Second Place

Throughout their short lives I’ve tried to teach my kids that you don’t always have to be in first place.  Winning isn’t everything.  As long as you had fun, that’s all that matters.  As long as you really try, it was worth it.  These are wonderful sentiments when it comes to sports or grades, but in the world of relationships, it’s harder for them to find a place.  As children we rank ordered the people in our lives quite frequently.  There was usually nothing more devastating than finding out you were someones “second best friend”, especially if you considered them your “first best friend”.

Luckily, as adults, this isn’t a problem we frequently deal with.  It’s usually pretty easy to figure out where you stand in someone’s life.  When we were little we were verbal about it, having no problem shouting to anyone who would listen about our important list of people.  As adults, we tend to be more subtle, and actions, rather than words, show all we need to know.  When the words do come, they are not surprises.  We already could feel the love and understanding through each action, small or large.  Effort made.  Heart full.

There are those times, of course, that the words and actions don’t match up.  There is a disconnection, a breakdown in communication that makes us feel lost and confused.  What I’ve found most often is that the words are there but the effort is not. It can usually be broken down into two types of friendships.  One of them superficial, at best, and we know that it’s only a matter of time before these friendships are filtered out.  The second kind is far harder to break free from, usually because it causes a great hole in our lives that we are not sure we want.

The Superficials: We have the friends that are nice to our face, but tend to lie or tell half-truths (Past post about this) in some sort of effort to feel better about themselves or “seem cooler” to us (sorry for the middle school terminology).  While this is less than an ideal friendship, those types of people are easy to spot and even easier to let go when the time comes.  Eventually we get fed up being lied to and simply let the friendship dissolve until all we have left is the memories.  This is an end we see coming and usually, it’s one we’re ok with.

The Devastators: The other type of disconnect is more brittle and reaches the depths of our core a little more.  It’s the people who tell you exactly what they think you want to hear, but only because they’re truly nice people. They know all the right words and they say them at the right times, essentially causing us to believe everything they say.  And really, it’s because they just want to make us happy.  The trick, as always, is to look deeper, to see how much the actions match these words. In the best kinds of friends, you don’t have to look hard.  They match right up.  These are the people you want in your life.  These are the people you never let go.  And then there are the devastating times when they don’t.  You keep listening.  You keep wanting to believe.  You keep hoping the effort catches up to the words.  So many times, it doesn’t, no matter how much you want it to.

And when it doesn’t you have a decision to make.  Do you stay in that relationship, knowing you are essentially “second place”, a back-up plan only worth half?  Or do you simply break free?  Which pain do you endure?  The pain of staying or the pain of going?



Maybe I’ve been doing it all wrong

““It is always important to know when something has reached its end. Closing circles, shutting doors, finishing chapters, it doesn’t matter what we call it; what matters is to leave in the past those moments in life that are over.” ~Paulo Coelho

As much as I complain about being a public school teacher, there are some wonderful perks, such as my 12 days of winter break.  The first two days were very busy with last minute Christmas shopping, food shopping, house cleaning, getting ready for relatives and trying to give the little ones a semblance of calm in our chaotic days.

We always celebrate with our family during Christmas morning.  It starts at 7 and we gather for presents and breakfast.  It may seem early, but the benefit is that it is over by 10:30 leaving us the rest of the day to lounge in our pajamas, enjoy our new gadgets, and otherwise veg about.

Usually the days running together with no set schedule and nowhere to be cause me a great deal of anxiety.  When my days are less busy, my mind tends to wander and worry, reexamine and remember and these things are never a good combination.

What I found this year is that instead of he foreboding and anxiety I was greeted by an eerie feeling.  I felt calm and at peace almost as if so many of the weights I have been carrying around with me were lifted off and simply floated away.  I know that not having to go to work definitely made me happier, but it was more than this and I really wish I could do a better job of explaining it.

I feel as if the impending-ness of 2015 made me shed my 2014 skin.  Ill feelings I had were erased.  Worries that constantly plagued me, while still there, seemed less overwhelming and important.  For the first time in a long time, or maybe even in forever, I felt like everything was going to be ok; like everything is exactly as it should be.  I feel like I’ve truly let go of all of the baggage that has accumulated in the past few years.  I feel like these moments, regrets, fears, mistakes, will no longer rule my life and be a constant influence on the future decisions I make.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love New Years ( It’s this wonderfully magical time when you can just start over.  I’m not naive enough to think that the world actually resets itself or that you can’t simply start over any other day of the year, but something happens when you get close to a new year.  You can feel the difference, the change in the air, the realization that hope is on its way.

