Hi, I’m a new octopus.

As a general rule, I think that we understand basically nothing about things until we’ve been through it. A pretty broad, generalized statement but bear with me.

I assume many parents can identify with this feeling: I used to look at children throwing fits with their parents and think, “Just get your kid out of the supermarket! Arg! Eye roll! Judgement!” And probably something else that was really nice. Now with two children, I can tell you there’s no way I’m putting everything back just because my child is throwing a fit. The other day the cashier said to me after my son screamed that she just wouldn’t allow him the privilege of going to the store anymore. I’m pretty sure that would make his day lady, because as we all know grocery shopping is to 2 year old as spas are for mothers.

Its really hard for me to understand the stress that Tony feels balancing work, being a dad, a husband, still trying to help me out at home. I only know the desperate feeling of wishing that I was an octopus but with even more hands than that. Actually, if I had to pick something to be, I would be a cross between an octopus and something with 2 heads. Wouldn’t it be nice to feel like you could balance all your thoughts/to do lists between not just one, but two brains? Clothes shopping would be difficult, but I think I would feel less general unrest.

Until we got a puppy I no empathy for people getting up in the middle of the night to toilet train a dog. Well, actually I still don’t. Tony did all of that but I can imagine that it was pretty rough on him.

I don’t understand what its like to train for a marathon, to work and raise kids, to not have kids, to be a supermodel. I generally don’t understand much of what is beyond my scope of experience, and I like to think that I’m past the point in my life where I’m judgemental of things I haven’t yet walked through. Until very recently, I didn’t understand what it felt like to feel new. 

We’ve been at the same church for almost 10 years. While we have experienced new things and people in these past ten years, we always had a home base, a community, a place where we felt known. For reasons that don’t translate well to blogging, we felt like we had to leave our church. I’ll preface by saying the church is great, the people are great, but it felt like we had been swimming upstream in so many areas for so long that it finally seemed like it was time to go. We don’t take leaving lightly. As anyone who ran into me that week will tell you (what I’ve taken to referring to as my week of tears) it was really tough to go. Why leave a place thats so comfortable and where everyone knows us, our kids, or stories, and where I basically don’t have to try very hard anymore? Isn’t that what we’re all going for, to feel known? Well I thought so.

Well, why did you just stay (eye roll)?….is what you might be thinking. What I would tell you is that sometimes the right things seem very wrong, and I think they can often be difficult. We trusted Jesus, and stepped out. We’re still trusting because going into new churches can be hard. I want to point outside and say, “there’s a place super close where not everyone thinks I’m a spaz, and my kids behaved, and I don’t think I seemed so stressed out and insecure.” Its hard to put on a good face when your 5 year old is clinging to you sliding across the floor and your son won’t put down his snow leopard and you just peel them off you and promise hot chocolate for the 2nd week in a row if they just. stay. downstairs. I want to convince people that I’m worth knowing, that it looks rough on the outside, but I’m worth your time if you can just see past all this. 

Our Maybe New Pastor gave a sermon today about doing hard things. He said that stepping out in faith re-actives your faith. I think that this is because you’re doing something that FREAKS YOU OUT and so you HAVE to ask Jesus to walk with you. He also said that sometimes we have to take a giant step back to take a big one forward. Maybe thats what we are doing. Taking one giant step back for the Seaward family so we can go forward in some crazy insane way.

So I started this blog with this idea that we can’t understand until we go though something. I guess that this is all loosely connected, though I can say this has been one of my weaker analogies. I feel like we look at people and make these assessments of how they should handle things, because thats what we would have done, or how they should parent their little terrors (parenting is SO HARD), or how they should handle relationships, or weight, or work, or stress, and what we’re missing is how tough it is to just live and feel like people love you and are walking through life with you even if you’re doing it wrong. I don’t think its our job to always understand what someone is going through, but I DO think its our job to understand that we don’t understand. Get it? Love people. “Be kind, for everyone you know is fighting a hard battle.” Google says Plato said this, some say it was Ian McClaren, I thought it was from Lord of the Rings. Either way, pretty darn true. I can’t tell you how hard this particular road has been for us, and thats going to make sense to some and not to others, because the details aren’t something we shout from the rooftops, but people who’ve reached out and loved us mean the world to us. I think Jesus asks us to risk things, but He also asks us to love each other, and I’ve got to think that this means we’re meant to love each other through those tough, socially awkward, “What do I say here?” times.

