Monday, December 28, 2015

I'm Right Here

One and a half weeks ago, on a Friday afternoon that was of little consequence to many other people, my firstborn graduated from college.

We were so excited. Like the people you see celebrating the very first person in their family to graduate from college. So stupid excited. She made it. Consequently, we made it. We got pregnant, young, unmarried, naïve, and we beat a boatload of odds. To the naysayers who bet against us, we raised a girl who grew up to be a fucking bad ass. She did it. We did it.

Yeah, we've still got two more in process, but let me just bask in this moment...for a moment.

As the processional of graduates entered the gym, I slipped down onto the floor to take a picture of my baby girl. She walked in, and I watched her face light up as she saw her dad, her boyfriend, her siblings, and then I watched her face go blank as her mouth formed the words, "Where's my mom?" I was literally 2 feet away from her, but she didn't see me because she was looking up. I said, "I'm right here, Beebs!" She beamed. I took her picture, and she said, "Go! Go!" I wasn't supposed to be on the floor.

It was another of those moments. Those physical representations of an emotional lesson I need to learn. It was my friend with her arms full of everyone else's shit. It was my daughter not seeing what was right in front of her because she was looking up.

I spend a lot of my life looking up, overthinking, improving, seeking, reaching and a lot of times missing the beauty of what is right in front of me. I've spent too much time not realizing that everything I have ever wanted and more is right here.

For as long as we've been a family, I've tried to make lots of fun traditions that will turn into happy memories for my kids. While I have some treasured memories from my childhood, too many are unpleasant. One of our traditions, picking out a Christmas tree, has gotten to be rather hectic since Chloe moved out. This year, in fact, it resulted in dragging the children out of bed and into the rain, and some tears--mine--and it crossed my mind that the memory they would probably recall in adulthood was, "Remember how Mom used to freak out and drag us to get the damn Christmas tree every year?"

And I realized that the traditions were as much for me as they were for the kids. I needed to make happy memories to replace the unhappy ones. But I don't need to force it, I just need to live. Our life is happy. Our kids are happy. It's not perfect. It might appear to be perfect on Facebook, but for every picture where we are all smiling, there are 5 where Lily is scowling or my eyes are closed or Peyton is making a funny face. And many of the ones where we are all smiling is a result of my screaming, "CAN WE JUST TAKE ONE NICE PICTURE?"

Still...when I was a little girl dreaming of how my life would be when I grew up? I could never have conjured up a life that even compared to the glorious craziness that is our Bellville. So on today's leg of the journey, I am reminding myself to look not up but at the blessed, silly, wonky-eyed imperfection that is right in front of me.


Thursday, December 17, 2015

Can You Hold This for Me?

It's a big week for us. Chloe's graduating. She's going to a grown up interview for a grown up job. I've spent a lot of time crying. Not sad crying. Not emptying nest crying. Just feeling all the feelings crying. Pride and hope and where the hell did the time go...all at the same time. I'm crying right now just writing about crying.

The past few months, I've had shoulder pain. Can't raise my arm, can't do much yoga, can't spot Lily on back handsprings kind of shoulder pain. I went to the chiropractor, and he got my back and neck in better shape than they've been in for the last 10 years. I highly recommend chiropractors, by the way. No pills, no shots, no scalpels, just good old fashioned adjustments.

Unfortunately, it didn't help my shoulder. At all.

So, I've spent weeks researching, stretching, icing, heating, taking more ibuprofen than I'm comfortable with, but nothing seemed to help that much.

Stretching helps some.

Meditation helps more.

But then...

Yesterday, Lily and I went to the Christmas Spectacular at Lakepark Farm with some friends. It's wonderful and magical, and the kids and adults alike had a great time. As we neared the end of the evening, when the kids were all tired and sugared up and slap happy, I noticed my one girlfriend sitting on a bench holding her purse, children's coats, toys they made in Santa's workshop, two cups of hot chocolate and a bag of giant turtles--the chocolate variety--as she stared blankly ahead.

Seeing my friend bogged down with so much stuff sent a bolt of clarity directly to my heart.

I'm carrying too much stuff. Some is mine, but too much of it belongs to other people. I've been unwittingly carrying around bad days, hurt feelings, secrets, confessions, judgments, expectations, insecurities and so much more.

No wonder my shoulder hurts, I'm like a freaking pack mule.

Reaching my own full hands toward her, I joked, "Can you hold this for me?"

She laughed. We laughed.

But...It's too much.

It makes my joints ache.

When the kids were little and wanted to bring a special item along somewhere we would always tell them, "You can bring it, but you have to carry it." We're not carrying it for you.

So, day by day, item by item, I am giving stuff back. I can't carry this for you. Here you go. This belongs to you. This is yours. I can't carry this for you.

You can bring it, but you have to carry it.

Whew.

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Pee Stick Celebrations and College Graduations

Lots of stories of becoming a mother start with a pee-stick celebration. Mine started with a handful of drug store tests, a case of beer, multiple packs of Marlboro Lights and this mantra: “You have got to be kidding me.”

It was July 1993. I was 20. My 18 year-old boyfriend was at a keg party. There were no cell phones, so I couldn’t text him, but I couldn’t wait. So, I chased him.

He ran away.

But then I caught him and quickly decided to run in a different direction. To dreams of writing and living in Greenwich Village, tackling the big city with my baby. He didn’t chase me. He never chased me. He knew my dreams would give way to reality and patiently waited for my return.

So…a baby. I love, love, love babies. One of the happiest days of my life was when my sister announced her pregnancy. I was 9, and I couldn’t wait to have a little baby to hold and play with. My nephew was like a real live doll. But my own baby? Mmmmmm.

After the initial shock wore off, I fell hard and fast for the tiny mass of cells growing and multiplying in my abdomen. I would lie on my back for hours watching itty bitty limbs move inside me. “Watch!” I would tell her dad, as we gently poked back at miniature knees and elbows, feet and hands.

I was certain our baby was a boy. When it was finally time for an ultrasound, my boyfriend didn’t want to know the sex. He wanted to be surprised. What’s the big surprise, my girlfriend once mused; it’s gonna be a boy or girl. It’s not like the doctor is going to proclaim, “Congratulations! It’s puppies!” So I told the ultrasound tech I wanted to know what the sex was before he came in the room. It was the 90's. It’s a girl.

A girl? Seriously? I had 5 brothers and 4 nephews, and I tearfully begged her to tell me she was sure. Show me! The technician laughed at my elation, “Did you really want a girl?” she asked. I was caught off guard as I didn’t realize how much I wanted a girl until that moment.

As the weeks passed, I fell more in love with the idea of motherhood. I was never sick or uncomfortable—the perks of being pregnant when you’re young and fit. I gained a mere 19 pounds and looked like the picture I carry around in my head of my ideal body about 5 minutes after I gave birth. 

Giving birth. All the waiting. All the anticipation. Childbirth classes. A planned c-section and boom, there she was. “Here’s your baby!” they said putting her tiny face next to mine before quickly whisking her away. This was before the days of kangaroo care and bonding with the baby right after birth.

Wait. Where are you taking her? “We have to bathe her and check her vitals. We’ll bring her back.” What seemed like days passed as they stapled my body back together, and I sobbed “I want my baby.” 

No one had warned me about the postpartum emptiness...the sense of loss I felt at my baby being on the outside instead of inside. When she was in my body, she was all mine. Once she was out I had to share her with the world. Before we had been inseparable…two souls but one body. Elizabeth Stone said, “Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” That’s it.

It’s been 21 years since my baby girl entered the world. She came with no instructions, but she taught me so much. She had no agenda, but she gave me a purpose. Before I had her, I wanted to change the world. I wanted to make a big impact. I wanted to do something great. 

Over the last 21 years, those dreams shifted. My perspective changed. I no longer seek accolades, accomplishments and applause because being a mom is more amazing than anything I could have imagined doing. It is the greatest thing I've ever done. And she has accomplished more than I'd ever dreamed possible.

In one week, this child will graduate from college. Her peers nominated her to speak at commencement. I honestly don't know if I will make it. Thinking about it makes my heart feel as if it might explode with love and pride. She has grown up to be such an amazing person. Kind, loving, compassionate, driven, bright, inspiring...a better person than I'd ever hoped or dreamed or imagined she would be. One of the most wonderful people I know. She is my best friend. My most trusted confidante and adviser. She makes me want to be a better person. She reminds me to cherish each fleeting moment with the other loves of my life because the days may be long but the years are short as the saying goes.

