The Autumn Overwhelm: Impending Burnout Ahead

Sunday, October 25, 2015

There comes a point every fall where everything just begins to be TOO MUCH. Though it is by far my favorite season, it just also happens to be A.) the busy season for photography B.) a time when I dust off my sewing and crafting skills to make Halloween costumes-- something I LOVE, but is definitely a high-commitment hobby-- and C.) a time when all the autumn fun stuff I love and try to fit in begins to crash into the work obligations, the Halloween obligations, and D.) barrels on into November when it's instantly time to think about Noah's birthday and Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts and and and and...... And there is is. EVERY YEAR. Regardless of if I vow to take on less sessions. Regardless of how simple I decide to go for Halloween costumes. Regardless of if I decide to skip apple picking or autumn decor or homemade gifts for Noah's birthday. Somehow, no matter what I try to simplify (without compromising the things I LOVE), it still ends up wiping me out and pushing me towards burnout. 

I hate that. 

I really hate it. Because I LOVE everything I'm doing. I just don't have enough hours to do it all. And I'm hard on myself when I can't manage it AND stay zen. And instead of learning to laugh and hang on for the ride, knowing it was gonna be this way, it smacks me in the face EVERY YEAR, and sours my soul with disappointment. I just haven't learned yet. No matter how many years it goes exactly this way, I HAVE NOT LEARNED. 

And you know how when you're running late for something, and feeling SUPER stressed, that is ALWAYS the time you also stub your toe and drop things and accidentally bump your toddler so she starts wailing and won't budge, etc.? How when things are rough, you become magnetic to MORE rough things?? That's how it's feeling tonight. Like even though I've managed to do ALL THE THINGS so far, there is a growing feeling of stress, and things are starting to go awry. Hello, period! Great timing! Oh, is that a tiny chest cold starting? Of course it is. And how is it already time to do LAUNDRY again? I really can't fit that in this week. 

As I get more and more magnetic to stress right now, I am beginning to lose my tight rein on Life Management. I haven't remembered to pay Noah's lunch account. Texts are going unanswered. Clients are wondering if they'll ever hear back from me. My smile is getting a little frantic-looking. I'm getting rattled. I'm getting disappointed.  My inner child is threatening to strike and stay in bed with books and movies for three weeks straight and hope some adult will sort out the fallout. 

How in heaven's name will I untangle this stress-ball of to-dos and expectations and obligations? 

How do I eat this massive elephant?!
 One bite at a time, I guess. *sigh* 

So I am going to write down my list tonight. I'm going to try to see how many "beginnings" I can finish--- answer some emails, order overdue products for clients, prepare a few things for the post office... Finish Lucy's ladybug wings and antennae, which will complete her easy costume. I'm going to see how many things I can let go of this week-- perhaps just go buy Lucy some underwear so I can put laundry off another 4-5 days, haha. I am going to stop when I feel completely overwhelmed and  say a prayer, breathe gratitudes, then laser-focus in on the next "bite", and get going again. I will look out my back door and watch leaves fall and love fall and breathe in and breathe out and then  get back to work. I will forgive myself. I will pray the people I am letting down will forgive me too, maybe. I will keep going. I will keep allowing those small windows of downtime I probably shouldn't take time for, but desperately need in order to be a kind mama and inspired worker. Those moments for some cross-stitching, or for checking in with my long-distance girlfriends, or for a nap.... Refueling when there aren't moments to spare, but when I know I won't have anything to go on if I don't refuel. 

And next year.... well. I know myself. I'm not going to skip making a costume or two. I'm not going to forego photo sessions. I'm not going to deprive my kiddos and myself of fallish things like pumpkin-picking and backyard bonfires and Halloween crafties and books and such. But maybe.... maybe next year I'll have learned how to laugh at the absurdity and frenzy of it, and will be better at just hanging on for the ride. Being busy and creating things and living out loud when the season cries out for it just means we're not dead yet. We're crazy and life is full and maybe a little TOO much, but it's life, man... and I'm not dead yet. Next year, I hope I can come at it from that angle and remind myself I knew it was coming and it's going to be okay. It always ends up okay. 


