You’ll Change the World Someday

For the past week or so I have been thinking about something my public speaking instructor said to me at the end of our course, after class and outside of the classroom. I was talking to two or three girls taking the night class at the community college with me and he went out of his way to approach me and simply said, “I know you’ll change the world someday”.

At the time I was significantly flattered. I assumed that meant he saw a special potential in me that he just didn’t see in others. So what was it he saw? If we are to be honest it was a night class at a community college on public speaking. Sure, even I can see that I can be a powerful speaker … when I care. But what did it mean – ‘You’ll change the world someday’.

And then I ran across this Failure to Fail blog post.

If that instructor could see me know my guess is that I failed to meet his expectations. It has been weighing on my mind as yet another year of my life passes. Like many people I work in a job I may or may not love, I buy things I may or may not need, I follow social norms I may or may not agree with … because it is what we do. All I keep thinking is:

‘Be the change you wish to see in the world, Chantel’

Why is that so hard? I don’t know where to start. The change I wish to see in the world is not a singular change.

With the frigid Minnesota Winter we have had I am confronted with a huge difference between the city in which I work and the quiet little suburb in which I live – the visibility to homelessness. My little suburb tucks it away nice and neat where no one can see; when I am at home it’s easy to say it’s not really an issue.

In the heart of the big city there is a beautiful yet painful coexistence of the homeless and the buttoned up self-important professional. The dress code you will see rushing though the skyway any give work day is all business suits and heels, but if you slow down just enough to SEE people you will notice that in the corners there are people in dirty shirts, old shoes, and thin jackets.
Homelessness is bad.

This may be the change I wish to see in the world, not because I think it can be corrected, or because I think it only exists as a function of the individuals’ choice – though surely it can be improved and the latter is true in some cases. I chose this because it encompasses almost everything I would see as wrong with the world, it is something I am facing every day, and it scares me – what if it was me, what if no one saw me, let alone helped me?

Now the problem is how do I ‘fix’ this or make that change?

It’s hard to hand out money, you never know what it is being used for and frankly I work hard for my living.

A sandwich is great but only last a short time.

A blanket is helpful – but where will it be stored?

I know it isn’t my job to solve the problem, but it seems that the issue is with humanity and overcoming those barriers to helping.

My sister would be so proud of me for this next comment – I can’t believe I am about to reference John Lennon – or anything remotely Beatles related (not my cup of tea) but here goes nothing.

I first heard the song Imagine when we did it for a ‘profound’ high school band performance. I didn’t much care for it then but I have to hand it to the man, he had a point.

‘Imagine no country, it isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for and no religion to. Imagine all the people living life in peace.’

I am not suggesting we forget about country, state and other social and government constructs, it has its place and its value, but how much stronger would we be as a human race if we looked out for each other, accepted our difference, and stopped trying to climb over each other in an attempt to be top dog?

Honestly think about it. It’s called a rat race for a reason and it is stressful and slowly killing us, it’s damaging our environment and poisoning our relationships with food, ourselves and others.

I am not proposing a radical change. Don’t go sell all of your worldly possessions, quit your job and move to a little house in the woods and burn all of your money … unless that was already your plan, then I love it, good luck, and enjoy!

I enjoy shopping and creating and I even like working – for someone else. Sure it has its draw backs but someone else is taking most of the risk so that works well for me. I don’t want to give those things up or my aspirations to be more in 2 years than I am now.

So, if I would just get to the point already, I am proposing you say hi to that old man in the corner clearly without a home. Buy that woman a cup of coffee in the morning, she is still trying to recover from last night’s subzero temps. And because this is more a social issue of value and respect you would even expand a little, hold the door for that mom juggling 3 kids, all of whom refuse to sit in the stroller she is trying to push into the mall.

Here’s the thing – my instructor put a huge expectation on me when he said I will change the world someday. I don’t know that I have succeeded, but I also don’t know that I have failed. I never have set out to change the world, but I am willing to bet that there is someone out there who was reenergized, inspired, touched, or just had a better day for interacting with me in everyday life.

And it was likely as simple as just seeing them, accepting them, and being kind to them.