I am no longer the person I was when 2014 began, and I really couldn’t be happier with the changes that have occurred, but I think there’s more.  I’d like to keep this feeling of peace and calm.  I’d like to do better.  I’d like to be better.  The changes I’ve made to myself are indisputable, but with baby #3 on the way, there is no doubt that I can still grow, I can still change, I can still become a better person, a person that all my children can be proud of.

A person that I can be proud of.


Challenges: The Obligatory Resolutions Post

“It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believe in myself.” ~Muhammad Ali

So, I guess this could be considered my obligatory New Years Resolution post.  I could bore you with my endless downpour of yearly recycled resolutions (drink less, eat more vegetables, be a nicer wife, be a better mother, etc.) but I won’t.  These are the same hundred or so plans that I make every year and every year I feel like a failure when I still occasionally suck at being a mom, when I still occasionally yell at my husband for no apparent reason, when I still occasionally have one too many glasses of wine, and when I still occasionally choose party mix over carrots.

And somehow, when I keep making the same resolutions year after year, I wonder why nothing changes; why I’m still depressed more than I’m happy, why I’m still not at the weight or fitness level that I want to be, why my home life is not as wonderful as it could be.  Part of this, of course, is that I never put forth enough effort.  For about two weeks I do everything in my power to change what I think needs to be changed, and then when things do change, I stop putting forth any effort and slack off…and things tend to go back to sucking. Shocking, I know.

Which is why, this year, I’m making monthly resolutions as opposed to yearly ones.  I’m hoping that this way I can keep things fresh, change things up when I need to, evaluate what’s working and what’s not, tweak and add and subtract when needed.  Also, I’ll be able to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  I tend to loose focus or get discouraged or simply become complacent when I have too long to complete something.  And, of course, there is the procrastination aspect as well.  Why do today what you can do tomorrow instead?

A resolution, simply put, is the firm idea to do or not do something.  I guess, these ideas that I have for the month of January aren’t really resolutions so much as they are challenges and goals…things I am hoping to accomplish, though in the strict sense of the word I am resolute about accomplishing them.

So, long story short, each month I’ll come up with some sort of theme that encompasses the things I want to accomplish and at the end of the month evaluate how I did and make up new goals (or keep the same goals) for the next month.

January’s theme is simple: Take yourself seriously.  You are important. So many times I decide I can’t do things simply based on what other people would say if they found out I was doing them.  If I want to be a runner, I will.  If I want to learn a new language, I’ll do it.  If I want to dye my hair green, so be it.  Sometimes it’s ok to be selfish about things you want, especially if it will make you a better person in the long run.  And for those people who will judge, or be jealous, or try to bring you down, screw them.  I’ve got too much other crap going on. I don’t need any added negativity.

January’s Goals and Challenges

1. Run 3-4 days a week

2. Be able to run 3 miles by the end of January

3. Complete the planking, squats, and pushup challenge (on pinterest)

4. Give up diet coke

1. Take the opportunity to write at least twice a week

2. Read 2 new books

3. Learn a different knitting stitch than the only one that know

1. NO cellphone, ipad, computer after 9:30 pm unless an emergency (or reading a book on the ipad, as I wind up downloading most of them).  No more mindless surfing and time wasting.

2. Do something scary each week: call someone on the phone, wear my running pants without feeling the need to hike shorts over them simply because I’m self conscious, etc.

3. Make an effort to be more world-conscious: shop more at local businesses, stop being so wasteful, etc.

4. Stop being so damn angry all the time: at my students, at my own kids, at my husband, at friends who have let me down.  I need to stop carrying this baggage every where I go.  It’s not solving any problems.

Honestly, these don’t seem so unreasonable (except maybe the diet coke :).

I know I can do it and I know there are people out there who will support me in this endeavor, and really, support me anything I decide to do.  And those are the people I really need to keep around.

Blast from the Past: 2012 New Year’s Post

Here is my New Years Resolution Post from 2012.  Oh how things change and still remain the same.

