One Little Word

jimelliot

I’ve spent the past few weeks trying to come up with a word of the year for 2015.  I skipped the project last year, figuring my only real goal, that of survival, wasn’t exactly fitting – but after a year of struggling to balance being a stay at home mom with essentially full-time work from home hours, I feel ready to try again.

My one little word for 2015 is Be.  I’ve shared before that I’m much better at doing than at being – I’m Martha, hands down!  With that being said, this year I want to

Be present.

Be grateful.

Be myself.

What’s your “one little word” for the new year?

No More Excuses

Earlier this year Nathan and I signed Topher up for skating lessons.  He’s been dreaming about playing hockey since he was old enough to walk.  He was born in Oil Country, he bleeds copper and blue – heck, he even eats supper sitting below a framed photo of Nathan with Ryan Smyth!

We figured it was time.

Topher was ecstatic!  Never mind that what he’s actually enrolled in is beginners figure skating – he was convinced that he had already been drafted to the Oilers!

But skating wasn’t as easy as Topher thought it would be.  It’s one thing to zip up and down the hallway with a plastic hockey stick while wearing knit slippers (his “indoor skates”) – and entirely another to do the real thing, on real ice.

In his first lesson the coaches taught the kids how to fall down and how to get back up, first on mats and then on the ice.  Topher was a pro – until he stepped onto the ice.  For some reason, he just didn’t get it.  He did exactly what his coaches told him:  get on your hands and knees, wag your tail like a dog, get one foot up, brace one hand on your knee and use the other to push off on the ice and stand up.  Sounds easy enough!

But Topher couldn’t do it.

Not in the first lesson, or the second, or the third.  Eventually one of his coaches would help him to his feet so he could keep up with the other kids and do the other activities, but Topher was so cautious – so afraid to fall – that he would barely move.

Then one of the other kids would accidentally run into him and knock him over, and he would be back to Square 1, shaking his little bum in the middle of the rink, over and over and over.

Halfway through his fourth lesson, I was starting to wonder how much patience his teachers had.  Would they recommend “remedial beginner skating lessons”?  Was there such a thing?

But then HE DID IT.

He figured it out!

It might have taken him three and a half 45-minute lessons – most of which he spent on his knees – but he did it!

And I have never been more proud of my little man.

He didn’t give up, not once.

Week after week after week …

He practiced at home, he practiced at his grandparents’ house, he recited the steps over and over and over.

He tried his hardest in every single lesson.  He showed such dedication, such confidence.  He knew he could do it – and he kept at it until he did.

He didn’t give up.

I do.

Sometimes I give up entirely too easily.

I use my kids as an excuse, or my work, or the fact that I’m just too tired after a full day of dealing with both.

My passions are important – but clearly not that important, since they’re so frequently pushed to the side.

Lately I’ve been thinking that I need to be more like my son.  Not in the “throw a lying on the floor kicking and screaming tantrum because Mommy asked me to wipe my nose on a kleenex instead my sister’s sweater” way, but in the single-minded focus on my goals way.

I can do it.  I know I can do it – I just need to keep at it until I do.

No more excuses.  

Back in the Saddle

Anybody who knows me knows that I love horses.

I grew up riding – I was a total “barn rat” as a child, spending every available waking moment at the barn.  When my parents couldn’t afford riding lessons, I worked out an arrangement with my coach:  I cleaned stalls, painted fences, raked leaves,  picked rocks in the outdoor arena – whatever it took!  When I was fourteen I started helping with beginner lessons, when I was seventeen I started teaching by myself, and when I was twenty-one I moved to Alberta to attend the Equine Science program at Olds College.  I wanted to live and breathe horses – and for awhile, that’s exactly what I did.

Then real life happened.

My $10/hour stable hand job didn’t cut it when it came to paying off my student loan so I quit in favour of a job that paid better, with more regular hours.  I spent my days in the office and my evenings and weekends at the barn, taking lessons and auditing clinics.

In September 0f 2009 I found out I was pregnant, and two months later my doctor told me to stop riding.  Nathan took lessons so I was still at the barn at least three times a week – but life wasn’t the same.  Being grounded was hard.  Riding was something I had always loved and something I had always done, but I took my role as a new mother seriously.  I wanted to do everything I could to protect my unborn son so I behaved myself and waited (albeit impatiently!) for the okay to ride again.

