Friday, December 20, 2013

The World Deserves You...and Me

I had been so busy...

trying to get last minute Christmas shopping completed, helping the big kids study for end of year exams, shuffling family members to and fro, making sure that the holidays were merry and bright.

And so, spending an hour with a poetry group was probably the last thing I should have been doing...

The group is appropriately named, "Lift," not because the poetry they select is necessarily uplifting or a "cup half full" deal, but rather that the experience shakes you out of your status quo and sends you back into the world feeling more buoyant than when you arrived.

The process of sharing is unique.  It's not an open-mic or a slam.  It's well...you just have to experience it.

On my inaugural evening with the group, one of my absolute, hands-down, favorite writers was selected...Pablo Neruda.  Below is the selection.

"Keeping Quiet"

Now we will count to twelve
and we will keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,
let's not speak in any language;
let's stop for one second,
and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment
without rush, without engines;
we would all be together
in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea
would not harm whales
and the man gathering salt
would look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,
wars with gas, wars with fire,
victories with no survivors,
would put on clean clothes
and walk about with their brothers
in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused
with total inactivity.
Life is what it is about;
I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded
about keeping our lives moving,
and for once could do nothing,
perhaps a huge silence
might interrupt this sadness
of never understanding ourselves
and of threatening ourselves with death.
Perhaps the earth can teach us
as when everything seems dead
and later proves to be alive.

Now I'll count up to twelve
and you keep quiet and I will go.

Extravagaria (translated by Alastair Reid, pp. 27-29, 1974)

As I read the words and internalized the piece, it became very clear, yet again....the sacred, the holy, the unique, the "me" that I want to inhabit and to share with the world lies somewhere in the quiet...not in the flailing of limbs, the crossing off of to-do list items or the frenetic, feverish accomplishing of so much.

Rather, the me, the person that I sometimes feel I know the least, lives in intentional inactivity.  But how do I access her?  Is it possible to be in a place of silence and non-expectation while fully embracing my life?

And then another man spoke.  He honored the journey that we're all on to essentially figure out, "Who the hell am I?"  And I stopped and took in one deep breath.

If we only get one go around...no matter how old or how young we are when we leave, shouldn't we be committed to sharing our most authentic selves with the world?  Doesn't the world deserve the best of me and the best of you? 

As we embark upon a new year full of hope, possibility, opportunity and open minds and hearts, maybe we should re-think creating New Year's resolutions and instead, choose to dedicate time and energy to being still.  As frightening as it seems to soak in the moment, the quiet, the inaction, its possible that we'll never find what we're looking for and meant to do, until we let the noise and distraction go.

And so as I was driving home in the quiet, I said a prayer of thanks.  Thank you for making the time to reconnect with me, the me that feels, well, most like me.  I want to share more of her in 2014.




Saturday, December 14, 2013

Ode to Claire on Her Third Birthday


I can hardly believe it. 

The day has finally come. 

We've only been talking about it for months.  You've been DYING to turn three years old...ever since you learned that life pretty much begins when you round the bend and officially celebrate your third birthday.  Almost daily, you remind us that when you're three, you can take ballet lessons, go to preschool, sign up for soccer, go potty on the big girl potty, share a room with your big sister, and well...be big.

But, that's the last thing that I want you to become...big.  You, my third child, my last.  My only blonde haired, blue-eyed, doesn't look anything like me and pushes my butons every minute of every day little girl.  You, who is fearless...petite in size, but strong in determination and will.  You, the boundless, crazy at heart, focused and unabashed in your response to the world. amazing one.

You who have learned, probably by virtue of your place in the food chain that in order to be heard, you must yell, have an unwavering opinion coupled with a strong elbow and the will to never let them see you sweat.

As you embark upon this year that you have been so hopeful for...my prayer for you is that you embrace your sass, keep your nerve and know that you are everything I yearn to be when I grow up.

I love you.  I'm exhausted by you.  I'm grateful for you.  And I'm excited to see what a new year brings to the little girl who makes me so proud to be her mama.

To the moon and back, Claire Bear.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Life in the Gray

I've never identified much with folks who find themselves living in the black or the white.

You know what I mean...those who absolutely do this and who absolutely will not do that.

Instead, almost always, I gravitate toward the gray.  There are very few situations where I draw definitive lines in the sand with no room to negotiate or to dialogue and 99.9% of those examples revolve around the advocacy or protection of my children.

But I must say, that I yearn to be them.  It seems like a safe, stable, predictable way to be...where one is in their head very little of the time, content in the knowledge that regardless of comfort, this is where they should be.  Almost like having a playbook for the multitude of sticky scenarios that life throws our way.

And so it was, on a recent outing with girlfriends and their littles, that I found myself opening up about all of the hidden words, feelings, fears that innately women knee-deep in the trenches of motherhood and marriage find themselves in.

Afraid to honestly explore the issues that seem to bubble to the surface but quickly get dismissed out of social norms and quite frankly the things we do and don't say in polite conversation....I was both grateful and elated that my friends rose to the occasion.  We got to somersault in the gray...free of judgement, exempt of the shoulds and the shouldn'ts

And as we each shared our tales...examples of what's working and what's not...what we can wrap our heads around and what still alludes us...it became alarmingly clear that the world is messy...marriage and child rearing is raw, ugly, beautiful, painful, fraught with humanness through and through.

And that ultimately, what we need more in the world are less lines in the sand and more appreciation and understanding for the challenges of navigating through it all.  Because as the politically correct walls and barriers came crashing down, the flood of emotions emerged and we all realized that we're not alone.  Shame is a useless emotion.  And that it takes a village or at the very least, a collection of people who welcome you back into the fold when you've discarded yourself out of guilt or fear.

So while living my life in the gray is exhausting.  It feels real, authentic, engaging, and well, more like me...even if it's just one play at a time.




Thursday, November 21, 2013

A Chance Encounter in the Steam Room

I'm not the kind of girl who walks around the locker room nude.

In fact, I rarely undress at the gym and almost never take a shower.

I run, row, stair step, take classes, lift, swim, stretch and leave.

The most space I take up is a locker and sometimes, use of the lavatory and a quick spritz of deoderant.

So, it was odd last week when I decided to take a yoga class and indulge in the steam room.

Working through a running injury and feeling stressed with my three kiddos, I decided to fully embrace my time away from home.  After a challenging yoga regimen, I stripped, grabbed a towel and headed into the steam.  I was the only one there and it was nice to close my eyes, tilt my head back and ponder all the crazy thoughts that consumed my being.  After a few tears thinking about marathon training, I decided to lay down on the bench and take in the moment.

And then, the door opened.

I kept my eyes closed, but heard a voice say (visualize east coast), "AHHHH....It's GUORRGEOUS in here....Do you mind if I kick it up a notch?"

"Uh, no," I said...not really sure how you kick it up a notch.  But after a few sprays of water, the room got really steamy...like you can't see your hand in front of you.

And so, I just kept my eyes closed and kept pondering how to let go and lean into the place I'm at in my life.

And then, I started to hear creaking and then rocking and then, yes, moaning. 

And naively, I assumed that like a massage, she was simply settling into the relaxation of the moment, until the light bulb went off and it hit me.  Holy shit...she's well, taking care of herself.

It was in that moment that I froze.

