Personality Profile

3 new things I’ve learned to live authentically


live-authentically

The second item on my #yearofbeautiful list is to live authentically.

Something that I did for that was for a life coach session with the fabulous Julie de Azevedo Hanks. I have an entire page of thoughts and notes from Skyping with her. If you want your own page of notes, I think you should chat with her, too. We had an excellent hour. From all of it, there is a gem that I would like to share with you.

Also, my session sparked conversations with both a good neighbor of mine and also my husband. I have something to share with you from each of those, as well. Ready? Here my three things I have to help me live authentically. As a mom and as a woman.

Do something every day where you feel alive

This came from Julie.

Kids need to see you alive.

I spend a lot of energy caring for my kids. It feels exhausting day in and day out. I lose myself in their demands. I often forget to do something so that ME, MOM, THE MOTHER, feels alive, in FRONT OF THEM. My kids notice when I’m frustrated, exhausted, running low, or short-tempered. So, of course, it makes sense that they will notice when I am feeling happy, accomplished, and ALIVE.

What do you love to do? What are you good at?

By answering those questions, you can make a good list of things to do where you kids can see you alive. My list includes writing, doodling, and playing the piano.

You create their world

This came from Nathan.

So many days it feels mundane to make meals and snacks, clean up after meals and snacks, go through the routine of trying to keep naptimes consistent, struggle through the bedtime routines, and do all of the in-between things like potty training, cleaning up ALL THE TOYS, and consistently discovering new walls, furniture, or lamp shades with Sharpie on them.

This matters, though. My kids feel safe. They feel secure.

Kids that don’t have stability in their lives are forced to live in survival mode. Nathan has seen this a lot working at many of the schools he’s been in. When kids live that way their brain is on hyper alert, their world is a scary place, and they cannot thrive.

At the end of MY  day, I may not feel like I’ve realized any quantifiable accomplishments, but if I’m able to step back and see the day-to-day stability and predictability through the eyes of my toddler and preschooler, then I can see the environment I am creating for them wherein they can be well-nourished.

Your service models the life of our Savior

This came from my neighbor, Nora.

On the morning of my life coaching session, I told her about how I was really looking forward to my appointment and what kinds of things I might talk about it. She told me that she really wanted to hear how it went and I said, deal. Later that day, she emailed me with some of her thoughts. One of these was on how similar the role of a mom is to the life of Jesus Christ. I had not thought of this before. Or at least, not in a concrete way, so reading her thoughts was a big a-ha moment for me.

The Savior cares of each one of us.

I care for each one of my children.

He fed the 5000.

I feed my family.

He washed the feet of His disciples.

I wash hands, faces, snotty noses, and bathe my children.

He healed the sick.

Just last week, I was up in the night with sick kids, holding them, giving them medicine, and praying for their health.

He taught constantly.

I teach my kids constantly.

He gave His life for each one of us.

In a small way, I give my life as I sacrifice my sleep, time, and energy.

So this month, I feel I am doing better at living authentically because I better understand my divine role as a mom, how I’m creating a safe and nurturing world for my kids, and that it is important for them to see me doing things that make me feel alive.

So what things would you put on your “I’m Alive!” list?

The meaningful work of being a mom


meaningful-mom-job

Now hiring: no pay, no quarterly bonus, no promotion, work long hours, no vacations, and difficult working conditions (cleaning the poop out of cloth diapers, yes!). Who would apply for such a job? And yet.

And yet, in spite of the conditions, I chose to be a mom.

And yet, I chose to have a second kid.

And yet, I chose to quit my career and stay home.

And yet, I still choose to be home after doing this for over a year.

And yet, I choose to put my babe in cloth diapers. Because poop.

What makes The Mom a meaningful job?

In my search for ways to be more authentic, I read an article from MIT, “What makes work meaningful — or meaningless” (sorry for the paywall). They came up with five unexpected features of meaningful work after interviewing 135 people in 10 different occupations. When you think of your job (or jobs), do they hit all the right feels for you in these five areas: self-transcendent, poignant, episodic, reflective, personal. Let’s discuss these in list style. Because lists.

