What I Want

I was talking with an old friend the other night and she jokingly told me “you have it all.” I laughed it off, but later I started thinking, do I really have it all? It might seem that way to someone who is just looking from the outside in. But I live with too many “Wants” to have it all. And then turning on the news, yet again, this morning, I realized, no, I truly don’t “have it all”. Because what I want, what I want for my CHILDREN, is not obtainable in the world we live in.

I want: my kids to get up in the morning and throw on their clothes and not worry about being bullied for their choices.

I want: my kids to get on the bus and go into their school and not worry about shelter in place drills and lockdowns and lockouts.

I want: my kids to enjoy their lives, go to concerts and movies and malls without having to worry about a madmad ending their lives because of that enjoyment.

I want: my kids to go on vacation and travel the world without having to fear people hurting them just because they can.

I want: my kids to be able to speak their mind without fear of retaliation.

I want: my kids to live in a world where they are able to respect the people put in charge of them, police officers, teachers, even the government.

I want: my kids to live in a world where every tragedy doesn’t end up an agenda, an argument, a reason to point fingers.

I want: my kids to know Everyone’s lives matter—THEIR lives matter.

I want: my kids to be able to respect people for differences and opinions…they don’t have to like them, just tolerate them.

I want: people to just freaking be nice to each other. I want everyone to stop arguing about everything. I want what everyone else wants. I just want happiness for me and everyone around me.

And the worst part is, every time a tragedy occurs, we use it to fuel our hatred even more. Why???? Why can’t we say, “Wow, that’s horrible that happened. Let me reflect on/ send prayers/give thanks it wasn’t my family”????? There are bad people in this world that are going to do bad things…let’s not let them destroy us all in the process. I’m not saying let’s join hands and sing Kumbayah. I’m just saying, can we just take that energy that we waste on anger and hatred and just use it for love and tolerance? Stop criticizing and denouncing and build someone up instead? How hard is that? Why can’t we have that? When I was a kid, it didn’t seem that hard. Why is it so hard now? It’s bad enough we have tragic accidents, cancer and other diseases killing us off before our time…why are we living in a world where the hatred is killing us off too? Tomorrow isn’t promised to us. Happiness isn’t promised to us. It can all be destroyed in an instant. So no, I don’t have it all. None of us do.

One Piece of Pie At a Time

Have you seen this article? http://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/work-sleep-family-fitness-or-friends-pick-3.html

I’ll give you the gist of it…it basically says that we cannot do it all. As hard as we try, to have balance, we either have to sacrifice things or be content with the notion that we are doing a crappy job with SOME aspect of our lives. This is the battle that moms go through every single day of their lives. I’m not saying that fathers don’t fight to keep things in balance, I’m just saying they aren’t as affected by it as women seem to be. I think that’s because as mothers, we are constantly feeling the need to be superwoman. It’s in our blood to want to be everything for everybody, often sacrificing ourselves in the process. For me it’s not only about balancing family obligations (being a good mother AND wife), my “real” job, my writing, keeping the house from falling apart, not gaining 400 lbs by eating donuts and drinking coffee non stop to stay awake, and still having a life. It’s about being good, or at least semi-decent at it because otherwise I feel like a big fat failure at all of it. And no, I’m not trying to sound like a martyr (I can hear my husband singing “Wind Beneath My Wings” as I type this), but I know I’m not the only one who feels this way. I think it’s ingrained in almost every single mom with a pulse.
The article says “Family, Fitness, Friends, Work, Sleep…pick 3”. While those categories are a little broad, it’s so true it’s almost scary. As much as we strive to have balance, we can’t devote what we need to to all these categories. I think there’s more like “Family, Housework, Fitness, Eating Healthy, Work, Sleep, Friends/Leisure…pick 4”, but that’s just my personal opinion. However many categories you think there are, the idea is still the same. Life is like a pie. You need to divide it as best as you can. You can cut it into 8 pieces for sure, but those pieces are going to be thin and likely to fall apart when you lift them out of the pie. And even if you manage to get the slice on your plate, it’s not going to be as filling as say if you had divided the pie into 4 or 5 pieces…you’re going to be missing the filling or the crust and you’re still going to be hungry.
The same thing holds true with balancing work and family and all that other stuff…while you may be able to pull it off, you’re not going to be doing anything to the best of your ability, leaving yourself feeling like a failure. The pie represents a day…there’s only 24 hours and only one of you. There’s only so much you can do. If you manage to work and cook and work out and do all the housework…you probably got 3 1/2 hours of sleep. I can write amazingly funny novels and help my kids with their homework, but I’ll have an ass the size of Canada.  Or I can chose to stay home and not work at all so I can clean the house and be an amazing wife, mother, and friend, but we’ll be dirt poor and live in a shoe box (at least it wouldn’t be hard to clean!). Likewise, if you are healthy and fit and spending lots of time with your friends, you probably are sacrificing your family time to do it. And I’m not saying that’s necessarily a BAD thing. Because honestly, that’s the only way we CAN do it all. One piece at a time. We cannot be there for everybody AND ourselves every single day.

