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Scintilla 2012

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The Scintilla Project | Day 11 | Here and there

I am participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: What is it that you’re sure you’ll never forget about being this age, or an age of your choice?

I’ve been waiting for my life to begin.

Waiting to get my driver’s license.

Waiting to graduate from high school.

Waiting to go to college.

Waiting to go to graduate school.

Waiting to get married.

Waiting to buy a house.

Waiting to own a dog.

Waiting to have a baby.

Always waiting.

Once X happens, then my life will begin.

All those things happened.

But I’m still waiting.

For what?

Conditions to be perfect? To move homes? Have a second baby? Earn another degree?

If I waited for all those things to happen, I’d be waiting a long time.

Being this age is tough. So much is happening and changing and yet nothing moves forward at the same time.

Life with a young family puts up contraints and barriers, working between nap times and travel schedules to carve out time for me to make plans and move things forward.

Such is this season in my life. And it’s easy for me to feel like I just want to give up.

This stage and age of life, here at 27, can feel like two steps forward, one step back. And I worry I’ll never get there.

Then again, where is there? Maybe I’m already there. And I think I’ve already been there. And moved beyond to a new and different there.

At every stage and age and phase of life, obstacles and roadblocks and barriers stand in the way of me and my am I there yet thoughts. But here, today, I’m thinking I made it here. Here is a good place to be. And the distance between here and there isn’t so far as I thought.

The Scintilla Project | Day 10 | Temper tantrums

I am participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Talk about a time when you lost your temper.

Everday is a battle to not lose my temper.

Before the day is done, and I can sit back on my couch relaxing with a bowl of whipped cream, Kate puts me through the Toddler Gauntlet.

On any given day, I’ve:

+held Kate while she screams in my face;

+tried to reason with Kate while she flails on the living room rug, kicking and screaming for milk, no wait, water, no crackers, no park, no, wait, MILK!;

+submitted to acting as Kate’s personal jungle gym while she pulls my hair, yanks my clothes;

+made multiple lunches only to have each one rejected and thrown to the dog;

+chased her down the street because she refuses to get in the car to go bye-bye;

+been that mom football holding her kid kicking and screaming because it’s time to leave the park;

And that’s just the stuff that happens before nap.

I lose my temper. So sometimes I go hide out in the bathroom and take a couple deep breathes. When I feel my patience expiring, guilt rises in my pit of my stomach just as fast as my annoyance.

Wouldn’t a good mother just smile when her toddler smashes a display at Rite Aid because I won’t let her stuff my diaper bag with Kit Kats? Would a good mother conjure up promises of Elmo’s World and Stacy’s Pita Chips to stop a crying jag because she just can’t take any more screaming? If I was a good mother, Kate wouldn’t have any tantrums because I’d anticipate her needs and desires and make her happy.

But I know that’s just not how it works. Twos tantrum because, well, they’re twos. Kate needs to push back at me, assert her independence, work to tell me what she wants.

So sometimes I’ve had enough. Sometimes I just need to step away. I loose my patience. I give us each some space, so we can both regain control so I can calming explain why we can’t steal from Rite Aid, in toddler terms.

I lose patience because I feel I’m doing something wrong, I’m loosing, I’m not good at this.

But in the middle of that screaming fit, when I sit down on the floor next to her and rub her back in soothing circles, I think, this is hard. And after she stops kicking and lifts herself off the ground and into my open arms, I hug her against my chest and think, I am doing my best. We hug and kiss. I talk about using our words. And I wipe the slate clean.

The Scintilla Project | Day 9 | food, restriction, and the power of moderation

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Talk about the ways in which your body is awesome.

Restrictions ruled my life.

No peanut butter. No ice cream. Only cheese made with skim milk. Rolls, bagels, sandwich breads of all types were on the “no-no” list. Pizza, rice, cheeseburgers. No, no, and no.