In one week, my beebee will graduate from college. I'm wrapping my head around that.

I wrote part of this some time ago for another site, but in working through my feelings about Chloe graduating, I felt like revisiting it. Thanks for indulging me. Also, some people still wonder and are too polite to ask: Brad was and still is my boyfriend. Yes, our kids are 21, 15, and 9. No, we've never been much good at planning.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Dichotomy Isn't a Dirty Word

We all have images in our heads of other people ... who they are based on how they act, what they say, and now, what they post on various social media outlets.

A lot of people know things about me without really knowing me. Sometimes they use those things they know to comment on who they think I am. For instance, some people say I’m fake because I used to go to church, but I also drink beer, say fuck, and support marriage equality and reproductive freedom. Some person said I favor my daughters over my son because I never post pictures of him on social media. The simple truth of that is: My girls like pictures; my boy does not. But, I am busy trying to make my little space in the universe happy, so people can talk. What they say about me isn’t my business.
Conversely, I think I know stuff about others based on the same things. I really do try to get to know people though. I like to listen to their stories, find out what makes them tick. I think people are fascinating, actually. Cats too. In fact, I like cats more than most people.

But I find it is hard to know people because many of us don’t even really know ourselves that well. I feel like we begin to know who we are when we question the limiting beliefs that keep us stuck in a cycle of self-recrimination. Each time we peel back  a layer of who our family of origin, teachers, or society told us we were or should be, we get closer to knowing our true self. Pushing past what we were told we ought to do, couldn’t be or would never amount to and seeing what untapped potential rests in our core waiting to be acknowledged and unleashed is a wonderful and challenging journey.

Whoever we are and whatever our reason for being, life is a precious and fulfilling gift. We get to love and be loved, inspire and be inspired, encourage and be encouraged. Each moment brings opportunities to choose love, compassion, kindness, patience, forgiveness. Lots of times, I don't make the best choice. But with each breath, each moment, each day, we get another chance to make a better choice.

I read a quote the other day that said: Don’t start today with the broken pieces of yesterday. Of course, I couldn’t find the author, but what a great sentiment. I have carried so much baggage around for so long. And while I could have just chosen to put it down long ago, that isn't what I do. I have to unpack everything and examine it all before choosing to find a place for it in my life or throw it in the trash. 
And a lot of it goes right in the trash. Like that one box...the one you keep moving from apartment, to condo, to house, to house. You keep bringing it with you, but you never unpack it. You don’t really even know what’s in it because the sharpie writing wore off years ago. Then one day you open it, and it’s a bunch of unwanted items you'd planned to donate years ago, but you got sidetracked. At this point, I want to kick myself wondering Why have I been carrying this box around all these years? It’s useless. I don’t want any of it. I could have gotten rid of it years ago.
It’s the same with so much crap from our past. Sometimes, we just have to open up the box and look at the crazy stuff in there to realize how preposterous it is to keep carrying it around. But then we can throw it in the trash and move on.
My box was pretty full. It’s taken lots of years, and I’m still unpacking things. It’s getting lighter.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Once Upon a Time...

You know when you hear or read something that rattles neurons around in your brain and they reconfigure in a new and improved way? Like Oprah's "AHA moments." In my curiosity and sometimes pathological pursuit of self-improvement, I stumbled into one of these revelations.

Sometimes, I hear or read the same idea repeatedly without really internalizing it. Almost every lesson in my life could be broken down piece by piece to find one of The Four Agreements as its cornerstone; still, I struggle sometimes. "Wow, did I just take that personally?" "Am I making assumptions about someone's motives?" Crap.

Onward to my point. I'm a big Brené Brown fan, and in her latest book Rising Strong, she writes about getting back up after we've been suffered a hardship. By breaking this struggle down into three distinct phases: rumble, reckoning and revolution, Brown offers commonsense tools that allow us to deal with our emotions rather than letting them deal with us. Here's an excerpt where she eloquently explains this inner "rumble" you get to have.

The point that really got me was that when something happens, we take said event and filter it through our memories, experiences, insecurities--of course the shrewish voice of our inner critic gets to weigh in--and from all of that we formulate our view of the event and thereby our reaction. Often, that reaction has absolutely no basis in fact.

Here's an example. I see a long-lost "friend" who I absolutely adore at a public event. I run up to give her a hug, and she steps back from me with a vibe that says she's definitely not reciprocating my exuberant greeting. Now, I'm standing there feeling foolish. Embarrassed. Shamed. I stammer under my breath, "Hey, it was nice to see you; take care," and walk quickly away, my cheeks burning and tears stinging my eyes.

Here is the story I hear in my head:

She never liked you.
She only pretended to like you because you hung around the same group of people.
No one really likes you.
People think you're an asshole.
Even some of your own relatives talk nasty about you.
You're worthless and unlovable and a fool.

Good. Grief. That is a wide swath of destruction from a 15-second interaction with a person who doesn't cross my life or mind on a daily basis.

In the past, and by past I mean the 42 1/2 years before I read this book, that 15-second-interaction would have destroyed me for weeks, months, who knows how long, but I would have overthought the shit out of it.

However, with this new skillset--thank you, Dr. Brown--I thought about it, but in a more productive way. I tore apart those statements and addressed them not only as lies, but also really mean hateful lies that I would never speak to anyone. Course my inner critic--she's such. a. bitch--seizes any opportunity to cut me to the quick.

The ensuing conversation in my brain went kind of like this:

So what had happened was: I saw a person I liked a lot, and she blew me off.

She never liked you. Maybe not, but I was always kind to her, and in the past she was kind to me also.
She only pretended to like you because you hung around the same group of people. So be it. I don't hang around those people anymore, but I don't dislike them. If that is the only reason she was nice to me, then she isn't really the person I thought I adored.
No one really likes you. Bullshit. My husband and children adore me. I have incredible, loyal, and amazing friends.
People think you're an asshole. I can be, for sure, but what other people think of me is none of my business. I really try hard to be kind and compassionate.
Even some of your own relatives talk nasty about you. Touché. And they are motivated by their own issues that I didn't cause and I can't fix.
You're worthless and unlovable. So. Not. True. I mean that's just ridiculous. That's like calling a skinny girl fat. You're just grasping for mean things to say now.

And so it goes. But for whatever reason, this time the lesson stuck. The story that I'm telling myself right now...about that interaction STUCK with me. I got it. Brené Brown, I love you.

Today, I saw this:
 
 
Holy Mother of Moses. That shook me to my core. I talk about my inner shrew a lot, and I realize  that her weapons of choice are the negative, critical words I heard growing up.
 
Gulp. Here's the thing: I'm far from perfect, and I have said shitty things to my kids that I don't want them to grow up and use as ammunition to attack themselves. But instead of beating myself up about it, I'm just going to keep trying to do better. I say far more kind and loving things than I do mean things. And I always apologize when I mess up.
 
Do you do this? Tell yourself stories that may not have any foundation in reality but really make you feel like crap? Is it just me and Brené Brown? Surely it can't be because home girl's selling books like she found the secret to youth and skinniness.
 
If this feels familiar for you, you should read this book. In the meantime, try to stop and listen to the story you're telling yourself. And remember. It's just a story. In your head. You can edit, rewrite, or just freaking delete it.
 
By the way, the person who didn't want to hug me? It wasn't about me at all. I can't tell her story, but her reasons for not wanting to interact with me had nothing to do with me. Don't take things personally. Don't make assumptions. Keep being a work in progress.
 
xoxo

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Here We Grow...again...

I feel like I've written about this so many times, but if the issue continues to rear its ugly head, I'll keep swatting at it. Yesterday, my little peanut told some girls at school had been mean to her. Ughhhhh...can you envision my head erupting and lava pouring down my body onto the kitchen floor? Cause that's pretty much what happens when my kids tell me someone was mean to them.

Now, these particular transgressions were mild. Passive-aggressive. Nothing outright mean. Also, let's consider that this tiny kitten is my virtual clone, and one of my biggest shortcomings is reading stuff into what people say and do. It is possible she is overreacting.

Here are the facts: No one was blatantly mean to her, but there was undercover, shady mean stuff. She picks up on that nonsense though, and it's my job to help her navigate through these issues no matter how big or small because they're all big to her.

More facts: For the life of me, I do not understand this bullshit any better having dealt with it for more than 40 years than I did when I was her age. My girlfriend said we should write a book about it. Sure, I could write a book about how annoying and stupid and hurtful and damaging it is, but could I offer any insight about how to make it less so? I don't know.

