Adventures of the Un-Martha

Adventures of the Un-Martha

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Rebuilding a Broken House into a Home again...

Well it's been a few months since last we chatted and I felt it was time we chatted again. Is it weird that I think about these posts as if I'm writing to an old friend that I maybe just haven't talked to in a long while? Meh...that probably IS weird, but let's face it. I'M weird and that is how it feels with you all today, so.... hello old friend. Ha! 

So anyway, it's been a few months since the big "Separation and Moving On" post, and to give the short version update... Some things are better. Some things aren't just yet. But the world keeps on a turnin' and we are doing OK. Really, we are truly doing OK. 

The long version is as follows... Ha! 

So when shit hit the fan and everything fell apart in January, I think I spent a good three months just trying to figure out which end is "up". It felt a bit like that moment when you jump (or more likely in MY case, fall) into the deep end of the pool and you fall so deep and so hard that for a nanosecond or two, you are so disorientated that you can't really figure out which way is "up" and what going toward the surface even means... So you panic and suck in some water in the process and then you kinda regain what you THINK is control and you think OH YEAH, I GOT THIS and you have "up" figured out, but after pushing against the water a second or two more, you think IT'S TAKING TOO LONG to get to she surface... is this really "UP"???? So you start to second guess yourself and that control and confidence you had in "up", and panic sets in again and you suck in a little MORE water. And then your lungs start to ache and your eyes start burning and you are thrashing around desperately trying to just find "up". And this process just keeps repeating over and over again until finally you hit the surface gasping and sputtering and thanking god, inside your head of course, that you are still alive but your lungs hurt so bad and your eyes feel like there are razor blades inside your eyelids and all of your limbs are limp noodles at this point from the struggle. AND to top it off you are pretty sure you almost just died, but you have to act like "oh no... I'm cool and it's totally fine" because all of your people are standing around the pool at a BBQ watching you sputter and snort and gasp and you don't want to seem like a drama queen so you try to ungracefully play it off, even though you are pretty sure you just had a near death experience. Yeah, the first three months on my own... was kinda like that. Hahahahaha! 

Now looking back in hindsight, yeah it sucked and it was scary and it was a little like almost drowning, but I really was in no danger. Not really. My people were around me all the time ready to pull me out of the water, if I really really needed it. For example, my parents... apparently my mom still watches over her 38 year old daughter with hawk like scrutiny scanning and surveying the situation, ready to swoop in at a moment's notice, should I give the signal. And for the most part, she has been very good about not swooping in, unless I specifically ask for help, but she also makes herself known that she is there and ready for whatever. Financial help? Moral Support? Bear fight? She is pretty much ready for anything and everything and she can throw down with the best of them.   

She respects my independence and basically sits watchful and ready and yes... sometimes acts a little like an agitated bird and very annoyed that I'm moving too slowly on some things or won't give the signal some days when SHE thinks I need help, but we have an understanding of our limits of how far to push. She might even squawk a bit at my stubbornness to not give the signal, but she won't swoop unless I specifically ask. And that's been really important. While it seems like it would be easiest to have her or someone else (anyone else) to take care of me. I know that doing that will not help me long term. I need to figure shit out on my own. I need to drown a little so I can figure out how to swim. I appreciate the help if I need it, but I need to learn to swim on my own. All on my own. But I love you mom. You have no idea how much your hawk safety net has helped me physically, emotionally, spiritually and yes, even financially, as much as that pains me to say that I did ask for that help too. 

I hate that I had to borrow money from my family to put food on my table one month. I had to make a choice between hot water heater and food and so I asked for help of my parents and my brother along the way over these past months. I also took a loan out on my 401k to cover the gap and give me a buffer and I asked for help from my family because I had to swallow my pride to get me back on my feet until I could find "up". And so I did. Not proud of it, but I did. So I made some life changes to tighten the belt, I asked for a well deserved raise and promotion and consequently take on more responsibility at work, I work odd jobs like proofing and reviewing books and take online surveys that I can do late at night after kids go to bed, and I had to restructure how I spend. All of it. It was a total money overhaul. But I survived and 9 months in, I feel better about where I'm headed as long as I keep my eye on the ball and be as mindful as I can, until I can rebuild my life into a better place for me and the kids. It still sucks some days and I wish I could bury my head in the sand, but I can't. That just isn't an option in my life anymore. 

So once I got finances SORTA figured out or at the very least figured out which way was "up", the next task was to get my house in order. Like my physical house. So there is a small part of me that envies that he left our physical house. I would be fine all day, until the kids would go to sleep and then I would catch myself wandering around my house looking at every piece of furniture, picture, and book and it reminded me of the life that we had built together. The life I wanted to be good but underneath the layers of happy pictures and funny pieces of decor, was sadness. Even the happy memories in these items were so painful to look at... because I would break down and ask myself how blind was I to how much he hated being here with me? Was any of it happy? Or was it all a lie? Or if it was good sometimes, how come I couldn't make it good ALL the time? Why didn't he love me? Why didn't he fight harder for us? Why didn't he fight at all? Some of these questions are valid and some are unfair... for both of us... but it doesn't change the fact that I thought them. I still think about them from time to time and I suppose that is all part of the process, eh? 

One of the hardest things to deal with in my house was our bedroom. Because that was the only space that was truly ours and just ours.The bed that we shared and his side seemed so empty and far away. The "his and hers" bedside tables. The items that still sat on his bedside table, gaming magazines, spare change, and books. Drawings taped to the walls on our respective sides of the bed made by our children saying things like Super Mom and Dad Rocks! All of this STUFF, were the last things I saw before I went to sleep at night and the first things I saw when I woke up. It was... I'm not even sure if there are words for it. Exhausting? Soul crushing? Devastating? Because this room was not a happy place of love anymore. Hell, I don't know if it was ever a happy place of love or just a space of two people in obligation to one another. Maybe that is why we never really did anything with it in over 10 years of marriage. 

Now, I'm sure there will be people that say "Well, you asked him to leave. You deserve this and should have thought about it before you told him to go, if you couldn't handle it." And I say to them... sigh... Yup. All of that is true. But, it hurt anyway and I couldn't make it STOP hurting. I cried myself to sleep a lot and sometimes I would pick up things from his bedside table and it was like drowning again. My chest felt like it was being crushed from the weight of his absence and I just needed air again. And that is how it was until April when I again asked for help. 

I asked mother hawk and dad the carpenter to help me and change the space because I couldn't live in this sad sad space anymore. I don't care what we do to it. I just can't live in this space with so many memories anymore because I don't want to be so sad every time I wake up and every time I go to sleep. And mother hawk swooped and brought along dad the carpenter to help me and the only question they asked was... How can we help? I said well I just would like some storage in my closet and to repaint and new bedding and that will help me along the way and they said... Done. 

So a time was set to reinvent the space in May and then the really hard part came. I had to clean out the room. I asked my ex to go through the space and take out his stuff. He declined or rather he said he would "later", but took out one box of stuff and left the rest for me to "figure out". I took a deep breath and did what I do best. I procrastinated the hell out of the project until it was two days before mother hawk and dad the carpenter were coming to visit. I couldn't bury my head in the sand any longer. I had to deal with the stuff that was in front of me because change was happening. A decision was made and it was going to happen. 

So I turned up the music to full blast and tried to remain positive while I boxed up the stuff in the closet, while I boxed up the  things on my side table, while I swept dust bunnies from under my bed, and while I sorted two bags of crap that I no longer needed. And then I couldn't avoid it, I moved to his side of the bed. I turned the music up even louder to drown out the thoughts in my head. I sang as loud as I could and tried so hard to stay upbeat and work mindlessly through this task. And I finished the side table and put the boxes to the side. And then I sat on his side of the bed and looked at the pictures our children had made for him. The loving childish drawings of adoring babies to their father. He didn't take them with him when he left. He left them. I may have been the one to ask him to move out, but he didn't even put up a fight. And truthfully, he left us in spirit YEARS before I said the words. And all I could think as I sat and stared at these pictures was WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO US? How did it go so wrong? Why didn't he fight for us? Why didn't he love us? Why didn't he love me? And if he did love us, why didn't it last? Again, some fair thoughts and some not so fair, but I thought them all the same. And I slipped into the intense spiral of grief, anger, sadness, bitterness, confusion, lots more anger, and incomprehensible hurt. I fell into the deep end of the pool again. And when I say deep. I'm talking miles deep pool. And I sat on that bed and sobbed and sobbed and sobbed until I was out of breath and gasping. My daughter came in and said.... Mom?Are you ok?... I couldn't even answer her. I just tried to wave her away and tried to smile but I couldn't breathe and she just stared at me, not knowing what to do for me, but I couldn't speak. I couldn't breathe. All I could do was sob even harder, gasping for air. I wish I could go back in time and change that moment. I wish I could have pulled my shit together and she didn't see me like that. But I can't. It happened. I again tried to wave her out of the room and FINALLY sputtered out. "I'm OK. I just need a minute." to just get her out of the room and let me have my cry. She gave me a half hug and reluctantly left the room. But I couldn't stop crying. I think I balled my eyes out in there for a good half hour and I just couldn't stop. I needed help. 

