Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Week's Best

As always, good stuff on the internet this week. Sharing a few with you tonight. Pick one, pick two, and enjoy the read!

--For those who like to find a good read, here's one I fell in love with from a brand new to me blog: O Mighty Crisis (you'll love this story, goosebumps)

--From the blog, The Mind Unleashed, 22 Unbelievable Places To Visit That Really Exist. (so exquisite and lovely to daydream about)

--From one of my favorite people on the internet, the bloggess, writing on how good it feels to feel good. We all have those days -- for me, it would be when a migraine finally leaves -- that remind us of just how light we are when we are free of pain, heartfelt or bodyfelt: "There's a moment"

--From the blogger at Smacksy, Lisa Page Rosenberg, writing with humor and sincerity about her new venture into raw eating. Easy to follow, true life experiences, she tries food in a variety of ways and tells of how life changing the switch to raw has been for her and her family. I really like it. Check her out on My Raw Blog

Enjoy the summer, everyone!

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

My List of Superpowers

My Weight Manipulation Power – a thing to marvel. Given enough spandex and acrylic blend, I am able to fit 5 '5” of this, into amounts of fabric you wouldn't believe.
I'm not the person I appear to be. Of course, I am the blogger behind this blog, but there is much I haven't divulged. With all the Marvel comic book movies and Super Hero movies out this summer, the time seems right to make this announcement.
I have Superpowers. Or super powers. Also super-powers.
I don't blow things up, except for out of proportion. I don't rearrange furniture telepathically, I mean, I have my teenage sons for that. What I'm doing here today is coming super-clean about some super-extra abilities.
Like, my Super Cleaning Up for Surprise Company Power. It's every drawer, closet, under the sofa and under the bed space for themselves.
My Ability to Spot the Pretend Shower Takers in the house. I stealthily walk past and grab a sniff of their certain best giveaway emitting spots.
My Sonic Scream, comes with a side of super yelling power.
My Ability to Drive Way too Fast in Roundabouts Power then complaining about not *getting* roundabouts but then being aggressive in them. (ain't nobody entering this roundabout while I'm in the house)

My Keeping the House Clean for Over Five Hours Power. A lot to believe, but then, super power, remember?

My Smart Power. I can dazzle the members of this household into thinking I hold ten PhDs.

My Mystifying Power. This very same brilliance that dazzles becomes a point of bewilderment when they see me trying to figure out a smartphone.

My Reality Changing Power. I can change the way my kids' weekends are going to go versus the way they think their weekend is about to go with a snap, in the face of any smart a** lip.

My Embellishing Power. Who retells a family tale better than me? Very few, my beautiful children.  But, feel welcome to try.

My Stand Up to Bullies Power. Affectionately called, “I have no problem calling parents on the phone” power.

My Band-aid Power. Sadly, no one has requested this superpower for at least three years.

My Getting Kids to Bed Power. Unequalled when presented along with my Power slogan,  "Ya stay up, ya clean up.”

Meanest Mom Power. I'm a pro at this.

My Age Manipulation Power. I'm able to resist and deny the AARP cards and offers to teach Silver Zumba that arrive in my mailbox with an alarming growing frequency.

My Ability to Cause Waves of Nausea with my On the Spot Rapping to the Radio Power. Often confused with car sickness.

The good news is this, I'm still pretty much the person you've come to know here. I've just decided you should know that there's a reason it looks like I get more done than is humanly possible. It's about time we all start telling the truth about ourselves and quit pretending, that we have no extra help.

*UPDATE: new super power has just been added, that of Unfairest Mom. 
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Monday, June 23, 2014

Immediate Opening

Immediate Opening: All Grill Meisters invited to apply! Walk-ins welcome.

Applications and interviews being held one day only, this Saturday, beginning at 10 a.m. All applicants must be open to immediate availability. Weekends a must for this pending grill position to family of four; three children, one mother: all hearty eaters.

