The Payoff

Last year, I wrote a blog post revealing that I had enrolled in college at Western Governors University (WGU) and was recommitting to finally achieving my dream of earning a Bachelor’s degree. I had wanted it for so long, and I was hopeful that I had found a college with a program that would work with my busy schedule and that I could do it this time. And now, that dream has finally come true – I submitted my application for graduation on Monday, after submitting and receiving a passing grade on my final project.

It hasn’t really sunk in yet that I’ve done it. I’ve been told by colleagues that have recently graduated that it may not fully sink in until I attend commencement next spring, that for them at least it was walking across the stage and receiving their degree that cemented the accomplishment for them. I can definitely see how that would be the case!

I did everything out of order, getting a job and dropping out of college after one semester, and working through my twenties while my friends attended universities, graduated, and began their own careers. Now, at 34, I have an established career and I finally have the degree to go with it. Being able to check that last box will afford me opportunities that I may not have been considered for without it, and I am so very glad that I did it and so very proud of myself. Earning a degree later in life is no less an accomplishment than it would have been if I’d done it directly out of high school; in some ways, I think it’s more of an accomplishment, because I had to work harder to do it. I’m also relieved to graduate without having to worry about a pile of student loans, because I was able to take advantage of tuition assistance programs at work that paid the majority of my way through school.

I don’t think I could’ve done this without the support and love I received from my husband along the way. He knew how important finishing college was to me and he was very encouraging when I enrolled in school. He always made sure that I had time to study, and was more than happy to take on much more than his share of laundry and other household chores so that I could focus. Each time I had to take a test, he kissed me good luck and then celebrated with me when I passed. When I cried tears of frustration over hard classes, he comforted me and assured me that I was smart and that I could do it. He believed in me every step of the way, even when I doubted myself.

Now I am left with a sense of accomplishment and a whole lot more free time than I’ve had over the last year. I’m excited to read books for fun again, instead of using all my reading time for studying. I’m excited to get back to writing blog posts now that I no longer need to write papers. I’ve been promoted at work and am excited to start my new job on Monday, knowing that I can focus completely on what I’m learning at the office and that I don’t have any homework waiting for me at the end of the work day. I’ve worked so hard to get where I am, and now all that hard work is paying off and I’m enjoying every second of the life I have because of it.

Appreciating the Bumps in the Road

Yesterday was my first day returning to work after a wonderful trip to visit friends in Denver. I felt refreshed and ready to take on the stack of emails and meetings I knew were waiting for me, and was even ready to leave the house earlier than normal. I kissed Husband goodbye and made my way downstairs to our parking garage, where despite repeatedly pressing the Unlock button on my key fob I couldn’t get my car to unlock. Unfazed, I returned to our condo and got the spare set of keys, certain that the battery in my regular fob had died and I’d soon be on my way.

Back in the garage, the second set of keys wouldn’t unlock the door automatically either. For some reason, putting the key directly into the door lock tends to set off the panic alarm, so I hate doing it, but I was out of other options. The good news is that when I manually unlocked my door, no alarms went off to deafen all of my neighbors at7am, but the bad news was that I quickly realized it was my battery and not my key fob that was dead. And we’re talking REAL dead here, probably the deadest dead battery I’ve ever encountered in all the years I’ve been driving cars.

Husband tried to jump-start my car for a good half hour, but the battery was just too far gone. Eventually, I assured him that he should get on the road and go to work, and that I’d work from home while waiting for AAA to show up and revive my car. He reluctantly agreed, hesitant to potentially strand me despite my promising that I would be fine.

Upstairs, I got to work, quickly sending a note to my boss about the situation and promising to be in the office just as soon as I was able to be. AAA showed up about an hour and a half later, and got the car running in no time.