So I texted my brother who was downstairs in my house and said "Can you help me?" He came upstairs and found me holding childish drawings, sitting on the side of the bed, and unable to stop the ugly cry of my lifetime. My brother. He's a good egg. Not a real emotional touchy feely type and he doesn't really like hugs. But he wrapped his arms around me and said "It's Ok. Everything is gonna be OK. We are gonna figure this out." And he let me shake and sob and cry until I had nothing left in me. His shirt was a tear stained snotty mess and he just said.... It's cool. Don't worry bout it. 

And then he said... "Now turn the damn sad music off. Let's get this done." He squeezed my shoulder one more time and then pushed my husband's dresser out the door. And then the boxes. And then the everything else. And then my room was a bare empty shell. No my stuff. No his stuff. No our stuff. Just an empty room with a bed and some sheets. I wondered how it would feel to sleep in this room when I went to bed that night. It turns out, I was so damn exhausted from the day, I don't even remember much of anything after laying my head down. Just silence and emptiness and I immediately fell asleep. 

The weekend came and mother hawk and dad the carpenter and even Aunt Squirrel (that's a whole other story by the way, HA!) came to help. My brother, my cousins, and my uncle all helped too. We didn't just start to transform my bedroom or house even; we started a transformation in ME. I had to let go of the sadness, the anger, the STUFF and bring everything down to bare bones to rebuild. For months I was trying to learn how to swim in fetid waters, contaminated with so many bad memories and emotional baggage. The reason I couldn't find "up" so many times in those first few months, is because I was still swimming in shit. I had to drain it all out. Clean and scrub and decide what do I need and what do I need to let go of and then actually LET IT GO... then I could refill the pool and try to learn to swim. 

So.. I remodeled my room. And I already know that some of you will be like... Seriously? You were worried about having money for food on your table and you decided to use money on paint to make you FEEL better. You can't eat feelings and you better get your priorities straight. No wonder you don't have any money.... you spend unwisely.... So first of all, I don't buy ANYTHING without a sale, coupon, or deal. I've been frugal in whatever I can and I do the labor myself and with my family. The work for pizza and hugs to which I'm eternally grateful for... And yes. I did think about the cost on all this too. I still think about that actually, and if I made the right decision to make these seemingly outwardly poor financial decisions to update this space and the other spaces that followed the bedroom. But I maintain, it helped me feel in control of something in a time when I felt that I had no control over my life. I was mentally and emotionally feeling like I didn't know where to start with anything. It was all too much to get a handle on but in this one place I could make a list and I could get a handle on which way was "up" on this... and this feeling of being able to do stuff on my own went into other branches of my life. And it was the best decision I could have made. It calmed my mind from a toxic daily environment of bad feelings and constant reminders of my failure as a wife and frankly as a person that I felt for so long. And quite frankly... "Ain't nobody got time for that!" And that is the truth. I needed to alter my space to give me confidence in my decision making, surround myself with things that were good and joyful, and as a team with my family I now know that I had a slew of people to help me when things got rough. It was as much a bonding experience as it was a physical transformation of a room. I felt that love was put back in that space. 

This process saved me and pushed me forward in a way that I could once again receive love from others. Kind, good, and unconditional love from my family that I wasn't sure I deserved at the moment from my epic failure in my marriage. It changed my natural instinct to turn inwards and allowed me to let people help me and accept love and caring again. And that made me able to replenish my depleted storage of love for MY kids and family too. That's the crazy shit about love. It bounces around and each time it hits another person's soul it gets bigger and bigger and you can give more and receive more and around and around it bounces again and it is sooooo good. 

So that's been the big news in my world these days. I'm working on my house piece by piece, little by little, and I'm taking it all down to the basics. Some pieces of my house were so broken that they can't be repaired, both physically and metaphorically. And sometimes the decisions on if I should keep or pitch some things in my life are still hard for me to make and that's ok. Sometimes those decisions need to sit for a bit, but I can't and won't avoid them forever. And that's a decision in of itself right? So I'm rebuilding my broken house into a new and stronger home for whatever comes in the future. And that's it. 

So like I said. I'm Ok. Some things are better. Way better. And some things aren't quite there yet. But I'm Ok. We are Ok. And that is good enough for today. 

Love you all and as a special sidenote, thank you to mother hawk and dad the carpenter and brother... and all the other people that sent love, good thoughts, and messages to check in on me and the kids over the last 9 months. You all are so special to me and I'm eternally grateful for the people in my life in big and small ways and everything in between. I feel your love. I do. Xoxox 

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Separation and Moving On...

I haven't posted in quite some time, that is very true. I think I always wanted this blog to be something happy and joyful that would make people smile or laugh. I like making people happy and if I can make someone chuckle, well I think I've done my job. But the past year (well, let's be real... a lot longer than that but for the sake of clarity) has been a rough one and there were days that I couldn't find much to laugh about, let alone help others find joy in tough times. I was just struggling to get through it and not have a total breakdown, honestly. 

And then there was the problem of what COULD I say and still be truthful to myself and be fair to the others that were in my life? What was MY story to tell, and what was THEIR story. I'm sure our versions of events are very very different, given it's all about perspective in the matters of relationships. And I want to be honest and fair and realistic and all of that. I really do. So keep in mind as you read on, that this is just my version and I'm sure others in my life will have massively different version of how things all went down. Take it or leave it, this is MY version, as honest and real as I can tell it. 

My husband and I are separating and working towards a hopefully amicable divorce. I love him very much and I think he loves me very much and I KNOW that we both love our children very very much. And I tried, and I would like to believe he tried as much as he could too, but we just couldn't keep it together. While he may love me, I don't think he likes me very much... and right now, I don't like him very much either. So it's complicated and it's super super messy. 

I would like to think he is a good man, and maybe he is, but to be honest, we have grown so far apart, I'm not even sure I know him anymore. Maybe I never did... and maybe I just believed what I wanted to believe about him because it's what I wanted so badly for all of us. I'm telling you, I wanted this SO badly to work and just couldn't see the trees for the forest, so to speak. I really truly believed he was supposed to be my lobster, my happily ever after, and my everything. And I wanted to be everything he wanted and needed too, but he was quick to point out (and frequently towards the end there) that I was not at all, any of those things. And to a certain extent, he was very right. I asked things of him that he couldn't provide and then I was mad when he wouldn't even try, even though he told me point blank that he couldn't or didn't want to live his life that way, and that wasn't fair on my part. I tried to change him, to fix him, and that should never have been my role and it was never fair to ask that of him and it wasn't fair of me to put that much pressure on myself to be what he needed or wanted either. To this day, I'm not sure he ever did tell me what he DID need or want, just that it isn't me and this suburban boring life that we had built. And while that hurts like hell to know that, I have actually moved past and through the many stages of grief including denial, bargaining, and anger (a whole lot of anger) and all the rest... to move to acceptance. 

The funny thing was that when I finally gave up and said, "You win. You finally win. I give up. I don't want to fight anymore. I'm done trying to convince you that you have a good life and that I'm worth the fight, our marriage is worth the fight, and your kids are worth the fight. And I shouldn't have to convince you of any of that anyway. You are miserable no matter what I do or do not do, and I'm miserable trying to make you believe it. You win. I don't want you to be miserable and I don't want to be miserable anymore either. You win. I'm done. Go. Go find the life you want and good luck to you. I'm not mad anymore. I'm just done." After all of that, THEN he realized, "Oh shit! She might actually leave." And THEN he wanted to make some changes in his life and for us to work on things, but after all that we have been through, all that has been said and done and all that has been not said and not done. I just don't want to try anymore. 

