Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Husband's big week

Courtesy of Jennifer Bramley
Husband had a rather significant few days the week before last. On Tuesday night he received an award from his college (Outstanding Apprentice) and the on Thursday night, he graduated!

We're all so incredibly proud of him. For a long time he didn't really see college as something that was in the cards for him. He'd never enjoyed school, and he already had a good, steady job that supported his family. Pursuing a degree was more of a "that'd be cool but it's not going to happen" than a "someday I will do that" in his mind.

In fall of 2008, he applied for an apprenticeship within his company. It was competitive, but ultimately he was their top pick and he got to choose which path he wanted to take. He decided to take the electrical apprenticeship because, and I shit you not, he said it "won't be as dirty as the mechanical position."

He was wrong, but that's another blog post, and it involves laundry.

The catch to the opportunity was a nearly $4-per-hour pay cut off the bat. Yeah, you read that right. He would receive an evaluation and raise every six months for four years until he was making quite a bit more than his current rate of pay, but at the time I was in school, we had debt, and we were pretty much paycheck-to-paycheck already.

So we talked it out and decided that a few years of discomfort and belt-tightening and, frankly, FEAR, would be worth it in the end for him to receive his college education, paid in full. We refinanced our house, I continued working at my part time job and going to school, and we managed to make our schedules work while Bear was in school.

It was really, really hard. There were several semesters where our credit cards and my student loans kept us afloat. We never missed payments or got into trouble or anything, but money was incredibly tight. And we were dumb, so we still did dumb things sometimes with our money. Things I'd never do now, even though we have more. But I digress.

After a few years in the program, Husband's wages surpassed his pre-apprenticeship rate and things started coming together. We decided to have our Bug, I finished school, we double timed on the debt payoff efforts, and we decided to start working toward our goal of building our dream house.

And that's where this blog began, basically.

So now, after five years in school (because he could only go part time and his school hours counted toward his forty-hour work week), Husband is the proud recipient of his associate of applied science degree as an industrial electrician.

Bear and Bug got to attend both of their parents' college graduations, although Bug was still working on the whole "developing" thing when I walked. Our family could not be prouder of our guy, and we're so happy to put another nail in this custom-built life we're building.

Courtesy of Jennifer Bramley

Monday, May 12, 2014

Little mind games that work for me

I believe in mind over matter. Perhaps not in every situation, of course, as it seems no matter how hard I focus, my coffee simply will not brew, pour, and transport itself to me.

I mean, I'll keep at it, but I think that might be one of the exceptions to the rule.

However. Ahem. Other segues.

I believe that I can generally conjure willpower, courage, trust, motivation...whatever virtue I need, by deciding to. Not always and in every situation, but in many of them, anyway. I do this by playing mind games with myself, because I am a little bit crazy. And also awesome. I use my mind games and tricks to manipulate myself into doing the things I want myself to do but myself does not want to do because myself can be an asshole sometimes, and also lazy.

Here are a few of the ways I make myself do the stuff:

I become indignant

I have always liked to buy things, and am horribly susceptible to advertising. If I see a Wendy's commercial, I want that juicy cheeseburger. I am an advertiser's dream.

Or was.

Over the past few years, I've trained myself to believe that all advertising is evil and conspiratorial (and am I really that far off?). By doing so, I have also learned to rejoice in my ability to "stick it to the man" every time I say no to an impulse purchase. It feels like a victory over The Machine and the naturally rebellious part of my brain absolutely revels in that feeling. I will literally say out loud, "Suck it, Wrigley's! Your bright packaging and promises of fresh breath and long-lasting flavor don't mean SHIT!"

People stare. 

I tell myself I don't have to do it

When I began the excruciating process of packing for our move, and then unpacking after our move (with Husband working MASS hours and going to school), I knew I'd need a plan to keep the overwhelm at bay. So every day I added "pack one box" or "unpack one box" to my to-do list. And it was totally, totally fine if I only packed or unpacked that one box. If I did that, I got to cross it off my list and be finished.

But come on, y'all. You know how it goes when you get on a roll.

So I'd pack, or unpack, one box. And the motivation would kick in and I'd do two to four every single day, without fail. I'm not saying I never got overwhelmed or felt like it would never end. But it got done, and in a timely manner, and there was no mad dash or panic. I just know myself well enough to know that when that motivation bug hits, I will jump on it. All I have to do is swallow the bug.

Best. Metaphor. EVER. Moving on...