Cooking entries begin promptly at 10 a.m, and are open to the public, professional or non-professional. Trials will begin with simple basic meat entree preparation and food handling safety. Remaining competition entrants will then progress to side dishes and food safety, with special attention to mayonnaise based sauces. Participants may bring own food or specialty items, but staple items of ground beef and rib eyes will be available for purchase on site.

Further required knowledge to include:
--Full comprehensive understanding of safety information, backyard safety, and grilling techniques is expected.
--Entrants will be tested in written and oral form for working knowledge of how to build a controllable fire, how to choose the safest grill for your loved ones, pros and cons of gas versus charcoal, chimney starter over lighter fluid, taming flames, and prompt handling of flare-ups.
--Practical common sense application of proper placement of grill from low lying tree branches, awareness of location of children and pets from proximity of grilling area at all times, proper clothing attire while grilling, and a respect for exploding sausages is required.
--Grillers may register for up to four categories: marinating, smoking, grilling, and flame extinguishing.

*Entry fee of $5.00.
*Live music, food, refreshments and exposure to potential additional employment by others in neighborhood.

This event is sponsored by the Schmidt Family in hopes of replacing their former grill master whose wife has legally restrained from ever setting his GD charred eyebrows and singed chest hair near their children or their family’s Char-Broil four-burner gas grill for the remaining duration of their marriage.

Proceeds will go to purchase of new Char-Broil with side-burners and welder’s mask and vest for next Schmidt Family Grill Master.

Added sign-on bonus of $50 gift card to Hank's Grillin' for Grillers Depot Supply and a one-year subscription to Kingsford's BBQ Culture Quarterly will go to the successful griller.

Interested parties are asked to not arrive in Wisconsin Badger T-shirts, flip-flops, and backwards facing baseball caps in consideration of the Schmidt children and the potential of charcoal starter fluid triggered PTSD.

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Saturday, June 21, 2014

When Do You "Get Over It"

One in seven women will experience postpartum mood disorder. 19 years ago, I was one of those women. It's been almost 20 years, and I still advocate, help raise funds, and share my story. People ask me when I'll get over it.

As long as there are women having babies, I won't be "over" it. That time in my life was one of the most challenging, where I learned the meaning of struggle, support, community, the importance of health care and treatment, and hope.

Hope was as important as my physician's care and my family's support. I needed to believe I would get better. I had a health care nurse at the time who promised me I wouldn't always feel the way I did. It was hard for me to believe her, I felt I would never get back to who I was. In my bones, I feared I would never "get over" whatever it was that had its hold on me.

She told me I would make it through, because she had seen it. I asked her to tell me of every single woman she knew that had survived, and so she did. With a leap of faith, I grabbed those stories of  hope and hung on to them until the belief of survival became my own. I saw those dark days through  and on to a life of triumph.

Women with postpartum mood disorder can get better. For this to happen, we need community, resources, support, awareness, medical care and treatment, and a safe place where we find acceptance and connection. Once the curtain of shame, stigma, fear and isolation are lifted, women can begin their journey back to recovery. And one of the biggest predictors of recovery is SUPPORT.

Besides being a proud PPMD survivor, I also am a contributor and Warrior Mom for the national nonprofit, Postpartum Progress. PPP offers in-depth information, community and hope for pregnant and new moms by raising awareness, fighting stigma and providing peer support to women with maternal mental illness.

Today, June 21, is national "Climb Out of the Darkness" day for the postpartum information website, Postpartum Progress. COTD is an international fund raising and awareness raising event where 120 teams 40 states and 6 countries climb metaphorically to represent the climb out and the climb back to themselves. It is the world's largest event for moms with PPMD.

I am climbing today, along with thousands of other women, because "Together, we are stronger."

To see more about Climbs or to find one near you, please click here.

Most importantly, if you know of a mother struggling, or if you yourself are experiencing or think you are experiencing postpartum symptoms, please check the Postpartum Progress site for information on how you can find help.

Thank you. And to all of my fellow PPMD mamas climbing today, I'm so proud of you.