But today I saw an eagle at the lake, and that encouraged me to be courageous and stretch beyond my limits and pull together some advice people have given me, and I've given my girls over the years re: mean girls. Maybe something helpful will emerge.

Facts about Mean Girls
1. They are sneaky and sometimes snarky.
2. They bully people--overtly or covertly.
3. They are often jealous and insecure.
4. They sometimes grow up to be mean women who spawn the next generation of mean girls.
5. They probably just want love and acceptance and have a twisted way of seeking it.

Once you break them down into little pieces, it's easier to find tactics to deal with them. And it's fun to break mean people into little pieces. My mother's advice re: mean girls? Just ignore them. I used to tell my girls the same thing. Just ignore them. I never could though. And last night, after hashing through this stuff with my itty bitty girl, I realized that ignoring isn't always a valid coping mechanism. We had to come up with something better.

Here's what we threw together:

1. Be kind. You don't have to be everyone's friend, but it feels better to be kind even when someone is mean to you. People who feel loved on the inside don't treat others unkindly, so when a person treats you badly, it's probably because she feels bad on the inside.

2. Don't play with people who are mean. One of your "friends" always insists that you play the game she chooses. That's okay. Play with someone else. But all your friends are playing with her? Make new friends. You don't have to fight about it, simply remove yourself from the situation.

3. Speak up. The last thing passive-aggressive meanies want is for their behavior to be called out. "It's not kind to whisper about people." "I don't want to play with you because you are bossy to me and our other friends." "It's mean when you threaten not to be my friend or to tell on me just because I don't want to play this game." This works for all ages with minor modifications. Try it. It's empowering. And it's almost as fun as breaking mean people into little pieces :)

4. My favorite advice is from my Queen Mother Maya: When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time. I'm not saying that people can't change, but when someone is mean to you, pay attention. When you see a "friend" being mean to someone else, remember, tomorrow that someone could be you. Notice the person who gossips about everyone. What does she say about you when you aren't around? Watch how people treat waitresses, fast food employees, bank tellers...people they believe to be...inferior. Trust me. It tells you a lot about a person. How do people act when they think no one's looking? I can tell you with absolute certainty: The same people who were mean to me 20, 30, 40 years ago are still mean to me today. Even the ones who smile and hug me.

5. Finally, give people grace. Mean girls included. You don't have to hang out with them, be their friend or even speak to them. But we don't know what's going on in someone's life that makes them act the way they do. We don't have to try to understand or figure them out. We don't have to read into their actions. We can give them grace...freely...and maybe from a safe distance.

At this point, I've cut all the mean girls and people and even a few cats--cause some of them are just assholes--out of my life. I'm no longer trying to make people like me. I'm not interested in being the homecoming queen. And I have zero energy to give people who don't bring joy to me and to our family.

Fortunately I am extravagantly blessed and grateful to be surrounded by smart, kind, compassionate people who love me for who I am while challenging me to learn and grow. And I'm trying my damnedest to be kind, compassionate, loving and forgiving while raising 3--or 2, is Chloe raised? gulp--people who will be the good...the change I want to see in the world.

And you know what? It's working. My big girl excelled through three years at a women's college. She met amazing people who encouraged and inspired, believed in, challenged, taught and learned with her. She didn't have hardly any mean girl nonsense. It's a slow process, but it's working.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pro-Choice

A lot of energy is focused on what women wear. People have very strong opinions about what is or is not appropriate for certain body shapes or ages. I cut my hair off at 30 because my mom told me it was inappropriate for women over 30 to have long hair. For real. It's since grown back, and I have no plans for another age or shame-based shearing. I don't care what other people wear or what people think of what I wear. Still...

Awhile back a woman took to the internet saying that "she wasn't judging anyone else,"--BUT, there's always a but (butt), right??--she wasn't going to wear leggings or yoga pants anymore because her husband told her he had a hard time not looking at women in yoga pants. I believe she might have also claimed Jesus' involvement. Okay, if my husband told me that, I'd think he needed to keep his eyes in his own business not that I needed to wear looser pants so that other women's husbands weren't tempted to look at my ass. Maybe that's just me.

Let me address one little thing: While yoga pants, leggings and other articles of women's apparel are hotly debated, men walk around in speedos, and no one blinks. Seriously? Men are distracted by the curve of a woman's butt, but everyone can ignore the outline of a penis and testicles? Mind. Blown.

In all honesty, I couldn't care less about this debate. I will wear leggings all day every day. However, it came to my attention that Lakeview Middle School recently instituted a "No Leggings" rule. My little peanut, who will attend this school next year, is distraught because her wardrobe is 98% leggings.

I'm not sure how to approach this.

I am not advocating clothing anarchy. Dress codes certainly serve a purpose, and boys and girls alike should dress appropriately for school. But before someone jumps down my throat, let me say this: If my son cannot concentrate on math because a girl in his class is wearing yoga pants, that is HIS problem. Not hers.

Can you say rape culture?

Before I went to public school in 8th grade, my dad gave me a rather unconventional birds and bees talk. Basically, he told me all kinds of different lines boys would use to try to coerce me into sex. He then pointed out that each and every line was bullshit. He said, "Boys CAN control themselves. Don't let them convince you that they can't. It's a choice."

I have explained to my daughters and my son that our bodies are our personal property as are other people's. What you wear is your business. And what other people wear is theirs. You can never touch someone without their permission, and no one should ever touch you without yours. If I wear a short skirt, it is because I chose to wear a short skirt. If a man looks at me wearing a short skirt, it is because he chose to look at me wearing a short skirt. If my husband looks at woman in yoga pants, he chose to. The woman in yoga pants didn't make him do it. It's a choice. It's a choice. It's. A. Choice.

I promise you, if I see a man in a speedo, I'll choose to look away.

Unfortunately, circling back to my point, now, my teeny girl doesn't have a choice. She can't wear what is most comfortable to her because someone in a position of authority decided that girls (even teeny ones) wearing leggings are inappropriate. That kinda infuriates me. In fact, this whole demonization of women's clothing seems to be a smoke screen preventing genuine issues from being addressed in schools and in life. How about if we actually start raising our children to be kind, considerate and compassionate adults rather than finding lame excuses for why they're not?

One of my girlfriends tells her son, "It's your job to be kind and help people." She is right, and her son is a darling child, who I'm confident will grow up to be a kind and compassionate man. What if we took that approach to life? What if we woke up every day striving to learn to live and love wholeheartedly? To forgive, accept, and be kind to ourselves and one another? Every day I try. And I fall short. Especially on days when people make a big deal about leggings. For real. But, I get up and try again the next day. Usually in leggings.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Being Here Now

With school starting for my little and medium children and my oldest babe fixin' to graduate from college, I've been dealing with this nagging feeling of, "Should I be doing more?" For the past few years, I've settled comfortably into being a full-time mom and wife. I've found my best self in encouraging my people to be theirs. But as their physical need for me lessens, I feel this pull...get a job, finish grad school, do something...more.

For a long time I struggled with learning how to be present, but now that I'm living more engaged in the moment, satisfied and grateful for our life, I'm wondering: Is this enough? Am I complacent? Am I using my unique gifts to their fullest potential? Naturally, the answer is often a resounding NO.

Earlier this year, inspired by an amazing friend, I decided to pursue yoga teacher training. I have found great peace and mindfulness through my own yoga and meditation practice, and I absolutely adore and am in awe of the woman who was leading the training. Fueled by ambition, I ran full speed in the direction of, "I'll be a yoga life coach!"

But you know how sometimes you run full speed in the wrong direction? Is that just me? Anyway, it appears I let my infatuation with someone else's dream pass as my own. I love practicing yoga, but it is very personal for me. Yoga, in fact, is one of the few gifts I regularly give myself. Don't we do that too often, as women? Especially as moms. We give our gifts away.

Of course you can have some of my ice cream!

You like this sweater? Here, take it. I rarely wear it.

You can watch something; I wasn't watching this silly Oprah episode.

Those are just a few top-of-mind examples, but don't we do that as women? Especially as moms. We give all our goodness away and sometimes forget to save anything for ourselves? That's not necessarily a bad thing, but it's okay--in fact it's healthy--to keep some goodness for ourselves.

