when doing everything is (apparently) not enough.

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all smiles after a sunday spent in boulder.

I don’t often write about being a solo mom. And I hesitated to write this. But I started writing my book today and began with (arguably) two of the most difficult chapters. So, I figured, what the hell – might as well get used to writing about the difficult. So here we are. I did not write this to be self-depreciating or to get people to boost my self-esteem – I wrote it as an illustration and a reminder for us to stop making assumptions about those we do not know.

As I walked into the school to pick up P today, her teacher approached me – sans smile. “This can’t be good,” I thought. As P went to the bathroom, I said hi to her teacher and ask how her day was. She said great. “ok,” I thought, “Nothing to worry about.”

“So …” the teacher began. “If we do a Donuts with Dad day, is Paityn going to have someone who can come?”

There it is.

“Umm, what?” I ask … no doubt with a very “not impressed” look on my face. Because I constantly think I’m not good enough, I immediately went to “Who of my [male] friends could be there?” Then I stopped myself: why does she need someone? Many kids’ parents aren’t able to attend these parties. And why couldn’t it be me? What would be so bad about the person who does everything attending this event? My cheeks were burning and my mind was swirling.

“We just didn’t want her to feel left out. One the teachers thought maybe Fred could do it?” she continued. “And also, who should she make the gift out to? We know you don’t have any family here – what about a grandpa or something?”

Hold the fuck up.

I know this teacher meant well – she’s one of the best teachers at that school, actually – but were we really having this conversation? In 2017?

Now I’m a fairly laid back person; it takes a lot to really offend me, but this most certainly crossed that line. Who is anybody to tell me what is missing in my child’s life? And then, dictate who should fill that role. (Ok, dictate is a bit extreme of a verb choice; I know.) I work my ass off for my kid. I joke about being a “selfish parent,” but anyone who knows me, knows she comes first.

I do everything: I pull in 100% of the income, I pay the bills, I clean the house, I stay home with her when she’s sick, I cook the meals, I order her prescriptions, I get the oil changed in the truck, I make sure she has sunscreen and sheets for school, I teach her empathy, I take her to climbing lessons, I play hockey with her, I read comics to her, I take her to concerts, I show her how to write her name, I teach her how to skate, I go hiking and camping with her. I do it all. And, please, do not mistake any of this for a complaint; to be clear: it is not.

My life can be hard as hell at times and some days, I wish I had help, but all in all – Paityn and I are thriving. We are doing so much better than ok. She may not have a “dad” to attend the class gatherings, but she is definitely not lacking anything in her life.

On a day where I felt inadequate as a single mom, challenged by what people think my daughter needs and how I should make that happen, this conversation unfolded at our dinner table tonight:

P: you’re great, mom.
Me: thanks, bear!
P: yea, you’re great m’cause you do everything for me and I ‘ppreciate you!

I’m not crying; you’re crying.

I know the school meant well by having that conversation and I’m not upset by it anymore. But I wanted to remind people: my family may not look like yours or what society thinks it should and that’s perfectly fine. We are doing pretty damn amazing, she and I. And as Jill reminded me tonight, “Paityn knows you’re her person. And that’s all that matters.”

Edit: If Paityn told me she felt sad about the situation or the school said “Paityn mentioned in class how she wouldn’t have anyone there and started crying.” I would feel completely different. But that is not the case. She doesn’t feel anything is “missing” in her life. My point is that if my child feels fulfilled, no one should project anything different upon her.

battling “mommy fatigue” – 6 things you need to start doing.

Photo by JaneCane Photography / www.janecanephotography.com

sometimes getting some fresh air is all you need. (photo: http://www.janecanephotography.com/)

Compassion fatigue. It’s a term talked about in the behavioral health world and describes what happens when your emotional tank runs dry. Many professions deal with this: nurses, teachers, advisers, etc. But there is another cohort who can struggle with this too: moms. (Yes, all parents and caregivers can, but Mother’s Day is Sunday and Women’s Health Week is next week, so I am focusing on moms; get off me.)

Teacher, nurse, chef, maid, financial adviser, chauffeur … moms tend to wear a plethora of hats, and unfortunately, there’s no option for PTO with this job. However I have learned (the hard way) that it is incredibly important for me to take care of myself, so that I am able to best take care of my daughter.