Sweet Mary, Joseph and Saint Jude.  What the fuck?  Um...how do I get out of here?  And that's when I decided to count to 100, jump up, grab my towel and run into the shower.  While showering off the sweat and feeling a little PTSD, I thought, "what in the hell was that?  my imagination?  no, no...that was, well, I don't even know."

What do you do when crazy ass, out of the blue experiences happen to you?  Stand paralyzed?  Run?  Speak up?  Confront?  Laugh?  Join in?

Holy Hell...my eyes are definitively wide open.  Everyone has a different level of comfort at the gym.  I'll have to work on mine.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Let Go and Lean In

Two weeks ago I was scheduled to start training for my first marathon race.

And sort of like clock work, I had to admit that I was injured...a chronic injury that I'd been ignoring probably for several weeks, okay, more like several months.  It allowed me to get through training for a half marathon and also to endure a fun, but exhausting 78-mile relay run. 

Suffering from heel pain, I started consulting the world...asking fellow mother running friends, triathletes, physicians, orthotic folks, and physical therapists.  After an epic fail physically and financially with orthotics, I got back to basics and started stretching and doing the work to get better.

And low and behold, slowly, but surely, I am healing.

The marathon is 24 weeks from today, so in theory, I should be okay...I suppose as long as I don't get injured again.

And so to try to minimize future injuries and to get stronger and leaner, I'm revamping the way I workout.  Incorporating more yoga classes and body resistance training with the hope that my running will get faster and my endurance will be greater.

And so it was at the end of a yoga class, after trying to contort my body into the 'Bird of Paradise' pose that I listened to powerful words from my instructor...

Lying on my back, palms open wide, eyes closed, right ear to the mat in the darkness, I heard:

"Remember that the natural state of the body is health and the natural state of the mind is happiness.  Honor that."

And I wanted to cry.

Wound tightly most of the time, I'm always trying to do so much.  And to be fair, I know that it's not just me.  Almost every woman struggles to enjoy life.  We're consumed with making sure that everyone has everything they need all of the time.  It's how we're wired as wives, mothers, daughters, friends, neighbors.  We seek to serve and to nurture, most often, at the cost of ourselves.  And then, one day, our own health and happiness has been compromised.  And we justify it because it's for a good cause.  Making sure that our loved ones have what they need makes us feel useful and brings a sense of joy...until, it doesn't and we're sick and tired, literally.

After the class, I sat in the steam room and through deep breaths, let the tears flow and remembered another mantra that the yoga instructor said, "You must practice letting go."  Words that seem impossible, improbable, and maybe even to an extent irresponsible.

But really, in this life, what do we control?  The truth is nothing.  It's all illusory.  It's all temporary.  And the harder we cling, the quicker it disintegrates.

The trick must be to choose the experience for experience sake and not exclusively for the purpose of the outcome.  Trust that organically the body seeks to be free from disease, most notably from stress-induced behaviors and that the mind seeks to be free from worry and guilt, so that it can thrive and elevate toward joy and happiness.

This information will be pivotal as I start to train for my first marathon race, which will certainly be more challenging mentally than physically.  My prayer is that I can let go and lean in to all that it has to offer.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Reticent Dreaming

Part of the human condition is to dream...to fantasize...to wonder what's next or to question what could be.

At least I'm hoping that's the case.

My incessant Catholic guilt often puts a damper on my dreaming making me reticent to question my current life station...as if dreaming poses a slap in the face to all of my blessings...which then, promptly makes me stop and just be grateful for what I've been given.

But rarely am I not grateful for the place I find myself in...I just wonder what I would be doing if I wasn't grocery shopping, folding towels, singing to my babies or supervising homework.  And these thoughts aren't intended to detract from the gift of being a stay-at-home mother, they're (I'm hoping) the natural exploration of the full self.  i.e who am I when I'm not mothering or what will my passion become when my children are grown?

Most of my teen to early adult life was consumed with being consumed.  I thrived on being busy.  Heading up school/campus organizations/clubs.  Working to pay for ancillary school needs.  Volunteering in my community.  Studying.  Running.  And reading...voraciously reading.

And then, I got married and forty weeks later, I became a mother.  Instantly, my focus became as clear as a pin point and my mental and physical energy grew increasingly more limited and finite. 
There was no more disposable income or personal time.  Manicures, pedicures, travel, online shopping, fine dining...all of the extras were discarded for the promise of time with my little ones.

And now, it's changing.  In a few short months, my youngest child will turn three and my oldest will turn nine...I will have a third-grader, a first-grader, and a soon to be preschooler.  My days of changing diapers, making bottles, and midnight feedings have gone by the wayside and I'm left to wonder, what about me?  What do I want next?

My graduate degree is in Conflict Resolution which means that I'm pretty good with other people's differences, but pretty lousy with my own.  I like conflict.  It's interesting...not in a melodrama(y) sort of way, but rather in a everyone gets to have a difference of opinion, how do we find common ground sort of way. I could do that.  Mediate.  Maybe put back on a suit. 

Since being at home, I've sold jewelry for a really fabulous company.  I could continue to do that.

I'm passionate about running and seeing people reach their personal dreams.  I could maybe send personal messages of inspiration or train off to the side.

I also harbor a strong love for the written word and yearn to write seriously.  I could potentially probe that possibility.

But on days like today, when the house is cluttered, the dishes need to be put away, I've got to pick up the kids in a few short minutes, dinner still needs to be made, homework needs to be supervised, and laundry is piling up...the only energy I have is to dream...sporadically...reticently...hopefully...trusting that when the day comes to jump without regret for the choices I made in my thirties believing that there's always a tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

"Fall"ing Into More Committed Running

The past few weeks have been a bit of a blur.

I ran my local half marathon race toward the end of September and then, had the privilege and absolute blast of a time running a Market-to-Market race...a 78-mile relay from one city to the next with six other women.  I cannot wait to do it again next year!  Below are a few pics.








Since I started running seriously almost two years ago, my goal has simply been to complete the mileage...to tick off the distance in a training plan and to cross the finish line in a race.  Now that I've run five half marathons, a long-distance relay, and various other fun runs, I want to be more committed...stronger, faster, and happier with consistently giving my personal best.

In two weeks, I'll start training for a marathon.  It's a huge goal on my bucket list.  And the thing is...I don't want to just finish it.  I want to do well.  I want to cross the finish line knowing that I put in the six months of training, that I honored my body...but I didn't give in to my fear.

It seems as though, I'm always afraid...of one thing or another.  Prior to my first half marathon race, I was afraid of collapsing after enduring injuries in the training process.  On a trail run, I was afraid of getting lost because I can't read a map to save my life and I have no pathfinder gene.  At the Market-to-Market relay, I was afraid of letting down my team mates because I consider myself a slow runner. And in life in general, I'm constantly worried about doing the right thing, making sure that my children always have everything they need, how my actions affect others...it's really exhausting.

And so, with this new journey, I want to dive into marathon training from a place of strength and not weakness.  I want to start believing that I can do this instead of assuming that I can't.  I want to trust that my body can go harder, longer and that I'll never know unless I try...and really, 38 isn't that old to be pushing myself, right?

And while I'm putting in all of those miles, I want to approach it all from a place of gratitude and joy.  Thankful that my legs can take me from one place to the next, that my heart and my mind continue to stay focused and that hopefully, my family will benefit from the stress release and the outlet that is mine.

I read this quote and it stuck...

