Compliments

It’s 1 O’clock in the morning and I should be sound asleep. The baby has had a cold, so she hasn’t been sleeping well. But she is tonight…and I’m not. Since I’m awake, and I haven’t written in ages, I thought I’d share my take on something I read yesterday.

Apparently, it is really easy to offend new moms. According to what I read, there is a whole host of things that are commonly said to moms as compliments; but the truth is they are insulting. Now, I guess I’ve just lived a sheltered life because when someone offers me a compliment, I either smile and say ‘thank you’ or I brush off what I’ve done as not being too impressive. And if the given compliment sounds a bit odd, then I assume I’m dealing with another human who, like myself, is really awkward at saying stuff to strangers.

Any way, I’d like to share my opinion of what should and should not be said to a new mom, in order to avoid any accidental insults.

First, we want to avoid casting doubt on a woman’s motherhood. So, it’s important to avoid things like “you look great!” or “you don’t look like you’ve had a baby.” These things insinuate that we are lying to boost the woman’s confidence, or we do not believe that she could have had a baby. Poor new moms may take this to mean A) that we cannot see the child in her arms, or B) that we believe she may have stolen thw child. Obviously, such insults are inappropriate. Instead, we should say “whoa! You look like you’ve been hit by a truck. There’s no denying you just spent 13 hours in labor to have a baby!”

The other common mistake people make with new moms is offering to help. When you say “let me know if you need anything. I can bring supper one night.” this sounds like you doubt mom’s ability to handle her household. Instead, always insist that a new mom jump right into her new routine. “Well, now that the baby is here you’ll have a lot to do. Be sure to cook organic meals everynight to make healthy breast milk.”

Last, new moms can be very sensitive about their weight. Telling a new mom she “looks great” indicates how fat and aweful she looked 2 weeks ago, before she had the baby. Saying anything about getting back to the gym should also be avoided — especially for women who really enjoy working out for stress relief. Instead, we should be honest. “Your pre-baby body is toast. There is no way you’ll ever get back in your skinny jeans. And forget the gym! You’ll never have time for that again!!”

Oh…wait. Never mind. Moms can just remember that the person offering compliments, usually wants to see them happy and confident. And the few sorry folks who just want to break your spirit…well, jokes on them, because moms can CHOOSE to see the good in what is said. Instead of silly lists of what not to say, we can realize that everybody says things that don’t come out just right. Smile, take the compliment, and move on.

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What If…

What if depression didn’t have to be a secret?

What if we didn’t fear admitting anxiety?

What if telling others about our struggles was socially acceptable?

What if we could post “I’m having a terrible day. I want to hurt myself/my kids/my dog…whatever” on social media and our friends wouldn’t ignore the plea but would rush to help us, instead?

What if admitting post-partum depression wasn’t met with “you wanted kids.” As if by wanting kids we some how chose mental imballance too.

What if writing this blog didn’t feel like posting a naked selfie because it feels just as inappropriate?

What if spouses could vent to friends when they need support with a depressed loved one, without feeling judged?

What if we all admitted depression has touched us personally, or some one very close to us?

What if we admitted how scarey and lonely it feels?

What if we changed all this?

What if….?

The Boss is Retiring

It’s not very often a college kid lands a good job. It’s even more rare that they enjoy the job so much they just keep coming back, summer after summer; and then stay in touch with their bosses long after they have grown-up and moved away. My husband and I were lucky enough to find that job. And it turns out the second of our two bosses, Mr. Joel “Kerby,” is retiring in a few weeks. With a new baby, there is no logical way to make it to his retirement party, so he asked me to send any good stories we had so someone could share them for us. Since we had so much fun there, I figured I’d share the stories with the world wide web as well.

Real quick back ground here, we started our jobs at the Overton AgriLife Research center¬† just a couple months apart. I was green! I wanted to learn, but there was so much I didn’t know about handling cattle, driving tractors, fencing, etc. Brandon had more experience, but some how seemed to always catch more trouble, because he didn’t do things Kerby’s way — and that is just no good.