I’d fret when I went out with a group to eat and the table wanted to share cheese fries or an ooey gooey brownie dessert. Those items were most definitely not on my preappoved list of foods.

Not many things made it onto my list of approved foods.

Some fruit. Some veggies. Yogurt. Grapenuts cereal.

It was a mean, unfullfilling diet. I was hungry all the time. And moody. Suffered from headaches and a forever growling stomach.

I instituted my restrictions over various periods of my life. After those awful mean girls told me I was ugly in middle school, during stressful periods of life at college.

I thought I was being healthy, eliminating almost all sources of fat and calories from my diet. But all I ended up with was feeling weak, in a constant state of low blood sugar, sallow-looking skin, and absolute unhappiness.

After years of living on restriction, I grew tired of missing out on group dinners when the restaurant’s menu didn’t offer meals that fit my limited food criteria. I wanted to be out with my friends, laughing over a shared giant cookie cake smothered in bright icing instead of isolating myself in favor of rice cakes.

So I started easing up. Expanded my food rules. Learned more about what actually constituted a healthy diet.

Turns out, low to no fat diets don’t do me any good. Once I introduced good fats and the right kinds of calories into my rotation, my fitness level improved. I ran faster, cycled better, increased my endurance.

Healthy isn’t about what I restrict, it’s what I let in. I balance out my love of whipped cream and cupcakes with blueberry oatmeal and grilled chicken. All in moderation.

When I first eased off my restrictions, I thought I would balloon. But instead I redefined a healthy lifestyle into what worked for me. That’s when I got into group fitness, cycling, explored recipes with a good balance of fat and calories and protein.

I’m stronger without my restrictions. I’m in better shape than I was under my restrictions. My mood improved. I’m happier. My skin changed from sallow to rosy. I can squat and lunge and cycle and jog with a body that feels like a machine, running on the fuel of all things in moderation.

The Scintilla Project | Day 8 | Who I am

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Who are you? Come out from behind that curtain and show yourself.

A mom who blogs. Not a mommy blogger.

Group fitness enthusiast.

Lover of whipped cream, Ghirardelli 70% cocoa dark chocolate chips, ice cream. And cake. And frosting.

Big-dog owner.

Writer. Blogging. Story teller.

Wife. Sister. Daughter. Daughter-in-law. Granddaughter. Neice. Cousin.

Friend.

Amatuer photographer. Currently working in Program mode.

Caffeine junkie. Avid coffee drinker.

Bright color wearer. Orange and yellow devotee.

A do whatever works parent.

Karaoke queen.

Hesitant crafter. Unperfectionist scrapbooker. Glue stick user.

Embracer of others just as they are.

Believer in a good night’s sleep, big hugs, kind words, long talks.

The Scintilla Project | Day 7 | Tribes

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: List the tribes you belong to: cultural, personal, literary, you get the drift. Talk about the experience of being in your element with your tribes.

Motherhood is lonely.

I don’t get out much. Unless you count the local Harris Teeter where I’ve trained Kate to expect a balloon and sugar cookie (or four). Or the park where I spend the entire time on my toes and lifting Kate in and out of the swing at least a dozen times. And if I’m not at the grocery or the park, I’m dodging Kate’s cozy coupe car while cleaning up goldfish cracker crumbs off the floor.

Most days I’m wearing the same yoga pants for the fourth day in a row. Haven’t bothered with makeup. Start talking to myself just to break up the monotony of the dog barking and Kate repeating water, snack, water, snack, PARK!

It’s just about enough to have me praying for a lobotomy.

Then I start to sink into the lonely pit.

I want to e-mail a friend. Post a note on a pal’s Facebook wall. Send a tweet. But I’ve let motherhood ground me into couch.

I’m tired. Feel gross with toddler snot on my shirt and dog hair covering my four-day-old yoga pants. Energy-less. Inertia sets in.

