Mexico 2004

Acting “as if”

Recently, Jack decided to list the ways that he and I alike. This surprised me because, more often than not now, he’s rolling his eyes at me, so the fact that he wanted to, not only acknowledge the ways that we’re similar, but list them, made me swell with pride. Here’s what we came up with:

  1. We’re both left-handed
  2. We both have light-colored eyes
  3. We both choose Sour Patch Kids over M&M’s at the movies
  4. We both are early birds
  5. Neither one of us really enjoys rollercoasters

And then, I added, “and we’re both shy.” As soon as I said that, Jack looked at me like I had garlic growing out of my ear.

I think it’s well-documented that both Jack and I are introverts, but I don’t think that Jack has ever thought of me as an introvert. In fact, the day that we were coming up with this list, was the same day that we had more parties to attend than I care to discuss right now (introvert hangover still in progress) and he’d seen me (seemingly) effortlessly glide around all of the parties, talking with people, laughing–appearing, by all accounts the well-adjusted, party-loving extrovert.

When he looked at me funny when I told him that I am shy, I quickly added, “But I’m really good at pretending NOT to be shy.” At that moment, he got really still and quiet and I saw the proverbial “lightbulb” go off above his head.

I don’t think that it had ever occurred to him that he could act “as if” he wasn’t shy.

Acting “as if” is a fancy cognitive psychology idea that really just translates as “fake it ’til you make it.” In other words, what I explained to Jack that day was that yes, I am very shy, but that I can also pretend that i’m not shy when I need to–like at parties. Honestly, that’s probably what often causes this “introvert hangover” that I feel after being social, but it also gets me through a situation and, more often than not, I end up enjoying myself.

The thing that’s really cool about acting ‘as if” is that it applies in most areas of life: I think at every job I’ve ever started, I’ve acted “as if” for the first few weeks. Every time I’ve joined a new gym, I’ve tried my best to act “as if” and walk around like I know where I’m going, know how the machines work know what the classes are all about.

It also works in sobriety. Those first couple of years, I did a lot of acting “as if”–acting as if I WASN’T miserable and searching for a way to figure out who I was. I did my best to act like a secure and sober person and guess what? I turned into that person. How cool is that?

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Mexico 2004

Youth soccer in 2017 vs 1978

We’ve just finished our first foray into the world of youth soccer.

After years of threats, we finally signed our son up to play soccer for the community league. He was initially hesitant, (or pissed, if we’re being real here) but once he was resigned to the idea, he was all-in and his work ethic and dedication was really the star of the show in this whole experience.

Coincidentally, my husband got bamboozled into coaching the team, thrusting us head-first into soccer culture. We couldn’t help but giggle as we remembered the soccer team group photos that adorn my mother in law’s walls of my husband’s team, featuring his dad, (also the soccer coach) circa 1978, in his shorty-shorts, knee-high athletic socks and porn-star facial hair.

Sitting at soccer games every Saturday for the past couple of months–with only intermittent bursts of excitement (mostly cheers of, “Way to try!” “Good hustle” and “OTHER WAY! WRONG GOAL!”)–gave me lots of time to reflect on how our 2017 soccer experience undoubtedly differed from that of my husband’s childhood soccer experiences. While the rules of the game haven’t changed (much) the social rules have changed a lot.

Here are only a few ways that soccer in 2017 differs from soccer in 1978:

The Snacks: My husband has fond memories of the snacks that followed his soccer games. He still speaks of the delicious, fresh orange slices, lovingly cut up by one of the soccer moms (I totally picture Mandy Moore as her character in “This Is us” standing at the kitchen counter cutting up oranges for Kevin and Randall’s soccer games…). And I think that was it: One “Harvest Gold” colored Tupperware bowl full of refreshing orange slices, grabbed at and pawed by 11 grubby-handed little kids–without any hand sanitizer in sight.