Have you ever spent an afternoon or weekend away from your kid (doing something for yourself) and then come home with an immense amount of patience and love for her? I recently went to Seattle and when I came home after six days, was so excited about the mundane things I usually brush off – who she played with at school, what she ate for lunch, how dirty her shoes were … I was actually engaged and truly listening. (Which is what I should be doing all the time; I know, I know, but if you’ve ever heard P try to tell a story … the kid takes seven minutes to say three sentences.)

Anyway – when we moms start to feel compassion fatigue creep in, it’s important to take action so we don’t get too drained. Here are six things to start doing today to avoid experiencing “mommy fatigue:”

  1. Acknowledge it – One of the things I have to consistently tell myself and tell my friends is: It’s ok to NOT be ok. Life is not perfect. Social media is a façade. And sometimes you get dealt a crappy hand. It’s ok to admit that things aren’t picture perfect all day every day. And on that note …
  2. Ignore perfection and unrealistic standards – Again, life is not perfect; no one is perfect. It doesn’t matter how much help you have from your partner, family, friends and neighbors, things are bound to go wrong. It’s easy to get caught up in the “Pinterest life,” but I’ve found few things to be as anxiety inducing as trying to make sure my child is eating all organic and non-GMO food, fluent in two languages by the time she’s five, participating in at least three extra circular activities and multiplying fractions by six. My Type A personality took a big ego check when my daughter was born. Within the first three months, I acknowledged that I could not do everything as a solo parent and therefore, some things would not get done. I saw a graphic once that was a triangle – the points said: happy child, clean house, your sanity. The text above said: choose two. How true that is.
  3. Ask for help – Easier said than done; I know. But if you don’t ask, it won’t get easier. Chances are people don’t even realize things are difficult because you don’t acknowledge it. (See number one.) And if you’re really struggling with something, talk to a professional. Therapy is likely not what you imagine it to be. It’s often solution-focused and can help get you through a tough time. May is Mental Health Month and there’s no time like the present.
  4. Talk to your kids – My daughter is almost four and I have always been very open about my feelings with her. When I’m incredibly angry, I tell her that I just need some personal space because I need to calm down. If I’m sad, I have no qualms about crying in front of her. I’ve found this to be incredibly beneficial for a handful of reasons, but two big ones are that 1) she now knows it’s ok to express emotions and she knows HOW to do it appropriately (She will often tell her friends at daycare to “please go away; I need some space.” Not many four-year olds have the emotional intelligence to do that.) and 2) she has developed a lot of empathy, which I believe will serve her well no matter what she chooses to do in her future.
  5. Change the setting – I mean the physical setting … if you’re at home, take a walk, go for a drive or just go into another room. As a solo parent, I know this can be difficult, but I take my daughter along. (Although usually not in the car … small, confined spaces tend to not help.) Even if I’m still frustrated with her, it helps to have different surroundings.
  6. Find the time – Most of us probably wish there were 30 hours in a day, but unfortunately, we can’t bend the time continuum, so we’re stuck with 24. It has taken me quite some time to find a balance and even then, every time I get into a routine, I feel like something happens to wipe it out. Some of the things that work for me: I’m a morning person, so I wake up at 5:30 every day (I also go to bed at 10p). I have learned to say “no thanks” to social engagements so I can go for a run or go to yoga. For real, if you see me on a week night, it’s because I really, really love you. Lastly, knowing myself has been incredibly important. I have addressed my personal barriers and come to terms with what works (and doesn’t) for me.

Make time for yourself this week. Make yourself a priority. As a health coach, some of the most common answers I hear when I ask my clients why they want to engage in health coaching are: so I can be there for my kid, so I can play at the park with my daughter, so I can live long enough to see my son graduate college. As cliché as it is, these tiny versions of ourselves really are our world. And the thing we don’t realize/always acknowledge is that we’re often theirs as well. They deserve to get us at our best. You deserve to feel your best; don’t forget that. Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, aunts, dog moms, sisters, grandmas, teachers, neighbors and best friends who act like a second mom … especially all these AMAZING WOMEN in my life. You all make the world go ’round!

happy world water day!

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basking in the beauty that is lake superior.

[do what you can, do it with others, and do it with passion. – guy ryder, chair of un-water]

today is world water day. i can assure you, being from northern mn, i have always taken clean water for granted. but today, 1.8 billion people use a source of drinking water contaminated with feces, putting them at risk of contracting cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio … and DYING. diarrhea is the third leading cause of death in kenya – the first among children.

it’s humbling to know these stats, as i’ve grown up in and around the water, not giving much thought to how precious it is. one of Edge of Seven‘s priorities is providing access to clean water. i’m proud to partner with an organization that focuses on something i value and love so much. (i mean, let’s be real: i have lake superior tattooed on my arm.) join me today, world water day, by donating on my campaign page for clean water access in developing counties.

as incentive, i’ll match all donations made today (up to $250 TOTAL … let’s be real people; paityn needs to eat) until midnight MT. yay, double the impact!

educate a girl; empower a nation.

