Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Age is a number with a life behind it

“It is by no means an irrational fancy that, in a future existence, we shall look upon what we think our present existence, as a dream.”
― Edgar Allan Poe

Today, I woke up with the realization that the woman in the mirror is 44 years old.  44.  Forty-four.  XLIV in Roman numerals.  She has been 44 for some time...but the number is clanging around in her head this morning, ricocheting off memories and dreams.

44 is old enough to know better and old enough not to care.  44 is too old to play dumb and far too experienced to waste time.  At this age, that woman I see in the mirror has finally stopped caring what people think of her but she still longs for them to like her. And she wants them to accept her exactly as she is. She has spent a lifetime pretending to be this for one and that for another and has become content...finally...with simply being herself. 

The woman in the mirror looks back at me with kind, vivid blue eyes.  I appraise her objectively and find her beautiful.  I rarely see her beauty but, instead, focus on her shortcomings.  Her short upper lip curves upward when she is at rest.  It is nothing more and nothing less than how she was made.  It's a part of her and it's only a lip.  It's nothing to hide.  It's nothing to disdain.  It's a lip.  And it belongs to her. 

I wonder why I have spent a lifetime being critical of that woman staring back at me. I realize that she has done nothing more than the best she can.  And, at some points, even her best really wasn't very good.  But every day, no matter what the day before had brought, she wakes up.  She puts one foot in front of the other.  And she keeps moving.  She goes forward...every day attempting to be a better person, a better friend, a better mother, a better employee, a better human being.  She fails.  And tries again.  And fails.  And, once more, she tries again.

She deserves my compassion.  She deserves my patience.  My forgiveness.  I must remember not to criticize her, apologize for her, belittle her or be angry with her for too long.  

She takes life to heart, this woman in the mirror.  She knows her role on the planet is small but that her behavior and her moods impact the environment in her home.  She willingly fosters a climate of acceptance, kindness and love.  She laughs a lot...sometimes too loud and too long for those around her. 

She lashes out at times...usually in fear.  Her fears are deeply personal and related to loss of self.  She fears not being heard, understood, or loved.   She is sometimes sarcastic and curt.  She is harsh and unyielding until she becomes aware of her own coldness.  And then she melts like butter in tearful apologies.

She believes that people are inherently good...even those people who do evil things.  She rails against stupidity and ignorance.  She aches for those who are hurting.  She assumes their pain and makes it her own until she can't bear it and pushes it away.

The woman in the mirror is 44.  She still has a lot left to learn.  She has places to explore, thoughts to examine, things to conquer, and tasks to master.  She is 44.  And she moves forward.

Who is in your mirror?

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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Parenting Teens: When Does This Merry-Go-Round STOP?

I hope you never look back, but you never forget,
All the ones who love you, in the place you live,
I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,
And you help somebody every chance you get,
Oh, you find God's grace, in every mistake,
And always give more than you take.

But more than anything, yeah, more than anything
My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,
Your dreams stay big, your worries stay small,
You never need to carry more than you can hold,
And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,
I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too...
Yeah, my wish.
-Rascal Flatts 

Things 1 and 2 off to school
Yesterday, I watched my eldest son walk away from the house toward his bus stop.  His head bowed, he looked more man than child as he moved.  His arms have become roped with the veins of a man and his face needs shaving more often than not.  

His brother, taller now by an inch or two, still loped away with the easy grace of a child. But I know, as I watch his limbs lengthen and hear the deepening in his voice, that he is also moving away from our shared life and into his own.

They're in tenth and eight grades respectively and they each have only a few more years to benefit from my daily tutelage and the day-to-day umbrella of my winsome personality.

I was talking with a friend this morning about my changing role as a parent.  "I don't WANT to tell them what to do anymore," I complained.  "I shouldn't have to tell them to take out the trash or mow the grass or do their homework."  Except, apparently, I do. I have an example from last semester that fully illustrates that point but it makes me tired to even think of it.

Here's the problem:  as they begin to LOOK more like men, I don't want to ACT like some woman nagging them to do what they're supposed to do.

See, I don't want them to get accustomed to the idea of, oh, if I don't live up to my responsibilities, some chick will just tell me that I need to do my laundry or feed the dogs or pick my socks up off the living room floor.  Scratch that, socks are found on every horizontal surface in my home.  I don't want to train them to be nagged.  Nor do I want them to live with a nagger.  There is nothing more miserable on this earth than being told constantly that you're simply not meeting expectations.

So how do I handle it?  I often let them fail.  A lot.  I don't rescue them nearly as much as I could.  Or maybe even as much as I should.  I won't let them completely screw their lives over just yet but I regularly just expect them to do what they should.  But, often, they don't.


I need to come up with solutions to ease them into adulthood without causing me to lose my tenuous grasp on sanity.  Or, I could just do what I always do..what I always HAVE done as a parent:  I need to keep adapting to their needs.  I need to continue to morph as a parent to ensure that I'm giving them what they need as they need it.  It's OK for me to pull back but probably not OK for me to expect them to behave like a 40-something adult when I can barely manage that on a regular basis.  So, fine, I'll keep reminding them.