Topher was born in May and after a lot of complications with his delivery, I had to wait to start riding again until the first week of September.  My horse was injured in a bizarre pasture accident on September 8th – and on the 9th I made the hardest decision of my life when it was time to have her put down.  I leased one of my coach’s old school horses for awhile, shopped around for a new horse for awhile – and then I just … gave up.  My heart wasn’t in it anymore.  I was struggling with the loss of my horse  as well as adjusting to life as a mother.  I wasn’t sure if I was going back to work when my  maternity leave ended – and if I didn’t, there wouldn’t be any room in the budget for a horse.   I loved horses and I loved riding – but I decided it was time to take a break.  It was time to focus on my family.

* * * *

That was four years ago.

A lot has changed since then:  Nathan and I were able to scrimp and save and pay off approximately $30 000 in debt (student loan, car).  We added another little one to our family.  I quit my cushy office job in favour of working from home.

I love my life, but I’ve always felt like something was missing.

Like a part of me was missing.

Last summer Kim offered me a horse.  A sweet, beautiful thoroughbred filly – but I said no, because the timing wasn’t right.

In September, I had the opportunity to have another horse – this time a paint filly – but again I said no, because the timing wasn’t right.

But then I started to ask myself (and my poor, patient husband!) – when will the timing be right?  When the kids are older?  When they’re both in school?  When we have a house?  When we have a second car?

The timing will never be right.

* * * *

On October 10th I had my first riding lesson in three years and ten months.  It’s the longest period of time I’ve been out of the saddle since I was seven years old – and believe me, I felt it!  Walking was painful until Wednesday after only twenty minutes of walk/trot work and transitions.

But I felt like me again, for the first time in a long time.

For the time being, I’m taking lessons once a week, though there’s the possibility it could turn into more since the owner of the horse I’m riding wants someone to ride him a few times a week over the winter.

It’s going to be hard.  I’m the most out of shape I have ever been in my entire life (!!) – and  it’s already proving difficult to juggle my crazy schedule with my coach’s.

It’s hard to leave Topher and Ellie at home with Nathan when I know they all want to come with me, and it’s hard to have them at the barn because they’re city kids who are not remotely horse savvy and I’m worried they’re going to get killed.

And it’s expensive.  We’re still trying to save for a down payment on a house, and at times I feel guilty for spending money on something as frivolous as riding lessons.

But horses aren’t a hobby, they’re a lifestyle – and one that I don’t feel I can give up.

So I’m taking a tip from my fifteen-year-old self:  I’m going to do whatever it takes.  

 

* Photo by Right Lead Photography

Wrestling With a Dream

I woke up in a cold sweat last night.

I dreamt that I had sent an e-mail to the entire congregation of our church – and had included a link to my blog in my signature.

It took a few minutes for the panic to subside.

It’s okay … It was just a dream … It didn’t really happen …. 

Whew. 

But I still couldn’t fall asleep.

Why the panic?

* * * * *

I’ve been blogging since before blogging was a “thing”.  Back then we called it a “weblog” and you typed your entries in your index.html file and uploaded it manually every single time you wanted to update.

I blogged to have a voice.  I was a quiet kid growing up in a small town.  Everybody knew who I was and there were certain expectations that came with my last name.   I don’t know that I had anything to say, really, apart from the usual teenage angst and stories about boys I was too afraid to talk to – but writing was therapeutic.  It helped me figure out who I was and who I wanted to be.

Then, when I was in university, my sisters stumbled upon my blog.

Again, it was before blogging was really a “thing” – before everybody and their dog had a blog – and of course my sisters thought I was crazy to share so much of my life on the internet.  My oldest sister was paranoid and my middle sister was downright mean.  She actually called me “Holly.Com” for awhile (and by awhile, I mean more than two years!)

I didn’t have my own computer when I moved out west and I didn’t have much money so I let the domain and hosting lapse.

I was tired of being Holly.Com …

But I missed blogging more.

So I bought back my domain and started writing in this space again.

* * * * *

Writing has always been an intensely personal thing for me, which is odd given the fact that I’m a blogger.  I have no issue sharing my deepest thoughts with strangers but I shudder at the thought of someone I know stumbling across my little corner of the internet.

And I have no idea why.

