Tuesday, April 30, 2013

I will hit you with my cane

“Olivia was moody. Moody wasn't a word with which she was very familiar, but if it meant that her moods swung back and forth for no reason at all, and that she felt crabby and wanted to be alone more often than she felt content and friendly, and that she was often tempted to slam her bedroom door - preferably in someone's face - well, then, moody described perfectly the way she'd been feeling lately.”
― Ann M. Martin

Sometimes I'm CRABBY.

There, I said it.  (It felt pretty good...so I'll go on...)

Sometimes I want to pick up entire reams of paper and CHEW on them.  Sometimes I want to kick people in the leg and sometimes I want to stomp my feet and pull my hair.  I want to climb up on a ladder and JUMP from it into a big pile of rocks which will magically explode when my feet hit them.  I want to hurl insults and gnash my teeth and grollop and groil and gringerinchinate.   (OK, I made up those last three words but they just rolled off the tips of my fingers.  They felt GOOD to type!)

Now I'm laughing.

Obviously, I'm a moody bitch.

I'm happy often enough (or at least put on a happy FACE often enough) that acquaintances often think I'm never down or depressed or mad.  The truth is I am often riding a roller coaster of emotions.  No, I'm not medicated.  I kinda like the twists and turns and highs and lows.  I'm just not EVEN TEMPERED.  I don't know if it's because I'm a woman or if it's because I'm insane, but I just can't ever seem to find that weird place of "nothing really bothers me and I'm always just mostly neither happy nor sad." I am happy.  And I am sad.  And I am angry.  And I am pleased.  I have a whole gamut of emotions that I run through just about every single day.  No WONDER I'm exhausted all the dang time.

So, the last couple days have been crabby days.  I'm irritated by everything and everyone around me.  I'm second-guessing every decision I've made in the last...oh...42 years.  I'm like a irascible old woman in a rocking chair just itching to whack someone with her cane.

This is all very, very good.

The good news is that I understand that I'm crabby.  For the most part, I'm staying away from people (sorry Things 1 and 2, Sparky and Charlie..you're all stuck with me) and I know that the mood will pass and everything will be rainbows and flippin' unicorns by tomorrow.  I've embraced this bitchy mood today and have used it to complain (on paper) about everything that's wrong with my life.  In an effort to climb out of the pit I've dug for myself, I ALSO listed the many, many ways I'm blessed and was terribly relieved that the Good List was about four times as long as the Bad List.  (When I'm crabby, sometimes I can't see the forest for the trees.) 

So, I'm in a hole.  I'm hiding out and keeping my thoughts mostly to myself until the clouds pass and the sunny side comes out again.  It's a quiet place, this hole.  And I find that I miss people.  So, I start to reach out a finger...or send out a blog....to somehow feel CONNECTED again.  And I know that the connectivity will bring out my joy again and that old woman will go back inside and wait for the next crabby day to come out with her cane. 

If you're ever crabby like this and find yourself in a hole, there ARE a few tricks of the trade I've learned along the way that seem to help me fight, fight, fight the Crabby side of Kelly.

  1. I listen to fun music REALLY LOUD.  I'm talking stupid music like "Let's Hear it for the Boy."  OK, wait...let me go to my ACTUAL iTunes playlist for days like this.  Ready?  Vindicated by Dashboard Confessional. You Shook Me All Night Long by AC/DC. Something Beautiful by Needtobreathe.  Smile by Uncle Kracker. Defying Gravity from Wicked. Mouth by Merrill Bainbridge.  Gettin' Jiggy Wit It by Will Smith (oh, yes, it's there).  Man in the Mirror by Michael Jackson.  I Need by Meredith Brooks.  I Gotta Feeling by the Black Eyed Peas.  Fight Like a Girl by Bomshel. Poker Face by Lady GaGa.  And Still Dirrrty by Christina Aguilera. 
  2. I go for a walk.  Alone.  I don't even take Sparky on my crab-fighting walks.  I walk fast and I'm usually listening to the above playlist singing right out loud (because I don't know my neighbors so who cares?).  I take time during my power walking to breathe deep, look up into the sky and give thanks.  Even in my crabbiness, I give thanks.  It helps me to remember that I have my health, I have my kids and my friends and my family.  I have all that I need in this life.  And that's the truth.
  3. I read something positive.  Or something funny. Or both.  I read The Bloggess a lot today.  I also visited Positively Positive several times.  I find that getting AWAY from myself and diving into something that helps me think good thoughts.  I have recently started reading Bible verses.  I honestly Google things like "Bible verses for people who are feeling crabby."  Apparently the Bible doesn't actually USE the word "crabby" so  I got a lot of results about anger, stressed and tired.  It worked though.  My favorite find of the day was Isaiah 41:10.  Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. It made me feel a lot less alone.
  4. Do something nice for someone else.  Sometimes it helps me to get out of my funk by ignoring it and doing something GOOD.  Today, I took care of my tiny hoodlums who were both home with a bug.  And I did some other stuff which shall remain only for my own internal happiness.  The main thing here is to stop focusing on your stupid crap and think about other people.  Regardless of what I might like to believe, the world does not ACTUALLY revolve around me.  (I know, it IS a newsflash...it was a shocking revelation to me, too.)
I'm not quite 100% out of the woods.  But I'll get there.  Until then, keep the cane away from me.

Love you.  Mean it.

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Sunday, April 28, 2013

Advice for New Mothers

“But kids don't stay with you if you do it right. It's the one job where, the better you are, the more surely you won't be needed in the long run.”

                                                                 ― Barbara Kingsolver

I'm like a short-term stalker.  Random strangers fascinate me and I often find myself gravitating toward them when I'm in stores...to eavesdrop and to observe them from a distance so I can create a mini-screenplay in my head about them.  Twisted, right?

So, I was in Target recently and saw an obviously pregnant woman (no, I DID NOT ask her if she was pregnant) and an older woman who looked enough like her that I assumed she was the mother of the pregnant woman.  They had one of those radar-thingies so I then made the leap that they were registering for a new baby (my new career plan should include the word "detective").  That's when the mini-screenplay began to write itself.  I imagined them turning to me, a drained, weary-looking stranger, and asking me for advice on how to prepare for the new baby.  As I turned my cart away from the happy pair, I started a list in my head of PRACTICAL advice for new mothers.  Practical.  Not the stuff they put in baby books that make everything seem like a happy sappy hit parade...practical advice that will keep new moms from feeling like miserable failures when all those smiling moms in diaper commercials sashay across their television screens.

  1. You will be tense.  Bringing a new baby home is TERRIFYING.  We brought Thing 1 home as two people who had never really even held babies.  We weren't the couple who were making cooing noises at Sue and Ted's new bundle of joy.  I was the person holding my hand up saying, "Nope.  I'm good.  I don't need to hold it."  We brought Thing 1 home and sat his car seat in the middle of the entryway and then backed away from him, both of us cocking our heads quizzically at the sleeping CHILD IN OUR HOME.  I was aghast that the hospital let us TAKE HIM.  Did they know that I had killed every single house plant I had ever brought home?  I was horrified that I was now responsible for a human being because if I didn't keep him alive then I would be criminally charged and spend the rest of my life in prison (hello, Lifetime Television for Women Friday night movie).  People will tell you to relax and they will offer up the old argument that people have been doing this sort of thing for thousands of years, blah, blah, blah.  But bringing a new baby home is some WEIRD AND SCARY STUFF!
  2. Crying is not just for the baby.  Thing 1 cried.  A lot.  I cried with him a lot of days.  I had the added bonus of having a husband in the United States Navy.  He would be gone for days, weeks and months at a time that first year.  So it would be me and the baby.  Alone.  On an island in the Pacific.  Rocking back and forth.  Crying.  There were days when I would wake up, exhausted from my days on end of very little sleep, nursing a new baby and figuring out why I had opted for motherhood in the first place.  I would weep and tell myself that I was NOT going to make it.  But somehow, I did.  I gritted my teeth and wept when he wept.  It helped when I joined the Baby Hui ("hui" means "group" in Hawaiian) in Honolulu and was matched up with moms whose babies were all born within a few weeks of mine.  We met once a week and all cried together.  
  3. Life changes...forever.  When you have a baby, you can't just pick up and go for the weekend. You have to think about where the baby will sleep, bringing diapers for the baby, wipes, changes of clothes (babies go through stupid amounts of clothes), pacifiers, and any little stuffed animal that the baby has become oddly attached to.  (Hint: if baby DOES become oddly attached to a stuffed animal, please go and buy FOUR OF THESE right NOW.  And rotate them out so they'll all smell and look the same.  Trust me. I didn't do this and it took years off my life every time one of them went missing. I will now die a full three years sooner.)  You will find yourself singing little ditties about Victor Vito and the famous Banana Phone instead of your traditional 80's favorites.  Wearing spit-up on your clothing and in your hair becomes second nature...you're already changing the baby 10 times a day and you just don't have the ENERGY to change yourself, too.  You can halfheartedly wipe that off.
  4. You don't have to be perfect.  I read all the parenting books.  And then I talked to people about parenting.  And then I read more parenting books.  I wasn't even attempting to be perfect, I was just trying to be PASSABLE.  You have a tiny life literally in your hands and it's alluring to think that you can raise them exactly correctly and never raise your voice and never make a wrong decision...but you just can't do it.  Accept it early that you're going to make a LOT of mistakes and that you're going to have days where nothing feels right and you just want to RUN AWAY.  (You WILL want to run away, I promise.)  But you won't run away.  And you don't have to be perfect.  No one expects you to, I promise.  If anyone does expect perfection, you might want to cross them off your Christmas card list.
  5. You will feel like everyone needs something from you.  The baby needs you.  Your husband needs you.  Your co-workers need you.  You need a VACATION.  Moms are valuable commodities and you will not be an exception.  Everyone around you will need you for something and it will feel like you are on-call 24 hours a day.  And you are.  And you will not pee by yourself or shower uninterrupted for more than three minutes for at least five years, perhaps more.  There is no dignity in being a mother.  Your life and your body are no longer your own.  
It's tough work to become a mom.  The metamorphosis is exhausting and time-consuming but it occurs.  I won't say that you become a butterfly in the end....because you become something even stronger and more beautiful than that.