No. No, I'm not doing that. I begged him to try to make this work for years and he didn't want to do it then, but now that HIS life is being ripped apart, now he wants to change and make some repairs. Sigh...Well, if he wants to change, I will root him on and hope that this change will bring him closer to his kids in the future because he still has a chance to turn things around with them at least. They adore him and I hope he doesn't take them for granted again. And for their sake, I hope he is serious and is really going to work on their relationships. But for me, it's a non-starter, I can't go back. Too much hurt. Too many cuts. Too many times I have heard pretty words to be followed up with all kinds of actions that don't match those pretty words. No, I just can't. I have to move forward now. Looking back is too painful, so forward is the only direction I can go. 

So two months ago, he left. He left to focus on how to begin anew and to focus on himself. He left and I held his children while they cried themselves to sleep. He left and I cried until I'm pretty sure no liquids were left in my body. He left and he became alive again. And I'm happy for him that he has found a new sense of self in his journey. I wish him luck and I really do mean that; I wish him all the luck in the world. From my understanding he is doing well. We don't talk frequently and when we do, it's pretty shallow in terms of topics. He's tried to talk to me about his progress, but I frankly don't WANT to hear his personal growth story. I'm happy for him but I don't really want to hear about how he is so much better without us. Maybe I will be able to hear about all of it one day. But not yet. Not now. And I'm not sure ever, if I'm being totally honest with myself. He focused on himself so good for him, but I need to focus on me, my needs, and and my life going forward too and I don't feel the need to share any of that with him. It's not about him now. Not for me.  And he doesn't ask too many questions about us anyway so I'm not sure he would care to hear how I'm progressing in my own way or any of the stuff that we have been doing while he was figuring himself out. 

He doesn't want to hear about how his daughter sometimes knocks on my bedroom door at midnight because she doesn't understand all of what's going on or why this is happening to her, and she is just so damn sad. He doesn't want to hear how I hold her as her body shakes from the painful tears she sheds and I quietly let her grieve for the home life she had just 3 months ago. I try to reassure her that the pain is OK and normal and to let it all out. We just have to keep going because the good part is on the horizon and we just have to get through the shitty part to get to the good again. I try to convince her that while it seemed normal to her 3 months ago, it wasn't really normal or healthy at all, it's just all she knows. I'm trying to straddle the line of being honest with her about how much awful it really was and how it was so tense and sad that the air crackled with resentment and discontent from both of her parents for so very very long. That is not the home I want for my sweet girl. She deserves better than that kind of environment. But she doesn't understand and I don't know the words to explain it well enough to her. So I just hold her while she cries while I try to fumble through with the right things to say to be both equal parts compassionate about how she is feeling and also giving her hope for a future without so many tears. It sucks and I worry that I'm not doing any of it right, but all I can do is keep going, just like I tell her to do. Right? Isn't that what I'm supposed to do now? Ugh... I have no idea. 

And he doesn't ask about my son and how he thinks he now has to be "the man" of the house even though he just turned 10 last week. He doesn't know how when his son sees his sister cry, he quietly just goes to get her kleenex and pats her arm and maybe gives her a quick kiss on the cheek. His son sees her sadness and hardens himself that he won't let his sister or mom worry about him too. So he is strong for her and for me, even though I tell him he doesn't need to do any of that. I try to break down those hardened walls that he is forming but he kisses my cheek and says, "Mom. She needs this stuff more than me. I'm OK. Just make sure you give her an extra hug tonight. She is real sad today." When you hear a 10 year old give emotional analysis of our home life and making decisions for who and how much TLC they need, it will blow your mind. And I'm caught speechless. Over and over again. 

I notice how they interact with one another now, it's different. Like they are clinging to the only familiar things they have ever known. They still fight like siblings do, but sometimes it's more intense than I have ever seen. Sometimes I wonder if they take it out on each other because they are so mad, but don't have anyone to direct it at, so they just try to kill each other... in the end, they know that they will always have each other and they will both forgive so it's a safe place to be angry and sad. When I break it up, it's like the realization of what they are doing hits home, and the hugs are more fierce and the apologies are more real. They are begging one another to forgive and please don't you leave me too, even if that's never the words they say to each other. It's weird and I don't think I have any right to tell them anything on that front. Their relationship is their own, but I'm so glad they have each other and I'm just here trying to not fuck up more shit in their life, so I leave it alone. 

So that all being said, after two months, yes, we have had some serious moments of sadness dealing with changes in our family dynamics but we are also doing so much better too. And it may be hard to believe but we have had some seriously funny moments in our life too. Like when I was taking my son to karate lessons and an ad for a dating app came on the radio and he looked over to me and said, "Y'know, your soul mate could be in China?" Talk about one of the most awkward and uncomfortable moments in my adult life to hear my 9 year old suggesting that maybe I get back in the saddle again. My mouth dropped to the floor and said. Ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm WHAT? He replied nonchalantly "Ya never know. Could be out there anywhere..." And shrugged and that was it. I asked if he was looking for a girl and he said, "No mom. Not for me. For you. He could be in China or France or wherever. You don't know." I said "Well, hmmmm" because I could think of nothing else to say. He bounced out of the car like this conversation was nothing more than a convo about the weather. I sat back in my seat thinking Holy shit. I am not ready to get dating advice from someone that hasn't hit double digits yet... And I would love to say that was just one of awkward weird moments in the past two months but that is one of about a hundred that ended with one or all of us exasperated, laughing, and crying tears of ridiculousness at how incredibly odd and surreal this whole experience has been for us. 

And then the three of us have learned a lot about each other in many other ways too. They are far more self-sufficient than I knew. My daughter helps with laundry. My son likes to help with cooking. Since their dad used to do a lot of the cooking, it's been a learning curve on my part in that department but I'm relearning and they have yet to go hungry or without clean clothes on their bodies. The rest is just details, right? We are figuring things out as we go and we spend more time with each other without the tension and chaos that was floating around us. Both the kids are doing well in school. I've talked to both of their schools and the schools have been enormously helpful in keeping them on track and keeping them in a place that is kind, safe, and filled with love, and has become a second family of loving grown-ups to help share the burden of their experiences. I am forever in their debt to them for helping me through this with my kids. And their dad is slowly moving back into their life in some ways and I hope he continues to keep going in that direction. They need him and they adore him. So even if it hurts us to be in the same room sometimes, we will suck it up and do what is best for them no matter what. And I am confident that we can do that as parents. And if we can't, well we will cross that bridge when we come to it and make decisions that are best for them in the moment. 

And lastly I want to make it clear that I'm not the hero of our family story and he's definitely not the villain. We've both had things in our shared life that I think we both look back and say... Wow. We really messed shit up there and we both wish we could go back and do things different. But you can't. There is no such thing in real life as black and white in all of this. It just is, what it is... a long and fuzzy grey area for all of us. I've not been the best wife. He was not a good husband. But I'd like to think neither of us are bad people. Just people that didn't work out as life long partners. We gave it the college try but in the end, it's time to move on. I will pick up my pieces and he will pick up his... and we will get through the shitty part to get to the happier place on the horizon. Just on separate paths with some overlapping stories with our kids. I truly hope that someday we will be sitting in the same row at our daughter's graduation or our son's wedding and high five each other that our kids turned out super awesome, in spite of us and all our shit. I want that and I think he wants that too. But for now, it's time to move on and build new lives for ourselves and our kids. 

So that's it. That was as fair and as real as I can make it without saying all the things that sometimes bounce around in my head. I have days where I hate him. I have days where I miss him. I have days that I don't think about him at all. There are days that I can think of nothing else. There is no easy road here, for any of us. But I am making a conscious effort to find the good, find the humor, find the joy that really does surround my life because there is good and humor and lots and lots of joy too.  My world will keep on turning and so we take it one day at a time. Breathe deep when it gets hard. Sit and feel all of the bad things wash over me and then pick myself back up and keep going. I have a right to be pissed, and hurt, and sad sometimes (and so does he) but I have to let it go and move on. What is meant to be, will be, and I can only do the next right thing for me and the kids. Why is that so easy to write out and so much more difficult to DO? Life doesn't come with a handbook and I probably will screw up a lot of things in the coming year. But that is sort of 'par for the course' in the Un-Martha's world, right?

There is joy. There is happiness. There is goodness. But you have to make your own version of all of those things, so that is what I'm going to do. Onward and upward... take care and hope to tell you more happy stories in the very near future. So no pity eyes or words of strength and comfort needed from any of you, if that is what you were thinking about doing. I'm good. My kids are good. And I think he is doing well too. So I will leave you with one of my newest favorite inspirational quotes that sums up everything that I wanted to say in this post, but couldn't articulate quite so succinctly.

