Buck the f*ck up.

 

Tragic was the first word that came to mind when I thought of my morning. Except is wasn’t tragic at all, it was pitiful with a side of wallowing. I slept in which meant I didn’t get my one and a half cups of ultra-strong coffee and Facebook trolling time. I also managed to misplace my keys so as I was pining over my lost caffeine fix I was also madly running around the house looking for something to start my car with.

The roads were awful from the snow storm that so lovingly triumphed over us these last few days so of course everyone was driving like assholes. Including me I’m sure. We all seem to lose our good driving sense when the snow begins to fly, who knows, must be one of those weird collective-thought thingies. You know, like the Berenstain Bears phenomenon. If you don’t know what that is, look it up right now. I won’t be offended if you leave to Google it, I swear. It’s worth it.

So I pull in to the shop and I can feel the inkling of a mental breakdown on the outer edge of my brain. As I nearly chop off my finger while cutting onions for the soup a tiny voice whispers bitter somethings at my inner ear. It asks me what business I have doing a job like this. As I pull my cakes out of the oven to find they have somehow burnt on the outside and are still batter on the inside the voice cackles and reminds me how worthless I am.

But I’m trying my hardest, I say to the voice. I tell it that I’ve done well so far considering I’ve never worked in this industry before. I rationalize that most things I attempt turn out half decent. My confidence begins to waiver however.

I burn myself for the third time and yell, “FOR FUCK SAKES!” and chuck the empty soup pot into the sink. It clanks loudly against the stainless-steel basin which irritates me even further. The voice pipes up again. Stop kidding yourself. You’re no cook and you’re certainly not a baker. Jamie is the only talented one when it comes to this stuff. You are just here for the grunt work. It’s what you do best. It’s the only thing you’ve ever been good for.

Tears dribble down my cheeks as I look around at the kitchen. I’ve accomplished nothing this morning except scorching myself and perhaps denting our sink with my temper tantrum. I hear the back door open. Jamie’s here. I try to wipe away the wet from my face. The voice chants at me persistently.

You’re never going to be good enough and Jamie will resent you for it.

I know that it’s ridiculous. I know that none of what this voice says is true and it is just insecurity wrapping its ugly talons around my feelings. I know I’m worth more than what this voice tells me. But for the moment I am defeated. My husband walks in to find a woman broken down and emotionally beaten by her own silly reservations. I sloppily relay what the voice reiterates in my brain every few minutes or so. I tell him I don’t know what I’m doing. I tell him I feel lost sometimes. I say that I don’t think I am good enough.

I know what his reaction will be. He will tell me I am wrong. He will say that I am amazing and that he couldn’t do this without me. This is what we do, we hold each other up when the other begins to back step.

Being married is difficult. Being an adult is difficult. Opening a business where you’ve put everything on the line is totally terrifying. So yeah in the last year there has been many a meltdown between the two of us. Our secret to not falling totally and utterly apart? One of us always finds the strength to tell the other one to buck the fuck up.

This morning my best friend held me together for the umpteenth time in our life together. I won’t go into details (because my mother reads this blog) about what exactly he did to pull me out of my funk, but I will tell you that it was fun and it worked.

We all have moments where we wonder if we are good enough. We wonder if we chose the right path. We wonder if there is room enough to grow into the position we find ourselves in. I think the answer is always yes, regardless of circumstance. As individuals we decide who to become in life. But what makes that journey less painful, less scary, is having the people you love ready to pick you up when you falter.

This morning, as I sobbed into Jamie’s shoulder, he grabbed my face and told me to shut up. He kissed me hard and said, “Maybe you aren’t the best cook or the greatest baker but I went to school for this and was trained by professionals and I still have cakes that fall and eclairs that go to shit. We’ve built this thing together and we will keep learning together. We are in this together.”

So it wasn’t a tragic morning after all. It was just another morning where a life lesson presented itself. And sometimes life lessons—despite all the emotions and junk—can end up making you feel pretty damn great.

 

Unqualified Business Advice

 (So I wrote this essay for a friend who is thinking of opening up a small business…And then I thought I would share it with you guys, becasue well…that’s what I do.) 

 

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So you’re opening a business.

Well you’ve come to the right place. *She says while looking around maniacally and rubbing her hands together in a untrustworthy manner.