My husband travels, and the past month he has been gone a lot. Weird segue way, but we'll get there. Promise. This month, he was gone for a week, the day he came home, I left for the weekend. The day after I came home, he left for another week. So in the past two weeks, I've seen him for about 6 hours. He is my person. His unique love fills my tank in a way nothing and no one else can. So, in this drought, I've been running on empty.

That emptiness is reflected in my short-tempered interactions with...well pretty much anyone I've interacted with, but specifically, my itty-bitty girl. See, I am her person, and when I'm empty, I have nothing to give. When my kids were little and had fits, I sometimes met their outbursts with, "Did you not get loved enough today?" And then we would cuddle. A kiss, a hug, a long snuggle all have magical healing properties. Sometimes I met their screams with screams of my own too. Just sayin'. But yesterday, when my tiny girl screamed at me, "I DIDN'T GET LOVED ENOUGH TODAY!" shit got real.

The other day I heard Bishop TD Jakes say, "You cannot reap what belongs to others. You have to reap what is yours." Goodness, that statement will rock your world if you let it. I sometimes get caught up in what society thinks I should be doing...getting a job, finishing grad school, doing. something. more. But maybe that's not for me? Maybe I'm just supposed to be right where I am. Putting on my own oxygen mask so I can put Lily's on. Making sure my own love tank is filled so I can pour into my kids. Finding space and following my breath on the mat so I can be fully engaged with the people who count on me.

Perhaps I'm not using my gifts to their fullest potential, but I am using them. I'm always going to aspire for more, but today more is right here.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Happy birthday, Harry O.

Today's my dad's birthday. He would be 99. Isn't that crazy? We would have had a big party. And he would laugh and tell inappropriate jokes and probably offend somebody. I'd offer him a drink, and he would ask for Turkey 101, which I kept a bottle of just for him. He wanted to live to be 106 to break the record of his oldest living relative because he was competitive as F$%K.

I miss him.

Some days more than others but really a lot today. He was such a character. When I was a little girl, he traveled frequently and brought me t-shirts from wherever he went. My favorite was from the Playboy Club. I had no idea what that place was or what the bunny symbolized. I doubt that my mother did either because she let me wear it every week--only once a week though--to kindergarten. I loved it so much that even after my mom bleached it until the sleeves were lavender instead of black and parts of the bunny were falling off, I still wore it. And picked at the bunny's ears.

He also bought me Pete Rose and Johnny Bench jerseys, which I loved almost as much.

I used to get migraines when I was little--4 or 5 I think because I still slept on a cot in the hallway, since there wasn't room for a 7th kid in our 4-bedroom house. My dad took a course in hypnosis to try to help me. He even made a tape of himself that I could listen to if I got them while he was out of town. I don't remember if it helped, but it was so dear.

When my brother came home from his last day of 6th grade with his friends' autographs all over his shirt, I was sad about being homeschooled and not having friends to sign my shirt. That goofball signed numerous crazy versions of Harry O. Swan on it. It wasn't the same, and it made me mad at the time because he ruined my shirt. But now he was so desperate to make me feel better ... it makes my heart ache a bit.

He used to take me to baseball games at the old Cleveland stadium when the Indians sucked, and you could sit wherever you wanted. We walked to Mollenkoph stadium to watch Harding football games, and stayed til just after halftime because the majorettes were my favorite part. But then we had to go home because my mom got nervous if we were out too late "on foot."

When I was in 7th grade, he retired. I was still homeschooled at the time, and we started watching soap operas together...As the World Turns and Guiding Light. The next year, when I went to public school, he would tell me everything that happened with the characters. He did this for years.

I loved the band INXS, mostly the beautiful lead singer, Michael Hutchence, who died tragically young. In the early days of MTv, my dad would watch all day when I was at school, thumb poised over the remote, to record their videos for me. I probably still have a vhs tape somewhere with Need You Tonight on it.

He saw the world in an interesting way and cracked me up with his observations. Once, noting my mom's affection for Brad, he mused, "I think your mom might like your husband more than you do." He also gave me random advice on how to "take care" of Brad, which usually prompted me to leave the room, and Brad to squirm out of the conversation saying, "I'm good. She's good. We're good." Good grief.

My dad wasn't perfect by any means, but I think the most important thing you can do for your kids is to make them feel loved. He made a lot of mistakes, but I knew he loved me. Oprah always says we all need the same things..."Do you see me? Do you hear me? Do I matter?" I knew that I mattered to him. And he adored my kids in a way that absolutely astounded me.

I read a book recently called Lost & Found by Brooke Davis. It is a quirky, charming and bittersweet novel, but at the end was a short essay by the author, who lost her mother in a tragic accident. She writes: I am beginning to understand that grief is now, simply, a part of everything I do, everything I say, everything I write. Everything I am.

For awhile after my dad died, I was so busy being grateful for the peaceful way he died at such an old age that I didn't let myself be sad that he was, in fact, dead. But as that author points out, when you lose someone you love, you have to kind of "relearn the world" without them in it.

I'm still doing that. I still have things to tell him. Some days, I wish that I could walk into that Porter Street house--which may or may not be a meth lab now--and roll my eyes and correct him when he called me by my sister's name. I'd love to climb into his lap and rub my thumbs into the indentations his thumbnails wore into the wooden arm of his chair.

We could sit for a long time and not say anything. Then he would gasp as if he had the most important news in the world and say, "You know what happens?!?"

"Shit," I would respond.

"You got it," he would chuckle.

Happy birthday, Dad. I wish we could have a room temperature beer and watch The Price is Right, but Chloe and I will drink mojitos in your honor. I love you and miss you. Every. Damn. Day.




Tuesday, June 23, 2015

This...

I haven't written much lately because my usually traveling husband has been spending an unusual amount of time home. That has been an incredible blessing and a great way to start the summer. It also means that instead of writing to process all my overthinking I lay it on him. He has an amazing ability to take all the complex craziness in and make it seem okay. And since he is an incredible judge of character, the fact that he loves me and believes in me have helped me overcome many obstacles.

Recently I read a novel about a family that suffered a horrific tragedy akin to the tragedy(ies) my own family of origin endured. It was bizarre to read this story while remembering how my family members absorbed the pain ... watching how it ripped this fictional family apart while considering the path of destruction it carved through our lives.

My younger kids ask about my dead brothers a lot because they never met them. I think they're a bit like me in that when I love someone I want to know every single thing about them. Recently, in talking with Peyton, I likened my brother Chris to the sun. Of course this was just my perspective and certainly everyone in my family would tell a different story, but to me, he was the center and the rest of us orbited around him. When he died, everyone kind of spun out of control in different ways. When my next brother died, those wounds that had scabbed and scarred but never actually healed were ripped back open.

When my dad died, the one common thread holding us together--our affection for him--was severed.

In a prophetic moment a few weeks before he died, Chloe said, "Mommy, I'm afraid if Papa dies everything will fall apart." By everything, she meant my family of origin. And in many ways, it did. I don't have the kind of close relationships with my siblings I hope my kids will have one day.

I look at my siblings now, and I think they're good people. They're great parents and friends. They contribute to the world in positive ways. The few times a year we see each other, we're mostly able to enjoy each other's company. Considering our history, that's pretty good. Sometimes, when I look at other familial relationships I feel sad for what we don't have. But our common ground is a burial ground of secrets and pain. But in many ways I think we've all created the lives we wanted, and I don't know about them, but I no longer care to look back. Families of origin though...they always remind you where you came from, who you were, what you shared.

My dad wasn't really part of the façade; he was pretty real. We talked about everything. He was at times the worst person I knew and at others the best. A lot like me. He was black, white and a million shades of grey, but I understood him because we were the same. Learning to understand my dad, loving, forgiving and accepting him flaws and all helped me to do the same with myself.

And now when I look at my family ... my husband and kids and friends I realize they are the family I always wanted. People I can trust and rely on. People who love and accept me unconditionally. People who remind me of everything that is good and pure and loveable about me instead of pulling me back to dark places I'd rather forget.

Not too long ago a very dear friend said to me that she thought we had a perfect life. We did a good job of faking it. And in many ways we still do. But, I have a hard time with fakeness, superficiality, small talk. It was always hard for me to smile and nod and pretend things were great if they weren't. On Father's day, Brad saw through my attempts to be cheerful and asked what was bothering me. I didn't want to ruin his day, so I simply said, "It's father's day and my dad is dead and I don't want to talk about it."

