Saturday, August 27, 2016

For the Love of The Quirky Child

Just as I'm not like most adults, I also wasn't like most kids. I had a few quirks. *coughsputterletsbehonestlotsofthem.* For starters, I had about thirty phobias. They didn't fit in any category, I was more of a sampler box. Some of my fears were founded, others nothing that a quick prayer and the sign of the cross didn’t cure.

How I came to amass these phobias is a complex explanation. To help you envision what life as an 8-year-old me was like, try this on: whereas someone else might hear someone tell of a frightful situation and make a comment then move on, this shared story would move into my heart and soul, my mind took it and made it into omg that could be me.

When I was in the second grade, I read that it was an asp that killed Cleopatra. That’s all the information I needed to heave the pre-Google days of my childhood straight into a breathless run to the library, my chest leaning against the reference librarian's desk. "Pictures, pictures please, of an asp!" The librarian (why didn't she ever ask my name? you think she'd want to know my name) would peer over her bifocals and walk me over to the science shelf. Once there, I would sit with the nature books open before me and memorize every pictorial rendition of an asp, in all its possible lengths and widths, so if one were to slither up to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, I would know it and escape accordingly.

On the days I wasn’t monitoring the ground for asps on my ten-block walk to school, I feared that on the first day of the week back to school on Monday, the lunch lady would give me back my lunch money change in counterfeit change, because I always started the week with a fresh five-dollar bill that I’d have to break on Mondays for Hot Dog Day. We had just discussed counterfeit bills in school, especially with five dollar denominations being the most common ones counterfeited!

It was exhausting being scared, and at the end of the night had I know of the word masseuse, I would have dreamed of one. I could only occupy my mind with one fear at a time, and my existence was energy consuming. Until one day I got smart and decided to combine my phobias for less physical exertion.

I was as smart as I was neurotic.

Mondays could be counterfeit money and asp day.

Tuesdays I would allow my sweaty-palmed fear of my pens running out of ink during a spelling test in combination with not having enough tissues in my desk in case of a dry-air bloody nose. (these two things did happen to me, and here is your example, a fine one, of a phobia that is founded) 

Wednesday I could kill two phobia birds with one relief stone by walking around practicing what to say in case the most popular girl in class talked to me (one day in home ec class, one did) and rehearsing an at-the-ready apology in case there was someone I had absent mindedly forgotten to say sorry to. (my sewing teacher, who was always so kind to me, but she spoke to me at the same time as Connie Piscitello did, and what can I say--I was starstruck)

This doubling up was freeing up some serious mental time and I was loving it.

It didn’t take long to realize that streamlining my phobias could leave me with a blank mental slate and free me up for Saturday and Sunday.

But needing to get all my phobias in by Friday meant I had to schedule four or five a day. Efficiency fell into place with alliteration, because grouping like sounding items together works for everyone.

Fridays were my F day.

Friday, when I’d mince my Food with my Front teeth For Fear of Finding a Fish bone in my Friday night Fish Fry and choking combined with Fearing that I’d Forget to ask For a Five-dollar bill For the Following week.

Clever child that I was, this plan worked, I had an as close to normal life as a child like me, could.
 I’ll Stop here and Say that Sweet Saturday and Sunday came none too Soon. Their Sunrise arriving with a Sigh, to See me Serenely Smiling in the Secure Surrender of the Safety of the Subliminal Silence in my Skull.
Ah, the sensation of sweet sleepy stimuli-free Saturday and Sunday.

Friday, August 26, 2016

I Still Have 24 Hours

The other night when we went for our walk (my gosh how I love our walks) I noticed how much too quickly the long days of summer are ending. Night comes at us faster now, and so does the time until you leave for your first year in college.

This is a new beginning, like all your graduation cards said. It's a new beginning, and it springs from your time spent with us. This is the nature of the life cycle, and growing up and letting go and the day of your leaving for Madison is here in 24 hours.

