.) Your child walks in the door, covered in mud and half a pine cone, and holds up a cicada shell and a live worm for you to, "please, please, please give kisses and hugs."

2.) You spend 25 minutes playing dolls. 8 of those minutes involve at least one doll being decapitated. 4 of those minutes involve you and your child pretend nursing a t-rex.

3.) Your child breaks out into song in the middle of the grocery store. By song I mean, "I love buttcracks! Buttcracks smell like farts! Fart, fart, fart. Buttcracks here. Buttcracks there. Buttcracks everywhere! And boobs!! We love booooooooooobs!"

4.) A sparkly tutu is required dress for gymnastics, ballet, t-ball, basketball, biking, hiking, grocery shopping, trips to the doctor, church, synagogue, dentist, tree-hugging ceremonies, school, pre-school, football, swimming, etc. etc.

5.) Five days out of the week consist of at least one scraped knee. The other two days consist of scraped elbows. There's a wildcard poked eye or bloody nose every other week.

6.) You've stepped on a Lego at least 17 times today.

7.) You have been asked nicely - translation: commanded in such an adorable way that you cannot say "no" - to wear a superhero cape and mask for the walk to the mail box.

8.) When you drain the tub after a bath, you not only find small toy boats, a couple of Playmobil guys, and a matchbox car, you also find quite a bit of dirt, some grass, and what may be half of a stinkbug.

9.) No fart goes unnoticed or unannounced. 99.99% of the time, it's cause for giggles.

10.) You've had at least one makeover that leaves you looking like the clown from Poltergeist, while your little one declares you, "the most beautiful princess in the world!"

And now:

Top Ten Ways to Tell You Have a Girl:

 1.) Your child walks in the door, covered in mud and half a pine cone, and holds up a cicada shell and a live worm for you to, "please, please, please give kisses and hugs."

2.) You spend 25 minutes playing dolls. 8 of those minutes involve at least one doll being decapitated. 4 of those minutes involve you and your child pretend nursing a t-rex.

3.) Your child breaks out into song in the middle of the grocery store. By song I mean, "I love buttcracks! Buttcracks smell like farts! Fart, fart, fart. Buttcracks here. Buttcracks there. Buttcracks everywhere! And boobs!! We love booooooooooobs!"

4.) A sparkly tutu is required dress for gymnastics, ballet, t-ball, basketball, biking, hiking, grocery shopping, trips to the doctor, church, synagogue, dentist, tree-hugging ceremonies, school, pre-school, football, swimming, etc. etc.

5.) Five days out of the week consist of at least one scraped knee. The other two days consist of scraped elbows. There's a wildcard poked eye or bloody nose every other week.

6.) You've stepped on a Lego at least 17 times today.

7.) You have been asked nicely - translation: commanded in such an adorable way that you cannot say "no" - to wear a superhero cape and mask for the walk to the mail box.

8.) When you drain the tub after a bath, you not only find small toy boats, a couple of Playmobil guys, and a matchbox car, you also find quite a bit of dirt, some grass, and what may be half of a stinkbug.

9.) No fart goes unnoticed or unannounced. 99.99% of the time, it's cause for giggles.

10.) You've had at least one makeover that leaves you looking like the clown from Poltergeist, while your little one declares you, "the most beautiful princess in the world!"

What? Those two lists are exactly the same? Dear God, NO!!! But....but....what about the mud and Spiderman just for boys? What about pink glitter and pink princesses just for girls? Mattel told us that little girls are supposed to want the Barbie life and little boys want anything that can be blown up. There can be no cross-contamination - right? That's what our overlords in the toy store tell us. They must be so different and they cannot be the same. I call bullshit. Sure, some girls decide all by themselves they only want to be pretty, pretty ballerinas. Some boys decide they are only interested in superheros. More often than not, boys and girls experience a mixture of what they like. And that's perfectly okay. They're kids. Let them be. 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Check Out My Melons

Not a selfie
Everyone has been asking, "where did Funky go?"

Okay, no one has asked. However, bloggers are contractually obligated to say things like, "y'all have sent me a million messages," or "I get so many people asking me to...." I thought I'd try to fit in.

But I don't fit in.

Watch this space for more Funky Little EarthChild. It's been a crazy few months. I am normally a sporadic writer as it is. I've never had any type of regular or consistent content. Fear not, that will not change. Winky face. I just don't have the time to devote to writing or every week.

Life has been full of ups and downs lately. Lots of goodness from friends and family. Lots of health badness that has finally calmed down in recent months. Lots of marriage turbulence. Kids growing and growing and growing. I have so much I want to write, but I don't really have dedicated time to just sit down for an uninterrupted period of time to let my words just flow. It would help if I wasn't such a wordy person. I fail at being brief.

If you've been emailing me - I'm sorry. For the time being, please message me on my Facebook page. I have a lot to wade through in Gmail.

This blog was targeted by what I have been told is a referral site. You get a billionty visits from this site and end up with a whole lotta spam comments. My recent post on oil pulling has been the primary target. I've learned that there is a hell of a lot of dental-related spam out there. Who knew? Thankfully, Blogger is pretty good about recognizing a lot of spammy stuff, but a few well-constructed comments have gotten through. I turned comment moderation on for the time being just to help clean up (because your ass is not making money off my page), but I will likely shut that off soon and return to regular comments.

