365 Days.

One year ago today I received the last call regarding my Dad and his health. The one where the nurse very apologetically says, “Your Dad. He died some time in the night.”

He had died in his sleep as most kidney failure deaths occur. As the body becomes more riddled with toxins the periods of consciousness become shorter and shorter and the sleep becomes heavier and heavier. He had a strange bought of lucidness the night before where he told my brother he wasn’t dying and he needed to go home. While we had both read about this occurring as a last phase before death, we had a hard time really considering and instead did the foolish thing and let ourselves hope it was possibly true. Of course it wasn’t. And we knew that. And if we didn’t we weren’t given too long to hope, he had died less than 12 hours later.

My brother was already there in Knoxville so he was able to head straight to the hospice. I had to do what I had been preparing my family for: load everyone up in a millisecond and hit the road. The hospice had let me know that they would call me ASAP and that if I got on the road immediately, I could still come say Goodbye. They wouldn’t take him away yet. We had been packed for weeks and already had suits, dress clothes, and baby paraphernalia waiting in Knoxville from the many other trips I had made in the months prior.

Of course the drive was slow as we got behind wrecks and construction and everything possible to slow us down on the one day I needed to be able to aparate.

I said my goodbye to a body that no longer held my Dad but for some reason was symbolic enough that I just had to do it. Why was that so necessary, I’ll always wonder. I had said goodbye to the real him many times over those few months. When I had hugged him two days before I remember considering this as the final goodbye, the signs were there it wouldn’t be much longer. I had told him I loved him and squeezed his frail body as tight as I felt safe doing. So after that – why was I so desperate to say Goodby to the shell that had once held him? I don’t know. But I did. And I’ll be forever glad I did because it gave a stark reality to the daze of death. I was very glad I had that image in the months to come when I would sometimes convince myself he was no longer gone.

I don’t do that anymore.

I know he’s gone. It still hurts, but I don’t have moments that I doubt it anymore. I still struggle with him not being here. There are so many things he’s missing I knew he would just love. His granddaughter playing t-ball – and playing it well. Just like she did soccer. He would love to see what having an athletic daughter looks like. One that seems to have some sort of basic talent for sports that I never had. And LilZ’s musical? He would eat up all of the stories of rehearsals and set-builds and costume sessions. I know he would find this all as fascinating as I do as it’s something he never experienced as a child or as a parent and as reserved of a Man as he was – he still loved learning and experiencing new pockets of life. He would have loved hearing about this theater community we’re now a part of and he would have wished he could have been here to lend a hand. He would most certainly been here to see the show and would have guffawed over his grandson dancing and singing on stage because he would have been thinking the same thing I think every time, “Well…he didn’t get that talent from our side of the family.”

I’m spending the day doing things that make me think of him. One last time, I have said. I have mourned the entire year in MY way. In a way I know he would have hated. He begged us to move on long before he died. He didn’t want us spending time going through his house (“Just throw a stick of dynamite in there and run!”) or crying over his things. He didn’t want us to cry at all. He wanted us to stay in our own towns with our own lives and let him die alone. We couldn’t do that, of course, but it shows how little he wanted his death to affect us. The problem was, of course, he was too brilliant of a father for that to happen. He raised us by himself, creating a bond between Dad and children that couldn’t just be disintegrated without leaving a few wounds.

But today? If I thought he was watching me I’d say he was spending the day rolling his eyes in frustration. I’m going to spend the first half of the day doing things that will most surely make me cry. A lot. And he would most certainly want to punch me in the face for that. But, as he would be the first to admit, I was never one to ever do things HIS way. He died with the head full of gray hairs to prove that.

I love you and miss you, Dad. In ways I never knew were possible. I know you wouldn’t want me crying as much as I have, but know that every tear I shed is because you were just that great of a Daddy. The little girl inside of me who looked to you for protection and safety can’t forget that easily. And the adult who looked to you for strength and guidance will most surely never forget.

Pumpkin Patch Place
One of my favorite pictures because it shows where I got my habit of playing on the things designed for children.

A Day.

Me.

Today was one of those days. Not bad in any way, but a day I never really understood until I became a SAHM. A day I used to read about from other women who were Stay At Home Moms, and then silently acknowledged that days like that are why I couldn’t be a SAHM. A day that went non-stop from the second I woke up until now…when it is still currently going on. When I worked in an office my days were long, but they were broken up between OFFICE and HOME. Not a solid day of ONE JOB. Because the suckiest part about this job? No one tells you when the day is over. No one sends you home. No one tells you to clock out because there is NO WAY they’re paying you overtime this week…GOT THAT?

