Insanity of Motherhood

Motherhood, marriage, and midlife.


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A Year In the Life

A year ago I began a new life.  Actually, it’s the same life, but in a new location.  My family and I moved to Italy to live and work for three years.  The decision to live overseas had been a dream of mine for a long time.  And last year I was granted the opportunity to fulfill my dream.

I haven’t written a post in a long while, as I felt it best to adjust to my new surroundings and support my family.  To be honest, I also wanted to wait until the newness of my new environment settled so I could provide a more objective view of what life has been like for the last year.

Moving to a new location can be a challenge.  For those who are middle-aged it is can be even more of a challenge.  By middle age, you have settled into your life and location. You have had the same job and friends for years, and for the most part like it that way. But some people in middle age question themselves, “Is this all there is?” and “What do I want for my life?”  Obviously, I was part of the latter group.  Several years prior to getting my job overseas, I began thinking of what it would be like and how I could make the dream of mine happen.

The last year has been one of highs and lows.  Obviously, the high points have been to travel and experience amazing places.  Our travels this year alone have surpassed any hopes I ever had about traveling.  One of the greatest advantages of living overseas is the access to travel.  Europe is vast, interesting and less expensive to visit when you live in a European county.  Because we are only living in Italy for three years, we feel compelled to travel as much as possible.   We spend hours looking at websites, formulating trips, and planning adventures.  Each county we visit offers a new experience with food, culture, history, and people.  The best part of living in Europe is being part of an amazing culture that is vast and diverse.

However, as high as the travels are for living in Europe, there are also some low points.   Working overseas is not the same as traveling overseas.  I have a job, and most of my time is spent working, not roaming the hills of Tuscany drinking wine.  My friends and family view our photos, and convince themselves I do nothing other than eat wonderful food and see amazing sights.  Of course this isn’t true.  The work I do is stressful.  As a matter of fact, this job is most stressful job I’ve ever had.  The hours are long and packed with things to do.  The newness of job is beginning to settle, so I’m hopeful the stress will lessen for the second year.  Although we have a lovely Italian home, it’s far away from my job.  My daily commute is over 1 1/2 hours a day.  If I do take a shorter route, the traffic is stressful, comparable to LA traffic.  Those of your know LA traffic know how crazy it must be.  Often on the weekend, my husband, son and I sit around resting and recuperating from our long week.   However, we make sure to take an outing at least one day each weekend, because we know we won’t be here forever.  Time limits make us do more than we normally would do.

The lowest part of living and working overseas is to be far away from loved ones.  We miss our family and friends, especially our two older boys.  Both boys were able to visit us this summer, but when the summer ended so did their visit.  Last year my middle son lived with our friends to complete his senior year.  We were fortunate to have the support for him while we were away, but realized parenting from afar isn’t easy.  Your child isn’t in your home, and you don’t have a physical presence to ensure things are getting done or rules are being followed.   Due to our location, we weren’t able to be back in the states for the start of college for both older boys this fall.  A mixture of guilt and sadness exists for my husband and I, as we have always been involved parents and to not be there to support them both feels strange.  Several situations have happened in the last year with both boys, and we’ve only been able to provide support via phone, or chat.  This is normal for all college bound parents, however our situation is more of a challenge due to the time difference.

Another low point has been the adjustment to our new situation.  My husband and young son have been slow to adjust to living in Italy. They are both doing better now, but it hasn’t been easy.  They’ve had to adjust to a new culture to live and work in.  My son went from attending a progressive school to a traditional one.  He has had to make new friends, and adjust to a life he would have not chosen for himself.   Knowing my family wasn’t happy has made me feel sad, as I know I’m the one responsible for the choice to live overseas.

So what do I think about this new life experience so far?  Frankly,  it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever done.  I’ve never thought of myself as being brave, but I do now.  The challenges I have faced this year have surpassed anything I’ve done previously.  I’ve realized my family and I are quite capable.  We have developed skills of resilience and patience.  We’ve learned new ways to communicate and to support each other.  We’ve all gone way outside our comfort zone and survived.  This opportunity my family and I have is a chance of a lifetime.  There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t say that to myself, despite all of the challenges.

I am grateful for the support my family has provided each day for my work, and for reminding where my roots are.  The roots of your life are what keep you stable when the winds are strong, or the rain weaken the ground.  And let me tell you, there have been some strong winds and rain in Italy.

