When Life Is Extra Stress, With A Little Humor On The Side

Sometimes “good” change is traumatic.  Even well-organized plans lose their way.  Positive thinkers can choose to throw a pity party and succumb to dwelling on what is wrong, rather than appreciating what is right.

I learned all of this and more during our move, which turned into a spectacular mess.  The plan was to move from our ‘old’ house right into our ‘new’ house. Snags occurred on the new house, and it didn’t close until two days later.  During that time, we were given deluxe accommodations (sarcasm) at a local motel with all of our belongings sitting in a U-Haul, and a flat bed trailer, outside.

2 Kids + 3 Cats + 3 Dogs in a ~200 square foot room for 2 days = 4 cranky family members

Positive Note:  we got possession of our house and moved most of our furniture inside before it started to rain.

I like my own space.  I need alone time – quiet time to myself.  Without this, I allowed myself to dwell on the difficulties of the situation.  I worked myself into tearful outbursts, stressed over our miserable situation.  In short: if this was a stress test, I failed.  Failed miserably.

Two days after we moved in, my husband couldn’t find our Yorkie, Josie, when he went to take the dogs out in the morning.  We searched for several hours, inside and out, but didn’t see any sign of her.  Every neighbor he had spoken to had been friendly, but reminded him that coyotes were out the night before.  My husband and I cried, but not in front of the kids.

My older son decided to make signs and post them on the mailbox in case someone found her.  I eyed the hawk flying overhead and didn’t see the use, but let him make the signs anyway because that’s what he needed to do.

04-14 Lost Dog2

Late that night, I got a phone call from a police officer.  He asked if we were the ones that put the lost dog signs on the mailboxes.  My first thought: Great. We’re going to get a ticket for posting signs. (Just call me “Negative Nellie!”)

It turns out that he found Josie early that morning and had come back to see if anyone had put up signs about a lost dog – he found my son’s signs and called us.  My husband picked her up that night and she only missed 2 doses of her seizure medication.

For the umpteenth time in just a few days, I cried.  But this time, it was different.  Rather than wallowing in misery, I recognized my blessings.  I realized that the last few days were full of rocks in our path that I turned into mountains.  I finally got the message that those seemingly huge setbacks would be transformed into stories we can (maybe) laugh about in the future.

I am reminded that state of mind matters, hope promotes life, and negativity yields defeat.

Left:  view from our old house; Right:  view from our new house
Left: view from back patio of our old house; Right: view from deck of our new house

So that was the Cliff’s Notes version of the last few weeks.  Now for some humor.  On Saturday, I spent several hours cleaning the oven in our newly acquired house.  I avoid ranting on this blog, but to say I was furious at the condition of the gas range would be an understatement:

This is the side wall - one of the less disgusting views.
This is a side wall of the oven – one of the less disgusting views.

I showed the oven to my older son and asked him what he thought.  “That’s gross,” he said.  I explained that when he is older and gets his own place, the right thing to do is to leave it how he would like to have it left for him.

Well, hearing the word “gross,” my younger son (seven years old) ran into the kitchen.  He looked inside the oven and exclaimed, “that is gross…that’s even worse than the naked people in Washington DC!”

What???

Further questioning revealed that he had seen something on the news.  I didn’t recall such an event, but a Google search yielded this story from several months ago, which must be what he saw.

I had to laugh because not everyone has an oven that’s even grosser than naked protestors!  I love it when the kids are able to make me laugh even when I’m in a mood that sends my husband heading for cover!

I hope you are able to laugh your way through stress this Sunday 🙂

Stop And Smell The (Faux) Pine Trees

Look deep into the lights...relax...

This time of year takes a conscious effort so I don’t fall into the “hustle and bustle” of the holidays.  Of course, the hustle is just the marketing ads that promote “must-have” deals that we’ll be sorry if we don’t buy, and the bustle is shoppers getting cranky at crowds who left their manners at home.