I woke up about 5:30am, glad the kids were still asleep so I could get in some me time. I did some reading, some laundry, and some dishes. I woke up the kids at 6:30am and started getting all three ready to go out the door. I did carpool with LilZ and dropped the teens off at the high school, then backtracked to drop NikkiZ off at preschool where she bloodied her nose by falling as I left the classroom. AndyZ and I then ran to the doctor’s office that we went to yesterday because LilZ had left a textbook there in the chaos of helping me wrangle his brother and sister. I got the textbook and ran it by the high school to leave in the office for him. Then we went to AndyZ’s pediatrician to pick up an updated blue card that we needed for his daycare for the periodic day I need to drop him off. Then finally back home around 9:30am.

AndyZ had fallen asleep so I laid him in the crib and got to work on Wednesday’s dinner. I roasted vegetables for about an hour-and-a-half while doing odds and ends around the house. I woke up AndyZ from his nap early about 11:15 so we could go get his sister from school. She, he and I went on a picnic lunch to the park to play for awhile. Then we ran to the dance store to trade out jazz shoes for LilZ as I had bought the wrong size. That took a bit as they don’t stock shoes that big. Then we ran to the baseball store to buy oil for NikkiZ’s glove as her coach has been harassing us about oiling her glove. (They take t-ball seriously in this league, you know.) Then we ran over the the YMCA to pick up an annual statement MrZ needs to get partial reimbursement at work. Finally? Back home by 2:15pm.

I got the rest of Wednesday’s dinner ready (I’m making Vegetarian Lasagna for Wednesday night, I’ll share the recipe later in the week) and put it in the fridge so I don’t have to think about it at all tomorrow. Then, I loaded up the kids in the car to head back to the high school. We had to park across the street and walk over so we didn’t fight the exiting high school traffic. We found LilZ to give him his Jazz shoes and his orange soccer socks. (Don’t ask.) I promised him when his yellow tennis shoes arrived I’d bring those over. (SERIOUSLY. DON’T ASK. Just wait for the pictures.) We grabbed the other teenager we take home and walked back to the car. I took her home and brought the kids into the house where I ordered them to play in their room for 45 minutes while I had some quiet time. I watched Castle from last night. I (heart) Nathan Fillion.

Around 5:00pm MrZ came home as I was getting the very simple dinner going. (Veggie burgers and a few sides.) I fixed all of the kids plates and left to go get some groceries while MrZ sat with the kids to eat and waited for his burgers to cook. I got a few groceries and came home in time to play a little outside with the kids. We did some Frisbee and some softball. I gave AndyZ his bath while NikkiZ worked on softball drills with MrZ. I cleaned up dinner dishes. I traded out some laundry. Then LilZ’s shoes arrived so I put AndyZ in the car to run the shoes to the high school. I came home, put AndyZ to bed and sat down to write this entry. MrZ gave NikkiZ her bath and I’m waiting to go get LilZ from rehearsal, probably some time after 10pm. Which will officially make this a 18-hour day. Assuming he gets out at 10pm. It might be later.

It’s not that today was bad, it wasn’t. It was actually quite nice as I got a lot of stuff accomplished and even got a bit of fun time in with the kids. It has actually been GREAT, now that I think about it. But it is also a perfect example of what I kinda hate about this job. There is no end. And that would be much easier to handle if any one of my bosses gave me bonuses or certificates of appreciation once in awhile. If someone periodically thanked me for working my ass off instead of just making me wash their dirty underwear and wipe their boogers on my shirt. It’s almost a hostile work environment some days, with the animal vomit and urine-soaked bedding. (That was yesterday.) Maybe I could at least get a lunch once in awhile on the company’s dime? Except that is my dime. And my dimes are currently being used to buy really ugly Jazz shoes for my teenage son. (Do I need to remind you not to ask and just wait for pictures in a few weeks?)

I guess I’ll just settle for the slobbery kisses and snot-soaked hugs. And while they may sound kinda gross, they’re actually one of my favorite parts of the job.

I’ll Never Be a Nutritionist

YUM

So…we watched the much-hyped Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution this past Friday. It got me really thinking about how I feed my kids. Thinking for THREE days. THINKING AND THINKING AND THINKING. Because since I’ve watched the show, I’ve monitored feedback on blogs and twitter and have come to the realization that this is a VERY touchy subject.

For me.