I still have 24 ours of you living at home with us, as you have for the past 18 years.
It's hard to say goodbye because I have been with you since the first second you were born. Think of how that is, to not have you here next to me the way you have been for your entire life. As soon as the nurses placed you in my arms, a lump grew in my throat as I thought about how I would only have you for a while, and it's that thought that I've kept in my heart with every second of being with you, talking with you, loving you, and being in awe of you. What a gift it is to be your mother! I knew that time with you, every day of it, would be steps of letting go at every milestone: the first coo, the first smile, the first giggle, the first steps, the first words, the first day at school.

In one day, we will drive you to a new home, and a school that will be yours. You will be in a new place, and we will both be in a new space. College is where your future will take on more dimension, though seeds of it can be seen when I look back on your days.

I remember standing in front of the house with you when your were three years old. I had read of an experiment to do with bug lovers—something you already were by then. Insects were something that fascinated you since you could point. The directions told us to place a white sheet under a shrub and shake the branches, the goal would be to inspect all the bugs that would fall out. And so we did, we shook and oh my gosh with wide eyes we looked. The unbelieving amazement in your eyes at the amount of life that had just seconds before been invisible to us, is one of the mile markers in how I knew who you were: someone in wonder of nature. The rest of that day we spent carrying that white sheet from bush to bush, and you stood shaking branches and then stooping down to not just look, but to classify each type of bug that was revealed. You were fascinated then -- as you still are -- with the sky, with biology, with weather, with physics, with science, with the creation of the world we live in.

It's this, seeing you grow into the loving, kind, wise, compassionate, introspective person that you are, that has been one of the greatest experiences of my life.

I wrote you a long list of things I know are important to a happy, satisfying, content and purposeful life. I'll give it to you when we drop you off Sunday, because I know how that will be. With me hiccupping and hanging on tight and trying to talk, and then starting all over with hiccupping again.

That's what we all want, you know, to have someone love us enough to hiccup over. If we know we matter, if we know we have made the world better, if we've had a chance to contribute and feel how we do make a difference, this fills us with a sense of pride and belief. We know our world needs us in it.

I can tell you that you've made a difference in our household of five: and in my world, especially. You've turned my life into one I couldn't have dreamed of, but I know that you want to feel that same significance for yourself, from your own labor.

I pray that I have helped you realize your worth and significance in the time I've had you, Xavier.

You'll be away at school, yes, but you will forever live here in my heart. And if you do feel alone and a little bit lost from time to time, remember that just at that moment, there is someone back home holding your picture and sending you love.

Today, I have 24 hours, and we will begin with all that I have come to know about you, like the way you like a day to start with cinnamon rolls, moving on to our long walks while we talk. And tonight, we'll have our last night with you home. You need to be prepared to be the one to step away from a hug that doesn't want to end.

I love you, Xavier. I am so proud, and so very fortunate, to be the person who has the honor of signing this,

With Love,

Your Mom

* * * 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Thursday, August 18, 2016

But My Feelings, They Are So Strong

Emotions are with us, every day. Some of these feelings are fantastic, others chew our stomachs up and leave us light headed and spent. I'm one that runs either hot or cold, there is no moderate temp in my blood. And when all is aligned just wrong versus just right, I feel like I'm losing my mind, because my feelings, why must they be so strong?

On days that are without challenge, I do all right with the mildly conjuring-up-feelings emotion. I am able to sail through the meh moments, but when I’m walloped in the temples by something that sends my diastolic numbers pounding through the Velcro cuff, I need help.

It's the cross-eyed angry that spills out and shocks me when I look in the mirror and don't see steam blowing out from the top of my skull. In those moments, I don’t know what to do with myself. My breaths come in shallow and rapid and my scalp tightens around my skull. From my teen child who takes me on in a verbal tug-of-war for an extra round of PlayStation to the neighbor who comments on my recycling pile on the side of the house, I am sent to the edge. 