Who I am kidding, I have no clue why you came to me for advice! I’m not suitable to give a cat clad in denim overalls business consult. But here you are needing some encouraging words, and if I can do one thing, it’s string together a few fancy sentences. So here goes nothing.

Not to mention, we’ve have had our fair share of “learning curves” worth of wisdom that I’d love to impart on you.

To start off strong and brash let’s begin with finances. The biggest thing that we learned (the very very hard way) was to over-estimate EVERYTHING. So you go ahead and make up your business plan and say you work out that you are going to need forty thousand to get everything started, you are probably actually going to need around upwards of sixty. Otherwise six months in you will find yourself pimping out your pets to the crazy cat lady next door to pay the electric bill and savaging through couch cushions for rent money. Well, it probably won’t come to that (**looks around awkwardly) But in all honesty there are so many hidden costs around every corner when it comes to something of this magnitude. We are still (and probably always will be from now on) discovering new things in which we knew nothing about and yet having to fork out dough for – no pun intended, actually, pun definitely intended.

Because in the end, everyone (EVERYONE) wants a piece of the pie…again, pun most certainly intended.

Which brings me to the next point. If you are having to get contractors in make sure you do your homework. We got screwed around something awful when it came to our contractors. Sometimes they were just downright ripping us off, or simply not installing things correctly, or—get this—not pulling the permits that they were supposed to pull before working on our bay! So, make sure that you really know your shit when it comes to the contractors, your permits for the work that needs to be done and so forth and so on. This was definitely one of our sorest spots when getting everything up and running, it ate away a lot of our budget and threw us for a loop. *revert attention to pet pimping comment.*

The first few weeks we were open we had at least four or five people trickle in a day telling us how we should run our business. They wouldn’t buy anything, or even surrender a kind comment about our hilarious puns or funky decor. No, apparently their job was to tell us that they’ve “worked in the industry” for thirty years so obviously they have some valid points to divulge upon us. They would proceed to nitpick at every tiny detail that we had put into our place. From the fact that we were charging TOO LITTLE for our product to how they make chicken salad and their recipe sounds much better than ours does.

Finally when we would ask them what restaurant they owned they would say, “oh no, I don’t own anything, I’m a line cook over at the Ramada, have been for the last ten years.” Or something similar. My point is, once you have a solid plan and have begun proceedings on your business everyone with a mouth and two cents is going to want to tell you how to run your shit. Just remember that you are the one who has had the wherewithal to move forward with your plan, trust your instincts and do your thing! Of course if you hear some good advice, take it gracefully but also with a grain of salt. Own your ideas, your goals and your creations. Because they are yours and yours alone.

Man alive there is so much more I could tell you! I could fill a book with all of the mishaps that went on. It seems to me that the things we were really stressing about in the beginning we’ve yet to find trouble with in the now! And all of the things that we never thought of are what is wreaking havoc in our lives daily. I know it feels big, like unimaginably big, like so big that you really have to wonder why the hell it is called a “small business”. But as you move forward, every day you will conquer another few things on the long list of have-to’s. Eventually, you will have jumped more hurdles than what you have in front of you.

And man, that’s a good fucking feeling!

But as for newly-fresh, still in the idea stage of things; make sure you have a strong foundation to build on (did I just say that? Ew, gag me with a spoon).

As a general overview when starting out I think it is important that you build good strong relationships with, your financial adviser, lawyer, accountant (if you don’t have one, get a recommendation from someone because they are your LIFELINE to a business! Although Jamie and I are pretty brain-dead when it comes to numbers so that’s why we are so reliant on him)

Even before you really start building your actual business it would be wise to form relationships with all of these professionals because they are the ones who are going to help you achieve what you need to…but don’t rely on them too heavily because they are expensive as all fuck.

Well hope you enjoyed this ridiculous essay I ended up writing on just some of the crappy things that may happen to you when opening a business.

It really does feel like a lot, it may seem insane and completely unattainable right now. It’s not. It’s just a matter of organisation and planning.

But most importantly rummaging up the courage, having faith in your goals and taking the leap.

 

Hotheaded People

Hothead: (noun) a person who is impetuous or who easily becomes heated and angry.

