Adjusting Expectations

So as we all know this year has been quite the doozy. I’ll be honest in saying that getting through this year has really been me telling myself to suck it up and keep moving. Like that point in a marathon when you have hit a wall – you just keep putting one foot in front of the other and eventually you get to the end of the race. Or you collapse. Either way, the race is over!

roller-coasterI feel like we’ve sort of come to the pinnacle of the roller coaster ride. The house is so close to being done I can finally believe we’ll be back home soon. Dust is finally settling on our acquisition so we can begin to work through the necessary system changes and needs. And Dreamforce is almost upon us!

I’ve always been the type of person to jump in with both feet for everything I commit to. I’m excited and passionate about learning and doing and being. And typically that works well. My personal expectations are that I will get things done, and learn during that process.

This year my personal expectations and personal reality have taken two different directions. I think that is what has caused a lot of stress this year. I’m used to and expect myself to do certain things. But this year it has been harder and harder to meet those expectations. When you are accustomed to doing something, it is incredibly frustrating to not be able to reach that anymore. You question yourself and might even push yourself harder, but that doesn’t always work. In fact sometimes it backfires on you pushing you into an even deeper pit of frustration.

School starting really made it hit home that I needed to re-evaluate my personal expectations. Between work changes, trying to manage our rebuild, my outside commitments like the Nerdforce podcast, Apex and the Limits, my usual blogging and community involvement, and then add on getting the kids to/from 3 different schools (because they can’t figure out the bussing for us tornado folks), trying to be an involved parent and ensuring they get homework done and where they need to be, I finally hit the wall of my reality and have realized that the only way to stay healthy and emotionally get through it all, something has got to give.

And that something is really my own personal expectation of what I can and can’t do as well as what I should and should not be focusing energy on.

expectations

I’ve come to realize that just because my expectations don’t match reality, doesn’t mean I have to lower my expectations. Just that I need to make adjustments.

I need to give myself grace and acceptance and not make myself feel as if I’m failing at life.

I need to understand that my expectations were perfectly ok for this time last year. But that this year, circumstances and reality have changed, so I must change my expectations to more adequately align with that changing reality.

It’s hard for me to accept that I need to make adjustments. I’m my own worst critic when it comes to life and I tend to judge myself harshly.

By writing this all down and publishing it, I hope to serve as my own reminder that it is OK to not meet my own expectations. Recognizing the need and adjusting them is the healthy and right thing to do.

And as I reach the peak of the hill on this roller coaster, I hope that by adjusting my expectations and making a few tweaks, I can enjoy that rush downhill with my hands in the air and a smile on my face.

Have you evaluated your own expectations lately? Are they in line with your reality? Do you make regular changes or beat yourself up and pile on the internal pressure when they seem out of reach? What advice would you give?

 

 

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Day 245

Today marks 8 months.

8 months since we went from celebrating a great Christmas to picking up pieces of our lives amidst the rubble of our home.

I still pinch myself and think, ‘How in the world did this happen to me? Is this real?’ But then the upstairs apartment neighbor flushes his toilet and hearing the rush of the water through the thin walls lets me know it isn’t a dream.

We are getting very close to going home. I seriously cannot wait until we can go in and sit down and just soak up the quiet and the stillness in that house!

So much has happened this year, from the stupid tornado to losing mom, to my silly parody band getting actual gigs, to my company being acquired. The kids have started another school year and the family has learned that while we love each other very much, we all very much need space of our own!

I still don’t know how we’ll go about letting each of you know how much your support has meant to us. The kindness we’ve experienced still makes me all verklempt when I think too long about it. Just know that it’s pretty much what has kept us going.

This year has forever changed our family. My kids will be different people for having gone through it. We have a deeper respect for mother nature and will never take insurance for granted.

I’d also like to take this post to publicly apologize to my kids and husband for the lunatic I’ve been the past 8 months. I can’t promise all the crazy will go away when we get back into the house, but at least when I do get a little, um, high strung, y’all can send me to my craft room for some alone time!

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The Day After Christmas 2015 – Fast Forward Seven Months

This post is the fourth in a series I’m writing about our tornado experience. You can read from the beginning with the first post here.

So I ended my last post in this series as we made it out of the neighborhood hours after the tornado and here we are seven (yes, 7) months later. A lot has happened in between. I’ll try to give you an abridged version.

The story continues:

We get to my sister’s house several hours after the tornado. We’ve left our home open to the elements and potential looters (yup – looting started almost immediately after the storm hit and continues to this day in the effected neighborhoods). We borrow clothes to sleep in and ‘try’ to settle into my sister’s guest room.