I have a handful of offline friends who read my blog.  Granted, it’s an Ellie-sized handful, but still.  They’ve been nothing but kind, nothing but supportive – but I’m still afraid.

I think it’s because I’m more open in this space than I am in real life.

I share what I’m thinking, what I’m feeling, what I’m learning.

And there’s no time for that in real life.

* * * * *

I want to be brave with my writing.

I want to be open, I want to be honest, and I want to be vulnerable.  I want to encourage and inspire others …

But most of all I just want to be brave.

Being the Church

Topher has been at day camp at our church this week.

Last week I was envisioning all the free time I was going to have in the mornings while Ellie napped.  I was going to catch up on chores!  Deep clean my house!  Make a work schedule!  Submit queries for freelancing!  Organize the linen closet!  Nap!

None of those things have happened.

Instead, I’ve been spending my time deep in thought.  The sink is full of dishes, the floor is covered in crumbs, and the doors on the linen closet still won’t close – but I’ve figured something out.

All week I’ve been struggling with the fact that the place I should feel the most at home is the place where I feel the most self-conscious:

Church.

This is how a typical morning goes:

Topher picks out his own clothes so he’s probably wearing wearing his swim shorts and an oversized “T-shirts for Turkeys” shirt he got from the local radio station when we donated a turkey last Thanksgiving. I’m wearing my usual summer wardrobe of shorts (that I’ve probably owned for at least six years) and a tank top from Old Navy.  My hair is in a ponytail, I’m not wearing make-up unless you count chapstick, and Ellie is still in her wrinkled pyjamas.

Our mornings are so rushed that I don’t think anything of it.  We have to wake up an hour earlier than usual to drive Nathan to work so we can have the car (our church is too far to away to walk to) and we barely have half an hour at home before it’s time to take Topher.  I’m feeling good – we’re going to be on time! – but then I see the other moms in their skinny jeans, flowing shirts, and Pinterest updos, with their kids in brand name clothing that actually fits properly and matches.  Topher never matches.

And I feel disgusting.  Frumpy.  Less of a mother.  

Pathetic, isn’t it?

The church we attend is fairly large and fairly wealthy.  I never really noticed it when we were part of the young adults/college and career group because we were all struggling to make ends meet, but now it’s glaringly obvious.  When I went back to work after Topher was born I felt like I was the only working mother in the history of our church.  I would have loved to stay home but with student loan and car payments and a mortgage, it just wasn’t possible – but all of the women’s events and Bible studies were during the day.  Now that I am home during the day, every now and then I get invited to join in but I always say no, because they cost at least $80 to join (for “materials), plus $60 (minimum) for childcare – and I can buy the same Beth Moore book on Amazon and do the Bible study at home.   I don’t go to the Pop-In group on Wednesdays because we only have one car and it’s too much of a pain to drive Nathan to work for something Topher isn’t going to enjoy anyway.  And don’t get me started on preschool!

Earlier this week I was feeling frustrated that we don’t have more.  We don’t have a house in the Hamptons – we live in a tiny, two-bedroom condo in a less than stellar neighbourhood.  We only have one car.  I stay home with the kids during the day but work from the time Nathan gets home into the wee hours of the night, either typing medical reports or writing about exciting things like equine dentition and rain rot, just to make ends meet.  We shop the sales at Old Navy and buy used toys and clothing from Once Upon a Child.

But we have enough.

No, we have more than enough.

Sometimes I get so caught up in comparing myself to other people and the lives I think they lead that I forget that.  

I get upset with The Church when I really am is frustrated with not actually being The Church.     

So tomorrow is going to be different.  I’m still going to wear my six-year-old shorts and a tank top, and Topher will probably beg to wear his “T-shirts for Turkeys” shirt again because it’s his favourite, and I can guarantee that Ellie will still be in her wrinkled pyjamas.  But instead of feeling disgusting and frumpy, I’m going to take a step outside of myself.  Rather than judging others and deciding that they’re judging me, I’m going to talk to the other moms.  Instead of grabbing Topher and making a mad dash for the door, I’m going to thank Topher’s teachers for the great job they’ve done this week with their ten tiny campers.  I’m going to connect with the new mom who posted on the Pop-In Facebook page.

As terrifying as it is, and as inadequate as I feel, I’m going to reach out.

I’m going to be The Church.