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Tuesday, June 17, 2014

We're No Longer Living in Caves

Some will say that what I'm talking about here doesn't exist in their life. They've evolved out of it or never felt it, never thought like this, nor associate with people like this. They may say that anyone who thinks like this or knows people like this, brings it upon themselves for being in such a circle of mentality.

They won't need this post.
But I'm going to be honest here, and talk about two things that exist in the world, jealousy and insecurity. We see something, we want it -- it's not a nice feeling. It's close to either anger or depression, depending on how you react to it. It's easy to be happy for someone when good things happen to them if you like them and they're your friend, but if it's someone you don't know or if it's more of someTHING that you wish for yourself or your family, that could make it harder to high five that universe that's smiling on this person right now.

Why is there jealousy? Years ago, during a Sociology 101 class in college, our professor told us there is a biological need filled by every human behavior. When we studied jealousy, envy, coveting, what we learned made sense. Our textbook explained that in cave-dwelling primitive times, physical assessment and determination by others about others, was necessary to weed out any threats to our well-being and survival. We had to guard our offspring, make sure we populated. We had no Whole Foods to run to for our mastodon meat and we needed to fiercely keep our meat provider for ourselves. We had to watch and guard and whatever else we needed to do so that we could stay alive and multiply.

If another person was considered a threat to this, our brain put us on high alert. Guard guard guard! The possibility of losing our life partner was everything. When a woman needed a man to bring down a mammoth to feed her children, she had to watch out for any risk. When a man could lose the caretaker of his children or the source of his offspring, it was a threat to his lineage. All so Paleolithic and club-thumping, I know.

But that was jealousy's purpose: protection. Do we still need jealousy now? We still have it. Jealousy for some is closely tied to insecurity, painfully making them question their abilities. For others, it runs along the same vein as loss of social position, no longer being Top #1 and tumbling down out of  choice offers and status. Then there is the straight out covet. We want it, prizes, awards, looks, money, status, title, accolades, power, IT. Do we still need to feel envy? Because it's there, rearing its head, instinctively.

Is our biological evolution flawed in this area?
With awareness, can we change the instincts that fly to our brains faster than our ability to talk it through. Rather than being scared or sinking low because our minds tell us someone is better, we can reprogram that millions-of-years-old behavior and wipe out that message that shouts threat threat threat
If we all aspire, do the work and put in the time, then we can't help but get better at anything we do. I know that for some, that thought provides little comfort – the fall back is to resist change, because change is work, and look how easy it is to be led by trigger emotions and blame it on circumstance, situation, other people. Unfairness. Even if it is true.

If you've made it this far in this post, let me take the words out of your mouth, What the heck brought this on? I'm writing this for myself as much as I'm writing it for anyone reading it. Right now, I'm battling with the insecurity of seeing parents pulling out all the stops for their kids this summer. Caribbean vacations, thousand dollar camps, backyard parties with catered menus, day adventures that run in the hundreds of dollars. I can't do this. Each of my children have their dreams, and the years go by with time shrinking the chance to ever give them what they hope for. The oldest has talked of Hawaii since he was five. After the middlest saw the shores of Sanibel Island on a PBS kids' show, he'd share the exact types of seashells he'd look for. And my youngest, asking for Disneyland, meanwhile, his height inches closer to my 5 foot 5 inch frame. I feel the visceral sting of not being able to set the stage for memories and a childhood that I imagine other children will have, that when compared to the flat memories my mind tricks me into believing will be my children's -- some days, it does me in. My shoulders droop. A not so nice dialogue runs through my head. 
I've made a decision, that this instinctive thread of jealousy and insecurity that live on a specific strand of Neanderthal club-wielding DNA is not going to win. As if I haven't evolved in two million years.
I don't have a cave mind and if I need meat, there's a Whole Foods eight minutes away.
"A flower does not think of competing to the flower next to it. It just blooms." - Sensei Ogui
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Saturday, June 14, 2014

About My Father

I remember some things about my father. Each time I write about him, I feel like he becomes eternal.

I have a post up on Huffington Post today, Each Father's Day, I Remember. When I share my memories, it's as if he's back to life.