In the middle of the night another doozy of a storm complete with house-shaking lightning and thunder rolls through along with heavy rainfall. Needless to say, sleep wasn’t easy.

The morning after:

As a mother you want to always protect and provide for your kids. Let me tell you, waking up the morning after the tornado was a low point for me. We are in borrowed clothes, sleeping on borrowed beds. We’ve got the underwear we are wearing and not even a toothbrush between us. I’ve never gone through something so humbling.

We check the phones and media and gear up to head over to check out the house in the daylight. It has been raining non-stop since the storm and the rain continues. Had it not been for that rain, we would have been able to save so much, but the rain destroyed what was left in the downstairs and left several inches of water in my beloved Mini Cooper since the sunroof was broken by a piece of roof decking.

To get back into the neighborhood we had to show ID. Police volunteers from all over the metroplex area were helping control traffic and try to keep looting to a minimum. I recorded the videos below upon our first visit back. They are hard for me to watch – the emotions were raw and you’ll hear that in my voice. The first is the front of the house and the second is from the back.


We sifted through and tried to save what we could that day – just threw things in tubs and boxes. A day or two later, we had a few companies that specialize in cleanup come out to see what they could save. My husband worked with them and saved a lot of the electronics (TVs and Appliances), as well as a good portion of kitchen housewares. I found it incredibly difficult and couldn’t physically sift through the rubble. Seeing my things spread out all over, soaking wet and ruined was too much. It literally made my stomach ache every time we went over there.

Meanwhile, the local community had begun action. There were so many relief efforts it was hard to take them all in. We’ve always been able to provide for our kids and family, usually on a budget and sometimes on a shoestring, but having to walk into a middle school and pick up bags of toiletries and donated clothing and necessities was a first for us. And hard. So. Freaking. Hard.

But we had nothing. No toothbrushes. No socks. No tampons. No nothing. The boys are young enough that accepting donated items was not a big deal. For the teenager it was agony. We were given some gift cards and it is amazing how quickly you can drop hundreds of dollars buying necessities for a family of five. When you buy things a little here and a little there it doesn’t seem like a lot. When you have to buy for everyone all at once it is sticker shock!

We were blessed to have all of our immediate needs met since we were able to stay with family in the days after and quickly accessed resources. For people not looped into social media, with no family nearby, it was a much more difficult few days.

Nevertheless, we contacted out insurance company and got the ball rolling on a claim. We had just purchased the house 9 months before, so our policy was new and very valid. It was also a good policy. Over the course of this journey we have dealt with 5 different adjusters: one for the structure, one for the cars, one for the emergency living expenses, one for the temporary housing, and one for the contents.

Both of our cars were damaged. My Mini was totaled, so we were immediately without one vehicle. My husband’s car was about a year old and sustained just over 16K in damage – it spent 31 days in the shop. So while homeless and dealing with the house, we were also trying to figure out transportation. Due to the sheer number of houses affected, we knew temp housing would go quickly and immediately contacted an apartment complex to get the ball rolling on a place to live. And add in all the other stuff: calling utilities to either cancel or put a hold on accounts, arrange mail holds at the post office until we have a forwarding address, meeting with the various adjusters and potential contractors, filling out endless piles of paperwork. Meanwhile, we were both lucky to have jobs where they said ‘take the time you need’ – so we didn’t have to stress about going in to work in the immediate days after. The to-do list was neverending and frankly very overwhelming. So many decisions to be made. And little eyes watching us as we navigated through the aftermath.

In a previous post I mentioned losing my mom during all this. Three weeks after the tornado hit she passed away. Those weeks are a blur for me as I look back on them. I’m sure I was a bit of a walking zombie for the entire month of January. It was blow after blow. And try to explain to an 8 year old why everything that was ‘his’ is gone, including the presents from Santa, and now Grandma is gone too. It’s impossible for me to wrap my head around so much loss, so I can’t begin to image what has been going on in his little mind.

Over the next few months we’ve worked with our contractors to rebuild. The insurance company totaled the structure – which means they gave us the max payout. We could have chosen to take that money, pay off our mortgage and sell the property, but we didn’t. When we bought the house we fell in love with it. It was the ‘forever house’ where the kids would grow up. We couldn’t walk away from it and the neighborhood after this. It would have felt like we were abandoning it. So maybe that means we ‘chose’ to live in chaos for months, but it wasn’t a choice for us. We wanted our home back. That’s it.

Getting the max payout for the structure was good for us. It meant we don’t have to haggle with the insurance company about every little thing that gets repaired. They cut a check for the structure, end of story. It just means that we had to demo and try to rebuild for that amount. We’ve had some struggles with our construction company (mainly delays) and are on our third ‘Super’. We probably could have been done by now if there were so many changes in personnel. There are so many rebuilds going on in the area, that workers and subcontract labor is scarce and companies are luring bodies away left and right which throws off schedules.