Moms are imaginative
because they can create play out of ordinary household objects.
Moms are strong
because they lift babies and toys and even spirits every day.
Moms are fun
because they make kids laugh even when tears loom large.
Moms are important
because they put their families first.
Moms are loving
because their hearts work overtime every single day.

Target strangers, thank you for allowing me to stalk you.  I hope God blesses you with a bundle of joy that won't break you.  It's a long journey...and not an easy one...but, wow, it's worth it every single day.

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Home Improvement

“The ache for home lives in all of us. The safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.”
― Maya Angelou

I am a do-it-yourselfer.  This is not because I have any skills (I have none) nor is it because I have any real motivation.  There are two reasons why I do-it-myself:  a) I do not like to ask for help...ever and b) I have limited funds.  I figure if I can watch it on YouTube or consult a pdf online user manual, I can make it happen.   My famous last words are almost ALWAYS "How hard can it be?"

In the past few years, I have fallen off ladders, been knocked unconscious by a falling mirror, and have been doused by water flying out unbelievably from the back of toilets.  I have even fallen into my own very large trash can in the front yard in full view of the neighbors.  Head first.  I have ruined my iPhone and have managed to put bookshelves together COMPLETELY wrong while following instructions.  I have spilled paint on carpets (like, a LOT of paint) and I have fallen up and down stairs with and without obstacles.

So, most people think that they need to be ready to dial 911 if they hear of me doing any home improvement project.  Even Sparky looks a little nervous whenever I pick up a screwdriver.  But still, I persevere.  (Please refer back to paragraph 1 for the previously stated reasons why I do this.)

On Friday, I managed to plant a vegetable garden and scrape and paint window trim AND a doorway without incident. I even applied sunscreen....THREE TIMES.  I also mowed my lawn.  Then I went inside and baked a cake.  I am practically a grown-up.

I work really hard to make our house a home.  I try to fight my natural instincts to be a hot mess and I manage to control the chaos much of the time.  I guess, if you don't really count all the injuries I've sustained and bruises I've acquired, I'm doing a pretty good job.  My kids love to be home more than anything and will often lobby for full days in their pajamas.

I still have a lot of work to do.  The rest of the trim still needs painting and I've got some rotten wood to replace. And that darned kitchen ceiling needs to have the popcorn removed.  I'll get around to it.  Let me just make sure my health insurance coverage is adequate first.  And if any of you need any help with anything, I hope you'll let me know.  I'm always glad to lend a hand, if it isn't currently bandaged.

In the meantime, I am going to take my coffee outside and admire the view of my newly-planted vegetable garden.

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A grown-up daughter

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.”
― Anthony Brandt

A few days ago, my almost-13-year-old son walked away from me, his thin shoulders squared and his head held high, and headed into his very first interview to sell himself as a candidate to be a volunteer exhibit guide for the local science center.  With every step he took away from me, my mind flashed back to his first wail in the delivery room, his first words and steps, his first ride on the bus to kindergarten and then treated me to fast-forward fantasies of graduations, first jobs and first loves. 

My children are growing up. 

I say this with glee much of the time.  People say that it goes by so fast.  I feel like I have been a parent nigh on forever but I'm beginning to understand what they mean.  He will graduate from high school in five short years.  The panic is setting in:  Have I prepared him? Have I been a good parent?  Have I done enough?  Will he come back to visit me when all is said and done?

Yesterday, I spent the day with my father and his lovely wife.  (I loathe calling her stepmother because that word embodies the whole evil Cinderella thing....let's come up with a new word for her right now...how about Other Mother?  Does that work?  Hmm...not really.  I called her Wonderful Wise Woman before...that seems to fit her pretty nicely.) They made the drive to see their grandson (a.k.a. Thing 2) play a little baseball.   They came over to the house where the On-Again Boyfriend put on his chef's hat and made a delicious lunch for everyone and we all spent the afternoon together.

Until yesterday, I had never really put myself into my father's shoes.  Yesterday, as I talked with him, I imagined that the pain of meeting a daughter, fully formed, must be significant.  Sure, he was able to skip all my ugly, pain-in-the-patootie teenaged years and he never had to deal with me learning to drive...but he also missed my first words and steps and my first day at kindergarten.  He never knew me when I was compact and curly-headed cute.  When he met me, it was like meeting someone new in the grocery store.  I came to him as a wife and mother with an entire life behind me in which he did not have a part.

That must hurt.

Before yesterday, I had always focused on MY experience in growing up without my "real" father.  I know how much I had wanted him in MY life but I had never stopped to consider how he, as a father, might feel in missing out on my childhood.  I know NOW that he thought of me as I was growing up...and that must have been difficult for him.   I am sorry for that.

As I get to know him, slowly and steadily, I feel more comfortable in his presence and I see that much of who I am comes genetically from him.  If you've been wondering about Nature vs. Nurture, wonder no further.  I am living proof that you can do WHATEVER you want with a child, but they will still become who they are meant to be.  I dare you to put my half-sister and I together and ever wonder again if Nature vs. Nurture holds any water because I have not yet met anyone more like me than she seems to be.

As we discussed yesterday, there is no room for regretting what cannot be.  None of us can turn back the hands of time and so we must use the best of the time we have now.  I can't speak for my father or for his wonderful wife but, for me, it feels like coming home.  I had told them yesterday that I have never been happier in my life than I am these days.  I don't know if they realize it...but a lot of that has to do with them.  Being accepted by a father, even when you are a grown-up daughter, is a pretty big deal.  So, in the words of John Mayer, fathers be good to your daughters...

So Thing 1 is growing up.  He's growing into a thoughtful, kind, logically-minded young man who will (hopefully) make a positive impact in his world.  I have hopes for him...but I know enough to give him room to build his own dreams for himself.  I am thankful for the opportunity to have raised him this far...and I'm glad he'll have the opportunity to know my father and his wife.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Kids Should Come Wrapped in Caution Tape

“We spend the first 12 months of our children's lives teaching them to walk and talk and the next 12 months teaching them to sit down and shut up.”
― Phyllis Diller

Kids can wreak some havoc in your life.  Parents who have young children can only foggily remember carefree, lazy Sunday mornings in bed with the paper and coffee.  They can no longer fathom what it would be like to present in their own home without listening for a) crying b) whining or c) whispered sounds of mutiny.  You can see these parents out in the world sometimes; looking shell-shocked but eerily gleeful to have escaped their tiny captors for a few moments to browse the aisles of Target looking at weird things like soap.

When my boys were smaller, I invented opportunities to go to Target just to have a few moments of sanity for myself.  "Uhhhhh, we need toilet paper," I would say, shoving the extra rolls back behind the Scrabble and Monopoly games in the game closet.  And before their dad could turn his own dazed eyes toward me, I was out the door shouting maniacally, "Be back in JUST a few minutes!"

