Tuesday, February 9, 2016

A Beginner's Guide to Life as a Crabby Person

It's been months since I've woken up smiling and eager to start the day.

Wait, let me start over, I don't want to begin this confessional with a lie.

Dear reader: Bless me for I have been crabby. It has been years since an alarm clock found me with a smile on my face.

A frown and a muttering dialogue of how morning comes too early and nights end much too fast has been my go-to a.m. behavior. Can I be nice before 9 a.m.? Was I ever nice before 9 a.m.? I go to bed so I get 7 hours of sleep, I bought the softest microfleece-lined coverlet Pier One offered, and my pillow is like sinking into a flotation tank - I don't know where my mane ends and the dense foam begins.

Yet I still trundle out of bed like a bear jarred awake too early from hibernation. Being cranky is nothing new to me. I've been cranky long enough to give up trying to be nice in the morning. The whistle while you work attitude is never going to happen in my lifetime, not anytime before the sun rises anyway. And I am up to my Eustachian tubes with recommended Vitamin D and soy supplements, I am bone-weary with advice to make time for the 5:30 a.m. cardio/pump/your mama wears combat boots work out, and I say no more to kale powered breakfast smoothies.

I am what I am, so instead, I have re-worked my environment to accommodate Life While Being Crabby. But I think of you, my sweet friends, some of whom may be caught off guard by what the addition of years in your life have brought you to, this state of being too mean to live lately.

You can count on me and my following crab-busting house-hacks:

Buy a oil-drum sized barrel of window cleaner and drown your windows in it. Sunshine sparkling through is just the beginning of the push I need to maybe consider turning this frown upside down.

Vote yes to year-round velvet bathrobes. Linger in it a bit longer, who says lunch has to be done in panted attire? Feel the liquid smoothness of velvet on that hard working a** of yours. Who wouldn't smile...

Configure a daybed in every room. Nothing fancy or Ikea made - some oversized pillows, a pile of blankets tossed about, even occupying your dog's bed when he saunters away from your scowl. Grab it, make it yours, I mean, I feel a smile on my face whenever I'm horizontal.

Colorful art. Color. Not just a touch of it but a visual assault of it. I have two canvas prints of red poppies placed three feet away from where I work. I see them, I know I have them there for me, and what? Is that a grin breaking out? It's trying hard, and yes, it is.

Flowers. Real ones. No silk synthetic Michael's specials. Do you really want to spend any minute of your life dusting fake flowers? I can't think of anything that would make me crankier. So, get some $5 daffodil bundles next time you're picking up the roasted chicken special because one shouldn't cook when they're grumbling - too risky for that negative energy to sneak into your family's dinner.

Say OK to creating your own corner. I would see this written around in magazines and think it was stupid. But it works. I have a chair, it's to the west side of the front windows, and it's there that I sit with this tiny coffee table I found for $45. No one else likes to sit there, and it's my corner and when I'm there, it gives me quiet and peace. The quiet makes my top lip curl up, the peace makes my bottom lip follow.

I make my bed. I do. Cranky is an easy excuse not to but if you let cranky make your decisions for you then every time you pass your unmade bed it'll remind you of what a crab you are and then you'll get even more surly, so, make the bed. A smile will creep in because at least you did one thing today.

And my favorite cranky conquering cure: the daydream.

Daydream about it all. Sit at the kitchen table, with your chin in your hands and daydream. Close your eyes, imagine what you'd do with 50 million bucks, design the house of your dreams, think about a Jamaican vacation so hard you begin to hear the ocean and what if you could buy your neighbor's convertible Alfa Romeo. Gimme a D, gimme an A, gimme a Y. You know the rest, so turn your face up and toward the dream life that makes you smile.

And to all my crabby friends, you're not alone. I have absolved you of your sins done while cranky. Go forth  and continue in peace, free to grumble guilt free. We all know the Smiley Sunflowers have petered out by 3:30 p.m. and that's just when our sunshine will be starting to break through.

We strike the perfect balance for when our kids come busting through the door, snarling like bear cubs after a too long day at school.
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Friday, February 5, 2016

7 Date Night Ideas That Failed Us

To keep that love alive and the home fires burning, you need to date your mate. Date them and forget about the To Do list that hangs over your head even when it's out of sight. Make the time to forget about the 1,000 things you have to do before the month is over and especially do not discuss your kids when you're together. Like, pretend you don't even know them. Little Mark, Jr. who? If you follow this advice you will remember once again, just why you are together. A bottle of wine, no - two, will help bring back smoky memories of the carefree love you shared way back when.