Quinn Atticus: An Autumn MiniSession

Monday, October 19, 2015

 It's been awhile since I've attempted formal portraits of my Quinnster, so a couple of weeks ago, I grabbed him and bribed him with candy and let him "help" me set up a quick garage backdrop setup, and I managed to get some really sweet, TOTALLY Quinn photos of my baby boy.... Only, he's not so BABY anymore. Look at this cute boy!

Two and 3/4 years old, happy and hilarious, in love with trains, animals (especially dogs), anything his sister or brother are into, and potty humor, among many other things. He runs more than he walks, loves to laugh and make others laugh, and is just a bit mischievous, but totally cuddly and tender, too. He sings, and loves to learn the lyrics to songs.... And he is smart as a whip and doesn't let much get past him. 

I love his voice.... I love his dark dark brown eyes, I love to make him snuggle me.... I love reading books to him (he'll lay his head on my shoulder)... I love how he keeps trying to be kind and loving to Lucy, even when she's prickly back to him--- He never lets it harden him towards her. I love how much he worships Noah. I love when he sings with me. 

Oh, and he does this lower-lip quirk (above) all the time right now--- usually when he's asked a question and he's thinking of the answer... or if he knows he's being teased or duped... And I LOVE it. I am so tickled I caught it in a photo. It is SO him. 

 And his laughing. Oh, how I am a fool for his laughter. He LOVES to laugh--- either from watching people do funny things, or trying to make US laugh with his own funny antics... or if nothing else, by being tickled. He will request being tickled!! And his laugh face---- we all begin laughing along, because he is so utterly contagiously marvelous. 

Yep.... This baby boy of mine. He just gets better and better, and I am so enchanted by him... so grateful I get to be his mama.

Music Monday: 10 Songs

Monday, October 12, 2015

Tonight, just a fun list (10 out of 25...saving the other half for another post) from some journal prompts I saw on Pinterest, here. Please feel free to jot down your own answers to these, either in the comments or on Facebook. I'd love to read your answers! 

And hey-- if you need some tunes in your day, I've included YouTube links to almost all the songs I mention here. Fun!

1. A song from your childhood:
Come, Little Leaves, a children's song. My mom used to sing this to us, and I've sung it to my own kiddos since Noah was little. I've looked for it on YouTube, and the version I grew up with doesn't seem to be the common one... But I love it best. 

2. A song that reminds you of your most recent ex-boyfriend/girlfriend:
Ha! Most recent ex was... 15 years ago? Fair enough. Pink Floyd songs

3. A song that reminds you of one of your parents:
James Taylor's "Copperline" reminds me of my dad. He got the CD when I was in high school and I loved it then... And then he put it as the first song on a mix tape he gave me while I was in college. That whole tape was so good... 

4. A song that calms you down:
"Pie Jesu", by John Rutter. Part of his Requiem. 

5. A song that often gets stuck in your head:
Not many do these days, thank goodness! But this season (and most every fall), I keep singing Eva Cassidy's "Autumn Leaves". My lord that woman could sing. The subtlety of her interpretation of this song is exquisite. She was taken too soon.

6. A song that reminds you of a best friend:
 Tori Amos' "Tear in Your Hand" reminds me of my college BFF Maggie Enns Cochran. 

7. A song that reminds you of the past summer:
Katy Perry's "Roar"... Quinn even picked up some of the words, we listened to it so much! 

8. A song that reminds you of your first love:
The Stone Roses, "I Wanna Be Adored"

9. A song that makes you hopeful:
Mat Kearney's "Hey Mama"

10. A song by your favorite band:
"Paper Airplane" by Alison Krauss and Union Station

Part Two to come. Happy new week to everyone! 

(Photo: little baby me, around 1978)


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

 I'm on the last day (thank the lord) of single-parenting while Joe is in Las Vegas for a conference. He left Saturday around lunchtime, and has been gone Saturday night, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, and all day today until midnight. 

