Goals

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I have a few goals for the summer.  I tried not to make too many, so as not to set myself up for failure.  My main goal this summer is to be more present.  Everyone seems to talk about the joy, peace, and fulfillment that comes from being present–my yoga teacher, the Dalai Lama, Oprah.  It sounded like a noble goal.  So I said to myself, “Self, let’s spend less time on the smartphone, and less with the obsessive email and Facebook checking.  Let us notice our surroundings.  Let us be in the moment.  Let us soak up this beautiful summer with our beautiful family.”  Apparently when I talk to myself it is in the first person plural.

Being present in the moment is not natural for me.  I live in this whole other world in my head.  Unfortunately it is not a lively, creative, inner world.  I am not like Anne of Green Gables.  I have heard the description of a woman’s mind being like a browser with  dozens of tabs open, and this is exactly how I would describe it.  An endless stream of consciousness that would bore the average person to tears.  A rushing river of pragmatic thoughts.  Picture with me, if you will, me in my pajamas this morning with a thought bubble reflecting my current inner dialogue:

My head hurts.  Why do I always get so many headaches?  Maybe it’s a brain tumor.  No, I had an MRI two years ago, they would have seen it.  I’ll just go grab some ibuprofen.  Do I have to take chicken out of the freezer for dinner?  Where’s Leah?  Has she gone over her screen time limit?  When was the last time she pooped?  Should I send that medicine to overnight camp with her so she doesn’t get backed up?  I would have to get the doctor to sign the stupid form–I don’t have time for that.  Why can’t I sign the form, for heaven’s sake?  Crap, we’re out of trash bags.  I was just at the store yesterday.  Why do I always forget one thing?  Wait–did we miss garbage day?  Oh, we’re ok, it’s delayed a day because of the holiday.  Maybe we should hire an exterminator to spray for bees.  There have been so many wasps around the pool this year.  I bet that’s not cheap.  We have to have the driveway sealed too.  Maybe I should go to yoga today to see if that helps my headache.  Wait, wasn’t I going to go grab some ibuprofen?   

You get the idea.

So being present means what, exactly?  That I flick some kind of inner switch that turns off the cacophony in my brain?   Where is that switch located?  My yoga teacher suggested that I take notice of each thought as it comes, without judgement, and just let it float away like a bubble.  So now I have this internal bubble machine cranking out rapid fire bubbles, which doesn’t really help me be to be present, but instead gives me the vague impression of a bathtub overflowing after your toddler empties out an entire bottle of Mr. Bubble.

So, here are a few real life examples of what being present looks like in my life. A few weeks ago I took the kids to church in the morning.  The hubby was out of town so it was just the three of us on a rainy, dreary Sunday morning.  When we were leaving the kids asked me to pull up the car, since it was raining and we only had one umbrella.  So I walked out to the car, plugged in my phone, quickly checked my email and messages, fired up the windshield wipers, and buckled my seat belt.  As I was pulling out of the parking lot onto the street, I thought, “Wow, the kids are pretty quiet this morning,” and stole a glance in the rearview mirror.  And…. I had forgotten my children.  Apparently I had driven right past them, while they watched in confusion as their mother abandoned them at a house of worship.  It’s OK though, because I turned around and got them.  They won’t need therapy for that, right?  It will probably help them to straighten up and fly right.

Then last week I went to yoga on the lake with my friend Mary.  She just finished yoga instructor school, so she is extremely present.  I felt the sunshine on my downward dog, and listened to the waves as they lapped gently against the dock.  I set my drishti on a beautiful, majestic tree as my bubble machine released all thoughts of trash bags and driveway sealing.  After we finished, Mary and I agreed to meet at a little cafe for an iced tea so we could catch up.  I got in my car and, lo and behold, my gas light was on.  Why don’t I ever notice that I’m low on gas until my gas light comes on?  I don’t know why.  Because I’m an oblivious airhead, apparently.  So my gas light is on, and I’m in an unfamiliar part of town, and, oh–look at that, I forgot my wallet.  Hmmm.  What a pickle I have gotten myself into, once again.  So I find a gas station nearby, hoping I can pay wth the app on my phone, but no, the gas station I found doesn’t do that.  There’s another gas station several miles away, but at this point the gas light has been on for a while and I don’t know how far I can make it.  So I drive toward the next gas station in a panicky state (which really killed my yoga buzz, by the way), praying that they will let me pay with my phone and that I won’t run out of gas on the way there.  (Don’t worry, mom, I made it and I was able to pay with my phone!). Mary sat in the cafe, patiently waiting for me, probably being extremely present as she received my anxious texts about my latest predicament.  She was not surprised, I am sure.  And after I got there, she bought me an iced tea.  Because I forgot my wallet.