So here we are at the seven month mark.

Living in a two bedroom apartment with 5 people.
An apartment with rented furniture.
Still making lists of contents we lost cause we think of something almost everyday.
Visiting the house on an almost daily basis.
Frustrated over the lack of progress some days.
Missing the pool and private backyard in this 100 degree Texas weather.
Extending the lease because of delays.
Stressing about whether we’ll have to extend the lease again.
Tired and sometimes rage-ey because I just wanna go home.

And please, please, please never, ever tell a tornado or flood or other disaster survivor: “But at least you’re getting a new house when it’s all said and done!”

I guarantee you not one survivor would go through this again just to get a shiny new house. I would take my old house back in an instant if we could turn back time. I could care less about the shiny and new. I just want my house. I want my space. I want the kids to feel like they have a home again. I want to not tense up when I hear about pending storms. I want to go through a day and not have to make decisions about plumbing or electrical or send my kids to school on a special ‘tornado’ bus. I want everything to be like it was.

I know it won’t be. We are forever changed.

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Nuggets of Advice (Hopefully You Never Need!)

PreparedYou can never be truly prepared for a blow from Mother Nature, but I’ve learned some things since our tragedy hit six months ago that I will pass along:

  • Pay attention to weather alerts.
    This is especially true if you live in areas prone to crazy storms and tornadoes. I shudder to think what would have happened had we not been watching the news or if we ignored the warnings. If you are driving in unfamiliar areas and the weather looks iffy, tune in to a local radio station just in case. The bulk of the fatalities in our tornado were people in cars on the highway.
  • Let someone not in the area know where you are sheltering.
    When tragedy hits, lines of communication are down, and phones quickly drain their batteries. If someone knows where you are, they can send in help if needed. Even a simple post on social media that you are taking cover and where, might be what gets you rescued if you need it.
  • SHOES are super-duper important!
    This is one of those you wouldn’t necessarily think about. Have everyone put on shoes. Even if it is the middle of the night and you are in your PJs. I used to think my dad was just over-protective when he said that, but turns out father knows best! After our house was hit, there was glass, nails, bits of brick, building materials and you name it EVERYWHERE. Shoes are a must!
  • Grab your Drivers License/ID, credit cards, etc.
    Our neighborhood was put on lockdown to keep looters out, and we had to show ID to get back in to our house. You also don’t really want to think it might be out there somewhere for someone to scoop up and use. I mean, my daughter’s ukulele was found a mile away from our house. And I don’t know about you, but the thought of having to go to the DMV to get another license when you are dealing with the fallout of a tragedy already is pretty frightening!
  • Insurance is not optional.
    I repeat, insurance is not optional. Whether is is homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance, or auto insurance. I used to think when I paid off my car it would be great because I could drop down to liability only insurance — cheaper, right? I have so many neighbors who did just that and poof, their car is totaled by a tornado. If you have enough money in the bank to just replace a vehicle, then drop that insurance by all means, but I certainly don’t. Also with regard to homeowner’s policies — READ the policy. Understand what it covers. Don’t just go for the cheapest, and don’t drop coverage limits to lower your monthly payments. The last thing you want is for your insurance to tell you you don’t have enough to cover the damage. Review your policies regularly as you make updates. I know insurance is one of those things you pay for and wonder why, but if you need it, you will be glad you kept up with it!
  • Let people help!
    After a tragedy happens, your friends and family and community and even strangers will offer help. They are watching from the sidelines as you go through this and they ache for you. They often don’t know what to do for you. It’s ok to tell them what you need, or what you don’t need. And if you aren’t sure what you need, tell them that too! People want to help you – let them bring a meal by so you don’t have to cook, or have them help haul debris away, or accept the bag of clothing they put together for your kids. This was incredibly hard for me – and has probably changed me the most in this process.
  • Give yourself LOTS of grace.You Got This
    I’m still working on this one. I beat myself up when I’m emotional about our situation. When I just can’t make another decision and shut down. When I can’t drag myself out of bed because I’m just drained. When I rail at Mother Nature and get anxious about pending weather. When I remember yet another item that we lost and I have to open that darn insurance spreadsheet again. When I yell at the kids even though I know they are only acting up because their world is topsy turvy too. I feel like I should be stronger. Yet I wonder how in the heck I’ve gotten through it all. If not by strength, then what? Whether you get through crying or screaming or just in a haze, what matters is you are getting through. At the end of the day, you made it. One more day through this mess. Give yourself credit. In the words of my supporters: You Got This!