Hopefully, this post will get me on track again to writing for my blog.  I know many of you have asked me to start writing again.  I will do my best.  In the meanwhile, enjoy some photos of our first year living abroad.  Ciao!


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Adjustable

It’s been nine weeks since I arrived in Italy.  There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t say to myself, “I can’t believe I’m here.” Nine weeks ago I was living in the United States surrounded by all the things I’ve been familiar with for the last 25 years.  Now I am surrounded by the unfamiliar.

The best way to describe what I’ve been going through is to imagine you are tailor.  You love being a tailor and are good at it.  Some one calls and asks if would consider opening a clothing store using designs you’ve created.  You’re excited.  You’ll have an opportunity to showcase your talents and do what you love on a grander scale.  The person tells you the store will open in Italy.  Even better, right?  But there’s a catch.  You’ll need to leave your family behind and live alone in Italy for three months.  For the first three months you will not be doing sewing or design creation.  Instead you’ll be locating a place for your new store, working with legal issues, purchasing equipment, hiring staff…you get the idea.  Your excitement becomes clouded with reality.

I think one the reasons most people don’t pursue dreams is because of the adjustment period.  Adjusting from the known to the unknown is scary, unsettling and at times painful.  I’ve shed many tears since my arrival.  The circumstances I’ve had to deal with have been far from ordinary.  Yesterday I was expected for an appointment to visit a local school.  Feeling confident, I decided to meet my staff at the location instead of driving with her.   Mind you I’ve only been driving in Italy for a week.  I pulled out my GPS and headed on my way to the location.  As I pulled up to the destination I realized something was wrong.  There wasn’t a school in sight.  I called for directions, but it didn’t help.  I drove around searching desperately for the school to no avail.  Finally I called to say I wouldn’t make the appointment.  I drove back home feeling defeated.

Many times I’ve felt sure of a situation only to have it not work out.  This happens to everyone, but when you are out of your element it happens a lot more.  If I had gotten lost at home I would have called my husband, but here I had to figure it out on my own.  I didn’t realize how dependent I had become on the support of my family and friends until I was no longer with them.

Although the struggles have been real it doesn’t mean I would change the decision to move here.  Each day when I overcome a difficult situation I become more confident. When I try something new or different I become braver.  Every time I accomplish a task I didn’t think I could do, I realize I’m much more capable than I thought.  It’s a good thing. It’s a crazy, amazing, ridiculous, and wonderful adventure.  I’m proving I’m adjustable to a new life.  I’m proving working for a dream can be hard, but living a dream can be worth it.

 

 

 


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37 1/2 Questions

Recently, while searching for a new exercise video on YouTube, I stumbled upon a video series called 73 Questions.  73 Questions are videos, filmed in a single shot, of personalities (mainly celebrities), asking 73 questions about what they like, hate, and know.  They make the videos appear random, like someone happened to stop by and do an impromptu interview, and ask a few questions.  However, the videos are obviously scripted and practiced.  They are still fun to watch.  I started with Nicole Kidman (her Australian house is amazing), and ended with James Corden.  Check them out for yourself here.

I thought it would be fun for me do something similar for my blog.  However, I have no interest in doing the video portion of the interview or for 73 questions.  I decided to create a list of 37 1/2  questions I’ve been asked regarding my upcoming move to Italy.   Since announcing my decision to move with the family, I have been bombarded with tons  of questions.

Here we go.

1) How did this happen?

I’m not sure I understand the question.  How did what happen?

2) How did you decide to move to Italy?

Oh.  I accepted a job to work over there.

3) No.  I mean…how did you even think of applying for a job in Italy?

Well, 20 plus years ago I worked overseas in London, England.  It was a great experience,and I’ve always wanted to live overseas again.

4)  Did you talk about applying for the job with your family?

Of course.

5)  How did they respond?

Indifferent at first.  They knew it was my dream to live overseas, but didn’t think it wouldn’t really happen.

6) Were they surprised to hear you got the job?

Yes and no.  I’d been talking about applying for jobs for a while, but the fact I got a job offer was a surprise.

7)  How did your family react?

Mixed.  Husband was proud, excited, but nervous.  Older boys were fine, as long as they could stay at their current schools.  Little Boy cried.

8)  Was it hard to have Little Boy cry?

