Handstands

by Abby on September 22, 2014

The first thing that happened was the yoga class. “We’re going to do something a little different today,” announced my yoga teacher, 15 min. before the end of class. “Who wants to try a handstand?” Despite the groans and murmurs from the crowd, each woman gamely pulled her mat up next to the wall as instructed. We started with the feet-up-the-wall pose. Easy enough. Then we turned around and moved into an inverted L, bracing our feet against the mirrored wall. A little more challenging. Next, we were supposed to kick up into a handstand. Uh, come again?!

There is something sobering about looking at yourself upside-down in a mirror — your shirt riding up, your childbirth-slackened stomach hanging out there for all to see. But no one cared. We were all too focused on whether we could, in fact, kick up into a handstand as our teacher promised. “Use the wall for support!” she shouted encouragingly. Would we smash the mirror? Collapse in a heap? Kick our neighbor in the face? That all remained to be seen.

The second thing that happened was the writing prompt: “Find a picture of yourself as a child, carefree and happy. Write a letter to your younger self. What would you tell her?” Now, I’ve done this exercise before. Not with the photo, though. Maybe because I had handstands on the brain, I happened to think of a project I did in grad school for a graphic design class. Did I still have it? I dug around in my sons’ closet, also known as the school-yearbook and bridesmaid-dress graveyard, and found it. Here it is:

handstands

I forget what the specific assignment was, but it had something to do with juxtaposing typography and images to illustrate the contrast between ourselves as children and ourselves as young adults. I chose a picture from a family vacation when I was about 10 years old. That’s my brother and me (circa 1984?), doing handstands in a field of wildflowers at Tuolumne Meadows in Yosemite National Park. I went a little crazy with the photo filters (pre-Instagram, even!), but you can still see it, can’t you?

I remember my graphic design instructor suggested using my own handwriting in this version, versus the handwriting font I’d used previously. Countless hours scanning and snipping in Photoshop, but she was right. It’s more authentic this way.

As a longtime self-help junkie, I’ve noticed a common thread in materials intended to help you find your purpose or follow your bliss. They all ask you to reflect back on your childhood. What were you like as a child? What did you enjoy? While I appreciate the intention, I sometimes stumble in the execution of this exercise. Um, I don’t know . . . I liked to read and draw and make up dance routines to Cyndi Lauper songs with my best friend? Is that helpful? Does that get me anywhere?

As for what I would say to my younger self, again, I’m stumped. Would I tell her only the good parts of what’s to come? Leave out the bad parts? Would any good come from telling her that one day those handstands in the meadow will be all but erased from memory, thanks to the other stuff that’s cluttering up her brain as an adult – the permission slips and parking tickets, the insurance payments and the nutritional values of snack foods? Hey, Childhood Me – you will forget what fun is, rarely spend any time outside, and look forward to getting into your pajamas at 7:30pm! Future Me sucks, is what Childhood Me would think.

Future Me will complain endlessly: I already learned this once. Why do I have to keep learning it over and over? It shouldn’t be this hard. Why is everything so damn hard? The handstands, the life lessons, the EVERYTHING.

And yet Future Me will take her turn in yoga class, sweating and grunting and midriff-exposed, and, with the teacher’s help, kick her feet into a wobbly, ungraceful, but decidedly upright handstand. And she will feel strong. And even the tiniest bit carefree again. And she will not kick her neighbor in the face.

FLICK O’ THE WEEK: I really enjoyed the movie, This Is Where I Leave You. An all-star cast featuring the adorably scruffy Jason Bateman, a surprisingly serious Tina Fey, and a delightful Jane Fonda put the “fun” in dysfunctional family.

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Breathing Room

by Abby on September 5, 2014

I was emailing a friend recently about how much I’m loving my new schedule now that both kids are in school. Real all-day school, I mean, not that 2.5-hour preschool nonsense that barely gives you enough time to shower and shave both legs.

I’ve mentioned that I’ve taken on more writing assignments and work commitments recently, but in true freelancer fashion, those arrangements didn’t conveniently start the same time that school did. No, they started months ago, just about the time the kids got OUT of school, which meant “let the juggling begin.”

My frugal little self has always believed that I cannot afford to pay for more childcare than I actually need, which means that every single second of every single day that I was working on a billable project and my kids were at the sitter’s, I was WORKING. No errands, no exercising, no lunch breaks, no showers, certainly no shaving—nothing at all besides doing the paying work. I would work right up until seconds before I had to pick up the kids, then text the sitter “on my way!” and dash out the door, praying for green lights.