I tell myself to "go for it" when I am already in "mid-go"

I have discovered in my tumbling endeavors that sometimes it is very scary to jump backward toward one's head. Or forward toward one's head. Because sometimes said head contacts the floor/mat/trampoline and it is most unpleasant. This leads to two big problems for someone who actually rather LIKES to do things that require head-diving: blocks and balking.

Blocks are a mental thing which prevent us from going for things and can happen for various reasons. Balking is going for the thing and bailing out mid-thing. You with me? Anyway, I have experience with both.

Blocks are harder to get over, but I have discovered that I can prevent myself from balking nine times out of ten by mentally saying, "I'm doing it!" or, "I'm going for it!" halfway through the skill/thing. For example, if I do a roundoff-back-handspring, I mentally say, "I'm going for it!" as I round-off. It's totally mental. I can do the thing easily, physically. But I need my little routine, and for me it has to be a routine I can repeat anywhere. If it relied on location or something like that, I'd never be able to put the skill/thing in any different conditions.

I ask my stuff what it's done for me lately

When it comes to uncluttering and getting rid of things, I can be pretty ruthless. But everyone gets stuck sometimes, you know? A lot of organization blogs and articles tell us to ask ourselves when we last used an item, or if we truly love/use/need it.

I ask it to defend itself.

It's the same thing, only I put the onus on the stuff. Of course, the stuff doesn't talk (I'm not THAT crazy yet), but in my head I imagine how my questionable possessions might argue for their place in my home. If their argument sucks (and it often does), out they go. But if it's something like my Crock Pot, which is all, "Um, bitch, I made you some delicious pork chops with gravy two days ago while you ran errands and played Words with Friends, and then I got clean in the dishwasher. #handwashingsucks #SUCKIT," then obviously it gets to stay.

But the paraffin spa that I HAD to have ten years ago, which Husband bought for me and I used exactly ONCE, sounds more like, "Well, you know, funny you should ask. Remember that time I covered your hands in hot wax and made them ever-so-slightly softer, and it was totally fine and not inconvenient that you couldn't use your hands for half an hour, and then it was no big deal to wait over an hour for me to cool down and you really enjoyed all the wax-scraping and clean-up? Good times! I am totally worth the 18" X 12" X 12" space I take up in the bottom of the linen closet!"

Things did not end well for the paraffin spa.

So okay, now you've seen a smidgen of my brand of crazy, but since I explained it to you it makes total sense, right? Feel free to borrow my mind games and adapt them to your own purposes. They are very effective and make me get things done and not be a big coward and/or hoarder. You're welcome.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Because she needs to hear it from me, more than anyone

I told my daughter the other day that I love my body. And it was not a lie, actually. I'm not saying my belly and I don't have our bad days together, or that I never shoot my thighs the stink-eye, or that I don't cringe when I see photos of myself, or that I have some weird, reverse-dysmorphia where I see rock-hard abs and defined biceps where my far more typical lady-softness is.

I'm saying that, in general, I love this body, I make no apologies for it, and my kids need to know that.

My daughter needs to know how cool I think it is that my thirty-three-year-old ass can do gymnastics. My son needs to know that my body is mine (and his is his, and everyone's is his or her own) and respect that. My daughter needs to know that fashion and "beauty" magazines are ridiculous and stupid (which is why I regularly show her things like THIS and we laugh together) and that mama does not compare herself to the photographs inside them. My son needs to know that a woman (or a man; who knows?) does not owe it to him to be skinny, or even just thin.

That blurry, purple and grey, flying thing is ME.

My kids need to know that mama is proud of this one body, the only one she will ever have, and that she values its awesomeness enough to respect it and try to make it last as long as possible.

So we were in the car and I can't even remember how the conversation came up, but I said, in so many words, "I really love my body." Because how many among us ever heard our mothers actually say those words?

And then I explained why I love it, and how important it is to me to give it respect and thanks for the awesome stuff it does for me. And I mentioned that it irritates me how the media uses computers to make changes to women's bodies in magazines or on tv, and how indignant I feel when I hear talk of how women are supposed to look because genetics aren't one-size-fits-all and that's just science, people. And she was really, really listening.

And I really, really hope it meant something to her, because I'm going to say it again, and again, and again.

One of these days, something will make her doubt the value of her own body. A model in a magazine, or an off-handed comment, or a tv show, or a super-fit friend or acquaintance, or a scale with all its stupid numbers. Something will put a chink in her body confidence armor.

And I want her to be armed and ready to shut that shit down.