Cue the nervous babble.

Cue the nervous babble.

Everyone has something big going on for them that probably seems small and silly to someone else. I, for example, don’t care too much about fashion or makeup, so I have a hard time relating to big decisions about those types of things… but that doesn’t make them any less significant for other people.

I know that fashion and makeup can tie in with freedom of expression, creativity, and self-esteem… and those things are not little by any means.

All that being said, my super big thing right now is the fact that I just auditioned for a series of student-directed one acts at the university here in town. The performances will be around 30 minutes each, one night only, and directed by college students.

Why did I start out this blog post on the defensive? I didn’t plan to start it out that way… but here we are. I can’t help but feel like this big thing seems small to others… to people with higher levels of theatrical education or people who are embarking on missionary trips or curing cancer. No one has said anything to make me feel this way; I just do… which simply reinstates to me that this is a big thing for me, and that I should think about it.

So. Here I go, thinking. Brain-spouting? Mind-barfing?

I’m thinking about trying out for these shows when I was actually in college. I’m thinking about how I would think, “Ah, these are open up to the community? Like, anyone can just come in and audition for these?” I would see the same “older” (*cough* in their 30s *cough*) people audition every time and think I was somehow… better… because I was younger? Puke.

Obviously, I’m not proud of those thoughts, but they came slamming back to me yesterday when I cautiously walked into the same theater I used to flounce into, and met the friendly (also mildly amused) faces of a few college students in their element.

Frigging weird, you guys. Just so frigging weird.

As I filled out the form I’ve filled out so many times before, I’m writing down the information of a completely different person. My weight is higher, I actually said I wouldn’t change my hair, and I heartily hesitated before the “scantily clad” part. Then I had to write down my most recent theatrical experience… which was about seven years ago.

I think, at the heart of this, are the questions this experience brings up:

“Was I ever any good?”

“Was I just super lucky?”

“Did I spend five years as a Theatre major for nothing?”

“Was it just my boobs?”

Who knows? Sure, these questions are a little overblown; there’s a pretty good chance the answers all lie somewhere in the middle… but I’m thinking them nonetheless.

I’m going to drive up to the theater tonight and check a cast list for the first time in seven years. I’ll let y’all know how that goes.

Post-turkey Stress Syndrome

Post-turkey Stress Syndrome

Well, here we are. Back to reality.

I don’t know what it is about Thanksgiving… but I feel like the Monday after it’s over always catches me with my pants down.  (I typed that… thought about changing it to “catches me off-guard,” and decided to stick with my original phrasing.)

In the preceding weeks, I must have gone into shut-down mode or something, because Sunday night showed up and BLAMMO I was behind on everything.

Budget! New schedule! Dentist appointments! Doctor’s appointments! Hey SURPRISE your kid’s turning two this month ALSO CHRISTMAS WHEEEEEEEEEEE!

I’m still figuring out how to keep sane during the week after Turkey Day… but I think I’ve gathered a few techniques that help me stay calm. Mostly calm. Mostly.

Rip off the Band-aid

What is the ultimate goal when I’m stressed out? Having the stressful things not be there anymore. Unfortunately, the only way to reach this lofty goal is to make the stressful things not be there anymore.

It’s a total bummer, but that’s it. I just have to make the phone calls, send in the payments, set the budget for the month, go to the dentist, and cross things off the list.

I’ve really gotten into using my Google Calendar for this. I list my tasks for the day, and mark each one off as it gets completed. If I’m feeling extra stressed, I make myself power through the WORST ones on the list, and then reward myself with one of my fun tasks… like some creative client work or catching up on work-related blog posts.

Also, marking off each task in the calendar, then clicking the trash can button is pretty satisfying.

What can you do about it? Right now?

I’m a worrier by nature, and it only gets worse at night… when my brain gets a chance to slow down and think about things other than herding children (lovingly…herding them lovingly).

Luckily, I’ve got a very pragmatic dude for a husband, and he’s had a huge role in keeping me calm this week.

Loosely Paraphrased Example in Play Form:

LAUREN: Holy crap, I totally forgot about ______! I can’t believe I forgot that! (Smacks forehead with heel of hand)

PAUL: (Sets down coffee mug) Okay, yeah. That sucks. Don’t freak out.

LAUREN: Gahhhhhhh, crap! (Throws hands in air, gives up on everything.)

PAUL: Well, what can we do about it right now? Seriously? Can you call them? No. So, let’s deal with it tomorrow. (Calmly drinks coffee like Zen master.)

(End scene.)

So, moral of the story is this: I have to do my best to worry about things I can control right now… not something that can’t be tackled until the next day.

Word to Your Sanity

I’m usually really grossed out by motivational quotes. Memes with pictures of sunsets in the background preaching to me that “No one ever regrets going for that run,” or “If your dreams don’t scare you they’re not big enough,” generally make me want to do the exact opposite of what they’re trying to motivate me to do.

