Saturday, May 30, 2009

A refreshing break

Been away from blog-land, and no, I haven't dropped off the face of the earth or been smoked out by any forest fires or volcanoes. Just been on vacation.

VACATION: the word derivation comes from the latin "vacare": to empty
Webster defines vacation as a "respite" or "scheduled period during which activity (as of a court, school or job) is suspended"

Aaaaah -- we took a nice little refreshing break over the Memorial Day weekend. Packed up the camper and headed down to the Kenai peninsula. Time spend together as a family, time spent catching up on sleep, reading, biking, eating, walking, etc.
Our vacation was 6 days away from work, phones and computers -- the first day or two I was still finding myself wondering if there were any important emails, but then I started relaxing and just enjoying the simpler life, learning to accept that whatever piled up at work would still be there when I got back. After the third day, I started to forget about work, no longer feeling a need to check my email with the first cup of coffee...

Getting away is so important -- even if it's only a few days -- boy, did I need that break!
The last few weeks of school were so incredibly full. My brain was filled to the brink, and it needed some vacating (my mental to-do list had gotten so long that I couldn't get along without my trusty calendar and the computer spreadsheet where I keep track of all the various naturalist programs).

Now I'm definitely feeling more relaxed, and somehow the work load does not seem as daunting. We had a staff meeting on Friday, and my boss reminded the manager and me that there can be a real danger of burn-out for staff of a small non-profit organization such as our little Nature Center. She said something like "Sometimes, we just gotta let stuff slide -- do what can reasonably be done, but don't attempt perfection in everything." Wise words -- yes, it is possible to walk away from a pile of to-do's, or not be 150% prepared for the next program -- just do the best I can under the circumstance, and remember to smile.

I'm German, so smiling in the face of imperfection does not come easy to me! But tonight I was laughing and smiling -- we had a 50th Birthday Party for one one our long-time volunteers -- it was so much fun, and a great reminder of what the Nature Center is all about: that community of people who care to make this a great place to enjoy the outdoors.
I leave you with pictures of the Nature Center: truly a great place, and even though it was good to get away from it for a while, it's also a great place to come back to!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Hurrah for Syttende Mai!

Today Norwegians celebrate Constitution Day -- and the only reason I know is that hubby used to hang out with a bunch of Norwegians in his college days and celebrate this day -- I'm sure there much drinking of Aquavit involved.

Today we celebrated Syttende Mai with a belated (or what the kids called "Fake") Mother's Day -- Eldest just got home from college this week (Hurrah!!!), and after a Welcome back BBQ on Saturday, the kids decided that mom deserved a day off from cooking, and get to do whatever she wanted, which they predicted, correctly, was gardening! Eldest even invited her friend Amy to help with the effort: to build and fill the new planting beds. Photos will hopefully follow soon -- but the boxes are looking GREAT. The girls were awesome -- we dug soil, cut and build the boxes, went to the greenhouse and bought plants, and went for a truck-load of horse manure. WHAT A PERFECT DAY.

And, on top of all that, Eldest planned and executed some incredible cooking:
Spring rolls for lunch
homemade pasta for dinner
grated carrot and broccoli salad with pine nuts
poached pear with ricotta & berry sauce for dessert

This was the BEST meal I've had cooked for me in a LONG time -- my daughter will write a post soon on my other blog, Borealkitchen, and share these recipes.
It's great to have her back -- even if it takes me longer now to find stuff in my own kitchen -- she's still needing to learn the logic of where I keep certain things...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

I'm done pulling my hair out

I admit, I was not doing so well this last week!
Tearing my hear out is more like it -- super stressed: arrival of my Eldest daughter looms big, and I'm worried about how she's doing, driving thru Canada from Montana to Alaska -- that's a LONG way (something like 3000 miles)!
My husband has bipolar disorder, and this time of year I get worried when he doesn't sleep well and shows signs of hypomania.
Work is super-busy, and I'm starting to feel burned out: I'm counting the days until school fieldtrips are over. Plus, I'm suffering from allergies (tree pollen) and headaches.

Mother's Day I did not have to work, but it was still stressful. We took care of our friends' 2 girls while their parents were out-of-town, and the house was a disaster by Sunday night! Eldest daughter had called in tears, northbound just after having left her college town and boyfriend behind for good. Plus I spend a fair bit of time on the phone with another friend who's marriage is on the rocks. I was emotionally wrung out, and then it was time to go back to work for another week of managing 100's of school children on their fieldtrips...