Let’s begin with the facts: Our family is mildly healthy. We rarely eat fast food, and when when we do we rarely choose fried options. When we do go fried it’s inevitably the Chik-fil-A chicken sandwich because OH MY GOD. They’re just impossible to resist. We tend to eat healthy without really trying. Partly because MrZ and I both grew up understanding healthy food choices. Partly because we just prefer the taste of grilled over fried. Mostly because we want to try our best to be as healthy as possible. We don’t own a fry cooker of any type and we don’t keep sweets around the house. In general: Mildly Healthy.

THAT SAID – Our daughter is the most unhealthy eater on the planet. Well, that’s not necessarily true. There are a lot of typical unhealthy foods she hates: Chocolate, cake, chips (she’ll eat plain chips) and popcorn. BUT – she is such a picky eater that the few things she does eat? AWFUL. Chicken fries. Chicken nuggets. Turkey and cheese sandwiches on white bread WITH MAYONNAISE. Plain potato chips. Sausage (she picks sausage off pizza and eats the sausage patty out of a biscuit.) And everything is better when she dips it in ranch. Now – in her very small defense – she loves oatmeal and sometimes yogurt. That’s it. The only healthy stuff besides the occasional bite of fruit she eats. Maybe unhealthy isn’t a strong enough word.

I’m embarrassed just talking about this. Because there are a lot of people who would scoff at what I let my child eat. My husband is one of those people.

Now…my Dad never forced me to eat anything. But he also never really kept anything too bad around the house, so even if I had my choice it was never as toxic as what NikkiZ eats. Still – he let me turn down stuff whenever I wanted. I hated anything with tomato sauces: Pizza, spaghetti, soups. I wouldn’t ever eat ANY of it. When I discovered you could order pizza without the tomato sauce? I DIED, I was so happy. Yet…as I got older…I wanted to try new things. I’ve been taking foods of my black list since I was 18. Besides spaghetti, pizza and soups I’ve learned to love green olives, guacamole, eggplant and sushi. I’ve been trying and loving new foods since I had LilZ. Now, there are still healthy foods I hate: Lettuce, Creamed Corn and Vinaigrette dressings. But periodically I’ll give it a try in case it’s changed.

My point: No one ever forced me to eat anything, yet I became a healthy and adventurous eater as an adult.

This is the sliver of evidence I hold onto when arguing my case with letting NIkkiZ eat Chicken Fries while the rest of us are eating homemade vegetarian lasagna.

This drives my husband CRAZY. He thinks I shouldn’t give her an option. While we watched that show Friday night we argued about it because I get very defensive. It’s very VERY hard having a picky eater. Every time Dooce wrote about Leta eating refried beans for breakfast, I wanted to hug her and thank her for giving up like I did. Because, if you have a child who fights tooth and nail every time you put ANYTHING in front of them (EVEN CAKE) you might one day…give up. That’s what I did. I decided it wasn’t worth the stress or the pain anymore. I just fixed her one of her staple meals while the rest of the family ate something new and most often: DELICIOUS. I’ve seen AndyZ eat homemade guacamole from a bowl with a spoon. LilZ orders the salad whenever we go out to eat. My other two kids? PERFECT EATERS. NikkiZ? I just gave up.

So…I told MrZ we’d try it his way for a few weeks. I get VERY bitter/grumpy/angry about these type of decisions that end up affecting my life more since I’m at home with the kids. I fight them almost as much as NikkiZ fights eating vegetables. It took a lot of swallowing of my pride and my ego to allow this experiment to proceed. But – thanks to Jamie Oliver – I at least did that much.

NikkiZ fought dinner tonight and ended up eating nothing. MrZ says she goes to bed hungry. NikkiZ says, “I’m NOT hungry.” Because she is made from two of the most stubborn parents on the planet and she will NOT give in that easy. It will take much more than just one skipped meal to make her give up her Chicken Fries.

*sigh*

It’s going to be a long few weeks. But here is the conclusion I’ve come to. There is a range on the spectrum of Feeding Our Children. (Just like with ALL parenting issues.) At the crappy end of the spectrum there’s Huntington, West Virginia: Where Jamie Oliver is because it is our nation’s “Unhealthiest City.” On the other end of the spectrum is the family that eats all organic foods and never a drop of soda. I am currently probably somewhere right in the middle. THAT IS NOT A BAD PLACE TO BE. We don’t have to give up our over-processed fattening foods for the sake of our sanity. We just need to make them the exception, not the rule. I recognize I should, at least with NikkiZ, scoot further from the Huntington end of the spectrum. I recognize that and that’s why I’m trying it MrZ’s way for a few weeks. (Weeks that will probably KILL ME.) But – I’m never going to be the person who refuses the chicken nuggets FOREVER. AND EVER. BECAUSE THEY ARE AWFUL.