Anything you would add to this list?

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Wobble, Baby, Wobble

We are coming up on the 6 month mark of our tornado. Was talking to my daughter about it yesterday and we both agreed it has been both the longest and shortest 6 months ever.

SpinIt has sort of felt like that game you would play as a kid, where you’d close your eyes and spin around as fast and as many times as you can and then open your eyes. The world is wobbly and your balance is off and you can’t focus and you just feel nauseous. And you finally flop to the ground to wait out the reestablishment of your equilibrium.

Yeah. It feels like that. Pretty much every day.

Unfortunately as an adult with ‘responsibilities’ we don’t get the luxury of flopping to the ground to wait it out. There are bills to pay and piles of insurance paperwork and endless contractor questions and kids to shuttle to and fro and more. Those are all good reasons but the main one for me has been those 6 little eyes that stare at me. Those kids who got spun by the tornado along with me.

How they deal with tough situations in the future will be a direct result of what they are learning now. As hard as it is to wobble about my day and try to get things done, it is important to me that they see that when $hit gets hard, you still have to put one foot in front of the other and get along.

That’s not to say I’m not off my game. I’m cranky and cry easily and have trouble making decisions. My memory is off too – I think my mind is just so out of whack that I am losing things and forget things like I never did before.

I’ve never before experienced the onslaught of emotions that I’ve had over the past 6 months. Disbelief and helplessness, frustration and guilt, anger and unworthiness, hopeful and sorrow-filled, the emotions are raw and quick. I’ve experienced overwhelming joy and shock at the immediate and continued support from friends I know mainly online. I’ve experienced disappointment and sadness at the complete opposite from much closer relations. I constantly beat myself up about all of these emotions. That inner voice that says, “it’s been 6 months already, get over it”, or “y’all weren’t hurt and you get a new house, what’s to be sad about”. Logically I know that voice is crap, but it’s hard not to let it get to you.

As we cross this 6 month mark, I vow to give myself a little more grace. To accept those emotions and feelings as part of the ‘new norm’ for now. To grab the positive feelings and good days by the horns and embrace them with joy. To quit judging myself against others. To be ok with being sad and mad and glad and bad. (Wait, isn’t that a Dr. Seuss line?)

61rykitaoblI just finished reading Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson. Her writing style is like an unfiltered stream of consciousness and delightful. While my baggage is not the same as hers, I identified with so much of what she said. I laughed and cried and did that snotty laughing/crying thing that is completely unattractive and slightly scary to those around you. I was sad to reach the book’s end. There are so many awesome lines in the book but a few stood out that I’ll quote here as a reminder to myself when I look back at this post.

“You are alive. You have fought and battled them. You are scarred and worn and sometimes exhausted and were perhaps even close to giving up, but you did not.”
― Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

You. Did. Not.

“In other words, stop judging yourself against shiny people. Avoid the shiny people. The shiny people are a lie. Or get to know them enough to realize they aren’t so shiny after all. Shiny people aren’t the enemy. Sometimes we’re the enemy when we listen to our malfunctioning brains that try to tell us that we’re alone in our self-doubt, or that it’s obvious to everyone that we don’t know what the shit we’re doing. Hell, there are probably people out there right now who consider us to be shiny people (bless their stupid, stupid hearts) and that’s pretty much proof that none of our brains can be trusted to accurately measure the value of anyone, much less ourselves. How can we be expected to properly judge ourselves? We know all of our worst secrets. We are biased, and overly critical, and occasionally filled with shame. So you’ll have to just trust me when I say that you are worthy, important, and necessary. And smart. You may ask how I know and I’ll tell you how. It’s because right now? YOU’RE READING. That’s what the sexy people do. Other, less awesome people might currently be in their front yards chasing down and punching squirrels, but not you. You’re quietly curled up with a book designed to make you a better, happier, more introspective person. You win. You are amazing.”
― Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

None of our brains can be trusted to accurately measure the value of anyone, much less ourselves.   <—- who else needed to hear this??

“I AM GOING TO BE FURIOUSLY HAPPY, OUT OF SHEER SPITE.”
Jenny Lawson, Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things

I’m with Jenny! Who is with me??

And for those wanting an update, we turned in our 60 day notice to the apartment complex, and they started insulation today! Fingers crossed the next 2 months go without a hitch and we can move back in before the next school year starts! Oh and fingers crossed I don’t get paralyzed making decisions about furniture and paint colors and find myself in a fetal position under the desk sucking my thumb over the next few days.

#DecisionsAreHard

#LifeIsHard

#FuriouslyHappy

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