"Some people may not understand the journey, that's ok. It's not for them." So on with the journey. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

She is gone.

I've tried 10+ times already to write this, but just can't seem to get it right, no matter how hard I try. Nothing seems right. Nothing about this situation seems right at all actually. 

She is gone... She sadly she took her own life and she is gone. 

It hurts so much to just even type that out. I feel so detached from that entire statement. "She took her own life." There should be a better way to say something like that. A kinder way. A less painful way to say that statement. SOMETHING should be better than that. She deserved better than that. But I just don't know the words to make it sound less harsh. Less sad and more, I don't know... Just not those words, but I don't have any other words tonight to fix that sentence. At least not right now. Not tonight. 

But I am going to try to do her memory justice and say a few words about her life, even if I can't say the right words about her death. I guess the best place to start is the beginning, right? Well not the beginning for her, of course, but it WAS the beginning of something. Something special that I was so lucky to be a part of... and she was a part of that magical something special too. 

Back in 1998, I met an incredible group of young women, all packed into the all-girls freshman dorm my first year of college. For all of us, this was our first real year away from home and on our own. We quickly bonded in a series of common experiences that were the equivalent of the following unspoken imaginary conversation we were all having together on a regular basis. It all started when one of us would say something like: "Holy hell, what are we doing here? Does anybody know? Seriously, does anybody really know????" And as each one of us looked to another with totally and completely blank stares, we realized we had no idea what was going on or what we were "supposed" to do. We also realized even more quickly that we were in it TOGETHER and somehow that seemed to make it not so scary. And from then on we were thick as thieves and we just muddled through, all of us, together in that first year. 

And those times were crazy. We laughed so very very hard. I mean we laughed just so damn hard it was ridiculous some nights. And when we couldn't figure it out, we blasted our music until we couldn't think and more importantly couldn't remember what the issue was again and then we ended up laughing and dancing... and inevitably laughing and dancing even more. Dancing through the dorm halls and classroom corridors, at clubs and pubs, and just about anywhere you could think of... we just bounced around campus like young fools, laughing and dancing all the way. 

And then there were tears too. Family stuff, bad breakups, stressful midterms and finals and so much more, but what I remember most is there was always so much laughter and so much dancing, even when everything else went to shit. And we always had each other. Consequently there was also so much growing up that happened for all of us in that first year away from home and this group of beautiful souls were like my lighthouse in the storm and I would have been lost to sea without them. Each one of these women also grew to become some of the most wonderful women I have ever known in my life and still know to this day. Those shared experiences helped shape me, for good or for bad, into who I am today. 

And she was one of those souls that shined in the darkness. She was one of them. 

She was feisty and funny and so incredibly smart. She played guitar and sang like an angel. I can't even count how many nights she would come and play her guitar and we gathered around and listened to her sing slow beautiful ballads on that guitar, or even sometimes change the lyrics of a well known song to something totally silly just because it suited her that night. She was just awesome. She was so strong and she was one of the most passionate people I ever knew and she was totally determined to go about fixing the world, one mind at a time, of all the things that were wrong in the world. She was just such a cool chick. And she was an absolute riot and at the time, seemed like she had no problem walking her own path alone. If you didn't want to come along, that was just fine, she would forge her own path and wish you luck and hope she met you somewhere down the line. And that was that. I really admired her. I was nothing like her but I think that is actually what I liked most about her. She was a truth telling bad ass who was compassionate, funny, intelligent, and one of the coolest people I ever did know. 

After school, many of us in that group lost touch for a wide variety of reasons, which all seem really dumb to me now, looking back in the rear view mirror. Some friendships fell apart as we drifted onto new paths. And I freely admit that I walked away from some friendships because after that first year I made a lot of mistakes and I fucked up some things pretty bad and admitting I was an ass was not on the top of my to-dos for many many years. I did reconnect with some and I'm so glad that I did but I always wished I had reconnected with more. But even the ones that I didn't reconnect, I never forgot them. Never ever ever forgot them. Each and every one of them meant something so special to me, but some I just missed the boat. She was one of them that it seems that I missed the boat and the few times I thought about reconnecting with her, I didn't really look that hard if I'm being honest with myself. She was one that drifted and I just assumed someday we would meet again as our paths crossed at a future date. It never really occurred to me that this wouldn't be the case. And it feels wrong that I felt that way at the time and I didn't try harder. And now I will never get a chance to make that wrong, a right. And that just makes me heartbroken.  

Now, I'm not so self-absorbed to think that if ONLY I had reached out to her at some point over these years that somehow that I would have changed anything or made some momentous difference in her life. I'm well aware that I'm not that special or have some amazing changing power, but then again, maybe it would have just helped her to know that there was one more person rooting for her and she wouldn't have felt so alone in this big dark world. The what ifs are the hardest part. 

And now that I'm being truly honest, I feel like I'm not sure I'm even allowed to have the feelings of loss and grief that I am experiencing right now. That my tears are not really appropriate. She was a friend of mine years ago, but we hadn't talked in probably 15 or more years. Why is this hitting me so hard that the waves of grief keep sneaking up on me and before you know it, I'm crying again and can't seem to stop? After trying to pull my shit together so many times today, I still don't know exactly what all is going on here. Am I really allowed to feel this way? When I allowed our paths to go such different directions without any attempt on my part to reach out. 

I'm just really not sure I have any right to be sad. I didn't make any real effort for 15 years but NOW I somehow feel the right to cry tears of regret for being absent? No. I don't get to do that... do I?  Logic and emotion are not on the same wavelength tonight and I keep trying to talk my heart into not feeling this way anymore. But the waves of hurt still come, and it takes my breath away. And I try to snap myself out of it by telling myself that her death is not about me, for god's sake. It is not about anything I did or did not do. So why am I making this once again about myself? I feel selfish, guilty, sad, confused, angry, and heartbroken. But most of all I just feel like all of my insides have been scooped out. And frankly I don't even know what that emotion is called. IS that even an emotion? Or is that just what you get when all of the above get tangled up in a ball that sits in the pit of your stomach? I have no idea. I just know it hurts. 

At this point, I don't care if it is guilt or regret or grief or pain but it's just not right that I didn't tell her so many things like... that she mattered and she was so good and she was worthy and she was loved. And I want to go back in time and tell her ALL the things and hug her and hold her. My head knows I didn't cause this but my heart wants so badly to just have tried harder.  And I just can't reconcile my heart with my head. 

So I guess I will just say the next few words, just for her, and throw it out to the void or wherever she may be now. 

Honey, I'm sorry that I didn't reach out to you. I have no idea why I never told you how much I admired your fire and was amazed by your passion and talent and your wit and all of you. I'm so sorry and I wish I could have taken your pain away. It never occurred to me that you would be hurting so much and I'm so damn mad at myself that I didn't see you. The underneath you that was hurting. I'm sorry for the time that was lost because I thought it was just how things go sometimes and I rationalized all of that bullshit. You deserved a better friend in me and I'm sorry I let you down. And if your soul is floating around some place that you can read or feel any of this, I hope you feel these words more than anything. I don't know what was going in your life, but my god, I wish I could have been a light in your lighthouse during the storm, like you and all those girls were for me so many years ago....You were and ARE STILL loved, you mattered, and you will be so very much missed. 

And now, I won't ever say "she is gone" again because you actually aren't gone at all. You can't be and you never will be. You are so many of my memories, and so you are part of me, and all those other girls too, and you made us and this world a better place. I hope your soul finds joy and love and peace in your next chapter and I hope your spirit runs wild and free just like I knew it would someday. 

In loving memory, LeAnne  

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

"The Kindness Diaries": what I know....

The Kindness Diaries...

Has anyone been watching this show on Netflix? I have spent 13 episodes (so roughly 6 1/2 hours) watching this man travel the globe with nothing but the clothes on his back and "Kindness One", which is a bright yellow motorbike with a side car and a silent crew to film his journey of living and traveling through some 20 something countries by only relying on the kindness of others. He firmly believes in the kindness of humanity and so he put himself entirely at the mercy of others for food, shelter, and gas for as long as the journey would take him to cross the globe. Could he do it? And was the world indeed as kind as he hoped they would be to him on his journey? I will admit it. I was intrigued... and maybe just a little hopeful that he could indeed make it.