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two bff superheroes, ready to take on the world!

I have a confession: thinking big scares me sometimes. It’s a lot of work, time, energy … all things I feel are a luxury I don’t often have in my life of being a solo parent, working as a program director for a mental health nonprofit. But I’ve found the secret: passion. Passion drives the motivation for me to think big. I’ve always had a desire to help others, and when passion intersects with strengths, it’s like the secret code of success and happiness.

So, fueled by passion, I have made a commitment with a nonprofit started by my good friend, Erin, called Edge of Seven. Its mission is to support sustainable building initiatives that create access to education and economic opportunities for girls, women, and rural communities across the globe.

This year, eo7 is celebrating its seventh birthday and is working to mobilize support for this year’s edge-ucation campaign. Through this effort, the organization is looking to fund seven new projects in Nepal, Kenya, and Uganda while continuing to break down barriers for girls to get an education. These seven projects represent the group’s largest effort in a single year.

How you can help
I have committed to a personal fundraising goal and the core team has committed to raising $20,000 in just one month! I have worked on educating my family and friends, created a social media campaign, sent out personal emails, partnered with a local restaurant to have a donation day where 50% of the proceeds that night will go directly to eo7 and – my personal favorite – I am hosting a beer tasting fundraiser at my home for some of my closest friends.

It’s a lot; I know it is. And I was recently asked – why this organization? It’s true; we all have things that tug at our heartstrings daily. So why this?

Simple:

  • I support my fam. (this includes non-blood family; which is all of my closest friends)
  • My daughter and Erin’s daughter (who is half Nepalese) are best friends; I can’t imagine Paityn without Junie (and her little sister Indie) and vice versa.
  • Educate a girl; empower a nation.
  • There are over 1.8 billion people living without a safe water supply close to home.
  • And, this video: (Seriously, Erin played it at the kick off and I was crying. Granted, I am a crier, but still – it is incredibly moving)

If you are passionate about education, women’s empowerment, and clean water, consider a donation to Edge of Seven. Even small $5, $10, and $15 donations add up quickly. (With a $50 donation, you can fully-fund a desk for a school classroom! You can be responsible for providing space for one girl to get an education. How cool is that?)

You can donate directly to my fundraising page.

My final thought is this: Find what drives you in life. And don’t be afraid to think big. You never know who you’ll impact.

Post originally appeared as part of the my 100 days project, started by my friend Adam. I previously wrote a post for my 100 days that focused largely on the little things you can do that add up.

international women’s day.

Happy International Women’s Day! cheers to all the badass women in my life! paityn and i are stoked to have your love and support! special shout out to my mom … who has been a constant in my life no matter what kind of crazy adventure i led her on. thanks mom 

 

thanks to all of these ladies – and many more – who are a daily inspiration to me and p. we love you. xoxo

when love isn’t love: 6 signs you’re dating a narcissist

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insert dumb caption about me “riding away from shitty relationships” here.

Spoiler alert: I date the wrong guys.

They often are emotionally unavailable and aren’t in the right place in life. But the best thing about some of them – they’re narcissists. (“Best” being a relative term, of course.)

Don’t get me wrong, I have found a handful of guys over the last few years that were great. They were kind, smart, funny, attractive, had their shit together … they were lovely. But *something* was missing. And I know some people can be in relationships and not care if the *something* is missing. But I cannot be one of those people. Not sorry.

On top of that, America’s president (can’t get myself to capitalize that) is a RAGING textbook narcissist. A malignant narcissist at that. So I thought what the hell; let’s educate the people. So, if dating a narcissist is foreign to you, consider good ole Donny as the narcissist with America being his poor, abused lover.

Dating a narcissist is not what you often think it may be – and it’s not the same as someone who is selfish; it’s much more than that. It’s often confusing, convoluted and incredibly damaging. You know the phrase “mind fuck” – yea that sums it up. So how do you know if you’re with a narcissist? Here are six signs that are fairly consistent with these types of people – that I vetted through a Licensed PsyD, so it’s not me ranting about random shit.