  1. Self-Transcendent: Do you feel that your work matters to others more just to yourself?

Being The Mom requires massive amounts of unselfishness. Amounts I didn’t have before and it took time for me to learn to make enough. My kids need The Mom. I try to show them they are loved. I tried to teach them values so they will make a positive impact on our community. If I do good work, I make a big impact on my kids and on how they treat others.

  1. Poignant: Does your work affect you both painfully and deeply?

As The Mom, I am overwhelmed by the array of emotions I experience every single day. When I’m in a moment of negative emotions, I obviously don’t feel appreciative. But turns out, if all I ever experienced was positive experiences, that would steal the rich and challenging times from me. I need those. The experience of fighting through these times creates a sense of meaningfulness.

  1. Episodic: Does your work sometimes feel meaningful, but many times not?

Being The Mom is the most episodic job I’ve ever had. There is nothing emotionally steady about it. It’s not even keel. Not monotonous. Many times, I can only describe it as The Struggle. Meaningful feelings don’t exist for me in those moments. Instead, I feel exasperated and in need of a break. But the ups, man, those are pretty incredible, right? They just come and go. And sometimes, it doesn’t feel like there’s been anything meaningful for days or weeks or maybe months (like the months and months where Gabbi cried from 6pm-midnight, with brief spouts of quiet when we lulled her into scanty sleep). I may work for years and years to try and teach my kids kindness before I finally see one of them take the initiative to reach out to the injured kid in a group. I can’t force them to want to be kind. I can’t force meaningful moments to happen.

  1. Reflective: Do you realize that you’ve experienced meaningful moments after the fact?

It’s often not until we look back on experiences that we realize they were meaningful, so states MIT. So in this area, as The Mom, I am missing out on something that would help me in my job (because I clearly need to add another area of responsibility to my job description!); I am forgetting to reflect on my day. Sometimes I do it, a little bit, when I tell Nathan about some of the things that happened while he was at work. I accompany this with flipping through my phone to show him any pictures or videos I took at the time. But this is only brief reflection. I should improve in this area. Suggestions? When we did chores as kids, my parents would often have us look back at the difference we made when we were done and it was rewarding to see the weeded garden, the clean bedroom, or the folded clothes. Reflecting on The Mom work is more abstract. How do you find time to retrospect on your Mom work?

  1. Personal: Does your work matter to more than just you, but also to the important people in your life?

Yes. It matters to me that what I do matters to the people closest to me. So I think, in this area, I’d like to improve on how I recognize the other parents in my life and the work that they do because I know how much it affects me when somebody tells me, with specificity, about the times that I done good. It’s more than stating: “you’re a good mom.” That’s nice. Now add a phrase full of something meaningful. I’m going to work on this. And I can probably tell myself these things because I want to FEEL more competent.

I’m The Mom. I do things. I do transcendent things. I rock.

Motherhood might smother your authentic self


authentic-momMotherhood can be the overpowering job title that defines you. It’s constantly demanding: breakfast, naptime, middle of the night, when you need to take a poop. Children don’t let you clock out. You have to force yourself to step outside of the role, to take a break, to ask for help and focus on yourself. That’s hard to do.

So at times, I’ve lost myself in motherhood, but not in a good way. Not because I’m enveloped in the smell of a newborn and the rest of the world melts away. Not because I cherish the little hugs from my polite little preschooler. I’ve lost myself in motherhood from exhaustion and sleep deprivation, lack of patience after answering “why?” after “why?” after “why?”, or anxiety from a baby who won’t nap and won’t stop crying. I’ve lost myself in motherhood because I lose track of my personal hopes and dreams.

Motherhood is beautiful, but there’s more to me than raising two small kids.

One of my goals this year is to make it a point to live authentically. I’m on a mission, right now, to figure out HOW.

Any suggestions?