I know people who go out for coffee with friends while their kids are with a babysitter, get a pedicure, read a book, even go shopping without small people tugging on their hems and begging to stop at Build-a-Bear. But I was not one of them this summer. I just couldn’t justify it. Like most freelancers, I have to pay for childcare in advance so I can do the work, even though I don’t get PAID for the work until up to 30 days after I send my invoice. (Fingers crossed.)

In my email to my friend, I said I finally feel like I have some breathing room. Until then I hadn’t thought about it that way, but yes—all summer I was holding my breath. Sucking it up, pushing through, doing what I had to do to get everything done and keep everybody happy.

The only hints that something was possibly out of whack were a) my constant feeling that summer and fun were passing me by, and b) when my youngest (yes, THAT son) needed yet another round of stitches due to yet another facial injury and my first thought was, “Crap! Now I’ll miss a day of work and camp’s already paid for!” Not my proudest mom moment.

But now that school has started, I’m up at 6:45 a.m. After the kids are fed, dressed, and out the door, I now have time to finish a cup of coffee while it’s still hot warm, take the dog for a walk, and check my email—BEFORE starting my work day. Breathing room.

Woman taking a deep breath outside

I have time to stare out the window for a few minutes while I’m working. Time to stand up, stretch, do a downward dog, get another cup of coffee AND go to the bathroom before I crank out another set of copyedits. Breathing room.

I have time to return phone calls, buy stamps, and schedule my long-overdue doctor appointments. (Happy, Mom?) Sometimes I even have time to go for a run, prepare and eat a meal while seated, and complete a load of laundry. (Rather than attempt the same mildewed load 3 times before actually making it to the dryer stage.) Breathing room.

I no longer resent the extra time I have to leave myself for school pick-up. I get there early, get a good parking spot, and catch up on emails or phone calls while I wait. When I greet the kids, I’m no longer tuning them out while I mentally run through the remaining items on my to-do list. That doesn’t mean I’m getting every single thing done, but I’m not stretched nearly so thin any more. Breathing room.

Another thing I said in my email to my friend was that I just haven’t had the desire to blog lately. I talked about a post I read recently about defining your blog’s purpose, and how I’d always felt my purpose was to entertain people and find the funny in not-so-funny parenting situations, but that lately I hadn’t been feeling funny at all. I felt sad. And burnt-out. And in transition. I turned 40 this summer! My youngest kid just started kindergarten! I need some time to figure out how I feel about everything, where I’m going, what I’m doing.

Then write about that, she suggested. So I am. But I’m giving myself some breathing room here on my blog, too. I don’t know what that means, exactly, or where I’m going or what I’m doing. But I’m still here. Taking slow, deep breaths and enjoying my warm coffee while I stare out the window.

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Back-to-School Humor

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Change is in the Air

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Field of Dreams

July 21, 2014

The hubs and I had dinner with some old friends of his recently. The guy is retired from the military and involved in all sorts of exciting pursuits, from going back to school to taking cooking classes, which he enthusiastically told us all about. His wife seemed so supportive and thrilled for him. I don’t […]

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On Dinosaurs and Talking to Kids About Death

July 15, 2014

I will never forget the night my older son, who was maybe 5 or 6 at the time, appeared in the living room doorway long after we thought he was asleep, sobbing. His narrow shoulders were shaking and his hand was pressed to his lips. “What’s wrong, sweetie?” we asked him, bewildered. “D-d-does extinct mean […]

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My YouTube Debut, and Other Things On My Bucket List

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My bucket list, if you could call it that, all started with the Milestone Birthday I recently celebrated. Leading up to it, I felt the urge to try some new things, put myself out there, take some risks. I decided to start with public speaking. Because why not tackle the one thing most people fear […]

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Fun with Photo Apps

July 7, 2014

I’m back from vacation but not really “back” yet, if you know what I mean. All I want to do is leave the unpacking and laundry for later and go through all my photos. So today I thought I’d share a couple of fun photo apps, under the guise of imparting some useful information while […]

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Scenes from a Summer Vacation

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This post from a couple of years ago is one of my favorite vacation-related posts. Kids and their questions. And poop jokes. Originally posted Aug. 2012: Some scenes from our annual family vacation at the lake: On a walk with 3 kids, ages 6, 5, and 3 “Guys, see that flower? It’s called Queen Anne’s […]

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