That frankness is hard for some people, but I can't be responsible for other people's stuff anymore. I'm way more comfortable with someone divulging their deepest darkest secrets than a conversation about the weather. I mean I can make small talk because I am enough of a pleaser, a good little girl, that I want people always to be comfortable, but I'd really prefer not to. This has always been one of my biggest struggles with my mom. My mom's chief forms of communication are jokes and gossip. She doesn't want to talk about feelings, and I don't want to tell her anything that is happening in my life because she just turns it into gossip.

It's a super weird dynamic. I've pulled myself back enough from the madness now that I can see how it plays out. I can see how she plays my siblings and me against one another. I had to see that in order to deal with the underlying causes that drove me to binge eat. When I was little, my mom controlled every single aspect of my life. What I wore, what I watched on tv, the activities I participated in, who I played with ... she even pulled me out of elementary school and home-schooled me so as to exercise complete control. My sister rebelled against my mom by not eating. I think probably the same way my mom rebelled against her own mother. However, I took the opposite route.

I would sneak bags of cookies and chips up to my room and eat under the covers. Then, when she would go to bed, I would watch forbidden tv shows. And sometimes, I would steal my grandmother's cigarettes and smoke them behind the garage when I was swinging on my tire swing. Once she caught me and said, "You didn't put that [the cigarette] in your mouth did you?" I told her no and she was able to stay comfortably in denial.

One reason I feel compelled to talk about everything is that my whole life was filled with secrets. It was a show--not one my mom approved of--and we were the cast. Pretend everything is okay. Lie about the bruise on your face. We don't really know how Chris died--it was an overdose. Blame Brian's suicide on his "demons"--the demons actually lived in our house. But no one ever told the truth about what the fuck was actually going on.

Once, my mom, gossiping about someone else said, "I feel so sorry for her. I don't think she had very many happy holidays when she was growing up." I asked her, "Were you ever at one of our holidays? Where someone nearly always got beat, cussed out or stormed out in a rage?" The windows of our glass house are jagged shards.

So, I decided to look at all this stuff again, slog through it, and try to be done with it once and for all. I can't change anything that happened and honestly, I wouldn't. It all brought me to where I am surrounded by people I love and who truly love and accept me. People who dislike me are dealing with something in themselves, and though I offer them compassion I no longer feel driven to gain their affection. Sometimes that desire still wells up inside me, but I feel it and move on. It's not a bad thing to want people to like you, but sacrificing who you are to gain acceptance isn't healthy. That statement seems so commonsensical, but it's taken me a good part of my life to truly believe that my worth isn't contingent on anyone's approval.

I'm not going to "share" this because it's too real for Facebook. But I felt compelled to write it whether it was just for me or if it would help someone else. I listened to a great message last week by Steven Furtick, and in it he said that two of the most powerful words we can say to another person are, "Me too." So, if you've lost someone you love, me too. If you've felt not good enough, me too. If you have felt undeserving of love and grace, me too. Thought you were broken or flawed? me too. Strived for acceptance? Me too. Made bad choices? Me too. Wondered if your family would be better off without you? me too. Drank too much? me too. Sworn at your kids? ME TOO. Done things you're ashamed of? Me too. Questioned your sanity, your worth, your goodness, your purpose, the reason you're here? Me too. Keep going. You're worthy. You're deserving. You're good. You're loved more than you'll ever imagine. If you're breathing you're here for a reason, and you have a purpose. Me too.



Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Jealousy, Envy and Expectations. Oh. My.

A few nights ago, fueled by the company of some cool women and cold beer, I got to participate in an interesting discussion. As can happen, when a group of like-minded moms get to sit around and discuss their feelings without 42,000 interruptions, we went pretty deep.

We talked about how jealousy, envy and expectations seem overwhelmingly to be the thieves that steal our joy. Sometimes jealousy and envy are used interchangeably, but they are opposite sides of the same destructive coin. I honestly have spent a lot of time studying the differences to keep them straight in my head.

Jealousy is the uncomfortable feeling that someone wants what we "have." The knot in your stomach when a woman gets too friendly with your man. The heat that rushes to your cheeks when a new employee seems to be hustling for your job. Your husband's snide remarks when a man likes too many of your pictures. All generated from the same place: You can't have what's mine. OH. Hell. No.

Envy, on the other hand, is our desire to have what someone else has. It's the sinking in your stomach when dropping your baby off at daycare and you see another mom walking her baby in a stroller. The tightening of your jaw when you have to say no to a vacation all your friends will enjoy but you can't afford it. It's the sideward glance at the skinny woman eating a ginormous piece of cheesecake. Envy comes from: Why can't I have that? Hmph.

And expectations. I used to be the QUEEN of expectations. If I had a nickel for every time I was let down because someone didn't live up to what I wanted from them, I'd take a fabulous vacation. And beyond that, I'd love to have a dollar for each time Brad didn't make the "grand gesture" I had conjured up in my head. Brad never knew what the grand gesture was nor has he ever been a grand gesture kind of guy so it wasn't fair, realistic, good for our relationship or my mental health for that matter to continuously--usually subconsciously--expect him to do something that was only in my mind.

Although I did learn that he wants very much to make me happy, and when I tell him what I want, most of the time he does it. Also, now that he knows how much I love grand gestures, he occasionally makes them. Huh. Expectations met.

When you take all that into consideration, it's pretty clear how these things can quickly and efficiently snuff out your joy. So what do you do?

...

You didn't think I knew ... did you? Have you ever read this blog? I don't know anything. I just overthink and ruminate and share my musings in the hopes that one of you will message me and say, "Hey, here is what you need to do." Sometimes, that happens too because some of you are SUPER smart, and I love you and appreciate your sharing of knowledge. And I adore every single one of you who simply says, "Me too, sister."

In the meantime, here's my game plan. I do not feel much jealousy anymore as I am secure in my relationships--and myself. I was a hellcat for sure, but at this point in my life, I like and accept myself, and shockingly, when you are happy and satisfied with yourself, you don't feel crazy possessive about your man or relationships or anything else. Because you no longer feel secretly unworthy or undeserving of what you have*, you no longer worry that someone else is going to swipe it from you.

This carries over to the envy side of the coin as well. Being okay with myself keeps me from wanting what others have. There have been times in my life when I felt things turned out better for other people, whereas a metaphorical dark cloud seemed planted over me. I realize now that despite some misfortune, our life continues to turn out pretty fantastically. And like the meme says: Happiness isn't having what you want; it's wanting what you have. I wouldn't want anything other than what we have.

I'm still working on the expectations part. I'm way better with most of my people, but every once in awhile, I let myself expect something from someone outside my circle, often with hurtful results. But I learn or relearn a painful lesson. That's a really cool thing about life: We keep getting chances to make different choices, learn new lessons and get it right--or at least right for us. How about you? How do you manage expectations? Do you harbor any secret jealousy or envy? Are you the object of someone else's--you know that's about them, not you; right?

I hope that wherever you are and whatever you feel today, you can stop for a moment and remind yourself that you are loved, accepted, worthy and deserving just exactly as you are.

xoxo

*My sister in law posted this article and Ted Talk earlier re: feeling like an imposter. It's freaking awesome if you have a moment. Technically the Ted Talk is 15 minutes, but it's worth every minute.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Lighten Up

I had another revelation today. Also on the way to take P to school. It wasn't so much a revelation as it was a notion I'd read somewhere that popped back into my head suggesting that it required deeper exploration.

All the books, blogs, articles I read drive the same points home. Obviously, because everything I read, see or hear gets filtered through my crazy colander of experiences. The holes let the same stuff drain through while the solid pieces catch anything my subconscious deems to be important. Imagining my mind as a colander makes me laugh because it reminds me of my dad's fondness for saying, "You need that like you need a hole in your head" about various and sundry things. But now that I think about it, I could use a few more holes in my head so that more stuff could slide through rather than cluttering my mind.

This illogical imagery--like most things in my life--brings me to The Four Agreements. Specifically the second: Don't take anything personally. This one is my nemesis. I do an excellent job of helping other people not to take things personally. I have long discussions with my kids when people do mean stuff it's usually because of some hurt inside them and no reflection on us. I'm even doing a better job of not getting my own feelings hurt as much, but I still have this one habit I need to work on...

When something happens and I strain it through my personal colander of experiences, often, I think what comes out the other side is...right or true or good or whatever positive self-righteous adjective you'd care to insert here.