They are awful…I know that. But I am also lazy. And I suffer from anxiety attacks CAUSED MY MY DAUGHTER REFUSING TO EAT. Those two things will keep me from ever being the perfect nutritionist for my stubborn and picky daughter. If after a few weeks my sanity is on the line and my daughter is still not eating? I’m going back to my way. And I’ll just seek solace in the bowl of oatmeal she eats every morning because HELLO…I’ll take what I can get.

Time Keeps on Ticking, Ticking, Ticking…

I’ve got a few different daily meditation books I’ve been using to try to give me focus points throughout my day. There were too many to choose from and I felt like I need a little of what each were offering, so I picked a general one about spirituality, one about anxiety, and one for busy women. This is the meditation from yesterday from the busy women option.

…how much of the constant repetitive housework I do is because of my need to keep busy and not because it actually needs to be done?

One of the characteristics of a person who does too much is procrastination. Often, our busyness is a subtle form of procrastination that keeps us away from what we really need to be doing.

I was so caught off guard for how TRUE this was, I took a picture to show the world. But I think it was more than just how true it was, but also how new it was as a concept. Could this be me? Are the mundane chores in my life that I spend so much time doing, are those things keeping me so busy that I don’t get to do what’s really important? YES. Am I somehow procrastinating doing the BIG things by doing so much of the LITTLE things? YES. I mean, it’s not at all conscious or intentional. I don’t say, “I’m going to put off storytime with my kids today because I’m behind on laundry.” But some days that’s what I do and storytime just gets skipped. I don’t actually acknowledge, “I’m not going to even ask my husband about his day because I’m too busy getting dinner ready.” But – it’s what I do. I spend many days putting off what’s important to do what’s NOT. Most often with the delusion of thinking I’ll get to the important thing…later.

But later just never happens, does it?

The kids go to bed. My husband and I go to bed. The day ends and all of those things that actually deserved my time? Those things kept getting pushed back until they had finally been completely ignored.

My Dad and I always commiserated about similar habits we had in college. The number being this: Our desks were as never organized, or our houses were never as clean (although we had different definitions of clean) as they were during exam week. For some reason, we would get it in our heads that we couldn’t study until _________ was done. Usually it was organizing the desk since that was our workspace, but if the studying was REALLY intimidating? We’d extend that need to clean to the entire room. Or the entire house. We kept ourselves busy, putting off what was important.

Here’s the thing: Now that I recognize this habit and see how it affects my life in a negative way…WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT? It’s tricky. On one hand I do stay busy doing the unimportant things – like feeding and bathing my children. But do you see the dilemma? Yes. It’s mundane. BUT IT’S ALSO NECESSARY. How many hours a day do I “waste” on things that probably aren’t necessary? I mean, does my family really need three meals a day? And then, what do I do about the fact that I so often put off the quality for the necessary? Do I have a family meeting and tell everyone that I’m not going to fold clothes until after we’ve all spent bonding time together? Do I apologize for the dirty dishes in the sink and blame it on my need to meditate or exercise? “I mean, THOSE activities deserve my time today. The dishes don’t.” Because in theory? Yes. I’d love to spend my waking hours doing the important things and not the mundane. But let’s be practical…the mundane still needs to be done. And I don’t overdo anything. I don’t cook or clean with any sort of precision that can be lowered. I do the bare minimum as it is!

So…basically? I do recognize the trend of going throughout the day saying I’ll do _____ later because right NOW, I have something domestic and mundane to do. I see that habit and I see how it keeps me from excercising, meditating, just playing with the kids, just talking with my husband. The busyness keeps me away from those things that make my heart happy. BUT WHAT DO I DO ABOUT IT?

Well, for starters, I’m going to keep a time journal for a few days. I’m going to try to focus on more “quality” activities and less of the mundane, but I’m also going to keep track of my hours and how I distribute them. Maybe I’ll find out I spend 3 hours a day sitting on the couch and eating bonbons. And those three hours can be re-allocated to quality endeavors. Like watching reruns of Buffy The Vampire Slayer.

So far we have:
5:30am: Wake Up.
5:32am: Give dogs medicine and let them outside.
5:35-5:45: Check email and feed-reader.
5:45-6:25: Blog about Wasting Time.

Yeah. That seems about right.

Kitchen
My daughter. Breaking the kitchen at the botanical gardens. An excellent idea for how to reduce the amount of time I spend washing dishes!

One of those boring entries ABOUT blogging. Feel free to move along if you’re not a blogger.