They're gonna screw up.  They're gonna tick me off.  And my job is to love them through it.  And usher them into adulthood relatively unscarred and without excessive emotional baggage that they'll have to sort through with a professional.

For now, I'll continue to watch them walk away.  I'm growing accustomed to it.  I just hope that they know that they wear my heart on their backs.  And that, no matter matter how many times they fail or, let's hope, succeed, that their mom will always be thankful that she only has to raise them once.

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

Thursday, August 20, 2015

5 Things You Should Never Do During Chemo Treatments

“Cancer. The word meant the same to me as tsunami or piranha. I had never seen them; I wasn't even quite sure what they were, but I knew they were bad and I knew in many cases they were deadly.”
― Natalie Palmer

One of my very, very good friends has gone and gotten breast cancer.  She's now inundated with appointments, information, more appointments and the well-meaning actions of the few people she has told.  She's living every single day by putting one foot in front of the other and just getting through it. 

Because she's just not ready to go public, we're going to call her MGFWC (My Good Friend With Cancer) for short.  Actually, we'll just drop it down to MF to keep the character count down.  MF has been through a lot these past few years and cancer is just the icing on the sh*t cake she's been living.  (Yeah, I said "sh*t cake."  And I meant it.) And just a few weeks ago, she had been presented with the chemo treatment facility where her doctor has privileges to treat.  Laughing, she told me about her visit with the Chemo Nurse who showed her around. The sad little room was barren with a couple of chairs and no television or any artwork on the walls.  It was a dreary room intended for an even drearier purpose.

"We have Wifi," Chemo Nurse said proudly.  I think MF (who, I just found out, has her nephew download things onto her computer because she just doesn't "get it") was singularly unimpressed.  The nurse THEN said that they strongly encouraged interaction between patients during treatment.  MF may have mumbled something about having enough friends and the average age of the other patients being old enough to remember the suffragist movement.

MF then said perhaps I should write blog posts to entertain her during treatment.  So, I shall.  The first one is all about Things You Shouldn't Do During Chemo. I mean, she doesn't have TV.  But she DOES have Wifi.  And she's a freakin' troublemaker.

  1. Porn.  The very first thing you should not do during chemo is surf porn sites with your tablet.  If you accidentally knocked the headphone jack out of your tablet, then everyone (including that Chemo Nurse) would hear the...well...whatever sounds it is that people in porn sites make.  Also, I hear those things aren't free and you should probably be saving money for your deductible.
  2. Sing out loud.  OK, I REALIZE that when we were little kids Karen Carpenter encouraged us to "sing, sing a song...sing out loud...sing out strong" but, c'mon.  Unless your name is Beyonce or Kelly Clarkson, no one really wants to hear you singing.  Especially during chemo.  Because for goodnesssake people are SICK.  They're already feeling nauseous from that chemical cocktail coursing through their bodies and you over there belting out "My Way" isn't going to help anyone.
  3. Scratch yourself.  You might be itchy.  And uncomfortable.  But did you ever notice how, when you're in the room with people who are scratching themselves, all of the sudden you feel itchy, too?  I feel kind of itchy just WRITING about scratching.  Oogie.  No one needs cancer cooties.  
  4. Cry.  Nope.  Not the time and not the place.  We'll go to another oldie but a goodie:  "Don't Cry Out Loud," that old Melissa Manchester favorite that begs you to very healthily stuff everything inside.  "Learn how to hide your feelings."  'Cause that's totally what well-adjusted people do.  Like baseball, however, there is no crying in chemo.  Crying is for later with a pint of chocolate ice cream and Lifetime Television for Women.  ('Cause just THINK, YOU could be imprisoned for a crime you didn't commit or have a cheating husband just like those poor chicks on the Lifetime Movie Network.) 
  5. Call me.  Whatever you do during your treatments, you should probably avoid any phone calls to me.  This is not only because I'm now working in a highly library-like environment but it is also because I am likely to be fairly irreverent and make wise-cracks about cancer and the other people sitting beside you and Nurse Ratchet and pretty much raise holy heck on the other end of the phone.  And because you're getting cancer treatments and not treatments for some kind of bladder problem, you probably aren't wearing Depends undergarments. This can be a problem for excessive laughter. And I will not be held responsible for the stains on your seat because of that fact.  
I love you, MF.  I truly do.  And I have a lot of faith that you're going to make it through this.  And that your life is going to be amazing.  And that we'll be sitting together in rocking chairs when we're 102, drinking tequila and telling dirty jokes to the staff at the nursing home.

You've totally got this.  And when you don't have the've got a lot of people who will carry you.