My son’s soccer snacks couldn’t be more different. First of all, each week a different parent provides the snack. Now, I’m not sure if the first week’s parents set the bar high and we all blindly followed, or if this is the norm, but the snacks that followed each game this year came in a gallon sized ziploc bag. Inside was typically a piece of organic fruit, a bag of organic (sometimes gluten-free, non GMO) goldfish-type crackers, a protein, such as an organic, antibiotic-free cheese stick and a “dessert” item, such as a small piece of candy or cookie. Accompanying this 4 course meal was a Gatorade pairing (Gatorade “Polar Ice” pairs nicely with goldfish crackers, per my son) or juice box (organic, low-sugar, recycle-able box). All I know is that, when it was time for us to provide the snacks, recreating a similar snack bag for 12 kids cost us about $25 and I wished that I’d had the nerve to bring back the 1978 bowl o’ orange slices.

Water bottles: As I’d sit there at each game, my eyes would drift to the various and sundry water bottles that the parents had with them, as well as those of the players. By and large, everyone in this part of Texas carries some sort of super-insulated Yeti-type of cup to keep our beverages cold in the extreme heat. Most kids have them too. I couldn’t help but think that in 1978 the water drinking options were likely (best case) a questionably rusty sports-field water fountain or (worst case) a garden hose. And that was fine.

Names: I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the names that were being shouted during the games this season. Most Saturdays, it sounded like roll-call at the local nursing home (which I love because I’m a fan of traditional names). “Way to go, Henry!” “Brilliant pass, Amelia!” “Nice block, Mildred”. I would imagine that my husband’s childhood games sounded more like this, “Yeah, Jason!” “Go, Brian!” and “Alright, Kevin!” (with maybe a “Way to go, Jennifer” in there too, provided that girls were allowed to play in this league, which I’m not completely certain that they were).

Talent scouts in the crowd: At the second to last game of my son’s soccer season, there were legit “talent scouts” in the crowd. They were drumming up business for the “select soccer league” and approaching parents of the stand-out players, talking up this select league. I highly doubt this happened in 1978 because I believe that soccer was just that:  A means by which kids could burn off some steam, kick each other in the shins and learn to play as a team. Not a gateway to a career in professional soccer.

Phones: I cringed as I watched parent after parent recording whole games on their phones every Saturday. I cringed partly because I can’t fathom having that kind of memory on my phone that would allow the recording of a whole game (because my phone is full of pictures of my cats, of course) but also, so many parents have their phones in their face the whole time, thereby missing the experience and lastly, who are they going to make sit through the viewing of that game later in the weekend? Poor souls. Siblings who are forced to attend the games are the same–sitting there, playing games or texting on their phones. I’m guilty of this too. My daughter would often bring her Kindle with her to her brother’s games and, believe me, it was a lifesaver, but certainly that wasn’t anything that the siblings in 1978 had at their disposal. I suppose siblings in 1978 had to play in the dirt or talk to friends. Boring.

The Uniforms: My son’s uniform probably cost the entire price of the entry fee that we paid to this soccer league. It’s a professional-quality soccer jersey with matching shorts and socks. (Let us not even speak of the soccer cleats that we bought that cost more than most of the shoes in my closet). He loves it so much and takes the responsibility of wearing it with pride very seriously. While my husband’s childhood team had matching uniforms, it looks to me like they consisted of only a basic t-shirt, possibly screen-printed with the name of the local plumber or wrecker service as a sponsor. They most certainly didn’t cost $130 either…

This soccer experience has been fun and brought back lots of memories for my husband. He really stepped up to the plate (so to speak) as coach and my son embraced the sport as well. I have a feeling that this is something that we’ll be doing every year from now on. It has also been a good opportunity for bonding between my son and my husband–much in the same way that he and his own father bonded over the same sport (albeit with slightly different social protocol–and slightly longer men’s coaching shorts) so many years ago.

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Mexico 2004

3 things I’m doing differently as a mother

Below is a picture of the moment that I became a mother.

This photo was taken about 12 hours after Anna was born…about 12 hours after I technically and biologically became a mother.  However, the first 12 hours of Anna’s life remain a blur to me. Her delivery was tough and I lost a lot of blood. So, instead of spending the first few hours of her life bonding with her, I was in and out of consciousness while she was cared for in the hospital nursery.