Some days we need to call out of work to take care of our sick kids. Some days we need to leave the kids with a sitter and have a date night with our spouse. Some days we have to put in the extra hours to get the work done that pays our bills. And some days we need to blow it all off and go to the spa and take care of ourselves. Balancing isn’t necessarily about giving something up, it’s more about knowing WHEN you need to sacrifice one piece of your life for another. I think the hardest part about this is that we don’t want to neglect the other pieces of our life, but unfortunately, that’s the only way to keep it together.
I wish I had the answer….I wish I knew how to not lose my mind from feeling overwhelmed by the pressure of doing it all. But I’m starting to see how impossible that is, how unhappy that makes people, how unhappy that makes me. Instead of doing it all I’m going to focus on staying sane and trying to enjoy each piece of my life. After all, why eat the pie if you’re not going to enjoy it?

The Great Cooking Experiment 

Okay so if you’ve read my blog for more than say, a week, you know that I’m a pretty lousy cook, I have picky eaters in my house, and we eat out A LOT. By a lot, I mean four or five plus meals a week. Like they know our names at the pizzeria and Mexican restaurant we frequent. At the beginning of this year, seeing that the entire family gained excess weight over the last year, and my husband had reported we spent a grand total of $13,000 on restaurants in 2015, I decided we would try an experiment, an entire month of eating at home for dinner. Thirty-one long days. Armed with a new crock pot and an abundance of Pintrest recipes, I announced this plan to my family and friends. And they all laughed. And laughed. And laughed. No one thought I could do it.

Now by “I” I mean me. Because essentially, this was my challenge. This was 99% on my shoulders to plan, prep, and cook. To design 31 meals we could all stomach without repeating meals over and over. Sure, my hubby cooked a few of those meals (maybe 8?) but that was about it. He was also very opposed to the idea because he’s well, lazy, and likes the convenience of a wait staff and kitchen staff. Still, I wanted to do it because I felt like this challenge was about change, about making better choices for my family. We’ve all packed on some excess weight from eating out and I know that’s not a healthy precedence for the kids. I felt like not only would we be better off physically and financially at the end of this, we would be better off overall. I thought maybe I might even learn to LIKE cooking.

The month is almost over. We’ve gotten through 30 days. The crock pot has meal number 31 in it as we speak. And the results are pretty much in, the experiment as good as over. And yes, maybe we did accomplish it. And it honestly wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be to actually cook. I’m not as horrific at it as I recall and hubby is pretty amazing (when he actually cooks). Some of our meals were better than good. (I could eat the crab corn chowder or the quesadilla every day). But guess what? I’m not gonna sit here and tell you I developed a new found love of cooking. I’m not going to tell you that I suddenly became a gourmet chef. I’m not gonna tell you our family bonded over creating healthy meals together. I’m not even going to tell you we lost a single solitary pound. I’m not even gonna lie and say I cooked 31 meals. There were quite a few nights I waved my hand toward the kitchen and said “fend for yourself”, which results in soup or cereal for my kids. What I will tell you is that the challenge was definitely NOT what I thought it would be.

This challenge end up being more than about the cooking for me. It ended up causing me to see the disparity of chores in our household. While everyone ATE the meals, not everyone helped create them. Or even clean up. Not only did my workload in the kitchen increase tenfold, I’ve never heard so many freaking complaints about meals in all my life. Oh sure, the first few days we all worked together to make the meals and I believe it was Day 15 before we even had a meal we didn’t like. But we were pulling out all the stops in the beginning. I have about 10 meals in my wheelhouse. Hubby has maybe 7 or 8. You do the math…that’s about 2 weeks of crappy, unpalatable food. That’s 2 weeks of complaints and 2 weeks of HOURS cleaning up the kitchen because the kids have made themselves pasta or soup or some alternate meal.