Yesterday the kids and I went for a walk to the park and in an effort for health and well-being I decided we would take the long route. As soon as we hit the fork in the path and I turned right instead of our usual left they both stopped and stood there dumbfounded. “Um, you’re going the wrong way mom!” Sophie said with blatant unease. I explained that I wanted to take the long way so we could get some exercise. What followed could have been a scene straight from the apocalypse itself.

There were devastating screams and horrendous moaning. There was “BUT WHY?!” and “NO NO NO” and even, “THIS CAN”T BE HAPPENING!” It was a sad ordeal to say the least. And it made me wonder where they both get this hotheadedness from.

Surely it couldn’t be me. Could it?

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A few months ago we decided to switch internet/cable providers. There were some great deals going on with our current providers rival so we took the opportunity and jumped ship. Everything was going great. The kids were happy with the new channels they got and I was pleased to have my beloved HBO back. Jamie was the only one who was perturbed because his faithful hardwired internet connection had to be switched over to WIFI which he claimed made the internet slower. I told him to stop being such a geezer and get with the times.

A few days later I received a letter from our previous provider stating that we still had rental equipment of theirs, including but not limited to their internet modem. It took me the better half of an afternoon to locate all of the random pieces that were listed as not ours. It was the modem that I found last.

Self admittedly I am rather dim-witted when it comes to electronics of any kind. That’s why we keep Jamie’s brother Dan around, he’s our go-to guy when it comes to technology in general (and we consider the 4 slot toaster tech savvy).

Unfortunately at the time Dan was nowhere to be found. So there I was idiotically gawking at the hookups for the WIFI and modem. I located the old modem but it hadn’t been sloppily tossed in an old box like the other items I had retrieved. It was sitting beside an unidentified device which had the new service providers name on it, the old modem’s lights were still flashing and it looked completely operational.

Well, I tell you what, any rational person probably would have investigated this a little more but not I friends, not I. I got the new service providers on the blower and before they could ask me for my account number I set forth on my tirade.

“Did you people use my old provider’s internet modem to hook up your service? This is blasphemy! That is rented equipment and I need to return it! What do you expect me to do after I give it back? How will I get online? How will I access the internet without a modem?” These were the actual words coming out of my mouth. “You had better get over here and hook it up properly because this is entirely on you!” I had only paused to catch my breath when the unfortunate customer service person who had picked up my call began trying to deescalate the situation.

“Ma’am I’m sorry you are having issues with this, but I assure you that it would be quite impossible for us to use your old service provider’s modem for our own use.”

"Is that is just what you want me to believe internet service provider?"
“Obviously that is just what you want me to believe internet service provider!!!”

“Well it’s hooked up, the lights are flashing! What do you say about that?” I went on for quite some time repeating much of the same argument because I couldn’t find any other points to quarrel with in my state of blind rage.

“Ma’am, why don’t you just try to unplug the old modem and see if your service is still working?”

I did just that thinking all the while that this was such a waste of my time.

I looked at the Google bar on my computer.  I looked at the unplugged modem. It finally occurred to me that perhaps the old modem had only been plugged into the wall. Silence and mortification followed as I quickly said, “Thank you, that’ll be all” and hung the phone up. I looked over to Jamie who was now hysterically laughing at my obvious faux pas.

“Who’s the geezer now?” He said between snorts.

Moral of this story: teach the kids that hotheadedness never pays.

Thankless Jobs; and Why They Are Sometimes Worth It.

As a writer one must adopt the knack to take criticism positively and use it constructively. It is a difficult feat sometimes, especially when you’ve toiled so hard on a project only to have to revamp and once again revise, revise, revise. Nevertheless the writer knows what must be done to achieve the overall fulfilment they will eventually reap from their work. And this entire process, I’ve come to realize, is quite similar in the long journey of parenthood.

Just recently I’ve decided to expand my reach by submitting a few short fiction stories to some literary magazines. I’ve had a severe love affair with science fiction and the fantasy genres for as long as I can remember so I thought it was high time to send some of my own fictitious tales of escapade out into this big literary world. For weeks I poked and prodded at the ten short stories I had decided were worthy for submittal.  I read and reread the overall storylines; I cut characters and added more interesting ones. I custom made my sentence structure; I was witty (but don’t worry not annoyingly so). I murdered, I schemed, and I plotted (in the stories of course) and I repented over none of it. By the end, these tales I had created were a part of me. They live in the depths of my mind and their characters will forever survive in the warm caverns of my imagination.

