relationships · self-care

Shortcomings

During our adoption home study, a social worker came out to our house and interviewed Tamara and me – a standard part of the adoption process. It was a little nerve-wracking, somewhat awkward, but overall we knew what to expect and it went okay.

Except for this – this one question the social worker asked. For this question, we were sitting together on our couch.

“What do you think Tamara’s greatest weakness is?” she asked.

Now, in job interviews and in adoption home studies, there are rules for this particular question. The rule is – you don’t give a real weakness. You don’t tell a potential employer at a job interview, “I sometimes have trouble getting my paperwork in on time.” (Even if it’s true!) No, you give a weakness that is ACTUALLY A STRENGTH IN DISGUISE. You say, “Sometimes I am too much of a perfectionist.” TRANSLATION: I will do excellent work if hired.

So, when I answered, I gave an honest answer that displayed one of Tamara’s strengths. “She is one of the hardest workers I know,” I told the social worker. “Sometimes I have to remind her to take breaks and to take care of herself!”

The social worker nodded, smiled, and then asked Tamara the same question.

Tamara answered thoughtfully and honestly. “Kerriann can be defensive sometimes.”

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SCREECH. STOP. PAUSE. SOCIAL WORKER LADY, PLEASE GO HOME SO I CAN GIVE MY WIFE ALL THE DIRTY LOOKS IN THE WORLD.

Defensive?! That is not a secret strength disguised as a weakness! It is just a weakness – an absolutely 100% accurate weakness of mine. I do get defensive, which is evident every single time I tell this story. There is literally no way to tell someone who calls your defensive that you are not defensive. CANNOT BE DONE. Because if you weren’t so defensive – and believe me, I AM DEFENSIVE – then you wouldn’t feel the compulsion to, ahem, defend yourself.

As soon as the social worker left, I calmly explained to Tamara the principle of the “strength disguised as weakness” answer. (Yes, calmly. We were able to laugh about this that same day.)

Now, one of the reasons this story is on my mind today is – I’ve been thinking a lot about ‘character defects.’ This is something that’s talked about often in recovery circles. They can be called character defects, flaws, or shortcomings. They’re sometimes given other names, too, but my favorite is shortcomings. These are things we struggle with – areas where we come up short – in brief, our weaknesses. We talk about them in recovery because we want to be aware of the things that get in our way.

Needless to say, defensiveness is a big one for me, as is perfectionism, numbing, over-sensitivity, self-centeredness, and insecurity.

These shortcomings are on my mind recently because they keep popping up. My theory is this: I’ve been so stressed and overwhelmed for the past year that I’ve barely noticed any of my shortcomings. I was sort of drowning in self-pity and constantly seeking a new job, so my day-to-day inventory of who I am and how I’m leading my life was periodically lost in the shuffle.

Now that I have space and time to breathe, I am noticing times when my shortcomings rise up – times when I am faced with a situation and I fall short of the version of myself I’d like to be.

I’m not writing any of this to make myself feel bad. Sometimes, thinking about the areas where I fall short actually helps me to feel GOOD about myself. I am not a horrible mess; I’m a complex person who does awesome in some areas, average in others, and below average in some. I’m real.

I think the shortcoming that has been bothering me the most in recent history is my tendency to numb. When I get stressed, I become UNmindful. I distract myself, I drink lots of caffeine, I eat lots of candy. None of this helps me to deal with the things that are stressing me out.

I’m trying to go easy on myself this week. Yes, I’m drinking too much coffee and eating too many Cadbury Mini Eggs – but I’m also caring for an infant and have had the most emotionally up-and-down 19 days of my life.

So, instead of beating myself up further, I’m making a few mini-resolutions for myself:

1. Seek out joy and lightness every day. There is always something to laugh at and something to be thankful for.

2. Remember that you are enough. Believing that you don’t have enough of what you need does not serve you well.

3. Be gentle with and accepting of others. I sometimes want to *fix* family and friends instead of just being there for them.

4. Treat everyone like a toddler. I am way more patient with y two-year-old than I am with adults. And doesn’t everyone deserve to be treated with patience and compassion?