"What distinguishes those of us at the starting line from those of us on the couch is that we learn through running to take what the days gives us, what our body will allow us, and what our will can tolerate."John Bingham,

So the real question is, what can my will tolerate?  My hope is a lot...snow, wind, cold, exhaustion, boredom, frustration, potential injury...so that come race day, I'll be prepared knowing that I've given it my everything.




Friday, September 20, 2013

Lessons Learned from my Cousin's Life, the Ironman Race & a High School Reunion

It's been an emotional two and half weeks.

I've had a hard time making sense of recent circumstances, but through my experiences, I've emerged stronger through involuntary lessons learned.  And I suppose, those are the most powerful.

Lesson number one: Acceptance.

After an 18-month courageous battle with Leukemia, my 15-year old cousin passed peacefully in his sleep and went to Heaven.  Since his diagnosis, I've been at war in my heart trying to process why a child should ever have to endure chemotherapy, writing his own will, saying goodbye to those he loves, and trusting that he's going to a better place without any real "proof" from anyone here on earth.  And yet, throughout all of his treatment, his trials and his heartache, his only request was that we remember that he loves us.

The day before he died, I was in Madison, Wisconsin.  I had made the trek with two of my besties to see our other friend make a dream come true.  She competed in an Ironman triatholon.  Which is essentially the race of freaking awesome, real deal, could kill you in your sleep athletes.  She woke up at 4:30am on race day, was in the water by 6:30am, swam 2.4 miles, then immediately biked 112 miles, quickly changed and ran a marathon.  Some 15-hours later, we were literally screaming our asses off at the finish line watching her achieve the unachievable.

And I learned then, after an amazing day of screaming affirmations, cheers, and positive self talk to as many athletes as I could that, the Ironman is simply an analogy for life....it's a test of the will...plain and simple.  There was no picture perfect "fit" entrant.  Because despite the name brand of your gear or the number of ripped abs on your belly, you can crash your bike, get a grueling cramp in the water, or dehydrate on the run course and then, well, you're done.  But for most of the athletes, the trick is to continually trick yourself that you can and that you will do this and then your vision eventually becomes your reality.

Lesson number two: consistent persistence pays off.

In the mix of all of this was also my 20-year high school reunion...an event that many of my close friends thought was probably a waste of time, but that I was really looking forward to.  Except that my cousin's funeral had been three hours prior and I spoke at the service.  By the time I arrived to see my blast from the past friends, it became very clear.  We're all the same.  At 38-years young, most of the pretense is gone.  People are really over what street you live on, what your business card says, and how hot your partner is or isn't.  Most people showed pictures of their kids, talked about how great it felt to see Facebook come alive and how thankful they were to have a babysitter so they could actually get out of the house.

Lesson number three: we're more similar than not.

So, at the end of the day, life is really for the living.  Celebrating my cousin's life, albeit cut way too short, was an incredible reminder that we only have one life here on this earth.  And the Ironman athletes taught me that you've gotta go for it.  Regret is just silly.  Go big or go home, literally. And in the mix of it all, my high school reunion illustrated a check point, a time of reflection to ask, "How's life treating you?  Are you being kind?  Are you taking risks?  Who can you help along the way?"

The truth is that there are no black and white answers.  There are more mysteries and whys then there are certainties.  But the one absolute is that we get one go around.  Let's be willing to crash our bikes and feel some pain, because the beauty of hearing "You are an Ironman" at the finish line is so worth it.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

My Crazy Life

I've been a bit disoriented lately...scattered, not yet in a routine, trying to adjust to the school schedule and lots of concentrated one-on-one time with my two-year old daughter, Claire.

And so true to form, I've had these, "Are you fucking kidding me?" moments that well, just need to be written down.

The first occurred in the toy room of a Hospice center.  My 15-year old cousin is dying of Leukemia which is painful and really hard to witness.  And so, on a recent visit, I decided to take the smaller kiddos into the fun toy room while I took a moment to breathe and pray.  While sitting in the rocker in the corner, I observed the following conversation...oh, here's the back story...Kate, my six-year old daughter is playing the doctor and Lilly, my four-year old niece is playing the mommy leaning over a table with a doll baby.

"See, the problem is that you have a fake baby...yes, that's right...your baby is actually a robot.  It's ribs are waaaaayyyy too big.  I'm not sure that there's much we can do," says Kate.

"Oh God...Oh no...help my baby!!!, " replies Lilly.

To which, I nearly peed myself in laughter.

The next morning, I went on a 13-mile training run in preparation for my next half marathon race.  Feeling good about the weather, my pace, and in general, my endurance, I came home with a smile on my face.  After stripping down to dive into the tub, I realized that I had some nasty chaffing on my inner thigh...i.e. bikini line and thought I was going to die.  You know what a rug burn feels like?  Pretend it's nearly on top of your vagina...yeah, it sucked.  Until my husband suggested that I use neosporin and a bandaid.  That's right.  I put a fucking bandaid on my 'how ya doin' and when it was time to strip it off, I screamed like a fucking banchee making the neighbors think that a woman was being murdered.  Fuck me...don't ever do that.

The following afternoon, I took Claire (2.5) to the park to build sand castles.  After successfully creating four decent sized castles complete with a moat and twig decorations, she alerted all of the moms in the vicinity that she had a good sized amount of sand in her vagina.  Yes, it was as awkward as you're imagining.

After gracelessly exiting the park, we high tailed it to Target for a few items.  Hanging out in the check out lane, I smelled a huge pile of shit and realized that it was eminating from my daughter.  I quickly grabbed her and ran to the family changing room only to discover that I had no wet wipes or diapers in my purse.  I had to use her dress to sop up an unGodly amount of poop and then carry her out of the store naked.  It was a banner motherhood moment.

And then finally this morning after drinking wine last night with my girlfriends and running hard with a bit of a hang over, I settled into the toilet to do my business....upon which my six-year old daughter Kate barged in to brush her teeth and promptly said, "Oh God, mama...what's wrong with you...you need to get that checked out."

Beautiful.

I write these things so that you can feel better about you're own life.  I've decided to give up on any pretense of a Martha Stewart inspired life.  At this point, I'm just trying to survive and doing so by living on love. 

Monday, August 26, 2013

Cleaning the Closet in Quiet

Today was the first day that my two older children were in school all day long.

Sam started third grade and Kate started first grade...which left me alone with our precocious two-year old, Claire for an entire eight hours. 

While my inclination was to escape the mess that has become my home, the weather proved to be an obnoxious 95 degrees with a ridiculous amount of humidity and so, I resigned myself to remain indoors and clean.

I turned on some tunes and encouraged Claire to entertain herself with puzzles and books while I tackled cleaning my older children's closet and room.  Seven Goodwill and three trash bags later, I was astounded at what I had accomplished.

While I was cleaning, it dawned on me just how incredibly loud my life is....really on all fronts.  There is very little time afforded to contemplation.  There's mindlessness that emanates from exhaustion, but that's not the same thing as carving out space to think, ponder, reflect, dream, take it in.  And I don't know why cleaning a closet or really anything for that matter, helps me to zone in on my thoughts.

While I was gathering up old clothes, shoes, books, toys, nick knacks, and keep sakes, I realized that Sam and Kate are not the only ones embarking upon a new journey. 

I am too.  And, so is their very sweet little sister, Claire.

Next year, Claire will be in preschool which may mean three or five mornings a week, I will have no children at home...and then, what will become of me and my time.