Don't worry - there are plenty of selfies waiting to be shared. Okay, maybe not.

I did sell out and try out the Instagram. I don't quite get it. I even tried posting photos of food and my nail polish to see if I would get some happy tingling sensation, but I still don't see the point. For now, I can be found on Instagram as funkylittleearthchild. I'm not sure how long I will continue with it as I It's fun filtering stuff. I really know how to sell myself, don't I?

For those wondering, I have a follow up that I will be writing regarding a guest post I did on Poor As Folk.  I wrote a post called Jenn's Words. This is not news to most friends or fans of Funky Little EarthChild. I received a tremendous amount of support in so many ways, including a GoFundMe campaign. the amount that I have relied on the generosity this year is staggering and sobering. Unfortunately, I found out that a viral post of this nature and the subsequent outpouring of support isn't a beautiful thing in the eyes of some people and they can make assumptions, talk shit about you, accuse you of crap, etc. It's the first time I've ever dealt with that sort of thing on my blog and it definitely did sting a bit. It's hard to tow the bullshit line that, "words will never hurt me," because words can have a negative impact. I'm a strong woman and I've dealt with a lot in my life, but being falsely accused, misunderstood, and made fun of reminded me that I am more vulnerable and human than I think sometimes. Half of me wanted to come out in full force and attack right back, especially after there were words about my miscarriage. Another half of me wanted hide from it all. Advice - "go get 'em" or "ignore them, you're better than that," flowed. I responded in a mix - partly acknowledging things that were said, responding to comments and emails, and partly shrugging it off. There are times when people will make up their minds about you, for their own reasons, and they cannot be persuaded they are wrong.

I have a lot of words in this pretty little mind of mine. I plan to type some of them out very soon and get back into the swing of blogging, be it as sporadic as in the past or a little more regular. Time will tell.

Until then....much love.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Love in Stitches

It just so happens that I am not a crafty person. I try. I learned to crochet a tiny little bit. I learned to knit an even tinier bit. I cannot sew. I can hand sew things to bras for belly dance. Other than a hand sewn bra, I've never completed a project. Hand crafts require a certain amount of dexterity that I seem to lack. That, and my focus sucks. I keep trying, though. I'm going to successfully knit, crochet, sew, etc., dammit!

When a group of friends decided to work on a collaborative project for another friend in which each individual embroidered a quilt square, I pondered my lack of talent, my zero experience in embroidery, and my inability to actually finish projects and said, "Count me in!"

Small and brief backstory - I belong to a group of mothers who all had children at the same time. It's like a Due Date Club that you see on mommy websites. We've known each other for years and have shared many ups and downs. One of the mamas there has been in need of a little extra love. Since we're all spread out over the world, we needed to come up with a way to give her a group hug. We decided that each one of us would pick out a fabric and embroider our name and maybe a little something extra to symbolize our respective personalities. We created a little group and all of the finer details were organized by a couple of our mamas, with one of them volunteering to take all of our squares, sew them together, do the whole batting and backing and trimming thing to turn it into a wrap.

I decided on a little belly dance symbol to represent me. Tribal Belly Dance is extremely important to my life. In this group, I pretty much give belly dance as an answer to all problems. Feeling bad about the world? Belly dance? Need to feel love for your body, no matter the shape? Belly dance. Menstrual cramps? Belly dance? Want to get active without killing yourself? Belly dance. World peace? Belly dance. It's been a big part of my life for several years. Deciding on that symbol was the easy part. Actually putting a symbol into stitches was terrifying to me.

I decided on a simple belly/hips with a hip belt and tassels as it's a rather common symbol to see regarding belly dance. I don't know how well it shows in my picture, but I added tassels to the hip belt as they are more closely associated with the tribal forms (especially ATS and ITS) of belly dance than with your traditional Raqs or cabaret belly dance. I am pretty sure I broke many rules about embroidery. I certainly did when it came to tying off my thread. I tried to learn some stitches via YouTube tutorials, but mostly winged it since I couldn't watch and stitch at the same time. I did what I did what I believe are split stitches. I was sweating and having heart palpitations the whole time. Haha. The hardest part was actually my name. I messed it up several times and ended up pulling the thread back out. This left a series a of holes in the project, which you may be able to see here. I panicked at that point, but the friend who was sewing the whole thing together said she believed the holes would shrink once washed and not to worry about it.

We spent a couple of weeks posting pictures of our squares. It was amazing to see the level of talent among our group of friends. Every single square was a beautiful testament to that particular friend. Eventually, all of the squares were sent in. Our friend sewed them all together, spacing with blank squares, lined it, backed it, and put an edge all around it. It turned out beautifully.

It was received just a few weeks ago, at a time when that mama needed it so much. She immediately posted a picture of herself wrapped up in our big hand stitched group hug. It's something she will treasure forever and it's a reminder to our whole group of the bond that we have shared over the years.

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