So when in doubt, just say something. Hopefully its something nice.

 

 

 

I smell a rat.

Or squirrel, which technically takes longer to decompose, and would be culprit no. 1 as to why the dead stink in our basement hasn’t deteriorated yet.rat

When I was pregnant with Bryce, I would wander periodically into Tony’s office to chat, as wives are prone to do, to ask for help with Addie or to lie on the bed, stare at the wall, complain about swollen feet. One day my spider pregnancy senses detected an odd odor emanating from our crawlspace. I pointed it out to Tony, who couldn’t smell it, and brushed it off.

Well summer got hotter, and as dead things do, whatever it was kept rotting away in the crawlspace and wafting their deadness out into our basement.

Smelling super gross.

Eventually, after some prodding, Tony acknowledged that yes, something probably had died underneath, and agreed that it was time to do something about it. We got in there, grabbed some bodies, disposed of them, and pretty soon our home smelled back to normal.

A few good things came out of this: we got bodies out of our crawlspace (a great practice to keep up no matter where you live), and I got a great sense of what it smells like to putrefy.

We currently live in a rental home that I love for so many reasons. After a difficult experience of home ‘ownership’ (its hard to own something when you’re 200,000 underwater), I learned to love renting and all of the ease it affords. I think we’re pretty good tenants. Tony’s planted a pretty great garden, essentially hosting a farmers market for my girlfriends in the summer, who come over for wine and take home kale and cucumbers. We unclog our own toilets (apparently something not all renters do), and generally keep the place up quite nicely.

We experienced the perks of renting when our downstairs ceiling fell in because of a water leak. Our job to fix? No! That was a wild mess belonging only to the landlord. After a long stretch of construction in our downstairs bathroom, I thought, “Gee, I hope he never has to tear the ceiling out again… while we live here.” All looked good until…the dead smell came back, which I am now an expert at identifying. Because all bodies (except those who eat daily at McDonalds) eventually decompose, its only a matter of time before the business is finished and you’re just left with a skeleton, but because our smell has been going on for about two months, it got us thinking that something much larger has gone to take a ‘dirt nap’, though not in the dirt just yet.

One day we called our landlord, who came over and verified that the only way he could get rid of the smell would be to tear out the ceiling once more. We actually really like our landlord, so neither Tony or I had the desire to put him through that terrible project again. We can live with the smell until it eventually goes away.

I remember being really freaked out when this happened the first time. “Things DIE in here?! And then just rot?!” This is just something that happens? When you think about it, it totally makes sense. Theres no way to keep everything out of your house, walls, your crawlspace. I think the most you can hope for is that it isn’t in a difficult place to get (like in your bathroom ceiling), so you could dispose of it before the stench really starts to bug you.

The other evening Tony and I sat down in the living room, and I felt like I had a quarter life crisis (32 is still mostly a quarter…) all over him. I have some dead rats and I think I ignored the smell for too long. I really miss being a school counselor. I worked so hard for a long time, and I love working with students. I want to use those skills again.

Parenting well is really hard sometimes. Discipline is really hard. Figuring out your kid, what works for them? What doesn’t?

(I think) we’re buying a house, assuming all the little pieces fall together, but it a process that is mostly out of my control, and thats rough for me.

And the pressure is starting to build up.

And I wonder what can keep the vermin from piling up. There is no way to stop them from getting in, because life happens, and it can be stressful, and its not always fun. But you can only ignore stink for so long. For me, it reveals itself through a crummy spiritual life. Impatience with my kids or my husband. A little extra road rage. And the smell is this litmus test for whats really going on inside.