Each year I try and come up with a few (dozen) New Year’s resolutions, and every year I fail miserably when trying to follow them.  Maybe it’s because I know that 7 million other people are making the same exact ones (eat healthier, exercise more, yell at the kids less).  I don’t know.  The point is that this year I am only going to make one resolution: no regrets.  I have spent so many years regretting almost every decision I have made and I realize this is a giant waste of my time.  No matter what choice I made I always figured that it was the wrong one, that maybe the grass was greener on the other side of the fence.  Then I worry and complain and whine because yet again I didn’t get my way (when in fact, that’s exactly what I got).

I came up with this resolution a few nights ago when a friend asked me and my husband out for New Years Eve.  I had to decline because of the kids and I began to reminisce about what it was like before I had kids.  When M was first born I was too scared to ever think that way.  M was our little miracle baby after a bunch of mishaps so it felt almost blasphemous to feel tired and simply need a break.  Once O came along though, the weight of working full time and having two tiny kids really did start to take its toll and I began to remember what it felt like to sleep in, eat whenever/whatever I wanted, drive out to the beach on a moments notice, pick up and move to a different state, go out with friends when they invited…

I started to think where I would be if I hadn’t had kids.  Would I be teaching english in Chile?  Would I have joined the Peace Corps?  Would I be getting my Ph.D?  All these little thoughts begin to creep into my sub conscience and I start to feel jilted, like I would be so much happier and better off if I had waited for a few more years and really done these wonderful, un-kid friendly things.

And then O looks at me a cracks up and M comes over to give me a snuggle and I realize had I become that person, running around the world doing all these wonderful things, what I would be thinking is how wonderful I bet my life would be if I had children to share it with.

Here’s to no regrets in 2012.

How nothing and everything has changed…

“Driving home, the sky accelerates
And the clouds all form a geometric shape
And it goes fast
You think of the past
Suddenly everything has changed” ~The Flaming Lips

Since I hadn’t been on Facebook in a few weeks, I missed random things that were happening.  As I perused a little this morning, I saw my brother had posted that last Thursday marked 6 months since my father passed away.  I couldn’t believe it.  Had it really been six months already? Had close to 180 days truly passed?  Have I simply been asleep or in a coma to suddenly wake up and find out this information? How can something feel like yesterday and years ago all at once?

I can honestly say that I have been through more in this 6 months than probably the rest of my life put together.  The dizzying highs and lows, the turmoil that was self-created throughout the summer, it caused a sort of retreat into myself that I have not quite been able to come out of yet.  True, I am not the person I was in August, not quite knowing which way was up and which way was down, confused about the sheer aspect of living life on a daily basis at time.  I am far from that, but I still sometimes feel the need to protect myself from people, and even from feelings, making sure I don’t become that summertime person I was.

While I have let go of the summer; of my dad, of memories, unsure decisions, and enlightening life changes, I haven’t truly let go.  Everything about these few months still hang around me like a dark cloud that could either blow on by or begin pouring down on me at any minute. Every time I think my stride has become right again and my path is straight and narrow a turn, or a rock, or even a small pebble comes out of nowhere to cause me to stumble and fall.  It causes me to relive and remember things that I don’t necessarily want to.

While I may have used the excuse of my dad dying before as the reason I was so off kilter this summer, I need to stop. First and foremost, it’s not fair to him.  He wasn’t a great man, frankly, he wasn’t a good man either, at least not to me, but when someone leaves us we can choose how we see things, and I choose to remember the early years over the later ones.  It’s not fair to continue to blame him for my short comings.  True, his death contributed, but only in the way that it caused initial strife and turmoil within myself.  I had the choice at that moment to begin getting better or continue down a path of self-destruction and we know which one I chose. I had no way to handle my feelings, or really simply to understand them, so I created myself anew, became someone that I wasn’t, simply so I wouldn’t have to deal with the effects of the pain; simply so I wouldn’t have to deal with feeling anything at all.

So many things died this summer, most notably, important parts of myself marred by uneasy choices and decisions along the way.  I have used the fall to rebuild what was lost and broken, and find the parts that were stolen and forgotten about. Some times I feel like I am back together better than ever and at others I feel like I am still a giant pile of rubble ready to be swept into the trash, missing pieces that are so integral to my survival

I’d like to be all zen and believe that all the decisions, even the bad ones, contribute to who you are. I’d like to think that even the bad decisions have gotten me to the place I am today and I should be grateful.  But I’m not all zen. I’m not even a little zen.  I’m not an optimist, I’m a realist.  In the words of Red Hot Chili Peppers, “Life could be a little sweet, But life could be a little shitty.”  And really, in a nutshell, that’s how I feel.