1. Incredible charm and a fast-moving relationship
Oh the charm. Every word and action is undeniably dripping in it. It’s hard not to get caught up in the excitement of the charm. There is extra attention, kind words, small gifts, date nights, acts of affection … whatever makes you fall faster and harder. Once the charm and “love” have been established, relationships with narcissists tend to move very quickly.

Falling in love, in all reality, is a science: a biological and chemical reaction of another human. It takes time for that connection to develop. Relationships with narcissists move quickly, with intense highs (and even more intense lows, but more about that later). They are obsessed with “ideal love” and as soon as you show any sign of weakness or make a mistake, they will never let it go. Sadly, this person is not really interested in you; it’s more about their needs being met.

2. Serious lack of follow through
Words are meaningless. You begin to distrust everything this person says. Pay attention to follow through and reliability: do they break dates with you, fall through on promises? Here’s a big one: are they emotionally there for you when they need them? This is especially draining when you consider this person to be “your person.” You know, the one you go to first with anything and everything – good and bad. Often these people are nowhere to be found when you need them most.

3. It’s all about them
To me, this is the most obvious trait of narcissism, but not one they all have. These people love to talk about themselves, often talking over you or not even hearing what you say. They completely dominate each and every conversation and you get little in edgewise. Eventually, you just stop talking all together. You fade away and become nothing more than an accessory for this person.

4. Masters of manipulation
They have no qualms about cheating, lying or manipulation. I remember being completely set up one day. This person said he went through my email and emailed a guy to see if we ever hooked up (long before the narcissist and I were together) and then sat on my floor and cried to see if I’d “confess” to any of it.

Long story short … he really didn’t do any of that; he just wanted to see if I would tell him anything. Wait, WHAT? Shannon, that’s confusing (and messed up) as fuck. Sure is. Narcissists often spin one convoluted story after another, with you never ever being able to get your head straight.

5. Empathy is a foreign concept
Exhibit A up there? The narcissist never even APOLOGIZED for lying, setting me up and basically being bat shit crazy. Not even after he got the answer he wanted. (I never hooked up with the guy he was concerned about.) You don’t get apologies with narcissists. So, to throw a line out there that this person once told me: “don’t hold your breath.”

Empathy is not a strength of theirs. Your feelings don’t matter. Your needs don’t matter. Because of this, they actually share many similarities with sociopaths. (This tidbit was added by said Licensed PsyD; it’s not me calling names or exaggerating. So chill, dummy.) Whenever I brought up that something hurt me, the response I got was “well, it’s not my fault you took something I said/did that way.” Everything was always my fault.

6. You never know what you’re going to get
The high highs and low lows I talked about? They are real. And soul-crushing. You never know which version of this person you’re getting. And you have zero control over the relationship; it’s 100% controlled by them.

My favorite example for this is Puppy Group C. There were three groups of puppies – when a person went in to feed puppy group A, he played with the puppies and gave them treats. When this same person went in to feed puppy group B, he put the food down and left, with no interaction. When puppy group C got fed, this person alternated between love, affection and treats, and giving the puppies the cold shoulder. Guess which group had the biggest co-dependency and attachment issues? Puppy group C.

This is what narcissists do with you. Leaving you hyper vigilant in what you do and say. You stick around though because every now and then you’ll get that high – the charm – the reason you fell in love. But it often fades quickly, leaving in its place negative feelings about yourself. Stop letting people treat you like puppy group C, damnit! (And, to that point, stop treating people like puppy group C.)

 Ok, so now what?

 Relationships with narcissists often leave you shattered, with little-to-no self-worth. It took me years to get back to being myself … to get back to feeling like I was actually a good person and deserved to be happy. I mean, I’m no saint; but I am not THAT bad of a person where I should have questioned my worthiness of love or happiness.

The most important thing to remember (and often hardest) is that this is not about you. It’s about that person’s own issues and their inability to have meaningful relationships.

And for Christ sake, stop trying to change these people.

Listen carefully: THEY.WILL.NOT.CHANGE. Unless, of course, they think they need to. But most narcissistic people never recognize that. You deserve a relationship that builds you up, that makes you feel safe and that brings you happiness. A person who is narcissistic cannot give this to you, because they are incapable of it.

It hurts to admit when love isn’t love; it’s hard to know when to walk away. I get it; I’ve been there. But here’s me, master of breaking everything she touches, giving out relationship advice: know your self-worth; know you’re not the problem. Surround yourself with people you love and go for. You are are worth it.