A few of my friends and I even jokingly say, "Oh if everyone were only as perfect as us." But I'm realizing more and more, that sometimes, I actually do impose my own feelings about what's right or true or good onto other people. Often against their will. Like I'm perfect or something. I feel like an asshole right now. Thanks to this amazing article my fabulous and brilliant friend Molly posted, I'm gonna stay with this feeling. Oh, and I'm also gonna share it with you. Because...."Omigosh this is so disgusting. Taste It." Right? Well, something like that.

I'm not going to name specific examples of my doing or having done this because then I'd have to draw on a bunch of personal stories and my friends would start texting me like, "Was that me?" And then it would be a whole to-do of I'm sorry's and crying and I love you's, which is so awesome and one of my favorite things ever, but we have baseball every night this week so there's no time.

BUUUUUUTTTT, I can use my husband for an example because that poor guy is all to often on the business end of my crazy but shockingly knows I'm this much of an asshole and loves me anyway, God bless his patient soul. He's a prize of epic proportions.

So, when we were first married, he used to tell me, "Lighten up." That's it. He didn't mean anything by it except that I should stop taking myself, the situation, life, whatever so seriously. However, I filtered that phrase through a lifetime of seeing the destructive path carved by being critical, perfect, fake and uptight and was doing my best to be a lighthearted, free-spirited fairy princess. So, I didn't hear, "Lighten up." I heard, "You have completely failed and become everything you tried so hard not to be." That was 20 years ago, but it's still a relevant example. Also, that phrase has long been banned from our house.

That's just one of thousands of examples and only the tip of the iceberg really, but do you get it? So, my girlfriend then tells me that her husband told HER to lighten up, and I'm all, "Oh. No. He. Didn't," (cause I immediately get ghetto--I can say that cause I am straight up from the ghetto) and now I'm projecting my own experiences onto her situation whether or not she had any negative connotations associated with the phrase, "Lighten up." She does NOW.

Whew, I'm glad I worked through that. Aren't you delighted you came along? I only shared it because a few of you profess to share a compartment with me on the crazy train so I thought it might resonate. Also, if I've strained your experiences through my crazy colander...I'm really, truly sorry.  I'm a work in progress. We all are. Peace...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Your voice DOES sound like that, but it's okay.

Yesterday, I had a near-death experience. It made me think about a lot of stuff. This is pretty erratic. You've been warned.

When I was a kid, my parents were hard on us. They expected certain things that most parents do: respect, good grades, honesty, responsibility. There was another unspoken expectation that no one outwardly acknowledged, but we all knew existed: Perfection. I'm not beating up my parents. They did the best they could with the tools they had to raise us into productive members of society, and I don't hold them accountable--anymore--for my shortcomings. I beat myself up instead.

As a young mom, I was super hard on Chloe. I didn't get on her about her weight or hair color, as my mom had done with me, but I pushed her to excel at everything she did. When she was about 15, and I witnessed the crazy high standard of excellence she imposed on herself, I realized that I had instilled in her not only a drive to succeed, but also a drive to be perfect. I really beat myself up about that. I still do sometimes.

Beating myself is something I have excelled at for decades. When I was very little, I was frightened by my dad's yelling, but I quickly learned that I could be just as mean and scary by yelling and saying mean things. I also learned that when you say mean things to yourself, it doesn't hurt nearly as much when other people say those things. Since I'd told my 100 pound 13-year-old self how fat I was, my mother's admonishments that I "didn't have the eating habits of a thin person," went in one ear and out the other.

Still, I am a world-class champion when it comes to being hard on myself. It makes me laugh sometimes when people say or write derogatory things about me. Sticks and stones, pal; I've said way worse to myself.

My quest for self-awareness threatens to be pathological at times. My husband says, "Baby, you're too hard on yourself." My girlfriends say, "You're a good person." My kids say, "You're the best mom." My mental health professional friend says, "Try not to overthink your parenting." I read and pray and try but still continue the complicated cha-cha of self-acceptance and self-improvement.

Today, however, I had a revelation taking P to school. Revelations often happen in the car, and I hear Anne Lamott advising, "Writers always have a pen and paper handy to write these things down." And I do, Annie, I do, but I'm driving!! So, I open the notes app, press the little microphone and blurt out my revelation as fast as I can before it gets lost in the great abyss of nonsense I fret about.

Then I come home, make a wonderful cup of coffee and sit down to write an encouraging piece based on this revelation. But I open my notes app and it says: "All of thenthings we thought made us unlocks let." What the fuck does that mean? Read it again...slower this time... "All of thenthings we thought made us unlocks let."

You know when you hear your voice on a recording and think I don't sound like that? Well, I do sound like that (my recorded voice is high-pitched and childlike, not at all sexy and ScarJo as I envision it) and evidently, I don't speak in complete thoughts but weird fragments of ambiguity instead. That. Just. Figures.

Now, if you're still here, I promise I'm going to get to the point. Or at least a point. Sometimes, Brad asks me, "What made you think of that?" And I give him a long complicated story such as the dog was dreaming of running and the way her toenails clicked on the floor reminded me of tap dancing which made me think of Chloe in her only dance recital and how she stood in one position tapping her heel in a little purple costume and the sequins scattered all over my car which reminded me that I used to pick up sequins off the floor at Joann Fabrics when I went there with my mom and she took me to the dairy queen after but wouldn't let me get a peanut buster parfait like I wanted and made me get a small chocolate cone. I hate chocolate cones. It's so exhausting to be in my head for even one minute, you guys.

Anywayyyyyyy, my revelation was this: Sometimes the people in our lives who are "supposed to" love us fall short. Our parents, siblings, you know...the blood people. When this happens, God, or the Universe, whatever you believe--personally, I think we quibble more on semantics than actual beliefs--provides other people. These people love us not because they are "supposed to" but because they choose to. They look beyond our brokenness and imperfections, our past mistakes and current shortcomings and actually see us. These are the friends who encourage us, the partners who forgive us, the kids who adore us. They are the ones who look at all the things that we thought made us unlovable (that is what the illogical fragment meant, btw) and see instead what made us so special and unique.

This past week, I've been on self-help reading overload. I've mined my childhood for memories of my mom and dad and found both delightful and disturbing ones. I've written personal mission statements and examined what annoys me about other people and how those traits manifest in me. I told Brad this morning that I was really tired, and I'm beginning to realize why. So today, I'm going to smile, relax and be kind to people. Starting with myself. And you too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Say it to my Face...book

I tried to quit Facebook a couple months ago. After using a little app that monitored how much time you spend on your phone, I realized that I was spending a whole lot of valuable time scrolling through other people's lives when I could be living my own. Additionally, my mom was really sick, I was juggling a LOT and I needed to focus.

So I deleted my account.

However, I quickly realized that the easiest way to get in touch with some people I needed to contact was ... you guessed it: Facebook.

So I reactivated my account.

Messages, explanations, blah blah blah, there you have it straight from the horse's mouth as they say. My mom says that, "straight from the horse's mouth." I don't know what it means or if anyone else says it, so maybe as she says would be more accurate.

Moving on.

In the past few years, I have had more arguments, fights, drama and hurt feelings with real life friends and family over stuff that took place on Facebook than over anything that happened in our actual flesh and blood lives. That is a fact.

A few months back, a friend and I decided to write a book about it. Facebook. We had had a few fights. I know it might sound trite and silly that grown up women--mothers, for heaven's sake--would get upset about social media, but it happened. I suspect we aren't the only ones. Anyway, I really value my friends and know that stewing on hurt feelings leads to bitterness, resentment and lost relationships.

So, being the grown ups we are, we hashed it out in true therapeutic fashion. "It hurts my feelings when you like her pictures and not mine." It's true. "It makes me feel left out when you all post pictures and didn't invite me." Still working those Agreements and trying not to take things personally. Anyway, by the end of it we were laughing instead of crying, but we came up with some good common sense guidelines.