But if we’re still breathing, if we’re still upright, if we can still find something to smile about, then we haven’t lost our hope.

What I know now more than ever is that sometimes life sucks.  But then again, sometimes it doesn’t.

Who’s got W-I-L-L-P-O-W-E-R? Not me…

“Willpower is trying very hard not to do something you want to do very much.” ~ John Ortberg

Things have been going well and not well all at the same time.  Is that even possible?  I’ve been pretty sad lately because a knee injury has sidelined my workout and running efforts.  I probably could have worked out this week, but it was hard to motivate myself knowing I was going to be in pain.  Running was simply out of the question, as it hurt just to walk sometimes.  I got back on the scale and was happy to see I had not gained anything, especially during my crappy eating binge of our snow days.  There were times I should have said no when I whole heartedly said yes and it was reassuring to see that the healthy band wagon didn’t get too far ahead and I am still able to jump back on.

I realize, though, especially during these snow days, that I have a terrible problem with willpower.  The fact seems to be that I don’t have any, or at the very least, I seemed to have misplaced it somewhere around the end of spring.  I’ve tried finding it, but have not had any luck.  I was doing so well last winter.  Eating healthy, working out, letting myself have random treats when I needed them, but for the most part saying no to those things that were going to harm me in the long run (I only ate a small piece of a homemade red velvet birthday cake last year, so that should tell you something).  I had gotten to the point where saying no felt good.  I wasn’t doing it to be pretentious or show that I was better than anyone else or that I could say no when others were saying yes.  I simply knew what that piece of cake/glass (bottle) of wine/cheeseburger was going to cost me in the long run and how I was going to feel if I gave in to the fleeting wanting; to that small dose of happiness I would feel during, but not after.  After, of course, I was going to feel like utter crap.

But lately, the “cravings” are getting the best of me and while I still feel like crap when I give in, I keep going back for more anyway. Part of the reason I deleted my Facebook account was that I was spending too much time on there when I should have been concentrating on other things (work, family, in-real-life friends).  I was wrapped up in this world of needing to know what someone ate for dinner last night, who went out with who, looking at photos, and spending too much time in the past.  And you know what? Every time I did it, spent way too much unconstructive time online, spent too much time on profiles that I have no reason to be on anymore, read conversations that had absolutely nothing to do with me, I felt gross.  Almost as if I had eaten an entire chocolate cake.  I’d get upset because I wasted time, jealous because I wasn’t invited somewhere, hungover on information I did not need.

I spent too weeks off Facebook and really did manage to get more done.  My basement is spotless.  My bed was made everyday. I read three magazines.  I was amazed at my willpower.  I couldn’t believe that I, a self-proclaimed Facebook junkie, had kicked the bad Facebook habit.

But you know what?  I hadn’t.  I had deleted my Facebook account, I had deleted the apps from my phone and iPad.  I had deleted the book mark from my computer.  There really wasn’t an easy way for me to get back on without having to re-log in or re-download something.  Essentially it wasn’t willpower.  Willpower would have been having access to it, but making the conscious decision not to get back on. I made it close to impossible for me to get back on.  Willpower would have been keeping my account, but forcing myself to limit my interactions and time online.  I made it so there was no choice to make.  I took the easy way out, the cowardly way out.

And really, the whole Facebook issue is reminiscent of most of the issues I have with my life.  I lack the willpower to say no or make a better decision.  Even when I know that what I am doing is the wrong choice I simply do it anyway because I can’t say no.  And really, I can, but it’s hard and sometimes I don’t know what I want.

But instead of taking the easy way out, I need to “man” up.  I need to learn to do what is best for me in the long run, not what is going to be a fleeting source of happiness.  I have to stop being so blind sided by what is right in front me and begin looking at the big picture.  I have to realize that pretty much everything is OK in moderation…but I need to make sure I am moderating (food, time online, time with family, etc.)

I’ve seen what I can accomplish when the challenge was easy.  Now let’s see what I can do when we up the ante.