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Yet some do not see it that way. This morning as I argued with Sophie over why she must brush her extremely knotted hair I glanced at my phone to see I had received an email from one of the magazines I submitted to a few weeks ago. My heart gave a little skip but immediately thereafter faltered.  I opened the email to find yet another rejection letter. I’ve lost count currently but if I had to guess I would say it was about the twelfth or thirteenth, “sorry not for us” reply I’ve gotten.

This however is all okay, and that is because of one simple quote I’ve taken on as my personal mantra, “By the time I was fourteen the nail in my wall would no longer support the weight of the rejection slips impaled upon it. I replaced the nail with a spike and went on writing.”― Stephen KingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft.  Leave it to one of the great “king’s” of literature to craft such a vast beacon of hope for aspiring writers everywhere.

Now all of this talk about rejection has started me thinking about how similar the feelings that arise from parenting can be. We work so damn hard to be the mothers, fathers, and caregivers we have to be. We laugh with them, rack our brains to come up with awesome activities to keep them stimulated. We love them unconditionally. We’d murder, scheme and plot for them if it meant their safety and happiness. And yet we expect nothing in return.

Much like writing it can sometimes be a thankless job. We will collect unwanted, unwarranted commentary from our peers because they would do it a different way. We gobble up the criticism from the experts and call it constructive because what on earth else are we supposed to do with that information?

Parents and writers are constantly on the search for recognition, and yet in reality it is so seldom that we find it.  This morning after I received this particular email I quietly retreated to my bedroom. I once again thought about that famous quote from Mr. King and it made me realize that it not only applies to the rejection we feel as writers but also the rejection we can feel in everyday life. It occurred to me that no matter what has got you down, the key is to keep moving forward.

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Yes sometimes our parenting endeavours can feel unappreciated. It is a job we do out of candid love rather than for acknowledgement or praise. And even when the girl child refuses to brush her hair or the boy child tells you you’re the worst mom ever for not letting him play the tablet, you will still carry on. We do this because of that tiny voice inside reminding us to always do best for the small humans we are bringing up in this world.

And one day, just like my creative writing, our hard work and effort will pay off and we will hear the words, “You did great, thank you” and just like that we will fail to remember how complicated it once was.

I am a garbage picker

As it happens, each year around this time of the Great Melt, a plethora of garbage and litter become painstakingly evident along our walks, green spaces and lots. It is the devastating reveal after a long and heavy snow-covered winter. And it gets me in the same soft spot every year.

I am a garbage picker. My mother is a garbage picker. And I’m sure her mother was too. We willingly choose, as crazy and outlandish as it may seem, to pick up haplessly strewn garbage when seeing it lying on the earth. Gasp.

“Um you do know that there are town workers for that kind of thing.” A woman informed me the other day on one of my cleansing missions. I held a rather fat grocery bag of sodden waste dripping from my left hand at the time.

I am aware, to be clear, that town workers get out with their poky sticks at a certain time of the year and in the more travelled areas of town, stab a few pieces of eyesore up and outta there. If you ask me, I would much prefer my tax money going towards a more lofty cause- something I’m not able to easily rectify myself perhaps. What I was not aware of was that it is truly that offensive to want to clean up this place that I live on my own accord.

The war on litter and waste would be a hell of a lot easier to rein in if every resident of planet Earth would be a little more considerate. The toxins from a cigarette butt ill fatedly flicked onto the grass, for example, will undoubtedly seep into our earth and water. Now think about what the areas outside your local bar looks like. Piled with butts and garbage, I bet, and each one of those little chemical stubs will eventually infiltrate our land and lakes.

But we all know that don’t we? You don’t have to be a scientist to conclude that litter and excess waste is bad for the environment. We hear about filling landfills and floating garbage islands every day.  So instead let’s look at it from a different angle- one that people from around my neck of the woods may understand a bit better. Money.

The amount of money we spend in taxes for pointless waste removal from our beach and walking paths is heinous. If each one of us picked up ten pieces of garbage on our walk to work, or the dog park, or wherever our little ol’ feet want to carry us, we wouldn’t be in need of paying these employees to do such for our own lazy and apathetic asses.

Even better, why not stop littering all together? Instead of watching that Wendy’s bag float out of your car like a thumb-up-your-butt-asshole, go and grab it, and shove it in a garbage can.