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

    Thursday, August 13, 2015

    5 Secrets To Keep Life from Keeping You Tired

    “Winston was gelatinous with fatigue.”
    ― George Orwell, 1984

    Maybe coffee is the answer?
    The very last time I remember being exceptionally well-rested was 1999.  Newly pregnant, I was weary due to that whole business of actually manufacturing human life in the walls of my uterus. I slept.  Oh, how I slept.  I would come home after work and climb into bed at 8 pm where I would snooze away blissfully until the snooze button was worn to the nub.

    Then, Thing 1 was born and all notions of sleep left with the incessant wailing of the newborn, the finicky restlessness of the baby, the 5 am wake-up calls of the toddler and the ever-present one-ear-open-because-what-if-he-needs-me of the child.  Then came the teenager that wakes me up in the middle of the night with the hushed laughter and murmurs of forbidden late night phone calls, Skype sessions or online video game parties.

    My forties came calling and with it endless nocturnal wanderings at 3 a.m.


    I don't remember NOT being tired. I'm tired right now and I haven't done a damn thing all day except attend meetings, send emails and jot down a few notes. Well, I worked out halfheartedly and slapped together a mildly nourishing, somewhat edible dinner. Short of just going to bed at 5 pm and ignoring the rest of my life, I've got to figure out a way to combat this incessant fatigue that prevents me from being the world-famous figure I am almost certainly destined to be.

    I must have a plan. 

    1.  Eat fewer fat-girl calories.  Let's take one night a couple weeks ago, for example.  I stopped by the grocery store on the way home.  Famished and exceptionally susceptible to grocery-line suggestive selling, I chucked a Snickers bar on the belt.  I didn't really WANT a Snickers bar but, let me tell you, I WANTED A SNICKERS BAR.  I read the useless, wasted calorie count and the "imma make you fat" sugar content conveniently AFTER I snarfed the bar.  All that stupid sugar makes you feel sooo good and then it makes you feel so very, very, very tired.  And to punish myself, I basically licked water off the counter for dinner

    2. Treat exercise like a date to the movies.  I would never, ever skip a date to the movies.  I don't even care what movie it is.  I am NEVER late to a movie.  I always show up early and sit there, breathless, waiting for the dancing popcorn to start its entertaining jaunt across the screen.  And then I am fully engaged in that. But exercise?  I think of any excuse I can to skip it, be late or half-ass it.  But, truly, the more active you are, the less tired you are.  I don't know why it works this way other than the notion that the universe is obviously pitted against me.

    3.  Stop trying to control everything.  Very, very little is actually under your control.  And trying to rein in all of the earth and its inhabitants is a pretty big job.  And exhausting.  I am pretty much limiting my little corner of control to...myself.  Sure, I have some influence over Things 1 and 2 but, quite honestly, at this point they're in control of themselves. I have to trust them to make good decisions and use me as a parental consultant on an as-needed basis.

    4Sleep.  I'm getting good at this one (with the obvious exception of my odd middle-of-the-night random wakening).  If it's not finished by 9, I probably shouldn't be doing it.   Nothing good comes not after midnight but after 9pm.  And that includes cookies.  And one last glass of wine.

    5. Practice joy. It may seem like a weird concept to actually practice joy. But human nature allows us to often focus on the What Ifs and the But This Could Happens of life. I prefer to dwell on the infinite possibilities of the hidden surprises that life often presents me as a gift. Last night, I looked up while The Boyfriend and I were heading to the garden for late-night tomato picking and I gasped. The stars were stretched out across the sky in a velvet blanket of wishes and dreams. It was magical. And an instant boost to my weary self.

    There are a lot of things we can do every day to ease the weariness of life drudgery that makes us want to forego the bucket list and head for the couch. But the main thing is this: take care of yourself. If you are running around taking care of everyone else first and ignoring your own physical, spiritual and emotional well-being, there will come a day when you are introduced to the wall of life. And that wall will quickly force you to your knees. 

    So today, take care of YOU. In one small way, take one small step and reclaim your vigor...your hunger for life. Just say no to being tired all the time.  Instead of folding laundry, read a book. Feed your life. And it will, in turn, nourish you.

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

    Sunday, August 2, 2015

    Are You Afraid of Change? 4 Ways to Make it Not Suck

    “You miss 100 percent of the shots you never take.” – Wayne Gretzky
    Forrest Gump faced a lot of changes, too. 

    A little over a month ago, I made a decision to make a big change.  Again.  It seems that I am often reinventing myself and my life to make it look just a little bit more like my evolving vision of who I should be and what I should do.  You see, I'm not comfortable with the status quo.  A claustrophobic person by nature, sometimes the metaphorical walls of my life seem to cave in on me and make it so I feel like I can't breathe.  So, I look around and I see what is making me feel trapped or dulled or uninspired and...well...I change it.  