Having a dead car battery is definitely annoying, but this morning left me feeling far more grateful than irritated. For one thing, I realize how lucky I am that I can afford a reliable car that I honestly just assume will always start and function properly. I recognize that there are many people who get anxiety every time they turn the key in their ignition because they have no guarantee that their car will actually start on any given day. I’m also super fortunate to have my husband, who loves me and tries without complaint to start my car after I’ve killed my battery by leaving my dome light on for five days straight while we were out of town. He never once grumbled about the situation or got even the slightest bit cranky at me, even though it was all my own fault for being careless and I am well aware of that. Had I asked him, he would have even gone completely out of his way to take me to work and then retrieved me at the end of the day, because that’s just the kind of guy he is. And that leads me to another thing I’m grateful for – I didn’t have to scramble around in a panic and figure out how to get to the office, potentially inconveniencing other people. My company is so flexible and my boss is understanding and kind, and it’s so nice to work in an environment where it’s understood that things do come up. I’ve had jobs before where being late would have resulted in potential discipline, no matter what my reasons.

Life may not always go completely smoothly and there will inevitably be bumps along the road, but I believe that we can focus on the bad things or we can find good in them and move on. Today reminded me that even the things that do go wrong in my life are so minor and so easy to overcome, and I am so very lucky. Things are the best they’ve ever been for me and I know what it’s like to struggle, and I also know that things can change and that there’s no guarantee that I’ll always be this fortunate. I know this, and think of it daily, and I am so appreciative of all that I have.

Motivation Monday: Going Back to What Works

This morning started off so much like every other Monday morning: I woke up, fed the cats, and then stumbled bleary-eyed to the bathroom to the shower. While I waited for the water to warm up, I got on the scale, cringed at the number, and scolded myself for all the not-stellar food choices I’d made over the weekend.

Eat healthy all week, lose my mind and eat crap all weekend, weigh myself on Monday and feel guilt-ridden and defeated. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I am fed up with this.

Over the last year, I’ve struggled with a pretty fierce bout of depression and anxiety, and one of the things that I know is that my weight is largely affected by shifts in my mood. It’s not a coincidence to me that when I’m feeling best about life and myself in general, I have an easier time making healthy choices and managing my weight. Over the last year, I was aware that the numbers kept climbing, but I was also too low-energy and defeated to really do anything about it.

The most frustrating part of depression and anxiety is that it is in no way related to how I actually feel about my life. I started really feeling it last August, and was so angry at myself over it. I was a newlywed, starting a new chapter in life with a man I’m madly in love with, and everything was going so well. In spite of how low I felt, I was in serious denial that it was actually depression. I kept asking myself, how could I possibly be depressed when things are the best they’ve ever been? But of course, I know it doesn’t work that way and I wish I had cut myself some slack. Now that I’m finally feeling a lot better, I feel like I can get back my motivation (hence picking back up this blog series) and make some positive changes in my life.

I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding things in the last year. I avoided taking photos because I didn’t like how I looked. I avoided events altogether where I might see people who knew me from when I was smaller because I was just sure that they’d see me and think, “Wow, she’s gained a lot of weight.” The sad thing is that I missed out on things I would have enjoyed, because I was self-conscious. And so I decided I wasn’t going to do that anymore. I proved it to myself last week when I went to a Zumba class taught by my friend Susie, who is also one of the instructors I used to love dancing with back when I lived in Marysville. She started her own class last year, and while I did want to go I was ashamed to because I didn’t want my old Zumba friends to see how out of shape I’d let myself get. I kept telling myself that I’d slim down first and THEN go. Tired of that and tired of my own excuses, I made up my mind last week that I was going to go and hug my old friends and have fun, and I did just that! I had an amazing time, and no one seemed to care one bit that I look different now.

On a podcast I listen to called Diet Starts Tomorrow, the hosts recently interviewed Dr. Oz. I’m not a big fan of his or anything, but he did say one thing that resonated with me when speaking about his guests that had lost over 100lbs: they had one thing in common, and that one thing is that they all loved themselves prior to losing weight. They didn’t choose certain foods to eat or work out to punish their bodies; they did it to celebrate them. Hearing that was like switching on a giant lightbulb in my brain. I looked back at a blog post I had written in 2012, when I had successfully dropped unwanted pounds: my Zumba class is not just about losing weight, it’s about being the best person you can be…mind, body, and spirit. And for me, Nancy’s class was life-changing. Long before I started seeing more favorable numbers on the scale, I noticed awesome changes in my attitude, self-confidence, and outlook on life. Back then, I wasn’t trying to be thin. I was trying to be strong, healthy, fit. I cared so much less about the size of my jeans than I did the size of my self-image. And I do agree with Dr. Oz that that has been the missing piece for me the last few years. I somehow reverted into a mentality of wanting to be thin because I didn’t like how I looked, and that didn’t go well at all for me.