Our municipal government has passed a bylaw this summer to allow mobile food vendors into our town. Many a tourist passes through these parts in the summer months and I’m sure will be in seventh heaven when hitting up the convenience of some delicious to-go grub.  Of course some of the more environmentally conscious individuals found this worrisome because of the amount of disposable food containers that will be being pumped out of these specific areas. Obviously with this in mind, the fear of even more litter accosting our beach and parks is palpable. The town council put this matter to rest quickly and with ease stating that of course they would be adding additional garbage cans to the areas where the vendors will be present.

I find this a laughable conclusion to come to seeing as how there is already a surfeit of garbage cans around the downtown core, due to excess foot traffic, and still, the good people of town and abroad choose to flip their butts and toss their trash aimlessly to the land.  I’ve seen it many times first hand, our town looks like a dumpsite in the early hours of the morning during those busy summer weeks, sandwich wrappers, juice containers, and pop bottles all sully the ground. However eventually, before the tourists pile in, we pay unnecessary wages to multiple town workers to prettify something we, humanity, should do out of a deep-seated knowledge of simple mindfulness. Yet regrettably that notion has slipped away from many people nowadays.

There is a huge need surfacing, and not only in my meager town. It is the education of the earth and how we must stop mistreating this home we live on, for her sake and ours.

I for one will do as my mother did and teach my children how to recycle and sort as well as how to use a garbage can instead of the ground. It is painfully simple really. I will teach them how utterly despicable it is to allow a piece of their own trash to flit off their person and onto earthen soil; not once thinking about the consequences. And I will teach them there is no harm in picking up a few pieces of rouge garbage as they pass it by, how could there be?

Let’s create a generation of garbage pickers, and clean this mother up.

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4 Today, Teen Tomorrow

Dear Sophie,

I write this note to you on your 4th birthday as a letter for the future.

I remember the car ride to the hospital as though it was yesterday. I was scared and excited and eager but most of all I was nervous. I was nervous because I didn’t know about girls. I didn’t know how to raise a girl. For weeks prior I had obsessed over the tiny dresses I would put you in. Washing, hand drying and hanging them on the girly pink closet hooks I had bought for that exact purpose.

And with each one of those dresses I imagined a memory of you in them that I would one day have.

In truth I daydream endlessly of you Sophie. Even before I knew you I would think about our life together. I would wonder what kind of person you would be, what kind of soul you would have. I worried about the bad people in this world and I hoped you would be the kind of individual strong enough to overcome them. Furthermore I prayed I would be a strong enough woman to teach you how to do this. As I struggled with my own self-esteem issues I doubted how I could ever be a positive role model for you. Before I had ever laid eyes on you dear daughter I brooded endlessly over how I would ever give you the self-reliance to walk your own path. To be your own woman.

These things still concern me, but not nearly as much as they once did- because now I know you.

You came to greet us on a cold and crisp November morning. You were perfect in every sense of the word. You immediately stole your father’s ability to think logically and continue to to this day- and I would put money on the fact that this is unlikely to change.

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Please don’t take too much advantage of that in your teenage years.

I look at you today- the smart, funny and wonderful little girl you’ve grown into and I marvel in your independence. As I have watched you develop over the years I see this person emerging from within. This person is strong-willed and courageous. She is feisty, never willing to back down from something she believes in. This seemingly tiny persona of yours is not tiny at all. Sophie you are the type of person that will draw notice to yourself wherever you go. Your sheer confidence already illuminates you. This is a quality you should never be ashamed of.  It is the essence of you and deserves to be savored.

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In your lifetime people may try to whitewash these talents, just know it is out of jealousy and fear they do this. Feel pity rather than anger to such individuals and be strong in the resolve that your uniqueness is something that can never be subdued. Do not bend your morals and ideals to please the egos of others. Sometimes it may be difficult not to, sometimes all you will want is to fit in with the crowd. But as you get older and wiser you will appreciate that you have stayed true to yourself. Befriend those without ulterior motives, the ones who only want to rejoice in the splendid rareness that is you. Those friendships will be the lasting ones. I promise.

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And just as you will go on learning life’s lessons, so have I.

