Random thoughts about moving and finding a career

So, obviously, I’m not very consistent with this whole blogging “thing”.  In my defense, our family has moved three times in the past three years.  And moving a family of eight that often is no simple feat.

As a matter of fact, it is exhausting.

Researching schools, finding a place to live, changing jobs, securing all necessary documents, the actual pack-up and travel time, living in hotels, helping kids adjust to the constant change, learning a new city, finding sports and music lessons for the kids, finding new babysitters, dentists, churches, hairdressers, etc.

All of these things and much more make moving a real disruption in a family’s life.  Finding a rhythm again once you have settled in can take time.  And I think the effects are cumulative.  As a matter of fact, I would love to see a study done on the stress levels of families that move frequently.  I would be willing to bet that the level of stress-related illness goes up with each move a family makes.

Being a stay-at home-mom has allowed me a few freedoms that not everyone has. I don’t have to worry about finding a new job or regular child care.  I have a little more time to spend helping the kids get settled into their activities and setting up the house.

And yet, I feel the strain of the move as much as anyone else.

This most recent move has had its own share of stressors.  We are in the middle of helping our twins navigate the college application process.  Our youngest has been potty-training. And there are 3 other children in the middle who have their sports and other activities to consider. My husband’s job, while rewarding, is quite demanding, even though he is not currently deployed.

And, depending on the needs of the Army over the next few years, the prospect of retirement is a reality that we are having to face more and more.

But I’m not ready to retire. I haven’t even started!

I am getting to that point where I have to start focusing in on some sort of career path. Yet I have no idea what I am going to do.

I love talking to and learning from creative people.  I have friends who are food bloggers, photographers, artists, seamstresses, writers, chefs, jewelry designers, etc.  And they all seem to love what they do.

I also have friends who are nurses, lawyers, administrative assistants, teachers, coaches, trainers, small business owners, etc.  And they all seem to love what they do as well.

And all of these things sound fascinating and rewarding.

So how do I settle on one thing?

I think that moving around so much has contributed to my “confusion” over what to do professionally.  It has been easy to sit back like Scarlet O’Hara and “think about that tomorrow.”

But “tomorrow” is getting closer and closer. As a matter-of-fact, it is here. It is time for me to really focus and figure out, as the name of my blog states, what I am going to do “when I grow up”.

I’m curious…how did you settle in on your career path? What steps did you take to bring your dreams of a rewarding career into reality?

 

 

Who are the “Greats”?

It’s probably not a big shock that I have never been a huge Oprah Winfrey fan. Well, that’s not entirely true…I have been a fan of her work as she has broken barriers for women and especially women of color in the worlds of business, entertainment, and media. But she and I differ greatly on matters of politics and faith.

Be that as it may, I believe that we can differ on subjects and still have respect for and appreciation for, and even (gulp) LIKE people with whom we disagree. (Maybe if more people adopted this attitude we would be able to make progress in the realm of politics).

I digress.  I have a great amount of respect for Oprah Winfrey’s work with literacy and promoting reading among adults. Her book club has inspired millions of women (and many men as well) to pick up novels that they would have overlooked otherwise. There is just something about that “Oprah Book Club” seal that draws many people in.

One of Oprah’s favorite and most talked about authors was Maya Angelou.  Now, to be fair, I have not read many of Angelou’s works, so I cannot say whether or not I am a fan. But, I do like many  of the inspirational quotes attributed to this lady, and I will likely pick up one of her books in the hear future.

It seems I am always looking for a good book to read, and often I find myself disappointed. I am not a literary snob by any means, I just have limited time and resources, so I want to spend it on good material. Now I can always go to the classics, but I also like reading modern authors. The problem is, with the ease of typing on a laptop, creating a blog, and self-publishing, it is harder than ever to weed through the junk and find good material.

So, this makes me wonder, who are today’s truly great writers? We may not know until decades after they have passed away. This is often the case with creative people…their works are often unappreciated until after their deaths. But in an age of Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, and blogs and videos that go viral in an hour, it seems that it should be easier to discern the “greats.”

Then again, great literature is not made for instant gratification. It takes time to create, and more time to consume and appreciate.

So, I would like to ask: who do YOU think the great authors of today are? Whose works inspire and “speak” to you? We may not be able to answer this question accurately, but I am still interested…who do you think will have their works studied by our grandchildren and great-grandchildren?

The post in which I simply write what came to mind for my daughter

Yesterday morning I was sitting at my kitchen table and my 17-year-old daughter came up behind me and asked “Mom, have you blogged in a while?”