I know that I have two choices: I can be content with where I am now, or I can do the work to overhaul my unhealthy habits so that I can feel strong and fit again. I got back to the gym a couple of months ago and have been consistently attending dance classes 2-3 times a week (last week, with Susie’s class included, I did a total of four!). Although it’s hard to say for sure, I think that has contributed to my starting to feel better. Dance gives me confidence like nothing else ever has. It’s a good start, but if I really want to see changes I know I need to start fueling my body differently. The question, of course, is: do I really want to do the work to change my body?

I’ve decided that the answer is yes.

I’m not going to follow any diet plan and I’m not going to restrict myself from eating any foods I like. I know those behaviors just make me obsess about food and never set me up for long-term success. I’m going to do this the way I found success in the past: by working out and keeping a food journal. In the past I’ve used Lose It to track what I eat, but have since switched and prefer My Fitness Pal. Even so, I logged into my old Lose It account today and was happy to discover that all my old food logs are still in there and accessible! Looking over what I was eating at the time that I was successfully losing weight before gives me a lot of reassurance that I can do this again. Plus, it gives me meal- and snack-planning ideas, and in looking over the logs I’m actually surprised at how much I was eating – I definitely didn’t starve myself!

Of course, I would love to lose weight by doing this, but honestly it really isn’t about that for me right now. Life keeps reminding me that it is desperately short, and I want to do everything in my power to be around as long as possible and to enjoy every second as much as I can. In order to do that, I need to be healthy and strong so that I know that I can handle any activity that I decide I want to jump into. I don’t want to buy new clothes, I want to fit into the ones that I already have. This isn’t about wanting to change my body because I don’t like it – it’s about wanting to treat it better because I do in fact like it.

I’m sure that there will be people reading this who will have opinions on my approach and what may work better, but this is honestly what works best for me. I recognize that something else may be what works for other people, and that’s totally okay! We are all different! What I do hope is that I can receive support and not criticism as I try to take control of my health again. And how do I know that I won’t be right back in the same place next Monday morning, after another weekend of bad food choices? Honestly, I don’t know that. We have out-of-town plans for the next few weekends and I don’t anticipate being perfect or avoiding all indulgences. That isn’t realistic! But if I wait until the ‘perfect’ day to decide to start making changes, I’ll never do it. The perfect day doesn’t exist. But I do have today, so for today I’m going to do the best that I can to be as good to myself as I can. And then tomorrow, I’ll resolve to do the same thing again.

International Childfree Day 2018

Happy International Childfree Day, everyone!

Last year, shortly after returning from my honeymoon, I wrote a post about the decision my husband and I have made not to have children. I can admit now that I was very nervous to hit that Publish button and to openly proclaim that we were choosing not to have kids – a lifestyle that for some reason is still upsetting to some. I was afraid of the criticism, the rebukes that I’ll change my mind, that not having kids is selfish, that I’ll never know true love until I have a child. You know, all the usual things people say when a woman declares herself childfree, all the things people have said to me in my life. The things that make me feel pressured to change my course in life just to please others.

Happily, the responses I received were supportive and positive, and in the year since I wrote that post I’ve become a lot more comfortable owning my childfree status. Writing openly about choosing a life without children led to such a remarkable change in my thinking. I no longer worry that I’m going to offend people with kids when I say I don’t want kids myself. I don’t feel bad because my path in life is different from theirs or because I want different things out of life. Why should I? We humans are inordinately different by nature and so of course our dreams for ourselves and our choices in life are going to be vastly different as well. I don’t question for a second anyone else’s choosing to have kids; it’s just what they want for themselves and their lives.

In honor of International Childfree Day, here are some childfree facts about me. Feel free to add your own childfree facts in the comments!