5. Let go and let God. Have a little faith. Not everything is on your shoulders. In fact, almost nothing is.

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balance · relationships

Radioactive Valentine’s Day #heart #mind #spirit

If you’ve never heard of the popular book The Five Love Languages, I’m going to sum it up for you so that this post makes sense.

the-five-love-languagesThe Five Love Languages (written by Gary Chapman) talks about five ways that people express and experience love, which Chapman refers to as “love languages.”  These love languages are: gifts, quality time, words of affirmation, acts of service, and physical touch.

A while ago, I took the Five Love Languages Quiz.  Not surprisingly, I scored highest in the categories of physical touch and words of affirmation, with acts of service coming in third.  Tee took the quiz, too, and got a nearly identical score.

Tee and I like to joke about how our relationship would be The Most Boring Reality TV Show Ever.  We’re pretty affectionate, and we tell each other “I love you” a lot.  It’s pretty awesome, if you’re us – but The Five Love Languages talks about how different people experience love in different ways.  Some people appreciate gifts (lucky for me, this is not super important for Tee), and some people treasure quality time with their partner above everything else.

Anyway – the funny thing about this year’s Valentine’s Day was that Tee and I were not able to physically touch each other, all day long.

When you can’t show your love for others the way you typically do, you need some out-of-the-box thinking.

That day, I was driving around running errands and I found myself at an Amish market just a few minutes away from Wild Peace Farm.  I was wondering around pretty aimlessly when I happened upon the PERFECT Valentine’s Day gift for Tee – a beautiful wooden bird feeder.

bird feeder

I’ve been SO proud of myself ever since.  Tee and I have spent many a lovely dinner gazing out our kitchen window and naming the birds who come by to chow.  (They are HUNGRY.  Sometimes we have to fill the feeder every single day!  But I try not to do that, so as to encourage their independence and reliance on multiple food sources.  Like you do.)

It’s good to know our strengths, but it’s also good to STRETCH and to challenge ourselves; this is true in our personal lives as well as in our relationships.  I know that I’m great at telling Tee how I feel and giving her 100 hugs a day, but there was something sweet about celebrating a Valentine’s day when I had to let the universe show me a different way to express my feelings.  Good job, universe.  Many thanks.

relationships · soul · thought of the day

Never Not Birding #NNB #heartsoulmindbody

Tee and I went birding with The Naturalist in Rock Creek Park a few weekends ago.

I’ve missed Rock Creek Park!  It’s one of my faves.  I love how you can be in the middle of the park and forget that you’re even in DC.

However, when looking forward to this outing, I wrongly expected to have an experience similar to my previous RCP adventures – usually a long hike while talking with friends about everyday life.

This is not how it works when you are with birders.

We drove down and met the Naturalist in the parking lot, and she and Tee instantly began identifying bird calls, bird songs, and birds themselves.  I awkwardly had to get REAL direct about my need to find a place to pop a squat, because I know these two well; a chitchat about the birds within a thirty-yard radius of where they’re standing can last twenty minutes.

Additionally, each time one of us started to tell a story about something non-bird-related, we would experience three to five interruptions due to one of the others spotting a pair of Carolina wrens or a red-breasted woodpecker or a dove sitting on its nest.  (All true stories.)

This happens on my evening walks with Tee as well.  We like to take a walk on the NCR Trail after dinner every evening, but we have to stop every five steps to peer through her binoculars at chickadees and woodpeckers.  This prompted our new hashtag – #NeverNotBirding – meant to encompass all the avian discoveries made while doing all the other things we enjoy doing outdoors.

Anyway – I’m still totally hooked on this birding thing.  Tee, the Naturalist, and I all got to perch and watching a dozen frolicking goldfinches flitting around in a cluster of trees in RCP. a332caa30eb2cfb8e372ba425046395d I love that this whole birding endeavor is such a balanced activity – being physically active, learning something new, communing with nature, and being with friends.  Love, love, love.  Such good balance!

At our old house, I used to see a bluebird frequently as I entered our driveway.  Now that I’ve started joining in on Tee’s birding excursions, I’ve been dying to see a bluebird again.  The adoption wait has been really overwhelming and stressful lately, and I think I associate bluebirds with hope.  (See my bluebird post here!)