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Winter Carseat Safety – Did you know

Winter Carseat Safety – Did you know

My first project on my Black Friday sewing machine steal was a ‘sunggie’ for my daughter.  I have recently learned it isn’t safe to put her in her carseat while wearing a winter coat … even if you pull the straps tight.  Apparently it just doesn’t work.  So what is a Minnesota mom to do when Winter here gets ugly?  Use a fleecy snuggie of course!  Her Winter coat was hard to get on due to odd sizing issues and so it has become not only safer but less of a fight to go start the car, throw on her Winter hat, wrap her in her ‘snuggie’ and rush to the car.  We than take her out of the blanket quick put her in her seat and put the snuggie back on over the straps.  We will have to revisit this when our Minnesota Winters reach the peak of ugly and drop to the well below zero range but we by then we may just want to stay locked in the house any way.

Toddler snuggles are not the easiest find and to be honest I like to customize so I made my own.  I used the directions on instructables.com but I have to tell you they are confusing.

What you need:

  • 1.5 to 2 yards of fleece.  I like the silky blizzard fleece but any will do.
  • A measurement device
  • Scissors
  • Pins
  • needle, thread, and/or sewing machine – you can always sew by hand if needed.

Step one:

For the love of all that is right in the world please please please even out the fabric.  You can do this by taking one of the straight manufactured ends and lining if up against the straight edge of your table and using the adjacent side as your guide.  Repeat for both cut ends.

Step two:

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Measure your little ones arm length and add an inch or so.  Fold your fabric hotdog style and cut the needed amount of fabric from the end lengthwise.  You should be cutting through 2 layers of fabric as this should still be folded ‘hotdog style’.  I used 24 inches for mine which allow for sleeves that cover my daughters hands for extra warmth to and from the car.

Step three:

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Cut the fold in the sleeve section you just cut and place the two pieces aside.

Step four:

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Cutting the arm holes.  This is a little more art than exact measurement and because of that it is easiest if you both holes at once.  What I found easiest was to decide how far down and how far apart I wanted the arm holes.  I went with about 18 inches and about 9 inches down.  I marked this place, folded my already folded in half fabric down the 9 inches and cut a semi circle with my measured out location becoming the center of my arm whole.  The semicircle is the art part here – I essentially did what worked I think this ended up for the kids size being about 3 inches across and 4 inches deep.

Step five:

Sewing the seams together and hemming the ends of the sleeves and all the way around the ‘body’ of the blanket. When sewing the sleeves make sure the right sides are touching each other and that the sleeve is folded the more ‘hamburger style’.  The fold you make should result in the shorter wider rectangle.  After seeing together the sleeve should be flipped right side out and a hem should be put into the bottom of the sleeve.  when you are ready to attach the sleeve you should insert the sleeve into the arm hole on the snuggie from the front.  This will result in the overlap of right sides touching.

Now your snuggie is complete.  If sewing is not your thing, you can order a custom child size snuggie here: https://www.etsy.com/listing/172111913/ultra-cuddle-childs-snuggie

My parenting bad habit

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Okay I’ll admit it.  This is a rare occurrence in my house … and it is in large part my fault.  Since my daughter was born she has been not such a good sleeper for the majority of her life.  When we brought her home the only way she would sleep was if she was held … So for six weeks someone (usually me since I had leave and my husband worked) someone would be up with her around the clock.  I remember one particularly hard night where I only got to sleep for 30 minutes before my husband was too frustrated to go on.

Something funny happened as soon as she turned six weeks old – she started sleeping though the night (8 – 10ish hours at a time) and in her own crib.  Now normally I would say don’t believe anyone who tells you their six week old sleeps though the night, let’s face it, most babies are not doing that.  For the next 15 weeks I missed holding my little baby all night long.  I missed being able to snuggle with her when the rest of the world was sleeping.

So what does this have to do with my bad habit?  I am not sure what happened, maybe a growth spurt?  But after 15 weeks of sleeping in her crib and through the night my daughter suddenly needed to be next to me again.  Eventually this led to her sleeping in my bed.  I know this isn’t the recommend sleeping arrangement and I also know this will be a habit that might be really hard to break but I am all done feeling bad and sorry for this choice.