• Even as a child, I never thought of myself as growing up to be a mother. I chose playing with My Little Ponies over baby dolls; I much preferred to imagine the grand adventures the ponies would have and didn’t enjoy pretending to care for a baby.

• I don’t dislike kids – I actually have several children in my life whom I love with all my heart and spending time with them makes me happy.

• I didn’t choose a career over parenting. While I do work full time, I don’t feel such a strong dedication to my job that I’d sacrifice things I want in my personal life for it. I am fortunate to work for a company that highly promotes work-life balance and while I do enjoy working hard, I’m not the person consistently leaving work the latest and I am happy to take my vacation days.

• I believe it’s important to really think about why I do things in life. My husband recently told me about reading an article discussing people’s motivations to do things and summarizing that we either do things out of obligation or out of genuine desire. I try to live my life so that the obligations are few and far outweighed by the things I want to be doing. Thinking this way was a big part of my ultimate decision not to have kids – I don’t crave parenting, and I think it’s something you should only do if you are craving that life.

• My heart aches for people who do crave parenthood and can’t have kids. One of the major drivers for my decision to break my silence and be more outspokenly childfree was not so much my own experience with negativity around my decision, but frustration at the questions I was regularly asked about when I would be having kids. I imagine how terrible it would be to be asked those same questions if I did want a baby while being unable to have one, and I want to lead the charge in helping to educate people about the harm they do when they ask such things.

• I love my childfree life and I want other childfree people to love theirs, too. There isn’t anything wrong with choosing not to be a parent!

What I Don’t Want for My Birthday

This Saturday is my birthday. I will be 34.

I think there are people who look at their upcoming birthday and the year ahead and have ideas for what things they would like to do and how they would like to improve their lives and themselves as they embark upon a new trip around the sun. Maybe I’m lazy (okay, the ‘maybe’ part is probably a stretch), because I don’t have any grand plans for things I’m resolving to do as I officially turn one year older. I like myself and my life, for the most part anyway, and I’m quite content to just let it continue to be the way that it is.

Now, there are some things I would like to NOT do in my 34th year, to be sure. I do hope to continue to not have any grey hairs, because keeping up my roots when my hair is this blonde is already a pain and I don’t need to add any other shades to the mix.

My current hair

I would also like to not go on any diets because I love food and I also love alcohol and I think anything that prohibits me from having things I enjoy is stupid. Furthermore, I would like to not put any pressure on myself to be good-looking or busy at all times or to do too many things that I don’t like doing just because someone else feels I should be doing those things. I honestly don’t know how many birthdays I’ll get to have in life, and when you don’t know how much time you’re going to get, it’s just silly to waste the time you DO have doing or thinking about unpleasant things. And if I do happen to be lucky enough to advance into old age, and I certainly hope I do get that lucky, I don’t want to look back on my life and realize that I could’ve had a lot more fun if I’d concerned myself more with what I like to do than with what everyone else thinks of me and my life. I already primarily spoilt my high school experience by trying to live up to other people’s expectations and it seems crazy to waste my adulthood in a similar fashion. And, doing too many things I don’t like or listening too much to what other people think of my life makes me enjoy being alive a lot less, and since being alive is a temporary condition I don’t have time for people and things that lead me to stop appreciating life fully.

Also, I don’t want to do any running because I hate it. There are so many things that I love to do that are healthy and active things, like dancing and riding my bike and taking walks. I like doing things that make me feel good and running is not one of those things.

I think that pretty well sums up the things I don’t want for my 34th year of life. I do always want cookies though, if someone so desires to bring me some.

Time to Breathe

Over the weekend the battery in my Garmin Vivofit died and I had no way to count my steps, which made me realize that I am in fact quite dependent on the positive reinforcement that is the hitting of a 10k step goal in a day. I could have simply replaced the battery but it turns out it takes some sort of strange battery with a name beginning with C and all the batteries I have at home have names with a row of A’s in them and to boot you have to take off the face of the Garmin with a teeny tiny screwdriver to get at the dead battery in the first place. Seriously, these screws are so small that I would need a screwdriver that would fit nicely in Barbie’s hand (and yes, it fits in Barbie’s hand and NOT Ken’s because Barbie has her shit together and in addition to being unafraid to start down new career paths she also knows her way around a toolbox. Unlike me, obviously.) to remove them.