Thank you, for reading.

Peace to all of you today, wherever you are in how you spend this day. 


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Friday, June 13, 2014

Hot Time, Summer in the Suburbs

It's summer in the suburbs. On every block of our neighborhood, pickup trucks roll up to brick walkways. Trailers hauling mowers, leaf blowers, and full crews. It's the season of landscapers and rivals drive past properties, eyeing each others' handiwork to see if the clipper know-how of Sam on Hwy 60 is equal to the golden pruning skills of Mack from Washington Street.

Take Ed and Kevin, for example. Long time landscaping rivals since their first class together at Landscape Academy fifteen years ago. Ed and Kevin often find themselves working side by side in our neighborhood, separated only by the trimmest of arbor vitae lot divisions.

Their work days start with Ed spotting Kevin's 16-foot M22 Li'l Giant extension ladder and raising him with his Alta Vista 10N 24-foot telescopic.

By 7 a.m., Landscape Wars is playing out live for all early morning walkers to see. Every third house has three to six healthy workers in place, and the ploys involved to acquire business is enough to have Donald Trump send in his film crew. Ed and Kevin bring out their 20-foot-long, hurricane-strength mulch blowers and start to show all the homeowners around who’s master and commander of shredded bark placement.

Covert intelligence gathering operations by the guys who work for them are set into motion -- information is traded from listening in across hedges, taking photos, planting listening devices in the petunias, interviewing neighbors, and secrets whispered across day lilies, Is it true Mrs. McClair needs to double up on her crew needs?

Stakes are high with some of this area's landscaping jobs costing in the tens of thousands of dollars; it's every land architect for himself when it comes to finding clients. I’ve hired Kevin, small jobs only, he came on a recommendation, but I can’t say I don’t enjoy the attention of Ed when he's around doing work for a neighbor. I mean, who wouldn't grow weak-kneed at a man who can talk nitrogen soil ratio and its effect on color range with hydrangea. I was in the middle of spreading my own mulch earlier this week, when the Liam Neeson look-alike Ed suddenly appeared, offering me his company’s card.

I gasped at the boldness, after all, it's no secret that it's Kevin who tends to our wisteria. Still, I never forget my manners, and I thanked Ed and let him know that his competition had my loyalty.

That's when Ed crossed his bronze triceps and leaned against his shovel. With his steely blue gaze searing right into me, he said nothing, only wiped his forearm across his sweaty brow. He licked his sun-parched lips and looking side to side, he said in a low voice, “Yeah... Kevin’s a good guy. He does what he can with his 74a Bobcat. But, lemme show you somethin’… got it backed up right here in the flatbed … ready to go. The RoboLift 3000. Take your bushes to heights you never imagined, just say the word.”

I blinked, feeling suddenly woozy in the morning sun. Falling into Ed, I excused myself, "I must've gotten up too fast."

"No problem, ma'am. Let me get my boys to help you out, just for today. Boys!! Let's load 'er up and deliver what we promise." Ed stands with his back to me now and turning around he zones in on my face, "We can be in and out of here, lay everything that needs to be laid, in an hour and half, two hours tops. Unless you want it longer. How's that sound?"

All I can answer is, "Kevin? Kevin who?"

* * *


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Ways Parents Say It's The Last Week of School

We finish up school over here in Wisconsin this week. It's always the second week in June, but even without a calendar, my kids would still know the academic year is wrapping up. Here's why:

--I start packing them the 'good enough' lunch; a sleeve of saltines and a box of cold cuts.

--Driving them to school in my slippers doesn't upset me as much as it did in October.

--My signature on anything that needs to be returned to school and which once clearly identified me as the mother of said child pretty much has morphed into what it would look like if a chicken forged my name.

--School test papers are signed without me ever having taken my eyes off my computer screen.

--Does it really kill them if they stay up until 10:04 p.m. on a school night? Naaah, they'll be fine.

--So their uniform shirt could be a little bit whiter? Whose couldn't?