I haven’t had any huge epiphanies, except to say that I realize how much I need to process more during times when there is a lot going on, and thats when its so hard to do so. When you start to see ugliness coming out of you, thats the most difficult time to stop and make changes. When you finally start to smell the rats, that means they’ve died, and something has to be done, but thats the last thing you want to do at the moment. I’d rather run away and sit on a beach with Tony, but I don’t have the babysitters or the airfare.

What I need is to get up early with a strong cup of black coffee and time with God. A good conversation with my mom, a friend, or Tony help. To go to the Y. Have a nice beer and then good conversations help too. I need it all. And I need to do it more, instead of letting it all pile up. Because when it boils down to it I can’t get enough of my kids. They’re fantastic and hilarious and wonderful. So is Tony. So is getting a house. I’ll figure out the work stuff. Everything is too great to get pinned down in the muck…its just that everyone needs a good crawlspace clean once in a while.

 

 

 

 

Life with Jack: 1st Corinthians 13 for Moms

A good read for any day.

http://www.lifewithjack.com/2012/05/1st-corinthians-13-for-moms.html

No Spend November (or, How to Stop Living High Off the Hog)

Just sing this to the tune of Alice Cooper’s “Schools Out for Summer,” and lets get this party started!

What is a No Spend Month:
Its horrifically self explanatory, but I’ll still go ahead and explain. In a nutshell, its a month (of your choosing, though I chose November because I like alliteration), where you drastically cut your spending by choosing to pay only for essentials and non-negotiables. Essentials include mortgage, rent, food, and non-negotiables might include paying to get your finger sewn back on after a tricky kitchen incident.
Why some people do No Spend Months:
1. Some people want to find out if they can get what they want for less. Deciding you will not spend above a certain amount forces you to get creative with what you can spend.
2. Curb mindless spending.
3. Get things done at home that previously, you haven’t had the chance to because you’re out there wildly throwing around the green (which isn’t us).

Why we’re doing No Spend November (in addition to the reasons given above)

1. To create more mindful discipline concerning our budget. We know where every dollar goes (for the most part) but its been a lot of swipe and spend lately, with little thought as to where its coming from or  if it could be better spent elsewhere.

2. Learning well to delay gratification. If its cute, buy it. If we’re hungry, grab it. While we have a ‘budget’, we’ve exceeded it at times.

3. To get a chance to stop, reflect, and express some gratitude for everything we’ve been given. We have a lot of wants, but not needs. We’re really, really blessed. God’s taken care of us, and I think November is a great month to be content with what we have.

What it means for us:

1. No unnecessary spending. Whats unnecessary? Dining out, entertainment, lattes (no!!!), trips to, and subsequent purchases at Target.

What I hope we’ll gain from this month:

My hope is that this month will help us learn to better decipher between our needs and our wants. I would like to get a little more creative with our activities, and use more of what we have around the house before rushing off to buy something. I want to eat through the gross things at the back of our freezer. No wait, they’re not gross, just…not as exciting as other things. I want to be content with what we have, and start moving at a slower pace.

There are countless things to be gained from a no spend month, if for nothing else than to simply stop and evaluate the value of a dollar, and see if its going where it should be going. I plan to share our adventures, ideas, highlights, and trials with you throughout this month. Which is 30 days long. I just checked. 30 cheap, adventurous, simple, and non Target filled days.

 

There’s sand in my bed.

Its become routine this summer for Addie and I to hit the beach after nap time. Generally thats when the weather has warmed up to balmy 70 something degrees, we grab our beach bucket, a diet coke, and I try not to worry that this will be the day my daughter chokes on one of the two billion rocks she’s eaten thus far at the beach.

Its usually a hit. Addie spends not an insignificant amount of time checking out boys in their bathing suits and sticking wood into her mouth, while I try to figure out if the lack of sunscreen I’m wearing will either connect all of the freckles on my body or inevitably give me skin cancer. It’s probably a combination of the two.

