Sunday, December 30, 2018

It's the end of 2018 as we know it, and I feel fine.





I'm not super in the mood to reflect. I wrote a whole post about our year, my family, what we've been through and where I hope we go, and none of it really meant anything to me. It felt like what Shonda Rhimes calls "athlete talk." The stuff basketball players have to say before they're allowed to go back to the locker room. "We moved the ball and they put up a fight, it came down to them outplaying us." Just words devoid of substance.

I am in the mood to start fresh. There has been an interesting backlash against resolutions, especially in the blogging/podcast world. I love how all these women are pretending like they invented the word of the year, or that they've *always* hated January 1st goal setting, when I used to eagerly read every single one of their carefully listed resolutions they posted with filtered pictures of sunrises and coffee cups and silhouetted families. I love that shit! Now everyone's like "I've never ever been a fan of setting myself up against undue pressure. I'm more into WORDS, you know? I've just started doing this and changes everything. I'm DONE with dieting but I'm totally ready to eat clean this year." I stand in the kitchen shaking my head. It's actually one of the reasons I'm really grateful for the #pashfam community (the only hashtag I follow on insta)- goal setting is not vilified and lots of people are posting different spreads to track their small habits and larger plans.

All that to say, my biggest lesson learned this year is that absolutely nothing is true for everyone. Not a thing. Not a way of pursing health, not a way of setting goals, not a way of preparing meals, not a way of raising children. It's hard for me because I have spent probably 15 years of my life in pursuit of the perfect template. And I'm starting to figure out that it'll never work like that. You might find a person to look up to or a life philosophy to follow and it'll fit for a time but not forever. Eventually one of your personal needs or values will press up against the general idea you were adopting and the dissonance can cause real panic, if you thought you found the way things were going to be from then on out. You have to make your own template. It's corny and it makes me sigh.

I'm not in the mood for athlete talk, but I do want to play through this exercise of answering some year end questions, in case it sparks something for me to help me understand how I want to move forward. I'm getting together with some friends today to think about 2019, set some intentions, burn some stuff we want to let go of. I'm hoping my own template will start to emerge from this interesting work.

1. What are the three most important things you learned this year?

My kids need me more than I thought they did.
I cannot be home for an entire summer and stay healthy.
I have to figure out my own template.

2. What are some things you accomplished that you're proud of?

Ended first year as a Media Specialist.
Helped Ben get through his tumor scare.
Changed the look and feel of the entire front of the house (with Ben) into a living space I enjoy.

3. What did you do this year that you'll remember for the rest of your life?

Ben and I working through everything with his health in the fall will stick with me forever. The raw fear and the way that everything felt frozen, and then the strange, slow-to-come relief when things were okay. Making the appointments and talking to the doctors and planning every second of our lives to pretend to have control. It ending as fast as it started. It changed me.

4. What was your most memorable day and why?

Honestly, the day of the surgery will be memorable, and the way that people rallied around us with shocking, breath-taking love and support. But I want to focus on some other positive memorable days this year- our trip to North Conway and spending the day hiking was amazing, or playing hours and hours of Werewolf with my family at my aunt's house over Christmas. 

5. What would you have done differently? Why?

I would have worked this summer. There is no way I could have known that I would feel the way I felt this summer, no way I could have seen that the total lack of routine would make me fall apart. I haven't worked during the summer since the boys were born, but when they were smaller, they took a lot more energy and we had to follow a routine- meet up with friends or go on adventures in the morning, excellent napping skills from 1ish to 4-5 in the afternoon, then dinner/baths/books/bed. There was time for me, time for socializing, and even a few chores worked in. Ever since we've moved into this house (this was our second full summer here), the boys haven't napped, and now that they're much closer to self-sufficient, it's way easier for me to spend a day doing nothing, and not in a good way. Short vacations are perfect for laziness- two full months of the year should not be spent that way. This summer will look different. 

6. How are you different this year than last?

As a person, I'm more stable. I am able to look at myself and see positive or negative patterns. I understand my reactions more than before. I haven't implemented every single piece of knowledge I have, but I have learned a lot about myself. I'm also closer to understanding my family. This has been a time of transition for us- new house, new life stages, new jobs, new goals. Everything I knew about being a mom is changing. I laugh at newborn-mom Ashlie who was quite certain that as soon as her kids could entertain themselves and eat without choking, this whole gig would get much easier. It never gets easier. But it's kind of comforting to grow into what you don't know. 

7. What do you look forward to accomplishing in 2019?

A better relationship with the family that lives in my house, based on our newest needs 
Secretary time (more to come on that one)
Physical thriving
Better money sense (less Target bans, more long term plans)

I'm just going to link to the Passion Planner site because honestly, get one, they're wonderful, the Instagram community is wonderful, and planning has become a treasured hobby of mine. If you want to use my email address (ashlieelizabeth@gmail.com) as a referral name, cool, but more importantly, check these out and see if they might get you closer to your goals! I'm not affiliated, just deeply in love.

I'm also going to link to my intentions for 2018, which I finally got around to posting IN MAY, if that gives you an idea of the kind of year it was.

Tracy Shutterbean is a blogger I've been following for years, and she lives the intentions life way outside of January. Her weekly intention lists are completely different from mine but they inspire me every time. Definitely a worthy follow (her Instagram @shutterbean is excellent, too).