“Um, no”

“Well, you should. I really like reading your posts.”

Now, for those of you who don’t have teenagers, when a teen says something like that, you listen.  When a teen is reaching out and wants to communicate, you respond.

So here I am, trying to think of a brilliant, insightful, meaningful post. Something that will impart some kind of profound life lesson on my daughter and the three other people who read this blog.

And you know what…I got nothin’.

I think the harder I try to be wise or influential, the more fake I sound. And there is nothing I hate worse than sounding fake. I want my family and friends to know that I genuinely care about them, even if I don’t always express it well. My compliments often sound empty, and I am a lousy gift-giver (I’m lookin’ at you, beer-making kit that I bought my husband 3 Christmases ago and has moved to 3 different houses without being opened.)

There are some people who have a way with words that make the rest of us drop our jaws and exclaim “That is exactly how I feel.  I just never knew how to say it!” The late Maya Angelou, who passed away earlier this week, was one of these people.

And there are other people who simply seem born with talent or at least discover their talents early enough in life to develop them into lifelong careers or passions. We all secretly want to be one of these people: someone who knows his or her purpose, discovers his or her talent, and develops it to the level of a divine art.

And yet, we rarely see the struggle, pain, and hard work that leads up to these accomplishments. We see the shiny, polished surface that these people present to the world: the perfectly edited and published book, the magnificently sculpted muscle tone on a fitness model, the perfectly lit and positioned photograph, the amazingly straight and tight spiral on a football . But underneath all these things are years of bruises, headaches, fatigue, arguments with family members, bills that need to be paid, demands from employers, children, neighbors, extended family, etc. Namely, there is life to be lived.

What we often fail to realize is that no one does it all. The folks who excel in one or two areas often failed in many others, or at least they struggled in other areas. I have never seen a painting by Pavarotti. I have never seen Michael Jordan host his own cooking show on the Food Network. I have never read a book written by Mozart or heard of any great military feats that Shakespeare accomplished.

Nobody is talented at everything. But we often compare our own weaknesses with the gifts of others. And we downplay our own gifts as if they were common and that everyone has them.

Please don’t do that. Where would our world of art be if Pablo Picasso lamented that he wasn’t good at chemistry or algebra?  And so what if Einstein couldn’t sing or sew?

Find what you enjoy doing and do that as well as you can. If you know your calling or your talents, develop them, and don’t flounder, wishing you had someone else’s talents. If you don’t know, that’s okay too, even if you are 40, 60, or 80 years old. If you are still alive, you have a purpose and something to give to the world.

But whatever you do, do NOT fall prey to the traps of envy, jealousy, and despair.  YOU are where you are supposed to be. But you have a choice…you can  squander the gifts and talents you were given, or you can develop them into a gift for the world.

(And I’ll tell you a little secret: even if you squander them, you still have a chance to live an important, meaningful, fulfilling life. Have you ever heard of the “prodigal son”?)

So, dear daughter, I blogged for you this morning. This is just an unedited outpouring of what came to mind as I started writing. Hopefully there is a nugget of value here for you.

And if not, that’s okay…there’s always next time.

 

Looking in the mirror…and seeing Grandma

Alright, it’s time to get “real.”

Some people seem to have this “growing up” thing all figured out.

I am not one of those people.  And yet, every time I look in the mirror I am reminded that time is passing.

Was that another gray hair I saw? Wait, that wrinkle wasn’t there yesterday, was it? And my profile is starting to look like my grandmother’s.

Whoa! Reality check time. Gravity is doing its thing, and there’s nothing I can do about it (until I win the lottery or decide to max out the credit cards and take a 3-month “sabbatical” to Beverly Hills).

This got me to thinking about the changes that happen as we age. Now I am not going to get graphic…I’ll leave that up to Dr. Oz and your next issue of Oprah magazine. Rather, I want to share my perspective on aging.

One of the amazing things about aging is that we begin to see our ancestors staring back at us in the mirror. Just the other day, I realized that some of my features reminded me of my grandmother more than I had every realized. The funny thing was, it made me really happy.

As a child, I looked at my grandmother’s gray hair, wrinkles, and other signs of aging, and just saw them as a part of who she was. I really loved her features. I could see that her hands had worked in the gardens for years, and that her fingers were bent from years of sewing clothes and blankets for her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

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Seeing some of those features on myself made me smile. I am not saying that I am anxious to grow older. There are many things I want to do while I am still relatively young.

But I have realized that I am not really “afraid” of aging. I imagine that my own children and grandchildren will see my physical features the way I see my grandmother’s…they are a part of her and I love them because of that fact.