Hubby gave me the peliminary numbers for our savings for the month. Even though we obviously spent more at the grocery store, we spent nothing at restaurants. I thought we would save over $1,000 a month, considering we spent $13,000 a year. Nope. The grand total amounted to $606 for the month. Yes, sure, that adds up to $7,272 a year. That’s a vacation or even a year’s worth of car payments and insurance. But that’s also NOT ONE SINGLE MEAL OUT. That’s no takeout, no birthday dinners, and no “hell, I just can’t fathom cooking tonight”.  That’s a whole year of hearing “what the hell is this made of?”, “you’re having ANOTHER bowl of cereal?” and “I didn’t know chicken was gray”. To some, that’s bearable and within reach. To me, that’s like saying you can save that much money if you don’t turn you heat on in the winter or the air on in the summer. Sure that’s a huge savings but holy crap you’re gonna be mighty uncomfortable, unnecessarily. Some things are just not worth it. To me, my sanity is worth $7,272 a year.

Unfortunately, the man who fought me tooth and nail when I proposed this challenge, was seriously buoyed by that number. Cheap to the core, the idea of saving to him is akin to money growing in our backyard on its on special bush. He doesn’t care that I have old lady hands now from the dishwashing. He doesn’t care how much food I threw out because people in this damn house don’t eat leftovers. He doesn’t care that the cashiers in Shop Rite greet me by name. He just sees dollar signs. He told me wants to go the WHOLE YEAR without eating out. That’s when I laughed and laughed and laughed.

We’d never make it the whole year. We’re so close to freedom I can taste it. My kids are marking it on the calendar—we only have to eat Mommy’s crappy meals for X amount of days more. My husband is the one who’s actually thinking about where he wants to go out to dinner on the first of February. It would be impossible to expect us to pull it off. I’m not delusional. But maybe, if we all work together (insert snickering here) we can pull this off enough to limit our eating out to one or two nights a week. Heck, that’s gotta save SOME money, right? Wish me luck.

P.S. If for some ungodly reason you’re intrigued by one of the pictures above, comment or leave a message and I’ll forward you the recipe.

 

Why I Don’t Want to See a Picture of Your Gifts Under the Tree

I’m not a scrooge or a Grinch by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, I think I’m quite the opposite. The idea of the holidays makes me almost giddy like a kid. I love the lights, the music, watching A Christmas Story over and over again. I look forward to the food, the wine… I don’t even mind the wrapping or even the cooking (which I normally despise). What I don’t like about the holiday is seeing pictures of everyone’s trees. No wait, let me rephrase that…I love seeing pictures of trees and how individual they all are. I love seeing the decorated houses and living rooms full of people. It’s those pictures of the stacks of presents that I can’t stand.

Posting a picture on social media with your tree with a few gifts strategically placed underneath is one thing…it’s the shots of the living rooms that look like the tree gave birth to a Toys R Us that’s disturbing. It bothers me, not because I can’t give my children a lavish Christmas, but because I choose not to. I’m not into keeping up with the Joneses or trying to outdo all the other moms on social media. I definitely don’t want to post pictures with a overflowing tree that says “look how spoiled my kid is”.  Instead of focusing on gifts, I want them to realize what Christmas is really about.

We’re not religious, so it really has nothing to do with the birth of Christ or anything for our family (although many people emphasize that and that’s also refreshing). What I’ve hoped to give the kids is the idea that Christmas (and all the holidays) are about family and traditions. Being with the people you love and spending time with them, good, bad, or all out insane. I want them to enjoy Christmas Eve like I did when I was young…looking forward to so much more than gifts. I want them to look back in years from now and remember decorating the tree and playing with their cousins and going Christmas caroling. Putting the emphasis on “getting” sets them up for disappointment. It’ll never be enough if they’re constantly wishing for “things”. I don’t recall the gifts of 1987, but it was my last Christmas with my grandfather and I remember the events of that holiday vividly. I can’t remember what I got for Christmas in 1997, but I do know it was my first holiday that my husband and I hosted together. I remember everyone at my house and the joy it brought me (and the stress too). I don’t remember what gifts I received for much of my childhood (except that Hot Wheels City in 1983…that was the best gift EVER), but I do remember the games of Scattergories and the driving around to see the Christmas lights and Nana’s strufoli. I remember the feast of the 7 fishes and the laughter and quite often…the tears. Because it’s not always fine and dandy. Along with the joy came a lot of flipped over card tables and shattered glass. But that was the family I remember. They weren’t perfect, but they were mine, and I treasure the memories with them because many, many of them are no longer here…some are missing in body and others in spirit.