I would wander around under the bright, cheerful signage beckoning me to purchase the latest seasonal must-have items and wax nostalgic about the days when a trip to a discount supercenter didn't feel like a desperately needed vacation.  I would stagger down each aisle, my step growing lighter and my smile growing broader with every minute, and feel the weight of my parenting responsibilities slip away.

Thank goodness my children are growing up.

Last night, I spent a few hours back in that world of toddlers and enjoyed it tremendously.  I now understand the joy of what it will be like to be a grandparent:  you can have a lot of fun with the kid for a a FINITE AMOUNT OF TIME.

My young charge and I spread paper towels on the floor and proceeded to make cupcakes.  Ordinarily, it takes me approximately 5-6 minutes to whip up the batter, line the muffin pans and whisk the pans into the oven for baking.  Last night, it took about an hour.  I handed him each cupcake liner to fill the pan with, counting each one and noting the bumblebee on the bottom every single time. I gave him the bowl and the spoon for stirring and we added the ingredients.  He stirred with his pudgy little two-year-old hands wrapped tightly around the long spoon handle. I showed him how to use the spoon to distribute the batter into each of the cupcake holders.  About half of the cupcakes were unusable by the end, so I tossed those but baked the rest while we sat down to dinner.

My toddler-aged monkeys "backstage" at Sesame Street Live
I was able to do all of the above patiently and kindly because I knew we only had a few hours together.  When my own kids were little, we would do the above in a limited fashion.  Because I still had to do the laundry, scrub the toilets, vacuum, clean up after dinner AND think about getting a few hours of shut-eye in before going to work the next day, I would hurry the process along.  I would let them STIR but I scooped the batter into the cupcake holders.  I let them put frosting on a FEW cupcakes but not all. It was all part of that foggy "I MUST make it THROUGH this" feeling that I had much of the time.  The first five years of my children's lives were spent with me just trying to keep the tears (my own AND theirs) at bay.

Parenting is REALLY, REALLY HARD and I don't understand why so many of us attempt it.

I felt a little irritated with myself last night that I didn't stop to appreciate those moments a little more with Thing 1 and Thing 2.  I did (and do) a fairly good job of being "in the moment," but I have SO much room for improvement. I let life get in the way far too often even as hard as I try to let the unimportant things slide (if you saw my house right now, you'd understand exactly which things I label "unimportant").  I try SO HARD to be a good parent and fail miserably so much of the time. 

Things 1 and 2 will be glad to know that I'm reinvigorated and rededicated after my babysitting experience last night.  We are going to have SO MUCH quality time!  And I'm certain they'll be SO EXCITED about that at the ages of almost-13 and 10...  

On second thought, maybe I'll just read that new book I downloaded and wait to become a grandparent when I can really ENJOY the experience.

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Creating Our Own Truths

“Reality can be beaten with enough imagination.”
― Mark Twain

Today, I became a REAL writer.  And I have the business card to prove it:

But (surprise!) THAT is not what made me a REAL writer today.

I have been waking up EARLY in the morning to write and often writing late at night.  I have about 40 billion blog posts started, half-finished and completely finished.  I'm trying not to innundate the world with 40 billion blog posts about virtually nothing so I'm keeping them "for good" like the beautiful china your grandmother kept in the cabinet to be brought out at weddings and funerals.

So, the other day, I decided to do a little "for real" writing.  As in, I looked up a local parenting magazine and I reviewed their submission guidelines.  As in, I figured the guidelines were reasonable so I knocked out an article.


OK, I realize I am probably going to get my first rejection letter.  I wrote the article in much the same way I do the blog...knocked it out in less than 20 minutes with basically no editing or second-guessing.  But, I figure it's like jumping into a swimming pool instead of EASING in:  just do a cannonball in the deep end and be done with the icy cold shock in a few seconds.

So, I did it.  And I think I'm going to keep doing it.  Until the rejection letters can paper my bedroom walls, I'm going to keep doing it.

See that card up there?  It says WRITER.

Boo. Yah.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive. 

I need a personal advice columnist

“We were very different, and we disagreed about a lot of things, but he was always so interesting, you know?”
                                                                                                 ― John Green

Dear Perfectly Coiffed Advice Columnist:

My extremely conservative, outspoken On-Again Boyfriend is intent on spreading his conservative wisdom to all who will listen (and to those that never will).  I am a fairly liberal outspoken person myself and we tend to clash on a variety of social issues.  He is NOT going to change his views and I'm pretty dug in on my side of the fence as well. I would love to keep ALL my friends AND my relationship intact but I just don't know if he can keep his mouth shut long enough for them to realize that he's a very good (if somewhat misguided) person.

How on earth are we ever going to get along if we don't introduce duct tape into our relationship?

                                               -- Liberally Frustrated

Dear Stupid:

You AREN'T ever going to get along, honey.  The two of you are like the Hatfields and McCoys and neither one of you is going to be satisfied until blood is shed.  Ain't love grand?

Seriously, though.  You're just going to have to accept that this red-blooded male makes your blue blood boil.  Sometimes a little spice makes everything twice as nice (I made that up just now...just for you).  Besides, maybe somewhere down the long road of life, you'll realize that you have more in common that you might guess right now.  MAYBE you'll be right about some things and figure out that HE is right about some things as well.  Life isn't set in stone.

Here's the thing, my dumb little chickie:  You have to ask yourself where this man's HEART is?  To get to the heart of that question (pun most assuredly intended), take him to a restaurant with a VERY SLOW server.  Observe the Man in Question as he relates to the server.  Is he kind and patient?  Or is he rude and condescending?  If the answer is the latter, darlin', hitch your bloomers to another star.  If it's the former, I'd just say that what you have on your hands is a James Carville/Mary Matalin situation if I've ever seen one. Those two have been married FOREVER in spite of their heated differences.  If they can make it work, you almost certainly can.  You might want to enlist a couples counselor NOW before you go any further, though, just to curb any homicidal tendencies either of you may have.

Just remember this, duckie:  You can't change him.  And the only way he's going to change YOU is to overpower you with his deeper voice and the constant barrage of "facts" at his disposal.  You have to stay true to yourself, listen to your heart and hope that love will carry you through with your dignity (and your beliefs) intact.

Good luck.  And if you absolutely need to use the duct tape, try and get a roll that won't irritate his sensitive conservative mouth.

If you like my blog, share it.  Or Like my FB page to get updates.  Or subscribe to the e-mail list.  Or make a comment below.  If you don't like it, well...just try not to hurt my feelings.  I'm sensitive. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

An exercise in self-appreciation

“You can be the most beautiful person in the world and everybody sees light and rainbows when they look at you, but if you yourself don't know it, all of that doesn't even matter. Every second that you spend on doubting your worth, every moment that you use to criticize yourself; is a second of your life wasted, is a moment of your life thrown away. It's not like you have forever, so don't waste any of your seconds, don't throw even one of your moments away.”
― C. JoyBell C.

A few months ago, I did a whole study in self-esteem with the guidance of a therapist.  Each week, I had exercises to work through, some of which were very uncomfortable.  Through this experience, I am better equipped to deal with those loud, nagging voices in my head telling me that I'm not good enough, not smart enough, not thin enough, not pretty enough....not ENOUGH in general.

But as time passes and I get further away from the intense exercises and away from the gentle, affirming voice of my therapist,  I find myself slipping back into some patterns.  I look in the mirror and my eyes IMMEDIATELY train down to the tummy which is not as flat as I'd like, the too-large boobs and the increasing network of lines across my face.  I have to FORCE myself to smile and say (out loud):  "You are beautiful JUST the way you are."

The truth is we are ALL beautiful.  We are all perfectly designed and unique in our own ways.  I think of some of my friends and the FIRST things I think about when I recall each one to my memory is the thing that makes them most beautiful.  For one friend, it's her eyes...they IMMEDIATELY come to mind when I think about her in any context.  For another, it's her gorgeous hair.  Still another is her wide, bright smile.  For yet another,  I think about the dimples in her cheeks.  If you asked each of these women how satisfied she is with her appearance, she would probably begin by listing her faults.  I think each of these women is beautiful...because of appearance, yes, but also because their personalities come through their outward appearance and they GLOW with fire and real beauty.  They, sadly, would most likely disagree.


We need to RISE up and realize a few things about life, beauty and how to be truly happy.