My best girlfriend from undergrad predicts that I'll go back into the corporate world temporarily trading my running kicks for kick ass stilettos.  My husband predicts that I'll free lance my conflict resolution skills and mediate from home.  My close-knit girlfriends think I might volunteer more at the school or start a prostitution ring to continue paying for Catholic education.

All of these options sound interesting to me.  But whatever unfolds as I shared with my friend this morning, it won't be to the detriment of raising my kiddos or the passion of my soul.  I want to gain clarity about that piece and keep asserting it to the world so as not to lose its significance.

My hunch is that I have a lot more soul searching to do...which means a lot more closets to clean, spaces to declutter and times of solitude.

And this space of quiet, I am excited about.  I've been waiting for it, well, for a while.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Beauty Amidst the Chaos

I love our mail carrier.

She always has a smile on her face, kind words for my children and wonderful, sage advice.

About a week ago, while getting the stroller loaded to head to the park, she and I had a nice chat.  She shared that she is a mother to six grown children and a grandmother to nine beautiful little ones.

I was lamenting that it had been a day and that I just felt overwhelmed by it all and subsequently, appreciated her smile and kind eyes.

She told me that the one thing she was always grateful for was that she didn't have a clean house, but most of the time had happy kids.

"I never missed going to the park or the pool to put the laundry away and if my friends happened to swing by unannounced, I never apologized for the streaks on the windows or the sticky prints on the door knobs.  And as I look back, I don't regret the sacrifice one bit.  Now is the time to have fun.  When you're old like me, you can clean the house.  Or not.  It's overrated."

And so, I took those comments to heart and informed my family that for the last week of summer, we were going hog wild...swimming, reading at the library, checking out new digs at Fontenelle Forest, having tea parties with friends and eating macaroni and cheese to our hearts content.

And my house has taken a beating, but there's a weight lifted off of my shoulders and thus far, no one from Child Protective Services has ushered my littles away.

To prove that I mean what I say, here's some documentation to help you be thankful for your abode.  You're more than welcome to hang out at mine, you just might not be able to find your way out...but I promise that when you do, you'll have a smile on your face.

Here's to the last three days of summer....















Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Hope I've Done Right By Them



 Over the last few days, friends have been sending their children back to school.

Adorable first day pictures have been popping up on Facebook of little ones all decked out in their new duds, uniforms, back packs, signs in hands labeled "First Grade" or "Kindergarten"...and mothers saddled with mixed emotions.

On one hand, after a long summer full of swimming, bike riding, dirt digging, no schedule heeding and lots of ice cream eating, it feels like it's time to get back to some sort of routine.

On the other, it means that our children are growing up.  Which, I suppose, is what they do.  But maybe, just maybe, we could freeze frame these moments and keep them little just a little longer.

And so, this morning, I was particularly moved by a Facebook friend's status update.  She had just finished sending her girls...a new fourth grader and Kindergartner off to the races.  And she was a crying mess hoping that she had done right by them.  She posted an amazing poem entitled "The Summer-Camp Bus Pulls Away from the Curb," by Sharon Olds and I was inspired.

In six days, I'll be sending my 8.5-year old son to third grade and my 6-year old daughter to first grade.  It will be the first time that they will both be in school all day long and combined with soccer practice and games, ballet, cub scouts, and girl scouts will spend more hours outside of the house than inside, except when they're sleeping.  And, all of it has given me pause.

For what has seemed like an eternity, I've been hyper-aware of the many ways that I have sacrificed for my children.  When they were babies, it was the loss of infinite amounts of sleep combined with my breasts becoming utilitarian feeding sources. My house became transformed into a baby land with child proof gates, books, toys, diapers, and every learning gadget under the moon.  My dreams of executing my graduate degree were put on hold to stay at home.  Leaving the work place changed the face of our household income and reshaped the way we thought about making due and being practical.  And then, there have been the sanity checks.  And believe me, mine has been tested countless times.

But now, six years later, I sit here thinking.  I hope that I've done enough.  I hope that I've read to them voraciously.  I hope that I've fed their soul and cemented the belief that they are beautiful, capable, and amazing.  I hope that I've taught them coping skills and an understanding that things won't go their way and that from time to time, the world really can be an unfair and cruel place...but in the same breath, the best thing to do is to get back up and try again.

And through all of the time outs, the raising of voices, the 5-4-3-2-1's on the playground and in the grocery store, I hope that they know that they were loved.  And ultimately, I hope that I've done right by them as well.

Because after all, there are no guarantees.  All we can do is try and then try again with a pure heart, good intentions, and the sincere desire to see our little ones happy, healthy, and ready to tackle this new place they find themselves in...and I suppose, that we find ourselves in as well.


Friday, August 9, 2013

Minimizing Regrets...Starting with a Mammogram

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I once had a horrifying experience in a tanning bed.

I was in my early 20's and as luck would have it, I found myself with a free ticket to go on an all-expense paid cruise in the dead of winter.

I was ghostly looking and thought that a quick dose of color was exactly what I needed to get my tropical island groove on.  Somewhere between placing the uber small goggles on and the ultra fluorescent lights humming, I quickly became overwhelmed with the sensation that I was laying in my own coffin.  Lifting my arms up to get my under sides, I started quickly feeling for lumps or inflamed tissue of any kind.  Nothing.  But I still wasn't convinced.  I started planning my funeral.  Deciding the music.  The people who would speak.  All of it.  Visibly shaken, I got out of the bed and have never gone back into one again.

I didn't think much about it until years later, I started learning about the history of breast cancer on my paternal side of the family.  Continuing to administer self breast examinations regularly, I just thought, I'm too young to worry about this.

And then, during my last annual exam, my OB encouraged me to get a mammogram.  Even though, I'm 38 years of age, the familial history makes a difference.

And so I am....next week.  And, I have to admit, I'm starting to feel anxiety all over again.  Not quite yet planning my funeral, I am however, assessing my behavior and trying to decide which regrets that I no longer want to live with.

While we all behave poorly from time-to-time and have people that we've not yet apologized to for our choices, overall, I'm painfully aware that the real purpose of all of this living thing is how we treat one another when the going gets hard....when someone is reaching out in need, do we offer a hand, or do we rest in the rationalization that we're busy people and we can only do so much?

Is it possible to choose kindness when all you really want to do is to have a minute to yourself?  And when we do choose to give, do we find ourselves with more energy, bigger hearts, greater appreciation and ultimately, more love?

My mother always told me that "To whom much is given, much is expected."  I've never taken that phrase to mean monetary goods....I've always equated it with whatever gift(s), blessing(s), you find yourself endowed with, they must be shared with the world.

Because if one day you find a lump or the test comes back positive or your better half decides not to come home, the most important place you can find yourself in is one of gratitude....thanking God and the world for what you've been given, no matter what.  And ultimately, it starts with acts of kindness, generosity and availability always.

My experience tells me time and time again that it's worth it to give.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Epic Motherhood Fail

Two days ago, I found myself on the kitchen floor, legs curled up to my chest crying.

It had been a day.

It didn't start out so bad.  The kids and I had a fairly uneventful and easy trip to the grocery store.  We piled the cart with plenty of healthy items and then sprinkled it with our favorite treats.

While traveling home, they accommodated my NPR program and quietly read library books while gnawing on Starburst.

It was joyful.  Until it wasn't. 