Recently a someone asked me how I recommended they increase their traffic as, “My stats have only gone up, like 5% in the last year.” Heh. And you’re coming to me…WHY? I am constantly caught off guard when people assume I know about successful blogging. I dont make money of my site, I’m not on any sort of A-list of SUPER ENTERTAINING BLOGGERS. And I’m most certainly NOT an expert in traffic. Especially since my numbers have been consistently declining since I signed up for Sitemeter in 2006.

statsthru200703
August 2006 thru March 2007

This was my first few months of stats reported from Sitemeter when I signed up in 2006. I had been blogging since January 2004, but I had only kept up with the stats that came on my server. Since they don’t keep “archive” stats, I decided to sign up at Sitemeter just so I could compare over time. But I’m going to be very honest with you – I don’t look at my stats anymore. I used to. Just like all bloggers I went through phases where I would obsessed over them and critiqued my entries based on how they affected my traffic. And then, one day, I just stopped caring. Maybe because I just was happy with where I was, maybe because I didn’t like what it did to my content. Either way – I swear to all that is holy – I stopped checking my stats.

Every few months I log in just to make sure everything is still working, but other than that? The only gauge I have on my traffic is the comments I get on entries. And while I’ve noticed that declining over the years, I just stopped fretting over it. I felt like I knew the cause anyway. Some of it was that my traffic was only high originally because bigger bloggers than I had linked to me a few times and people started reading me because of the association. However, I’m not as funny or as entertaining as those other bloggers so after awhile, those new readers stopped reading. I knew that, and I wasn’t going to stress over it. I’m well aware I’m not as entertaining as many who link to me, I read those same women daily because they crack me up. I only crack myself up once in awhile.

I also was aware of what many infertile bloggers are aware of, blogging about infertility tends to increase traffic. Women struggling with the same problems seek solace in our stories. Therefore, the Google searches that make my heart hurt (“Multiple Miscarriages,” “Can’t Stay Pregnant,” “Why Does My Uterus Hate Babies?”) – usually lead people to my site. I enjoyed that for awhile, a community of shared struggles. But I knew when I stopped writing about Trying To Conceive or Trying To Stay Pregnant, my traffic would drop. Since I knew the cause of the decline, I didn’t need to put numbers on the actual drop. I was afraid it might depress me. I was happier not knowing.

But – I wanted to prove how little I knew about increasing traffic so I pulled up the past 12 months to compare to the first year on Sitemeter.

statsthru201003
March 2009 thru March 2010

First glance it doesn’t look like that huge of a drop. Then you have to pay attention to the TOP of each graph. Sitemeter is kind enough to adjust the range of the graph so that your highest traffic month sets the limit. This is the comparison ADJUSTED to match quantities.

statscomparison
Went from 60K to 20K in 44 months

I’ll be honest. I’m not exactly sure what those numbers on the side mean. Does that include repeat visitors? Spam bots? Unique hits? Who knows. Doesn’t matter anyway because I’m just focusing on the relationship between the two charts. The change. I went from 60K to 20K in 44 months. That’s a HUGE drop. I guess that’s about a 66% decline in traffic over a few years? Aren’t you supposed to go UP in traffic the longer you blog? Heh.

Anyway – my point? I’m happy with my blog. I have never felt more at peace with my online life. I have many good friends and many loyal readers and many times? Those two are one and the same. I get good comments that make me smile and I find new blogs constantly to add to my own Google Reader. After time sometimes I remove blogs that no longer intrigue me, so if people have done that with my RSS feeds? Grown apart from my writings? I’m okay with that. If we just added to the blogs we read and never removed any, we’d all have grown into our desk chairs by now.

Now, if my decline continues and I only have 12 readers over a month in March 2015? Then maybe I’ll rethink my strategy. But for now? I’m completely at peace with where I’m at. And I think – in honor of that? I want us to share some of our favorite “new” blogs we’ve discovered. I’m going to give you a few Newbies (To my Feed Reader, not necessarily to blogging itself) to check out. And then I want you to tell ME about someone new. Try to recommend someone who gets lets than 10 comments on their entries so we can spread the love to people who will notice our affection. These are three from my own Google Reader list that I don’t think I’ve ever linked to before (outside, maybe, my sidebar) – so they’re “new” to you guys. I also probably don’t comment on their sites enough (Because I don’t comment on ANY sites enough) so this makes me feel less stalkerish by linking to them here.

Feet Firmly Planted who has a great photo up right now from a gun shop that made me literally GUFFAW.

Yummy Sushi Pajamas who writes very truthfully about the struggles of motherhood.

Gigglepotamus whose husband I met at a blogger event last year but who also does some amazingly creative projects that make me swoon and want to be adopted by her.

So…who do YOU recommend?