This is why you don’t tweet before bed…

Twitter is a weird bit of social media to me. I don’t use it as often as Instagram or Facebook, but I check it just as often. I use it more for the newsfeed function than for the “contributing to the ether” function. So, I rarely get messages or follows or RTs, and sometimes I forget I’ve even tweeted something.

Well, last night before bed, the official TFiOS movie twitter account asked if there were any TFiOSMoms out on Twitter. And I’m like, That’s me! and I responded immediately with a picture of my tattoo. I then went to bed and thought nothing more of the incident.

And then I woke up this morning and my twitter app was ALL SORTS OF CRAZY. New follows! New Favorites! New RTs! I had NO idea what was going on because I didn’t remember tweeting anything.

Well, I guess the TFiOS Movie account RT’d my response and that’s all they wrote. I’ve got replies telling me I’m an awesome Mom, that people love my tattoo, that they love ME…it’s CRAZY. And hilarious. Because I’m just a running Mommy Blogger in Alabama and now I have this one tweet that has been RT’d a bunch of times and THAT will be my internet claim to fame. I thought it might be that “Quit Hating On People Who Shop At Thanksgiving” entry that went viral enough I had to turn off comments. Nope, not anymore, now my internet legacy is going to be my TFiOS tattoo. Which is fine since not a day goes by that I don’t get at least one notice of someone repinning E’s TFiOS tattoo on Pinterest, so now it’s just going to be our family legacy. We’ll be buried together in 100 years in a mausoleum that will say, “Here Lies Zoot and E – Two People With Cool TFiOS Tattoos.”

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Repetition Is Useless.

One of the most annoying things I’ve had to accept as a parent is the truth that Repeating Yourself Over and Over Does Not Guarantee Shit.

I always assumed that, if you said something often enough, eventually your kid would remember that thing. I wasn’t naive enough to believe it would only take a few reminders…no! I knew it would take a long time, but I did assume they would eventually remember the thing I had been telling them. You know, after 30 or more times.

THIS IS NOT TRUE.

At least, not in my house. Not with my kids.

Every time we go to the grocery store and use a buggy (I know, you call them shopping carts, but I call them buggies so…you know…don’t make fun of me, please) Wesley tries to ride on the buggy by putting his feet on the bottom part and hanging on to the big part. When he was little that was an okay thing to do, didn’t bother me too much. But sometime between age 3 and age 4 he got too big and would start to tip over the buggy even as I was holding it. So! I decided to put an end to that kind of ride and I would gently remind him: Both feet on the ground, Wes. He just turned 6 and there has still not been ONE time when we’ve been using a buggy that I haven’t said that. I go to the grocery store with the kids once or twice a week. We’ll say once to be cautious. So, that’s at least 150 times over 2-3 years that I’ve reminded him, Both feet on the ground, Wes. But truthfully it’s probably three times that high because we go to the store more than once a week and he does it more than once a visit. Sometimes I say it 4 times in ONE trip.

Then there’s the Getting Out The Door thing in the mornings before school. I came up with a system, if you’ll recall, to easily help the kids remember what all they have to do before they leave for school in the mornings. 4 Ds: (Dental Care, Dressed, Dishes, Dirty Clothes). And EVERY SINGLE DAY I have to remind them: Don’t forget your 4 Ds! Because every day they forget SOMETHING. School is now out so that means I reminded them 180 times this school year and they never remembered to do it all without prompting. NEVER.

If there are not baskets in the laundry room when I need them, I sometimes will temporarily sort clothes on the floor of the laundry room. This means no one can throw their dirty clothes in the laundry room because then I’ll get the piles mixed up. So, that’s been the rule for years: NO DIRTY CLOTHES IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM. But still, at least once a week, I find they’ve gotten dressed in the kitchen (as you do) and thrown their dirty clothes in the laundry room. YEARS! YEARS I’ve been telling them this. Yet still, yesterday? Dirty socks and underwear in there.

It just defies all normal logic. You assume repetition is the key. And you assume wrong. It is NOT the key. It is necessary, but sometimes, some habits are just so ingrained, and your kids do such a good job at tuning out your voice at certain decibels (the Nagging Decibel mainly), that they may never remember what you say. I’ve had days when I’m really frustrated when I YELL THE THING I’VE BEEN CALMLY REPEATING FOREVER. And sometimes that sticks for a few days, but I feel really crappy yelling about dirty clothes. Yelling (if used it all, I really try to avoid it) should be saved for the REALLY BAD STUFF…like using my pens without my permission.