Somewhere between grilled cheese sandwiches, carrots and chocolate milk, I turned into a raving lunatic.  I could no longer cope with asking them fourteen times to take their plate to the counter, wash their hands, and to stop bothering each other.  I could not contend with the constant giggling, teasing, and non-stop joke telling over and over again.  Imagine that, kids wanting to laugh and tell jokes in the summertime?  And when they started running circles around the kitchen saying the same mundane, ridiculous made-up phrases over and over, I lost my shit.

"G-E-T O-U-T....do you HEAR me?  G-E-T O-U-T of the God damned kitchen!!!  I am through with you!"

Anyone who knows me, knows that I don't curse at my children.  I'm likely to be the one to give you the evil eye if you happen to drop a 'shit' or 'damn' around my little ones.  I just don't tolerate it.  But for whatever reason and really with very little prompting, I could not, I repeat, I could not handle it.

And it wasn't until after washing the dishes and heading into the bathroom, I found my middle child crying pulling out the vacuum from the closet.  Tripping over the power cord, tears streaming down her face, she looked at me and said, "I'm sorry I made you mad, mama...please don't be through with me."

Epic fail.

Fuck me.

To which I threw down my towel and said something to the effect of, "I'm so sorry.  I didn't mean to say those words.  I love you to the moon and back."

Why is parenting so God damn hard?  Why do my decisions matter so much to me?  Argh.

And so there I was knees up to my chest crying....wishing that I knew how to get a better grip, how to not worry so much, how to not stress so much, how to not try to control so much.

I suppose acknowledgement is the first step.  I'm hoping that grace is the second and that ultimately, they won't be laying on their therapists' couch someday recounting this story.  I'm certain that there in for many more doozies with me at the helm. 

Until then, "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.  The courage to change the things I can.  And the wisdom to know the difference."  Amen.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Call Me Bad Ass

"I can't do this."

I remember saying to my father when I got my first real-paying corporate job with medical benefits, an office, and a salary that made me look forward to getting a paycheck.

And he promptly said...

"Of course you can.  Buy the suit.  Learn your role.  Don't forget where you come from.  Be good to people.  And leave the place better than when you arrived."

I felt that same sinking feeling of doubt when I received my acceptance letter into graduate school, when I became a wife, a mother three times over, and made plans to run my first half marathon race.  I can't do this.  I've never seen myself here before.  How can it possibly be?

And that's the key.  It's impossible to know what it's going to feel like to "do" something or to accomplish it until you visualize yourself kicking ass and taking names at the office, cradling your crying baby, walking down the aisle to say 'I do', and ultimately, crossing the finish line with a race number plastered across your chest.

You've heard it a million times...visualization is key...fake it until you make it...play the part until one day you become it.  While these sayings may seem clicheish, they are sage advice.

If you run, you are a runner.  If you sing, you are a singer.  If you create, you are an artist.  If God blessed you with a child, you are a parent.  And whatever resides in your head is only moments of hard work away from being actualized in the physical world...if you want it badly enough.

And so I've been stuck.  I want to transform my body, improve my ability to run, and ultimately, redefine my threshold for physical fitness.  The problem is that I've been doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results...frustrated as all get out when the scale spits out the same number, unable to tackle bigger hills, struggling to build greater endurance.  I just can't see myself doing it.

I mean really...people who run marathons, who race in Iron Man competitions, who dedicate countless hours to biking, swimming, running....who are these people?  They don't look like me.

Or do they?  And maybe the better question is why do I think they don't look like me?  Why don't I will it into existence?

I've never been a huge fan of affirmations.  But lately, that's all that's been getting me through this rut...this valley...this shit storm of doubt.  So, here are a few I use regularly:

"You're a fucking bad ass."

"You're more powerful than you can imagine."

"Heart, Strength, Will"

And my all-time favorite and go-to, "Come on....fucking bitch...you can do this."

I feel God and the universe telling me that I need to push myself farther, deeper, harder.  I have to visualize myself as a marathoner and one day an Iron (Wo)Man...and it will be, because I choose it.

What do you choose?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Stop Harboring the Dark Stuff

This morning I ran eight miles.

Today was challenging. For whatever reason, eight miles has always been harder than nine or ten. And so I was mentally prepared, but then when it came to putting one foot in front of the other, I wasn't.

It started from the moment that I put my shorts on.  Why do I have cellulite? How is it possible to run as much as I do and still have squishy parts all over?  Well, maybe it's because you have a daily Starbucks habit and think that Dairy Queen should have a personal delivery service to your home.

And that's all it takes...one or two negative thoughts and the flood gates emerge and then, I'm sunk...until I decide that I'm not.

It's always been there though...for as long as I can remember...the yuck self talk.  The need to always watch what I ate, to try the latest South Beach, Atkins, Insanity, all protein, no carbs, full fat, no fat, you name it diet/lifestyle change.

And for what?  Really.  Where does it get me?  Mostly, back in the same spot feeling angry, insecure, frustrated or spiraling all over again.

My hunch is that I'm not the only woman who goes through this shit.  It feels like it's stamped in our DNA when we're born and with us until we decide that we're enough on all fronts.

So, let me begin by saying this.  Say, "Fuck You" to harboring the dark thoughts.  They're most likely not true and even if there is a portion of legitimacy to them, they do not define who you are.

Secondly, accept the compliments that the world gives to you.  You are beautiful.  You are compelling.  You are brilliant.  You are worthy. Trust that you are deserving of love just because.

Thirdly, make a decision that you are enough just as you are.  Right here.  In this moment.  Not 10 pounds from now.  Not when you get the promotion.  Not when the house is clean.  Not when you get in to get your hair colored or your make-up put on.  Or when you finally get around to fill in the blank.

Stop harboring the dark, negative thoughts that lie deep inside of you.  They're toxic.  They don't serve as positive motivation toward change.  They just cycle through your system and paralyze you.

You're here for a reason.  Your life has a purpose.  Spend your time focused on that.  And in the interim, I'll work on finding a way to love my legs in shorts.  Hell, those shorts scored me eight miles today.  I can't complain too much.




Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Grass is Always Greener

Over the past couple of days, I've enjoyed sharing coffee, wine, dinner and dialogue with some amazing women. 

Throughout those conversations, the topic of "comparison" emerged time and time again.

One friend summed the entire process up beautifully..."none of us have any business comparing our insides to another person's outsides."

Brilliant.

And yet, this is what we do.  Notoriously. 

We scroll through posts of old high school and college friends on facebook and think, stunning family, she looks uh-mazing, wow...Cabo...why don't we vacation there?  Why don't I look like that? 

And then, we make the assumptions....they're happier, more engaged, more well rounded, better off...you name it.

And, to be fair, some of it is true.  There is always someone with more fill in the blank...wealth, aesthetic beauty, engagement in their job, their marriage, with their children. 

And in your daily life, your kids may incessantly fight and your husband may suck when it comes to picking up and putting away his shit.  You may live pay check to pay check.  You may need to lose weight.  You might yell too much.  You may be negligent when it comes to writing thank you cards or volunteering in your kids' classrooms.  You might spend too much time on your iPhone, iPad or playing a video game.  You might spend too much at Starbucks or playing golf.  And you might forget to say thank you or I love you when you should.

But you might also read "The Very Lonely Firefly" and do all of the voices or make a mean spaghetti dinner or always smile or know just when to say "Fuck it" at the appropriate time.  You might pray and hold those dear in your heart who are going through crisis or tragic circumstances.  You might mow someone's lawn or shovel someone's drive.  And maybe you, give the best hugs ever.

