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My Big Fat Life RETURNS: Apologies, new ventures and the realization you can’t have it all

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, April 16, 2012

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I have missed this – this beautiful and direct line to so many readers each Monday. I have been away, but have tried on a few occasions to get back here.

For four weeks I took an official break, letting editors know I needed some time.

When my break was over, I did send along a few things. One column was too late, one was too long, and one couldn’t be printed. I got discouraged, and took another break. I tried to write again, but there were weeks I was just too tired to write; sometimes I couldn’t come up with a clear focus, and other weeks I was just too busy.

I think this is the longest I’ve been away from the paper in the five-and-a-half years I’ve penned a piece here.

I am not sure I am able to write here as regularly as I used to.

I have come to the realization I cannot do everything I want to do.

My mother was right.

Like most kids growing up, I had a long list of “I wannas.”

I clearly remember I wanted to do so much and be so many things. The list, especially in my pre-teen years, was endless.

I was one of the first generations to see my future as something I could choose. Society began to tell me I could do anything I wanted to do if I tried hard enough.

I’d verbalize my dreams to my parents and many times my mom would tell me that sometimes you can’t do everything you want to do. Sometimes I understood her thinking, but other times I reasoned with inexperienced kid logic, believing her explanations were about what she could not do because she was a parent. I saw her as a woman with responsibilities, which meant she couldn’t always sit back, and read a novel when she wanted, or have a night out with the girls if she felt like it, or serve us potato chips for supper.

I didn’t realize that her warnings were about making choices – sometimes-hard choices – about what you have to leave behind in pursuit of a dream.

I am beginning to worry that this column may be something I have to choose to leave behind.

Many of you know I’ve been working on a new venture – a magazine about the people, places and history of New Brunswick. (www.agelessnb.ca) agelessNB has consumed all of my free time lately. My Big Fat Life has always been big and full.

My plate used to include my regular home responsibilities with my husband and children, my job teaching journalism at the college, my role on Woodstock town council and my writing. Now my plate also has heaping spoonfuls of busy lunch hours filled with phone calls and planning, early mornings where I rise before everyone else so I can write, evenings where, after kids are in bed, invoices are filled out and paperwork is completed, and weekends where hockey, church and cadet activities are intertwined with interviews, advertiser meetings and more writing.

That plate has also been filled with a lot of wonderful feedback. People like what I’m trying to achieve, and I really believe agelessNB can make a difference.

Peggy Martin of Woodstock called me last week. She had been wondering where my column had gone and discussed my possible whereabouts with friends. A neighbour dropped by with a copy of the magazine over Easter and it was only then she understood why I wasn’t in the paper.

She loved the magazine and missed the column. She called me her “Monday morning friend.” I felt elated and saddened all at once. I was happy that she loved agelessNB, but sad that I missed out on being with her each Monday.

Another ball dropped. I took a hiatus from the column and failed to let readers know.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of example I’m setting for my kids.

What my children see lately is a mom consumed. Some evenings I’ve missed bedtime tuck-ins, I’ve been absent at more than a few supper hours leading up to the printing of each issue, and I’ve missed spending simple, basic downtime with their dad.

I try and remind them this will (God willing) get better. Once the magazine is established further, once we cultivate contacts, once the word gets out, the hard work of distribution, advertising, and getting freelancers will be something that happens with little effort.

I really believe the goal of connecting people, of telling important stories and sharing our journey is something that will become important to many – not just this crazy, stressed, tired mom. But until then, the dream of success in this venture is far-off.

My father always told me that things worth doing are things worth doing well. But doing some things well comes at a cost, I’m discovering. What costs I’m willing to pay are obvious.

My kids and husband are the most important parts of my quality-of-life equation. My students are a secondary part, with the community and the magazine coming a close third. What gets ‘dropped’ in the future to achieve the goals I feel are important for my personal happiness and fulfillment will need to come down to what I can afford to lose and what I can’t.

As I struggle to find balance this spring, I hope that My Big Fat Life gets to be a part of my quality-of-life equation. If it isn’t, I am thankful that many of you – my beautiful readers – will understand and support me.

Sadly, that won’t make it any easier if I have to say goodbye.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, My Big Fat Life, on Facebook. You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE

 

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My Big Fat Life: Taking time to feel thankful in the midst of everyday busy-ness

Published in the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, Monday, September 26, 2011

CLICK HERE FOR ORIGINAL ARTICLE

I had one of those weeks last week.