Shopping aside, there are dozens of other “to do” items that I have scrawled out on scrap pieces of paper littering the top of my desk.  I flipped through two magazines on Tuesday just to get them off my list – and my desk.  I scanned the list for any other easy ones to scratch off.  After I drew lines through ‘pay bills’ and ‘check kids’ homework’, I glanced at the first item on the list that I had been avoiding:  ‘Christmas cards.’

Tempted to skip it again, in favor of something a little less time-consuming, I wondered when writing to friends and family became a task to procrastinate, like scrubbing the toilets or vacuuming floors.  Sure, it takes some effort to write the name and address and affix the stamps and mailing label after I write a short message on the card, but it’s not an arduous or miserable task by any means.

I think it’s the handwriting part that gets me.  My writing is not the prettiest in the world, but I just can’t bring myself to type a family update letter.  It seems so impersonal.  We get a few of them every year, and I do read them, but I don’t feel any warmth or connection because I know the letters weren’t written just for me – they were for a broad audience.

I wrote eight cards on Tuesday night, and two on Wednesday – each time enjoying a cup of hot tea as I wrote.  Breaking up the writing helps the legibility and seeing my quick progress takes away the stress I fabricated about not having started them.  The lemon and apple cinnamon herbal teas I sipped at each sitting were gifts for my taste buds and made it a pleasure rather than a chore.

Speaking of gifts, Sammy and Lizzy sure do enjoy their early Christmas gift.  (It’s not actually for them, but they’ve claimed it as their own…we’ve already had one ornament casualty.)

Even as I receive cards in the mail from people who have it more together than me, I am not flustered.  I know by Monday, my cards will be in the mail, hand written, with a family picture.  Since we have not seen many of them for a year or more, at least they will know what we look like!

What creates stress for you?  What do you do to avoid holiday stress?  Do you still mail Christmas cards?

Sign Me Up…(For A Nap)

When my younger son gets tired or frustrated, he stomps his feet, screeches, grunts or growls – or on a particularly bad day, all of the above.  If a nap is so much as hinted about, a full melt-down ensues, which includes assertions (through tears of course) that his is not tired.  If I make the mistake of laughing at the ridiculousness of it all, he throws in a high-pitched scream for good measure.  My temporary deafness makes the situation more bearable.

As an adult, I can relate to the conflict of being tired but not ready to pack it in.  It’s not socially acceptable for a person my age to behave as my son does, so I fight a silent battle of droopy eyelids, lagging brain and the urge to stomp my feet and scream in frustration.  I’m not revealing exactly what age I am, but I’ll tell you it’s significantly more than five years old.  At my age, I can admit that “I need a nap,” but life rarely allows me one.

On Monday night, I completed four hours of online scout training.  This included multiple walks to rouse my sleepy head.  Going to bed would’ve been the easy (smart) solution, but I had to have my training done for today’s committee meeting.  (Procrastination wasn’t my downfall this time – I just got the training information on Sunday, and that evening was spent with my cousin before he gets deployed again this week.)

I should mention that I completed this training at the end of a Monday full of things that give Mondays a bad name.

The tone was set when my older son dropped an unopened gallon of milk on the tile floor right before I needed to leave for work in the morning.  We both stared in horror as 128 ounces of milk gushed out of the busted container, running through the grout lines under the refrigerator, and threatening the carpet nearby.  Already late to pick up my carpool, I woke my husband up and let him deal with the aftermath.

I ignored this obvious sign to crawl back into bed.

Instead, I forged ahead with the day.

Before lunch, I received an email from a Cub Scout mom.  She was upset by all the confusion with switching dens after the first meeting and with the chosen meeting day.  I was irritated because I asked for meeting day preference and she had not given me any.  I wanted to let her know it wasn’t a picnic for me, either.  Instead, I let the pack trainer handle it because I know better than to send an emotional response.

The day kept getting better.