I watched the first episode on my lunch hour when I was just having a shit day and I was convinced the world was full of nothing but awful people. I needed something to remind me that humanity is actually very much... humane. Now let me preface this story that I don't normally even take a lunch break. I normally work through the noon hour, occasionally stuffing my face with a can of microwaved soup, ramen noodles, or whatever leftovers there are from the dinner the night before, while I intermittently tap away on my keyboard and answer emails and set up meetings, all while trying not to spill soup on my mouse pad and kill yet another mouse. I'm an effective mouse killer as it turns out, due to these lunch/work sessions. But that day... I just couldn't do it. I lost an account that morning, my boss was upset with me for one thing or another, and my normally very agreeable colleague and I had a disagreement on the handling of an upcoming event, and we both were not willing to give, not even an inch. We both were convinced we were equally correct and not ready to make up or compromise in the slightest. I was just not in the mood to give two shits about anything anymore.

I grabbed my soup and I looked down as I slid the contents of my knock-ff Progresso Italian Wedding Soup into the mixing bowl that I keep at work. It's the soup with the tiny meatballs, but even tiny delicious meatballs couldn't cheer me up today. I just wanted to go home, pull my covers over my head and just not talk to ALL the people for... oh, I don't know... a day, maybe a week, maybe a year. I hadn't decided. But sitting there looking at my depressing bowl of soup, with 233 emails to be responded, read, or filed away, I just had to step out of myself for a moment. I opened a new tab on my computer to my personal email. I got an email about "What's new on Netflix?" and I clicked on to a blurb about "The Kindness Diaries" and all I could think was... Geez, I could REALLY use some kindness today. Just one tiny fraction of humanity and kindness to remind me that it wasn't all bad out there.

I put on my headphones that I typically reserve for webinars or conference calls or intensive math or spreadsheet work, that require the soothing sounds of James Taylor as my beautiful white noise of choice, just to quiet my brain and focus on the task at hand: mathing. (And don't knock James Taylor. Some "Sweet Baby James" is all you need when the world gets to be too much, just trust me.)  So anyway, I put them on and clicked on Netflix. I NEVER watch TV shows at work, even during a lunch hour and I felt like I was doing something naughty. What a wasteful use of time to watch TV on a lunch hour, but I clicked Episode One anyway...

It started as a simple show that an English guy would ask for help from any random strangers as he traveled. His first random act of kindness was from a man named Dwight that gave him his first tank of gas, leaving Hollywood. It followed him around the first leg of his journey through the US ending in a small town in Colorado to a kind couple that would take him in for the night.

I won't tell you too much more about this episode or any of the others because I want EVERYONE TO WATCH this beautiful show. I WILL tell you however that I ended the first episode 25 minutes later at my desk, dabbing at my eyes and hoping that nobody walked by my office because it was just awesome, and it was like that moment in the Grinch when his heart grew three sizes that day and he just thought it would burst. It was kind of like that moment for me.  When I thought my heart had shriveled and I just couldn't face the world anymore, I realized that I was being too harsh. Too harsh on the people. Too harsh on myself. And I just needed to open back up and the rest.. well it would just work itself out. It always does. Just trust in the ultimate truth of people and the universe will repay you with the same amount of kindness.

I went home that night and flipped on the show while we were eating dinner. I have two kids and normally they just suffer through, when it is mom's choice to choose what to watch and inevitably they would just wander away after the dishes are cleared to go about... whatever they do in their free time. But when watching this show, something different happened. My kids stopped what they were doing. They watched. They listened. My son asked about a homeless man that gives what little he has to help out, which included a sheet and a sad but coveted shared space on a cement slab and two pairs of fresh underwear. It was all the man could spare in his situation, but he wanted to help the traveler in whatever way he could. It was beyond inspiring. My son whispered to me it was the best show he had ever seen, as he snuggled into the crook of my neck before bedtime kisses that night.

By the end of the series (over several nights), my daughter was curled up under my arm in an uncommon gesture of connectedness for her, but all the more welcome to me, due to it's rarity. Maybe she just felt sorry for me as I wept and laughed my way through this series and she thought "Oh, geez! Boy does mom need a hug or what?" which I fully accept it could be, but something in my heart tells me it was more than that and she felt the moment as much as I did and it wasn't just a response to her mother's inability to keep tears contained at everything from a Folgers commercial to the absolute kindness from a stranger in a documentary. As I hugged her goodnight I knew it was true and meaningful and she maybe FELT more than understood, but she ultimately got the gravity of what we experienced together in this show.

My son sat wiping his eyes from the other couch, which he told me repeatedly he wasn't crying, but he was just really happy and "his eyes were tired". He asked me thoughtfully though, "Would you let the traveler come home to our house?" I sat and thought about it and said, "Hmmmm I don't think I would have a couple weeks ago, but maybe now I would. I don't know. I think I would probably buy him a lunch and make sure he wasn't a nutjob before I brought him home (HA!) but yeah, I might just bring him home if I thought he was OK and needed help." He said, "yeah, you gotta make sure he isn't like... a psycho, first... but yeah, I think it would be OK if he wasn't... yknow... a killer." Hahahahahaha. Wise words from a 9 year old, I suppose. I chuckled and he threw his arms around me and said "Mom, you pick good shows. That's my favorite, I think."

And this from a 9 year old with an attention span of a goldfish, but as I sit here tonight I realize we three... had some real conversations over the course of this series... about everything from the homeless man in Pittsburgh and what might have happened to him to the Killing Fields in Vietnam and why that happened and  "What is HIV?" and "why don't those kids have good water?"... and it was serious and sad, but also still so incredibly powerful and even hopeful. So meaningful. So inspiring. My son kept saying. I'm gonna help people like that some day, yknow.

And I hope my kids DO help people like that some day. I hope they invite people into their hearts. Into their shared space. Into their world. And give back in whatever way that they can at that moment. Not because of a show, but because it's the right thing to do, with the faith that in their time of need, someone will do the same for them.

My heart is full tonight. Faith in humanity restored. Belief in truth and kindness is out there. You just must be open to giving of yourself first. It struck me that it was always the ones that had literally the least amount that gave the most and most freely. Perhaps it was their fatal flaw or their most beautiful asset. I truly don't know. I only wish to live my life more open than I did yesterday in whatever capacity I can. No, I can't solve the homelessness crisis, but I can choose kindness and help that one I see in need.

Now for the reality check in me. The cynic. The quiet voice in my head that pushes self preservation above all else. So if you made it this far to read this post, you might think... What a Pollyanna Rosy Tinted Glasses perspective this crazy chick has on life and she is truly nuts if she thinks that everyone has good in mind. Well, maybe you are right. Maybe it's dumb to give when you have nothing. And a little part of me does not discount that without his white skin and gaggle of cameras to legitimize his quest he might have been just another dude on the street that would not have made it to Las Vegas, let alone around the globe. And I recognize that. How many times did those folks in these shows pour out their hearts with nothing repaid to them before this one show? How many people did they not show that just did good, because it was good. Karma is not a short game unfortunately, and there won't always be a white englishman that has a camera crew waiting to showcase your kindness on a show picked up by Netflix, but I still hope that you do good anyway. Even when no one is watching. Even when you are unsure. Do kindness anyway.

I don't know what I will do tomorrow, but I will tell you that I will think twice because maybe he IS just a nice traveler that needs a helping hand and maybe I don't have much, but if I can give him a meal of fish sticks and mac n cheese and a place on our couch, maybe I WOULD do it? I don't know. I guess I won't know til it happens. But I'm certainly more open to it now.

I don't know if I believe in karma or multiple lives or whatever there is out there... but I do believe in goodness. I want to be the goodness. I want to be someone's goodness. And I want to teach my kid's that they are the goodness too. So maybe it is rosy tinted glasses... maybe IT IS. I'm OK with that. I would rather believe in that, than in nothing at all. Do goodness anyway. Believe in kindness anyway. And if it bites you in the ass, well you can go to sleep that night with a good conscious that you did the best you could and I'm OK with that. I did the best I could.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Turning 36....

So yesterday I ushered in a new year. I am now 36 years old. A rather uneventful year marked by a rather unremarkable day and it was everything I hoped it would be... and more.