I've managed: Saturday dinner (potatoes supreme), making a fire in the firepit and having a late night out in the backyard with flashlights and hammock snuggling; baths for everyone and a shower for me Sunday morning, Sunday clothes, Sunday morning session of General Conference in the chapel. Sunday lunch and dinner (pumpkin chili and blueberry muffin bread) as well as listening to the second half of Sunday conference. Sunday bedtime. Monday morning getting Noah off to school. Lucy to and from preschool both Monday and Tuesday. Some Project Life'ing. Some laundry folding and putting away. a Quinn mini-session in the garage. Monday night outing to the mall to eat dinner and play in their play area. Monday bedtime. Approximately 50,000 poopy diapers, since Lucy still waits for her bedtime diaper to poop... (okay, maybe only 15 total. But still.) Getting Noah on the bus Tuesday AND making him a lunch first. Quinn to and from his mini-preschool Tuesday morning. Bookkeeping a bit. Making the last 2012 Blurb photo book and finalizing all three 2012 volumes and sending to print. Some major Lucy meltdowns. A manicure. Managing leftovers WITH a side of veggies for Tuesday dinner. Some cross-stitching. Tuesday bedtime (barely). An hour in the middle of the night with Quinn on my lap as we listened to soft music and I wrapped up editing. Editng client sessions every night after kid bedtimes. Getting Noah off to school today. A full morning-midday with Quinn and Lucy at the Museum of Transportation (after I ended up having Lucy play hooky from preschool because this morning was too much. I just.... couldn't get myself moving). Some tidying up. Preparing Jamberry to mail. Dishes every day. Another leftover dinner at home (hooray fighting the temptation to dine out again)... Getting Noah (and the sibs) to Taekwondo early. Managing the littles at the playground while Noah kicked and hit for an hour. Bedtime just now (though Quinn is wailing at me to come back up because he wants red juice in his cup and not water). 

I've managed a lot. 

I'm ready to be done. 

Joe is a major asset to my life.... And these times without him confirm to me, unequivocally, how much he helps me to be a better mom. 

The rage-iest I've ever been as a mom has only ever happened when Joe is away for a long stretch. That tells me I NEED him in order to be my best me. 

I'm grateful for him. 

And ready for him to be home. 

The end.

Music Monday: My Best Friend Bonnie

Monday, October 5, 2015

Noah as a 7-almost-8-year old has grown into a kid who is confident in the things he is good at and loves, opinionated and determined to teach (and correct) anyone about the things he is passionate about... and yet still so young and innocent. He feels hip, I am sure... knowledgeable and savvy about things he and his peers are into. He is a natural leader, both with his friends and with his younger siblings. We trust him to do and handle a lot of things around home. He has moments of self-awareness and clarity with regards to his feelings on deeper things... but is still largely a child and more self-interested than empathetic.

It's fascinating to take a moment to consider his change from "little kid" to this "almost big kid". He's on the cusp of that season where more and more "loss of innocence" happens... Nothing awful (we pray), but just that general coming-of-age where one realizes that parents are fallible, Santa might not be real, and girls are actually kind of cute.  He's not quite there, but he's close. I love it. Both the not-quite-yet, and the soon-to-be.

Once upon a time, I was 7-almost-8.

I was the second-oldest of then-5 kids, and had many of the same parental expectations upon me that Noah now has. I was immersed in my own world of friends and my own inner world of stories and make-believe. I loved art, music, dress-up, and friends. I was pretty naive-- not naturally "hip" or anything.... Luckily for me, I had a marvelous best friend who was naturally more stylish and with-it than I, and she was such fun. She loved me the way I was, but also nudged me to stretch my wings a bit. Her name was Bonnie, and I adored her. I have so many memories of fun times with her and her family... of watching her brothers play Atari and her older sister taking time to spare us a moment to help us with fashion or hair. I remember sleepovers and Barbies. Road trips. Talking about boys. (Yes, already!!) Learning from Bonnie how to have a crush and eyeball cute boys out of the corner of our eyes. And I remember Bonnie playing trendy music and nudging me to help her make up dances. 

Which is how I landed on my very first "favorite song" ever: Irene Cara's "What A Feeling" from Flashdance. Bonnie introduced it to me, and declared it to be OUR song. We listened to it as often as we could so we could learn the words. We used pretend microphones and sang along, loudly. And with the help of Bonnie's confident encouragement, I got braver about pretending to be a rock star in front of other kids. 