You are who you are. Plain and simple.  You are blessed and you are flawed.

You don't live at your neighbor's house.  Your girlfriend's marriage is not yours.  Your kids don't belong to the college friend on facebook and your job is your own.

You are blessed to have this life.  This one go around.  This chance.  Comprised of all your passion, fear, vulnerability and power.  So own it.  Steep yourself in it.

Because the truth is...the grass is always greener....but no one gets to be you and live your life for all the good and the bad. 

So the next time you're scrolling through someone's facebook photos and you see someone in Cabo and want to go, add it to your bucket list and then drop a comment that says, "You suck...wish I could have been there..."  Naw, say something like, "Looks amazing...can't wait to see it myself."


Sunday, July 14, 2013

I'm Sorry

The past few days have been a little rough with my eight-year old son, Sam.

I'm not sure why but we've been at each other.  Maybe it's because we're both first born, type A, OCD personalities that have a specific expectation of how we want things to go down and when they don't, well, we're emotionally charged and pissed off at the world.

And so it was with our last spat over something completely inconsequential that I realized, I have to get better at apologizing to the people I love, and in particular, to my children.

There is something very powerful about modeling the importance of being vulnerable.  Laying your cards out for everyone to see and owning when you've made a poor choice, which most of the time, involves yelling at some insane decibel about something that really doesn't matter.

So after a day of doling out ridiculous amounts of consequences that I never followed through with, I tucked him into bed.  Curling his hair between my fingers, I looked down and said, "Truce?"

He said, "Of course, mom."

I told him that I was sorry for being impatient, sorry for not letting him speak his mind, sorry for being a helicopter parent, and sorry that in general, we had a bad day.

I love the tar out of my kiddos.  I want nothing more than for them to be loving people in the world.  I hope that by showing them that I make mistakes all the time and that I'm willing to apologize to those I've hurt in the process...my example will make a positive impact upon them.

But of course, I don't know.

Until then, I pray that an honest, authentic, "I'm sorry," is the great equalizer providing the chance to start anew, recognizing that tomorrow will bring a new set of challenges, but also a chance for a loving re-do.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

A Good Cry

My kids and I have logged in more hours at the public library than should be acceptable to frequent an establishment...especially when it's free.  The only other spots we may traverse more are the pool and our local Target store.

They are voracious readers and have made it their mission to take on the Summer Reading Program with a dedication that is unparalleled.

So yesterday, we got a new crop of books and poured over them.  Gulping ice cream at the kitchen table, we collectively read a book entitled, "Why Do You Cry?" about a young rabbit turning five years old who's convinced that because of his new age...he no longer needs to cry.  To commemorate the occasion, he decides to host a birthday party, but will only invite friends who are old enough or mature enough to no longer cry.

The squirrel politely declines his invite and tells rabbit that sometimes other animals hurt his feelings and he can't help but shed a tear.

The cat cries out in sadness and shares that the shadows still spook him and he cries out of fear.

The horse confesses that he can't join the merry bunch because sometimes he just doesn't feel good about himself and has to have a good pity party.

Discouraged and alone, the rabbit tells his mama that the party is going to be small as in just him and his mother.

Finally, in a crushing blow, his mother says that she too has to sit this one out.  At any given moment, she can cry happy tears watching rabbit and his brothers and sisters grow up.  She can cry tears of frustration when life just doesn't seem to be going her way and she can cry tears of sadness when it's all just too much.

It's at this moment that rabbit begins to cry and realizes that its okay.

Later that night after dinner and the dishes, I headed out by myself and started to cry in the car.  I didn't know what to attribute it to and in fact the more that I tried to rationalize it, the more the flood gate of tears came.

Sometimes, we just need to cry.  To scream.  To stand in fear.  To cower with doubt.  To be paralyzed in the certainty that it won't work out.  To be overjoyed by a milestone that would never come. To be blown away in utter surprise at a person or an event.  To know that the boogie man is really just in our head.  To feel sorry for ourselves.  To be ecstatic that we dodged a bullet.  To be hopeful.  To feel hopeless.  And then, to let it go and cry.

It feels good.  It's a natural release.  And it doesn't go away the older we become.  Hopefully, age encourages us to access it more frequently, recognizing that we can't control everything.  In fact, we can't control much.  But a good cry makes the world feel right again.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Ode to Kate on Her Sixth Birthday

Today we celebrated your sixth birthday with homemade fairy wings, pixie dust, painted toe nails, giggling girl friends, cupcakes, punch and chocolate milk...and your papa and I were in Heaven watching you flit around as the beautiful fairy princess you are.



For so many reasons, I love you, Kate. 


When I look into your eyes, I see the purest parts of all that is beautiful, available, and connected in the world.  Different than me, you live smack dab in the present.  You inhabit the right part of your brain completely and when the sunshine and wind hit your arms, you move them through the air to feel your body in space.  When you're painting, you swoosh the brush and splat the paint pretending that you're Jackson Pollock, but only better.  And when you're reading, you do all of the voices and pause for affect while waiting for your audience to notice the moment.


You remind me that life is a gift and that our only job is to look around and take it all in.  You teach me how to be more and more open with greater vulnerability...to let down my guard and to try to seek experience rather than perfection.

You hug me and tell me that you love me to the moon and back a gazillion times and when I repeat the same, you retort, I guess we love each other so, so, so, so much and that's a good thing.

In a few short weeks, you'll start first grade and for the first time, you will be away from me more hours during the day than you ever have before.  How is that possible?  Where did the time go? 

Watching the countless ways that you socialize at the pool, on the playground, and in line at the local Target store, I have no doubt that you're more than ready to be in school all day....it's just that I'll miss you.  I'll miss watching you draw, listening to you negotiate with your sister, making your grilled cheese with the crusts cut off, encouraging you to take just one more nap so that I can snuggle next to you, braiding your hair before you put your ballet slippers on, and singing "You Are My Sunshine," while you dance in the living room.

But as you grow, which inevitably you will just keep doing, I pray that you'll continue to be courageous.  Have a heart that trusts and loves even when there are no guarantees.  Believe that at the core of it, people are good and give your friends the benefit of the doubt.  Be patient with papa, you are his first daughter and will always be his little princess, so don't plan to wear a bikini well for forever.  Know that we love you more than any ode could ever convey and that we hope this next year will bring you more joy, adventure, big love, and blessings than you can imagine.

Happy Sixth Birthday, Kate....love, Mama


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Just Another Day at the Movies

Allow me to set the stage.

I woke up this morning with a sore throat that to be fair, I'd been babying for a few days prior.

Against my better judgement, I decided that it might be best if the kids and I lay low and try to do something that required minimal energy output.

Boom.  That's when I checked Facebook and discovered that our neighborhood theater was hosting a free family movie morning.  The price of admission was canned food items for a local not for profit and the ability to get there at least 30 minutes prior to the movie showing time.

"African Cats" was the flick.  Beautiful.  A little popcorn, little Starburst, big fat Dr. Pepper for mama and we're in business.

Until.  This horrid lady and her crazy daughter sat down beside me and she begins with, "Do you know if there's a special on concessions today?"  "Um, no...I've never done this before, " I retort as I visibly pump my littles full of popcorn, soda, candy and previews.  "Oh, well, you should have waited.  They have dollar pop and popcorn days on Tuesdays. You could have saved some money."

And then, "Did you know that the lions kill animals in this movie?  I see that you have little ones."