The pack trainer asked if I could change the meeting day to Wednesdays to accommodate this family.  I told her I would find out the assistant leader’s schedule.  Within an hour, my husband called me at work furious that his work changed his schedule – again. The schedule change made Wednesday Cub Scout meetings impossible since I don’t have a clone, and my other son has a tumbling class (which I will now have to get him to.)

When I got home, my husband began rattling off different suggestions on how he could try to get his workdays modified.  (No matter how you slice and dice a 12-hour workday, there is no way to get around the fact that I will have the nightmare after school to dinnertime stretch all to myself.)  Then, he wanted to talk about a trip another couple invited us to go on in November – they need to know if we’re going so they can book it.

I closed my eyes, clenched my teeth and snapped, “I can’t deal with this right now!”

What I meant was, “Get me a blankie; I need a nap.”

Do you obey when life suggests you need a nap?  How do you get out of the downward spiral of a bad day?  Or do you just sit back and enjoy the bumpy ride?

Siamese Twins and Shields

No, not Siamese Cats with Shields

I had trouble thinking of a Sunday spiritual post; mostly because my mind is cluttered with other things this week.  I made some distracted prayers for guidance, in between my prayers for others that were suffering this week, but nothing surfaced for the first few days.

Each day, I read and comment on several blogs.  On Wednesday, I read Hilary Clark’s post about worrying.  I am a worrier, so I could relate.  On Thursday, a funny post by Amanda Hoving about stress dreams prompted me to share my waitressing nightmare.  And then on Friday, I read a few pages in my Life’s Simple Guide to God book.  The topics?  “Let Go of Worry” and “Get Serious About Laughter.”

I could be mistaken, but I felt the guidance I prayed for led me here.  I’ve found that worry and stress are like Siamese twins, in that when one finds me, the other is just an arm’s length away.  Laughter acts as a shield, preventing stress and worry from overwhelming me.  Unfortunately for me, three’s a crowd, and laughter doesn’t generally hang around with stress and worry, without special invitation.

My worry has no limits – it ranges from the tiniest details to the state of the world.  In a given week, I can worry about forgetting to do something I have committed to do; whether something I said could have been interpreted as hurtful; I worry about the deterioration of social skills, and society in general; corruption in our government; the state of the Middle East and whether hatred will destroy us all.  See?  You name it; I worry about it at some point. 

Stress is a bit sneakier.  It’s like a snowball rolling down a steep hill, gaining in size and speed throughout the day.  The kids are slow getting ready, so I leave fifteen minutes late; already late, there’s an accident on the freeway; it’s time for a meeting and my notes have gone missing; a project document encounters an error and closes without saving my changes;  well, you get the idea.

The guide retold the story of how Jesus fed more than five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish (and had leftovers.)  I’ve always liked this story because it illustrates how things can work out even when they seem impossible.  Instead of worrying, the disciples let Jesus handle the situation.  Life’s Simple Guide to God offered the reminder that our needs are never more than God can handle.  We just have to recognize our needs versus wants, and trust, even in uncertain times, that He will not fail to provide.

Even knowing this, sometimes stress and worry affect me like the weariness before a cold and not even copious amounts of dark chocolate improve my spirits.  I know I should accept that worrying is not productive.  Easier said than done.  I read some verses in the Bible about worry that I enjoyed:

Matthew 6:25-27

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life much more important than food, and the body more important than clothes?  Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not much more valuable than they?  Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

It’s true that worrying doesn’t change what will be.  Since I can’t stop it, I fight it with laughter.

The guide suggests that God wants us to laugh and that joyous outbursts are pleasing to Him.  I loved this quote from the book:  “Don’t take life so seriously.  Be willing to laugh at yourself, laugh with others, and laugh with God.”  It’s hard to stay worried or stressed when laughter surrounds us.

Now’s a good time to laugh with me …or at me, if you must!

Have you drooled on a good book lately?

How do you ease your own worry or stress?