My parenting style isn’t for everyone – we tend to lean on the attachment side of parenting.  We aren’t extreme by any means and trust me I have tried more controversial ‘main stream’ extremes like cry it out.  That decision probably did the most damage to our sleeping arrangement.  I insisted for a few months that it just wasn’t for my child but after countless well intentioned parents advising me and my pediatrician convincing me that I was damaging my child’s ability to comfort herself, I tried it.  The result?  A 3 and 1/2 hour screaming session that resulted in a 30 minute nap and a little girl who cried every time we went into her room for weeks.

Now before you try to tell me I did it wrong or I just didn’t try hard enough, let me stop you.  My daughter was about 9 months old AND I knew better.  Anything that takes that much time, effort, and thought is not worth it.  And with my daughter next to me at night we both sleep easy.

Everything has its pros and cons, for us the things we are getting to experience that others are missing out on are priceless.

1.) being woken up by a gentle rubbing of your shoulder by little hands

2.) waking up to good morning kisses

3.) a little extra time giggling and ‘talking’ in bed

4.) warm baby snuggles all night long

5.) the piece of mind she gets knowing we are there and the piece of mind we getting knowing that she is in arms reach.

It’s inconvenient that when she goes to bed someone has to be in bed with her and sometimes she is a very restless sleeper.  But I can’t fault her for wanting to be close.  When I was little I didn’t like to sleep in a room by myself, in fact up until I was in middle school I used to fill my twin bed with stuffed animals that I could lay next to … seems she may get this sleep habit from her mom.

While she usually ends up in our bed, we have made some serious improvements.  Turns out my daughter doesn’t like her crib.  We turned it into a toddler bed and my (at the time) 11 month old baby would suddenly take a nap in her own bed, freeing me up to get some things done.  If we try to put her in her bed at night she will usually spend most (if not all) of the night there, and sometimes she just likes to sit in bed and read.  I can already see that she is on her way to outgrowing sleeping in our bed.

Time changes all things and our little ones only stay little for a short time.  I already miss the days when all she wanted was to be held.  Before I know it her sleeping next to me will be nothing more than a distant sweet memory.  I refuse to sweat the small things, instead I am going to make the most of now and remember those sweet morning baby kisses … you never know, the next baby may not want to be so close.

A letter to my daughter

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Dear A

There are so many elegant, beautiful letters that mommies write to their babies and I feel compelled to do the same.  I worry this will end up being like every other letter of it’s kind, but there is nothing, no matter how beautiful and well written, that can replace the words of your own mother.

Should I never accomplish more in my life, I am satisfied.  Being your mom has inspired and motivated me in ways I could never imagine.  At only a year you have pushed me to try new things, reexamine what matters to me, and take steps to be a better version of myself.  With that being said in your life so far you have already given me so much and I can’t help but think about how much you will think that I did wrong by you.  

I think you should know:

I have always tried to keep your best interest in mind.  Some day you might resent the fact that you had a working mother.  Know that I wrestled with that decision for a long time before I went back to work, and a year later I still think about it regularly.  I promise I am a better mom for the time I spend at work with like minds and projects that force me to stretch my brain.  As much as I would love to be at home with you the interaction you have had with others would have been limited.  The skills those experiences allow you to develop will come in handy when you have to go to school, join the work force, or otherwise go out into the world to interact with others.

When the day comes that you think I don’t love you or I am the worst mom ever, know that I stayed up with you when you were a brand new baby every night holding you so you could sleep.  I cried with you when you were upset.  I cried for you when I felt I was failing.

When you think I am ruining your social life because I told you no or won’t allow you to attend that party that is sure to be the event of the year, remember my job is not to be your friend but to teach you how to make wise decisions.  Trust me I would much prefer to be ‘cool’ and get to just be your best friend but when you are 30 looking back on your late teens and twenties, you will be grateful you missed out on all those ‘stupid moments’ that may have held back your peers.