Yes.  Before I accepted the job, we had several family discussions.  There were a lot of questions, and emotions during those conversations.

9)  Is Little Boy still sad?

I’m sure he is, but he also is excited.  We all are.  

10)  What’s the hardest part about making decision to live overseas?

Making sure everyone needs are being met.  Years ago, when I lived overseas I was a single person. Now I am married, with three kids, own a home, and have aging parents.  Making sure we had a plan how to make it work was crucial prior to accepting the job.

11)  What work will you be doing?

I will be the Director of Child Youth programs on an US Military base.

12)  Will you live on the US base?

No.

13)  Do you speak Italian?

No.

14)  Have you been to Italy?

No.

15)  Is everyone moving to Italy with you?

No.  My husband and youngest son are coming with me, but two older boys will remain in the United States.  They want to finish high school and college in the US.

16)  Did you offer for them to come with you to Italy?

Of course.  The older boys have friends, and connections in the US.  They are also ages 18 and 20. They are old enough to decide what they want to do for the future.

17)  Are you sad to leave them?

Yes.  It’s hard to think about,  but they will visit and they will stay with us during vacations and summer.  We are a close family.  We will make sure to stay connected.

18)  How long will you live overseas?

Three years.

19)  Can you stay longer?

Possibly.  It depends on a lot of factors.

20)  Is your husband supportive?

Yes, very.

21)  Was he always supportive?

Yes and no.  At first, we didn’t have all the details worked out.  It was a complex process to see how we could support three boys, three schools, own a home, and two careers.  I’m the dreamer in the family.  He’s the practical one.  His practical side needed to be fulfilled, prior to accepting the job.

22)  What has been the response from family and friends?

Mixed.  Sad, excited, shocked, and happy.  We feel all the same emotions.

23)  What has been the most unusual response to the move?

Silence.  

23)  What will you miss the most when you move?

The people.

24)  What will you miss the least?

Nothing.  I love where I live, my family and my friends. 

25)  Why leave then?

Five years ago my husband and I talked about our future.  We both love to travel, and both want meaningful careers.  This job opportunity offers us both things.  Leaving doesn’t always mean you are unhappy.  Sometimes we leave to experience something more.

26)  What will happen to your house?

We will rent it out.

27)  What about all your belongings?

We will take most of our things with us, and store the rest.

28)  Are you scared?

No.

29)  Really?

Yes, really.  I have concerns, but scared…no.

30)  I’ve never heard of someone taking a job overseas.  Isn’t it unusual?

Not really.  Military families move overseas all the time.  This experience has given me great appreciation for US military families who move frequently and to overseas locations. The process is daunting when you have a family.  

31)  Do you like Italian food?

Is this a real question?

32)  Do you worry about crime in Italy?

Not more than I do in the US.

33)  What happens if you get homesick?

It will happen.  We will get homesick, but we will support each other.  This move is different from my previous one.  There are many more ways to stay connected.  We will also travel back to the US at least once a year.

34)  What would you say to someone considering working overseas or following a dream?

Do the research.  It was not an easy process for this to happen.  Take time to research how it can happen, and begin the process.  If you really see something in your future, you have to take the steps to make if happen.  

35)  Anything else?

Stay positive.  Many times I’ve been discouraged because things didn’t go as quickly, or as smoothly as I wanted.  Surround yourself with positive people who support you.  You will need their encouragement.

36)  Regrets?

No, not yet.

37)  Final words?

I’m grateful for this opportunity.  It’s happening because of many people who believe in and support me.  Timing and luck had a lot to do with it too.  I get to do valuable, meaningful work, see the world, and be with my family.  It doesn’t get much better than that.

371/2 )  And?

Ciao.  We’re done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Role Reversal

Last week I went home to visit/care for my father while my sister was out-of-town.  I stayed at her home, and cared for her cats, and spent my days visiting my dad.  With the move to Italy less than 8 weeks away, visiting my father was something I wanted to do before I leave.

Almost two years ago my father’s health began to decline.  He developed kidney failure. Instead of dealing with the health issue in its early stages, my father waited until his kidneys began to fail completely before seeking medical attention.  Since the onset of kidney failure, my father has slowly transformed into a different person.

My father has always been strong-willed.  He is the oldest of five children.  When he was 20 years old his father (my grandfather) passed away, leaving my dad as the patriarch of his family.  My father, being the responsible person he is, took the role seriously and helped his mother to care for his younger siblings.  Because he had so much responsibility, at such a young age, my father developed a strong sense of independence.  He has always been the kind of person who liked to do things for himself, and  his own way.

