Ode to a tiny cactus

A gift from a colleague
So little and green
You are the tiniest cactus
That I’ve ever seen

I’m so very sorry
That to my care you have come
Your days are numbered, wee friend
As I have no green thumb

They say, “It’s a cactus!
Little care you must give”
But oh! Tiny cactus
How long will you live?

I’ve killed bushes and flowers
Some large and some small
Plants that were once hardy
Are now nothing at all

So dear, tiny cactus
I promise you now
A death fast and painless
I do solemnly vow

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Baby Elaine’s Arrow Quilt

I have three half finished blog entries in draft form that I might never finish.  So, in lieu of whatever random thoughts have been on my mind for the past few months, here is Baby Elaine’s quilt.  Her momma is my best friend and gave me full creative control – dangerous!  This quilt is my favorite so far – I love mint, coral, navy and gold.  Finally an excuse to use the fabulous gold binding I found at JoAnn’s!  After I made this I briefly considered redoing Lucy’s room in the same colors.  But since I redid her room two months ago, I decided that probably wasn’t the best idea.  Also, now that Lucy is 4 – and a half – she is pretty free with expressing her own opinions.  Since there is no pink in this quilt, it wouldn’t have passed.

I used the Pow Wow quilt pattern from Cluck Cluck Sew.

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And a beautiful photo of Baby Elaine in her beautiful nursery, taken by the talented Carolyn Ann Photography.

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Facebook Free July

Last summer I took a Facebook break after an online posting battle with someone, whom I love very much, left me rather ashamed of myself (not ashamed of my opinions and views, but for hashing them out in such a public forum).  The break was a liberating experience, and I posted about it here and here.  I learned a lot about myself from that break, and I decided that I would take another month-long break this summer.  This time the break is less to learn about myself but more to focus on myself.

This break has been a lot easier than last summer.  I didn’t have to “detox.”  I haven’t logged in a single time to check on anything.  I haven’t felt the need to unfriend anyone.  None of that; it’s been a fairly low-key event.  I did have a work friend ask me if I was mad at her when she discovered she couldn’t post anything to my wall – I had to laugh because there is nothing she could do that would anger me.  It’s just a break.  I’ll be back.  How else will I keep in touch with my family and friends spread across the country?  I hate talking on the phone!

I’ve once again missed numerous July birthdays and other important events.  Lesson learned: I need to rely less on Facebook to inform me of important dates.  Hm… maybe this is where a calendar would be useful?  Novel idea.

I am taking a Mindfulness class this summer, and today our instructor sent us a really great article on using social media in a mindful manner.  The article, written by Lori Deschene, is found here:  Ten Mindful Ways to Use Social Media.  I’ve reposted it below.  Definitely some good tips in it.

10 Mindful Ways to Use Social Media by Lori Deschene

  1. Know your intentions.

Doug Firebaugh of SocialMediaBlogster.com has identified seven psychological needs we may be looking to meet when we log on: acknowledgment, attention, approval, appreciation, acclaim, assurance, and inclusion. Before you post, ask yourself: Am I looking to be seen or validated? Is there something more constructive I could do to meet that need?

  1. Be your authentic self.

In the age of personal branding, most of us have a persona we’d like to develop or maintain. Ego-driven tweets focus on an agenda; authenticity communicates from the heart. Talk about the things that really matter to you. If you need advice or support, ask for it. It’s easier to be present when you’re being true to yourself.

  1. If you propose to tweet, always ask yourself: Is it true? Is it necessary? Is it kind?

Sometimes we post thoughts without considering how they might impact our entire audience. It’s easy to forget how many friends are reading. Two hundred people make a crowd in person, but online that number can seem insignificant. Before you share, ask yourself: is there anyone this might harm?

  1. Offer random tweets of kindness.

Every now and then I ask on Twitter, “Is there anything I can do to help or support you today?” It’s a simple way to use social media to give without expectations of anything in return. By reaching out to help a stranger, you create the possibility of connecting personally with followers you may have otherwise known only peripherally.