BUT I have found that, if written the right way, certain words really can light a fire under my butt or help me feel reassured.

My mom gave me this daybook a while back, and it’s kind of creepy in how accurate it can be sometimes. I’m not so good at reading it every day, and some of the things the author says get a little ridiculous, but I do like to return to it when I get stressed out. Sometimes it fires me up, and sometimes it helps me feel like I’m not the only one in the world feeling the way I do.

But you know what? If those memes actually do make you want to dance like there’s no one watching, by God, do it! Dance! Love like there’s no tomorrow! Don’t eat yellow snow! Whatever it takes to get you through this week!

So.

I didn’t really intend for this to turn into a tip post or anything… that’s just how it came out. My path to post-Thanksgiving sanity is far from finished, though, so if you’ve got some hints, I’ll totally take ‘em!

Check out my expanded horizons: An Evening with David Sedaris

Check out my expanded horizons: An Evening with David Sedaris

I think that, at almost 30 years old, I can examine my character flaws without it reflecting a lack of self-esteem on my part. There are a few aspects of my personality that I recognize as “not ideal,” at least when we’re thinking about the ideal characteristics of a human being contributing to society.

One of my most socially offensive flaws (in my opinion, anyway) is the intense desire to live in a carefully controlled bubble… a bubble containing my family, friends, nostalgic pop-culture, and music-related news.

I’ve spent my life carefully avoiding current events and nonfiction writing, because I prefer the fiction. If the fiction stresses me out, I can console myself with the fact that it’s not real. I recognize that, as a parent raising two other (hopefully) contributing members of society, this is an example I need to work on.

So, I’m trying, with baby steps, to expand my bubble. Perhaps someday, when my kids are older and more able to hold their own in the world, it will get easier to keep listening when NPR switches from Car Talk to the news. For right now, though, I’m slowly broadening my horizons with non-fiction storytelling. I’ve found that listening to things like This American Life and The Moth Story Hour makes it more possible for me to learn about the struggles of real people, without getting them carelessly dropped into my lap like a bowl of eyeballs. That might seem a little extreme… but sometimes that’s what the news feels like to me: like someone very nonchalantly handed me something horrible, in hopes of scaring me out of my wits.

So, slowly but surely, I’ve been learning about things outside of my bubble, and I do feel better for it. This is why, when I learned that David Sedaris was being brought by Omaha Performing Arts to speak, I quietly jumped up and down. Sedaris has been a fairly regular fixture on This American Life, and is one of the most spellbinding people I’ve heard (on the radio, anyway) speak. His words have a way of sounding so beautiful, even when he’s talking about things that are not inherently so. I think that seeing him speak in person will humanize him even more for me, and make his stories distinctly more real in my mind.

If you’re as interested as I am, An Evening with David Sedaris will be held on Thursday, October 30th at 7:30 pm at the Holland Performing Arts Center in Kiewit Hall. You can get tickets by visiting http://www.ticketomaha.com/productions/David-Sedaris.

I hope to see you there, whether you’re trying to expand your horizons or are simply interested in an incredible evening of storytelling! If you’re interested in reading some of his work, this website is a great place to start.

 

Real Talk: In return for this blog post, Omaha Performing Arts is compensating me with two tickets to An Evening with David Sedaris. Although I’m being compensated, all these words are my own, you guys. I ain’t no sellout.  

Barcamp Omaha 2014: What I Learned

Barcamp Omaha 2014: What I Learned

I know it’s been over two weeks since I attended, but Barcamp Omaha totally deserves a post.

I enjoyed this “un-conference” so much more this year than I did last year, and it was mostly because I changed my own expectations of the event. More on that in a mo.

I also did a presentation with my good buddy Erin from Human Illustrations. That made for a VERY different experience as well

So, in classic recap style, let’s make a list:

What I learned at Barcamp Omaha 2014:

Barcamp is a place to evaluate and supplement YOUR goals, not compare yourself to the realized goals of others.

When I went to Barcamp last year, I left feeling fairly deflated. I definitely had a good time during the day, but by the time it was over I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was trapped in work-related quicksand. Everyone there appeared cooler and more successful than me. It seemed like every other attendee had their entire days to dedicate to their small businesses, and I was the only one who was trying to squeeze things in between diaper changes. Obviously this was ridiculous, because Erin was my Barcamp buddy last year, and she, in fact, was doing exactly that.

This year was different. I attended with the memory of my feelings last year, and that was helpful. I’m also a year older, so maybe I actually learned a little bit about comparison? Probably not, but who knows. It was a little bit more obvious to me, this time around, that everyone there had something they were trying to achieve, AND that each person probably knew something that would be helpful to me.