If you never get your feelings hurt by social media stuff, you can stop reading now. Scroll to the bottom though and tell me your thoughts on that. But if sometimes...maybe...a little...well... here's:

The Girlfriend's Guide to Not Being An Asshole on Facebook
  1. Don't post vague attention-seeking statuses. Text your friends. Talk about your issues. Scream. Write in your journal. See a counselor.
  2. Don't post passive-aggressive digs at your friends. If you have friends, and they piss you off, tell them. Talk about it. With THEM. Don't call your other friends and tell them what this friend did. That's 8th grade baloney.
  3. LIKE every picture you see your friends post. Even if it's terribly unflattering. Even if it's the 87th time hop they posted today. Like. It. Anyway. Not because you like the picture but because you love your friend.
  4. Don't play favorites. If you like your brother's pictures of his kid, like your sister's pictures of hers too. If you like every picture one friend posts and never like another friend's, that's mean. And whether your friends admit it or not, most of them notice. And the people who notice will get their feelings hurts. Do you want to hurt someone's feelings? Yikes.
  5. If you scroll through Facebook constantly when you're with your friends and then claim, "Oh, no, I didn't see that..." your friends all know you are lying.
  6. Just. Be. Nice. If you don't have anything nice to say then keep your mouth shut. Don't post a passive aggressive comment.
  7. Finally, don't flirt with your friend's husband on Facebook. For real. That's not cool. I am a kinder, gentler version of the crazy girl I once was, but come at my man, and I will cut you. I'm not the only one. Join match.com or something.
These suggestions are based on actual experiences we had with our friends (and I mean honest-to-goodness ride-or-die friends, not other dance moms, or your kids' friends' moms with whom you occasionally have coffee, I mean the girls you'd take a bullet for) and each other. Come on now. If you see yourself in here, it's cool. Me too. I'm trying to do better.

But...I'm also trying to spend less time scrolling and more time living, so I promise you: If you're my friend, and I see something you posted: I will like it. Unless it is racist, anti-gay or mean. Then, I'll either unfriend or unfollow you. Just clarifying.

Honestly, social media is just another way we seek love and acceptance and connection. Isn't posting pictures of our adorable kids and stuff we made for dinner just a different form of, "Watch me!"? And don't we all just really want people to like us? I'm not advocating for seeking approval from social media friends and followers; good LORD, I've spent the last two decades trying NOT to give others the power to determine my worth. I'm just saying that the main thing I learned out of this whole endeavor was: People want to be liked. I can do that. We can all do that.

Also, in delving into the issues this brought up for me, I uncovered a big trigger in feeling left out. As the youngest of 7 children, I was often left behind while my siblings did things I was "too little" to do. A lot of the shit we deal with as adults is some modified form of the stuff we never dealt with properly when we were kids. Maybe because our parents, who were busy not dealing with their own shit, addressed our fears and concerns with, "Well, that is the stupidest thing I ever heard. Why would you let that bother you?" Right? No, just me? That's cool.

Recently every argument in our house turns into a therapy session because I don't want my adult kids dealing with an issue we monumentally bungled the handling of when they were young. AND I surely don't want to foist the issues I never dealt with as a kid onto my kids. I'm still working on it. I'll tell you more later.

In the meantime, I'm gonna post this on Facebook. I hope you like it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

I sometimes still let S%*T bother me.

Sometimes, I try to put people into molds. Sometimes, I hold people to very high standards. Sometimes, I get very disappointed when people don't meet my expectations. Sometimes=All. The. Time. Occasionally, in moments of clarity, I recognize the messed-up-ness of this flawed process and reset. I return to working on myself and accepting other people as they are. Wherever they are and whatever they're doing.

Chloe told me about one of her friends who would comment on a person's behavior as, "Oh, that's just Sam. Doing Sam stuff." This made me laugh every single time I heard it. Lately, however, I've been thinking about what a simple but profound lesson there is in adopting that viewpoint.

Once I was really upset with Brad about some perceived slight or shortcoming, and when I was telling my little mermaid fairy guru about it, she said, "Mama, you're kinda just mad at Daddy for being Daddy. That's not really fair." RIGHT?!

Of course it's not fair. And this admission is selfish and arrogant and unfathomably egotistical, but sometimes I get pissed at people just for being who they are instead of who I want them to be. Bleck.

I've written about this repeatedly. Obviously, I'm still working on it. I still let some s&*t bother me.

I keep praying about and meditating on accepting people as they are with no expectations, judgment or labels.

The last few times I did yoga, I set this as my intention. Every morning, in my journal, I pray that my every interaction with people might shine love and light into them. I pray to make people feel encouraged, heard and understood. I fail. A lot. But I keep trying.

Lately, I got hung up on gossip and being "two-faced." People saying unkind things behind each other's backs and then being sweet to each other's faces. Honestly, if you are a woman (between the ages of 3 and infinity) you've encountered this. Maybe you haven't. You get Wi-Fi under a rock? That's pretty awesome. Anyway, I have been both guilty of gossiping and hurt by people gossiping about me. So in the last few months, I've been trying incredibly hard to be impeccable with my word. You know, I drone on and on about The Four Agreements, but seriously, it's so simple: Don't say anything unkind. About anyone. Ever. It really is a simple concept, but in our critical culture, it's so hard. Really, really hard. I encourage you to become aware of the power of your word--and others' words.

So, the more I started to focus on being understanding and accepting and kind, the more I realized that in order to reflect that, I had to feel it myself. I couldn't wake up and criticize myself for all my shortcomings and then expect to be encouraging to others. That's not exactly true. I could do that. I have been doing that for years. Here's how that story ends: I feel slighted, wishing someone loved and understood me. Wishing someone made me feel special in all the ways I try to make other people feel special.

I know this sounds disgustingly self-indulgent and whiney, and I rarely spend time consciously feeling sorry for myself. I want to be completely transparent so that I can share this revelation: The gossip, the criticism, the nasty, shrewish, two-faced behavior that I so despised was how I treated myself. I have to stop being mean to myself.

When I set my intention in yoga to seek to understand and accept everyone who crossed my path, that needed to include me. I had to stop punishing myself for all the ways I haven't lived up to my own ridiculous expectations--because if they're high for other people, they are astronomically out-of-this-world unreachable for me. I had to start this little kindness revolution right in my own heart.

Last night, I went to yoga convinced that I would probably spend most of the practice in child's pose. My knees hurt. My hair was dirty. I had tried on a bathing suit earlier which sent my self-esteem in a downward spiral. I almost didn't go, but I realized that I was withholding yoga as some sort of punishment for not looking good enough in that bathing suit. Or something else ...  I'm not sure. Anyway, I put it aside. And I got on my mat and let my breath carry all that negativity away.

Today, my intention remains to be compassionate, to understand, listen and encourage people. To say only kind things. And most of all: To accept all of us exactly where we are.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

You Can Count on Me

I started counting recently. Sometimes counting. Sometimes timing. Just keeping track of the time. For instance, six seconds seems like much longer when you're rushing out the door. Really? Only six seconds to put your shoes on. When I count, I don't scream at Lily to HURRY UP. What is six seconds in the grand scheme of this journey?

Now, I haven't always been a counter. In fact the concept of counting to ten before verbally decapitating someone has always been foreign to me. I scream, feel immediate guilt, apologize and then carry the shame around for...well, I'm working on it.

Anyway, I started counting at the elementary school. At morning drop-off, people zip in and out of that parking lot as if they are rushing a hemorrhaging gunshot victim to the ER. If someone stops, holding up traffic to let the buses exit, said person gets unfriendly hand gestures. People. Lose. Their. Minds: throwing their hands in the air, flipping you off, pounding their steering wheels, etc. Now, I remember what it was like to have to rush to a job, so, one morning, I took out my phone and timed the buses leaving. It took 35 seconds.

Perhaps if you do have a gunshot victim in your backseat, that 35 seconds would be the difference between life and death. If not...1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8.9.10...calm down.

I counted to 10 so I didn't say calm the f#$k down. This counting business WORKS. Let's take it on the road!

Today, I took my mom grocery shopping. She has been home now for a few weeks and doing much better. Still, I don't want to just set her loose on the road after our recent scares. She is still moving pretty slowly. Lots of people move slowly at Walmart and not always because they're 83 and recovering from a hospital stay. Sometimes they are inconsiderate and rude and don't even realize that they're standing in the middle of the aisle blocking everyone's progress while they decide which cereal to buy. 1.2.3.4.5.6.7.8. Not so bad.

In the past, I scooted my mom through the store, apologizing repeatedly to everyone whose hurried progress we impeded. Today, I helped her navigate through uncrowded aisles and gently pulled her cart out of the middle of the aisle.

We made it through without incident.

I guided her to a non-crowded checkout line with a cashier I know--because I'm at Wal-Mart all. the. time--is very sweet and patient. My mom always writes a check, and it takes longer than it takes to swipe a card. Normally, I rush her through this process, "Mom, you can just give your check to the cashier; you don't have to fill it out." But today I realized that at 83 having lost her husband of more than 50 years, two sons, most of her hearing, many friends, a lot of her independence, and nearly her life a month ago, she could write a check if she wanted.