This song stayed my favorite song for years and years... Even after my sweet friend had to move away and we both grew older and found other songs, and other friends to play with. And my fondness for my first "best friend" stayed, too. We eventually lost touch, as is common for little kids to do, even when they vow to be pen pals forever. But bless Facebook. Whatever critics may say, I thank heaven for Facebook's way of bringing old friends back together, and letting them slowly re-learn about each other... to meet the grownup version of  each other and begin to build a new relationship. I love having my Bonnie back. 

In fact, I think we're overdue for a good old lip-sync session, complete with dance moves and pretend microphones. You're never too old to act like a kid again, right? 

Five (Years Ago) For Friday: Missouri State Fair Family Photos

Friday, October 2, 2015

Five for Friday is a fun one today--- I'm taking you back FIVE YEARS to a family photo session I planned and dreamed about for ages, one that was so utterly perfect in so many ways that it's kind of ridiculous that all anyone ever saw from this was our Christmas card that year. Does anyone else do that??? Scramble like mad to get marvelous photos, use them on their Christmas card, then forget/fail to ever do more with them? No prints, no albums, no sharing online... Just a disc of beautiful photos doing no one any good? 

As your photographer, I implore you to STOP IT! Use that disc of images like mad. Share them everywhere. Print them huge! Commission me to make you a coffee table book! Something!! 

But as the flip-side person-- the client-- well... you can see that I'm as bad as anyone at taking my own advice. I mean, FIVE YEARS? We didn't even have Lucy or Quinn at this time. And there are so many sweet/cute/great photos here. Why are they not on my wall SOMEWHERE? (Actually, that's a long and irritating story re: weird jpg file not getting recognized by a canvas printing website and mama giving up after many many many many attempts, but I won't bore you with that tale.) 

I will say, in my defense, that even though we planned this session for weeks, and even drove 3 hours from home to get to the Missouri State Fair to make them happen, God had a sneaky plan in place that summer, and I ended up freshly pregnant with Lucy a couple of weeks before this shoot. So not only was I fluffing out a bit and desperately donning Spanx already, but then the weeks following our session, when I got my files from our lovely photographer, Kari Wright, I was just too first-trimester-ish to ever do more with them than make that Christmas card. 

But that doesn't excuse the four years afterward. Except maybe I was like, "Oh, those carnival photos that I love so much are obsolete now that Lucy is here. Darn it." Which is a normal thought, but in hindsight I am beginning to see the value in honoring ALL the family photos from EVERY stage of our family's life. From pre-kids to old kids with kids of their own, every family photo is part of the whole story. 

So anyway. Today was finally the day I remembered how little I had done with these carnival photos I loved so very much when we did them. And it's been the day I've been slowly getting them prepped and put into a Blurb coffee table book (finished and in queue to print! Yahoo!) and ready to blog. And here, five years later, I am so enchanted by them all over again. I don't notice that bloaty mama I thought I was here. I don't feel like anyone or anything is missing in these frames. It was us, right then, on a hot August day in Sedalia, Missouri, wrangling a mostly-unwilling 2.5 year old Noah, trying to stay photogenic even as we sweat under our fancy duds.  It was an adventure we'd planned for, Joe had tolerated me preparing for, and one that turned out so so well, in spite of the heat, the crowds, the naughty toddler, and the poor photographer who'd just barely met us (only a few phone calls to set it all up) and tried like mad to get the photos I dreamed of WHILE keeping Noah looking her way. (Bless you, Kari. You were magic. Your daughter was an AMAZING assistant. You made my carnival photo dreams come true, and I will never forget your willingness to take my call and let me be that crazy lady proposing crazy ideas to you, begging you to be our photographer.)

So enough meandering journaling. You wanna see my carnival family photo session, shot at the Missouri State Fair in August of 2010, by Kari Wright of Kari Wright Photography? Go ahead. Enjoy. I bet you a thousand dollars you won't love these half as much as I have been loving them all day today, as I finally give them a place of honor in my life story. 

"Get me OUT OF HERE, mom. Stop. Stop squeezing me."

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