There’s this saying about it taking a village to raise a child. After having a child, I understand this to be true. Kate is part of a community of toddlers and their parents, family friends who watched her grow first inside my ever-expanding stomach to the tall toddler she is today. They sent over onesies and casseroles and hugs and kisses and shared her first birthday with us.

But if it takes a villiage to raise a child, it takes that same village to support that mother.

While there are some days – weeks, even – when my brain’s numb from too many Sesame Street episodes or laundry piles, when I see an e-mail from a friend – a member of my support tribe – just checking in to see how I’m doing, I feel ever so slightly not alone. Or when a friend writes me a sweet blog comment or sends me a Tweet, I realize I am recognized for more than my toilet-cleaning abilities (which, by the way, aren’t that good). When I am trying to hide but a group of friends coax me out for a lunch or coffee date, I manage to find some clean jeans and feel human again.

Motherhood is lonely. But I don’t have to do lonely alone.

The Scintilla Project | Day 6 | Bullies and mean girls

I’m participating in The Scintilla Project. You can read my first post here.

Prompt: Write the letter to the bully, to the cheater, to the aggressor that you always wanted to but couldn’t quite. Now tell them why they can’t affect you anymore.

“People hate you. You’re ugly.”

Awkward started early for me. I was a chubby, braces mouth fifth grader. But I was a nice girl. Kind to her friends. A caring classmate. Good student.

I didn’t think I was ugly. Until that group of girls told me I was.

And I believed them.

After that painful realization in fifth grade, I felt different from the rest of the girls. Puberty hadn’t cursed them yet, so they were all beautiful and slender, nary a greasy hair or pimple on their flawless faces.

It didn’t get better in middle school. I knew I was “the fat one” among my friends. They didn’t have to try hard to be pretty. But I spent bathroom breaks in between classes covering up zits and wondering if I’d ever be as pretty as those skinny girls who walked the halls in their matching jeans from The Limited, a place my mom deemed too expensive.

Individually, the girls were nice to me. I think they saw that beneath my discount store clothing was a nice girl with a kind heart. Who also knew all the answers to the Civics homework. But they also knew I wasn’t cool. So when I’d see the girls walking down the hallway and start to smile and wave, my heart bursts when they’d turn their heads and pretend not to notice me.

One day on the sweaty middle school bus waiting to head home, I sat with my thighs plastered the the sticky seat. A group of cool kids hung out in the back. They were loud and carrying own, I suppose to highlight their coolness. And then I heard what sounded like my name. My maiden name is Gatsos, and that awful hot day those cool kids were loudly whispering Sarah Fat-sos, Sarah Fat-sos.

Instead of feeling mad, I felt confused. I was a nice girl. Why are they making fun of me? I’d never teased any of them. Or anyone. Ever. The idea of purposely hurting anyone’s feelings hurts my heart.

But empathy for others is not a skill most middle schoolers embody.

Puberty cut out it’s angry wrath on me by the time I entered my freshman year of high school. My metabolism evened out. I got my pimples under control. Babysat so I could earn my own money to buy the clothes I wanted. Grew strong from sports and jogging.

I wish I could say I never had a run in with a mean girls group after those terrible preteen years. But I have. There are mean grown girls, too.

Even though now I’m healthy, happy, in the best physical shape I’ve ever been, with mostly under control skin, when I meet a mean girl, I’m back to feeling like Sarah Fat-sos on that bus.

I don’t know why people are mean. I used to think it was because of something I did or who I was. It was my fault they were mean.

But now when I run into one of those mean kids all grown up into a mean adult, I know it’s all about them. It has nothing to do with what I look like or who I am. It has everything to do with their own hatefulness.

I don’t feel remorse because I choose to be a nice girl. I don’t worry about hurt feelings because I think carefully before I speak. I don’t burn bridges because I care more about keeping connections. So maybe I’m not cool or popular. But I care about others, treat people kindly, and don’t need other’s affirmations because being a nice girl is its own reward.