But luckily, today was a breakthrough. Due to a fieldtrip cancellation, I had a full day to clean the house, and I hired a friend to help-- first time ever -- that's how desperate I was to welcome Eldest home to something other than a total mess. It was such a blessing: she was wonderful -- together we attacked all the major battlefronts: she scrubbed the kitchen, I did bathrooms, etc., and by the afternoon the sun was shining into clean windows onto clean floors -- and I feel sooooo much better.

Eldest called tonight from Tok, which means she is IN ALASKA, and will arrive tomorrow night!!! YEAH.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

3 X's:Exhaustion & Expectation & Exultation

I'm exhausted -- it's temporary, of course, and I shall recover!
But a bit grumbling first: Spring has sprung (it's GREEN!), I want to plant my garden, bake a cake for my son's B-day, clean the house for my daughter's imminent return to Alaska, and instead I collapse on the couch after a week of ushering hundreds school children experiencing "Nature"--- I need some of her restorative power about now...

I started writing this post on Friday evening, and now it's Mother's Day already!

YES, every spring I go through this: I'm exhausted & stressed. Husband & son talked me out of holding the annual BBQ we had planned for his birthday -- they argued it would have been too stressful for me to get the house ready f0r a party, esp. since next weekend Eldest is returning from Montana, and we'll be throwing her a WELCOME BACK GRADUATE party!
So we did just a small family B-day for 15-year old Wolf -- I managed to bake an UGLY but tasty cake between Volleyball, taking care of an extra 2 girls, finally getting the mosquito screens up, and a farewell BBQ of some friends who are moving to Hawaii.

Husband found this article by Judith Warner in the NY Times in her weekly column Domestic Disturbances entitled "Not-so-Great Expectations", dealing with a mother's expectations of herself. Here's an excerpt:

“At our age,” he replied sharply, “maybe we just have to adjust our expectations.”

This was a very radical idea.

I mulled it over all week. I realized that this very same not-so-great expectations theme had also come up, not long before, in a conversation I’d had with my father-in-law.

We were talking about sleep. I was ruing the fact that I need it – nine hours’ worth sometimes.

I was telling him about a woman I know who gets up at 3:30 a.m. every day to do yoga. She’s on her computer at 4:30 and on a train to work at 7:30.

At 7:30 I am usually spilling my first cup of coffee down the front of my bathrobe and screaming at my children that if they don’t get out of bed they’ll never again eat anything sweet or watch any TV or have anything they want in the world for the rest of their lives.

“I wish I could get up early,” I said, explaining all the gracious, relaxed, self-improved Simply Being I would do, if I had an extra hour or two in the day.

I was saying I wished I needed to sleep only six hours a night. Or five, or four – like the really successful people you read about.

I would wake up my children, showered, teeth-brushed and smiling, the way the magazines tell you to do. I would exercise and garden and pay bills and reorganize the kitchen cabinets and make photo albums and …

My father-in-law looked at me with genuine befuddlement.

“Why,” he said, “would you want to do anything more than you already do?”

I did enjoy reading this article -- here's an intelligent working mom writing (I wish I could blog this eloquently) about what it's really like: the expectations vs. reality.
We just can't do it all. Shall I shout it out?
We just can't do it all!

Years ago, when I was working on my PhD, expecting my second child, I asked a friend who was a successful professor and mom of 2 boys: "How do you do it? Juggle being a mom and having a career?"
She answered something along the line of " I stay on top of the laundry by running a load every night, and I read research articles instead of magazines when I wait for a haircut... it's a matter of organizing your time, and lowering your expectations -- the house is not going to look as nice as your mom kept hers"

At the time I did not appreciate this answer, and I never did finish that PhD either...
I was then (and am now) frequently feeling at the brink of lowered expectations that if I lowered them any more, that I fear that nobody will have clean socks or get a nutritious meal!

OK, maybe it's not that bad, but the stairs are piled high with "take-this-to-your-room" piles, the entryway has become a depository of items long out of season (ski boots anyone?) , and let's not look behind the toilets, shall we?

SO, on that note, I want to wish all you moms out there better luck juggling it all, and give you my advise for the day:
KICK BACK and do what YOU want to do for a day!
For me, this involves being outside and yardening today (a cross between cleaning the yard and gardening): working on my new potato planter boxes, and having a slash fire going in the firepit, hanging around with the "extended" family. Ahh, by tonight, I'll be smelling like woodsmoke and drinking a cool India Pale Ale. Relaxed and ready for another week!

Cartoon credit: David Walker from