I finally saw a bluebird (an Eastern Bluebird, to be exact) on one of my runs last weekend.  Fingers crossed that bluebirds really are a symbol of happiness and cheer to come!

relationships

I Heart NY #heartsoulmindbodyspirit

For the past eight years, I’ve been promising Tee that I’ll take her on New York City adventures, helping her to get to know my hometown.  Worst New Yorker ever – no adventures have been had!

Well, that’s not exactly true.  We’ve had mini-adventures – seeing a play, visiting friends – but there is SO MUCH exploring to do in New York, and I have been such a slacker.

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Redgreen and Violet-Yellow Rhythms, Paul Klee

A few weeks ago, Tee and I realized that we only had a few more weekends free before we are occupied by farmers markets every weekend until November.  We decided to visit my childhood best friend (CBF) and her husband and daughter in their brand-new home in New Jersey; their daughter is an adorable two-year-old with gorgeous eyes, amazing bangs, and the most amazing laugh in the world.  We also spent Saturday in the city enjoying some playtime, just me and Tee.  🙂

We got into Manhattan at around ten in the
morning and spent a while wandering around Central Park, and then met up with some of my loveliest friends at the Plaza Food Hall, which is a food court in the Plaza Hotel that I did not know existed.

(IMPORTANT SIDEBAR – for lunch, I ate a crepe with lox and cream cheese.  I also ate lox for Easter breakfast the weekend before.  I am obsessed with lox.  I love lox.  Why don’t I eat lox every day of my life?)

After lunch, Tee and I spent the rest of the afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

When I lived in Boston, I visited the Museum of Fine Arts regularly.  I knew the museum layout by heart, and I loved going back with out-of-town guests to show them my favorite paintings.

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Fighting Cows, Franz Marc

An added bonus was that visiting the MFA would almost unfailingly inspire me to write.  I’d wander a little – I’d visit my favorite artwork – and inevitably, I’d find a bench and plop down with my journal to jot down some thoughts.

If you ever find yourself dealing with writer’s block, get yourself out there and explore the creations of others.  Art begets art.

The same was true last weekend.  We wandered through the modern and contemporary art rooms, and I found myself scribbling down ideas for short stories and blog posts every few minutes.

Long story short – if you’re trying to write, go to a museum.  Allow the creativity of others to invigorate you.

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Hot Still-Scape for Six Colors – 7th Avenue Style, Stuart Davis    (Doesn’t it make you want to dance?!)
balance · relationships

For The Birds #heartsoulmindbodyspirit

Tee loves nature.  She and our friend, The Naturalist, can spend hours talking about butterflies, trees, and wildflowers.

Of course, I love nature, too; it’s a love Tee and I share.  We both relish spending time outdoors – camping, hiking, just general frolicking.

However, while I thoroughly enjoy spending time in nature, I don’t have the same level of enthusiasm as Tee and The Naturalist when it comes to discussing the science of nature.  When they start to identify various species of caterpillars or talk about which pair of binoculars Tee should purchase, I tune out and start playing the first disc of the Hamilton soundtrack in my head.  (I could just start singing out loud; knowing Tee and The Naturalist, they would stbirdingart singing with me and the science talk would be temporarily suspended.  They would be – ahem – helpless.)

Lately, Tee has a new nature lover’s habit that I am really enjoying – birding!

Tee’s parents have several bird feeders right outside their window in their North Carolina home.  They can sit at their kitchen table eating dinner and watching chickadees and cardinals flock to the feeders for birdseed.

It’s super cute.

The Naturalist got Tee super-interested in birding, and Tee got binoculars for Christmas.  THEN, for Valentine’s Day, I went to our local Amish market and got a bird feeder for Tee, which she set up just outside the window by our kitchen table.  Now, our evening walk down the NCR Trail is all about spotting woodpeckers, wrens, robins, and sparrows and learning their songs.  And our mealtimes include time for looking through Tee’s birding books to teach me the names of the birds we can see chowing down outside the window.

I can’t even handle how dorky and senior-citizen-esque this all sounds.

I have no aspirations of making it all sound cool.