Brandon’s worst day turned out to be one of our favorite stories. We were working cattle one hot summer day. We’d been at it all day and were pushing the stockers back to their pastures. We were all tired, and these tiger-stripes were thirsty and especially dumb. Brandon and I were out of our truck, because we had just closed the gate on our set of calves. Kerby was coming up to the pasture behind us, and as usual we walked that way to make sure none of his critters decided to pass the gate, rather than turn in. One calf acted squirrely and Brandon raised his arms, jumped a bit and “Hey”ed in his typical “listen up, cow” voice. Kerby immediately yelled from his truck “put your arms down A** Hole!” We were all shocked — even Nimr (our more crude, and direct boss). Did he really just say that? I was so mad I almost quit. At the end of that summer, Kerby treated Brandon to ribs at the Country Tavern. Brandon claims that was his, very tasty, apology… he also likes to rub it in that I never got any ribs.

Our project notoriously received the oldest vehicles; all on the verge of death… *sarcasm font* something about us driving crazy…weird. Because we got old trucks we had a few crap-out on us. One of those to die was the “project leader truck.” The transmission started to go, and apparently my sound effects, to describe it’s downward spiral, amused Kerby. He took me around to all kinds of people, the farm crew, random people down the hall, everyone who might care, to have me make the awful grinding whine of that poor dying truck. Then he sent me out with Amanda and told us “drive it til it dies.” I made it from the Center to the main gate of the south farm. Then I called Kerby and said “it died.” He and Brandon towed her back to the center and as far as I know she never moved again.

I mentioned I was green. I mean really green, but Kerby always believed in me. He sent me out to do things I had no experience with, and just trusted they’d get done. He taught me to drive a standard. Let me shred pastures for days with the little 5 foot shredder…because sending me out with the big shredder was a big, big mistake. (Hysterical phone call, and leaking eyes kind of mistake.) He tried in vain to teach me to back a trailer. And he taught me how to work cattle. Yes, Kerby was the perfect boss to force me out of my comfort zone.

Brandon came in with more experience, which apparently translated to “more bad habits to break.” Kerby was hard on him — really hard, some days. The fence tools had to be kept in just the right bucket. The lariet had to be wound back up just so. Fence repairs had to be virtually invisible (difficult at best when you are patching, patches.) And heaven forbid any of the gates be chained wrong at the end of the day! Kerby was the perfect boss for teaching perfectionism at the most extreme level (that stuck too, by the way.)

But I think what we both remember best is that Kerby is always good for a laugh, and he cared enough to push us to improve. Granted the pushing was probably largely selfish because, boy did we have room for improvement, but we appreciated his efforts in the end. I’m sure I owe the boss man a pie for telling on him…too bad he’s too far away to collect on that. Happy retirement, Kerby! And Gig ’em.

 

P.S. If anyone can weasel his home made vanilla ice cream recipe out of him for me, I’d be eternally grateful.

 

Fake it Til Ya Make It

It’s my first week flying solo with a new baby. Three under four years can be a daunting task, especially since I hold myself to some standards. Yesterday went well, and so far today is going smoothly too. Some people would say I’m writing this to brag, and maybe I am a bit, but mostly I want others to know how I survive motherhood, so they can do the same things.

I learned a long time ago that it’s very easy to waste away days in a row if I don’t have some goals each day. In high school I started writing down 3 simple goals each night, that I wanted to complete the next day. It might have been “finish 2 chapters in XYZ book, take the dog for a run, and start studying for the history test.” Or it might have been something bigger. Regardless, I wrote down 3 goals each night, and the next night I would write down three things I had accomplished. Many nights the accomplishments were the same as the goals. Some nights I hadn’t completed the goals but I had done 3 other things. If you are struggling to get a grip on housework, paying bills, laundry, and all the other mom-tasks; this may be just the trick you need to get all those things done.