--The kid could use a haircut, and with the humidity, he doesn't even need a pillow at night, but summer's almost here. We'll take care of it then. Again, he'll be all right.

--The slapping of the separated soles on his athletic shoes make him sound like he's a seal in the seal parade at SeaWorld, but it would be a shame to buy him new shoes now with summer almost here and sandal weather just around the corner.

-- Has any child ever been truly traumatized by episodes of Twilight Zone at 9:30 p.m.? Kids are so resilient these days.

--If they fall asleep on the sofa after a long day at school, it's actually a good thing for a child. Keeps a  growing spine flexible and accommodating when he spends the night in different places.

--Bonus points if he falls asleep on the sofa in his school uniform from the day before -- he'll be dressed and ready for school when the alarm goes off the next day!

--I know I used to need 30 minutes head start before driving them to school, but strict instructions to wake me with four minutes left until go time works out just fine this last week.

--Ice cream sandwiches for breakfast? Sounds good to me.

And the number one clue that the teachers are soon closing up shop?

Mom forgets to set the alarm for the final and last day of school. Jumping the gun? More like wishful thinking. Sleeping past 6:00 a.m. is going to feel so damn good.

Have a great summer, everyone!

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Sunday, June 8, 2014

Not So Wordless Sunday -- He Graduates

Remember to enjoy the ride, everyone -- there are some heart-bursting moments in there.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

Last Day

I'm trying to sleep tonight, but a lump in my throat keeps me awake. Tomorrow, is here. The morning that I've put out of my head, preferring to not think about, has come. I'll drive my oldest son to school today for the last time. After that, he leaves in just ten weeks for his own life. I shake my head at the unreality of reality and keep saying to myself, 18 years? That was no 18 years  -- someone's lying.  

Life overwhelms me right now. The feelings of love and attachment too large to contain that they push against my heart and throat. I try to keep them in this week and they look for any way out, springing tears from my eyes or making the sound of my voice like a tight string. As if I'm girding up against a watershed of emotion that will flatten me. 

Today is his last day of school from a place where he's been every morning that I've woken up. I am disoriented, muddled, in the daze of a new land. I am proud, thrilled, intoxicated, delighted, grateful, honored, at having been his mother. 

This morning is like that day when he was first placed in my arms, swaddled tight, and it felt like a ceremony. Like the world was trusting me with the most important thing on the planet. The warmth and weight of him surprised me. I looked down at his face, so in love with him, wanting to say

I'm your mom
You're my son

My mouth opened and closed, croaking out nothing, only tasting the salt of my tears instead.

I love you, Alec. I love you, so much. This life passes quickly, though I can't say it sneaks up on us. I've been looking over my shoulder these years, knowing this day was always there. Thank you, my son, this time of you as my little boy, has been the most wonderful of my life.

*Here is the little man above, today:

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Wednesday, June 4, 2014

ArtbySon, Inc.

It was about 8 p.m last night when I was on my computer googling why did Kim Kardashian dress like a pilgrim for her wedding doing research for a project. Some new emails came in and there was one with my son's name in the subject line so I clicked. And then I screamed.

A visual image that looked like a dinosaur's eyeball being held for ransom was staring back at me. As I skimmed quickly, worried that my son had acted on a double dog dare while out with his class on a field trip to the dinosaur exhibit, I see that what's been sent to me is just a teaser, if you will, of all that I could have... in the form of a thumbnail of my son's 5th grade art work.

Yes, it was a dragon's eyeball, done by my son in art class. And if I liked, I could have 500 of these same images of a bulging Bob Costas-like retina made into a comely necklace to dangle between my breasts. Such a conversation piece. If I wanted more, I only had to say the word and click the mouse with credit card number at the ready, and I could be the owner of Coasters Pen Holders Water Bottles Key chains Magnets Mouse pads Coffee mugs Travel mugs T-shirts Clothing Gear Mobile Phone Cases Art Snap Jewelry Aprons/Smocks Tote Bags Cards Folded Cards Flat Cards Postcards Books & Prints Canvas Art Art Prints Notebooks Sketchbooks Portfolio Books Home Office Mouse pads Water Bottles Cutting Boards Pen Holders Coaster Sets Ceramic Tiles Fun Stuff Magnets Key chains Ornaments Bookmarks Quilt Blocks Bag Tags, all made from my son's artwork.

