I started a tradition last summer after hearing a really interesting story on NPR. In short, I like to share a lot about my life and love for family by way of my auto responder. I don’t generally vacation in the traditional sense. Instead, I tend to do stay-cations and work-cation. This year, I’m going to get to enjoy a bit of both.
In case you haven’t had a reason to email me, I wanted to share the most recent edition of Auto Responder Chronicals.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year! These are the busiest two weeks of the year for me. My darling children, Arbor and Alistair have been looking forward to winter break since school started in September. From Monday, December 18 to Friday, December 22
, we’ll be enjoying some time catching up with each other, making cookies and appreciating having another holiday season to spend together. If you’re feeling generous, my daughter is hoping to get as many of the Pigeon books
as possible and my son is hoping to expand his Duplo collectio
n. What’s your family’s wishlist look like?
From December 25-December 31
, I’ll be in New Jersey and New York enjoying a work-cation. On the list of things I’m hoping to experience, an authentic New York bagel with an excessive amount of cream cheese, and working in the New York Public Library. I’m a big ol’ nerd at heart and the idea of setting up camp in the NYPL is what dreams are made of. If you have any recommendations for places in the city to grab lunch or a good cup of coffee, please let me know! I’ll be sharing my experience on my blog, DrowsyMama.com
and across social media. Please be sure to like my Facebook page
and follow me on Instagram
During this time, I will not be accessible via phone. Please send all inquiries by email and they will be responded to as promptly as possible.
This time of year is so beautiful and magical to so many people but for many, it’s a dark and isolating time. Please be sure to check in with your loved ones and make sure they’re doing okay. If you’re having a hard time, please reach out to someone. I’m more than happy to talk with you if you’re feeling alone. If you or a loved one is having suicidal thoughts, please call 1-800-273-8255. If you’re doing okay, please consider sharing this message with others so they know they’re not alone and that you’re happy to help them through a difficult time. We’re all in this together.
I hope you have a great week and enjoy some quality time with the people who make your life beautiful.
My sweet, strong-willed, spitfire Arbor girl. It feels like just yesterday I was arguing with her in the early hours of labor, telling her not to dare be born on April Fools Day, so she waited 38 hours to make her appearance on April 2nd. She did what I asked… but in her own way. It never surprises me when she decides to take a strong position on something. That’s her nature and I know exactly where she gets it from.
While driving home from school the other day, I was half-way engaged in her chatter, trying to respond to her while also paying attention to the congested neighborhood after-school traffic.
“Mom, lambs are baby sheep. *chatter continues* Do you like lambs?”
“Yes, they’re delicious! Especially in gyros or kababs.”
“No, not like meat lambs like animal lambs.”
Oh my damn. We’re having one of those parenting moments where I can teach my kid a bit about the facts of life or I can protect her innocence just a little longer. My daughter is a smart kid. We’ve talked about some of the big things like childbirth and the permanence of death. She can handle some abstract discussion. Okay. Let’s tell her the truth.
“Well, baby, it’s the same thing. We kill animals so we can eat their meat.”
“What?! That’s so mean! I’m never eating meat again!”
“Okay, baby, that’s fine with me. But you know there’s a lot of foods you won’t be able to eat, right? Like bacon, hamburgers, chicken nuggets, spaghetti with meat sauce…”
I continued giving her the practical disadvantages of choosing to be a vegetarian. She insisted she didn’t want to eat anything from animals. I asked her about eggs and milk, explaining that we get these products from animals but don’t have to kill them to get them. She insisted, no food from animals. Well, I guess my daughter is a vegan now.
Much to my delight, I was a vegetarian up until I became pregnant with Arbor. Severe anemia made me crave meat, then pregnancy caused me to become sensitive to nuts. Vegetarianism was out the window for me. Having the very child that caused me to change my lifestyle decide of her own accord that she wanted that lifestyle for herself was a singularly special moment for me. And to have her so committed to her values on the topic that she would go full-blown vegan? Impressive, to say the least.
Forty-six minutes later, Arbor was on the couch eating a cake pop, made with butter and eggs and who knows what else. I razzed her just a little, reminding her that it would be really hard to never eat these foods again. She softened her stance and decided animal foods are okay as long as they aren’t meat. Fair enough, kid. Fair enough.