When you think it isn’t fair that I make you choose between your beloved activities please try to understand life is about making choices.  Sure you will have to give something up but that is part of life.  It will be a valuable skill to learn how to compromise.  It’s a skill that you will need for every relationship, endeavor, and purchase you ever make.  I hope you remember that there is a difference in compromising and settling.  Don’t accept less than you deserve but don’t drive yourself crazy by being exactly what everyone else wants you to be.

There will likely never be anyone with bigger hopes and dreams for you than me.  When you think I don’t understand you, know you are probably a little right and a little wrong.  I can already tell you and I are cut from the same cloth but part of that cloth is a mind all your own.  I want nothing more than for you to be happy, know that you are loved, and to pursue exactly the life you want.  Being your mother I will want those things so badly for you that I have already formed an idea of what that looks like and it might be hard for me to understand that something very different than what I think will make you happy will actually do so.

Keeping that in mind, know I will always love you, so don’t be afraid to question, push back, and be who you are.  But also be sure to be respectful.  I choose your name because it was strong and beautiful, fiery and classic, simple but not plain.  It does exactly what I hope you will learn, it walks that fine line of being uniquely yours without unnecessarily offending anyone’s values and sensibilities.  

I am already so proud of the little girl you have become and I am so excited to see the woman you will grow into.

Love you always,

Mom

Grandma’s Wisdom

Recently my grandma, a crochet enthusiast, and I were talking about our choice ‘arts and crafts’.  The topic came up because I purchased my very first sewing machine and a huge pair of knitting needles, two skills of which I only know the basics.

When I was 7 my grandma tried to teach me how to crochet and was minimally successful.  I can do a basic stitch but keeping it even and actually completing a project?  I just get board.  I taught myself to knit a basic stitch, and I find it much more enjoyable.  My statement to my grandma was ‘I think crocheting is easier since you only have one needle/hook to maneuver but I much prefer knitting’.  Her response?  ‘You just don’t know how to relax’.  I laughed and took the complement, which was contrary to her intention.

My grandma is of course right, and I realized it last night on my way home to my family after working all day and going to class in the evening and realizing my husband didn’t cook dinner the way I would have done it.  I honestly cried the whole way home.

Is there something wrong with trying to cram as much life as I can into the years I have?

Sure it leads to moments like last night where I am wound so tight my husband’s failure to drain and rinse the beans before putting them into the chili is the straw the broke the camel’s back.

Sure I am rarely satisfied and rarely feel that things are every complete or good enough.  I always feel things could be better or I could do more, this often leads to uncomfortable moments like yesterday’s recognition at work in which I was called out in a total division meeting for remaking a document to track progress and satisfaction of a newer program.

Sure I may also feel stress and failure more frequently than my more relaxed peers.

BUT

I am regularly seeking new knowledge, experiences, self improvement, skills, and accomplishments.

My life doesn’t get stale, I might have my days and moments where I question what else there is … that’s normal but by virtue of my inability to settle I try to answer the question with change not accept that this is it.

I have run a marathon … because I could … and then I ran another … because who wouldn’t want to?

I have traveled to Spain, Tanzania, and Hawaii because I refuse to let fear stand in my way.

I know more things this year than I did last because I refuse to let my mind idol and I crave self development.

Sure my relaxing might come in bouts of 20 minutes and a glass of wine, I will likely never be comfortable sitting on a beach while I am on vacation with an umbrella drink in my hand but at the end of my life I will know I lived fully and I lived to the full extent of my ability.

Maybe I can find time for an extra glass of wine now and then …

My Life AB – After Baby

Before I was even pregnant I had a conversation with a woman who I had just met and was going to take my blood as part of a blood drive.  I remember two main points during that conversation:

1.) This woman I had known for 5 minutes not only decided I was naive because I was planning my wedding and thinking about my eventual family but she also thought it appropriate and necessary to tell me so (if the blood bank is wondering – this donation didn’t go all that great and had the added bonus of an unwanted conversation resulting in my failure to return for donation).

2.) She confidently stated children change nothing and having two children of her own she must be the expert on the matter, at least she was over my (at the time) childless self.