Ug, what I wouldn’t give to be golden brown.

Anyway, when its time to leave, I dust Addie and myself off with the capableness of any parent who has taken their child to the beach a dozen times, and stick her wet bottom in the car. And yet, inevitably, there’s nothing that I can do to stop the sand from being everywhere.  When I change her diaper, its in the cracks and crevasses. I find it in my hair, and oddly enough tonight as I was chewing dinner, a little somehow wound up in there too. Curiously, as I was rolling around in bed last night trying to get to sleep, I had to get up and brush the sand out of my bed. Quite a fair amount too. It kind of bugged me to tell you the truth.

For a lot of the good things, sometimes theres just some junk that goes with it. Going to the beach and getting some sun means that I will be digging sand out of all of our crevasses for few days. Even though I know that the good things are good, and they’re worth the sandy junk that comes with them, why is it still so hard sometimes?

Its been hard to lose these last ten pounds, because that means I can’t have dessert. I really just love dessert. Sometimes I have dessert.

Its hard to organize or clean my house, because that means sacrificing time from something I’d rather be doing, like reading on my deck in these last few days of summer.

Its hard to let bad habits go…because they’re fun and easy. But I know I’ll be better without them.

Its hard to let myself be worked on and worked out, because that means relinquishing the last bit of control I think that I have, and not being in control makes me really uncomfortable.

So yeah, the sand in my bed is really just a giant metaphor for something bigger going on that God’s working out in me. What I am actually saying is, God’s doing some good in my life, but theres some crap thats coming along with it. I know, I also rarely metaphors so you’re taken aback. You thought I really just was talking about sand in my bed!

Oh wait, yes, yes, I do use metaphors. Like, actually quite a bit, like here, and here, and oh, here! And here and here and here.

I’m confident I’ll get through this awkward teenage adolescent phase of feeling like I’m continually growing up soon, as in hopefully the next few years, but until then, I’ll just continue to go the beach, inadvertently eat sand with my daughter, and write blogs about it.

 

 

Those clogged up drains.

I can’t think of a more effective way to learn how your plumbing system works than to have it stop working. I used to think that your food disposal was a magic tunnel that just took all of the food away. I honestly never thought about where it went. I even remember thinking once, “I wonder where all this is going…..hmm, oh well.” It seems rather intuitive (once you actually stop to think about it) that the disposal is connected to the rest of your plumbing system, right? This lends itself to the idea that if one component of the system stops working, the rest does as well. Let me tell you how this looked for us this weekend: old lettuce and beans rising to a new and disgusting life from the drain in our bathtub. Never have I been so glad that I did not recently eat fish.

At first, it didn’t seem so bad. But then, water from our toilets started to clog, sinks weren’t draining, and water (I don’t know if it’s the same water, I’ve since chosen not to think about it) started to come up from the drain in our bathroom, giving us about an inch of “I don’t want to know where it came from” grossness on our floor.

It seemed that by cooking a lot more at home, going out less, and shoving a whole bunch of food scraps in our disposal resulted in clogged up drains, unresolved food remains, and a large, giant mess for us this weekend. We weren’t dealing with our food scraps well, and as a result, our pipes didn’t know what to do all the excess garbage they were taking in.

Can you guess where all this is going? Yup. Enemas and colonics.

I’m probably kidding (but we are talking about plumbing systems, aren’t we?).

 

Its all taken care of now, we’re utilizing our compost pile, being kind to our drains, thanking God that we have clean, running water in our house on a daily basis.

It seems that when you don’t dispose of things well the first time, they come back bigger, grosser, and hairier the second (and third and fourth, according to our tub drain). I realized that I was doing this this weekend as well, not just with our food disposal, but with myself.

I realized a few days ago that something about the past few months had left me feeling ineffective and exhausted. I wasn’t disposing of my junk effectively, and I wasn’t receiving grace from God either.