I don’t write down goals and accomplishments anymore (though some weeks it would help if I did.) Now, I work on a loose time schedule. I say loose, because with toddlers nothing is written in stone. My typical day looks something like this:

  • 6-7:30am get up with the kids, and eat breakfast. Cereal, moms. We have survived on a daily ration of cereal for a couple of years. It really hasn’t killed us.
  • 8-9am get everybody dressed. Make it a non-negotiable that you will put on real clothes everyday. I say skip the yoga pants or sweats and go with jeans or something instead. Look good, feel good. I’m not saying make up everyday (or even ever) but wear real clothes.
  • 9-10:30am start laundry on laundry days. Do laundry regularly. Waiting for it to pile up only makes the task worse. I wash shirts, pants, and white things (socks, towels, etc) every Monday, sheets get washed on Wednesday, and on Friday I do shirts and pants again.
  • 11-11:30am feed the kids and put them down for naps.¬†Do what works best for you. Maybe leftovers are easy, or sandwiches. I fix lunch meat and cheese, yogurt and fruit, or something else equally simple. My kids just don’t eat much at lunch time so there is no point in creating stress.
  • 11:30-12pm ME TIME. This is another nonnegotiable. I’d love to say I read, do a Bible study and pray, or something else productive, but that would be a lie. I use this time to eat my lunch (alone, in peace) and play solitaire on the computer. Maybe that sounds awful to you, but it makes a good break for me. After a few games my brain has reset and then I can go read or something while the kids sleep… or I can nap too.
  • 1:30-3pm kids get up from nap. Some days we get a snack, or read a book together as the kids get moving again. Often we go outside to play if the weather is nice.
  • 4:30-5pm start supper to have it ready by 6pm. Notice all the free time in the afternoons? This is when I can do things like pay bills, play with the kids, or work on projects for myself.
  • 6pm supper.
  • 7pm start directing kids to clean up toys.
  • 7:30pm kids into PJs and read some books.
  • 8pm bedtime for the kids.
  • 10-10:30pm bedtime for me. Notice how the schedule gets tighter closer to bedtime. This keeps the kids on routine and makes tings go more smoothly at the end of the day, when we are all tired and cranky.

Your schedule may look NOTHING like mine, because all families are different, and especially if you have older children in school, or you work outside the home you will have other things to do. But figure out a routine so that you know what is expected when.

I’m no expert at parenting, or time management. But I have learned I can fake it until I make it. If I write down a schedule and stick to it religiously for a few weeks, then it becomes habit and I can get things done more easily. I can set some simple goals and aim to get things done. Sure enough, I get more done than if I had no plan. I encourage you to try the same. Plan your work, and your time; before it just gets away.

Grow Your Own Food

It’s been a long, rough day. A smart person would go to bed, but I don’t fall into that category.

It’s January, and this past weekend felt like it. This coming weekend is supposed to be just as bad. But yesterday was gorgeous, and so was today. These warm winter days always make me think ahead to spring, and then to planting our summer garden. I’ve wanted to write this for a while, and this warm spell seems like the perfect timing.

I’m a fixer, by nature. I see, hear, or read of a problem and I want to fix it. Obviously, I can’t fix the world. No one can. But I always want to. That tendency is what inspired this blog several months ago (I did mention I have wanted to write this for a while.) I was reading through comments on a grocery gift card give away on Facebook when the idea hit me. Of course, there were the ones who just had soooooo much wrong in their life and this gift card (a few hundred dollars, I think) was just what they needed to survive. **There is some a lot of sarcasm in that last sentence. I actually hate when people tell “woe is me” stories on stuff like that. It’s not like it increases your odds of winning or anything, but I digress.**

Anyway, I was reading comments about how expensive produce is and how it can be really hard to afford fresh things. I can agree with that! We eat quite a bit of canned fruit; frozen is a good option too, for both fruit and veggies. But fresh produce really can be expensive. Many of the people making those comments were pointing out that they were young, single, or on low incomes. Been there, done that. Young = busy. And to buy produce and not use it before it goes bad is really frustrating. Single = not eating that much. Again, frustrating to throw out mushy fruit or vegetables. Low income = can not waste money. If there is a chance it won’t get eaten before it goes bad, best to use the money on something else.