It was at this moment I knew her vegetarianism would probably only last until dinner time. When she saw her options for meatless proteins on short notice, she was less than thrilled. Her prospects included about four varieties of canned beans, vegetarian breakfast sausage, sunflower seed butter and eggs. She settled on kidney beans and much to my surprise, cleared her plate of beans, mashed potatoes and green peas. Alright, I see you, Arbor. You can do this.
Before we headed to bed, I loaded the crock pot with celery, carrots and onion, then filled it to the brim with water. All night it cooked together to make a simple vegetable stock for me to use to cook for her. Over the course of the next week I would be all in on finding vegetarian and nutritions foods to keep her diet balanced and her taste buds happy. She tried bean and barley soup, seasoned kidney beans, mock meat spaghetti sauce and every lacto-ovo vegetarian’s go to– eggs.
The week carried on and I continued to cater to Arbor’s newfound dietary choices. She was still excited to be living her truth, even if it was mildly inconvenient. She visited her dad that weekend, and I packed leftover mockmeat pasta for her dinner and lunch. I’ve got your back if you wanna do this, baby. When I picked her up on Sunday, I felt certain she would have succumbed to the fragrance of bacon in the morning and given up. Much to my surprise, she held strong.
Then a couple days after she was home, Arbor came to me between meals and said, “It was fun trying to be a vegetarian but I’m ready to be my regular self again.”
“You did a great job, baby! The first time I tried to go vegetarian, I don’t think I even lasted a full day! I’m so proud of you for trying something new, sticking with it and having the courage to say you were done when you didn’t want to do it anymore. Good job!”
See, here’s the thing. Not everything is worth fighting with my kids about. Trying to cook for my babies when one of them was living her principles was a bit of a pain. But it was so worth it. I was able to show her that I can support the decisions she makes for herself, that we can all pull together and try new things to support one another and that just because we try something doesn’t mean we have to stick with it. Since our vegetarian week, Arbor hasn’t fought about the food on her plate as much. She’s more open-minded and feels empowered in making choices about herself. Whether she decided to be a vegetarian again or not, I know that we all left this experience admiring Arbor’s dedication and feeling good about our ability to rise to the Occassion to support her.
Last year, I had my first Thanksgiving as a single person in ages. So I decided to take that opportunity to host Friendsgiving for some of the people I adore. It was a great time but ultimately, a little stressful to organize for that many adults. This year, we had planned on having another new experience: spending Thanksgiving with my family in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, my budget didn’t end up allowing us to take another road trip but it did allow us to have a modest meal together as a family of three.
The drowsy kids got all of Wednesday off of school, so we used that time to get to enjoy a proper day off together. Since separating from their dad, I have the kids all week, but they spend just about every weekend with my ex. This allows them to get quality time with both of their parents regularly, while also allowing me to work on weekends so we can avoid the massive childcare bill that comes with me working a nine-to-five gig. As their school days have gotten longer, we’ve found less and less time in the evenings to really DO a lot of family stuff. So random Wednesdays off from school are a cherished treat for our family. Alistair, Arbor and I went with our neighbor (and honorary brother to me & Uncle to the kids), Ant, and his daughter to the Science Museum of Virginia to see one of our favorite planetarium films, We Are Stars. Afterword, we all went to play in the exhibits for a while, then a drive thru lunch at Burger King. I’m not a regular mom. I’m a cool mom. We spent the afternoon watching TV and movies, hanging out and rolling the kids into a two-headed blanket burrito.
On Thursday, we had a simple meal that actually meant a lot to me. I made a baked ham with pineapple and brown sugar glaze, mashed potatoes from scratch, ham gravy and green peas. This time last year, Alistair was still diagnosed with food allergies to soy, green peas and pork and being considered high risk for peanut and tree nut allergies. This year, he has been cleared of all food allergies and has been enjoying trying everything from PBJs to bacon. Arbor was recently cleared for green peas but is still undergoing testing for nuts. She’s never had a pork allergy. So this seemingly simple meal really highlighted some things we are quite thankful for– the ability to enjoy more food experiences together.