Da Fuck??  Get off my back, bee-yatch or I'll infect you with my throat bug. 

And then, "Mama, I pooped," out of my two-year old toddler.  Holy Hell...in a rush to get out of the house, I forgot to bring a diaper.  Shit balls.

Just then, like an angel from Heaven, one of my besties shows up with her girlie and I beg her to sit beside me and shield me from Library Know-it-All while I run to the concessions and the potty with my shitty smelling daughter.

"You're gonna have to tell me when you need to go potty," I say holding her ass over the far too big toilet bowl, "Because mama doesn't have any fresh under panties or diapers."  "Okay, mama," says Claire with a mischievous look that says your moments are numbered and I'm planning to shit Reeses Pieces all over your shorts.

And then the flick starts.  So far so good.  The killing is manageable.  No poop in my lap.  My two-year old is busying herself with candy.  I'm living the dream.

And then she gets up and starts bugging the people sitting in front of us and threatening her brother for his Sour Patch Kids with a scream as if to say, "Give me the candy, bitch or I'll blow up the place with my shrieking."  And I beg him...give her the freaking candy!!! He reluctantly relents.

Finally, she yells, "Bathroom...I've got to go potty."  And I jump up to go and discover that she only goes a dribble.  We do this dog and pony show another time and then finally, I say, screw this.  I'm waiting with you out in the lobby until this Savannah, Lion Pride shit is done.

Good Lord....she ran into the opening day showing of "Despicable Me," tried to rip the cardboard advertisement for the "Smurfs," and snuck under the bathroom stall door scaring yet another patron.

When it was finally over, I pulled them into the car and thought about screaming but just decided that I would laugh instead and then, I screamed for good measure.  My throat is more on fire...but at least no one died.

Just another day at the movies.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Today, We'll be the Parents

On the drive home from the pool this afternoon, the kids were drinking juice boxes and giggling.

Out of nowhere, Kate (5) matter of factly piped up from the back seat with, "I think we're going to be the parents today and you guys get to be the kids."

Laughing hysterically, I nearly snorted my iced coffee out of my nose and replied, "Beautiful!  Tell me what you're most excited about being the parents."

"Well, we're gonna make you do what we want.  So, you get to take out the trash, vacuum, clean our room, and you have to go to bed when we say like at seven o'clock," retorted Kate.

"And then, we get to stay up as late as we want and play the iPad or watch a movie and when we go to bed, we can close the door and yell, 'BULLS EYE!'" exclaimed Sam (8).

What in the Hell is that???? Bulls Eye??? I was scared to ask what that meant. So, I just burst out laughing and said, "You know what I'm most excited about? Having someone change my diapers."

To which the kids snorted apple juice and said, "That's gross, mama!"

"Yeah, but then I wouldn't have to worry about making it to the bathroom, right?  Pretty sweet."

At the end of the car ride, we both decided that it was best to be in the roles that we inhabit, at least for today.

However, I have to say that I desperately miss being a kid...having forced nap time, an entire day to do nothing except go where the wind takes me...now, if they made spiked juice boxes, I might consider time travel.

Until then, I guess I'll stick with being the mama and wiping my own behind.


Friday, June 28, 2013

The Almighty Locker Room Scream

She's adorable.

She'll blow your mind with her sweet blue eyes, blonde hair and smile that will make you give her the world.

Until she opens her mouth, shrieks at the top of her lungs and belts you in the mouth like its her job and sends your glasses flying across the room to boot.

Don't be fooled.

Her name is Claire and she's my two and half year old toddler from Crazy Land.

I've always contended that bright children are hard to raise.  This is why I'm pining for a beautiful, sweet, dumb, loyal Golden Retriever who will let us pull her around the house, not require that we watch her do tricks or reward her for good behavior.

Claire unfortunately looks like a sweet Golden, but is really masquerading as a Jack Russell terrier deep down inside.

She knows what she wants, when she wants it and exactly how it will go down and far be it for you to get in her way of owning it.

And so it went today in the locker room at the gym.  After a delightful afternoon soaking up sun and swimming like fish, we headed in, along with her older sister, Kate (5) to get changed.

Claire's typical MO is to run up and down the aisle of lockers while she hides inside random ones and pops out shouting, "BLLLLAAAAHHHH!!!"  It mostly makes Kate laugh and gives me a desperate moment needed to feverishly change into my dress before grabbing her, ripping off the wet suit and trying to vacate the situation as soon as possible.

Everything was on track until a lady pulled onto the scene.

Unsuspecting, she had no idea that Claire was hiding in the locker next to hers and just as she was about to grab her clothes, my Jack Russell terrier jumped out of the locker and screamed, "BLAAAHHH!!!"  To which the woman, dropped her towel, yelled an almighty scream and then farted.

It was the most embarrassing experience I've had in a long while.

I apologized profusely, grabbed my sociopath toddler and got the fuck out of Dodge.

Why in the Hell do these things happen to me?

I have to say that it was awkward, but only slightly less than the woman two rows behind her who was belting out her own rendition of "Open Arms," along with the radio.

Is it 5 o'clock yet?  I need a margarita.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

26.2 or Bust


I can't believe I'm writing this.

You know that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that won't go away.  Yeah, that one.  The one that tells you, it's time.  You've got to give it a whirl, put your best foot forward and own that "thing" that won't seem to stop permeating your consciousness.

Well, for me, that crazy ass bucket dream is running a marathon or 26.2 miles.

It's been a little over 18 months since I started running and in that time, I've run 4 half marathons, a handful of 5-K and 10-K races and logged in lots of lots of mileage in several pairs of shoes.

Definitively, running has transformed my life.  I am stronger.  I endure longer.  And, I'm more "me" than I've been in a very long time.

So, as I was chatting it up with a guy at my local running store, he said, "What keeps you from going the distance?"

To which I internally replied, "I can't," but said out loud to him, "I'm not sure.  I guess I don't want to lose my joy of running by having a really awful experience pushing myself farther than I should."

He laughed and said, "Come on...at least try it once, then, you can put one of those stickers on your car and join the cool club."

I brushed it off and thought, I'm a mom of three little kids.  I absolutely don't have time or energy to log in 30 plus mile training weeks.  And, who the hell do I think I am?  There's no way.

And then, it wouldn't go away...the nagging, the gnawing, the wondering, the hoping, and always the fear that if I don't, I'll never know.  And, it could, dare I say, be amazing.

And so, next May 2014, my plan is to run the Lincoln Marathon and my prayer is that I'm not that woman who lost control of her bowels and crapped herself while crawling across the finish line in Boston.  Because really, I've got enough troubles with poop at my abode.

Until then, if you see me, just lie and tell me that I can do it.  I'm in an all out battle with my mind and heart right now, I need all the support I can get because damn it...I'm all about putting that cool kid club sticker on my beat up Honda.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

I Gave Her My Heart...She Gave Me a Pen

Do you remember this movie?


God, I loved it. 

I'm now getting to the age where my friends' kids are getting their hearts broken.  And of course, my friends are wondering how they should counsel their sweet, innocent babes.  I suppose they come to me because at the time, I was the queen of being dumped.  I had a fantastic track record of dating really great guys who liked/loved me enough, but not enough to propose.

And so, understandably, no one wants to see their son or daughter go through the pain and yuck of getting their heart stomped on by another 16 or 17-year old who really doesn't even know what they're doing.