What do I do with these bull-in-the-ring emotions?

I do the only thing there is to do: unclench my jaw so I don't run to the dentist thinking I need a root canal from the pain only t be semi-relieved (I guess) that I trenched my TMJ.

It’s hard to keep a cap on it, especially when I'm out in the world where everyone is watching. And the world loves to witness a melt down – but I won’t have them see it from me. That's what the Trump campaign is for.

SO. ----------> Here are a few ways to keep yourself from doing a Brittany Umbrella Dance for your whole neighborhood to catch on video next time you lose your cool:

◾Decide that whatever it is, it is not a big deal. Even if it is, table it till you’re behind closed doors. Remember that these days, everyone’s got a camera.

◾Use the word “frustrated” when explaining your feelings instead of “mad.” Saying “mad” just makes you “mad.”

◾Deconstruct your feelings. Make it a game; think about what led to what, and how you got there. This buys you time until you get home and can pull into your garage and lose it in the minivan out of view.

◾Write a letter full of every GD cuss word you can think of. Oh, do try it–it feels so good.

◾Find a friend who can talk you down. Call, text, tweet it out. Someone is sure to side with you and that’s all you want really, to hear, “that sucks donkey balls, man!”

◾Count to ten. It takes the Ready-Aim-Fire sequence out of your brain. And whatever you do, NEVER jump across a counter and grab anyone by the lapels. Not even if they sent your family's luggage to Australia.

◾Observe and note what your physical reaction to being mad as hell is. This will crack you up because you’ll sound like a Learning Channel Special: “Tingly scalp, beads of sweat on upper lip. Light headedness and numb fingertips accompany the pounding heart bouncing out of the rib cage.”

Being mad and feeling it should not be the same thing as going mad. Life will always have moments that move you to anger quicker than unchecked rice on the stove. But an angry fool is still just a fool (you can quote me on that).

The next time you want someone’s head on a platter, take a bunch of deep breaths instead and walk away. We all know that no matter how good it feels to call for a beheading, in the end, it would still just look gross.
* * *



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

What to Write When You Think "But My Life is Too Boring to Write About"

Think your life is one not interesting enough to write about? Wishing you had something to say from days that stretch back into what you think is ordinary?

Here's something for you to know: no one's life is ordinary and no one's days are ever without event.

I'm on BlogHer today talking about how to find the moments in our lives, and explore them for content.

Click over and give it a read, and then, what else? But start writing.

"What makes a story compelling is the feeling that you are reading over somebody's shoulder as they write in their diary, or that you're being whispered to and trusted with the words you'll soon hear...[read more on  Mining the Moments, on BlogHer]


Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Pow! I'm a Life Coach!

Taking care of children is a mind blow. They look to you as possessor of all knowledge, and I'll be honest, it's fantastic for the ego. I give my three children life lesson as vignettes of my life appear, without summons, and today I thought, Why shouldn't I take my podium pounding sessions public? And so I have.
You too can now can benefit from the well from which I dip. As with anything, take what serves you, leave what serves others.

LESSONS LEARNED: Volume 26 of What Life Has Taught Me:

--Say “good morning” back, especially when you don't feel like it.
--Repeat someone’s name after they introduce themselves. People love to her their names.

--I am not going to assume anything, but let's talk friends. If you’re not interested in making friends, then move along: nothing to see here. BUT if you are tired of your social circle consisting of one, then I’ve got some tips for you.
Friendship Tips 101:

◾Before you say you want friends, you have to know what that means. Friends mean responsibility, caring, being there. If it’s not a two way street, then that’s not friends. You may just be using each other to not be alone. That won’t work.

◾Manners are important. Manners mean no nose picking, farting, grabbing your crotch or constantly sticking your side boobs back in place.

◾Don’t play with your food, don’t chew with your mouth open, don’t eat with your hands, don’t wipe your hands on the tablecloth or on your shirt or anyone’s shirt when you pretend to give them a hug good-bye.