BUT – it is cool!  I love learning new things, but I can’t really retain information and facts unless I am actively engaging in an activity.  (I’m a kinesthetic learner – I learn way better when I’m engaged in a physical activity rather than listening to information or watching someone else demonstrate something.)  I get really excited when I’m able to remember what different birds look like and sound like, and Tee gets really excited to stalk this one particular tree in which we once saw a woodpecker.

BONUS: This might be my first-ever post that addresses all my balance categories – heart, soul, mind, body, spirit – with just one topic!  #balanced

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family · relationships

Why Being An Aunt (before being a parent) Is Awesome #heart

The wait continues for this adoptive-parent-in-waiting.

Today is the second birthday of one of my nieces – a sweet, smart, spunky, wonderful little girl who I love like crazy.  My heart is full of love, and I can’t wait to see her later today, to watch her smush some delicious cupcake into her adorable face.

I’ve written a lot about the woes of waiting to be a parent, but there’s an interesting upside to the way my life has panned out so far: it is tremendously awesome to be an aunt, and (I think) it is really, really cool to be an aunt before you’re a parent.

I’ve thought about this a lot, ever since my brother’s first child was born.  That little one has seriously one of my best friends and one of my favorite things in the universe.  (Still is.)  (And yes, I am talking about having a toddler as a best friend.  I’ve had several; they’re awesome.)  I have loved baby-sitting for my nephew and my three nieces, and when we’re at a family gathering, my tendency is to drop everything else the moment one of them is looking for a plaFour_Hearts__edition_4-1336927380ymate.  Tee and I act similarly with all our honorary nieces and nephews, too – the children of dear friends, of whom there are many, who we love to tickle and snuggle and with whom we’ve played thousands of games of Birthday and Horsey.

Ever since we’ve been waiting for Our Baby, I’ve been thinking about what it will be like when Our Baby is part of these gatherings with family and friends.  Will I not be able to play as freely and reliably as I have been before?  Tee and I will be taking care of Our Baby, and then Our Babies, and while we’ll still love our little nephews and nieces like CRAZY, they won’t be the only little ones filling up space in our hearts, the way they have been for the past few years.

All of these musings have helped me to realized how awesome it is to be an aunt (or uncle) before you’re a mom or dad.  Being an aunt is insanely awesome, no matter what.  But those of us who get to do so before parenting ourselves have a special kind of experience that I’m grateful for.  (I imagine it’s similar for people who don’t have kids, nor have any intention of having kids, but I can only speak for me!)  Often people will talk about the awesomeness of being able to play with small children and then send them back to their parents when they get cranky; this is not what I’m talking about.  What I’m talking about is feeling your heart crazy-full of love for a tiny little one on the day he’s born, loving them like you never thought possible – and then, maybe years later, having your own child and getting knocked over yet again by the force of how much you can love a child.

They’re both awesome, amazing loves.  But I can’t imagine it being the same for someone who is a parent first.  You’ll still love your nieces and your nephews in a uniquely wonderful way – but, you’ll be experiencing that love having already experienced the knock-you-on-your-ass love of being a parent.

It feels a little funny to voice these kinds of thoughts – comparing different relationships and different kinds of love.  We’re not supposed to do that, right?  But sometimes I can’t help it.

With the adoption wait, it’s hard not to throw myself pity parties every once in a while, so it’s good when I can identify things I am grateful for.  And I am extremely grateful for all the aunting I’ve been able to do, especially since it will help me to be a better mommy to Our Baby.

family · relationships

#heart

There’s been a lot of #heart food in my life recently.

-One of my AmeriFriends (I’ll call her Squid) came up to visit from D.C.!  We spent Friday evening eating tapas and catching up, and on Saturday she joined us at Wild Peace Farm for sunshine, swimming, and soul-soothing physical labor.heart

-One of my best friends in the world (no code name yet) has moved to Maryland for two years!  This is an amazing treat for me.  I moved to Maryland seven years ago and I expected to be here for four months.  Then I met Tee and slowly settled in, but for several years felt the absence of having a really wonderful close friend nearby.  The longer we’re here, the bigger and more wonderful our community becomes – but it’s really special to have a close friend just a short drive away.