This photo was snapped by Kevin the following morning, once I was out of recovery and Anna was brought to me for the first time. I remember being shocked at how beautiful she was. When I saw her the first time, immediately after being born, she was a typical newborn–purple, coated in schmutz and, adding insult to injury was her conehead and wonky eyes–a direct result of the beating she took during delivery (let us not even speak of the beating I took during delivery).

In the moment that you’re seeing above, overcome with the fact that I’d made this perfect, whole and beautiful creature so full of potential, I made a vow to Anna to be the best mother I knew how to be. I knew that there were injustices from my childhood that I wanted to correct and, in that very moment, I knew that I had the opportunity to break a cycle.

I wish that one of the promises that I’d made to her that day was to stop drinking, but that wasn’t one of them–at least not yet.  At that time in my life, I knew that I’d need to stop drinking at some point in the future, but I also knew that motherhood would be hard and that I’d need to rely on “mommy’s little helper” a little too. Thankfully, I did quit drinking in the coming years but here is a list of the other cycles that I vowed to break on that day:

  1. Marry money, honey” : Beginning as a very small child, I can remember first commenting to my mother about a nice house or a nice car…or even a nice purse, my mother’s standard response was always a dismissive, “Well, marry money, honey.” It wasn’t until I was a lot older that I really stopped to consider what that meant. What my mother was effectively saying to me–even if it was just in jest, was this, “you’ll only be able to have nice things if you find a man to take care of you.” Funny thing is, that I didn’t marry a man with money. Instead, I married a man with big dreams and tons of confidence who taught me how to set goals and encouraged me to go after what I wanted in life. And that’s the message that we’re giving our kids too. When Anna remarks on a nice item, my standard response is, “Work hard. Do the right thing. Study. Make good choices and earn it yourself.” I can’t even conceive of ever making Anna feel like she wasn’t capable of earning something on her own the, hard way.
  2. Talking about other people (gossip): When I was a young girl, I knew all of the community gossip. I know now that probably my mother just lacked friends to talk to, but often times, I was the one that she gossiped to. I was included in adult conversations that I had no business being a part of. Even at an early age, I knew who in our community was in an unhappy marriage, who was still pining for their high school sweetheart, whose children might not be biologically related to the man who raised them…basically, I knew way more than any child should know (or any other person NOT DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN THE RELATIONSHIP should know.). I remember learning early on, that rush of knowing something about someone and how that garnered me the attention of others when I spilled the beans.  I cringe when I think of the things that I knew at such a young age and it shaped who I am and how I’ve handled the responsibility of harboring gossip as an adult. Now that I’m a mother, I’ve made a conscious plan not to ever talk about anyone in front of my kids–that includes my kids peers as well as the adults in our life. Now, all bets are off about what’s said among me and my mom friends at the bus stop before the kids get home, but when my kids are around, I don’t talk about people unless it’s kind words or giving the benefit of the doubt. Little pitchers have big ears…
  3. Talking badly about myself: I grew up with a mother who hated her body. I have vivid memories of her calling herself a “fat pig” and other horrible things. Perhaps she was fishing for compliments, but as a child, all I knew was that my mother said terrible things about herself all the time. So, I grew up silently critiquing my own body. I didn’t want this for my children, so I’ve made a pointed effort never to say anything but empowering things about my body when I do talk about my body (which is seldom) in front of my kids. Our society talks about our bodies too much as it is. I don’t want my kids even thinking about their bodies as anything other than running, jumping, ball-throwing, jump-roping, dancing-machines.

As an adult, I am (mostly) forgiving and (reasonably) accepting of my body. When it comes up in conversation with my kids, I commend my body on its feats of strength and endurance and I very much just portray my body as a vehicle for my soul to travel around in. I try to preach kindness to all–ourselves included–to my kids and we talk about respect and acceptance more than is probably necessary, but it’s something I feel strongly about.

When I made these promises to baby Anna, 10 years ago, honestly, I wasn’t even sure if I’d be able to hold up my end of the bargain. I knew that I desperately wanted to break the cycle that I grew up with, but I also wasn’t sure if it was possible.