I woke up to a silly new alarm clock called "The Rock Clock" that I had downloaded the day before. My alarm was a silly song called "Hello Sunshine" sung by none other than Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson that encourages me to get my "candy ass out of bed". I laid in bed with my husband as I belly laughed until my sides hurt and my husband shook his head slowly in resignation. I assume he wondered how we ended up at this point in our life. My arms were wrapped around his barely awake chest as I giggled and shook hysterically to "The Rock" singing for us to get up. My husband eventually smiled and kissed my forehead as he said "Happy Birthday Annie" then worked to finally disentangle himself from the sheets I had kicked off and he eventually had mummified himself in overnight.

And so my day began.

I laid there for awhile longer as I heard hubby work in the kitchen to make waffles for the kids and their friends that had stayed the night before for a sleepover. I perused facebook as the happy birthday messages began to flow in to my newsfeed. I smiled and my husband brought me a mug of coffee with hazelnut cream. I winked and said, sorry I hadn't moved very far, have I? He shrugged and smiled as if he didn't really have much expectation and walked out to attend the kiddos.

After several more minutes of kids screaming and pans clacking I sighed and got up with my travel mug in hand of delicious coffee go-juice. I handled a minor issue with the kids that resulted in unnecessary tears from my son and then ate a waffle that my husband made for me. I noticed he waited until we had all eaten to decide if he needed to make more or if there would be a waffle for him. He eventually ate a cold waffle without complaint or even noting his situation as he sat reading the news on his phone with coffee in hand on the couch without comment or interest. I looked at him and realized he did it for us without hesitancy or commentary. He was just patient and waited to see what was needed of him and went with it.

The kids were wild and crazy and finished with a sticky mess of maple syrup on the table. I shrugged and ignored the mess, took a shower, and sat with the remainder of my coffee mug to start a netflix binge while the kids screamed around me. I'm almost immune to the crazy anymore. I looked up occasionally and listened for tears or ruthless out of control fights, but unless someone is bleeding I really try to just stay out of it. They don't really need or want me to intervene in most scenarios, anymore than I need or want to intervene either... so it works out. They learn to handle issues on their own and I give myself silent applause for my A+ parenting of letting them handle conflict resolution and go back to netflix as all good parents do. (Before you get all judge-y, I DO intervene when necessary as is sometimes the case, but I try to stay out of it unless I hear real issues or someone decides to ask for my intervention.)

The kids from sleepover eventually leave under a flurry of blankets, stuffed animals, hugs, and finding shoes. My own kids retreat to neutral corners as they have spent probably far too much time together the previous day with the kid overload and I look around cautiously and think Hmmmmm guess they don't seem to have any interest in me in today. Cool. I get a glass of lemonade and think maybe I will paint my nails a bright candy colored blue color as I continue my netflix binge until I'm summoned elsewhere.

I decide to move forward and paint my nails and the process goes forward without event. I blow on them cautiously and wait the storm of someone inevitably needing me. It will ruin the paint job but it wasn't very good on my right hand anyway, since my left hand had to do the job and it is always a crap shoot when my left hand is involved. But the inevitable never comes... Hmmmm guess I will just hang out and wait them out.

Season One of "Limitless" proceeds in binge watch fashion. Even hubby sits down with me to watch. He doesn't seem annoyed by my laziness, but I feel weird being so unproductive. I start to fold the 2 baskets of laundry. I mess up the paint job on my right thumb. Damnit... I knew it. But I continue to fold away. I ask the kids to take their clothes and put them away. I fold basket #3 and then sit and watch episode 19 of my binge. No one says a word to me.

I get up and find nail polish remover and repaint my thumb, careful to not to touch it and hope it dries and cures better the 2nd time around. My son comes out and asks for a snack and I point to the kitchen for an apple. He looks at me like, "Isn't this YOUR job?" and I give him the mom look (with eyebrow, mind you...) and he wanders in for a self made snack.

An hour later, my husband starts clanging pans in the kitchen again and I'm remotely aware that he is fixing dinner. I feel momentary guilt but can't bring myself to care TOO much because hey it's my birthday, right? He clangs away. I look busy on my smartphone.

He makes a beautiful steak dinner and after cooking our ribeyes for us (round steak for the kids) he presents the steaks to me and asks which one I would like for my meal. I laugh at the absurdity, because I don't care, I'm just happy I didn't have to cook. He makes the plates for all of us. He presents me with this beautiful steak, ceasar salad with parmesan shards, and steak fries and asks if there is anything else that I want. I smile and shake my head and chuckle. No, I don't need anything else at all. I'm perfectly content.

Truth be told, it is the best steak I have had in years. It's scrumptious and lovely and I have my husband and babies next to me. It's absolutely perfect. We sit and eat in relative content silence as I eat this wonderful meal with the 3 people that I love the most. I am so happy in this moment and I want to freeze frame this beautiful quiet moment. My son smiling, my daughter thoughtfully contemplating conversation, and my husband nodding quiet assent at the ridiculous statement that I just made. It's how I wish to remember every day with this group.

I will of course forget the quiet happy moments later on in my life. The days, hours, and minutes such as these, but I hope that I remember the feeling. It was good. We were good. We were in love and we cared about one another as a family and it was a good and happy moment that was more than I could ever hope for in a series of moments that were a lot of things... but this is what I hope to remember.

I have days that I think how will I ever get through this stupid life? I hate the commotion and the craziness and the everything. I hate being needed constantly. I hate being at the head of this family of constant flux. I just want quiet and then the stars align and I get the beautiful reality of the life I am blessed to live every day. It is good and I sort of step out of myself and think "Wow. I created this life. It is not anything like I expected, but I'm so happy it ended up this way."

At the end of the day, I was washing dishes as my kids were getting ready for bed and they both came into the kitchen to wish me a Happy Birthday before hubby tucked them in for the night. I truly have no idea if my husband told them to tell me Happy Birthday before they went to bed or if they thought of it on their own, but it didn't really matter to me. They each came up and gave me a big hug while I hugged them back with soapy dishsoap arms. They kissed my cheeks and I kissed them and gave raspberries while giving soapy bear hugs, all while pans soaked in the kitchen sink. And it was blissful.


Life should be so simple. Kindness is done for you. Kindness is done in return. Love is felt by all. All parties are given and receive hugs until we all feel that moment of contentment and love and it just is good. That is a life lived well.

I live a life lived well. Thank you to all the persons that sent me notes, calls, texts, IMs, and emails of love for my birthday. I'm completely overwhelmed with all of you. I just... I just... well my cup runneth over and I feel more kindness in my heart that you could ever possibly know. And I'm grateful and thankful for each and every one of your thoughts. Thank you.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Floppy Hats and Wiener Dog Cheeseboards

I took my daughter to a birthday party this afternoon. The location was too far away to justify going home in between drop off and pickup, so I was left with two whole hours to entertain myself. This is not a normal, regular, or natural thing in my life as I soon found out. It turns out I have no idea what to do with myself when left to my own devices.

The birthday party was at a craft store. The girls were going to make a little craft, have cupcakes, open gifts and be on their merry way. I thought well I'm crafty, I can spend some time wandering the craft store aisles looking for artsy type things that might pique my interest. So I walked around aimlessly, as I don't have any current projects that I'm working on or am super interested in right at the moment that could give me some direction. Even the usually tried and true aisle with all the lovely Sharpies wasn't doing it for me. Sidenote: I do love Sharpies. Something about them just makes me happy. But today even the lovely rainbow of colored markers could not hold my attention. In my head I thought well, it's silly to just buy something when it has no purpose. I can't justify the purchase. And then I was even a little disappointed in myself that I couldn't muster any excitement for a new and exciting project. I felt like I was squandering my precious 2 hours away from the mom stuff and wife things and all the other roles in my life. This is MY time. Why am I pissing around feeling yarn and looking at coloring books? I can do better than this, can't I?

I left the store on a quest to find something else to pass the time. I passed a music store that I briefly contemplated wandering around. Recently my tiny family had a jam session of 2 kid guitars, my husband on ukulele and me on my old acoustic, which I never actually properly learned how to play. I remembered how much I wanted to learn to play at that moment, but is this how I want to spend this precious time? Wandering around a store that I wouldn't even know what to say to the clerk if they asked me what I was looking for? Especially considering my response to that question would most likely be something like "ummmm my rebellious teenage angst" or "motivation to stick to a hobby for more than 10 minutes". The blank stares that would be inevitable in this exchange are not what I need right now. In fact, NOONE needs that kind of negativity, man. No, I shook my head. This is not how wanted to spend my 2 hours. Well 1 hour and 40 minutes now... Why is this so hard? My time is slipping away. I realize that during this rare opportunity of two hours to myself that I might actually do nothing that I wanted to do. But I didn't KNOW what I wanted to do. I just knew that it was not that stuff. 