So in regard to my goal of being more present, it’s going pretty well, as you can see.  Today I said to myself, “Self, perhaps we should lower our expectations about being present, and work on just keeping the car filled with gas.”

My new summer goal is to keep the car filled with gas.

P.S.-I wrote this post this morning, and then this afternoon I went to the library, and instead of discarding my snack wrapper I threw my keys in the trash. Then of course I couldn’t find my keys, so my daughter and I, along with three concerned librarians, searched high and low until I remembered that there was a big garbage can at the entrance to the library and that sometimes I throw important things away by accident.

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All Aboard the Hot Mess Express

I got the best mug for Christmas this year.

Normally I am staunchly opposed to the gifting of mugs, on account of the fact that my husband used to be a teacher, and the yearly influx of mugs was just overwhelming.  Mugs with snowmen on them, mugs filled with candy, insulated travel mugs, mugs reading “#1 teacher”, personalized mugs…. So. Many. Mugs. The first year when he was just starting out we happily accepted all of the mugs like the dirt-poor, just out of college, living in an apartment the size of a shoe box twenty two year olds we were.  But by his tenth year teaching?  Let’s just say, mugs made me cry.  (Just do the math—if you get an average of 6-8 mugs a year times 10 years teaching = WHERE DO I PUT ALL THE MUGS???)

But I digress.  I got this mug here from the white elephant gift exchange we had at work.

The mug reads “All Aboard the Hot Mess Express”

 

Isn’t it awesome?  I saw it and I just knew we were meant for each other.

This was one of those gift exchanges where you could either take a new present from the pile, or steal from someone else.  I stole this one from Eileen who, when I approached her and said “I will take that, thank you very much”, replied “Yeah, I figured”.

Wait, what?  She figured that I would take the “hot mess” mug?  I don’t know what that means.

Maybe she knows about that time that I went to work wearing two different high heeled boots, one black and one brown.  I mean, they looked quite similar in style, and the heel was almost the same height.  I thought I was just a little off balance from fatigue, quite honestly.  I had a three month old baby and a two year old at the time that I had to drop off at the sitter before work, so I think maybe I get a pass on this one.  I decided to deal with the faux pas by just addressing the elephant in the room right at the outset.  The whole day, I just walked into each exam room and said, “Hi! I’m Tracy, one of the nurse practitioners.  I’m wearing two different shoes today because getting dressed is hard for me.  What brings you in today?”  Also during this very fragile and sleepless time in my life I showed up at the gym (multiple times) with my shirt on either inside out, backward, or both.  Add to that the time I worked about 4 hours–a half day!– with my sweater on inside out before a medical assistant kindly said, “Hey, I’m not sure if you know this, but your sweater is inside out”.  You’re not sure if I know?  Do people wear their sweaters inside out on purpose? 

There was also a period of time about a year ago when I spent at least two weeks mismatching my pants and tops.  I had two pairs of pants in the same style, one black and one navy.  Despite the fact that I have no history of color blindness, I would get to  work and notice that I had on the navy pants instead of the black pants with my black shoes, or vice versa.  This sort of thing went on for almost two weeks, despite my efforts to carefully check the color of my pants before heading out the door.  I finally gave up and declared, “THAT’S IT!  I WILL NO LONGER WEAR PANTS.”  I wore skirts and dresses exclusively for about a month after that.  Pants can suck it.

Then there was the time I was eating an apple in my car.  It was an Empire apple.  They are so yummy, aren’t they?  New York State’s finest.  Anyhow, after eating the apple in my car, I parked and went around to a few places to do some errands.  I went to at least three places–a few quick in-and-outs at some stores, the bank, etc.  At my last stop, I was chatting with this nice lady who was helping me out at the counter.  I conversed with her for at least 3 full minutes before she said, “I just need to tell you–you have a little sticker on your chin.”  I reached my hand up to my chin and, sure enough, there was the little oval produce sticker, stuck to my chin, from the apple I ate one hour and three errands ago.  I don’t eat apples anymore.

