Confessions of a High Achiever 

I have a confession to make. For those who know me personally, it’s one that will shock you. And I’m probably breaking some kind of Alpha Mom Code by saying it. But I cannot pretend any longer. 

I hate being busy. 

We all talk about how busy we are. And honestly, I am the queen of busy. Look at me! I can be a freelance performing arts teacher and blogger while advocating for my child’s special needs, all while keeping up a social life! Wheeeeeee!!!!

When I was in the first grade, I remember telling my teacher (quite proudly!) that I had an activity after school every single day. 

In high school I won the top service award for my senior class. This was just code for This Girl Is Crazy Busy. 

My freshman year of college I was a cheerleader for women’s basketball. I would cheer for the women, run into the bathroom to change, and play in the pep band for the men. This only stopped because the schedules changed and they stopped being double headers. 

It’s been part of my personality my whole life. So it makes sense that by February of this year I was teaching 20 classes a week during the school day, 15 piano lessons a week in the afternoons, and ending my week teaching 2-hour classes at homeless shelters. All while getting my daughter settled in a new school. 

It was a decent amount of money. And everyone wanted me to teach for them. 

And I was miserable. 

If I wasn’t literally standing in front of students teaching, I could hardly have a conversation without crying. I was grumpy and snapped at my family. We didn’t have clean laundry or groceries and we were constantly eating at restaurants because I had no energy to deal. Most of the house looked like this. 


Now, a lot of this was out of necessity. A series of events led to me being the primary breadwinner of the family. My husband was working like crazy, but new businesses don’t provide immediately. 

But a lot of it was beyond that. Being busy had become my lifestyle, and my habit, and quite frankly, a bit of a bragging right. People want me! Hooray! Look at how many people want me!

But I knew something had to change. We were told over and over by therapists that we needed absolute consistency for our daughter to manage her anxiety. And I couldn’t do it. For a while, I was hard on myself. I blamed my own mental illness on my inability to provide consistency. I just couldn’t give enough. I couldn’t do enough. I couldn’t BE enough. 

Then, a friend offered to start a gofundme campaign for our family. The money we raised allowed me to say no to working like a crazy person. (Still working! Just not like a crazy person.) And the answer to our chaos seemed clear. 

In order to declutter our lives, I would need to declutter my schedule. 

Right now, I am sitting at the kitchen table. There are healthy snacks here, and I am sharing them with my husband, who has space to work. We just had a calm discussion about transportation for the afternoon. (Complicated, when we only have one car, I teach piano lessons in students’ homes, and our daughter has therapy every day until 6…) I know what is happening for the week. I know what we’re eating  and when I’ll do laundry and how much money we have and what bills are coming up. And this is very different indeed. 

Over the past month, I have decluttered my schedule. Our lives are still very much works in progress. But for the next few weeks I’ll share what we’ve done. Maybe we can all declutter together!

The Fog

My first year of teaching I had this principal who was kinda goofy. One time he stopped me in the hallway- called out my name from fairly far away- to tell me he loved fish sandwiches. He was just… goofy. But he used a phrase that has stuck with me throughout my teaching career.

The Februaries.

Any teacher knows what I’m talking about here. Christmas vacation is long over. Spring break is far away. (Although here on the East Coast we get February Break too. Probably so we don’t kill each other during the Februaries.) The weather is awful. Everyone is sick. Skies are grey. Kids are grouchy. Teachers are grouchy too. And parents. Everyone is grouchy.

The Februaries are ROUGH. And we’re dealing with it big time at our house. Lily and I have been sick for two weeks. If we have another snow day I’m gonna scream. She gets angry and throw things. I cry. Ugh. How long until spring?

But for me, there’s a lot more going on.

I call it “The Fog.”

The fog is my most difficult, and most common depression symptom. I’ve been meaning to write about it for a while. The problem is that when I’m in the fog, the last thing I want to do is write. And when I’m out of it, I don’t want to think about it.

So this may be a little more stream-of-consciousness than I usually like. But here goes.

When I’m in The Fog, communication is difficult. I’m thinking about a lot of things. All at once. But they’re big concepts or dreams. Details are tough. So I start ignoring them. I abandon my calendar. I have trouble answering or even reading emails. I feel just slightly removed from the world. I CAN break through. But it is very, very difficult and completely exhausting. Sleep is comforting because I can lose myself in dreams completely.