I don’t want to YELL ABOUT DIRTY CLOTHES. But sometimes I do. And it does work better for a few days, but eventually they drift back to old habits because all children are sociopaths and they’re just living the most convenient life they can right now.

And we love them anyway.

A Night At The Library

I grew up going to the library almost every other Saturday. We did it every other Saturday because the in-between Saturdays we were with our Mom. So, every two weeks we took back our stack of books and picked up another stack. I loved library day. I loved discovering new reads every two weeks. LOVED IT.

As an adult my affection for the library faded a bit as I simply started enjoying filling my bookshelves with books I had read. I would hit up used book stores instead. Or even the “Give Away” pile at the yard sales. But then time went by and I kept moving and packing up those books and finding spaces for them started taking the fun out of owning them. With this last move I decided to be more selective. What’s the point in keeping a book you don’t truly love? Someone else doesn’t get to read it then and it takes up space on your shelves! So, I donated tons of books to the library for their book sales. Even now, if I buy a book and don’t end up loving it, it goes to the library donation pile.

So, here I’ve come full circle again, back to my weekly trips to the library. Now, if it’s a book I know I’ll love, from an author I already love, I still purchase it. But, I go to the library now for book club books (there’s no guarantee there, as most of the time I didn’t even pick out the book) or to just simple browse.

I have no idea why I browse so much, my “To Read” shelf on Goodreads is PLENTY FULL. Why don’t I just check out one of those books? I HAVE NO IDEA. There’s something about just perusing the stacks and finding a random book to read that you didn’t know you even wanted to read.

photoThe problem is with my local branch of our library, is the YA section has an awesome “hang out” center. There’s chairs and tables and a TV and there are ALWAYS TEENAGERS THERE. So, if I’m in the mood to browse? I have to do it in the Adult Fiction section. Now, obviously I read plenty of Adult fiction (that sounds like I’m reading pr0n) but I really like to peruse the YA section too. Unfortunately, I always worry I’ll look like the creepy old lady when the kids are there.

BUT LAST NIGHT IT WAS EMPTY! I was so excited! The YA section is small at my branch but I spent about 30 minutes just walking down the aisle reading every title, trying to see if anything jumped out at me. I decided to revisit two books I had tried before and put down for various reasons: Uglies and An Abundance Of Katherines. I got that one in an audiobook, which I decided I need to do more often. I also picked up the first two (only two? no idea…) books in a Maureen Johnson series. Yes. I know I have a self-inflicted “NO SERIES!” rule…BUT…I miss reading series books! I forgot I liked them so much! BOO!

Either way – I had the luxury of time in the YA section without fear of being judged by teenagers who get really creeped out by adults hovering behind them while they try to do their homework.

The Anatomy Of A Long Ignored Message Or Task.

I’ve been trying for awhile now to improve my digital personal communication skills. I’ve tried organizing and flagging my inbox or leaving messages unread. I’ve tried a lot of things but basically – what it all boils down to is that there are a LOT of messages I get from people in a LOT of forms that I never respond to and forget about forever.

I’ve decided recently that I need to figure out the cause and maybe that will help with the solution.

Too Much Crap In My Head Fighting For Attention

First and foremost? It’s the same thing that caused me to constantly lose important stuff growing up. I lost sunglasses and jewelry, I lost wallets and purses, I lost jackets and uniforms…it drove my Dad CRAZY. He would get SO MAD that I would actually try to hide that I had lost something until I could save up money to replace it. (I did this with a pair of Ray-Bans he bought me for a birthday present in 8th grade. He never knew I lost the original pair.) However, as angry as it made him, he would calm down later and say, “It’s because you always have too many things on your mind. So where you put your [insert lost item here] gets lost in the shuffle.”

My adult manifestation of a similar problem is Not Responding To Your Message/Email/Text/Tweet.

Most of the time if I’m at the computer, I’m working. So, if I see a personal message come through somewhere, I read it to make sure it’s not something that needs immediate attention – and then I put it aside “until later” because – obviously, work gets top priority. And then this is where Dad’s theory comes into play. I assume I’ll get to that email “later” when I’m not working, but there are so many things going in my head that the Message That Needs A Response just falls to the wayside. If you are a high-stress, high-anxiety person you have stupid crap floating around your head all the time that is trying to get you into FULL PANIC MODE! So, things that don’t make you panic? Like emails or Facebook messages? Sometimes get pushed back and ignored to deal with the things that are pushing you to CODE RED! mode. Sometimes it’s work but if I’m at the computer it could also be things like File Taxes or FASFA forms, or maybe getting in my daily blog post (THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE WORLD) or watching the latest Vlogbrother’s video (Yes. Not important to you. VERY IMPORTANT TO ME.) Either way – there are things I’m tending to at the computer that my brain says: PRIORITY! PRIORITY! PRIORITY! in the panicked voice that my brain has.