A Meaningful December

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon.  December is here before it’s June.  My goodness how the time has flewn.  How did it get so late so soon?” ~Dr. Seuss

December is usually the month where people let their hair down.  It’s the month where you can go a little crazy.  People tend to be happier, mostly because of the holidays.  It’s the time to eat, drink and be merry.  It’s the time to get in all our bad habits and bad decisions before the new round of “New Year’s Resolutions” begin.  It may even be when you try to accomplish all the things you set out in last year’s resolutions.
All of the above are true for me, usually.  I use December and the holidays as an excuse to be a little lazier, eat a little more, drink a little more, be a little messy, work out a little less and sleep a little more.  It’s a trap I fall into and then wind up hating myself for by the end of the month.
I decided that I didn’t want to do that this month.  I’m not going to sit around and let myself slowly slide back into complacency.  I have worked too hard the past couple weeks to get myself back to where I need to be, to get myself back on the right track.  Now that I am back on the right track I need to stay there.  No excuses.  So I’m using December as my starting off point for my New Year’s Resolutions.  The best part about a resolutions is that you can make them at any time of the year, month, day, ect.  I think we all get hung on on time that way.  I failed this month, I’ll try again next month.  I already ruined my diet, I’ll start again next Monday.  I didn’t wake up to run, I’ll just try again tomorrow.
But really, if you think about it, the things I want to accomplish are not even New Year’s Resolutions.  They are life changes, life goals, things to make my world a little better.  And really I only have one: Get rid of all the clutter.
Now when I say ALL the clutter, I mean it; physical, emotional, and social.
Physical Clutter:
I have way to much crap.  I realized this when I was cleaning for Thanksgiving.  We have broken toys all around the house.  Things the kids played with once and then never again.  I have shoes and clothes I have not worn in an embarrassing number of years (think pre-kids).  I tend to hold on to things thinking I might need them again.  And sometimes I do.  But most times I don’t.  It’s time to start going through everything and donate the things we don’t want or need anymore and trash or recycle the things that are broken.
Physical Clutter (2):
I feel like now that I actually have my gym routine down I need to keep it there.  Gym in the morning, running at night.  Take a day off only if needed (though with the Running Streak, I have to do it anyway).  No getting on the scale and letting myself get down.  As a matter of fact, no scale at all (I’ll weigh in again on January 1).  Only drink once a week. Eat healthy, but no over analyzing.  If I want the french fry I’ll eat it, I just won’t eat 100 of them.  Everything is OK in moderation.
Emotional Clutter:
It’s time to let go, I mean really let go, of things that I have no control over.  Whether my worries or obsessions are from the past, present or future, it’s time to concentrate on the things that I can actually do something about.  It’s time to move on from the things that, no matter what a do, the outcome won’t change.  And when I do, it’s time to use that new found time to start thinking about the direction I want to go and make it happen.  Do I still want to be a teacher? Do I still want to live in Baltimore?  It’s time to find the answers and get the ball rolling to make them happen.
Social Clutter:
Between Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, my blog, and on and on and on, I know I waste a lot of time.  Just last night, when it was time to go for my run, I was thinking that I just didn’t have time.  But I did.  I just preferred to use that time playing on Facebook or playing candy crush.  Right now, I literally have a Facebook tab open so I can see any new notifications as they come in.  Somethings got to give.  So I think, at least for the month of December, it’s going to be Facebook.  Twitter and Instagram really don’t waste a lot of my time.  Games that I enjoy likes Words with Friends don’t really take more than a moment.  And writing in my blog is sometimes the only sanity I have.  I really do feel like it is addicting at times.  I wish I had the willpower to just say I won’t use it, but I know I don’t.  Maybe once December is over I’ll be able to gradually ease back in, but I don’t know.  It will be interesting to see how well I fair when I can’t facebook stalk people or get offended by political posts, or get jealous when I see people doing things without me.  And really, if people really want to get in touch with me during this month, they will.  And vice versa.  I shouldn’t need to rely on Facebook to stay in people’s lives.
It’s also time to simply stop making a social effort all the time.  I always feel obligated to go to or participate in any event in which I am invited.  And I have to learn to say no.  I have to learn to say no to non-required obligations I don’t feel like attending.  I have to say no when my plate is already full and someone else is asking me to do something.  I have to learn that it’s ok to take time for myself.
I guess that’s it.  I’m dubbing December as “No Clutter December”.  It’s time to start simplifying my life.
In case you need the info since I won’t be on Facebook starting later this evening:
Twitter: @greatcasserini
Instagram: @clstegman
Or you can play me in Words with Friends (Great Casserini) 🙂