  1. You are NOT as FAT as you imagine.  (That's a line DIRECTLY from Baz Luhrmann's Everybody's Free to Wear Sunscreen.  If you haven't heard it in a while, I suggest you follow that link now.  Seriously.  I'll wait.).  Here's the thing:  our bodies are largely due to genetics.  I've seen REALLY SKINNY people eating CRAP and a lot of it.  And they stay skinny.  But that doesn't mean they're HEALTHY.  I won't lie:  I am often MISERABLE when I see a picture of myself.  I've thickened over the past ten years.  I still haven't done much about it other than to focus more on enjoying healthier foods.  I yo-yo diet and exercise like a fiend for a month and lose 15 pounds...and then gain it all back after a chocolate-fueled feeding frenzy.  It sucks.  And it makes me feel like I suck.  But...here's the real truth:  I am NOT as FAT as I imagine. 
  2. We are not defined by our skin.  This means everything.  Not the color of it.  Not the wrinkles in it.  Not the amount of it.  We are defined by who we ARE.  We are defined by the number of times we sit down with Crayolas (I still own my VERY OWN BOX).  We are measured by the generosity of our spirits.  We are loved because of the truth in our hearts and the kindness in our voices.  Our skin has nothing to do with who we are and we are not loved because of it.
  3. Only YOU are uniquely YOU.  There is no one else in this world exactly like you.  Even if you have an identical twin, you have separate thoughts and feelings.  In addition to all the other amazing things about you, you have one gift that no one else has:  the gift of you.  Any time you spend time with another person, you are sharing that gift.  YOU are precious and special and never, ever diminished.  
Women spend their time comparing themselves to everyone else.  Admit it.  You can't HELP but sneak a glance over at the People magazine during the checkout line and notice that Jennifer Aniston's clavicles are so CLEARLY visible. Or in a crowd of women, there is a cacophony of voices in your head:

She's thinner than I am.  

Oh, her red hair is so pretty and mine is so DULL.
How is her butt so FIRM?  Mine sags down to the back of my knees.
I should have worn more/less make-up.
My hair is frizzy. 
My ankles are fat.
My skin is too pale.
And on and on and on...   

I intend to rise up in protest against those voices.  I'm not perfect in any way.  I can give you a laundry list of everything that is wrong with me...inside AND out.  But I've had enough of those voices telling me that I'm not good enough.  I'm not smart enough.  I'm not pretty enough or thin enough or....enough.  

I AM enough.  And you are, too.  We are MORE than enough.  Now we need to live it.

This post was inspired by the Real Beauty Sketches.  If you haven't seen THOSE, you should take a few minutes to watch.  And then to believe that you are beautiful.  

For the love of a dog

“If you don't own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.”
― Roger Caras

Four years ago this week, I brought my Sparky home.  I had been longing for a dog to add to my family for my entire adult life.  The Ex-Husband and I didn't agree on dogs.  I begged and pleaded and promised but he wouldn't budge an inch.

So I got rid of him.

And Sparky moved in a few short months later.

It took me a little while to find the perfect dog for our family.  I needed a dog with a good temperament for kids and adults-who-act-like kids.  I needed a substantial dog.  I wanted a big dog with a gruff bark and a cuddly personality.  A few years before I found Sparky, a good friend of mine had adopted a beautiful, smart labradoodle.  I fell in love with that dog from half a continent away.  I watched him grow up through pictures and heard tales of his sweetness and brilliance and decided that a labradoodle would be just what we needed.   And I'd heard they don't shed (bonus...and a total lie). 

And then (because fate is REAL, people), Sparky's picture popped up in one of my internet puppy searches.  OH MY GOODNESS.  I fell in love with him in about a millisecond.  AND, his breeder had named him Jackson (the official name of Thing 2...kismet from the start).  He was the cutest thing I'd ever seen and I absolutely had to have him.  The breeder informed me that he was a first generation cross between a chocolate female labrador retriever and a black standard poodle.  I LOVED HIM SO MUCH...like Holly Hunter in Raising Arizona much.  

A couple weeks later, we were on our way home with him.  Thing 1 asked me to please focus on the road and stop staring at the puppy.  He was just...perfect.  He was everything I had ever longed for.  He was the answer to life, the universe and everything.  In puppy form, I had found true love.  He threw up on Thing 2 halfway home.  He then threw up on me about an hour later.  Covered in puppy vomit and grinning from ear to ear, we arrived home with our new family member.

Bringing a puppy into a single-parent family is not an easy task.  It was like having a newborn again (well, he WAS a newborn at only 8 weeks old).  I went to work in the morning, ran home at 10 to let him of his crate to go potty outside, came home at lunch, ran back home at 3 to let him out again and was home at 5 for the evening which was spent giving him some exercise and playing and potty training.  On top of THAT, we had homework and t-ball and soccer games to contend with.

He was an active puppy who chewed on the door frames, the carpet, my Blackberry, shoes, underwear, belts, and homework (yep, it's true).  He ignored or immediately destroyed every chew toy I brought in the door, even the (supposedly) indestructible Kong.  He had been home for only two weeks (and prior to the delivery of his first rabies shot) when he ran out the front door toward the street.  I chased after him, picked him up in my arms and he, anxious to run on his chunky puppy legs, struggled in my arms with his mouth open to reveal his razor sharp puppy teeth.  Seven stitches in my earlobe later, I received a call from Animal Control.

In case you were unaware, dogs have to be quarantined if they bite someone.  EVEN ACCIDENTAL puppy bites require a quarantine.   I don't know if this is the rule for ALL dogs but it's certainly true of those who don't have updated rabies shots.  Sparky's vet was waiting until he was 12 weeks old to administer the shot...so, he ended up getting it a little earlier than planned when he spent 5 or 6 days in the Big House for Bad Puppy Behavior.  Since he was just a BABY, we would go visit him in the Big House and the receptionists would joke about bringing out "that vicious labradoodle."

I loved him no less.  In spite of all the destruction and the pain, I loved that dog.  I took him on walks.  I left him out of the crate at night so he could sleep with me.  He's sleeping on my bed beside me as I write this.  In the last four years, he's been on various Great Adventures with us and has secured his place in the family as a patient, mischievous, sweet and gentle mutt.  Sometimes I worry that he's lonely during the day when I leave him to go to work...but then On-Again brings over his two (very active) dogs and Sparky often looks at us like "OK, when are these kids heading back to the On-Again ranch??"  So, maybe he'll fly solo for a while longer.

Sparky has been a wonderful addition to our family.  I love him like I love my children (some have accused me of loving him MORE).  And I often come into rooms where my boys are snuggled up with this big giant dog on the couch or on the floor.  I can't imagine my life..or my heart...without him.

Husband vs. dog?   I guess I'll take the dog... (no offense intended, Ex-Husband!).  :)
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In the Middle of the Night

“Everyone, at some point in their lives, wakes up in the middle of the night with the feeling that they are all alone in the world, and that nobody loves them now and that nobody will ever love them, and that they will never have a decent night's sleep again and will spend their lives wandering blearily around a loveless landscape, hoping desperately that their circumstances will improve, but suspecting, in their heart of hearts, that they will remain unloved forever. The best thing to do in these circumstances is to wake somebody else up, so that they can feel this way, too.”

― Lemony Snicket

OK, first of all, WHO in the heck is Lemony Snicket?  I will out him right now:  American novelist David Handler.  Lemony Snicket (as teachers, parents and...others...know) is the guy who wrote the terribly macabre A Series of Unfortunate Events series which will easily scare your children into behaving.

What was my intent of this post?? Oh, yes...middle of the night....back on track now.  Cheerio.

I was awakened two hours ago by an urgent whisper.

"Mom.  MOM!"


"Charlie is still on my bed.  Will you please come get him?"  Charlie is our 17-year-old geriatric cat in residence.  Charlie is old and obviously senile, often waking us up with kitty shouts in the middle of the night because he has FORGOTTEN it's the middle of the night and would like to be fed his special kitty food.  Of late, he has taken up residence in Thing 1's room because the bed is low enough for him to still jump on and the covers are soft and cozy on an almost-always-unmade bed.

My children refuse to pick up this cat.  They are pansies when it comes to animals.  They don't know HOW to pick up the cat.  They're afraid the cat will BREAK.  They don't know if he'll SCRATCH them.  I have come into rooms to find them awkwardly curled AROUND Charlie because they want to sit in the recliner but that's Charlie's chair of choice during daylight hours.  And they can't MOVE him. 