What I AM afraid of is growing old with regrets. I want to spend time doing the important things in life…loving my husband and children, being as healthy as I can, contributing to the world, creating laugh lines in myself and others, and finding a cure for worry warts. (And my grandmother has done all these things.)

If gray hair, wrinkles, and gravity-stricken jawlines are the price I have to pay to live well, then so be it. I will be in good company.

 

Moving = No Recent Blog Posts…Please Bear With Me!

This “getting ready to move” business is really getting in the way of my writing, and it’s kind of starting to tick me off.

Now, I know, if it was really THAT important to me, I would MAKE time for it. I would PRIORITIZE. I would SACRIFICE.

Hogwash.

If you are a military family, especially one with multiple children and 20 years worth of “stuff” to separate, organize, donate, and sell (to make sure you don’t go over your allowed weight limit), you know how all-encompassing the moving process can be. Oh, and THIS time, I have to add in the fact that I am doing the move sans husband…yep, he had to report almost two months early, so the kids and I will be joining him after school gets out. A friend posted this picture on Facebook…I think it about sums up my feelings:

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  • Some things cannot fall by the wayside such as the field trips, science projects, school plays, state championships, final exams, and other craziness that accompanies the end of the school year.  The kids sacrifice enough as it is for this military life that their father and I have embraced,, so we try to make their activities a priority.

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(My son,  all made up for his debut in the 8th Grade Shakespeare Festival at his school. Disclaimer: He was reluctant for me to take this picture. And he wants it known that he does NOT wear makeup…LOL)

  • Working out (at least minimally) cannot take a back seat. It is too important to my sanity.  I haven’t done much lately, but I have to keep up some level of physical activity or I become the Wicked Witch of the West and  I feel like this:

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  • I get little enough sleep as it is…”sleeping in” on the weekends means getting up sometime after 6am.
  • I have not spent any time with friends lately, and have actually had to break a couple of lunch dates due to impossible schedules. But I am fortunate enough to have friends who seem to understand.

So, the one other thing I could let go of was my writing and blogging.  God willing, I will get better about it again soon.

Until then, please pray for me, because remember:

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“Circling the Wagons”

Try to imagine being hundreds, maybe thousands, of miles from home and everything you know. (Okay, if you are a military family,  a college student, a missionary or the like, this may not be much of a stretch.) Imagine feeling that you are in hostile territory, you are unfamiliar with the surroundings, and you don’t really know which dangers are real and which are imagined, because frankly, everything seems scary at the moment. How do you cope?

One of the tactics used by our country’s settlers in the 1800’s as they moved West was to arrange the wagons in their caravan into a circle at night so that the people would have at least some sort of barrier from the elements, attacks from wild animals, and the native people who objected to these “intruders.”  The settlers were not completely protected, and vigilance was necessary, but it was the best they could  do under the circumstances.

In modern days we often hear the term “Circling the Wagons” used when referring to a family who may be undergoing a crisis of sorts (dealing with an addiction, a medical issue, working through therapy, etc.).  While I consider myself fortunate enough to not be dealing with any of these issues, I have indeed found myself Circling the Wagons of my family lately. Why is that?

We are moving.

This is usually my first response when it comes to moving. I focus all of my energy “inward.”  All of a sudden, outside projects, assignments, and relationships take a back seat to the details of moving.  Like our adventurous forefathers, I find myself turning my back on anything that might potentially cause pain or difficulty. It is a form of self-protection, yet I am finding, as I get older and gain more experience, that while circling the wagons is a necessary part of making a transition, it can keep us from fully engaging and we can rob ourselves of precious memories.

Circle the wagons too soon, and you risk alienating dear friends.  I made the mistake  of not attending a party for a friend (that was being put on by the families in our husbands’ unit) because my husband was no longer a part of the unit. I wasn’t sure it was “appropriate” for me to attend since, for all intents and purposes, we were “gone” (even though we were still physically there). I think it really hurt my friend’s feelings and I very much regret not attending.

Another problem with drawing inward too far, too quickly, is that you miss out on opportunities. We currently live in the Washington D.C. area. The museums, monuments, and opportunities for cultural experiences are endless.  And yet, I have been so “busy” with trying to prepare for the move…looking into schools, arrange housing, make travel plans, sort through household goods, etc…that I have not taken any time to do any of the fun things available, especially as the weather turns nicer.  For example, I would have loved to have run in the famous Cherry Blossom run. (Okay, that’s a lie.  I don’t love running, but I would have liked to have run in this race).