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Coffee and Blogs No. 29


I have been reading so much good stuff lately, and I haven't done a coffee and blogs post in...years? Way too long. It's the season of reflection and goal setting and celebration, so lots of these articles have me pondering on what my focus will be for 2019. ($$$$$$$, your time has come)

I'm breaking things into sections that might help you pinpoint the area you're most interested in exploring in the coming year, but of course, freewheel browsing (my favorite strategy) always works, too. Get a mug of something warm and cozy yourself. Coffee and blogs is back. 

Finances:

A "feeling" of wealth is much more than the sum total of your assets.

This is the scariest thing I've read in a long time. It could be my family in a heartbeat.

These people seem to be working harder than I am and still struggling. What's the point?

Health:

I'd like to have one of these.

I'm- wait for it- dying.

Now that we've had a tumor in the family, every ache and pain is more suspect.

In 2019, resolve to cut out the diet shit. 

Stretch it out.

I think about this a lot- or am I just distracted by my phone?

Family:

We run a household with an equal division of labor and its magic.

I have driven away from a child dawdling to avoid climbing in the car.

Slightly cheesy but incredibly necessary. Same disclaimer for the following: you have to keep falling back in love with the person you choose to spend your life with. That's what they mean when they say marriage is work.

I'm guilty of the expensive treats. I'm guilty of the preaching.

I'm shocked at how strongly my anti-Santa feelings are turning out to be. 

Food for thought

Time Management:

Not sure.

I mean, take what you need. The scariest thing about this is that we already know most of these strategies. We're usually googling them instead of getting shit done.

Facts are scary.

How to be productive while living a life.

This is intriguing.

Best Life:

Speaks for itself.

For the comments.

Woah.

You can't say this until you're 90.


Art by Sanaa Kassou, an illustrator I'm obsessed with- she has a book on sale here and you can follow her Instagram here.



Saturday, December 8, 2018

Looking Back After Shit Times End

A year ago, I was unraveling. It was a scary time. I felt like a husk of a person. I honestly can't believe that was only 12 months ago.

The morning of the surgery.
A month ago, I was terrified. In September, Ben discovered he had a tumor the size of a second eyeball growing in his eye socket. It was large enough that it was moving his eye out of place and, due to a small gap in the top of his orbital bone, was interfering with his brain. My husband, who lived in mortal fear of needles and tests, lived with constant needles and tests while we made preparations for a major surgery to get rid of the tumor and close up the disrupted bone. In a large way, Ben was processing his mortality. In a smaller way, he was perseverating on getting an IV before surgery. In a large way, I was processing the way this echoed the brain surgery my father never woke up from during the same week 21 years earlier. In a smaller way, I was feverishly planning every single thing I could to fake some semblance of control.

Even before he went under, we were wrapped in love. Friends and family
24 hours post op!
supported us with gifts of money, home cooked meals, and their physical presence- my mom and sister stayed with us for a week, taking care of the boys and making sure life ran smoothly so I could concentrate on Ben. Everyone had good words and good luck vibes to send. The prayer committee was working overtime. It was truly an embarrassment of riches, and support we wouldn't have survived without. And then every step of the process yielded a best case scenario. They were able to remove the tumor without going in from the top of his skull, which meant 3 hour surgery versus 8, and a much quicker recovery. He went home the next night. He was driving in two weeks. He goes back to work on Monday. The most relieving news of all? The tumor came back from pathology benign and unlikely to return. My mantra in all of this was "It will all be over by 2019!" And it came true. 

I am well aware that you don't get out of an MRI machine to a panicked tech telling you to go straight to the doctors and have the entire issue be cleared up within two months. That simply doesn't happen. We dodged a huge bullet. 

Thanksgiving Day, strategically posing to hide the incision.
It's a weird time to be reflecting. Maybe also an awesome time? I was thinking about how jumbled things were a year ago, how frozen I felt a month ago, and how interested I am to see how things proceed. All this hardship (which is relative, and mixed in with some extremely wonderful moments/stretches of time throughout 2018) teaches you a lot about what feels good. Knowing I physically couldn't take on the amount of work that slayed me in 2017 made me more thoughtful about how I spent my time in 2018. That felt good. Expecting that I would spent the end of 2018 caring for a significantly sicker husband than I ended up with, I cleared my schedule. We ended up using those empty days to spend family time- lots of dinners together, movie nights, and fires in the fireplace. That felt good. And I woke up this morning knowing I could do anything (It's Saturday, bless!) but I wanted to get my feelings down here. It's not Instagrammable and it won't build my freelance resume, but it will let me look back in a year and see what was happening in the aftermath of this big life event. I love going back and reading about what I thought was worth writing down at different times. That feels good. 

Maybe that's the plan for the new year- focus on what feels good. Not necessarily in the moment, but what actually feels good, as in strong, thoughtful, gentle, supporting. What will build a feeling of good that will outlast a moment of desire and help me get to where I want to be? I think it's things like appreciating family time, making sure to reach out and thank the people who helped me survive November, and looking back to celebrate the growth that happens whether you're paying attention or not. It feels good to write here, and have it all down. Thank you for reading it.