Having no mysterious C batteries or any Barbie screwdrivers, I did the only rational thing a girl could do in this situation and marched myself to the mall to buy an Apple Watch.

Okay, I would be lying if I said I bought the thing on a whim – the price point for Apple Watches is far over my self-imposed spending limit for impulse purchases. I had wanted one for awhile but always found ways to talk myself out of getting one, but the death of my Garmin’s battery sealed the deal for me and I indulged myself.

Today I am wearing the Apple Watch and it just buzzed at me and when I looked at it, it was reminding me to breathe. At first this made me indignant because I CAN actually remember to perform such a basic life-sustaining function sans reminder, thanks Apple, but then I realized that maybe I was feeling a bit riled at myself for being so lazy that I went out and bought a new watch rather than simply changing a damn battery and perhaps I did in fact need to take some deep breaths and mellow myself.

Well played, Apple Watch, you delightful bit of modern technology. Well played. Also, this helps me feel that I needed this device in my life to look out for me.

Gratitude

Standing at the sink in the kitchen of our new home, I can gaze out across the living room as I wash dishes. One weekend morning not long ago I did so as usual, cleaning up the dishes after enjoying the breakfast my sweet husband cooked for us. As I began cleaning up he had moved to the couch and the sight of him relaxing on a sunny weekend morning made me smile.

As I looked out at our living room, my husband on the couch and my cats stretched out in patches of morning sun, I felt so much gratitude for everything I was seeing. Life is short and ever-changing; my view from the kitchen won’t always look this way. The cats are getting older – hell, Bill and I are getting older – and with growing older I understand so much more that every moment is one to be cherished because it won’t be like this forever.

I don’t say this to be ominous. Life is the best it’s ever been and I am so incredibly grateful for these quiet and happy moments. I’ve had so many of them, especially since moving into our new home in April. We are both so in love with our new place and we spend more time at home now than we ever did when we lived in our rental. Our old apartment didn’t have a place for a table, so we never owned one, and the living room was only big enough for a love seat and an armchair. The apartment complex was on a major street, so it was nearly always loud when we ventured onto our back patio. Now, in our new home, we can do things that we couldn’t  before. We enjoy meals together sitting at the dining room table, we relax on our back deck on nice days, and we stretch out together on our giant, cozy new couch and watch movies together.

The happiness we feel doesn’t come from just the possession of the house itself, but from what it represents: an accomplishment we achieved together and can now enjoy together. Bill and I have shared so many adventures over the last four years, and home ownership is the newest but by no means the last one we’ll have together. There is no single item I have ever owned in my life that has given me the kind of peace and happiness that this life together brings me.

I admit that at times I lose sight of that feeling of gratitude and fall into the rut of just going through the motions of everyday life. Even though I generally can find joy in most things, there are definitely moments when I can’t find my shoes and leave late for work, or spill my coffee all over my car, and I catch myself getting way too riled up by these annoyances. Of course once that moment of self-awareness hits and I see how silly I’m being, then I regret allowing such small problems to make me fall short of being the person I want to be. Usually the things that frustrate me the most are the ones that I feel are rooted in my own shortcomings: running late makes me worry that I am not truly dependable, spilling things shows that I’m disorganized and klutzy.

In those moments where I’m falling short of my own standards, I’m learning to take a step back and imagine myself standing at the kitchen sink, looking out at my beautiful living room at my wonderful family. This image in my mind is soothing and grounding; it puts it in perspective to me how truly rich I am in this life and reminds me that small frustrations are such small and insignificant parts of such a great existence.

 

A Change in Absolutes

Remember at the beginning of the year when I set new health and fitness goals?

Yeah….those didn’t pan out. And I could tell you that this happened because I got sick in February (which I did, and was sicker than I have been in years…awful!), or that I lost momentum when I traveled for work, or that I derailed while we were in the process of moving into our new condo a few weeks ago. These things all did in fact happen, but they are not responsible for the fact that I stalled before I had even really started with a new set of goals for myself. No, the reason I crashed and burned on my 2018 goals is because they weren’t realistic. 