Those gifts the kids rip into in ten minutes flat (after endless nights of wrapping), will probably be next year’s garbage. What stays with them is the memories. The memories of eating cookies for breakfast of Christmas morning and the tradition of brunch at Grandma’s. Take pictures of course…you’ll want to pull out the bad hair pictures for their future spouses. Snap shots with their favorite gifts, too. Get the looks on their faces…those are priceless. Capture the joy, not the materialism.

An Open Letter to BookBub from an Indie Author

My Dearest BookBub,

Thank you so much for your email at 8:21am that allowed me to drag myself half-heartedly out of bed and carry on with my day. I must say, your prompt rejections are becoming so much of my usual routine that I can almost predict them now. I send in a request on Thursday, I get rejected on Saturday morning…it’s like we’re old friends.

Except, old friends wouldn’t do this to another friend, would they? They wouldn’t laugh in their face and keep rejecting them, watching them squirm. They would support their friends, wouldn’t they? They would want to see their friends succeed.

What do I have to do to get you to like me, BookBub? You pretend you want to help me by peppering your emails with “unfortunately” and “Best wishes” and all that insincere crap that makes it look like you care. But do you REALLY care? Look at your advice for getting a promo for instance. Really, BookBub? I feel like you don’t really know me at all. Here they are (and I QUOTE):

-Submit your book for a Featured deal at a lower price point—I submitted it for FREE. Would you like me to PAY people to read it????

-Submit other books from your backlist—Um, I have…MANY, MANY, MANY times. And you’ve rejected them all…MANY, MANY, MANY times. And I’m currently working on more books for you to reject.

-Re-submit your book in a few months, when it might be a better fit for our readers—Oh, okay…so when the chick lit/cozy mystery readers finally say oh, wait, I like to read chick lit/cozy mysteries?????

It’s partly my fault, I guess. After twenty-seven rejections, I keep coming back for more. And you keep kicking me to the curb with the same old form letter that tells me that you only accept 20% of all submissions. Hmmmm, I’ve never been too good at math (I’m more of a language arts kinda gal) but wouldn’t that mean you should have accepted me 5-6 times already??? Maybe you need to go back to elementary school, BookBub. Because it seems like we’re in high school all over again, BookBub.

I feel like you don’t listen to me, BookBub. When I apply to be part of your world TWENTY-EIGHT times, that means something to me…why doesn’t it mean anything to you? That’s right, I said TWENTY-EIGHT. One time you accepted me…you let me into your world for a sneak peak. In the UK. Don’t get me wrong, it was my best sales day EVER. I was over the moon happy. But what a tease you are, BookBub. You got me all excited, thinking that I had a foot in the door…now you liked me and I proved to you I could sell books. But no…apparently you were the popular kid who accidently invited the nerdy girl to his party.

What don’t you get, BookBub? Do you not understand that you single-handedly have the power to make an Indie author? I get that they’re a dime a dozen, but when they’re jumping through hoops to prove themselves to you, don’t you think you should throw them a bone? I’ve sobbed to my fellow writers and they’ve commiserated with me. We cry on each others’ shoulders and swear we won’t let you get us down. And we swear we won’t desire you anymore…we’ve got other promo sites that like us…Robin Reads and ENT and Fussy Librarian. THEY don’t care if we’re big name authors or not. They like us for who we are. But we’re all secretly longing for your acceptance. I know that we’re all still trying to get your attention, despite telling each other you’re not important. And then, you accept one of them out of the clear blue sky and I can’t help thinking…bitch. What does she have that I don’t have?

I think we need to break up, BookBub. Okay, so maybe we’re not officially an item, but I can’t keep holding out hope that you’ll finally accept me. I feel quite insecure and I’m lacking confidence now, constantly second guessing myself. Is it my covers? I admit, in the beginning, they were kind of primitive. And I get it…people judge on appearances. So I did a little make-over, but still…you won’t even glance my way. They seem appealing to me, but maybe you’re more superficial than I thought. Is it my number of reviews? I know I don’t have many, but my mother always said it’s better to have a few good ones than a whole bunch of fake ones. It can’t be the quality of my work because you’ve never even taken the moment to get to know my books. How can you reject something when you don’t even give it a chance?

I’m leaving you with that thought, BookBub. Maybe you need to think about what you’re doing to people. Maybe you need to reconsider your elitist take on acceptance and make someone’s world by throwing them a promo. (pick me, pick me…)Meanwhile, I’ll be on the couch with a pint of Rocky Road, watching “Sixteen Candles”, and writing bad poetry about you, BookBub.