(I really wish my brain had the calm Mary Poppins voice, my life would be so much easier then.)

Other times I’m on my phone looking at messages, on my personal time with no anxious tasks looming before me. I’ll scroll through social media or read emails and I think I just don’t feel like responding to this on this tiny keypad, I’ll do it later when I’m at the computer. This is very valid! No one likes typing long responses on their phone! But then, of course, I’m at the computer and I’m working and…well…we’re back to the paragraph above and the anxious voices in my head and little things like personal messages in any format get pushed back behind whatever I’m doing for work and then they just get forgotten.

Inevitably what happens on things like Facebook and Twitter and Instagram is that my current feed pushes these messages I forgot to respond to out of the top of my list so I simply forget about them forever and they’re lost in the ether. Once in awhile something will trigger a reminder of the message and I’ll panic and think: OH SHIT, I NEVER REPLIED TO THAT!

There Is Never Enough Time

Another part of the underlying problem is my need to allow myself time for things. And this is why a LOT of things don’t get done in my personal life. I haven’t painted E’s bathroom yet because I haven’t had a block of uninterrupted time to do it. I was supposed to do it when he left for college LAST YEAR. I feel like if I can’t give something the time it deserves to complete the entire task, I shouldn’t even start. So, if the message or email requires thought I’ll put it off until I can really give it the time it needs.

SPOILER ALERT: There is never enough time.

I’ve got a task I was supposed to complete for some extended family back in DECEMBER. I did the first draft a few months late because I COULDN’T FIND THE CHUNK OF TIME! I may have 30 minutes free here, or an hour there, but this task would take several hours. And instead of doing it piece by piece and maybe having problems caused by stopping and staring repeatedly, I just never started. After I finally got the late first draft sent out, I’m back to the SAME PROBLEM AGAIN. I can’t find a big enough chunk of time! And now my entire extended family probably has crowned me the Queen of all Slackdome.

Just like anyone with any email or message I never responded too. They see me writing blog posts or Facebook statuses or watching videos and sharing them on Twitter…But I don’t have time to respond to that email? Or finish that family task?

Well…there’s time…but not enough time in that one sitting!!!

A concept that only makes sense to me, I know.

So, now what?

I’ve done a good job lately trying to figure out WHY I suck at personal communications and tasks, but how do I fix it? Here are some of my ideas I just need to figure out how to implement.

  • Set aside PERSONAL computer time. Time where I’m deliberately NOT working. Where I’m sitting down to respond to personal messages or handle personal business that requires the computer. When you work from home it’s hard not to switch to WORK MODE when you sit at the computer. So, instead of surfing social media on my phone before bed, I should sit at the computer and do the same thing. Then I have the full keyboard to respond to those messages I ignore because I hate typing on my phone.
  • Accept that there’s not going to be a large enough window of time to start/complete an entire personal task or respond to a very lengthy message. Accept I’ll have to break things up into smaller chunks.

Now, HOW do I teach myself to accept using smaller chunks of time. And HOW do I keep messages/tasks fresh in inboxes and feeds until I sit down for personal computer time? That’s the bigger issue.

How do you do it? How do you respond to messages/emails etc LATER, and not forget about them or lose them to the digital ether? Do you write them on your To Do list? Do you “Mark As Unread” until you can respond? What about tasks that require large chunks of time? Are you like me and put them off forever until you find the time? Or have you figured out how to do it piece by piece?

It’s Hard To Teach Bravery When You’re A Big Ole Chicken

It is no secret that swimming is not my favorite thing. As an adult I’ve never been fond of the idea of open water and avoid any sort of boating or open water swimming invitation when I can. I’ve been okay in swimming pools where I can see the bottom and know I can make it to the edge with minimal effort, because it’s not that I can’t swim…I’ve just never been great at it. I can swim underwater from one end of a small pool to the other end, but only because I can SEE and I know if I can’t make it, the edge isn’t far away.

Last year I learned a bit about “freestyle” swimming. Enough to survive a 400+m open-water swim for a sprint triathlon. But, like I tell many people, my normal fears and anxieties took a backseat on raceday for several reasons. 1) There are SO MANY kayaks and bouys and rescue boats around that you feel very safe and 2) The excitement/adrenaline helps a lot. But when I would go to open-water training sessions with minimal (if any) support? I’d be a wreck. It was terrifying. One time I burst into tears and let me tell you: It is really hard to swim while you’re crying.