And heres the thing. When we’re in relationships with other people, whether they’re just friends, working relationships, your marriage, your larger community, we’re going to have to deal with junk. We’re very imperfect people, loving each other in imperfect ways, and because we live in fallen world, we’re never going to feel like our emotional bank account balance is full (though some days are better than others).

I’ve had to take the past few days and ask to be restored. I had to ask God to help me deal with my everyday debris better, and not just ‘shove it all down the disposal,’ because unfortunately, as I learned this weekend, somethings going to inevitably get clogged up when you do it that way, and it looks a lot worse coming back up.

So, the easy way can be taken, junk swallowed with a big ol’ swig of wine, but for me, it slowly, surely, clogged up my heart until things didn’t have anywhere else to go.

Fortunately, draino exists. You can take a drain snake to your pipes and unclog them. You can dispose of things more carefully, and not carelessly shove things down your disposal. For me, it looks like a cup of coffee and an early morning spent with God. Thats not how it looks for everyone, but for me, to hear that even Jesus was rejected (from his own people!), he felt pain, he felt drained, tired, weary, it lets me know I’m not alone. I can come to him with everything that I have and he’ll restore me. Circumstances may not change, but your heart does. And mine did.

Matthew 11:28-30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

peek-a-boo with your fence

I know there are responsible things to do. And then there are things you have to do. And then, well, there are things you just do. This week I had a quick and dirty lesson in ‘the do’s.’

A while ago I had a baby. Actually, lets jump back a few steps.  Before that, I went back to school, incurred a ridiculous amount of student loan debt, graduated, and then I had a baby.

I decided I wanted to stay home with Addie. Scratch that, by default, I stayed home, and I did want that, but I wasn’t entirely sold. She was born in early December, and I didn’t think it would work very well to start a school counseling position and then almost immediately take maternity leave, though it could have been done, it didn’t sound like something I wanted to do.

I wrestled a lot with staying home for a bit. There was a lot of joy and certainly a great amount of convenience in staying home, but I would constantly scour school district websites for jobs, think about little things I could do to work; basically, I spent my time peeking over the fence and never really settled into being there.

At the end of last year I was offered a job, not in my field, but close enough. It was a great deal for a working mom, almost as good as you can get, wonderful people, great program, in house daycare and all signs seemed to point towards, “You’re a dope if you don’t take this!” So take it I did. And I did it, gratefully, and then things started to slowly fall apart.

Addie got sick…all the time. Not just the sniffles, but the barfs. Fevers. And then the sniffles in between. I’m fairly sure that I left butt marks in the chairs at the walk in clinic. Sleep came in short doses…Tony stayed home, I stayed home, my mom drove down, and it just got ridiculously sucky hard.

At some point I lost my joy because it became clear that things just weren’t working. Tony got to a point where he couldn’t work from home anymore, I got to a point where I was slacking in planning because I was slacking in life, as a mom, tired and giving half to everything, and then Addie got sick again. I met with my boss for coffee last weekend, who’s just a classy lady, and she released me from my position. I never would have quit. I just don’t…to my detriment, and I think at times to others, I just wouldn’t quit something, but to be gracefully released from this was a blessing. I sat at coffee surprised, but relieved. Everyone was getting what they needed.

As I went back and read this blog post, I’m grateful. I know that I got a chance to be a working mom, and its not right for this time in my life. That doesn’t mean it won’t ever be, but right now, its time to be home. For a day or so, I went back and forth wondering if this is the responsible, prudent thing to do. And then we decided that this was just the thing that needed to be done, and that was that. I’m home, I’m in with both feet, and thats a great feeling.

On another note, working moms are amazing. If you know one, you should tell her she’s amazing. Give her a Starbucks card, a hug, a compliment. I didn’t do it that long, but man. They’re incredible.

 

 

Thank you Sammy Davis, Jr.