Ant joined us for a plate around lunch time, then I took the kids to visit their dad’s side of the family for the remainder of their fall break. We saw many of the aunts, some cousins and they even pulled together a last minute Thanksgiving meal. Check out the delicious plate I got to take with me for after I was done driving Uber. I’ve gotta admit it really hit the spot to shove my face with sweet potato pie, mac n cheese and sweet potatoes when I got in. Lucky for me, I only decided to Lyft until about 10:00 PM before getting an invitation to play some cards, drink a few beers and enjoy the company of some of my favorite humans.
This Thanksgiving was easily the least stressful Thanksgiving I’ve had so far. It’s my favorite holiday but I always meet it with a little bit of grief and sadness. My parents live 1200 and 3000 miles away from me, respectively and my geographically closest relatives are my sisters who live three hours away. But this year, it felt simple. I was having dinner with my tiny humans and feeling exceedingly thankful for the incredible friends who have become closer than family to me.
Thank you for letting me rave about my low key holiday.
It’s been some time since we last talked and part of me feels like I owe you an explanation. It’s been a funky year for me. It might have been a funky year for you too. I really want to tell you about something that I’ve walked through this year that was a new experience for me.
It’s my first year as a single mom and my entire world was flipped on its head. I found myself exceedingly exhausted. Just that to my bones tiredness. I went to the doctor to get my thyroid checked, certain I was hypothyrodic. Not only did we check my TSH but she checked my cholesterol and vitamin D to make sure a few things were working right. The next week, I had results and she told me everything was within the range of normal. I felt like I was about to cry. Why was I so exhausted all the time? Was I just lazy? Did I need to get over myself and just truck through? That sounded like the most overwhelming task of all– keep faking it until I make it. I just couldn’t anymore.
“You have many of the symptoms of clinical depression. I’d like you to try an antidepressant.”
My heart sank. I’m not depressed. I’m not sad. I can’t be depressed if I’m not sad. I love my life. I don’t want to end it. I don’t want to hurt myself. My life isn’t perfect but I’m not depressed. I was skeptical, to say the least, and certainly not depressed. You see, I’ve been depressed before. I spent my teenage years living in a group home feeling the lowest I ever have in my life. I only wanted to die. Having depression I could live with, that simply wasn’t possible.
But at the end of the day, I really just wanted to feel better. So despite my reservations, I gave the prescription a try. I was tired of fighting with my alarm clock every morning. I was tired of insomnia that kept me up until 4:00 am. I was tired of feeling like I was running on empty. I was just tired of being tired. I missed feeling like a boss for waking up at 5:00 am to knock out client work. I missed feeling like super mom. I missed feeling like me.
The first two days of the new drugs made me feel really off. I hated it. I felt nauseated. My mouth was dry. I had no appetite. My brain felt a little foggy. By day three, the only side effect that remained was a tremor in my jaw that made it look like I was shivering and some irritating sexual side effects. Within a week, I felt less tired but still tired. I kept with the drug for a month before I had a follow up appointment. I confirmed I was starting to feel better but still wasn’t quite there. I told her about my side effects and she reassured me that those tend to go away after your body regulates. She increased my dosage and we agreed to stick with it for another month. And wouldn’t you know, the strangest thing happened.
The side effects started dissipating. My energy started increasing. I was in bed at a respectable time and I would wake up before my alarm. Mornings stopped being a battle of Carlene against the world. My kids were less annoying with their never-ending barrage of questions and requests. My workflow improved. I was able to handle the demands of the day without shutting down. I started to feel like me again. My depression came on so subtly that I didn’t notice just how much I didn’t feel like myself.
Last Monday, I woke up and felt a fresh wind of life in my lungs. It felt like I had been sleeping for the past six months and was finally awake. I looked around my house and saw all the chores that had been neglected for months (let’s not talk about the state of my laundry room, please) and rather than feeling overwhelmed at the work to do, I simply got to work.
Friends, I say all this to say that I haven’t been okay for a while. But I’m getting better now. And I know I can’t be the only one who has dealt with this. This experience with depression has been unlike any I’ve had before. But the treatment is still the same– get my brain chemistry leveled out, catch up on the things that fell behind, make time for my loved ones and accept the help being given to me. It’s okay to not be okay. It’s not okay to give up.