I drove around the mall. I grimaced. I didn't want to shop for clothes. I don't have money in the budget this month for clothes and I'm feeling kinda tubby today anyway. Pass.... *sigh*  

And then I see it. World Market. 

I get the ads in my junk email and I always think Wow. It's like a cheaper Pier One with weirder shit. That sounds right up my alley and I've never actually been into one of the stores. I always think as I'm driving by that I should go in there sometime. I bet there is some good stuff in there to poke around and look at, but I'm always as I said, driving by on my way to someplace else or to do something else. Well today, I have absolutely NOTHING to do. It's fate and today is that day.

I'm actually a bit giddy that I might find a new store that I could spend hours of time and gobs of money that I don't really have, on tchotchkes and placemats. I park and walk in and I immediately see a smallish candy apple red smoker, pretty note cards on a sideboard, and a rack of scarves. Holy God! It's the mothership. It called to me and I AM HOME!!!!! The bohemian bags and glossy books about the 100 ways to make noodles. I want, nay NEED that large floppy hat and the desk with the porcelain rooster hardware on the drawers. I am in heaven and the dopamine levels raise to alarming levels and I tell my brain to calm myself. After the initial shock of my homeland all under one roof, I pick up the large floppy sun hat once again and decide Yes, I am indeed a hat person and I must have this hat at once. It will protect my alabaster skin from the harmful rays of summer. And yes, ok, yes, I know some call it pasty or translucent or albino skin, but I'm sticking with alabaster. That sounds just so much more chic, don't you think? Anyway, I pose with this hat like one of the instagram beauties and imagine myself as one of those bohemian festival it-girls. I AM actually going to my first festival this summer. It has at least 4 bands that I have never heard of before, so I really should look the part, shouldn't I? I gleefully toss the floppy hat in my basket and continue to skip ever so much about the store.

I run my fingers along the tea towels with ironic phrases in bold typography and folk art embroidery as I walk to the kitchen and food section of the store. I pick up a fat book titled "1000 Foods To Eat Before You Die". Oh it looks brilliant and sleek and exactly what I would put on my recipe book shelf and thumb through on Sunday afternoons until I finally end up making something glamorous, sexy, and over the top like hodpodge tacos because I do need to use up the lettuce that is starting to wilt in the crisper. Yes, I love this book. Into the basket it goes.

I continue on my journey through the aisles and come across the one thing that I never knew I needed but it is inconceivable to leave the store without it. It's a beautiful teak cutting board/cheeseboard in the shape of a weiner dog. I literally snorted as I pulled it from the shelves. I imagined the dinner parties I would have and present beautiful exotic cheeses and fruits on this fabulous cheeseboard with silver cheeseknives and tiny signs that say Roquefort and Gouda in fancy script. I envision my guests as they chuckle and compliment my sense of whimsy with this little gem. I imagine that this piece of wood says to my fictional guests... Why YES, I am sophisticated enough to own such a thing as a cheeseboard AND tiny silver cheeseknives, but I'm still playful and fun enough to have the same cheeseboard be in the shape of dachshund. How fun. How droll. Why YES, I am the most interesting hostess in the world. Please let me get you another glass of Pinot Noir and (insert pretentious laugh here) you know I don't always serve wine and cheese, but when I do it's off a funny little weiner dog.

These are all very real thoughts that I have in this store.

I start to chuckle to myself and the chuckle turns into a full on belly laugh that I can't quite stop, all while I'm actually considering this purchase. I realize that I had built an entire imaginary scenario with friends that do NOT exist in my real life about this stupid weiner dog piece of kitchenware for a party that will never ever happen. I laugh and laugh and laugh until I'm church giggling/snorting uncontrollably at how stupid this last 3 minutes have been while I stared at this dumb cheeseboard.

I shake my head and put the weiner dog back for another lovely hipster that actually might fit in that scenario. I'm still giggling as I walk back to the book shelf and put away the book on all the foods that I should eat before I die. If I really want to read it, the library probably has it. It's not worth the 25 dollars just so I can look at for 30 minutes on lazy Sunday afternoons. I make my way back to the hats and I sigh but I am not the Bohemian It-Girl that I imagined earlier either. This one is tougher to put back on the rack, but I'm not that girl. I am going to a festival this summer. That is true. But I will most likely be the one with raccoon eyes from my sunglasses and bitching about the price of water bottles at said festival. That's more me.

I put the empty basket in the place I found it as I exit the store and I sigh. I did piddle away 45 minutes and I guess that is something. I essentially played dress-up and imagined I was someone else for a little while and it did make me belly laugh but I walked away empty handed.

I got in my car and drove to a coffee shop across the street and ordered a mango smoothie and banana bread. I don't even do coffee shops right, I realize as I sat down. I ordered an orange and mango smoothie at a coffee shop. What is that about? But coffee this late in the day makes me anxious and I can't sleep at night. HA! C'est la vie. I pulled out a notebook from my purse and doodled, wrote some notes to myself, and people watched for the remainder of my time alone. It was blissful. This is where I belonged. Quietly sipping fruity drinks with a pen in my messy bun of hair and inkstains on my hands. I smiled. Yes, this is good. This is where I should have spent all of my two hours anyway.

I picked up my daughter at the craft store promptly at 4PM. She smiled and brightly showed me the tiny birdhouse she painted and then labeled as the "DA BIRD AIRPORT" because they DO have to fly in, don't they? She laughed hysterically at her own joke, not caring one bit if I thought it was funny too. I chuckled as I wiped the frosting from her cheek and kissed her forehead. She waved goodbye to her friend and we drove home, jamming to a mish-mash of music ranging from Queen to Taylor Swift to Sir Mix-A-Lot. She awkwardly danced right along with me in the back seat for EVERY song. Yeah, this girl gets me. We are complicated creatures, she and I, and we don't need a floppy hat or fancy cheeseboard to know where we belong. We belong in the moment and it suits both of us just fine. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

But I don't really get it. How do the babies get out?

Whew... here we go kids... So my beautiful amazing son and I had our first discussion about babies tonight... and let's just say it didn't go as I had planned in my head. I promised myself that when this day came, I would use all the anatomically correct words and would handle it with maturity and would be open and answer all questions with an open nature to encourage a healthy discussion about our bodies and the birthing process.

Well that was the plan in theory anyway, but ended with me making a series of impossibly weird and awkward swooping hand/arm gestures from my abdomen to my knees in lieu of really explaining any detail regarding the birthing process and I could not for the life of me, bring myself to even say the word vagina. Because I am obviously not a grown up. I am a 13 year old boy trapped in a 35 year old woman's body. I just wanted to run for the hills and/or give as vague answers as humanly possible but still provide hopefully enough information to just get him to stop asking any more of his incessant questions. I suck at momming tonight. Like total epic failure.... level 9000.

Ok. Let me back up. So Boo Boo, who is 8 now, and I are sitting on the couch, doing our nightly bedtime reading. He brought home a book about Bears. Cool. I love bears. Let's do it! So he starts reading. "Bears have strong jaws. Bears can have black, brown, or cream fur." Awesome. Bears rule. Good job buddy on your reading. You are doing so well.

And then the next page is all "Bears are mammals. All mammals give live birth to their babies." He pauses and looks at me thoughtfully. "So the babies come out of the mom. But I don't really get it. How do the babies get out?"

OH SHIT! Is this really how my Tuesday night is going to go down? Son of a @#$%!

I try to skirt the question while still being accurate and adult about this question.

Me: Well, the babies come out from the mom's belly where she carried it. (Really, did I just say "belly"???)

Boo Boo: Yeah, but how does it get OUT?

I breathe deeply and look in his beautiful quizzical blue eyes. How the hell do I do this? And without getting into this too much... and please dear god, if I tell this child how it gets out... Do NOT let him ask me how it got in there. I can't do this on this Tuesday night from hell after a 11 hour day at work with my boss in town from New York and fighting about budgets and financials for 9 of them. I JUST CAN'T DO IT!!!!!!

Me: (Deep breath again) Well... moms carry the babies in their uterus. (See I can say adult type words, good job!) And then they come out when they are ready, from between their legs (swooping gesture with my hands from abdomen down to my knees in the MOST vague way possible. Any adult points earned with the ability to use the word uterus, were lost in this sweeping gesture.)