So, at 2 a.m., I shuffled into Thing 1's room with a grunt and removed the cat from the bed and put him in the hall.  I adjusted the white noise box fan in the doorway of the room so that the cat would stay out.

I collapsed face first back on my bed and proceeded to go back to sleep.

10 minutes later I hear a soft commotion from Thing 1's room.

"CHARLIE!  I TOLD you that I don't want you to sleep in my BED!"

Sigh.  Shuffle, grunt, shuffle, shuffle.  I removed the cat again and put him in another favorite location:  my laundry basket of mismatched socks in my closet.

10 minutes later.  "CHARLIE!"  Still an urgent whisper.  But more frantic now.

My shuffles were becoming more like strides twenty minutes into this middle-of-the-night farce.

"OK.  I'll put him on MY bed.  Maybe he'll like sleeping with me and Sparky."

Cat deposited on my bed.  Now I had TWO animals to maneuver around (I really need to consider a king-sized bed).  And, naturally, my mind starts going tick, tick, tick, tick...Before I know it, two hours have passed and I have given up sleep for the night.

So, Thing 1 is sleeping soundly in his bed.  Charlie has been fed special kitty food and is now contentedly curled on the recliner.  Sparky is at my feet.  And I have a big pot of coffee and the dim glow of the computer monitor to keep me company.

It's going to be a long day.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Old Friends and New

“These are the quicksilver moments of my childhood I cannot remember entirely. Irresistible and emblematic, I can recall them only in fragments and shivers of the heart.”
― Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides
“The fruit tasted foreign but indigenous, like sunlight a tree had changed through patience.”
― Pat Conroy, The Prince of Tides  

“Anyone who knows me well must understand and be sympathetic to my genuine need to be my own greatest hero. It is not a flaw of character; it is a catastrophe.”
― Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline 

“I wanted to become the seeker, the aroused and passionate explorer, and it was better to go at it knowing nothing at all, always choosing the unmarked bottle, always choosing your own unproven method, armed with nothing but faith and a belief in astonishment.”
― Pat Conroy, The Lords of Discipline   
Pat Conroy.  Oh, I would lay down my life for this man, I swear it.  Whenever I read one of his books (as I have, over and over...all of them), I cannot help but read the words aloud.  They feel good on my tongue.  His sentences are beautifully constructed, vivid, LIVING things and I want to BATHE in them.
Seriously, read those quotes aloud.  Slowly, with a Southern drawl, please.  Don't they just make you want to cry or kick your legs or...just SAY THEM AGAIN?
There is nothing on this earth better than a good book coupled with a glass of wine and an afternoon of nothing on the schedule.  Oh, heck, give me the WHOLE NIGHT.  I crave good books the way a crackhead longs for the rock.  And Pat Conroy?  Holy smokes, that man can play a string of words like Yo Yo Ma on the fiddle. 

I am not a snob when it comes to fiction.  I read it all....the good, the bad...AND the ugly.  And the BEAUTY of all of it is that I DO NOT REMEMBER any of them.  I can be SURPRISED by the ending of a book for at least the first two times I read it.  I can always tell you if I liked the book or not but I can't tell you anything about the plot or the characters.  At all.  Same thing with movies.  I don't remember them.  At all.  Unless I watch them at least twice.  I've watched It's Complicated, Eat Pray Love and Letters from Juliet about TWELVE TIMES EACH over the last 6 months.  And they never get old.  I'm starting to remember them now, though, so I think I'll move on to a few new titles.  But those make me happy...so I might stick with them a while longer.

I've read Gone with the Wind at least 10 times.  I've read The Lords of Discipline easily 6 or 7 times.  All of Stephen King's books (with the exception of the Dark Tower series), I have read at least twice each.  Well, the good ones anyway.  A few of them he missed the mark on.  The Stand?  Perhaps a dozen times.  There are many others...many old friends that I return to year after year even as I meet new friends like Tell No One (which I remember really liking but couldn't tell you the first thing about it) or Gone Girl (which I DO remember a little about because it disturbed the HECK out of me).  Don't even get me started on the Harry Potter series.

This all began tonight because I couldn't find my dog-eared paperback of The Lords of Discipline.  I felt a little desperate looking for it because it's almost like an old friend gone missing.  And, for some reason, it just doesn't feel RIGHT that I download it onto my Nook.  That's MY COPY of The Lords.  I kinda just need to hold it and smell the old paper and feel it in my hands.  But....it's missing. 

I may wander down to the used bookstore before I cave and download it.  Maybe someone else gave up their copy (as if!).  I need it to be old with yellowed pages.

And I need a little Pat Conroy to lull me off to sleep.   

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

“If love shows itself in the eyes, then my neighbors love me: I’m on their watch list.”
                                                                             ― Bauvard

I have lived in the same house for almost 11 years.  This may sound like an unimpressive statistic but when I tell you that the longest I lived in any one house in the 31 years prior to that was four years, you might understand a little more.  I spent a lifetime moving from town to town, house to house and creating a new place in the world for myself with each new locale.

But now, I've lived in the exact same house in the exact same town for over a decade. I believe this makes me a "local."

I've discovered that there are really neat things about living somewhere as a permanent fixture.  My youngest son was born in this house (well, not IN this house, but I'll cover THAT later).  It's morphed from contractor-white walls to the varied colors of my imagination.  That time nine years ago when the toilet overflowed upstairs and water leaked into the kitchen ceiling is now showing on the kitchen ceiling itself with the popcorn paint peeling overhead like a sly, watermarked smile.  I walk the same streets each day.  I meet people I know regularly when I'm out running errands.

I still, however, do not know my neighbors.

One would think after 11 years in the same house with the immediate homes around me populated by the same people who were there when I moved in that I would at least know NAMES of my neighbors.  I do know the New Flanders next door (I'll cover THAT nickname in a minute; be patient!), and I know the guy immediately across the street.  Other than that, I have ZERO clue about the identity of my neighbors other than the little tidbits I've picked up in observation over the years.  I am not blaming my neighbors; I just realize that a neighborhood is a bit like high school.  You're thrust into the same orbit with these people by virtue only of your residence and you avoid most of them at will because you almost certainly have nothing in common with them.  Couple that with the fact that we live in the city limits in one of those neighborhoods where the developer was trying to squeeze every last dollar out of lot sizes so all of our houses are approximately 15 feet apart. But we all smile and nod and think to ourselves "What in the HECK is that woman's NAME?"

Let's start with the New Flanders.  Years ago, when my Ex-Husband still lived here with me, we had the NICEST neighbors in the WORLD.  They introduced themselves when we moved in (unlike every other neighbor I have) and they were truly the kind of people (still are) that make me ashamed of myself and my general ill-will toward most people.  They were always smiling and waving and saying hello.  Their three boys were all very well-mannered.  We NEVER heard them.  Never.  Three boys.  Quiet?  WTF?  Anyway, remember the guy Ned Flanders from the television show The Simpsons?  "Hiddely ho, neighbor!"  Super friendly guy?  The Ex-Husband and I started calling our neighbors the Flanders. The husband even kinda LOOKED like Ned.  We were both so afraid we were going to slip up and say "Hi Flanders!" when he spoke to us.

Well, eventually, the Flanders sold their house to a young couple who were EXACTLY LIKE THEM.  So nice.  So incredibly friendly.  I actually give them herbs from my garden sometimes because they are just so DARNED NICE.  They've had a couple of kids now and we exchange pleasantries whenever our paths cross. 

So yesterday,  our neighborhood had a Community Yard Sale.  On-Again came over in the morning and we ended up strolling through the neighborhood looking at the various wares for sale.  He was on the lookout for a bicycle for me so we can have some Great Camping Adventures this summer with the boys.  We passed by the New Flanders and waved hello.   Later that morning, we were eating breakfast and I stopped and asked On-Again, "Was Mrs. New Flanders holding a BABY this morning?"

"Well, yeah," he responded.  "But isn't that the kid she already has?"

"No.  No, not at all.  The Newest Flanders is a toddler."  This got my mind whirring.  How on earth could the neighbor who LITERALLY lives 15 FEET away from me have been pregnant for nine months and have given birth and I NEVER KNEW?   I felt the weight of my obliviousness.

So, yesterday I was out mowing my lawn and all the New Flanders were out in their own yard doing what New Flanders do.  (Did I mention that the Old Flanders received Yard of the Month TWICE while they lived next to us?  We decided they received the honor only due to comparison with OUR yard.  MY yard makes ANYONE'S yard look GREAT.)  I saw Mrs. New Flanders next to the fence (did I mention how pretty and thin she is?) and stopped the mower to talk.