When my father’s health began to decline it was a difficult transition for him.  Kidney failure causes a variety of symptoms, but one that affected my father the most was a lack of energy and strength.  My father has always been active, and when he became ill he no longer was able to walk or stand  for any length of time.

At first my father refused to acknowledge his illness.  He was determined to maintain his independence.  I’m sure he knew how serious his illness was for quite a while before my siblings and I became aware of it.   However, by the time we did become aware, his disease had progressed too far.  There was little left to do except start dialysis to do the work his kidneys no long could.

One thing everyone can relate to is having to deal with aging parents.  Not everyone has children, but everyone has parents.  My mother passed away over 20 years ago suddenly. There was no time for lengthy goodbyes, or closure.  Her death was abrupt and painful. Yet, watching a parent slowly age is also difficult.  To see the person who once guided you with strength, no longer be able to walk or have difficulty eating is also painful.  The tasks your parents once did for you as a young child become the tasks you now do for them as an adult.  In essence, your roles become reversed.

To watch my father’s health, both physically and mentally, decline has been trans-formative for me in many ways.  Although it makes me sad at times, I am grateful to have had the opportunity to spend with him.  Over time, he has lessened his strong stance on issues, and is kind and gracious.  When I would arrive each day to visit him I would do care taking things. Sometimes I would clean his room or help his with his meals.  They were the kind of things I do for my boys.

Leaving my father at the end of my trip was hard.  Because I will be leaving soon, and moving so far away, there is a chance I won’t see him again.  I told him about my upcoming move with the family, but the next day he had forgotten all about it.  I leave my father in the hands of my loving, devoted sister, who tirelessly oversees his care.  A mix of sadness, and guilt overcomes me when I think about not seeing him again.

On the day of my final visit my father, his wife and I shared a meal in their apartment.  We had planned to go to the dining hall, but my father wasn’t feeling well after dialysis, so decided to eat at home.  During our meal, there were a couple of times his glasses slipped down his nose, and I gently pushed them back up.  I remember thinking how my father would have never allowed my to do something like push his glasses up as  child. He would have pushed my hand away claiming he could do it himself.  But, my father let me help him.  He allowed me the chance to show him love in a way he used to do for me as a child. Our role reversal was okay for him and for me…and we were both grateful.

 

 

 


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Hmm…

Hmm…where to begin.  It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a blog post.  A few months ago when I was asked to renew my blog subscription, I questioned if I wanted to continue.  As I debated in my mind, I realized I did have more things to share and maybe another year of blogging would be a good thing.

Since I began my blog five years ago a lot has happened.  Creating the blog initially was an outlet for me to express my thoughts and feelings regarding midlife, motherhood and my transition from full-time home parent back to the workforce.  Well, I’m happy to say I made it through my “midlife something”, and am now fully immersed in my career.

For the last few years I have gone back to school to update my education, and have worked various jobs to update for resume and job related skills.  My plan worked, as I recently accepted a position that fully utilizes all the information I’ve learned, and has an unexpected bonus.  The job is located overseas in Italy.  It’s hard to believe, but my family and I will be moving over to Italy by the end of the year.

When I think back to where I was five years ago, I realize there were many things I needed to learn before accepting my current employment.  Originally, my blog was created as a result of not getting a job.  After not being selected, I knew I had work to do.  So I got busy. I went to school, started working, and began the process of getting up to speed in my career field.  It wasn’t easy. As a matter of fact, the last few years have been the most challenging times I have ever endured career-wise.  I’ve made many mistakes, but I’ve also taken some amazing risks. I’ve gone out of my comfort zone so many times that I no longer fear things I’ve never done before.  So much so, that I took a chance to apply for jobs that were only dreams for me.

What lies ahead for me is more challenges, but not the fear and doubt I once had.  Years ago I searched for my purpose, my meaning, my contribution to the world outside of being a wife and mother.  It took a while, but I found it.  I hope to use all my life experience to make a difference in children’s lives.

As I embark on an exciting adventure to Italy to live and work, I want to be able to share my experience.  I thought about changing the name of my blog several times to reflect the new direction of my life.  I still may do that in the future.  However, for now my three boys are home for the summer…eating, making messes, and lying around the house making me crazy.  My blog name seems the best fit my life right now.