With a push of a button.

Can you believe that? My child's artwork can live on forever. On me. Every single piece of it that we now currently try and find a place for -- the non-karma believing ones among us just jam into recycling for next Monday's pick up. Up to this point, my MO was to shove everything under the futon in the guest room. Sometimes I have the time to slap a year and child's initial on the back before adding to the dust-laden compressed pile under the slat boards.

It feels as if it were only yesterday that I crammed Wisconsin Modern Nude Cows, 2nd grade, by Auggie under there. Anyway, I needed to respond to this email's offer of, “Resolve to catalog your child's inner expression! Follow along and track his emotional development through the years.”

Ignorance is something that sounds better to me, I don't want to plotchartgraph mother issues, but I only have ten days. If I don't activate registration by the deadline, all uploaded images by the school will be lost.

I think I have to go and take myself for coffee to Starbucks to think about this one. Maybe even dinner with a friend for advice. A movie might help clear the head. Drinks after? Could be a good call. I don't know what to do, and what I'm left with is a feeling that inspires me to create and upload my own works of art on this website. I'd call it Litany For My Son's Lost Online Body of Artwork, a series: by Alexandra, 2014. Each slide would depict a stage in my grappling decision, essentially step by step as I work through my shit and arrive at the final process. The last slide shows me fully naked, only clothed in dangling *ArtbySon* jewelry, dog tags, earrings, aprons, and tote bags.

How could a parent say no? By the time I completed the order form, it was well after 1 a.m. But then, I slept the sweet sleep of those that have done the right thing. Yes, I'll have to take on two additional part time jobs to pay off the dent on the credit card -- still worth it, because I will soon be a living breathing walking art museum of my son.

I'm his dream come true, that's what the company tells me, anyway. "Every young artist wants his own online art gallery, preserving their masterpieces for all time!“ I wonder, when did they have this one on one time with him? He never whispered such lofty ambitions to me. As far as I knew, he only dreamed of that $59 soccer ball we saw at Dick's.

Okay, *ArtbySon* and Company, I bought it. And his artwork. Here I am, baby, come take a good look. Look hard, though, I'm somewhere underneath the lead dog tags made in China and the made in Cambodia umbrella with matching tote bag. All done in glorious bulbous dinosaur retina.

* * *

Sunday, June 1, 2014

In Case You Missed It

Been a busy time over here, getting physically and mentally ready for high school graduation. Prepping the heart for how college is only ten weeks away. I'm lucky almost every day on the internet. I find words that help make sense of all that is flying at me.

Some good stuff out there, and it feeds me. I hope you click over, and see if it doesn't do the same for you:

--Jett Superior, of alphabetjunkie . She first took my breath away four years ago, and she did it again today. Life, unexpected exploding stars that find their way to us and are just what we would have wished for if we were smart enough to know the right things: This one meanders some, but we'll get there.

--"I mean, however old you are, you’re as young as you’re ever going to be. Oof, that’s obvious. Now that I’m 45 I’m going to issue really obvious pronouncements like that one. Also: be nice to people. Not to mention: sunscreen. You’re so very welcome. " So begins Alice Bradley's post on finslippy . About a birthday, and turning 45. She will always be one of my favorite people. Period.

--"... leaps don't have to be leaps: how to change your life by simple steps." I follow Karen Walrond's blog, chookooloonks, and through her, found limeretreats blog. Amazing candid talk there today on changing the direction of your life and tips on how to start. Just thinking about doing it, is step one.

--This week, what needs to be mentioned. The world lost Maya Angelou. I have lived on her quotes and her memoir like she was my very own. In this clip, she recites what gives me goose bumps to this day, And Still I Rise.

Have a beautiful week, everyone.

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