    This time, it was work.
    The job that I had was amazing.  It was.  I worked with great people and had terrific clients but...I couldn't sleep.  I was up at 2 a.m. or 3 a.m. or 5 a.m. working, working, working.  And it wasn't that I was REQUIRED to was just that I couldn't stop.  I felt continual self-induced pressure to produce.  And that would have been fine with me if I felt like I was making a difference in the world or maybe if I was building my OWN business but...I just felt like I was spinning my wheels.  So, I found another job.  A great job with terrific people.  But I agonized for weeks over it...over making the change and abandoning people who had become friends.  I was horrified at myself for cutting the bonds of loyalty and leaping off into uncharted territory.  But I wasn't scared of the change.  Now that I'm THERE, I realize I probably SHOULD have been (have you ever read the book Modern Hydronic Heating? yeah, I didn't think so...I'm learning more about HVAC, fluid dynamics and heat transfer than any reasonable person should).  

    I love change.  And here's why:  changing my circumstances means that I am still growing.  If you stop growing, you might as well hang up your hat right now and just sit and wait to die.  I'm not ready to do that...and you shouldn't either.  So, if you're afraid of change, you can do what I do.  Or not.  

    1. Think of the worst thing that could happen if you make a change.  I mean, think of the WORST THING that could happen.  For me, it was "I'll take this job and everyone at my OLD company will HATE me and the new job will be boring and slow."  Then, I think of what I would do if the very worst thing happened.  "Well, I'll just get another job."  Then, as soon as I've faced the worst thing, I'm completely OK with making the change.  And, yes, sometimes the answer has been, "I might die."  And, guess what?  I still do it.  I'm completely comfortable with death.  
    2. Think of the very best thing that could happen if you make a change.  "I will love this job SO MUCH that I'll become the KING of the company and people will throw rose petals at me when I walk in the door!" (I never said that I was a realist, ever.)  But, it allows me to free my mind and just start imagining really cool things that could happen if I just let go of what's comfortable and reach outside of my comfort zone for just a moment.
    3. Forgive yourself for all the other bad decisions you've made.  I don't know many of us who have made perfect life choices 100% of the time.  Sometimes, dwelling on those wrong choices stymies us and we freeze, unable to move forward or back because of the fear of making the wrong decision.  But then, hey, see tip #1 above.
    4. Keep your sense of humor.  I often use humor as a filter. I have been kept afloat during some of the very darkest, blackest hours of my life by just viewing things from a different angle and, yes, laughing through it or at it or in spite of it.  Change doesn't have to be this big, huge THING.  You can just brace yourself, shrug your shoulders and jump in with both feet and hope that somewhere someone has a life raft or that you'll grow wings and fly. 
    But what about the changes we DON'T choose?  What if your spouse leaves you? What if you get a serious illness?  What if you get fired or laid off?  Let me propose this:  the above four things still apply.  Every. Single. Time.  Trust me.

    I've lived at 34 different addresses in seven states.  I've been through a LOT of therapy for some screwed up stuff.  I had a kid who had a tumor.  I'm divorced.  Trust me...I KNOW change.   And I still move toward it.  I'm captivated by it.  Because change means that I'm learning, growing and, with any luck, becoming a better me.  A better mom.  A better friend.  A better partner.  A better person.

    It's nice to sit in the Rockin' Chair for a few minutes.  Peace.

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

    Wednesday, May 6, 2015

    Advice to My Children on Mother's Day

    Mothers are all slightly insane.”
    ― J.D. Salinger

    Things 1 and 2 on a Great Camping Adventure
    My children often think I am a whack-job.  Trust me, this is not without reason.  They don't operate in a vacuum and they've seen how I live my life with a let's-have-dessert-FIRST mentality.  They are resigned to the fact that I ring the bell while I ride my bright green bike while wearing my purple helmet.  They tolerate the nosy pepper joke that I tell over and over and over again (thanks again, DT, for that one).  But, sometimes, I'm afraid that my words of wisdom just wash over them as yet another piece of nonsense that they have to deal with as my children.

    So, today, as a precursor to Mother's Day, I'm going to give them all of my (unsolicited) serious advice on how I hope they'll live their lives.