Arrivederci, my friends.

 

 


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Win Some. Lose Some.

A conversation between a preschool teacher and preschool students.

Win

Teacher is sitting on floor building blocks with children.

Mrs. M. How old are you?” – Boy Student

“I’m 51 years old.” – Teacher

“Oh.  Okay.” – Boy Student

“Why do you ask?  How old did you think I was?” – Teacher

“Same age as my mom.” – Boy Student

“Oh.  How old is your, Mom?” – Teacher

“She’s 33.  I thought you were younger than she was.” – Boy Student

Lose

Teacher sitting at table outdoors coloring with children.  Preschool student is looking at teacher’s photo on name badge.

“Mrs. M. Is that a picture of you?” – Girl Student

“Yes it is.” – Teacher

“Why doesn’t it look like you?” – Girl Student

“Well, maybe the photo has different lighting.  Don’t you think the photo looks like me?” – Teacher

“No.  You have a lot more wrinkles in real life.” – Girl Student


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I Totally Get It Rene

Last week I was scrolling through a news site on my computer when a story caught my eye.  It wasn’t news about Ebola or the bombing of ISIS in Iraq.  It was a celebrity story about actress Rene Zellweger.  Rene Zellweger is an academy award-winning actress best known for her work in the films Bridget Jones Diary and Jerry Maguire.  She has always been considered a talented actress and one of Hollywood’s beautiful leading ladies.

For the last few years Rene has not been in the spotlight or in any feature films.  No one knows for sure why, but many suspect she needed a break from the pressure of Hollywood and fame.  Recently, Rene made a rare public appearance during a social event.  At the event she looked different.  She looked so different that some speculated she had plastic surgery to alter her looks.

I came across an article featured on The Atlantic titled, “Questions for Rene Zellweger“, by Megan Garber.   In the article Ms. Garber lists several questions she has for Rene.  She wonders about Rene’s appearance and why she looks different.  The article was supposed to emphasize Ms. Garber’s concern for Rene, as she is obviously a fan of hers, however her personal questions came off intrusive and judgmental.

Years ago I was one of those people who would have judged others for having age reversal procedures done such as Botox and plastic surgery.  I told myself I would only grow old the natural way and would never resort to doing things that would alter my appearance.  However, that was when I was younger.

Aging is not an easy process to go through. We are all grateful for the gift of growing older, but it is still hard to accept how much our bodies change over time.  It must be even more difficult for people who live their lives in the public eye who are expected to look a certain way.  I don’t know Rene Zellweger , nor do I know if she has recently had some sort of plastic surgery to alter her looks, but I would totally get it if she did.

I have heavy-lidded, small almond-shaped eyes like Rene.  I have contemplated many times having surgery to remove some of the skin on my upper lids.  Having surgery would not only make me look younger, but would allow my eyes to seem more open and alert especially in photos.

The reason I will not have the surgery isn’t because I think I should age naturally, but frankly because I don’t think I could go through the public scrutiny of having surgery and dealing with other people’s judgment for doing so.  Changing the shape of my eyes would make me look very different.   Knowing people were analyzing my reasons for the surgery would be too uncomfortable.  So as a result my eyes will stay the same.

Imagine going to a social function and having your face being analyzed by millions of people instead of hearing that people are glad you’re back to making movies.  Plastic surgery has a place in our society and so do all the products designed to make us look more attractive and younger.

I know several women who have had plastic surgery everything from a brow lift, eye lid lift, breast reduction, breast enhancement, chemical peel, nose job, and full face lift.  Do I think less of them for having surgery?  No.  Each person made a decision that felt right for them.  Do I wish we lived in a society that didn’t make women feel the pressure to look different than they already do?  Yes.  Women of all ages feel the pressure to be thin, dress stylishly, and look young and frankly sometimes if would be nice not to worry about how you look all the time.

Why does it matter if Rene has had surgery to make her eyes seem more open?  Why do we care if she had Botox to smooth her forehead?  How does judging a person’s choice for how they want to look make a positive difference in my life?  The answer is simple…it doesn’t.

I must finally be a grown up because now I believe decisions made that have no impact on other people are frankly none of my business.

Leave Rene alone, folks.  Stop talking about her face.  Let her get back to work and doing what she is good at…making movies.

Rene