◾Don’t focus only on the people that you want to like you. Think of everyone. They usually turn out to be cooler than the ones you think you want to like you.

◾If someone doesn’t like you, accept it. Don’t be needy. Don’t ask what is wrong with you, why don’t they like you, is there a chance?, don’t give them money to like you or buy them presents. Move on.

◾Just because you feel like doing something doesn’t mean you should do it. You may want to laugh and point at your friend’s new haircut but that’s not nice. Don’t do it.

◾Ask people about their lives, it shows you care. And if you don’t care, well then, we need to ask why you say you want friends. Back to step one: meaning of friendship.

◾Always ask permission before touching, grabbing, snatching, pushing, jumping, climbing, bumping, rubbing a person. ALWAYS.

◾And the most important rule of all:
If anyone says they won’t be your friend if you don’t play spin the bottle or Doctor with them, tell them your mother doesn’t let you play those games. Then leave that house and never be friends with them again. Oh, sorry, forgot I wasn't talking to my kids again. 
* * *

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Not The Same As Being There, But Still Wonderful: Thank You BlogHer

For the first time in six years, I had to miss being a part of BlogHer 's annual conference. On Monday night, I sliced my thumb with a much too nice knife (life note: go for cheap knives in the kitchen from now on) and sparing any physical details, I am in no shape to fly and do things one handed.

I missed being with my people, I missed the pride of being a blogger that I always come home with after a BlogHer conference. And I missed this: being honored as a 2016 Voice of The Year honoree sponsored by Merck for Mothers .

Merck had asked for entries that described a moment that defined motherhood. I crossed my fingers and sent in my submission, "Past, Present, Future: What It Feels Like To Look At Your Children."

And today, I am honored to say Thank YOU BlogHer,  thank you SheKnows media, and THANK YOU for the honor of being chosen by Merck for Mothers as a winning entry in their #MOMents category.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

Hey, You, Get a Haircut!

Last week Wednesday, at 11 a.m., I went for a haircut. My hair was beyond the needing a haircut phase, it was more than straggly ends and no discernible hair style moments.

What my hair was, was a state of neglect.

I didn't need a haircut as much as I needed to treat myself like a person that needed to be cared for. Yes, every day I left myself a note on the kitchen counter, “Hair appointment!” but at the end of every day, the call for the appointment never got made.

I was too busy doing, whatever, for everyone else. A haircut takes 20 minutes, 30 if you ask for a shampoo. With no hair coloring or highlights, I do have 30 minutes to get my hair cut. So why the procrastination to the point of not being able to look at myself in the morning without my first words being my god I need a haircut.

Is it the salon chair that I don't want to sit in?
Is it the smock that always feels too plastic-y that keeps me away?
Is it the article that popped up on facebook about the woman who had a stroke 10 days after a haircut because her head was jerked back to tightly and ended up in a mini-laceration that led to said stroke? (maybe .0001% of a head nod for that one)

The chair at the salon is okay, even if I always worry that I'll be stepping into the well of the foot rest and my hairdresser will swing the chair at the exact wrong moment and knock me over. The smock is a PITA and lately, it's not exactly doing much for my physical attractiveness with a newfound effect of pulling on newfound looser neck skin.

And the stroke thing? I'll always worry about the stroke thing. With every single second of tingling and numbness that comes my way.

I didn't make an appointment because the time was never right. There was always something else going on and my hair-needs didn't feel important. But for something not feeling important, it ran through every second of my day every time I'd catch a glimpse of myself in a mirror. Haircut haircut haircut why can't you go and get your haircut??

It will feel good to have your scalp massaged, yes? Yes.
You'll like the way it doesn't snarl after your shower, yes? Yes.
Won't it look so nice, to have those ends just off your head? Yes.
Think about it, no more guilt when you look in the mirror, yes? OMG, yes. 