You know the kind – a week where you don’t know if you’re coming or going, 18 things on your schedule and you know you can only successfully get to 11 of them.

The week where you wear two different socks to work and hope no one notices; where you forget the weather forecast predicted rain for the afternoon and you send your kids to school in T-shirts because it was warm and sunny that morning.

It was that kind of week. The kind of week where you forget to pick up milk so everyone has toast one morning, which depletes the bread for lunches, and you have to dole out money. That week when you had the doctor appointment, and almost forgot, but arrive a few minutes late, relieved, until you discover that you forgot to bring the updated Medicare card, again – something you were reminded about at the last two visits.

My week flew by. With kids having band and hockey and piano and cadets, there was homework, meet the teacher, interviews for a new project I’m working on and physio for my boy.

That doesn’t include the three nights of staying late at work correcting assignments and creating lesson plans, or the quick trip to the hospital to help a friend who has no family in the area. Top that off with helping my own kids with homework and a social studies project, and trying to cook healthy meals for my family … I was ready to collapse.

I cursed myself this week. I made things even busier for myself when I promised to walk as part of the ‘Ball is in Your Court’ provincial wellness campaign. I committed to walking every weekday, on my lunch hour, until December, and last week wondered if I could really do this.

Mid-week I was ready to pull my hair out. Wednesday I arrived late for my walk, walked with my friend Tobi for the first 10 minutes and then finished the last two laps of the racetrack alone.

Wednesday was a nice day – sunny and warm. Wednesday was a day where the breeze came up just as I made the second turn on the track and cooled me as I began to break out in a sweat. Wednesday the clouds were beautiful and fluffy – high and moving fast, changing shape quickly – reminding me of my youth and the many hours spent laying on my front lawn watching the sky do its artistic dance.

Across the fence, as I made my way around the track’s third turn, I heard the beautiful sounds of Centennial Elementary School children. I heard the beautiful sounds of young kids playing and laughing, and I smiled because I knew my daughters voice was somewhere in that mix, envisioning her laughing, running, swinging on the swings … being her perfect, excitable self.

I instantly felt shame remembering how I grumbled to myself in the van as I drove from work to the track that day. That quiet time – just me, my sneakers and the fresh air – reminded me I have to remain thankful and need to slow down sometimes so I can see the beauty and the calm in this crazy, busy life of mine.

And while I could have easily said no to a lot of things this week, I didn’t.

I wonder if my inability to stay still gives me such peace in stillness?

I have no reason to complain, and so many more reasons to be thankful.

I am thankful for the smile that crept across my friend’s face as I sat with her at the hospital and joked that we just solved all the problems of the world after we talked about the health issues of her loved one and cried.

I am thankful for the reassuring smile I get each day from my friend Tobi, who is always positive, always uplifting and always willing to walk with me on her lunch hour.

I am thankful for my daughter sneaking up behind me in the morning after being unable to tuck her in the night before because of a meeting. She wrapped her arms around me as I sat eating my breakfast, quickly whispering in my ear, “I love you” before asking for a toasted bagel with cream cheese.

There are the lovely notes from my older daughter on my Facebook page: “I love you,” “I miss you.”

There is the thoughtful things my husband did last week – like taking my son’s cadet tunic to the seamstress so his badges could be sewn on, hoping to lighten my load (he can’t sew), or telling me to stay home from hockey, knowing I’m tired but feeling guilty about not going – reassuring me that it’s more than OK to rest.

I am thankful for the sweet hug I get from my son each morning after I’ve crawled in bed to wake him, rubbing his back, talking softly about the day ahead so he has a good start to his day even if we’ve argued about homework or chores the night before.

I give thanks for good friends who give me hugs when they know it’s been a crazy week, or continue to drop off homemade beets, or bread, or strawberries, even though I keep reminding them they don’t have to do this.

This week, a beautiful homemade scarf and lovely book made their way to my home, and I felt overwhelmed by the thoughtfulness.

That saying about reaping what you sow sometimes gets lost in the bustle that is our everyday lives. I reap so much more than I sow and need to be reminded of that, especially on those crazy, pull-your-hair-out kind of weeks.

Theresa Blackburn is a wife, mother and New Brunswick Community College instructor who lives and writes in Woodstock. You can email her at theresa@mybigfatlife.ca, or join her group, Big Fat Life, on Facebook.  You can also follow her on Twitter @MY_BIG_FAT_LIFE

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