I said hello and then jumped right into my agenda.

"So, did I see you with a BABY earlier?"

"Oh, yes," she smiled broadly, showing her perfectly even, white teeth.  "She was born the day after Valentine's day."

"Did I even know you were PREGNANT?"

Her smile faltered a tiny bit but then she regained her composure.  She knows how I am.  "Well, I didn't really gain very much weight.  Only 20 pounds.  I had her right in the living room, by choice of course.  So much less expensive and a lot healthier for the baby."

I think my mouth was actually gaping open at this point.

"SO," I said.  "I guess that means you didn't use any drugs."

"Oh NO," she said, still smiling broadly.  "I didn't use any with the other two either."

Now, I've seen the Having the Baby show on Lifetime Television for Women (it's not called that but I watched it constantly while I was pregnant with both my boys).  They always feature women who are very into the natural birthing process.  They often involve their other children so they can witness the Miracle of Birth.

I started in again because I just don't know when to keep my mouth shut.  "So, I'm guessing Flanders One and Two were able to participate in the birth?"

She assured me that Flanders One was able to be there at the moment of birth and had been very excited.  My smile felt all plasticky and frozen.  I wanted to support her choices because they ARE very natural and beautiful choices but at the same time I wanted to stamp her forehead with STEPFORD on it because I can't say I have a single friend who makes the choice to have a baby in her living room.  "Give me DRUGS," we all admit over glasses of wine.  "Thank GOODNESS we no longer have to squat in dark rooms or in fields to squirt these suckers out!"  But here I was, faced with a woman who chose to have her baby in the comfort of her own home surrounded by people she loved....without the benefit of pain-blockers to keep her from spewing obscenities.   

I KNOW, for a fact, that Mrs. New Flanders is not only a better person than I, but she is also far more hardcore.  She grinds wheat into flour (I'm not kidding...she really does), she uses cloth diapers and she prepares every meal for her family with all-natural ingredients with zero preservatives.  She already told me she plans to homeschool Flanders One in the fall.  She is a Real Woman.  And I am ashamed of myself whenever I'm near her.

She's kind.  She's pretty.  She's not self-involved but very Mother Earth giving.


It's best that I just don't get to know my neighbors at all. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Eat Rainbows and Poop Butterflies!

“In my world, everyone's a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies!”
                                                                                 ― Dr. Seuss

The other day, I was driving Thing 1 to his early morning jazz band practice and I began singing a perfectly made-up song about him and his cello.  It was a meandering sort of tune that included all kinds of things about my son and his cello and how he takes his cello everywhere.  The lyrics focused on the strings of the cello and how my son would make them come alive and continued on about how the cello was an integral part of his existence.  My almost-13-year-old son was in his seat practically crying through his belly laughs.

He doesn't own a cello.

After that, I went on a tirade about the proper pronunciation of words.  We ran through some of my favorites:  picture vs. pitcher; li-berry vs. library; and even the February vs. Feb-u-ary debate where Thing 1 argued that EVERYONE says Feb-u-ary.  "NOT APPROPRIATE!" I roared.  "If they didn't WANT a letter "r" in the word, well, then they would have simply LEFT IT OUT!  USE THE "R!""

He laughed with his ever deepening, coming-of-age voice and for a moment I marveled at the fact that my kids have an otherworldly experience when it comes to mothers.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I DO all the right stuff:  I bake the brownies; I attend parent/teacher conferences (when I remember them); I help with homework; and I sit in the car-pool line at morning drop-offs.  But they also have a mother who makes up crazy songs and has been known to say (in mixed company), "Son, I will CUT YOU."  One of my kids' friends heard me say that once and looked in wide-eyed horror at my youngest son.  "Did YOUR MOM just say she was going to CUT YOU?"

He responded nonchalantly.  "Oh, yeah.  She says that all the time.  Maybe she will one day.  But probably not."

I figured after that exchange perhaps I should curb my  threats of cutting.  They're never going to come to fruition anyway.  It's just my way of easing R-rated talk into their PG-lives.

My kids are more well-behaved than any parent has a right to reasonably expect.  I think it's because they figure that I'm just one step shy of crazy and could easily lose my stuff at any moment so they'd best not push me too far.  They tolerate an awful lot of weird behavior from me.  When they shared a room when they were little, I woke them up in a few of different ways:
  •  I would burst into their room with my hairbrush as a microphone singing Barry Manilow's Daybreak at the top of my lungs complete with vigorous back-up singer hand motions (you only WISH you had a video of that).   
  • They had these stuffed dinosaurs that had different personalities and voices (as ALL stuffed animals do...duh).  On the dinosaur mornings, they would threaten to eat whichever sleeping child wouldn't get up.  "OH, num, num, I think this EAR would taste good!"  And then the dinosaurs would have this weird conversation that I could never remember (because they wanted me to repeat it verbatim the next morning..."Mommy, mommy!  Do the part where the dinosaur talks about his friend Frank from the sewer!").
  • Sometimes I would invent rap songs using the kids' names in them and talk about how fly the day was if only Thing 1 would arise.  I got myself into trouble with the rap because a) I have zero rhythm and b) I would be all out of breath before the end of the first few lines because of the creative "hip-hop" moves I invented to go along with the raps.
Most kids probably get a gentle "good morning."  No wonder Thing 1 was in a bad mood for the first 10 years of his life until I FINALLY realized he wasn't a morning person.  Thing 2 could probably still take all of the above and counter them with moves of his own.

At dinner time, I often have them play word games with me (my little dudes have A-MAZING vocabularies that would easily rival most adults I know).  If I didn't incorporate the games, all they would do is talk about bodily functions because dinner is OBVIOUSLY the best time for THAT. They have no real desire to tell me about their days.  I usually get that in snippets when we're riding somewhere in the car.  Boy children keep their days to THEMSELVES, apparently.  I've met girl children who will go into every. single. instant. of their days.  My boys?  Nothin' doin'.

I sing at inappropriate times.  I dress up for Halloween.  I get FAR too excited about holidays.  And my then-preschooler asked me (well before I turned away from the rap I thought they weren't listening to and back to the more age-appropriate Raffi and Laurie Berkner), "What's a 'lady in the street but a freak in the bed' mean?" (My response was "it's a lady who has a lot of very ACTIVE dreams...PLEASE do not repeat those lyrics to ANYONE else!")

So far, my boys tolerate me quite well.  I don't know HOW MUCH therapy they'll have to have eventually because of me but I'm assuming it will be significant.  All I care about is that they continue to laugh at my antics well into old age. 

I'm sure I'll have some new tricks by then.  And I wonder if, by blogging all of our family "secrets" NOW, will that cut down on the tell-all books from each of them in the future?  It's certainly something to consider.

"Son, the time I accidentally left you in the Target parking lot is SO NOT NEWS.  I told everyone about THAT ON FACEBOOK years ago.  Suck it up."

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You CAN Unstick Yourself

“We are taught you must blame your father, your sisters, your brothers, the school, the teachers - but never blame yourself. It's never your fault. But it's always your fault, because if you wanted to change you're the one who has got to change.”
                                                                     ― Katharine Hepburn

It's fair to say that I've had some issues in my life.  I'm sure at some point I'll blather on about all those issues and what the root causes were but what I'm most focused on NOW is moving past the reasons, the excuses, the insecurities, the drama and the insanity.

I am in the midst of metamorphosis.

There's a magic formula you need in order to go through a metamorphosis.  It's a very simple concept yet so elusive because we humans naturally want to point away from ourselves and BLAME someone for why our car won't start ("YOU forgot to buy the new battery!") or why we are still underpaid ("They don't APPRECIATE me!") or why our children misbehave ("They don't listen!") or why we're so angry and tired all the time ("No one helps me!").  Ready?

The answer solely lies with you.  YOU are the only one who can decide how you're going to feel about anything.  The bottom line:  No matter what, YOU are responsible for your choices and your life.  You can choose anger or you can choose laughter.  You can choose drama or you can choose peace.  YOU decide your own internal climate and your own external behavior.  If you're stuck in something, only YOU can decide to unstick yourself.