I’ve had some extra free time this week due to a self imposed quarantine from what Tony and I have termed “the Plague” in our house. Because of it I’ve gotten to make some headway in a book that I’ve been reading, that I have wanted to write a post about but have been hesitant because I didn’t want to be thought of as reading self help books. But, bah, here it is. In actuality it is from the genre of “Project books, non-fiction, memoir”.  The author herself calls it a ‘stunt genre’ which simply means that she tries something for a year and then writes about it. Regardless, I like it. It’s called The Happiness Project.

Gretchen Rubin, the author, designed a project full of lists, resolutions, charts, and research about happiness that spanned the course of a year to see if she could raise her general level of happiness by doing certain things. I read a book review that said “the level of organization for her project is intense.” Thats putting it lightly, but I think thats why I l like this book. Whenever I’m going for some kind of self improvement, it usually takes the form of lists or charts or projects, so I could understand where she was coming from.

Heres an excerpt from what I read today.

In his book Happier, Tal Ben-Shahar describes the “arrival fallacy,” the belief that when you arrive at a certain destination, you’ll be happy…the arrival fallacy is a fallacy because, though you may anticipate great happiness in arrival, arriving rarely makes you as happy as you anticipate. First of all, by the time you’ve arrived at your destination, you’re expecting to reach it, so it has already been incorporated into your happiness. Also, arrival brings more work and responsibility. It’s rare to achieve something (other than winning an award) that brings unadulterated pleasure without added concerns. Having a baby. Getting a promotion. Buying a house. You look forward toreaching these destinations, but once you reach them they bring emotions other than sheer happiness. And of course, arriving at one goal usually reveals another, yet more challenging goal.

This definitely holds true for me. I spend a lot of time getting to a goal, and I’m happy when I’m going for it, like with my masters, because I felt like I was getting better, being better, and going for something outside of myself. Then when I got it, I felt like I looked around and thought, “Now what?” And I start on something else, that will, in time, make me happy. Rubin writes that when she finds herself focusing too much on the anticipated happiness that awaits her in future once she’s arrived at a goal, she has to remind herself to enjoy right now. She explains that she doesn’t need (or want) to count on the happiness that may or may not be there in the future, so she wants to be happy by making sure that what she’s doing right now is gratifying.

After I read this today I thought about how important it is to have something that makes me happy now. These past few weeks have been particularly content for me, even as I read this morning that Andrew Carnegie said, “Show me a contented man, and I’ll show you a failure.” I think what he is trying to imply here is that if you’re content, then perhaps you aren’t engaged in growth or ambition or competition, but I think there’s a season for everything. Right now mine is contentment.

So while thats true, I still need something that makes me feel revived. Addie was about two months old when my Mom came down and told me to get out of the house. It was the best hour and a half I can remember for quite some time. I drove down to Red Twig Coffee in Edmonds, got a double tall extra hot raspberry latte to go, and took a drive from Edmonds to Mukilteo, all along the water. About 30 minutes into my venture by myself with my coffee and my music, I felt my whole body relax. My mind hit that sweet spot where thoughts started to make sense, and I began to feel more inspired and rejuvenated. For some people, running does this, or shopping, or talking with a good friend. Right then I needed time by myself. So this morning I took Addie in her carseat, went through the Starbucks drive through and got an Americano, and took a drive while my daughter napped. Its interesting how you can feel your body relax limb by limb when you’re doing something right for yourself.

For me, blogging is like that too. For a long time, and sometimes still, I hesitate to blog because I worry, “Isn’t it narcissistic to spend all this time writing about myself and what I think? What if I come off vain or too self occupied?” And then I have to throw that out the window, because it helps me be me. I’d rather be that than be inauthentic because I’m worried of being criticized.

Because, as Sammy Davis, Jr. once sang,

Whether I’m right or whether I’m wrong Whether I find a place in this world or never belong I gotta be me, I’ve gotta be me, What else can I be but what I am.

To sum it up, I think everyone needs that thing that makes you feel like you, where you feel inspired and relaxed, rejuvenated and at peace, where you’re fresh and ready to take on the world. If you feel comfortable sharing what that is for you I would love to read it.

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