It is now 4 years, a lot of arguments, some tears and a whole bunch of laughs later that I realize how unimportant those little dresses actually were. They were overpriced pieces of frilled fabric, worn once and never to be remembered or thought of again. It makes me wonder why I had worried so endlessly about their creases and stains in the first place. I spent so much time assuring they were in lovely order for you to wear.  It all seems so silly now looking back on it.

These last four years have gone by so fast it makes me realize that it will not be long until you can read this letter yourself and take in its meaning for what you will. And when that time comes I would like to give you a few pieces of motherly advice;

Confidence, contentment and kindness are infinitely more important than material clutter. Style is not measured by the outfit you wear, but how you wear it. Travel lightly and smile frequently- both will have outstanding influence on your psyche.  Understand that it is acceptable to say no to anyone at all. Know that karma is real and tangible and constantly in motion. Be generous. Ignore the cynics. Believe in humanity.  But most importantly live liberally, live freely, live your own way- because that is what you have always been meant to do.

We love you baby girl

Happy Birthday!

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In one ear, out the other

This morning I was looking through some of my columns I have wrote for Me Plus Three and found this one called, “In one ear, out the other” I really enjoyed writing this piece and thought I would share it with all of you. 

So without further ado, this is for all the new and soon to be Mommies out there!

 

It is my experience that once an embryo is implanted into one’s uterus, you unwittingly become a candidate for unwanted and often redundant advice. This advice will start out small.  Maybe you won’t even realize it is happening in the beginning, but as sure as the stretch marks that sully my stomach, the advice will come and you will end up ruing the day you sought counsel from another human being.

I was 6 months pregnant with my son Lars, young and oblivious to the trials I would soon face as a new mommy. In my mind, everything was coming up sunshine and rainbows, and quite frankly I was feeling fine with my naive approach to parenthood. But with every, “Aren’t you scared to push a baby out of your vagina?” and “How are you going to keep a kid alive?” I began doubting my ability to be mom.  I, being the first among my friends to carry a bun in the oven, had little to no peers to go to for advice. Of course, the girls would offer their opinions on what I should do, and what I shouldn’t, one of which being that they hoped I would never become that inconsiderate mom, who simply didn’t care about the welfare of the adults around her anymore, always doting on a baby who clearly should be left to self sooth in the first place. To be truthful, my childless friends had all the answers and were certainly not afraid to voice their brazen opinions to me. I will admit that in the beginning, while the babe was still cooking, I agreed with them wholeheartedly.

It wasn’t until the 20 plus hours of labour (where their predictions proved to be grossly inaccurate), that I began to question the validity of their words. After bringing baby home, the tirade of opinions only got worse.

“Change the diaper like this!” “You must be quicker when strapping him in the car seat! It is 30 below outside for the love of God!” “Is that baby still sleeping in bed with you? You better break that habit soon or else you’re going to have trouble on your hands.”

Granted many of these helpful hints I should have taken notice of. I currently have a 5 year old who every night crawls into bed with Mom and Dad because sleeping alone is just too terrifying – but at the time the judgment as I saw it, was getting to me. I was the mom, and despite my lack of experience I wanted to learn as I went. I wanted only my husband Jamie and I to call the shots when raising this kid.

Instead of handling the situation like a level-headed adult, I threw a temper tantrum. I screamed and cried and told anyone and everyone that tried to give me any sort of guidance (positive or not) that I could handle it on my own and I didn’t want their stupid opinion anyway! I had begun to resemble a pre-pubescent child, instead of a knowing mother and this certainly did not help my plight.

Finally after a considerable amount of time distancing myself from humanity in general I realized that I am social by nature and simply could not limit myself to life with only my son and husband for company. So to my mom and mother-in-law I went, and in a surprising turn of events, I asked them for some advice.

“How did you deal with people telling you how to raise your kids?”

Although asking them on separate occasions, their answers were quite similar. I won’t try and quote them here today, because honestly since having kids my memory has become mush and there is no way I could remember what their exact words were to me that day. It was along the lines of, letting it go in one ear and out the other.

People who are close to you, just want to know that they are a part of this beautiful time in your life and sometimes the easiest way to do so is to offer a piece of advice to try and make life easier. At the time it may be annoying, more so on the side of infuriating especially with all of those post-partum hormones floating around making you a crazy lady. But a slight nod of the head and a polite smile is all that is needed to acknowledge that their counsel has been heard, and what you do with that counsel beyond that is completely up to you.