We have been married 20 years, and we are so due for a date night that we'd need six months at a monk's retreat to silence these buzzing brains from trying to balance life. With this not-dating guilt in mind, I decided to give Date Night a try after an article I saw as I flipped through a magazine while waiting to get my prescription for dry eye syndrome.

The whole half page was glossy with exclamation marks for quick and easy love tips for the married crowd! *By the way, not today, but sometime soon, I'd like to talk about why only women's magazines are DATE NIGHT DATE NIGHT KEEP YOUR DATE HAPPY and men's magazines are "Get yourself this car, belt, shoes, vacation and you be you, dude."

Starting with Idea No. 1 and all the way to Idea No. 7, I felt a tingle of high hopes. Well not really, but I had a flash that at least one of these would be hot fun. Poke the flames, yannow?

Yeah no.

Here's what goes wrong when you're two decades into chronically unromantic:

Idea 1.) "Short on time or money? No problem! Here's a quick and easy way to stoke those embers! (am I the only one so far going ewwww... ) Pick a new board game to play!"

What actually happened: We brought out the game. Something called Othello. I got dizzy as soon as I saw all the black and white discs and the reversible board and the 10-page instruction booklet. I had to put my head down. Meanwhile, since my husband wanted to go to bed before sunrise, he became "order-y" and saw it as one more job to delegate.

Date Night Idea #1: a bust. Let's move on ...

Idea 2.) "Pick a theme! Have fun enjoying "Irish Night" or "French Night!" (again, pretty sure it's just me, but ewwww with fake accents)

I did all right with this one. And for future reference, I told my husband the only love language for me is Jalisco's Mexican take-out. With wilting Styrofoam containers opened up on our laps, we sat and watched Nacho Libre. Then we both fell asleep on the Costco chaise-o-lounger with salsa stains on our chests. Fun? I guess it was a bit of all right.

Idea 3.) "Pop in your wedding video, look at your honeymoon pictures!  Here's some exclamation marks to get you started!"

Oh my god oh my god oh my god. Idea #3 gets my vote for worst idea ever. THE WORST. What's hot about looking at my stomach so flat and my husband's hair so dark? We both got sad-eyed and gobsmacked about how we had no idea we looked so good that we wondered why the hell didn't we just walk around nekkid back then?

Dang, we were hot. (Me: He was lucky to get me. Him: She was lucky to get me)

Idea 4.) "Feed the kids an early dinner and put them to bed!"

Still laughing about this one. Since we don't believe in Benadryl for dessert, the only ones that would be going to bed after an early dinner would be me and Mark.

Idea 5.) "Slumber Party! Pile blankets on the floor along with throw pillows and have a sleep over!"

Ummm, we already do this. Substitute piles of newspapers for throw pillows and the book we're reading for a blanket, and pretty much, there's our *Slumber Party!*

Idea 6.) "1-2-3 Get artsy! Grab a canvas and brushes and co-paint a picture together!"

I'll tell you right here and now, if my husband wanted to grab a paintbrush then I'd have no need to work 2.5 part-time jobs so I could call Rob the Painter every two years for the past ten years to paint the walls in this house.

Idea 7.) "Make a platter of favorite snacks! Pop some kettle corn and cozy up for a movie!"

What?! Now I'm the one handing out exclamation marks.
Snacks and a movie? Why didn't you say so 7 steps back?! Turns out we've been date-nighting for the past 20 years!

It's just like this dang world to try and make us think we have to change what we've been doing when what we've been doing, is right all along.

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Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I've Already Faked it 3 Times Today

The waiting room was full last week at the health clinic, and when I finally had my turn at the receptionist's desk, she handed me a clip board. "We need this filled out for the new year," and she pushed the paper to my hand. I stared at the sheets and had no idea what this information was that they needed, I mean, I just handed her my card. I took the forms and filled in what I could but it might as well have been a travel application to Mars. I brought the clip board back to her and laughed that same weak laugh my kids do when they are without a clue, "Oh, hahaha, pretty sure I did this right. Let me know if it's not, haha." And then I ran back to my row of chairs before someone else took my place.

I had faked it. 30 days into the new year and I have already begun to pretend I know what's going on.