So, talk to me, what is the problem? Because there is one.
Mumble mumble, hem and haw. The truth? Yes, the truth.
I don't like to take time to do anything. 
Aha! But, let's say, your kids came in, right now, and said, "Mom, I need a haircut." What would you do?
I'd take them to get a haircut.
Buuuuut - you won't do that for you... is that right?
Nowhere to hide, is there? Yes, I won't do that for me. 
After this humbling exchange with myself, I called and made my haircut appointment. My stylist, Liz, is so cool. She took the call, she didn't say, "WOW. Looks like there has been *some time* since I last saw you." Nope, Liz gives me the appointment, she ends with, "See you Wednesday!" and then come Wednesday, she does.
I sit in Liz's chair, I say like I always do, "Did you hear about the lady that had the stroke after her neck was torqued at the hair salon?" She'll ignore that and go right into loosening my ponytail, squinting her eyes, and asking, "So? A good clean up?"
"You okay with three inches off?"
And we begin. My hands under a too hot plastic apron that I sneak out from underneath for fresh air every few seconds.
She concentrates, pulling my hair up and out and slides her scissors across. My shoulders fall back and my lungs fill with new oxygen. I look in the mirror and see shine where only this morning a puffball of split ends and fuzzy tips existed.
15 minutes later, Liz pulls the apron away and sweeps hair off my shoulders with the most delicate brush I've ever felt.
My hair in Liz's mirror looks tended to. I look like I matter to myself.
I thank Liz and leave a tip that is enough for her to get a salad of her choice at Panera's.
I drive home, looking in my mirror. For the first time in months, I smile when I don't hear back, why don't you get yourself a haircut.
* * *

Saturday, August 6, 2016

The Olympics Aren't Perfect, but They're Perfect Right Now

Since Friday night, my family has sat together watching the 2016 Summer Olympic games. Not all at once, we rotate in and out of the TV room, one likes volleyball, another checks in on swim, my husband is there for most of it.

Starting with the Opening Ceremony, filling the screen with faces and dress from around the world, hearing beautiful accents and reading names of countries we hadn't heard of, some newly formed, we've been present for these games. On screen, we saw brown faces, white faces, black faces, every color of humanity, and we were together as family, at home and there. We look more alike than we don't. That's something that's become important to remember this ugly election season in America.

We are one family. We don't need to fear different. And how these games remind us of how we are just one corner of a huge world. I don't think the mental respite and relief of the Olympics has ever been more needed.

Our world has a history, one which is made of diversity. To see these nations send in their best, who will compete among the best, is a side by side story of how our nations were built: with each other. I feel each country's pride and I fall in love with the Olympians they've sent. My heart swells with love for the spirit of the Olympic games.

Summer 2016 is not just games in Rio, summer 2016 is when America was thirsting and hungering for the show of unity that the Olympic games do so well in reminding us. This has been a tense election cycle in America, but seeing the tens of thousands of glorious faces coming together, we are undeniably presented with fact: America is but a small part. Humbling, at the very least.

Reality exists, I know, as does this challenging race for US presidency. But for now, we've got 4500 hours of seeing the best, go for their best. And it renews me, every time. Just seeing all the beauty of the world, assembled together. There is no more wondrous poem to creation.

* * *

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Do It, Plug In Summer

Summer nights, sliding open the patio door to hear the rise and fall of crickets answering to each other. A look outside brings flashes of fireflies that like summer, lasting not a second. The rustle of leaves ready you for the warm breeze you'll seen feel.

My hands swim through cooling dish water as I clean up a late night supper of sweet corn and sausages. Behind me I hear the laughter shared between two brothers, catching up from months apart at school. Their closeness hasn't changed and this is the gift of summer. It reconnects us, reacquaints us, reminds us of the ones we began life with.

I hope that one day when a summer wind softly blows across their brow, that memories sail in with it of a summer night with a brother, long ago.
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