Basically, if you go in to one of these conferences thinking everyone is too cool for school, it’s totally going to feel that way. If you go in thinking that everyone knows something valuable, and that you need to learn from them, you’ll have a much better experience. Granted, there are going to be some people who are too cool for school… but that’s life, right?

If you’ve got the opportunity to present something, doooooooooo it.

Barcamp is an “un-conference.” That means that the attendees are the presenters, and you sign up the morning of the conference to speak. There are usually a few open slots throughout the day, but they almost always get filled up.

Presenting was terrifying and awesome. Erin and I both initially walked around feeling a bit like puking, and I’m glad that we signed up for a morning slot so that we didn’t stress about it all day long. After the presentation was over, though, I felt a little bit like a superhero. I hadn’t been in front of people like that in a long time, and I rode that adrenaline alllllll day.

Our presentation was about working from home with children, which is something we’re both very, very familiar with.  Erin drew up some incredibly awesome slides to accompany the presentation, and you can see them (along with her recap) here.

That’s the beauty of Barcamp: you are qualified to talk about something. You may not feel like it, but you are. Erin and I have been working from home around our kids for at least four years each, now. That means we have both successes and failures to share… and plenty of people can benefit from them.

Are you good at keeping pet snails alive? Come to Barcamp next year and talk about it. Are you an expert at meal-planning? Please, come to Barcamp next year and talk about it. Are you incredibly good at pairing wine with chocolate? You should definitely come to Barcamp next year and talk about it. Someone is going to learn a lot from you, whether you’re a tech expert or a professional basket-weaver.

It’s okay to sit on your business for a while.

What? What does that even mean?

One of my favorite talks was a fantastic panel presentation called “The Leap.” Five local business owners talked about taking “the leap” into officially opening their businesses, and a woman named Sharon from Buds and Buttons said something that really resonated with me.

Someone had asked her if it was scary to officially open her business, and her response was “No.” I’m removing the quotation marks now, because I’m totally paraphrasing here, but it wasn’t scary to her because she had spent the last eight (I think?) years running her business from her basement. She was more than ready to open up because the foundation for her floral business was already forged and was ready to meet the world.

This hit home big time for me. I need to change my attitude.

Rather than thinking, “I’m NEVER going to make an actual living off my business,” I need to be thinking, “When I have the time to fully devote myself to my business, I will have already done most of the work.

Really. When Charlie is in kindergarten and Lucy is in preschool, I will magically have regular time-slots in the week to work. I already have clients, I’ve been gently marketing myself for years now, and I will be able to hit the ground running, rather than think, “Holy crap, what do I do now?”

 

I love Omaha. I love Omaha. The fact that opportunities like Barcamp and Wordcamp are available is something I am so thankful for. Nurturing my business has not been easy with my lifestyle, but Omaha… with the cultural, technological, and social opportunities it provides… has been an irreplaceable resource in itself.

I know that I have friends and family members in Nebraska with small businesses, and I want to take this moment to urge and beg you to fit this into your schedules next year, regardless of where you live. Whether you present or just watch, I know you’ll leave with helpful knowledge you didn’t have when you left the house that day.

When the date for next year’s is announced, I’ll make sure I announce it, too. If you come, we can totally sit next to each other and high-five at multiple times throughout the day, I promise.  OR I can promise NOT to high-five you… if you’re not into that kind of thing.

(Big thanks to Lauren at Lauren Prentiss Designs for snapping a picture of both of us NOT looking like we’re going to puke!)

Listen, Netflix, it’s not you, it’s me.

Listen, Netflix, it’s not you, it’s me.

I have been fantastically devoid of motivation for about a month and a half now.

That’s fine; it’s understandable, I suppose.  We’re in the “job hunting” chapter of our collective story, and it’s pretty stressful.  Even though it’s obvious that we should be gung-ho about things now more than ever, it all kind of makes us both want to take a nap.  Add to that the fact that it’s summer, where everything is HOT and my clothes are sticking to me in every place imaginable and CHIGGERS GUHHHHHH, and you’ve got a version of Lauren who just doesn’t want to do anything.

Thankfully, though, the weather has been gorgeous this past week.  Perfect, I might even say, if I were feeling particularly excited, and forgetting about the sweet, crisp bliss that is October.

Thanks to the cooler air, my mood has improved a bit, and has led me to a revelation:

It’s time to turn off the autopilot.

One night last week, I found myself staying up late watching an episode of White Collar.  The thing about White Collar is that, for the most part, I’ve lost interest in it.  But, there I was, up late and by myself watching something I wasn’t actually interested in.

What was I doing!?

Watching entirely too much Netflix, that’s what.

So.  My new personal mid-year resolution is this: Netflix only when I’m nursing Lucy, doing laundry, or watching a show I’m definitely interested in with Paul.  Otherwise?  Reading.  Books.  Listening to podcasts.  Finding fun projects to do with the kids.  Planning meals.  You know, productive things?