So, I was thinking how to fix this problem, because I’m a fixer and all. And I realized my family has already addressed the issue for ourselves, and we work to make it better for others close to home as well. For the past 5 years, my husband and I have had a garden. We grow our own veggies in the summer. And for the past 3 years we have also sold at local farmers markets. That’s when I realized how much can be grown in even very little space.

Tomatoes, peppers, squash, even onions, carrots, potatoes and lettuce can all be grown in pots. Granted, squash is going to grow out of the pot every which way, but the roots will do just fine in a pot. Young, single, low income people living in an apartment can grow some of their own food! And if they have a house with even a small back yard they can grow even more!

It is January though, so no rush to start planting. But it is time to plan — especially for low income families. By setting aside just $5-$15 a pay check for the next few weeks you can be ready to grow your own food and save $$$ at the grocery store, all summer, and into the fall in warmer areas. Tomato and pepper plants can all be purchased, relatively cheaply from home stores, or even Walmart. They can be grown in a medium to large pot, or just a 5 gallon bucket (a few dollars at the hardware store.) Squash grows well from seeds, and can again, be grown in a large pot. But squash will grow out (way out) over the edge of the pot so plan for that when planning space. A big deep tub or trash can will grow potatoes. A more shallow tub will grow lettuce, and carrots from seeds. Or a small tub will grow onions from “sets” available at home stores or Walmart. So, you can see, on a relatively small budget you can grow some food for yourself. And you only need 1 or 2 plants for more tomatoes, peppers, and squash than a family can eat!

The satisfaction of picking food off a plant and taking it inside to cook is really awesome too. Knowing that for a little money on pots, plants, and soil, you grew food for your own table is really pretty cool. Now, obviously you will want more variety in your diet than lettuce and peppers, but these are pretty easy plants to start with, and they free up some grocery money for other things.

Now if only, I could get all this information back to the people who were trying to win that grocery gift card…

You Don’t Have a Point

I’ve been involved in a rather silly Facebook “debate” this evening. I enjoy a good battle of words and since this woman didn’t have enough since to keep her misguided opinion to herself rather than try to defame a perfect stranger, I went to bat. The guy was a total stranger to me too, and the debate about how his dogs were kept really has no bearing whatsoever on this blog.

No. Actually, she had really weak arguments to begin with, and I, along with many others, had many strong arguments for the way the original poster was keeping his dogs. But none of the debate is at all relevant here. The only reason the debate brings me to the computer to type this is her language.

According to Oxforddictionaries.com there are 171,476 words in the English language.* And yet, with all those words to choose from to make a point stronger, this lady (I use the term loosely) continued to express herself with curse words. Now, don’t take me wrong. My language is not perfect. I do not make a habit of swearing, but, sadly, the tongue is a beast that is difficult to tame and I have been known to let a swear word slip. I do, however, try to be very careful not to do this. And I most certainly do not use vulgarity as a way to strengthen my arguments — especially in a written debate, where time can be taken to think of more appropriate words.

Unfortunately, this use of four letter words has become the norm in American language, both written and verbal. I see it all the time. People can be carrying on a perfectly calm, otherwise normal conversation, and yet they pepper in these words, seemingly in place of punctuation. In written form, particularly blogs, swear words seems to be the accepted method of making a point more valid. I have heard, and read, some people’s language and wondered if they would have 5 words to say in a row if they didn’t swear.

But the truth is, this method is so very flawed. In reality, if you have to swear to “make a point” then you don’t have a point to begin with. If you have to use curse words, and go on loud tirades, then all you are proving is that your grasp for the English language is, in fact, very limited. You may have wonderful, fact based points, aside from your language, but to use these words only detracts from your credibility. It doesn’t make your voice stronger. It makes it more immature and annoying. And while this is very true in spoken communication, it is even more true in written form. If you have 171,476 words to choose from, and time to pause and think, why would you opt to use the language of a 8th grade boy who thinks he is tough because he talks bad? This makes no sense. It’s a sad reflection of a culture that does not value education, or even the appearance of being educated. And it shows a great lack of self respect.