ALSO, there was this time at work when I had to do a trach tube change on one of our medically fragile kids.  Her mom was, legitimately, a real stickler about germs, because one of the easiest places for a medically fragile kid to get sick is in a doctor’s office or a hospital (unfortunate, but true!)  So she watched everyone wash their hands and made sure everything was tip-top.  We set up the drape and got the supplies all ready, and we were just about to change the trach tube when the mom said, “What’s that on the drape?”  Strangely, a large chocolate chip, one of those oversized ones, was sitting on the drape overlying the patient’s chest.  “It looks like a chocolate chip”, said my very wise and observant physician colleague.  “That is so weird,” I said, “how did that get there?”  We all looked at one another, completely confused and befuddled at this unexplainable phenomenon, as mysterious as a crop circle.  The chocolate chip didn’t seem to be too much of an infectious threat (since it was a clean procedure, not a sterile one) so we removed it and carried on.  When we got out of the room, I confessed to the doctor that my NP colleague kept a jar of chocolate chips in our office, and almost every day after lunch I grabbed a handful from the jar as a little treat.  Well, on this particular day, I was wearing an infinity scarf.  And….well, the chocolate chip kinda sorta fell out of my scarf while we were getting everything ready.  It must have dropped into my scarf when I tossed the chocolate into my mouth, and then fell out when I was getting the supplies ready.  We died.

There is more.  Oh, so much more.  But we will have to save some stories for another day.

So, yes Eileen, I stole the mug from you for a very good reason.  I have earned it.  I am the conductor of the Hot Mess Express.  All Aboard!  Choo choo!!

 

My epic fail, turned “Ulta”-mate win

The dawning of a New Year often brings with it a sudden need to GET ORGANIZED.  This urge struck me last Friday at work as I pawed through the never-ending abyss that is my purse, where whatever I need to find is always at the bottom.  When the digging and pawing become futile, I start taking things out, one by one.  The object that I am trying to find is always, ALWAYS, the last thing I pull out.  I just needed to find a hair elastic, for Pete’s sake, without emptying my purse all over my office.  I decided at that moment that this was the day I would clean out my purse, and I was going to do it on my lunch break before I got distracted or lost motivation.

So off I went at lunch, in search of some purse accessories.  I landed at Ulta, and found a cute set of 3 cosmetic pouches in varying sizes.  The two smaller ones were just the right size to organize some makeup and medicines I carry with me, and I had one left over which I figured would be handy for travel.  In the parking lot outside of Ulta, I proceeded to purge my purse of old receipts, expired coupons, used-up gift cards, garbage, and all the other randomness that got there somehow.  It felt really good.  I was heading into the New Year with an organized purse, fully knowing where to find my hair elastics, chapstick, and Dick’s Sporting Goods store rewards card.  I was completely in control of my life.  I gathered up all the trash and discarded items and put them in the bright pink Ulta bag, which I then threw away in my office trash can as I headed in to start my afternoon.

The next day was New Year’s Eve.  Am I the only one that hates New Year’s Eve?  I am inherently resentful of any “holiday” that demands that I must stay up past my bedtime in order to partake in its festivities.  Inevitably, my kids wake up at the same time as usual on New Year’s Day because they “can’t sleep in”, and they’re whiny, and I’m tired so I can’t handle their whining, and then the whole day is a big whiny, weepy disaster.  Anyhow, New Year’s Eve day was a Saturday, and we had things to do.  I had one kid sick with a fever, and the other had just gotten a prescription for eyeglasses, which we hadn’t yet had a chance to shop for due to the holidays.  I left the feverish one at home with daddy and set out to the optical store.

We picked out some frames, and then met with the optician who asked me for the prescription, which I had carefully stowed in a zip pouch in my purse that I use to store coupons, gift cards, and the like.  I reached in to retrieve it, but found it wasn’t where I left it. I started going through all my new pouches, my anxiety mounting with each zip and unzip.  I knew I had that yesterday! Where did I put it?  Also missing–a money order that my parents had given me as a Christmas gift.  A feeling of dread washed over me.  I must have thrown them in the trash when I cleaned out my purse yesterday!

My anxiety turned to full on panic.  I’m sure I looked like a crazy woman as I hastily shoved the frames we had chosen back on the display and ran out of the store bumbling my self-depreciating stream of consciousness, dragging Leah behind me, who was now crying because now she wasn’t getting her glasses as anticipated.  I raced home to drop her off and then drove the 25-minute commute, sans rush-hour traffic, to my office.  I cursed myself the whole way.  How could I be so stupid?  Seriously, does this stuff happen to other people?  I try to get organized and end up shooting myself in the foot.  Also, there goes my productive morning–I’m driving to work on a Saturday in my sweats to try to retrieve something from a trash can.  What has happened to me??