SO! There’s my backstory. I’m better than before last summer, but no where near the kind of person who enjoys the water.

Well…we are right near the river here AND there are a few good-sized lakes within a short drive. So, a lot of people entertain themselves on the weekend with water sports or recreation. And this weekend Donnie’s cycling friends invited us to a party at a lake house. I was TERRIFIED.

Now, the kids are better swimmers at their age than I was. But they’re not strong swimmers yet. And, they’d never been in open water, so they were a bit nervous. I assured them I’d get in the water with them – even though I was terrified – mainly because I was more terrified of them drowning than of me drowning. We don’t have any life jackets but we brought two inflatable rings for them to play in. And when we got there? I felt like I was going to have a full-blown meltdown. The ONLY thing keeping me relatively calm was the fact that we were standing in front of all of Donnie’s triathlon/cycling buddies. I had to keep my shit together just to keep from humiliating him.

Sidenote: Another entry for another day? My body image issues and how they also DID NOT HELP MATTERS. I hate that I let my hatred of my own body ruin my fun around water.

SO! I “bravely” told the kids I’d get in the water with them to get them used to it. And luckily, there was one life jacket there that fit Wes perfectly. Nikki had to wear one a little big. So, we decided they could use the life jackets and the rings for a bit, until they got used to it. I jumped in the water first (ALMOST DIED, SO SCARED) and then let Donnie hand me the kids one at a time. Luckily, someone noticed I was struggling and pointed out that I could sit in a life jacket like a diaper and it would help me help the kids. I was so grateful for the tip and the help, I didn’t even feel embarrassed about not knowing that tidbit.

The kids got in and Wesley IMMEDIATELY realized he could float without the ring and he just wanted to play around without it. This was easier for me because the two rings were a struggle, but as I was keeping up with Nikki I kept fearing Wes would float out into the lake and get run over by a boat before we could get to him.

I WAS A MESS.

Basically I spent the 15 minutes in the water whispering/yelling to the kids: STAY NEAR ME! DON’T FLOAT AWAY! I was just worried we’d lose them forever. Because I am a big ole wuss.

There was some action with people pulling kids on tubes behind a Jet Ski. NOPE. I told the kids: NOPE. They didn’t really want to do that anyway, not quite comfortable in a lake for that, but still, I knew my anxieties could only take SO MUCH.

Wes decided he wanted a break (THANK GOD) and he and I went to play basketball while Donnie stayed with Nikki.

Now, here’s the thing if you’re a high-anxiety parent, having a super-relaxed one around is a perfect balance. Donnie stayed in the water with Nikki just long enough to make her feel comfortable, and then just got out. Just hung out with his friends on the dock and kept and eye on her. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW HE COULD DO THAT. He was so relaxed and just confident in the life jacket and the ring and her ability to swim a little bit. He didn’t worry about her drifting away or getting run over by a boat. He didn’t worry about her drowning. HE EVEN LET HER RIDE ON A JET SKI. Now, she was in front of a grownup who was holding her on AND she was obviously wearing a life jacket, but still, NEVER would I have done that. AND SHE HAD A BLAST.

So, when Wes decided it was time to get back in the water, after hearing Nikki’s adventures, I had to CHILL THE HELL OUT. And I did, a little, but I was miserable. I was basically easing in to giving the kids more freedoms. First? I didn’t get in with them. Which was a little easy since I did not want to be in there anyway. Second? It took me awhile to feel comfortable with them jumping off the docks with their rings, and even more without. And it was about an hour of me taking several giant chill pills before I could finally relax enough to even socialize the tiniest bit with Donnie’s friends.

It was a very hard day.

I don’t want my kids growing up with my anxieties, but it’s really hard NOT to inflict mine on them in those situations where my fears relate to their safety. But, we all took baby steps and they were patient with me, allowing me to get settled in after each baby step, before pushing for more freedom. Because they were scared too, so they weren’t wanting ALL of the freedoms in the world.

I’m glad we did it, even though it probably gave me 14 ulcers. I’m glad the kids had SO MUCH FUN. I wish I wasn’t such a ball of anxieties all the time. But, the fact that I brave this stuff periodically, even taking small steps, is a good thing. I don’t let it control my life 100%. There are certain things I have no desire to do, and that’s okay as long as I let myself do these small things periodically.

Right?

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