I’ve been asking the internet and I’m on a search for some good books. One book in particular, I’m going to revisit, and that’s Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly: “Because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.”

Okay. Authenticity ties into self-acceptance.

Which is another goal this year: FEELING more competent at what I do. My goal isn’t to BE more competent. It’s to FEEL more competent. And that comes back to how I talk to myself.

I’m curious: what do you call yourself when you talk to yourself?

I call myself Larrie.

I don’t know why. I can’t remember when it started. Obviously, not prior to high school, since that’s when my nickname was born (thanks, Jarv). For some reason, when I talk to myself (usually in my head), it’s in the third-person and I talk to Larrie.

I’m typically upset with Larrie. I’m telling her that she’s not competent. I’m reminding her of her mistakes. I’m verbally berating her. Poor Larrie.

Be nice to Larrie.

Larrie is beautiful.

This month:

  1. I will be nice to Larrie.
  2. I will also reread Daring Greatly.
  3. I will research how to live authentically.

Living authentically and feeling competent = beautiful. #yearofbeautiful yo.

If you happen to have any good articles on this, please, send them my way!

#yearofbeautiful


I want to be more positive. I want to be less critical. I want to be more content. I want to be less envious. I want to be more giving, less self-centered, more present, less distracted, happier, and someone I would want to be around. So I’m dubbing this my year of beautiful.
I thought about this while washing dishes the other night. I do have a concern and it’s that I’ll come off like the “perfect little Pinterest mom” who seriously is seriously so blessed. If I’m constantly posting the beautiful things I find, I’m constantly bombarding you with So. Much. OMGawsh. Amazing!

I hope I don’t.

My life is not perfect. I know. And I mean, I KNOW. I’m my worst critic. If being critical was a talent, I’d be in the running for America’s Best. I mean, I can still tell you about my last basketball game, senior year of high school, state playoffs, and I can describe the specific turnover I had just before the half court line and the time I didn’t box out and my player had an offensive rebound and scored. I remember my mistakes.

And I know I’m overly critical of others. This, obviously, is not conducive to flowing relationships. Bad Larrie.

So this year, I will focus on what is beautiful. For me, I expect the learning curve to be steep. I’m really going to try, though. So watch out for my excessive use of my hashtag. Or join in, if you feel so inclined. It is more fun to do things in groups, anyway.

To start my Year of Beautiful, these are my three goals (coming from the self-determination theory if you’ve heard of it):

  1. I will FEEL more competent at what I do
  2. I will live authentically
  3. I will strengthen my connection with others

What a beautiful list. Why thanks!

The steepness of the mom learning curve


doALLthethingsAs I sit here at the computer, one of the nicest things is that my back is to everything else in my home. By staring at my monitor, I can’t see the toys littering the floor, the unmade beds, the Amazon shipping boxes strewn across the living room, the decorations and presents piled on my kitchen table for a church Christmas dinner, or the precariously perched boxes in the garage where the ornaments and lights wait for me to pull them out and decorate.

When you’re busy, everything demands your time at once, right? For my personal record, when I look back at this day, here’s what I’ve been attempting to accomplish:

  1. Writing social media content for some small businesses
  2. Editing a personal essay/memoir for a writing contest due tomorrow
  3. Planning and prepping for the Christmas Relief Society dinner tomorrow
  4. Sending checks to musicians that played for the Trans Siberian Orchestra pit stop in Salt Lake
  5. Skyping with a writer for another contract doing technical writing work
  6. Writing on this blog and finishing a short piece for my website
  7. Changing diapers
  8. Loving children
  9. Playing in the snow
  10. Feeding
  11. Piano lessons with Dom (he asked for it!)
  12. Potty training with Gabbi (she told me today she had pooped, one step in the right direction of communicating it, even if after the fact!!)
  13. Washing diapers
  14. Ignoring it all by turning on Christmas music and dancing amidst the empty shipping boxes

When I was working full time, I envisioned my future as a SAHM and it included joyful play dates, trips to the gym, a clean house, and some extra cash from a little writing here and there during naps.