I even have a book list for myself!  Here’s what I’m reading right now:

Darkfever, Karen Marie Moning:  This one’s about… well, bad fairies.  Yep, bad fairies, ambiguously good ones, cryptic Celtic mystical talk, and lots of late 90’s/early 00’s references.  And, I’m getting the impression that there’s going to be a fair amount of hanky panky… with fairies.  Some of you may be rolling your eyes, but if you know me, then you know I’m enjoying the crap out of it.

Attachments, Rainbow Rowell: Rainbow Rowell is a very successful local author, and this book is CHOC FULL of life-in-Nebraska-in-the-90’s-references, and what looks like a relationship that will bloom from an IT guy reading emails between two female employees at his work.  So far, I’m digging it, yo.

The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., Adelle Waldman: This book is for book club, and it’s probably the “thinkiest” of the three books I’m reading now.  It’s an incredibly well-written account (by a female author) of a modern man’s relationships in New York.  There’s a lot of talking, a lot of relationship analysis, and just some fantastic writing so far.

Packing for Mars, Mary Roach: I haven’t started this one yet, but one of my favorite ladies lent it to me, and I am excited to read it.  It’s a nonfiction (if you know me well, you know that nonfiction is something I generally run screaming from) exploration of what happens in space.  Mary Roach is, according to one of the critics on the jacket, “The funniest science writer in the country.”  I think a good step into nonfiction is a funny one, don’t you?

Magical Thinking, Augusten Burroughs: I haven’t started this one yet, either, but I’ve read Running with Scissors by Burroughs (a delightful memoirist), and I absolutely loved it.  Just looking at it now, I see that it’s a collection of essays.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

I feel that I should leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Beth in Attachments.  Since the weather is heating up again, I’m going to need some hope to cling to.

“October, baptize me with leaves! Swaddle me in corduroy and nurse me with split pea soup.  October, tuck tiny candy bars in my pockets and carve my smile into a thousand pumpkins. O autumn! O teakettle! O grace!”

What about you guys?  What are you reading?  What else do you think I should read?

 

Busy

Busy

Heeeeeeyyyyy there, bitterness issues. This is me, acknowledging you. This is me, admitting that you are something I need to work on.

There must be something in the air . . . people seem to be feeling overwhelmed. I read some blog posts this week in which the bloggers were doing their best to handle all of the things on their proverbial plates. Some of them seemed logical and understandable (keeping healthy, extra jobs), and others (I’m not going to mention anything specific) almost made my head explode. The thing that most of these bloggers have in common? They don’t have children.

HOLD ON WAIT A MINUTE. I swear I’m not going to hop on my baby food-covered high horse and yammer on about how people without kids just don’t get it. I swear. I promise. I’m not.

At first, I thought, “BUSY!? You think you’re BUSY!? Try not being able to actually hear yourself think from about 7 am to 9 pm. Try raising two human beings while trying to run a small business, avoid turning into a grumpy wife-blob, and just by the skin of your knuckles barely keeping your house from being an epic disaster. Try—”

(This is the point in which someone hopefully slaps me and screams, “Get a hold of yourself, woman!”)

How about, Self, you just calm the frick down?

I hate it when I have to pep-talk myself, but sometimes it has to happen. I love having kids. I chose this. I chose to stay home with them. Other people choose other things. Comparing my choices to other people’s choices breeds nothing but false discontent in the choices that I’m actually very content with. I said the word “choices” about 500 times there, but I think that’s appropriate.

Why do I jump on the defensive the second someone talks about being busy? I know for a fact that I’m not the busiest person in the world, just like I know that some people aren’t as busy as me. What I have such a hard time getting through my head is that it just doesn’t matter.

You are not going to get a trophy that says “Congratulations, you are officially the busiest person ever.” In fact, it’s the people who aren’t so mind-blowingly busy that will probably get the award . . . which comes in the form of more sleep, completed projects, and an overall sense of well-being.

BUT, and here’s the kicker, who am I to say that these people who don’t seem busy aren’t actually busy? And who cares? Clearly, I do. Which I hate.

After thinking about it a lot and talking to Paul a bit, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am just Jealous with a capital J.

I’m like, totally jelly, guys.

I’m jealous of free time, and so I flip out if I feel like other people are wasting it. If I had more free time, I would write, write, write. I would spend more time on my business. I would cook elaborate meals with Paul. I would call my old friends more, or even stop to see them if I drive through their towns.

I would, I would, I would.

…but I don’t right now, and I also have NO IDEA how people are actually spending their free time, regardless of how it seems.

Moral of the story? Fewer “woulds” and “ifs.” More “ams” and “wills.” I’ve got goals, and none of them have anything to do with anyone else’s.

Anyone else have this problem? Anyone NOT have this problem, and have some tips to dole out? I’m ready to listen.