Life is a lot of things, but it is most definitely NOT predictable. Using absolutes like I tried to do in January, declaring that I would bring my lunch EVER day or that I would NEVER have a glass of wine on a work night, are just not set rules that I’m willing to follow. And that’s really the crux of it: if I’m not willing to make a change for the rest of my life, it isn’t going to stick and I’m not going to benefit from it in the long run.

I’ve been reading an amazing blog called Runs for Cookies. The author, Katie, repeatedly explains that the reason she was able to lose weight and keep it off is because she only implemented changes she was willing to keep up for life. Over time, what she’s been willing to do for life has changed….at first, she wasn’t willing to exercise, but over time she found that she wanted to. As her body felt different, what she wanted changed.

Ever since I started gaining weight in  2014, after successfully maintaining my goal weight for two years, I’ve been obsessing about what diet or mindset might get me back to feeling good. Of course, nothing I tried worked (and, spoiler alert – no diet is EVER going to work long term) and my weight has continually fluctuated.

I learned through reading Katie’s posts that weight fluctuation is normal and it’s going to happen. To me. To everyone. I’ve said this before, but I seriously wonder if, had I simply adjusted my food and exercise slightly when I gained a little weight in 2014 instead of going on a crash diet, if my weight would have self-regulated. It’s completely possible that I wouldn’t be here now, 25 pounds above goal, if I had just left my body alone to do what it had already been doing. I started to see a glimpse of this in late 2016, when I swore off dieting and got back to working out regularly. My weight started dropping. And then after I gained some weight on my honeymoon, I fell back into old habits…not doing the workouts I liked, going on seriously low-calorie diets to drop weight. It should be no surprise that I’m now heavier for it.

So here’s what I know: when I was at my lowest weight, I wasn’t dieting. There were no foods that were off-limits and there were no rules. I was exercising because I loved my exercise classes and because I loved feeling fit. I didn’t want to be skinny; I danced because I loved it and I lifted weights because I delighted in having muscle tone. I kept doing those things because I felt good. My self-confidence soared, because I felt like I could do anything.

On Saturday morning, I woke up and all I wanted to do was go to the gym and take a dance class. I went, and it was absolutely amazing. I left feeling accomplished and strong, so much so that later in the day I suggested to Bill that we walk a mile and a half to Rory’s for lunch. Yesterday, I thought I would be exhausted, but I woke up craving a workout. I did Training Camp with Bill and was even able to do the push-ups from my toes! Normally I have to drop to my knees for push-ups.

Today, I am definitely sore in places, but I’m also excited knowing that it’s Monday and I get to go to dance this evening! It’s also absolutely gorgeous outside today and wonderfully warm, and I treated myself to a walk on the trail near my office as an afternoon  break from work. I love walking and will definitely still be doing plenty of that!

Right now I’m all about doing what makes me feel good, both physically and mentally,  and what gives me energy. The only thing I’m going to declare that I absolutely WON’T do is diet – it doesn’t do any good anyway.

 

Finding Peace

It’s a chilly, gray Tuesday morning. I’m running late as usual, fueled only by caffeine and my desire to not miss my train for the second morning in a row.

As I walk quickly to the train platform, my hair is tossed by the wind. Although I would like to imagine that this is sexy – tousled hair, confident walk – the grim reality is that I probably look more like this:

Lovely photo, n’jes?

I like commuting via train. I started taking public transit in October, after driving back and forth from Edmonds to Bellevue for the first month at my new job and finding myself feeling slightly homicidal. To get from my house to my office, I catch the Sounder train in Edmonds, which takes me to Seattle. I then walk a block and catch a bus that goes across the I90 bridge and into downtown Bellevue.

The bus is okay, convenient but also incredibly crowded most mornings. The train, on the other hand, is bliss. I have no idea why, but most morning commuters prefer aisle seats and will make me climb over them to sit by the window before they will ever entertain the idea of simply scooting over. Although I am anything but graceful and half the time I stumble over the person grudgingly letting me sit next to them (you do NOT get two seats to yourself on a crowded commuter train, you jerks, so just get over it and share), I’m happy to have the window seat and the view of Puget Sound.