He squints and scowls at me in confusion. This may possibly be in my top 10 worst mom-explaining-things moments. Ok. Let's be real. Probably #1. I look over to my husband for help. He puts his hands over his face and I can see he has the church giggles. I hate him. I hate him a lot and he is officially negative amounts of help right now.

Boo Boo: (he's sitting on the couch leaning back and then he lifts his legs up and points between his legs and has the most confused look on his face) IT COMES OUT HERE?!?!?!

I push his legs back down on the couch and take yet another long deep breath.

Me: Well yes, but no. We all pee and poop the same down there, but you know how you have a penis (and then the little boy embarrassed smile is on his face like OH MY GOD! WHERE ARE YOU GOING WITH THIS MOM????? And I rush forward with my explanation as best I can in this totally weird moment). Well you have a penis, but women don't have that. We have different parts down there. (And I make yet another sweeping gesture with my arms. Why am I doing that and why can't I stop? Why the hell is it so freaking hard to say the word VAGINA in this moment? Oh my god. I just want to run away at this point. I put my arms down.) You see, boys have boy parts and girls have girl parts and they both do their own thing and girls can have babies with those special parts.

Utter and total confusion from the boy. Oh my god! Why is this so hard? I thought I would be totally open and honest about this process. I PROMISED myself, damnit! I would totally be OK with this discussion. I'm a totally chill person that can talk about anything TO ANYONE!!!! It's a natural process and should not be anything to be ashamed of and it should NOT be taboo. I silently chastise myself to GROW UP! But the screaming in my head doesn't help or make me more able to answer in the way I planned in this situation. It just doesn't work. I ramble on....and on... and on...

Me: Well girls carry the baby and then the baby comes out of the special girl parts that only girls have in their bodies. Just like you have special parts. Well, I mean, you can have a baby without HAVING a baby though, but girls have the babies. I mean, you can adopt a baby or even two boys could have a baby if they wanted to through a surrogate or something, but it's more complicated because it might actually be THEIR baby but someone else would give birth to the baby, but they are ALL loved and that's all that matters in the grand scheme of things really. And I know this doesn't make much sense, but the actual scientific process is just the girls give actual live birth even if it isn't their own baby and the baby comes out of them. So, there are lots of routes but mammals have babies by the moms that give birth and stuff. (Oh my god, I'm f-ing this conversation up so BAD right now and I can NOT stop this train wreck of a total rambling disaster!... So I just stop talking for a second and breathe and close my eyes for a second trying to regroup. Then open them and look at this poor confused little boy next to me, giving me the "What the hell are you talking about" look)

Boo Boo: (total shock, embarrassment, and confusion is written all over this poor kid's face and he sits thoughtfully to digest all of this information) So moms have the babies in HERE? (He pats his tummy)

Me: Yes. Something like that.

Boo Boo: (Pauses and he is considering all that I've said.) So how do the babies get fed to grow?

Me: (Are you serious, kid? More freaking questions!!!! But at least I feel we are on safer territory.) Ummmmm well, there is a cord that is connected from inside the mommy to the baby called the umbilical cord that brings the nutrients to help the baby grow. (Hey, that sounded OK. Maybe I'm out of the woods and I will make it out of this total catastrophe without any additional problems.)

Boo Boo: WHAT!?!?! There is a cord INSIDE you?

Me: *Sigh*

Hubby (pipes up from the peanut gallery during this whole exchange to totally blow the kids mind): HAHAHA! Lift up your shirt! That's why you have a belly button!

Boo Boo: WHAT???????? (He lifts up his shirt and looks as if he is rediscovering his belly button all over again and his EYES ARE BULGING NOW as to what Dad could possibly mean by this comment. And I'm not sure this is helping this conversation.)

Me: (I point to his belly button, but smile because it WAS kinda funny.) See, this is where the cord was attached to you and food comes in and feeds the baby through this spot through the cord. This is where you and I were connected before you were born. And sidenote dude: You really need to clean that thing out during your shower tomorrow night because that is seriously gross, buddy. (I recoil but close my eyes and try to ignore the small ball of lint and dirt/gross in this kids belly button. Boys are so gross. Why do they refuse to shower properly?) But yes, so when mommy ate a cheeseburger. The cheeseburger went down to my stomach and got broken down into nutrients and then the nutrients traveled through this cord/tube thing to the baby and that is how you were fed inside of me to grow big and strong. And that is why mommies are always so hungry because we are feeding babies too, when they are inside of us.

Boo Boo: (his face is both grossed out and skeptical and then a pause that felt like 3 hours) Hmmmm... So if you girls can have a baby inside, do girls have less intestines than boys? yknow so it all fits inside you?

Me: WHAT?!?! BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA Wait...What? (shakes my head trying to follow his train of thought because I didn't see this question coming at all) No. It just gets squished together inside of the mom. But that is a good question. I guess I've never thought about my intestines like that, but no. Boys and girls have the same amount of intestines. We have some differences in our bodies, but that isn't one of them. We all have the same amount of intestines and a heart and lungs and all that kind of stuff.

Boo Boo: Oh like we all have two eyes and a mouth... (stops to ponder) But you know, you can be blind or have stuff that doesn't work like the rest of us, yknow. But I guess we can all stand on two legs.

Me: Well yes, (HOW THE HELL DID WE GET HERE WITH THIS CONVERSATION???) sometimes we all have those things, but sometimes they don't all work the same.

Boo Boo: But we all have two legs to stand on.

Me: Well, sometimes but we all can't stand on two legs. There are people that are born different or have an accident and need wheelchairs and stuff because they can't stand and that's OK too.

Boo Boo: Oh yeah, that is true. But we all crawl at some point.

Me: Well, people come in all different ways. We all just have differences and that's OK. That's what makes all of us special.

Boo Boo: Oh, yeah, I guess that is true. But...

Me: (I interrupt him because I just can't do any more of this conversation. Is that terrible? Probably. But I seriously just couldn't answer any more.) OK. So that was a good book.

Boo Boo: But we aren't done reading it.

Me: I am. I'm done. I'm done with the bears and all the things that are and are not different about boys and girls and people in general. I can't do any more reading tonight. You did a good job. Time for bed.

Boo Boo: Oh Ok. (Smiles and big hugs.)

Me: Yes, please go brush your teeth for bed. Mommy needs to go to sleep.

Boo Boo: OK!

So he brushes his teeth and goes to bed like it this was a totally normal exchange and it is any other night and he is totally oblivious that I'm freaking exhausted by everything right now.

Sidenote: My 10 year old daughter watched from the other couch with a smirk on her face THE ENTIRE TIME, as if relishing how uncomfortable I was through this whole conversation and she was positively gleeful as she went to bed.  I think she could feel my discomfort and thought it was absolutely hysterical that we (and I mean me, because hubby totally crapped out, if you ask me) were in this entire exchange. I'm both disappointed and wildly proud of her for getting so much pleasure out of our discomfort during this scenario because she has a WICKED sense of humor. Rotten wonderful child that she is. ;)

Later I was talking with hubby about this encounter after the kids went to bed and he laughed and reassured me it was all OK and it wasn't that big of a deal. But I don't feel OK. I did however express my gratitude that Boo Boo didn't ask about the process of "making a baby". God, I thought this one was bad but it was pretty tame considering what it could have turned into with the topic. I can just imagine our convo as we reimagined it between hubby and I:

Me: Well when a mommy and daddy love each other...hahahahahahaha
Hubby: Or sometimes they don't but yknow... things happen....BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH
Me: Well sometimes in da club... ;)

Sometimes, I can't believe we are considered grown-ups and even worse, we are parents in charge of little people. It's wrong and uncomfortable and quite frankly shocking that we would be allowed to do so.

Now several hours later, I sit back and think.... I wish I could have handled that 20 minutes of my life so much better. And why is it so hard to talk about this kind of stuff? I'm a progressive grown up adult, god damnit. But something about saying the words penis and vagina to an 8 year old... is just weird to me. And then having to talk about all the one off scenarios that may or may not be included with all of that stuff... is just hard. Gah!!!! I am trying to be OK and show it's all OK with so many things but I can't even bring myself to talk about birth and bodies and everything else in a non-weird way, at least not tonight. I suck at this some nights. I just do. I will do better tomorrow. *sigh*

And no, I don't want advice or the 1000 different ways I should have or could have handled it. It's done now and yeah, I got it. There are better ways, but sometimes theory is just not how the reality works out. I'm working on it. I will get there. Just not tonight. Cut my losses and do better next time.