This morning at exercise class, there was an instructor subbing for our regular, Jan. I go when Jan is there because she always calls out directions and moves so I can put my brain on automatic and concentrate on keeping blood clots away. I rely on Jan telling me when to go right with my hip twist. But with Sandy, today, we were on our own. By the ten second mark of Pharrell Williams' "Happy" I knew this was a solo mission. It didn't take long for me to figure that out, the way I was face to face with the woman next to me every third beat was a clear enough clue. But I kept on faking it, arms up in imitation of others and legs out when I caught an orange running shoe fly up into my peripheral vision. I knew it while I was doing it, and I thought it through the rest of the class, I am the biggest faker on the planet, look at Sally over there - she has the decency to stop and not pretend she knows where to put her left foot when coming out of the daisy chain.

50 minutes later, I had faked it through Total Body Conditioning like the intro to ballet class I took as an elective in college thinking it'd be nothing but stretched out arms and out-toeing. [here's a good spot to insert the weak laughter from paragraph one] [here, let me: hahahahahaha]

I shook my head as I drove home, how old am I? Am I still that 5-year-old kindergartener sitting at the craft table all disoriented about how the other kids know which fingers to put through the handle of the scissors? The answer is evidently yes.

My life is fakery and how is it that other people know what to do? I came home to open my emails and the one from our soccer team was marked priority. Clicking it open it has a schedule for practices along with the words "red/blue as usual, let me know if you got this." I reply back "Got it!" with no idea what is supposed to be red/blue. The fakery here is high level alert because the team manager, the one from where these emails originate, is my husband. It's a scary thing the portals that open when we allow fakery in.

It's just a bit past noon, and I've had a good talking to with myself. I'm trying to zero in on just what faking brings me, because the very reason we choose behaviors is that they reward us in some way. Faking the happy dance and pretending I know what I need to do for soccer, what's the pay off? That's a hard one to answer.

Some fakery, however, is obvious. The third time for the big F, was about 10:30ish today, when I saw someone I know through someone they know, in other words I wouldn't recognize this person if you plucked them out of the setting that is the only place I ever see them in.

As we stood feet apart in the grocery store this morning, grabbing our bread and oranges and microwave popcorn before the predicted snowfall of 4-6 inches strangles us homebound tonight, she asked me if her snow pants were too much. I looked down at her legs, pressed my lips together at what looked like to me, plain old cotton leggings. "They look fine, fine." "Oh, good. I was worried, Andrea," she started, "I mean, yes they were originally $260 but they are Les Moise. We don't leave for Granby until March, but I just had to break them in. They're less constricting-y and not as shiny-y as Gorsuch."

I just nodded, "Yah," and had already quit caring she called me Andrea. I had just faked it for the third time.

I had no idea what Les Moise is and I have even less of an idea wherewhichwhat Granby is. I am without knowledge of the binding iridescence of Gorsuch.

The big reward in choosing to fake it this time? That's an easy one. Obviously not having to sit through any answer from her that is Les Moise-y and Granby-y.

Monday, February 1, 2016

And Then They Go and Grow Up On You

We know, we know - you told us.

Our kids would grow up before we knew it. But the problem is, we can't hear you. Not over the wailing, whining, up in the middle of the night screaming for us on top of days with mind-numbing fighting over sippy cups filled with the wrong colored juice.

But our kids do grow up, don't they. And all of your warnings about it won't help us ever believe you.

I'm proud to be up on Scary Mommy today with my take on the well-meaning advice, "Enjoy them while you can."

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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Done Darkness: Book Launch

"A collection of stories of life beyond sadness."
I am pleased to announce that a piece I wrote about navigating life the week of my mother's funeral is included in the newly released anthology, Done Darkness. It's humor, because there were moments that slipped into those days surprising me with laughter. This is how we heal. But this anthology also offers beautiful prose, insightful poetry, and essays that place you right in the middle of someone's hope. 
Today is the book launch for Done Darkness, for those who live in southeastern Wisconsin, we hope to see you there! Our book launch is Sunday, January 31, 2016 at 1:30PM CST at ComedySportz.
These stories are exceptional and will shine a light in the darkness for anyone struggling with depression, who has struggled, or knows someone searching for their light in the darkness. 
Done Darkness: A collection of stories, poetry, and essays about life beyond sadness is an anthology about the triumph of hope over hopelessness for those with depression or other mental illness. These narratives, from multiple award-winning authors, reflect the daily battle with various forms of depression: clinical, postpartum, and reactive, just to name a few. Real life plays out on the pages, depicting empty nests, grief, missing children, contemplating suicide, postpartum anxiety and more. Readers will connect, think, laugh, and maybe shed a sympathetic tear while gaining a better understanding of their own experiences or perhaps of a loved one.
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