As the years have gone on, not only do I feel like I’ve broken the cycle, but the dialog that I was raised with is a whole way of thinking that I can’t even wrap my brain around anymore. I’m a happier, healthier person than I ever thought possible–and I’m not a half-bad parent either. Granted, my kids will likely have a whole new set of cycles that they will vow to break with her own children, and honestly, I think that’s rad. I think that we should get better with each generation. It’s evolution at its finest.

 

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Mexico 2004

A letter

(Alternate title: May the 4th be with me)

I’m not going to lie: April was a doozy for me.

My creativity was nonexistent. My attitude was piss-poor and my self-doubt and lack of confidence ruled my every move. It was a strange month.

I found out, at the end of April, that Mercury had been in retrograde, so that’s what I’m attributing all of this to. Obviously. Duh.

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I also had a few intensely-social weekends in April. There were a couple of themes that presented themselves those weekends and I’m planning to write at length about them in the coming weeks. Basically, you take introvertedness + socializing + lack of motivation x self doubt (cubed)=ick.

(I’m bad at math, so if that equation doesn’t add up, figure it out yourself)

Then, I attended a Women’s Leadership Conference last week that turned it all around.

That’s me in the top with lemons on it. Because, of course lemons…that’s how my brain works.

 

I begrudgingly went–thinking of 75 other things that I needed or wanted to do that day–but instead, I came home a new person. I wrote one of the organizers a letter, because I wanted to let someone know how much I was moved by it. Here’s an excerpt from that letter:

Initially, I was interested in attending the summit only because one of my favorite authors, Katherine Center would be speaking. When I saw that the summit was a “leadership” summit, my gut reaction was, “Leadership? I’m not a leader…I’m JUST a mom.” But, I decided to sign up anyway–even thinking that I might just go hear Center speak and then duck out early to get back home to my responsibilities.

 

Well, I had hardly gotten in the front door at Trinity University Friday morning, before I was greeted warmly by Karen Love and Leisa Holland-Nelson. Their genuine interest in who I was and what had brought me to the summit stopped me in my tracks. Next, Katherine Center approached me and introduced herself. To say that I was gobsmacked by the welcome that I received would be an understatement.

 

Perhaps it goes without saying that I stayed for the entire day and from the first presentation until the last, I felt engaged, inspired and challenged to think outside of the “box” that I’ve been operating within. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, I fought back tears several times during the day as I realized that I was witnessing women empowering one another, valuing each other’s opinions and NOT ONCE was I asked about my children (which is expected and par for the course when you’re a mom). Instead, I was asked about who I was and what I was passionate about. It was a thrilling, restorative experience for me and I immediately wished that I’d recruited more friends and neighbors to join me.

 

I know you’re busy and I’m sorry if this is simply one more email in your inbox that you have to contend with, but I felt like you should know how much the summit meant to me and how much it has inspired me to do better in my daily life and pursue some of the ideas that I’ve been “marinating on” for awhile. I hope to attend again in the future and would also be honored if I could play a role in any future leadership summits that you are a part of.

 

Please let me know if there are any opportunities for “just moms,” such as myself to participate. I’m a freelance writer who is working to spearhead a growing “sober mom” movement, offering support for women who are finding themselves self-medicating through the perils of parenthood and looking for healthier ways to cope with the feelings of isolation and self-doubt that are so prevalent in motherhood.

I received a lovely response back from the organizer, who sounded as if she had been disappointed in the poor turn-out for the summit. I hope that my letter lifted her up and changed her perception of how the summit was received.

All of this to say: Going forward, you’ll notice a shift in this blog. I won’t be posting as often, but when I do, I want it to only be heart-felt and authentic. I won’t be doing Friday Favorites every week, but instead, holding off and doing a Favorites post when I have something special to tell you about. (Do you know how hard it is to come up with things that are my “favorites” on a weekly basis? Especially in that God-awful month of April when, really and truly, NOTHING felt like my favorite, as I wallowed in self-pity and doubt?) 

Also, I’d really appreciate hearing from you about what you’d like to see more of on the blog. I have oodles of more alcohol/sobriety posts in my head, as well as an endless supply of posts about being an introvert (naval-gazing at its best). Let me hear from you in the comments, via email (jenny@introvertsguidetosobriety.com) or find me on social media and let’s visit about things.

Thanks for hanging in there during my April of doom…I missed you!

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