Huh.

Turns out, this full-time mom gig is killer. And I only have two lives to protect and serve!

Years ago, I had started a new job and felt nervous about the impending learning curve. A friend with a successful career counseled me not to worry about it because good coworkers and bosses understand that challenging positions require a 6-12 month learning curve. I needed that curve for the position I had just started.

I am here to tell you, people, that the mom learning curve is EXTREME! My goodness. As soon as I think that I may be getting good at something, my kid changes on me. And then there’s the sleep. Listen, child of mine: I have no clue why you’re crying in the middle of the night. Of course, if I go in to your room, you will sit up and instantly ask for milk. Okay. So you’re awake because you think you need milk. Well, what about my needs, little miss? Maybe I need some milk, but I swear, when I ingest excessive amounts of creamy, delicious dairy, my face will get angry with me and respond with red, bumpy fury. And now, I’ve gone off on a tangent about adult acne. I really just wanted to tell you about how this mom job I do is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Every day, I am challenged and rarely do I feel like I succeed. It’s easy to picture other mom friends sitting at home in spotless homes where their cupboards are organized and alphabetized, with the bulgur wheat on the shelf above the quinoa; the laundry sits folded in each drawer; there aren’t crayon marks on the TV; the only thing on their piano is one piece of music (not torn); their kitchens floors aren’t crumby; and they already have their stunning Christmas decorations up. Right? Isn’t that what your homes are like, my mom friends?

I totally succeeded today, though. Here’s why:

  1. Dom smiled the ENTIRE time he was at the pool for swimming lessons.
  2. I accurately tracked my writing time for my hourly contract.
  3. Gabbi took two naps and both were in her crib.
  4. Gabbi told me the coh (coat), pa (pants), and shoooo (shoes) she wanted to wear.
  5. I put them on her even though they didn’t match.
  6. We bundled up and went for a walk outside in the snow.
  7. We ate enchiladas, rice and beans for dinner.
  8. We finished that with a variety of cookies from Cutler’s.
  9. I sat down and finished this blog.

What’s my Mom Return on Failure?


titanicSince quitting my full-time-mostly-in-the-office-send-the-kid-to-daycare job, I’ve been working here and there with some freelance gigs. One of them is writing social media content for a couple of small businesses. This has changed my daily reading.

I once spent time combing Agile Software Development blogs, posting comments to Reddit discussion threads on Project Management, or following fellow AgileRoots buddies on Twitter. (And laughing at gifs from Imgur, too. The important work stuff.)

I now search the sysadmin sub-Reddit for blogging inspiration and follow the Twitter feeds of CIO.com and Harvard Business Review. I’m such a sophisticated mom.

Oh, and I also still laugh at important Reddit posts such as this:

Because cats.

And internet.

Okay so let’s get to the point of my blog already. On HBR, I read a great article, “Increase Your Return on Failure”, which got me to thinking about my Mom Return on Failure.

In business, a risk-averse culture won’t foster innovation. Projects are labeled successful when they’re built on predictability and efficiency. So people don’t want to mess up, they don’t try new things, and therefore, there ain’t no innovation going down.

HBR argued that there are three steps a business could take to raise their return on failure, which would help foster innovation instead of shunning risk-taking.

I’m taking HBR’s three steps and applying them to my MOM Return. Here goes:

Step 1: Learn from Every Failure

Okay. So I start by reflecting on failures. HBR stated that this doesn’t come naturally because people don’t want to review past problems in the business world, but guess what?

We moms are excellent at remembering our failures!

We may be the most talented group at remembering every last detail of personal failures. We own the market. That’s why it’s called Mom Guilt.

“I’m a failure because…”

Start filling in the blank and try not to get carried away rattling off a list longer than the text of Les Misérables (the unabridged).

The real trick with mom failures is to avoid turning them into guilt and instead, list the positive side effects gleaned. Let’s try this.