But here’s the important thing about The Fog. When I’m there, I don’t feel “depressed.” Honestly. Nothing is wrong. I’m not sad. Just sort of lost in thought. In fact, once I’m out of The Fog, I’m often ready to take on one of the projects that was brewing. I’m guessing that an awful lot of artists spend a significant amount of time in The Fog.

But it can really be a problem after a while. Because I don’t want to deal with day-to-day details. Routines go out the window. I stop doing the things I KNOW I must do in order to fight depression. Check my calendar. Shine my sink. Declutter every day. Yes, those are to keep the household running well. But more importantly they keep ME running well. And then I’m sitting there in a mess with stuff everywhere and no clean clothes to wear and missing appointments and bills that need to be paid.

Routines are key to getting through The Fog. And they are the last thing I want to think about.

I’ve been in The Fog for a few weeks now. I was doing so well with shining my sink each night (over a month straight without missing a night) and running nearly every day and updating my blog. And then it all just…. Stopped.

We’ll be in Florida next week. My hope is that the Florida sunshine will break through The Fog and I’ll be back. Back to cleaning, back to blogging, back to life. I’ll have pictures and videos for Lily’s Challenge and entertaining, informative Disneyworld stories and I’ll tell you all about the 5k and show you all the things I’ve decluttered.

But today I’m going to eat some cookies and see how far I can get in Candy Crush.

30 Every 30: Teaching Kids to Give Their Time

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Last month our family of three drove to a hotel across town. We checked in, grabbed some crayons and stickers, and spent some time making cards for children who are terminally ill. Our four-year-old daughter Lily screwed up her mouth in concentration, shared stickers with her friend, and smiled, knowing she was doing something good. When her work was done she was given a certificate with her name printed on it- a big deal for a little girl.

It was the premier event for 30-every-30. And it was a huge success.

As a Mom, there were so many things about the event and organization that impressed me. The activities were organized, the materials were plentiful, and the kids came first. A staff member came around and spoke with Lily personally. Then she made a record of Lily’s work, including personal notes about what she had done well. The staff member explained that there would be a file for every kid in attendance, with a spread sheet of all her hours throughout her schooling. By the time college applications come around, she’ll have thirteen years of service in an easy-to-read form. And activities have enough variety that there’s something age-appropriate for all.

But the most impressive part of 30-every-30 is the principle: teaching kids to give their time to others in meaningful, consistent ways. And one of the most beautiful parts of it all is that it came from the mind of a child.

I was so excited by 30-every-30 that I reached out to founder Mick Lee, (whose son told her he wanted to help people after hearing a sermon at their church) to learn more.

“I am the single mom of Jax (age 10) and spent the last two years searching for volunteer opportunities in our community. While there are many fantastic nonprofits in the area, I was unable to find many that allowed kids to donate their time or events that could fit into a busy lifestyle. I created 30e30 as a result. The idea is simple: we all have 30Minutes of time to donate Every30Days.

Each month ( or so) we partner with different nonprofits in the area in order to create an event that is developed with kids volunteering in mind and has a focus on family involvement.” -Lee

This month’s event takes place this Saturday, November 23, 2013 at Nathaniel Witherell Nursing Center ~ 70 Parsonage Road, Greenwich CT (203) 618-4200. Volunteers will play Bingo and and make Placemat and Loom Bracelet Creations with the residents. Participants can choose any 30 minutes between 2:00 PM and 3:30 PM.

What a perfect way to celebrate a week devoted to giving thanks. We’ll be there- will you? You can register and learn more at
www.30every30.com

Q is for Quiet

…which I don’t get very often.

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I don’t even have a lot to say about this one. But I need quiet. And I don’t get it very often.

I am a music teacher and the Mom of a preschooler. There is almost always noise in my life. I can block it out to some extent (a skill developed during my career) but then I find myself slightly removed from the world. “Did you hear that?” (song, siren, person screaming…) a friend will ask.

“Huh?” I answer.

So I usually tough it out and let the noise in.

But if you ever want to give me a gift, it would be a few hours of total quiet.

Labor Day Neighbor Day

Sometimes I still miss Fred Rogers. What’s not to love about a man who dedicated his life teaching children about emotions? I see those videos of him- speaking for Congress or just doing his thing on “Mister Rogers Neighborhood”- and it makes me sad that he isn’t around anymore. Sure, I’d like my daughter to be able to watch new episodes of his show the way I did. (I’ve played the old ones for her. They don’t quite capture her attention.) But I also just wish he was around to continue influencing the world. We need more Mr. Rogers.