    1. Choose joy.  Joy comes from within.  Feed the joy.  Nourish it and it will spill out of you.  Joy is your CHOICE.  
    2. Be kind.  Hold the door open.  Say "please" and "thank you" with abandon.  Give your seat to a stranger.  Focus on doing kind things for other people and you won't have time to dwell on yourself.  
    3. Live outwardly.  Offer hugs.  Share your ideas.  Be connected and involved with other people.  People who are connected in their communities, with their friends and in their families live longer, healthier, happier lives.  You can look that up, it's totally true. 
    4. Do what you love.  You get one chance at life.  Don't spend every day hating what you do.  Do something that inspires you.  Live your whatever shape that takes.  
    5. Travel.  I don't care if it's to the next town.  Explore the corners of the world that are out of your comfort zone.   
    6. Overcome your fears.  We are designed with built-in fears to protect us from doing stupid things.  But I hope you won't ever let fear prevent you from living your best life.  Pursue adventure in all its forms.  Speak up.  Explore. Say "I love you" first.  
    7. Forgive.  People will hurt you.  Sometimes they'll do it intentionally. Sometimes they'll do it out of their own pain.  Regardless, forgive them.  It's important that you understand that holding on to all the hurts will harden you. Let them go.  People who hurt are hurting and I don't want you to become a hurting person.
    8. Choose a life partner when you're a little older.  You will change.  She will change.  Wait.  Date.  Figure out who you are before you figure out who you want to be with.
    9. Share. If you have something, share it.  It may be money or time or the last cookie in the jar.  I promise you that if you share whatever it is that you have, you will have more of it.  
    10. Eliminate "should" from your vocabulary.  I have lived too much of my life operating on "shoulds."  Sometimes, the shoulds in your life can hurt you.  Should inspires guilt.  And guilt has no place in your life.  
    11. Love one another.  You have this person in your life who really knows you.  Yes, you are markedly different from each other but you have the same shared life.  No one will understand where you come from like your brother.  Brothers love each other.  Try to embrace your differences and celebrate your similarities.
    12. Know how much you are loved.  No kidding...I would give my life for either of you.  And I'm not the only one who feels that way about you.  Love is strength.  Cherish it and know that it's there no matter how much you screw up, how far you go, how mad you are or how alone you feel.  You are loved deeply, passionately and without reservation.  Take that knowledge and go out into the world empowered by it.  It's your safety net.
    Reach high, boys.  Understand that everyone on this earth makes choices every. single. day.  You can choose to live your best life or you can choose to play video games in a dark room.  You don't have to be like me.  I just hope with all my heart that you'll choose to love your lives and live them fully.

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

    Handy Home Repairs at 1 a.m.

    “A broken thing can't fix itself.”
    ― Dean Koontz

    I am a sound sleeper.  So, when Mr. McDougal felt the urge to climb up on my face this morning at 1:00 a.m., I was more than a little surprised.  My addled brain tried to compute all the facts and, in a matter of seconds (I'm smart like that), I surmised that the trembling, furry creature climbing on my face was actually an animal who belongs to me and that something was wrong.

    "McDougal?" I asked.  "What on earth is the matter?"

    Sparky and Mr. McDougal who is now renamed Fire Dog
    Fortunately, for my own sanity, he didn't respond but he did start running around in circles on my bed.  This is odd behavior for a Scottish terrier at 1 a.m., especially this particular guy who runs upstairs when I say anything remotely resembling the word bedtime.

    Chirp.  I heard it.  The smoke detector.  Snazzum frazzum friggin grumble grumble.  McDougal paused his frantic running and came back for my face, digging under the covers with me and attempting to hide himself under me, trembling.

    I refused to play the game.  "No, Dougal, no.  Just no.  I am NOT getting up right now to change the batteries on the detector.  No."  I pulled the covers over my head.




    Fine.  I threw the covers off, picked Mr. McDougal up off the bed and set him on the floor where he immediately broke for the stairs. Grumbling the entire way, I marched down the stairs and let both dogs out before I grabbed a kitchen chair and headed for the stairs.

    Me.  On a chair.  At the top of the stairs.  At 1 a.m.  If that doesn't sound like a recipe for disaster, I don't know what does.  I spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out how to get the detector away from the ceiling, studying the wires holding the detector to the ceiling, reading the warnings about electrical shock, Googling "how to remove A/C connector from smoke detector" and cursing my aching neck, trembling arms and the people who invented smoke alarms.

    I assume I have changed these batteries before.  But I obviously suffer from PTSD from the last time because I don't recall anything about the incident.  Sure, sure...I KNOW the rule about changing the batteries when you change the time, blah, blah, blah.  But does anyone actually FOLLOW that rule?  Or do they just wait until the damn thing starts chirping? 

    After I finally managed to disconnect the alarm without falling off the chair or down the stairs, I took it downstairs to find a battery.  Since I'd already labeled a container with "Masking Tape and Batteries," I knew where to look.   I found the battery and managed to install it without Googling how to do so (trust me, it's an accomplishment).

    I pushed the "test here" button and was immediately sorry because a) it didn't turn off until I figured out I need to push the "hush" button and b) SERIOUSLY, who invented these screechy things?

    OK.  New battery installed.  I mentally patted myself on the back and made my way back to my chair to reinstall the detector.


    OK.  Wait just a goldurned minute.  I CHANGED the battery.  I DID what I was supposed to do!  I did!  I quickly decided it was chirping because it longed for connection.  It just needed to be reunited with the wires supplying its little load of electrical joy.  So, I figured out how to reattach it to the ceiling and climbed back down off the ladder, looking up at my handiwork with pride.


    OH MOTHER OF PEARL.  Furious, I stomped back up on the chair, pulled the thing back off the ceiling and finally managed, without frying myself, to remove the A/C connector once again.  I marched back down the stairs and let the dogs in.