Some of my Mom Guilt and some of my positive side effects from it:

  1. Postpartum depression after Dom’s birth—I realized the love and support of the women in my life who picked me up and brought me to the doctor.
  2. Struggling for weeks to successfully nurse Dom—I developed empathy for the moms who nurse, the moms who pump, and those who give their babies formula: they can all be incredibly hard!
  3. Delivering via c-section and not following my birthplan—I learned that there is no easy way to bring a baby into this world, whether it’s vaginal, surgical, through adoption, etc.
  4. Being a working mom—I watched first hand as my son developed incredible skills from being in daycare, interacting with other care takers, being around other babies, and all of the love that surrounded him.
  5. All of the French fries Gabbi has eaten—I know there is no nutritional value in a “fake” McDonald’s French fry, but I don’t know how many she has already eaten in her little life, however, I will take pride in the fact that when we aren’t crashing at the PlayPlace for lunch, she’s tried everything from tofu to sushi, so have some greasy fries, girly!
  6. Yelling at my kids—I’m learning to apologize at the same time I am trying to teach Dom (and eventually Gabbi) how to genuinely apologize so perhaps they will learn from my imperfect example.

Step 2: Share the Lessons

We Moms need to share more and it shouldn’t be the manicured social media posts we feel best about posting. I’ve found some outlets for the sharing of “real”, but I should work on doing this more because sometimes I just use those outlets for complaining.

To be honest, though, this is a step that I’m simply not sure about. How do I share my Mom failures and keep the emphasis on *learning*? Who do I share them with?

I have my walking buddy, my sisters, my mom, my FB moms group, my high school buddies, and on. Do I share with them? Do I ask them to share with me? Does anybody want to experiment with a weekly Mom failure respective? Does any Mom have time? I don’t want it to take away from my after-kids-go-to-bed-long-hot-shower time! And can I share them without coming off as some pompous mom trying to brag that I know how to do it better than you?

So many questions on step 2.

Step 3: Review Your Pattern of Failure

For this step, I’ll tell you one thing I do know for sure: raising children will never let you get too overconfident. No matter how good your kids are, they will always keep you humble. I will never feel like I have this Mom gig down, no matter the grades or citizenship or sports accolades or whatever accomplishments my kids snag. And no matter the number of times we stumble and fall—both myself and my kiddos. If I have a pattern of failure, I do not know it, but I’ve never looked for it. So perhaps I will try to now.

I’ll let you know if I find that I yell at my kids when it’s been too many days since my last Dr. Pepper!

The anxiety of having the bed to myself


sleep-anxiety

I am a single mother for a few days. My 7-month-old daughter anticipated this by choosing the two nights prior to Nathan’s work trip to roll over in her Merlin Magic Sleep Suit, meaning she must transition out of it and is now in a sleep sack.

Sleep suits.

Sleep sacks.

Merlin.

Magic.

I’ll try it all to buy myself some sleep with two small children.

My toddler has a moon night light in his room to protect him from the dark and he earns stars for staying in bed all night.

My infant also has a noise-activated music box in her room. Because when she wails at 3:00 am, a rinky-tink version of Claire de Lune coming out of a brightly colored, battery-operated machine will soothe her back to sleep.

Both children have blackout curtains and white noise machines as well.

Considering their ages, my children sleep fine.

I’m the one who doesn’t. Perhaps I need an app on my phone that cues some Debussy as soon as it senses excessive movement during the night. Perhaps I need someone to reward ME when I successfully turn off my anxiety, let my brain shut down the thoughts, and start up the sleep cycle.

Last night, Dom earned his star, Gabbi only needed me once, but I slept like a fly. That’s right. A fly. A fly caught in a spider’s web, reacting with fear to every sound and movement. The night before was the same story.

I envy the mother who can lie down shortly after calming an infant back to sleep, closer her own eyes, and drift back into peaceful dream land with ease.

Perhaps that’s my real issue: dream land ain’t peaceful. In one of my dreams last night, a close friend of mine had gone blind.

Anxious much?