I realize we all slip on occasion and let a “dirty word” out; even if a dirty word for you is “drat.” We all do it. And we all seem to have more or less words that fall into the swear word category. Growing up gosh, crap, and butt were off limits in our house. As an adult, I use the word crap on occasion. This is just a tiny example of how “swearing” differs for people. But it is also common knowledge that some words are Swear words, and have no other place. To use f*** or f***ing as a type of bold print, if you will, in written, or verbal form, is unnecessary. There are so many other words to choose from — 171,475, to be exact. To use s*** or b**** as off hand comments is ridiculous. All this shows is that you do not have the capacity to come up with more appropriate wording.

So, while the lady I debated with tonight, had no leg to stand on in the first place, this entire blog was simply my attempt to bring a little civility back into day to day conversation. This woman would not have won me over with her points anyway, but she did herself no favors by cluttering the debate with cursing. Like I said before, if you have to cuss to prove your point, you don’t have a point to begin with.

 

*The Second Edition of the 20-volume Oxford English Dictionary contains full entries for 171,476 words in current use, and 47,156 obsolete words. To this may be added around 9,500 derivative words included as subentries.

One of THOSE Days

It’s been one of those days. You know the ones, where everything you touch gets messed up. Where your day is just one frustration after another. I have so had one of those days. I even managed to mess up taking a nap today!

My rough day actually started last night when i couldn’t go to sleep. When i finally did get to sleep the kids woke me up. Then I couldn’t get back to sleep. And the night ended early with both kids wide awake at 5:45 this morning.

I tried to get the day going right. We ate breakfast and the kids asked to watch a movie. I snuggled Gracie and dozed for a bit. Then I started one of three loads of laundry for the day. With the washer doing it’s thing I wanted to get started on a pan of fudge to take to church tonight. I’ve had my mouth wrapped around this fudge for a week! …I couldn’t make fudge. I had purchased 2 cans of Eagle Brand 2 weeks ago in anticipation of holiday baking. I needed evaporated milk. I had none. I’ve been to town every day this week. I was NOT going again.

Okay, so now what to take for potluck at church? I decided on making my grandmother’s super yummy lemon pie recipe. The one that does call for Eagle Brand milk. I got started on the crust. I had no oil. Melted margarine it is. I’ve never tried it that way before, but here we go. The crust looked fine. I began beating an egg white to fold into my lemon pie. Wouldn’t get stiff. I beat it on high. Still not getting stiff. I beat it by hand…. I gave up and poured a not stiff white into the pie. I started beating egg whites for the cow slobber (yea, I’m from the south, y’all.) I’ve made dozens of pies, people. I know how to make cow slobber. Those egg white refused to get stiff. I beat them until my mixer smelled hot…given how my day was going, I gave up before the mixer died, or caught fire. I poured very un-stiff egg whites over my pie and baked it. It came out looking awful!

By now, it’s 10 o’clock and both kids are super cranky. I fed them a snack and put them down for naps. Then I ate a bite and tried to lay down too. Couldn’t sleep. I had a tension headache like no other, and closing my eyes made it worse. I tossed and turned. Finally, I scooped up a puddle of Gracie to snuggle. That calmed my headache enough to let me at least doze.

It’s after 4pm now, and I’m telling you my day is still not looking up. I made a meatloaf to take in place of the fudge, and pie that were both failures. I painted a chair. I put clean sheets on beds. Those are my accomplishments so far.

Here’s hoping the last 6 hours of the day before bed time, go better than the first.

*** Edit: My day did not get better. It got worse. I ate a piece of the ugly pie. Apparently, pregnancy has made me allergic to lemons. We got half way to church and I had to puke my guts out. Eating hurt. We left before Bible study even started.