Now that my daughter is starting to celebrate all of her seconds (Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas) I can confidently say that I think the lady trying to impart her knowledge and experience on such a young naive girl was the exception to the rule.

I will give her that I am the same basic person but that is the line I draw in relating to her.  My life has dramatically changed in the following ways, some of which I am sure some of you can relate:

1.) Laundry – in my life BB (before baby) if something was stained it was probably going to get a huge dose of shout and be tossed.  But today I almost enjoy stain fighting.  It is so liberating to feel confidant that I can save that shirt or that baby blanket.  Sometimes I want to buy the stained shirt from a garage sale not because I like the shirt but because I love the challenge.  Previously I shared by recipe for laundry soap, stain fighting is no different in the sense that I use household items that are safer (and less expensive than) commercial brands.  The natural stain treatment reference sheet from wellnessmama.com (http://wellnessmama.com/3615/natural-stain-treatment-reference-sheet/) is hanging in my laundry room and has helped as a quick guid for all sorts of stains.  I also like to soak clothing with vomit, major blow out, spit up and  just about any food stain other than tomato in HOT water with some dish soap, hydrogen peroxide, and baking soda.  I usually let it soak for 30 minutes to a full day before throwing the laundry in the wash.

2.) And on a more serious note, I fear the same things but it has become intensified and constant.  I often say that the world became scarier when I found out I was pregnant and even more so after my daughter was born.  Not that the threats are really much different or any more likely, there are just more people that every thing impacts.

3.) I never turn off.  I don’t think my husband understands what I mean when I tell him that I never get a break.  He sometimes will retort in frustration – “you just went shopping with out the baby”.  While I appreciate the ‘me time’ it really isn’t me time any more.  Even without ‘the baby’ right there I am constantly thinking and worrying about her.  ‘Did I pack enough food’?  ‘Does she miss me’?  ‘Did I pack extra clothes’?  ‘Is she eating’? – these are thoughts rushing through my mind on a normal day, imagine an overnight (is she wondering why I am not rocking her to sleep, will she be scared if she wakes and I am not there?) or if she not herself because she had a cold or was teething.  I realize this is more about me than it is about her but it exists nonetheless.  Have you experienced this?  How do you cope – I have come to the conclusion that to some extent my off switch will be broken for the rest of my life so coping is all I got.

4.) My friendships have changed – while my 20 something single friends are excited about the new significant other in his or her life I am busy being excited because my 13 month old slept the whole night in her bed, took a few steps, learned a new sign, or pooped in the potty.  The two things that make this hard for my friendships, I have been dating or married to my husband for 9 years in February and I have genuinely never been so excited about anything as I was when my daughter poo-pooed in the potty.  I have forgotten what it is like to date someone new and I still have the good sense to realize that non-parent friends will not be excited about our bathroom accomplishments – and that is when I have a moment when I say to myself ‘and this is my life’ in a grass-is-greener-on-the-other-side tone.  None of this really matters except it leads to a bigger issue of I don’t know how to relate to people as myself any more.  I am too busy beaming with pride that my daughter is crawling faster, pulling herself up, and generally doing other things that babies her age just do.  All of our friends have been such troopers, and so good with our baby – especially my husbands friends, she basically has an extra network of uncles built in with them and we are so blessed for that.

5.) My life is more focused.  I don’t have time to ‘wait for my life to start’ any more. I have started making plans, crafting, and doing things I have always wanted to do.  You would think that after having a baby is when you would play it safe and stick to the status quo but I find that her little eyes upon me are pushing me to develop the person I am and lead by example.  I remember one time when I was younger my mom having to put 5 things in a paper bag about her, I remember the exercise being a little hard.  She was a stay at home mom who had dedicated everything to her children and sometimes lost herself just a little.  I always want 5 things to put in that bag especially if my daughter decides not to have a family – if my example was only about the family how will she know how to be who she is and work to fulfill her dreams?

There are probably a million more ways I could point out that I have changed, I haven’t mentioned my body, my relationship with my husband, or my relationship with my family.  And I am sure there are still things I will discover about my life AB.  What changes have you experienced after having children? Continue reading