Antidepressants are saving my life. My day to day life. My wake up and get shit done life. My not hating adulthood life. My actually enjoying my family life. My connecting with people I care about life. And friends, I want you to know what’s going on in my life. So if you’re near by, please call me and lets get coffee. If you’re struggling, shoot me a message and lets commiserate. And if there’s anything I can do to help you, let me know. I’m here for you.
2016 was weird. 2017 is weird. Life is weird. In my home, things have been changing quite a bit over the past year. I’ve enjoyed getting settled into entrepreneurship and single-motherhood and really doing some self-discovery in the process. I’ve been attempting to apply mindfulness as a conscious goal of my life, which often means setting dedicated and undivided attention time for my children. Last summer, I decided my kids needed to start getting some summer vacation experiences. So we enjoyed our first day-trip to the beach and our first backyard camping experience together. Both required a few hours in the car and were incredible family trips. During our camping trip, I set an out-of-office reply inspired by another parent who sought to make memories with his family. Here’s my message from last August.
The drowsy kids enjoying some sandbox fun during out backyard camping trip last summer.
Last Summer’s Auto-Reply
The other day I was listening to a great story on NPR about Michael Merschel’s art of the out-of-office-reply and felt so inspired. Over the past month or so, I have been working non-stop to try to get Carlene Can up and running for each of my new clients. Thank you all so much for helping to keep me busy and motivated! But a weekend has finally come along where I have the time, motivation and cooperative weather to give my children their first ever camping experience. We are packing up the Prius with our tent, some books, coloring supplies and bathing suits and going off the grid for a couple of days.
I have an immense love for the digital world. It’s both enabled my livelihood and helped me to foster some incredible long-term friendships with many spectacular people. But in my love for the internet and technology, I want to be sure that I am sending the right message to my tiny humans. Work matters. Business matters. But unplugging and spending time with family and nature matters just as much. Nothing compares to teaching my preschoolers how wonderful it is to read a good book until the sun goes down then telling spooky stories with flashlight shadow puppets and trying to spot constellations under a country night sky.
I hope you’ll forgive my inability to answer your calls or emails until I’m back in the city. I assure you they will be taken care of with a fresh, rejuvenated mind on Monday. If you’d like to hear about our camping trip, please feel free to check my personal blog for an update in a couple of weeks. For faster updates and hopefully some amazing photos, follow me on Instagram and Facebook. Otherwise, I’ll be in touch on Monday to help you grow your business through digital marketing solutions.
Have a wonderful weekend,
I’m excited to say that at four and five years old, I think we are ready to level-up our game to a full-blown road trip! Later this month, the drowsy kids and I will be going 2,567 miles over 38 hours (not including stops) and visiting my family in Oklahoma. I know, I’m a crazy person to go on an adventure like this while I’m outnumbered by persuasive, feisty kiddos but crazy or not, it’s official!
This trip will be our test-run for being able to make road trips a frequent part of our lifestyle. We’ll be packing up tablets, old cell phones, and audiobooks to pass the time on the road, as well as a cooler stocked with sandwiches, bottles of water and other healthy snacks. With a healthy dose of patience and determination, I’m hopeful that we will enjoy some quality time together and build some meaningful memories.
If you’d like to follow our journey, you can find us on Facebook and Instagram, sharing our travel pics and how I’m balancing mindful, quality time with family against bringing my business on the road. There will be laughter, there will be tears and most importantly, there will be food! We plan to spend one night camping, yes, real camping. I don’t have words to describe how excited the kids are to get their first ever campfire, complete with s’mores. We’ll get to spend three days and four nights with my family before we head back to Virginia, pop in on a friend in Tennessee for the night and make it back to Virginia the next day. We’ve got this!
If you would like to read my auto-responder for this upcoming trip, shoot me an email at Carlene@CarleneCan.com during the week of June 18-24.
Now that I have finished school, I hope to dedicate more time to the love that got me into the social media business: blogging. You can expect to see some web design updates and some blog posts sharing the things I accomplished on the Unemployment Bucket List, reflections on our new lifestyle and information on a new podcast I am working on. I hope to see you next Sunday for my post about chasing a sense of fulfillment during this transitory period of my life.
Do me a favor and leave a comment below to help me prepare for my trip in a couple weeks. Have you been on a road trip with young children before? If so, what words of wisdom can you share? Any advice or tools you would recommend to make the trip as easy as possible?