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I was thrilled, then, when his ideals and lessons returned with Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood. And I was even more thrilled that my daughter loves it.

One of Mr. Rogers’ most important lessons was what it means to be a good neighbor. This Monday PBS will have a new episode featuring Daniel doing good deeds for the people around him. It’s Labor Day Neighbor Day!

This. Is. Brilliant.

We’re all exhausted at the end of the summer. What better way to spread some joy than to do some random good deeds?

I spoke with Lily about the idea. We live in an apartment building so we have pretty regular interaction with our neighbors. She suggested that we make lemonade for them. I love it.

We’re going to make some signs to hang around the building letting people know that we’ll be out there for a few hours on Monday afternoon. We have a lot of elderly people in our building and I know what they really crave, more than lemonade, is company. And Lily is the BEST at that.

So join us, neighbor! What can you do on Monday to help your neighbors? Take some pictures and I’ll post them all next week 🙂

Happy New Year!

Every first day of school was the same.

This year, it will be perfect.

This year, I will wear the perfect outfit. Every day. I’ll plan out the first few weeks to give myself a head start.

This year, I will do my homework. Every day. I will not forget, I will not procrastinate, I will hand it in on time.

This year, I will keep all of my notes organized. And my locker too.

This year, I will figure out what makes the popular kids popular. I will study them. And I will become one of them.

I made plans. And I wrote them down. And I had lists. And schedules. I had brand new school supplies and a whole new wardrobe.

Then I went off to college. Then grad school. Then I became a teacher. Then I went to grad school again. Then I taught at a college.

And each year, while my roles changed a bit, my goals did not.

This year will be perfect.

Now that I’m a Mom, I know better. There’s no such thing as a perfect school year. We can set ourselves up for success. But the reality is that being a Mom is hard. And we know we can’t be perfect.

Ha! Just kidding!

Wouldn’t that be awesome, though? What if we could actually wrap our brains around the idea that we can’t be perfect? Another goal. Of course, I know me. I’ll try to be perfect at knowing I can’t be perfect. And then I’ll get frustrated. Because that concept may not actually be possible.

OK. So we know we can’t be perfect. But as I get ready for a new school year (both as Mom and teacher) I can do some things to help the sailing be a little smoother. Follow my routines, mostly. Keep my schedule to a reasonable amount. (I actually turned down a job yesterday. I don’t know if I’ve ever done that before.) Stick to the plan. Work on the flylady and Total Money Makeover plans that I had once upon a time here and here. Work on my fitness goals again. Keep this awesome calendar wall current.

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And, we’re back to perfect. Or at the least the quest for perfection.

Happy New Year, everybody. Let’s make it a perfectly imperfect one.

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Launch Party!

Yesterday I celebrated my official launch! I was so excited to celebrate with family and close friends. The theme was “Back to School with Thoroughly Modern Mommy.” Check out the details below.

20130826-175742.jpg Guests were greeted with Thoroughly Modern Mommy totes adorned with green Lace to the Top shoelaces. (You can learn more about Lace to the Top here.) The bags were filled with penicls, notepads, and tshirts for the kiddos sporting individual graduation years. Moms can take a First Day of School pic in them each year and watch as the kiddos grow into them, twelve months at a time. 2027 feels far away to me now. I have a feeling I’ll blink and watch my little girl wear a cap and gown.

The menu featured the brown bag, deconstructed. Guests could choose from lunchbox favorites from our childhood like chips and fruit and cookies and juice boxes…. You know. The things many Moms- myself included- don’t feed their kids very often anymore 😉 And the main food focus was the PB&J bar! Four different kinds of peanut butter, strawberry preserved, honey, marshmallow fluff, and a big basket of mini bread slices: white, whole wheat, crusts on, crusts off…. Someone who’s really good at math should figure out how many possible combinations that is, while they’re working on it, I’ll just work it out long-hand. (AKA eating my way through the leftovers.)

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We took an outside recess with some role-reversal time. Kids drove the car around while the grown-ups colored. Can we find a way for that to be a permanent arrangement?

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I’m so blessed to have so many great friends in my life. And I’m grateful that they’re willing to be silly with me.

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