    The detector will be fine in the backyard until morning.

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

    Monday, April 20, 2015

    Learning To Be A Hugger

    “I don't do hugging. I don't like people touching me ever when there's no treat involved. It's too intimate and it bothers me.”
    ― Katja Millay

    Hugging practice.
    I am not a Hugger.

    There, I said.  I 'fessed up.  But here's the tricky part:  I so desperately WANT to be a Hugger.  All the Huggers I know are terrific people.  They basically pull you into their very essence and transfer a little bit of love into the nonexistent space between your bodies.  I want to be like them.  I want to be warm and cozy and invite people into my personal space.

    And, yet, I can't. 

    I didn't grow up hugging.  I can't recall every really being hugged as a kid.  I mean, there were awkward, arm-patting, loose "hugs" when people you knew were leaving for a long time.  But there were no loving, squeezing, "ohmygoodnessIloveyousomuch" hugs.  My mother was never a hugger so I didn't get that "precious little girl" doting either.  And so, I didn't hug.  Hugging was weird to me.

    My roommate in college was (and, frankly, still is) a Hugger.  She was confused by my standoffishness because she is one of those serious Huggers.  She respected my space for many years but has since told me on various occasions that she will violate my personal boundaries sometimes when circumstances require it.  And, secretly, I like it.  Shhh.

    When my children were born, I was determined to make them Huggers and wrapped them up in hugs and squeezes as often as I could.  Making them feel cozy and loved was my number one priority.  I succeeded with one who hugs continually, firmly and with wild abandon.  The OTHER would prefer that you keep your distance, thankyouverymuch. #Fail.

    With The Boyfriend, I am a terrific hugger.  I hug him all the time.  And HE is one of those good huggers.  He's a wrap-you-up kind of hugger.

    With other people, I'm working hard on becoming a hugger.  There are so MANY people in this world that I absolutely LOVE.  I adore them.  I kind of think that standing awkwardly two arms lengths away while offering them a smile and a firm handshake is probably not conveying the message I want to communicate.  I want to say, "OH, how I LOVE you, you incredibly person who I am so blessed to be a part of."  Instead, I smile abashedly and shuffle my feet while mumbling something about the weather.

    When I am face-to-face with an actual Hugger, I get a little giddy because I know that I have NO CHOICE but to be swept up in their warmth and delicious expression of human joy.  I wait for it and then, after a nanosecond of tension at the space invasion, I fight every instinct in my rigid body and allow my arms to wrap around them and...for the briefest of moments...I squeeze.

    So now I practice.  I offer awkward hugs to a variety of people in a variety of circumstances.  I'm getting a little better.  My hugs are a little firmer.  My tension is less noticeable.  I'm working on it.

    It's a goal.  I'm gonna be a Hugger.  Someday.  Somehow.  So, watch out.  Next time I see you, I may just wrap you up and squeeze you. 

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

    Going Home

    “Perhaps home is not a place but simply an irrevocable condition.”
    ― James Baldwin

    Be it ever so humble...
    I have lived at 34 different addresses.  This means that 33 times in my life, I have packed up all my worldly possessions and moved them to a different location.  Apartments, houses, rooms.  There were times when my family moved in with grandparents. Once, between duty stations when my ex-husband was in the Navy, we shipped all of our stuff to the next location and I remained unfixed and transient, waiting for the next address.  There were many, many addresses. But none of them truly ever felt like...home.

    Home.  I spent the vast majority of my life  attempting to understand what it was about this word...home...that made people want to go to it, miss it, return there or remain there. 

    Tonight, I felt it.  Actually, I've been feeling it for a while now.  My address has been the same for almost 13 years...a record times 3+.  For many years, even though every single box was unpacked, this didn't quite feel like home either.  But something changed.

    I changed.

    I spent my life pursuing safety.  I escaped to safety as a child in the pages of books.  Somewhere else.  Anywhere else.  When I became an adult, I fled still to escape.  I escaped the feeling of being trapped by getting into my car and driving out into the world until I was so turned around I had to rely on maps to get me back.  I escaped my own unhappiness that I had created through a series of choices, wrong turns and wayward thoughts.  I escaped who I thought I was and who I felt myself turning into.

    Until, one day,  I stopped.

    I stayed.

    I began to spend entire home.  I would wake up and putter around the kitchen, making coffee.  I swept and cleaned, lovingly.  I watched Thing 1 and Thing 2 bouncing on the trampoline and found an unrecognized smile affixed to my face.  I began seeking reasons not to go but to stay.  And at the end of long work days, I looked forward to returning to my place of rest, of restoration.

    I came home tonight and spent time digging in my garden, feeling the earth slip through my fingers while somehow binding me to it.  I unhurriedly put herbs and vegetables into the ground and sang while I dug my toes into the cold ground.  Thing 1 bounded out, leaped over the deck railing and ran over to where I sat happily planting.  I looked up at him, with the house looming over us in the growing darkness and I smiled.