  1. Experience now, share later.

It’s common to snap a picture with your phone and upload it to Facebook or email it to a friend. This overlaps the experience of being in a moment and sharing it. It also minimizes intimacy, since your entire audience joins your date or gathering in real time. Just as we aim to reduce our internal monologues to be present, we can do the same with our digital narration.

  1. Be active, not reactive.

You may receive email updates whenever there is activity on one of your social media accounts, or you might have your cell phone set to give you these types of alerts. This forces you to decide many times throughout the day whether you want or need to respond. Another approach is to choose when to join the conversation, and to use your offline time to decide what value you have to offer.

  1. Respond with your full attention.

People often share links without actually reading them, or comment on posts after only scanning them. If the greatest gift we can give someone is our attention, then social media allows us to be endlessly generous. We may not be able to reply to everyone, but responding thoughtfully when we can makes a difference.

  1. Use mobile social media sparingly.

In 2009, Pew Research found that 43 percent of cell phone users access the Web on their devices several times a day. It’s what former Microsoft employee Linda Stone refers to as continuous partial attention—when you frequently sign on to be sure you don’t miss out anything. If you choose to limit your cell phone access, you may miss out online, but you won’t miss what’s in front of you.

  1. Practice letting go.

It may feel unkind to disregard certain updates or tweets, but we need downtime to be kind to ourselves. Give yourself permission to let yesterday’s stream go. This way you won’t need to “catch up” on updates that have passed but instead can be part of today’s conversation.

  1. Enjoy social media!

These are merely suggestions to feel present and purposeful when utilizing social media, but they aren’t hard-and-fast rules. Follow your own instincts and have fun with it. If you’re mindful when you’re disconnected from technology, you have all the tools you need to be mindful when you go online.

Lori Deschene is the founder of @TinyBuddha on Twitter and tinybuddha.com, a multi-author blog that features wisdom and stories from people all over the world.  From Tricycle magazine.

I’m a Bad Mom and a Bad Wife and a Bad Friend and a Bad Employee

At least, that is how I feel lately.  I am seriously struggling with this medication switch.  I have zero patience, everything is personal, and I’m going into bitch mode more and more often.  I can’t even begin to name the number of times I yelled at Lucy yesterday, or let something small blow up into something huge in my head.  Is this what I would be like unmedicated?  I don’t know how people with anxiety and depression coped before medications came about.

I have a follow up this week.  I can get through this.  In the meantime, my husband needs to understand I’m not acting this way because I want to.  And I need to make sure I take a breath (or seven) before responding to my daughter and her four-year-old-ness.  Because she is only four.  She acts like a four year old.  She reacts like a four year old.  She is selfish like a four year old.  She is unconditionally loving and forgiving like a four year old.  She needs a calm, happy and loving momma.

Six months later…

I haven’t written since January.  I haven’t thought about writing since January.  Writing gave me no pleasure for awhile there, but I do miss it.  This past semester was brutal but I think I have recovered.  Hard work and too much stress paid off in nice grades, and for that I am grateful.

Side note:  As I think about how I recovered from last semester, I am also thinking about all the reading I have to do for my summer course tonight!

I feel like I should write volumes and volumes to make up for the six month absence.  So much has happened.  A dear friend told me she was pregnant.  I made a baby quilt.  I threw a baby shower.  Another dear friend gave birth.  I started a new position (in the same office).  I got to spend a little time with my four beautiful nieces.  My daughter is six months older and probably a foot taller.  I’ve completed six more semester hours toward the glorious MA.  I said goodbye to some of my favorite grad school friends.  I watched my baby make her stage debut in her first dance recital.

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Aly’s quilt for Baby June.
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The five most beautiful girls in the world.
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Aunt Caroline loves Baby June.
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Shy?  Nope, not Lulu.

So much good has happened over the last six months.  There have been the bad moments, certainly, but it’s been mostly good.

So at this point, I am working on my summer course, I’m enrolled in a Mindfulness Stress Reduction group, Lulu starts soccer next week, I’m in the process of getting used to a new medicine, I’m trying not to online shop and failing miserably, I’m working on two quilts (so many babies!), I’m trying to decide if another baby is really off the table, I’m trying to eat better (whipped frosting is apparently really really bad for you)… trying trying trying.

I hope to update more, even if it is just one liners.