Even mornings like this rather dreary one are strikingly beautiful to me. In nearly eight years living in the Northwest, I’ve never failed to find myself overcome by how breathtaking it is here. Looking out at the Sound brings me a feeling of peace and tranquility that I find myself desperately needing these days.

Am I the only one feeling the strain of a lot of digital animosity lately? Last week there was yet another school shooting, but this time the survivors are speaking out and demanding action. It’s so refreshing, and it fills me with so much hope. But for as good as it makes me feel that maybe this time something will actually be done, the fact that people are talking about the shooting also means that people are arguing about how to stop shootings. And because these arguments are taking place online, people are cruel and ruthless.

I don’t mind a healthy debate, you guys…I actually love acquiring new information. I have changed my mind about pretty nearly every view I’ve held in my life – my politics, my (lack of) religion, my dreams for what my own life will be. And I changed my mind on these things because I received new information that swayed me.

Notice that I didn’t say I changed my mind because someone argued with me on social media or insulted me? That’s because arguing with people on social media and insulting them isn’t going to change their minds. What it IS going to do is make them defensive. It’ll make them tune out. It’ll make them dig in their heels.

I’m aware that my view of the world isn’t traditional and that my views are typically in the minority. I’m used to that, and because of it I don’t really put much effort into trying to persuade people to adopt my ideas as their own. Short of when I see someone causing harm, I don’t make a habit of calling people out.

Sometimes I need a reminder that the world isn’t really this angry, volatile place. And so this morning I put on some soothing music, turn to the window, and look out at the beauty of Puget Sound. I cannot really describe how soothing this is for me.

My focus now is to add as much kindness to this world as I can, and to use productive tools such as my vote, my participation, and my dollars to support the things I believe in.

Being a Grandma Doesn’t Mean You Were a Good Mom

The other night on my way home, I found myself behind a minivan with a license plate frame that read ‘Only the Best Moms Get Promoted to Grandma’. The implication that my choice to be child-free would reflect badly on my mom or her parenting skills really made me angry, and sad too.

Now really, the statement that only the best moms become grandmothers is ridiculous. I have plenty of friends with children whose moms were an absolute nightmare. There are plenty of parents out there who were raised by a single father, no mother around whatsoever. You can be a shitty mom and still end up having grandchildren. A narcissistic, controlling, angry, or crazy mom does not rise to sainthood just because her children decide to have kids of their own.

I had a great childhood. My parents loved my siblings and I fiercely and did everything they could to give us a good life. They gave up a lot for us and I have mad respect for them for it. I do know that just as I am interrogated about when my husband and I are having kids, my mom is asked on the regular when her kids are going to give her some grandbabies. Mom takes it in stride and replies that she has furry grandchildren, but I know she gets as tired of the questions as I do.

My parents have never pressured me to have kids or expressed anything but support for the kind of life I want to have. I am incredibly grateful to them for respecting my decision and not pushing me to make a different choice. My dad has even gone so far as to tell me that if he had known the world would be the way that it is today, he might have reconsidered having children himself. It is so much harder to make a decent living and build a comfortable life now than it was thirty years ago. When he said it, it made me feel so validated in my own choice to remain child-free. My mom has told me “I don’t like kids anymore!”, usually after being subjected to misbehaving kids in stores.

It does make me sad to think of my parents being put on the spot about my decision not to have children, a choice that has absolutely nothing to do with my relationship with them but that ultimately I realize does impact them. When an adult makes virtually any other decision in life, it falls on them and it’s generally considered unacceptable to ask their parents for justification – why is procreating an “open season” topic then?

I like to think that my parents are living a happy and fulfilled life, blissfully retired and free to enjoy their days. They worked hard for that. If there’s a hole in their lives because my siblings and I don’t have kids, they’ve never said as much.

I just hope the driver of that minivan was actually a good parent, and that her grandchildren are also being raised by good parents who wanted the responsibility rather than people who were pushed into parenthood by the woman now celebrating her life as grandma with bumper stickers.