Let's take the above examples:
  1.  The car won't start because someone else forgot to buy the new battery.  OK.  The car won't start.  It doesn't even matter who forgot what, does it? The problem is the car won't start.  You can choose to be nuts about it. Or you can choose to stop bitching and moaning and just go buy a damn battery.  
  2. We are underpaid because our employer doesn't appreciate us.  You're underpaid? Ask for a raise.  They won't give you one? Find a new job.  Jobs are scarce?  Figure out another way to make money. Learn to paint houses, cut hair, do crafts.  I don't care what it is you do.  Stop complaining about it and do something about it. The answer lies with you. 
  3. Our children misbehave because they don't listen.  Whose fault is that?  Do your children have consequences?  If they have consequences and they still don't listen, maybe the consequences aren't consistent.  I don't know what your particular answer is...but I do know that often the answer lies within us.  If you've tried everything and your kids don't listen...well, maybe they're miscreants; their OWN answer lies within them.  :)
  4.  We're angry and tired all the time because no one helps.  Have you asked for help?  If so, do you criticize your helpers so they disappear when help is needed again?  Are your demands simply too high?  Look at yourself first and maybe you'll find another, far deeper, answer for your anger and weariness.
Stop looking around and believing that if EVERYONE ELSE would just do A or B or C, then you can be happy.  I was stuck in that trap for a very long time...truly believing that I was not going to find any kind of happiness because Person X wouldn't do this and Person Y wouldn't do that.  But once I realized that it was ME causing my OWN unhappiness...it was a pretty quick switch.  Don't get me wrong, I still get angry and I still get upset about things.  But it only takes a few minutes these days to get my emotions under control and back on track.  I realize I cannot control other people...I can only control myself.  And I really CAN control myself even when I'm feeling completely Out of Control.  I'm sure my Ex-Husband wishes I'd figured THAT out a long freakin' time ago.  And I'll bet On-Again is reluctant to go to sleep these days waiting for whiny, cranky, unhappy Kelly to come back out of the closet.

But Whiny Kelly has been banished.  She's been gone for quite a while now.  I took a four-month long journey into exploring my numerous insecurities and came out on the other side stronger, more confident and more joyful than I've ever been...ever.  I'm always going to be a work in progress and I could probably use a bright yellow strip of CAUTION tape as a sash...but I feel pretty good these days.  I'm happier and THAT is healthier for my kids.

And THAT, my friends, is a VERY un-stuck place to be.

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Wednesday, April 17, 2013

I am such a SUCKER

It did what all ads are supposed to do: create an anxiety relievable by purchase.”
                                  ― David Foster Wallace

I just read an article about the hilarious Rebel Wilson.  I became a HUGE (no pun intended) fan of hers through her work on Bridesmaids and then fell in love all over again with her Fat Amy role in Pitch Perfect


Now, I want to stalk her and buy t-shirts from her Fat Mandi Web site. (The funniest part about the t-shirts?  They only come in sizes medium and above because they're "not for skinny bitches."  See what I mean?  HILARIOUS.)  I already own Bridesmaids but I'm considering running by Target tonight to pick up Pitch Perfect and perhaps that Details magazine that had a little snippet about her.  I want to be her New Best Friend.

All because I read a stupid article.  Publicity articles, commericials and print ads were made with people like me in mind.  You can sell me ANY. THING.  If it's a clever ad and you make me believe I need it, well, by gory I will move hell and high water to get it.

Case in point:  when I worked in marketing for a little company that designs and markets software for nonprofits (OK, fine, it's a BIG company now but I try not to use names so that I don't offend people), I told all the folks I worked with about the TREE that grew MULTIPLE FRUITS.  I saw it in one of those ads in the Sunday paper coupons.  It was something like: AMAZING tree grows a VARIETY of fruits!  I thought this was the most CLEVER invention EVER.  My marketing manager thought I was hysterical SO they bought me one as a going-away gift when I left.  The thing looked like a stick.  They had made little pieces of fruit..bananas, apples, and oranges...and had hung them on the tree with pictures of my marketing department friends and messages written on the fruits.

I planted that sucker.

And I was disappointed when it died because I KNEW it would bear magical fruit.  I was really, truly devastated because the AD SAID IT WOULD BEAR FRUIT.

I also always believe that I will win when I play ANY sweepstakes game, buy a lottery ticket (which I did one time), or purchase a raffle ticket.  I truly, truly believe I will win.  I am also SURPRISED when I don't.

Infomercials?  Fuhgeddaboutit. I need EVERYTHING I see on an infomercial.  If they have half an hour to sell me something, it becomes a life's goal of mine to acquire said product.  I focus in on it until I see a commercial for something else that I absolutely must have.

I have come so close to buying those glass things you put in plants to feed them, face creams, foot lotions, tanning supplies, get-thin-quick nutritional supplements, miracle bras, miracle pants, miracle music.  Any new car ad I see makes me want to get that car.  EVEN vehicles that I would never in a million years consider buying. "Oooh, I think I DO need that Ford Ranger for hauling mulch!  Look how SPORTY it is!"

I am such a freakin' sucker.  You could totally sell me swamp land.  Or air.  (I have bought air before at the gas station...you know you have, too.)

Now, I have to run to Target before they sell out of all the copies of Pitch Perfect....

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Tuesday, April 16, 2013

In the Midst of Tragedy There is Always Light

“And when something awful happens, the goodness stands out even more ...”
― Banana Yoshimoto

On the afternoon of Monday, April 16, 2013, two explosions ripped through the crowd waiting near the finish line at the Boston Marathon.  176 people were injured, 17 of those critically injured and three people were killed.  It's early yet, so no one has taken "credit" for the bombing and the public is not yet aware who the real suspects are.

Tragedy has once again struck our nation.

Over the past year or so, I have avoided bad news as much as possible.  I am, for the most part, uninformed about the tragedies that take place on a daily basis in the United States and around the world.  Before I set out to be intentionally ignorant about the bad things that happen, I would cry over the news.  I would read about the injustices, the humiliations and the evil and I would weep and feel the burden of this knowledge settle into my very bones.   

Today, I choose to look at the good.   I no longer listen to popular radio stations in the car.  Instead, I tune the dial to K-LOVE.  They are a Christian network of radio stations who tout themselves as "positive, encouraging K-LOVE."  They highlight positive news stories and encourage and pray for their listeners in between song lists of current Christian music artists.  I am soaking up these positive messages like a man in the midst of a drought. 

I have not looked at the images of the tragedy in Boston just as I don't follow the trial of the late-term abortion doctor that didn't quite make national headlines.  I see glimpses of these stories and I turn away.  We all are aching for the injured and for the families of the deceased.  But I need to hear the stories of the people who are turning tragedy into blessings.  They are there.  And they are plentiful.

  • 52-year-old Carlos Arredondo, who was at the finish line with his wife handing out US Flags to runners with Run for the Fallen, didn't run away.  He ran to HELP.  He helped control the bleeding of a bystander who lost both of his legs. 
  • Army veteran Bruce Mendelsohn was celebrating with his brother who had run the race.  The explosion knocked him off his seat a couple of blocks away and he ran to the scene to provide what assistance he could.
  • Only a few hours after the explosion, residents of Boston began offering couches, meals and spare bedrooms to anyone who needed assistance in the aftermath of the tragedy.
  • Marathoners tore off their shirts to use them as tourniquets.
  • Former New England Patriot Joe Andruzzi carried an injured woman to safety in his arms.
  • Businesses in the area opened their doors to people as places of refuge from the chaos with offers of phone charging and meals on a "pay if you can" basis.
I am sure there are many, many more stories of hope, heroes and encouragement that we will learn about in the coming days.  There is tragedy, yes.  We are surrounded by tragedy each and every day.  Our nation suffers from poverty, joblessness, homelessness and bigotry.  Around the world, people are slaughtered for nothing more than their religious convictions or sexual orientation.  But from out of the tragedy, there is always, always hope.  There are people who emerge from the tragedies of this bedraggled, often hopeless, world as shining beacons.

Let's focus on the positive. Let us focus on what is good in humanity.  You often find those things that you seek.  We are all joining together as a nation to pray for comfort and peace for those affected by this tragedy.  But I ask that we not forget the ongoing tragedies that people in our nation and around the world face every single day.  Pray for the little girl who suffers from abuse at the hands of her father.  Pray for the elderly woman who can't afford her medication.  Pray for the families who need jobs to pay for food for their children. And pray for the people who live in nations where their very survival from day to day is questionable.   

We are surrounded by tragedy.  But we are filled with hope.  Look for the stories of the everyday heroes in Boston and in your hometown.  Offer a smile to a stranger.  Offer a meal to a friend.  Life is short and we only get this one opportunity to make a difference in our world.  Each of us can shine a light of hope in the midst of life's tragedies.

John 16:33 

I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.