A Few Paragraphs? Ha!

I was asked to write a few paragraphs about my first semester grad school experiences for the new cohort coming in next year.  A few paragraphs turned into a lot of paragraphs.  Some of this is just regurgitation of what has previously been posted, but since I’ve been so absent from writing lately I thought I would share.


My name is Caroline.  I work full-time.  I am the mother of a four year-old and the wife of a thirty-seven going on… well, nevermind.  I am a terrible housekeeper and even worse chef.  As of August 2014, I am also a part-time master’s student in HESA.

It’s been approximately sixteen months since I made the decision to go back to school.  In all honesty, the initial motivating factor that led me to apply was that my office would help me pay – secession planning, for the win!  I always wanted to go back to school, but it was easy to make excuses: it wasn’t the right time, I was in a career I disliked, we just got married, we just bought a house, we had a baby… there wasn’t time to consider higher education.  There was barely time to sleep.

The craziness of those years where I actually became a grown-up settled down.  We formed a routine.  I had a new job in a field that I was completely enamored with – higher ed administration.  The big boss and my amazing supervisor had my back.  The stage was set.

I had a less than stellar undergraduate performance and didn’t think I would get into Iowa.  I considered an online program in higher education because I didn’t want to face rejection.  The big boss encouraged me to at least apply to Iowa, so I registered for the GRE, dug in my heels, and attempted to relearn all of the math skills I had conveniently forgotten over the past thirteen years.  I submitted my application, asked for letters of recommendation, took the dreaded GRE… and waited.  It was during the period of waiting that I truly realized how much I wanted to be a part of HESA.  I was emotionally invested.

And, amazingly, I got in.

When I no longer had the application process to focus on, doubt overcame me.  I was nervous and completely terrified of making a fool of myself.  I had no idea how I was going to juggle motherhood, family, full-time work, and part-time school.  Every day I was overwhelmed with hectic mornings, taking my daughter to daycare, getting to work, making dinner, trying to keep my house clean, spending time with my daughter and husband, and trying to throw in a few moments doing the things I enjoy somewhere in between. I wanted to add grad school to the mix?  I had to be nuts.  In the midst of my fears and anxieties, it was the simplest advice that calmed me down – a good friend told me that it would all work itself out.  It just would. And you know what…

It did.

This isn’t to say that it has been a perfect transition.  Nearly every day during the fall semester I felt guilt, stress, and/or anxiety – something or someone in my life was being neglected.  I didn’t have time to play with my daughter, I never saw my best friend, I didn’t have the energy to make dinner, and my house was (and still is) a state of disaster. There were days my focus at work wasn’t up to par, and there were days in class that I wasn’t as prepared as I wanted to be.  It wasn’t until the end of the semester that I realized how very true my friend’s advice was – it really did work itself out.

My first semester is over.  I am still excited and motivated to embrace this experience and opportunity.  I wish I had a simple formula for figuring out the family/work/school/life balance, but I don’t honestly think there is one.  There are things that certainly help – being organized, getting enough sleep, having an amazing partner and support system, being supported and encouraged by my supervisors and co-workers, and lots and lots (and lots and lots) of coffee.

There is one aspect of being a part-time student that is both good and bad.  The Iowa program is cohort based, but when you are a part-time student (especially a part-time student in the admin/policy track) you miss out on the cohort experience.  This is the bad.  While I have gotten to know my cohort a little bit, I have never and may never have a class with them.  The appeal of a cohort-based program is that you get to form a close knit support network, and I don’t get to experience that.  The good, however, is that I have been incredibly lucky to have the freedom to take classes as I can, which means that I get to take classes with the M2 cohort, the PhD students, and students from other EPLS disciplines.

Last spring my advisor and I made a road map for my course work.  We created a game plan for squeezing in as much as possible so that I am able to finish as quickly as possible.  Seeing the next three years laid out has been a huge stress reliever.  Not only do I know what I need to do and when I need to do it, but (perhaps most importantly) there is an actual end in sight!