    Home.  I get it now.  And I know I'll take it with me when I go.

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

    Tuesday, April 14, 2015

    Raising Teenagers: 5 Reasons Why I Like Teens More Than Toddlers

    “She had been a teenager once, and she knew that, despite the apparent contradictions, a person's teenage years lasted well into their fifties.”
    ― Derek Landy

    Thing 2 and Thing 1: Busch Gardens 2015
    Recently, Things 1 and 2 accompanied me on our Annual Great Spring Break Amusement Park Adventure.  For the past 7 years, we have raced, spun, screamed and catapulted for a day or two at Carowinds, Busch Gardens, Kings Dominion and Six Flags Over Georgia.

    It hasn't always been easy.

    The first year, Thing 2 couldn't even ride the big rides (even though he desperately wanted to) and Thing 1 couldn't have cared less about the rides or the Great Adventure.  I have wheedled and pleaded and begged these children over the years to embrace the Great Adventure and understand the magic that happens on road trips.  They have steadfastly refused to participate in my reindeer games.  I have been irritated and tired and far more cranky than I should but I have steadfastly refused to give up this tradition I created out of thin air in desperation to give these two kids whose lives I managed to ruin by divorcing their dad (OK, so a few guilt issues there...) a few bright and happy memories of their Part-Time Life with Mom.

    This year, it all came together.

    Yes, there was eye-rolling.  And irritation.  And boredom.  And it was MAGIC.  I realized this year that my kids have finally become more  They are no longer the short people I can't fathom.  They are eye-level purveyors of wit, sarcasm and barbed zingers who eat when they're hungry, drink when they're thirsty and sleep when they're tired.  Practically adults.

    I started thinking about WHY I seem to love them SO MUCH MORE now that they're big kids in adult clothing.

    1. They don't need me as much.  I'm just not one of those people who need to be needed.  I prefer that you take care of your own business and leave me to mine.  Every now and again we can meet in the middle to discuss life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Things 1 and 2 can take care of their own bodily functions.  They can fix a sandwich.  They don't ask me constant questions about why, who, where, what, when that I (mostly) patiently answered when they were toddlers.  
    2.  They fight sarcasm with sarcasm.  Admittedly, I started using sarcasm well before these two were probably ready for it.  Sure, I TRIED the syrupy sweetness of parenting when they were younger.  (Fine, I didn't try terribly hard.)  But, as they grew taller, my sarcasm grew stronger.  Now, these two are teaching me a thing or two.  Their sarcasm seems somehow kinder than mine.  So, I'm learning a few gentle techniques to launch barbs and zingers into the crowd.  Thanks, Thing 1 and Thing 2. Grasshoppers, you are ready ( proud!).
    3. They can entertain themselves.  At the end of a long day at the park, I showered and dove into bed with a novel.  We talked a bit but, for the most part, they were content to absorb themselves in their own pursuits so I could happily ignore them to unwrap a few chapters of the book I had been waiting to get back to all day.
    4. They are introspective.  While Thing 2 shot ahead, Thing 1 and I were able to stroll leisurely together and talk about what's going on in his life.  I learned a lot in these few magical snippets of conversation.  He's introverted so, trust me, I take every opportunity to let him come to me.  I appreciate so much his point of view on things and his thoughtful consideration of things that I had no idea he was even aware of.   
    5. I enjoy their company.  They have their own ideas.  They disagree with me on...well...a LOT of topics.  But I respect those disagreements.  These two are not an extension of me; rather, they are two completely separate and mysterious beings who I (somehow) was blessed with ushering into the world.
    Don't get me wrong.  I have attempted to pause and breathe and enjoy every bit of this life I have been given with these two.  I made choices along the way to parent intentionally and to engage with them throughout every stage.  I managed the baby years.  I navigated the toddler years as best I could.  I plugged away during the childhood years.  But, these teenage years?  To me, they are simply awe-inspiring as I watch them take all those building blocks of life and put them together in a way that's entirely different from what I could have ever anticipated or imagined.  They're not who I thought they would be; they are so much more.

    The days continue to be long and the years are so very, very short.

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

    Thursday, January 8, 2015

    Things I Think On Road Trips

    “because he had no place he could stay in without getting tired of it and because there was nowhere to go but everywhere, keep rolling under the stars...”
    ― Jack Kerouac

    I do a lot of traveling alone.  Mostly, I travel for work but I also have been known to simply get into my car and drive.  North.  South.  It doesn't matter much to me as long as the road is my faithful companion.

    The problem with traveling alone as an extrovert is that, well, there is no one to talk to.  I have been known to have long (and, I have to admit, absolutely fascinating) conversations with myself as I speed past highway signs, billboards, and annoying motorists driving slowly in the passing lane.  

    As I drove along today, I made notes to myself (talking to that bastard Siri).  I wanted to be sure that I captured the true essence of a road trip alone.  I'm pretty sure after you read this, you'll want to go ahead and sign up for my next trip.  Don't be shy.