Circling the wagons too soon or too tightly can actually hurt the very people we are trying to protect: our children. Children have a beautiful way of living in the moment, regardless of where they are. They soak up life and experiences with a passion that many of us lose as we mature. When the big people in their lives are looking forward only and are forgetting to live in the present, the children lose out. A child is invited to a birthday party that will take place a day  before the packers arrive. Do we let them attend, or are we too concerned with how busy we will be? There is a school field trip scheduled and your child would love for you to attend. Have you already mentally removed yourself from this school district and begun focusing on the new one as you  “just get through” the rest of the school year, or do you continue to embrace the “old” school, knowing that your child has not yet made this mental leap and wants to be involved in all the same activities as his or her friends? I’m not proud to say that I am in the “just get through” camp…but I’m trying to get better and be more aware.

It is vitally important that we take care of our homes and our families. When changes like moving occur we do have to prioritize and take care of the “glass balls” of life while allowing the “rubber balls” to fall and bounce. My challenge to myself and to you is to take some time to reevaluate which parts of life are truly glass balls (our kids, our relationships, etc.) that cannot be dropped, and which ones are merely made of rubber and will bounce back (not having the kids’ toys perfectly organized for the packers to move or not knowing, prior to moving, which stores and restaurants are in the new town.)

Please, circle your wagons when a major transition occurs in life, just make sure you don’t do it so tightly that you completely forget the world outside the circle.

Motherhood…it’s the “why” behind what I do

When I started this blog, I intended for it to be about pursuing goals, chasing dreams, and ultimately the buzz phrase “living one’s best life.” I am passionate about this type of thing. Reading and learning about goal-setting and encouraging others (especially other moms) to pursue their passions is FUN for me. And I will continue to write about these topics.

But in my posts I have neglected one very important subject. That is motherhood. Now, I mention it here and there in passing. And because motherhood is such an all-encompassing part of who I am, I often forget to think about it as a specific subject for study and discussion. (And frankly, because it IS so much a part of who I am, I like having this blog as my little corner of the world that is about something other than “being a mom”.)

Plus, there are SO MANY “mommy blogs” out there, that I don’t feel I have a lot to add in this particular area. As a matter of fact, I will link to a few of my favorites at the end of this post.

Yet, I would be remiss to leave out any mention of my kids or my vocation as a wife and mother.

When it comes to dreaming, there doesn’t have to be a specific reason why something strikes you as interesting or exciting. Some things just seem like fun, or seem important. But once you decide to actually follow a dream, and transform it from a dream into a goal, you will need an overriding purpose to get you through. Even the most rewarding pursuits have moments of boredom, frustration, and difficulty that you must overcome. And without a purpose, you will find yourself giving up on said goal.

1014155_10151776761864379_707375419_nThe “why” behind my “what.”

In a book I just finished, the reader is asked to send out a questionnaire to friends and family asking several questions about how they see the individual… “If you didn’t know me, what would you see me doing for a living?” “Two words to describe me.” Etc.

When I did this exercise, I received many interesting responses. But the one that touched me most was the answer to the question “What do you see as my driving force?”

Without fail, everyone answered  “Your family.”

Now realize that I have often struggled with the idea of being “just a mom.” I have no idea why…my own mother gave me the greatest gift by being a stay-at-home-mom, and I feel that it is more accepted in today’s society then it was, say in the 80’s, when women were really trying to push into the male-dominated work force. I grew up understanding the importance of motherhood, but I also had this nagging feeling of wanting to do something “more.” And that feeling still haunts me.

But doing something “more” is icing on the cake. (Eating icing alone might be fun and yummy at first, but it soon makes you feel sick. But eating a slice of delicious cake with just the right amount of icing to highlight the flavors and texture can turn a bland dessert into a memorable delicacy.) My husband and kids are the “WHY” in my life.

The late First Lady Jackie Kennedy once said “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do well matters very much.” (Now I know…it is tempting to think “Well, that’s easy for her to say…she had all kinds of help and money.” Yes. She did. But that doesn’t take away from the truth of her words.)

I have a lot of goals that I would like to achieve before I die. But the reason behind every one of these goals has to do with either providing for my family, helping to enrich my family’s collective life, and/or simply being here for my family.

In the future, I will try to include a few more posts about motherhood in general…after all, this blog is called “When MOM Grows Up,” not just “When Sadie Grows Up.” And my hope is that I can encourage other moms to pursue their goals without losing sight of their families as well.

Until then, have a look at some of the following blogs for support and a few laughs:

Power of Moms

Mom to the Screaming Masses

Rants From Mommyland