With this in mind, I have composed a list of the most important survival skills I learned one semester into graduate school:

  1. Books, notebooks, and binders are heavy, and they only get heavier as the semester progresses. Invest in a nice back pack, even if you think you look stupid.
  1. Sleep is crucial. Reading comprehension will not occur if you can’t keep your eyes open.
  1. Form a support system if you don’t already have one. Partners, family, friends, daycare providers, supervisors, health care providers… everyone has the ability to help you in some way, from listening to you vent to watching your children.
  1. Ask for help. You can’t do everything, and the sooner you realize it the better.  HESA is an amazing community and I have not met a single person who wouldn’t help someone if they needed it.  People aren’t mind readers, though, so actively seek help if you need it.
  1. It is impossible to multi-task when it comes to parenting and reading. Both require your undivided attention, and chances are the dimpled ball of energy that never stops talking is going to win in the battle for your attention.  Take a break and play with your kids.
  1. Take however much time you think you will need to get through your readings and multiply it by 3. Reading is easy.  Comprehension takes time.
  1. Sit down and plan your courses, semester by semester, so that you have a plan. This is already done for most full-time students, but part-time students really need to lay it out.  Not only will it help you stay organized, but it will you help you see that your goal is actually achievable.
  1. Caffeine is your friend.
  1. Have fun amidst the chaos. Hang out with your friends.  Make time for your hobbies or find a new hobby.  Remember that you are an actual living, breathing human being who needs to laugh.
  1. You will be stressed out. You will have days where you have no idea what you are doing.  You will always feel like you could be doing something better.  It’s okay to feel like that.

A Matter of Time {I knew it was coming}

The panic has set in.  I knew it would happen eventually, and to be quite honest it held off a lot longer than I expected it to.  I am now in official panic mode.  I’ve been sleeping terribly.  Showering is an awful time for thinking.  My brain won’t stop.

I want to sleep.  Or bang my head against a brick wall a few times.  Being unconscious counts as sleep, right?

Nine days until this paper is due.  Nine days until my brain gets a rest.  Just nine more days to keep my shit together and conquer the first semester of grad school.

This is when coffee replaces food.  Five Starbucks a day?  It’s gonna happen.

Caroline Makes a Quilt

Actually, that should be Caroline Made a Quilt.  Last winter, after successfully making a baby quilt for my best friend, I decided that Lulu needed a quilt.  But not a baby quilt, because Lulu isn’t a baby, she is a big girl.  Twin size quilt it was.

So in February, I found the perfect fabric – Country Girls by Tasha Noel for Riley Blake.   It’s now pretty hard to find this fabric.  Glad I bought enough.

Even harder to find was a pattern.  I liked this a lot, so I copied modified it:  Herringbone Quilt by Craftiness is Not Optional.

Here is my “pattern.”

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I was pumped and ready to go.  I cut out the pieces.

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380 or so of them.  And I layed out all the pieces in the “order” I wanted them (more like planned chaos).

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And I starting sewing.

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And sewing.

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And sewing.

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And then I lost my mind and put it away for a few months.  Right before school started this fall I realized I HAD to finish this thing.  So I started sewing.  Again.

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Notice the wrinkles on the right hand side of that picture?  Yeah, that’s what happens when you aren’t super careful about your seam allowance.  So after sewing and sewing, I got to unpick and unpick and resew and resew.  And at last the top was done.  Another long break happened.

And finally, I pieced together the back (no exciting pictures of that process, try to hold your disappointment in) and made some binding.

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I didn’t make the binding as wide as I wanted, which was probably a blessing in disguise since I barely had enough fabric to make it 2 inches wide.  I don’t hand sew, so I had to decide what to do about the binding.  I know machine stitched binding isn’t going to be perfect but I wanted to control the imperfection as much as possible.  So I bought some invisible thread.  Threading a needle with invisible thread is all sorts of not easy.  Also, since it is microscopic plastic, essentially, it breaks super easy.  But once I got past those things, it worked amazingly.  It really decreased how much stitching showed on the backside.  Pinning the binding was all sorts of stupid.  I’m sure I made it a lot harder than I needed to.

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And… done (450 pieces later).

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So Caroline made a quilt, and hopefully it doesn’t fall apart the first time I wash it.  Caroline Makes a Baby Girl Quilt is up next.  I will never make a quilt larger than baby sized ever again.

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