    Welcome to my stream of consciousness.  (You're welcome.)

    1.  Meghan Trainor is an ass-kicker. OK, so Meghan Trainer is a baby.  She was born after I was an adult and I totally want to be her.  I was listening to her song to her future husband.  She told him, "Hey listen, I work, too.  And I am not going to cook.  That's just not something I'm good at.  And I expect you to pull your weight in this relationship.  And here's what I deserve.  And you're just going to have to accept it.  But, hey, if you treat me right, I'm going to be a great wife.  And I'll make you happy.  But this is not a one-way street."  This from the same girl who brought booty back.  I am in awe.  Her self-confidence is enviable.

    2.  It takes approximately three hours to go full-circle on the Fleetwood Mac station on Pandora.  I was listening to songs that apparently just hummed over and around my brain but whose lyrics never really stuck.  I hummed happily along and burst into loud vocals when the chorus hit.

    3.  Speaking of lyrics, what in the hell do the lyrics to Elton John's Tiny Dancer mean?  "Hold me closer, Tiny Dancer.  Count the headlights on the highway.  Lay me down in sheets of linen.  You had a busy day today."  Was Elton high?  How is the Tiny Dancer holding him close if they're on the highway?  And do they have a bed in the back seat where the linens are kept?  And how did Tiny Dancer's day come into the picture?  Is the Tiny Dancer a mini-ballerina?  I just kept picturing a palm-sized angry chick in a pink tutu doing laundry.

    4.  There may not be a single Starbucks between Concord, NC and Savannah, GA.  I looked.  Hard.  At one point, I asked Siri.  He responded,  "Listen, Princess, (side note: yes, I asked Siri to call me "Princess."  And, yes, Siri is a dude in my phone.) there is a Starbucks.  But you'd have to go north 29 miles."  Listen, even people who barely know me understand that coffee is actually the main component in my blood stream.  I NEED coffee like meth heads need...well...meth.  I had to settle for travel center Dunkin' Donuts coffee.  Starbucks people, are you listening?  Off-highway Starbucks locations are not optional.  They are a necessity.

    5.  Travel centers are my dream.  I truly do want to be a female truck driver.  I think I would be a fabulous truck driver.  But I need a handle.  Do truckers even use CBs anymore?  I wonder if I could have a special horn as a truck driver.  I also think it would be fabulous to use the showers at the travel center.  I'm half tempted to use them even now and I'm NOT EVEN DIRTY.

    6.  Driving drunk will cost you $10,000.  I learned that from a highway billboard.  Unfortunately, if you are drunk and reading that billboard, it's already too late for you.

    7.  Which brings me to adult superstores.  I put this one on Facebook today.  Why are so many adult superstores advertised on billboards?  Are random people driving down the highway thinking, "You know, I could really use a blow-up doll, some handcuffs and some cherry flavored underwear. Oh, LOOK.  There's an adult superstore conveniently located just off the highway! Bonus!"

    8.  Do people wash their cars on road trips?  I'll be honest:  I rarely wash a car.  Stella has been bathed maybe three...four times in the entire time I've owned her.  I believe the rain usually does the trick.  I mean, why on earth do we HAVE rain if not to serve as nature's car wash?  So, I saw a lot of cars from north of the Mason Dixon which were FILTHY. They'd obviously been through a lot of terrible weather and I felt sorry for them (though not as sorry as I feel for all the people who are still in the weather).  But, THEN, I saw this car from Nova Scotia.  You KNOW the weather is for crap there.  And yet...THAT car was spotless.  Did he stop at a car wash?  Was he like, "Hey, I think I'll stop for a sandwich and a car wash"?  If so, why is not in a hurry to get where he's going?  Is he sad to be going south?  Can he not wash his car at the end of the trip?

    9. The farther south you go, the more you see billboards for communities for "active, older adults."  Listen, as far as I can tell, the real active older adults are those ones with the dirty cars north of the Mason Dixon.  Those buggers are out shoveling and trying to stay warm and alive.   That's where the billboards need to be.

    10.  When did people start moving over to the other lane for stopped police vehicles?  When I was little, I don't remember anyone moving over to the left lane to give the police room.  Now, everyone is like, "Whoa!  We need to get over!  That car is stopped 15 feet over on the shoulder!"  I mean, it's polite.  But when did it start?  Was there some rulebook distributed that I'm not aware of?

    And it went on.  And on.  And on.  For five hours.  I talked (out loud) and sang and even danced a little.  (To answer your question, it is not as easy to do the Cupid Shuffle while driving as it is to enact the Zumba moves to "You need a BAD GIRL to blow your mind...bang bang into the room...")  And I was sorry that I was all alone.   Because I obviously needed to share.

    You're welcome.  Again.

    And, hey, happy 2015.  Let's talk.  It's been too long, really.

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