Then I counted. 1.2.3.4.5...the woman behind us rolled her eyes. 6.7.8.9.10...she sighed loudly and looked at the person behind her for commiseration. I stared at her and felt my blood pressure rising and angry words catching in my throat. 11.12.13.14.15. the guy in the next line lobbied for my agreement on something, "Isn't that right, Blondie?" Shut. The. F#$k. Up. Start again: 1.2.3. Oh she's done.

It took her 18 seconds to write a check. I apologize to the woman behind us in line if she was 18 seconds late for her next important appointment, or if the gunshot victim in her car died during those 18 seconds or the subsequent 6 it took my mom to produce her id. I met her glare with a smile.

I can't tell you how many times I'm surprised that what seems to be taking so long is often just a few seconds. It's often something Lily or my mom is doing. I'm trying really hard not to rush them anymore. I feel like I've been hurrying Lily since she was born--even before she was born--and the other day I watched her swinging effortlessly across the monkey bars. She no longer needed me to walk beside her or catch her when she jumped down or just "be there." A big old lump rose up in my throat as I thought...Oh no...I rushed it all away.

So, I'm counting instead rushing today. Because sometimes those seconds seem so long, until you're on the other side looking back and wishing you had just a few more.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Still not mother of the year

The past few weeks, my life has been a little busier than normal. I've felt--quite frequently--like I had a lot of balls in the air, and that one of them was bound to drop sooner or later. I have been talking to myself. A lot. I fit in pretty well at the nursing home. It's like when I am trying to remember a phone number, I'll say it over and over again in my mind since I can never find a paper to write it down.

Now, however, I'm saying all these things in my head because I wrote them down somewhere, but I can't find the damn paper so my inner dialogue is like, "Pick up Peyton at 5 or 7, wait what day is it: Monday, okay 5, I think. Lily has gymnastics. Drop off the recycling. Pick up my mom's laundry. Bring her insurance card. Did I bring her clean undershirts and the kind of socks she likes? Did I text Chloe good morning? Did I check on Lori? Did I pack lunches this morning or were the kids buying? Did we study spelling words or did Lily really write "whore" instead of "were" anyway?" True story. Good that her teacher is a precious angel who finds humor in my parenting shortcomings.

All of this has made me feel much more compassionate toward those around me as I think most of us probably have way more going on than anyone knows. Since, I'm always trying to work those four agreements and lots of times getting stuck on not taking things personally, this is helping.

I have a really bad habit of sinking into myself. Crawling into my shell and dropping out of every inessential (by inessential, I mean no one will die if I don't show up) part of my life. That means, I don't really talk to my friends. I don't go anywhere with anyone. Often I'm short if I remember to respond at all. All of this is an effort to protect and nourish my spirit, but it can often seem to people who care about me, that I'm mad at them or being a bitch. I'm really so sorry.

I'm working on doing a better job of communicating. And at the same time, I'm going to make some vows to you, my girlfriends, who are doing so much more than anyone knows, often at the expense of taking care of yourself the way you need and deserve to be loved and cared for. If you would, though, please pass it on...
  1. If you forget to pick your son up from any sporting event, I will take him home. I will not tell anyone that you forgot or give you any shit about it. We don't ever have to speak of it.
  2. Those pants look good on you. Yesterday, today, and tomorrow too if that is what you choose. I don't care how often you do laundry or if you gained 10 pounds and they're the only comfortable thing you have. I promise I didn't even notice until you told me.
  3. Your daughter is beautiful even if her clothes don't match and are too small. I know that she has a whole wardrobe of matching adorable clothes but it isn't worth fighting with her in the morning.
  4. I don't judge you for yelling at your kids. Good lord, if someone had a hidden camera in my car or house, child protective services would be at my door daily. I am at times a horrible raving lunatic.
  5. I couldn't care less if your kids valentines aren't homemade. I force my child to do crafts so we can bond, dammit; she would much rather have store bought ones. We're all works in progress.
I could go on and on and on. Sometimes we are just so mean to each other. Judging and comparing and competing and gossiping and bleck, bleck, bleck. I promise you all, right now, if you're reading this: I am never going to judge you, your clothes, your kids, your parenting, your weight, your hair or anything else. I get it. I understand. I feel you. My mantle is still void of a mother of the year trophy. Actually, I don't even have a mantle! What do you think about that?

Please, let's be kind to each other. And more than that? Let's be kind to ourselves.

xoxo

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

This mountain that's in front of me...

About 13 years ago, my baby Peyton had to be hospitalized for pneumonia and RSV. Which begs the question: What happened to RSV? You never hear about it anymore. Did they come up with a vaccine? Anyway, I was so afraid. I held him the whole time he was there, only occasionally setting him in that scary cell-like metal crib to go to the bathroom. I held him in the chair all night, waking every two hours as the respiratory therapists misted albuterol into his tiny lungs.

Several years later, I lay next to his hospital bed tossing and turning on an awkward and uncomfortable plastic cot as he tossed and turned in pain awaiting an orthopedic surgeon to re-set his horribly broken and displaced arm.

Those were my two worst hospital memories.

Then, a week ago, after several days in the hospital, I had to take my mom to a nursing home. Although, she is only there for short-term rehab, it's still a nursing home. While it has clean rooms, beautiful surroundings, a state-of-the-art rehab facility and some very kind employees, the halls still smell of urine and people moan and yell unintelligible things. The food is delicious, but many of the patients and residents still drool and spill it all over themselves.

When we walked into the room, I watched my tiny little mom's eyes grow wide and fearful as we surveyed the room occupied by one other person who stared vacantly in the opposite direction of a blaring tv. For what seemed like an eternity the unfamiliar and unpleasant smells and sounds and reality of the situation silently settled over us before my mom piped up, "Do you think she needs the tv that loud when she isn't even watching it?" I swallowed the vomit that was rising in my throat, and my sister found a remote and turned it down.

It has been a few days. Her roommate was sent back to the hospital. She is kind of settling into a routine. The dining hall is reminiscent of a middle school cafeteria. The more...aware...female patients eat at one table--they are the cool girls. The next table is filled with men who aren't drooling. Then there are a few more tables with people who are.

My mom sits with the cool girls (plus one's husband.) They ask every day, "Do you remember what we ordered for lunch?" "No, do you?" "I think I ordered lobster and shrimp." "It's a surprise every day!" The couple is 96 and 91. The wife told me in her thick German accent that they met during the war, when her husband was a handsome army captain. Then she implored the nurse's aide to give her a little booze in her coffee. They're adorable. In the twilight of their life. She said, "You're sooooo young!!" When I tried to slide the menu to her to see, she said, "Oh honey, I'm blind."

Yesterday, one of the gentleman at the men's table attempted to lure me to his table by telling me how delicious his apple juice was. I smiled and told him that was wonderful. He said, "If you come over here, I'll give you a kiss, and you can taste it."

"You're a rascal," I said, "Does that line work on many girls?"

He nodded his head so vigorously that his teeth came loose and tumbled onto his plate, and I had to look away. But every time I looked up he winked at me. I told my mom to keep her distance as he was evidently a ladies man.

In the past two weeks, my daily schedule has changed in a way I never imagined. My house is so quiet, and I miss my mom giggling and gossiping on the phone. I wish that she would pull into the driveway with a car full of groceries just when I sat down to eat. I reassure her that she is getting stronger every day, and that she will be coming home soon, but I'm scared and worried and wish that someone could reassure me in a way I actually believe.

My friends ask if they can help, but I don't how to ask or even what I would ask for. Could you please, ummm, maybe try to be me for awhile so I can curl up in a ball in my bed and cry and pretend this isn't happening because I don't want to be a grown-up and deal with this shit? How do you ask for that? And even if I could find a way to ask for it, who the hell in their right mind would say yes? The only person I know how to ask for help is my husband, but somehow even those requests sometimes get lost in translation, and the help he offers is not what I really wanted or needed.

Today, I cried for a long time. For a really really long time. Ugly self-indulgent sobbing. The cats watched me, heads cocked to the sides, like What. The. Fuck? I cried for myself and for my mom and for my friend who just lost her mom. I cried for my other friends who are going through similar situations or worse and for all those who are gonna go through it. I cried for the fictional characters on Parenthood. And then I got dressed and put on lipstick and more mascara so I can flirt with that old man. And I remembered what it's like when the first step in your makeup routine is putting Preparation H on your swollen eyes.