What are your stories of hope?

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Kids of the 70s Got Shafted

“I always felt like I was meant to have been born in another era, another time.”
                                                            --Johnny Depp

I was walking down the hall of Thing 2's elementary school yesterday and noticed a little girl walking down the hall.  She was dressed head-to-toe in varying shades of pink from her flower-laden pink shoes all the way up to the polka-dotted pink bow fastened to her long blonde ponytail.  She had comfy pink leggings on and a pink, purple and orange backpack attached to her small frame.  She looked confident and her bouncy stride made her ponytail swing back and forth as she moved away from me down the hallway.

I started thinking about the clothes I had when I was about her age.  It would have been about 1978.  We all looked like kids from third-world countries who get all the clothes rejected from the Goodwill.  None of us looked attractive in ANY way.  Our clothes were the product of far too many drug-fueled fashion-fests of our parents' generation.  I can just see them all sitting around with tablets of LSD on their tongues, "DUDE, what we NEED is an orange paisley shirt with a collar that they could ACTUALLY FLY WITH!"

Photo courtesy of soogal on Flickr.  All 70s kids looked the same.

 We had crazy color combinations, flat shiny hair plastered to our heads, weird looking flowers and ruffles in odd places.  There was absolutely NOTHING cute about us.  Instead of confidently striding down the hall, we slithered close to the wall, hoping no one would notice our bright green knee socks and orange corduroy jumpers.   We looked like unkempt, mismatched orphans. 

I think the reason we received corporal punishment in school (remember those wooden paddles with the HOLES in them?) was because teachers and principals were trying to beat the ugly out of us.  You don't have any qualms about smashing a cockroach, right?  Kids of the 70s were the equivalent of today's cockroaches.

That brings up another very valid point.  Our clothes were not the ONLY way we got shafted.  We also received the short end of the stick in the discipline category.  Our parents were not at ALL afraid to smack us right across the mouth if we "back talked."  And they would do it in PUBLIC.  Other parents would be standing around nodding as if to say, "Oh, yeah, that ugly kid DESERVED THAT."  No one would blink an eye. 

Teachers would paddle us in classrooms and in the hallway for minor infractions such as laughing during the middle of a test.  I'll bet teachers were a lot less stressed out in those days because they had whole battalions of ugly kids on whom to take out their frustrations.

Kids of the 70s RARELY ate at restaurants.  I remember the very FIRST drive-thru in our town.  I heard tales of this amazing window and you would drive your car up to it and they would hand FOOD out the WINDOW.  Who ever heard of that?  Breakfast, lunch and dinner was SUPPOSED to be served on a cheap Formica table with metal legs (remember those?) on Corelle plates with flowers. Yes, even our dinnerware was ugly in the 70s.  We drank soda on special occasions.

We also played outside.  A lot.  In the STREET.  Our parents drank beer and (probably) smoked weed while playing cards with their friends, late into the night.  We played outside under streetlights.  Well, my friends did.  My bedtime was something stupid like 5:30pm when my parents were too tired to deal with me anymore (disclaimer:  Mom, I'm being SARCASTIC.  I KNOW I didn't really go to bed at 5:30.  Did you smoke weed though?? [KIDDING, MOM!]).  I'm sure we played outside so much and rode our bikes all over town because no 70s parent cared if an ugly kid went missing.


Maybe THAT'S the answer.  Our parents made us SO UGLY that no one else could possibly want us.  They raised us in a crazy world so that we would make better choices for their beautifully clothed grandchildren.  They wanted to grow old smiling proudly at their beautiful grandchildren and marvel at how WELL their ugly children turned out.  We're ON to you, 70s parents.  Now, we know the game.

And we remember the 70s.  Oh yes.  That's why we've decided that ALL nursing homes of the future will have orange shag carpet and Corelle.

You're welcome.  

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Sunday, April 14, 2013

You Just Can't Take Me Anywhere

“A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”
― Coco Chanel

My On-Again Boyfriend and I were invited to a formal gala event this weekend.  A married couple we know was throwing a Festive White Tie Birthday Extravaganza for their combined birthdays, complete with handsome men in tuxedos with tails and gorgeous women elegantly draped in formal gowns.  The event was a raging success with red carpet, a paparazzo recording the event for posterity and a beautifully presented, deliciously prepared meal with signature cocktails designed by our hosts.

First of all, it is a testament to these folks that almost 80 of their friends and relatives attended the party.  They are extraordinarily kind-hearted, thoughtful and benevolent people and every single person the On-Again and I met on Saturday night was truly lovely.  We had a fabulous time.

On-Again looked drop-dead handsome in his formal attire.  Because he's naturally svelte with rugged good looks, he was practically a 007 clone and I spent the evening wiping the drool off my face.

I, on the other hand, was a different story altogether.

Let me give you a little background.  I had spent the morning at Thing 2's baseball game.   Each of the games last for an hour and a half (trust me, kid games COULD go on FOREVER so it's really a positive thing they put a ceiling on them).  I am still in winter mode and I forgot to put sunscreen on myself OR on the kids prior to heading to the ball field.  AND, because I'm still in winter mode, I am not yet keeping tubes in the car, in my purse or in his baseball bag.   The day was beautifully sunny and gorgeous and I worried a little when I stepped out the car but thought maybe I'd borrow some from another (more well-prepared) mom. 

When I got to the field, I ended up getting the scoreboard electronic control thingy thrust at me so that I could note the balls, strikes, runs and innings for THE ENTIRE crowd of spectators.  Sunscreen was immediately out of my tiny little brain because I had to figure out the electronic thingy on the fly (no one else knew how to operate it either) AND learn about baseball on the fly at the same time ("OH, the UMPIRE is showing the balls and strikes WITH HIS FINGERS!").

Let me be the first to tell you that if you can have an albino once-removed, that is about the shade of my natural skin color.  My skin cannot be described as milky or creamy...it is simply known as "dead people white."   This shade is not really a huge fan of direct sunlight and I have been known to hiss and snarl at midday.

About halfway through the game, one of the other moms suggested to me that I might want to remove my enormous circular necklace because I was almost certain to have a perfect white spot in the midst of the impending burn.  I could see the pink already showing on my arms and chest and hurriedly removed the necklace and stuffed it into my bag, not bothering to ask for sunscreen from anyone because a) I'm an idiot, b) what the heck, it was already too late and c) I missed two balls and a strike while I was struggling to remove the offending jewelry and you do NOT want to piss off these hardcore baseball families.

My gorgeous formal-wear sunburn as an accessory.
I consoled myself when I got home that the burn COULD have been worse.  Later that afternoon, On-Again picked me up in his convertible and we drove for about five miles with the top down until he looked over at me, realized I was going to resemble Foghorn Leghorn's cockscomb, and pulled over on the shoulder of the highway to put the top back up.  

We got to the hotel; I took a shower and was immediately horrified at my redneck sunburn, complete with an awesome circle RIGHT in the middle of my chest.

On-Again tried to console me.  He murmured encouraging words of support like "it's really lucky for you that it's too late for me to find another date."  (He really did say that out loud but he laughed and told me that I was beautiful anyway, so I'm assuming he was kidding.)

One of the BEST parts is that the gown I had picked to wear was a gorgeous shade of red.  I MATCHED!  My sunburn was an ACCESSORY.

We arrived to the gala and most of the guests politely avoided gazing at my trashy sunburned chest area except for a couple of women in the bathroom ("OH MY GOSH, you are SO SUNBURNED!") and a drunkenly funny friend of our hosts.

I don't know if you realize this or not but, except for Nascar events and water parks, you really don't SEE sunburned people anymore.  It's like smoking:  no one does it.  Sunburn used to be a badge of honor (remember those girls who used BABY OIL to tan?) because when it healed, your skin turned that nice unhealthy leathery brown color.  But NOW?  NO ONE gets sunburned because everyone is (responsibly) lathered with 30+SPF.

Poor On-Again was burdened with the trashy girl with the exposed flaming chest.  He looked like a knock-off James Bond saddled with a low-rent extra from the set of Hee Haw.  He told me how pretty I looked about 10 million times, so I am assuming he was able to look at me from the chin up.  

It turned out OK, I suppose.  I met some truly nice people and laughed off my mishap with a couple of glasses of red (naturally).  On-Again will know next time that he just can't take me anywhere.  Unless it's Nascar....


Addendum:  It should be noted that Things 1 and 2 inherited their father's skin tone for the most part.  They were unharmed by their mother's stupidity and subsequent neglect.

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