What were the chances that the cleaning crew didn’t empty my trash can last night?  It was a holiday weekend, maybe they didn’t come at the usual time?  Maybe they didn’t empty the trash can in my office where I remember throwing everything out, that happened sometimes.  A little seed of hope sprouted up in me as I let myself in the back door of the building.  My hope quickly deflated, though, as I rushed through the back hallways and observed the pristine condition of the office.  The floors were neatly vacuumed, and all the trash cans had new liners in them.  I got to my office and hung my head.  The garbage can was empty.  Empty!  OK, maybe he emptied the trash into that big yellow roll-y can I see him pushing around.  I wonder where he keeps that?  Do we have a cleaning closet here?  I’ve been working here almost 4 years–why don’t I know that?  I circled around the maze of hallways, searching for clues.  There was one room where I know we keep the paper shredding stuff, but it was locked.  Could it be in there?  It would make sense to have garbage and paper shredding in the same room.  I grabbed a paperclip and tried to jimmy the lock.  This did not work the way it does in the movies, in that it did not work at all.  I couldn’t think of anywhere else to look.  Except….the dumpster.

I had never noticed whether our office had a dumpster or not (because I never needed to notice), but with an office this size, there must be one close by.  I rushed outside and scanned the parking lot.  There it was, tucked in the back, unassumingly bricked in behind a little wall.  It would make sense for the cleaning crew to take the trash right out the the dumpster.  It was my last hope.

I swung open the steel door that hid the dumpster from the parking lot, and climbed up.  There were about 4 bags in there, and some random loose trash littering the bottom.  I had already committed to this when I drove down here.  I wasn’t about to give up now.  I am a lot of things, but I am no quitter.

I hung my head and arms into the dumpster, perching my waist on the edge, grabbed the bag closest to me, and ripped it open like a racoon.  I looked for signs of familiarity, but found only generic-looking medical office cast-offs.  Nothing gross, but nothing familiar either.  I grabbed the second bag.  This one looked more promising.  There was a ton of crumpled up Christmas gift wrap, which looked like it could have been from our office decorating contest.  A few lunch remains, and some coffee filters.  But it looked like our coffee.  The hope rose up again as I grabbed the third bag and ripped it open.

I saw a box from Leo’s bakery.  Wait–we had donuts from there yesterday!!  Some stale cookies leftover from that cookie exchange day!  I recognize those!  And then, then—I saw it.  The bright pink Ulta bag.  I grabbed it, trembling, and peeked inside.  There, admidst the old receipts and customer loyalty cards that I never used, was the money order from my parents and the eyeglass prescription.  I cheered–take that 2016!!  I am going out victorious!!

Let me pause here for a moment to address a few questions I know you may be asking yourself.  “Tracy, why didn’t you just call your parents and have them stop payment on that money order, and then call the doctor and have them write you a new eyeglass prescription?  Wouldn’t that have been much easier than digging through a dumpster?”  Those are excellent questions, and indeed I pondered doing just that, but decided against it for the following reasons:

a) Leah had already waited more than a week for us to find a time when the optical store hours overlapped with my “free time”, and if I had to wait until the doctor’s office opened after the holiday, it would have pushed the whole affair into the following weekend, during which time she is still unable to see and this task continued to languish on my never-ending to-do list.

b) I wasn’t sure if it was as easy to stop payment on a money order as it is on a check, but I felt it was potentially more dangerous if that item in particular fell into the wrong hands.

c)  If it was possible, and I did go the route of asking my parents to cancel that money order, I would have had to call my dad and tell him that I literally threw money in the garbage.  No thank you.  Tony has been accusing me of throwing money away, figuratively, my whole life.  I would never live that down.

d)  I can’t sleep at night thinking there was money in the garbage and it was my fault.

e)  I’m and adult, and I solve my own problems, dammit.  Sometimes I do so in the least glamorous way, because I’m me.

By the way, Jeff just asked me, “what are you blogging about today?”  I told him, “My epic fail”.  He says, “Which one?”  Perhaps this should be the start of a special series, in which I tell you of all my epic fails.  That could take a while.

 

I look like crap in this picture. But this is the makeup-less, un-showered face of a WINNER.