Eight ways to celebrate Valentine’s Day that don’t include curling up with vodka

 

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hanging with an adorable offspring is always a win as well.

Valentine’s Day is rapidly making its way onto our calendars. Because of this, sparkly cards, heart-shaped candy, stuffed animals and roses litter stores everywhere. You may be one of the people who despises Valentine’s Day – a day where you feel pressured to show people how much you care. Perhaps you’ve even dubbed it a “Hallmark Holiday.” Others (like myself) adore it. (Seriously, I think it’s my favorite holiday.)

If you’re sans partner, Valentine’s Day can often be disheartening (no pun intended). Perhaps sitting on the kitchen floor, listening to Elliott Smith and Sufjan Stevens, drinking wine out of the bottle is more on par with how you’re expecting to celebrate February 14. (Takes one to know one, folks; no judgment here.)

Have no fear; Valentine’s Day can still be a fun, enjoyable day. For my fellow singletons out there, or anyone who’s lost that loving feeling (whoa that loving feeling …) in the wake of the most recent current events, here are some suggestions to brighten your day.

Give them a shot – for real. Besides many of us (more than half, if you go by the popular vote) could use a little more love in our lives right now.

  1. Celebrate all your relationships: It’s been 8 (I think?) years since I’ve celebrated Valentine’s Day with a significant other, but that doesn’t stop me from showering my people with love. Many of my closest friends and family receive something small from me for the holiday Love is love. You don’t need to be in a relationship to revel in it. Toss that shit around like confetti.
  1. Get creative: You don’t need to blow half your paycheck to show people you care. Grab construction paper, glue, glitter and scissors for craft night. Cut out hearts and write one thing you adore about someone on each heart. Then mail it to that person. “Why can’t I just snapchat a picture to someone?” Because that’s lame, that’s why. Snail mail rocks and if you disagree, you may want to check your pulse. Not up for craft night? No worries – revert back to your grade school days and buy a box of Valentines and leave them on co-workers desks. Or bake some love-filled goodies to share (By “love” I don’t mean “pot.” Easy does it, Colorado.). Decorate the treats with some red and pink sprinkles and voila! Instant daymaker for the people you love.
  1. Reconnect with loved ones: Perhaps you don’t have time to make valentines and the idea of baking is far too overwhelming. Try connecting with another single friend and grabbing coffee or lunch. Schedules get busy, but reaching out to someone you haven’t been able to spend time with lately will be beneficial to you and mean a lot to them too.
  1. Be thankful: Take time to express gratitude for the loving relationships in your life. It’s easy to focus on what’s missing in life, but it’s much more advantageous to remember all the wonderful things we have.

If you’re still acting all sad panda on me and being stubborn about celebrating Valentine’s Day, that’s ok too. It’s important to acknowledge and respect the feelings you have. Take time to remind yourself what you love about you. Try these tips and be your own valentine.

  1. Pamper yourself: Take some time and go to the spa, get a massage, pedicure or haircut. Show yourself that you are worth it and give yourself an opportunity to relax.
  1. Branch out: Try something you’ve never done – take a class, check out a coffee shop or fun bar. (It’s far less intimidating to sit at the bar, opposed to a table, if you’re alone.) Check out a new yoga or paint and sip class. If you’re needing more of an “aggressive” outlet (again, no judgement here), may I suggest kickboxing or even a mosaic class? There’s something incredibly satisfying about smashing glass with a hammer.
  1. Get lost in a book: Go to the library or local bookstore and wander around a bit. If you’re not feeling inspired, ask a staff member to recommend something that is matching your mood. One hint: know yourself. Some people would benefit from a sappy romance novel, others would want to claw their eyes out with a serrated spoon if they had to read it. Another hint: check out the young adult section. They are usually a bit lighter, making them fast, easy reads.
  1. Buy a present for yourself: I saw a sign that said, “Every once in a while, blow your own damn mind.” True that. What would you do for someone you were in a relationship with? What would you want them to do for you? Do that. Treat yourself the way you would treat someone you love. After all, you’re worth your own love first and foremost. I think far too often we get lost in relationships and are so concerned about the other person’s needs, we forgo our own. (Unless you’re a narcissist, then you don’t give a shit about anyone. But that post is on deck; stay tuned.)

Wherever you fall on the Valentine’s Day spectrum, remember it’s just a day. If you’re feeling a little blue among the pink and red, try some of the above suggestions. But above all, remember no one deserves your love more than you!