My favorite break-up scene in the above movie, "Say Anything," is when Ione Skye tries to end her summer relationship with John Cusack by giving him a pen and telling him to write her.  In a pouring down rain storm at a pay phone, he calls his sister and says, "I gave her my heart and she gave me a pen." 

My real-life favorite break-up scene was when my boyfriend pulled over in a retail parking lot to tell me that the girl he planned to marry was the one that he couldn't live without and he could live without me.

Ouch, I know.

So, as the parent, what do you do?  Well, for starters, ask for your teens' phone and text the douche, with a simple line like, "You fucked with the wrong family.  Watch your back, bitch."

No.  No.

That wouldn't be productive.  Instead, I think after the ugly girl crying is on hiatus, you go into their room and tell them that this experience is a gift.

They will of course, order you out and scream and yell that you just don't get it.  And to their credit, you don't.  Everyone's first break up is incredibly personal and devastatingly painful.

But what you do get, if you've been down that road is the ability to stand on your own two feet despite anyone else's personal rejection of who you are.  You recognize that it's not about being thinner or having bigger boobs or different clothes or living on the right street, it's about embracing all of you, even when someone else doesn't want to be connected to it anymore.

And that is a powerful lesson.

There is no shortage of anger in the process.  And, no matter what anyone says, being pissed is a good thing.  My step-mother used to say, if he doesn't like you...tell him that you don't like him more and then, live the shit out of your life.  The greatest example of triumph is not to morph yourself into what you think you should be, but to live who you are with gusto.

And in the end, you may be Lloyd Dobler and Diane Court and end up being passionately committed and in love.  Or you may be, Kelly Roberts, a girl who found herself incredibly strong, resilient and ready to bring her authentic self into the relationship that would prove well in her partnership for life.

Until then, I think you should still offer to beat the shit out of the little punk.  After all, it's your kid for Christ sake.


Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Remembering Her Five Years Later

These are pictures of my maternal grandmother, Elaine.






She was stunning in every way that you can imagine....physically beautiful, unconditionally loving, incredibly brilliant, and a born survivor.

She passed away five years ago today.

My grandmother grew up an only child and lost her mother to a brain aneurism when she was just 16-years old.  She met my grandfather when she was 15 and he was a scandalous 19-year old boy headed out to the navy during WWII.  Right or wrong, they loved each other fiercely and the hundreds of letters our family has in boxes demonstrates what it takes to wait for the love of your life while you're out at sea praying for a war to end so you can marry your soul mate.

I've missed her lately.

She was a masterful communicator.  She knew how to butter up anyone so that she could break the cold hard truth and they would thank her for looking out for them.  It blew my mind everytime.

She was a fashion model in New York City in the 1940's and understood how to work the camera lens while recognizing that at the end of the day, it was a pay check and that physical beauty was a dime a dozen.

She was a doting wife....and I mean doting.  A true 1950's housewife with dinner and the newspaper on the table along with a scotch and a kiss at the door.

But more than anything, she was a mother and a grandmother.  And she loved her children and grandchildren with a ferocity that feels unparalleled now-a-days.

She believed that ultimately, people were good and that it just took finding the sweet spot whether at the grocery store, the drycleaner, the bridge table or the neighborhood culdesac.

I miss her.  I wish that she knew my children and how much I try to emulate her way of living.  My prayer is that she's dancing with my grandfather, happy, beautiful, and free.  









Monday, June 24, 2013

The Right Words Afloat in an Imperfect Me

I had been searching for the right words for weeks.

Trapped in my own auto-correcting head cursing the fact that I'm a first-born and a perfectionist when it comes to doing the things I love.

And so it is with language.  I'm meticulous about word choice.  My children have come to understand that there are certain words we use and ones that we don't...like shut-up, hate, butt, fart, and lame transitions that can be summed up by a single word.

I'd been yearning to write on my blog.  Wanting to get these thoughts out of my head, but instead finding myself filling the time with other tasks like cleaning, parenting, working, and ultimately, pushing "me" to the back of my life...so as to not get it wrong in real time.

And then, Sunday morning arrived.  Or, I should say that I arrived along with my family in Colorado.  And I knew, against my better judgment that my heart would be ignited and that hopefully, my hands would find the keyboard.

But quite the opposite happened...on a singular walk with my two-year old daughter, I stumbled upon a stream and a little girl who was desperate to get her hands wet.  It looked something like this...


And while we were finding the perfect stones to plop into the stream, it dawned on me.  Every stone is perfect to her.  Every opportunity to make a wish, plunk it into the water and watch it wash away is wanted.  Every chance to get her hands cold in the water and pluck a white blossoming flower is beautiful.  And this is all that she wanted to do every time that we went on a walk.

And so as I quieted my head and made room in my heart for the sound of the water and the giggling of my little girl, I realized, it's all perfect.  Perfectly imperfect and exactly how it should be.  And every time that I don't write or I don't run or I don't share me with the world for fear of a misstep or a missed word, I'm losing out and so are people and places I'm connected to.

I'm still resolute that language is powerful and should be handled with care....but I'm more resolute that it's essential to let go, give in, and hear the stream, feel the water, and remember that every moment is filled with imperfect opportunities to fill our soul, if we just let them.




Monday, May 6, 2013

38 Birthday Candles

Today, I turned thirty-eight years old.  In human years, not in dog lineage.

It feels like a big mouth full.  Technically, it's considered middle-aged.  Approaching the over-the-hill marker.  A place that felt far away not too terribly many years ago.

It's also a place that for me, has snuck up...which is descriptive of most of  my life, but has served as a semi-wake-up-call when I realize that my third decade of life is coming to a close.

As I look back, my twenties were really a time of self-discovery.  I felt lost.  Unsure.  Wavering.  Wondering.  Trying on new identities.  Thinking, probably foolishly so, that if I were married that life would have meaning.  Thank God, that wish didn't come true, until I tied the knot with the right one two weeks before my thirtieth birthday.

My thirties have been a time of care giving, sacrifice, endurance and everything that is wrapped up in the beauty and exhaustion that is motherhood.  I first became a mother when I was 30 and then again at 32 and then again at 35.

And every moment has shaped and molded who I am today.  I am less self absorbed.  I am less judgmental.  I don't have time or energy to be the kind of control freak that made me a good employee, but frustrated the shit out of my family and friends.  After watching illnesses, deaths and miracles transpire, I am keenly aware of what matters and what doesn't.  And the reality is that most of the heart ache we encounter is born of our own doing and really doesn't add up to a hill of beans.

At the age of 38, my days look like this....scramble out of bed at 4:30am for a coveted run where I imagine that I'm a Nike girl dressed in Lululemon with crazy speed and an amazing ass (wishing is free, right?).  I come home shortly before the sun comes up with the hope that my three littles and my better half are still sawing logs so that I can scarf down one large cup of coffee and stretch my bones because unfortunately, they creak a lot these days.  Moments later, I make peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and very carefully, pick out the perfect strawberries for my 8-year olds' lunch.  He wont eat the soft ones.

And then, it's off to the races.  Hurry up.  Eat your cereal.  Throw on your uniform. Brush those teeth. Stop annoying your sister.  Jump in the car.

Where I navigate the circle drop off and try not to be "that" mom in the janky car who can't get her shit together.

And for 30 seconds, I close my eyes and make the sign of the cross over my 8-year old and my 5-year old while saying:

May God bless your mind, so you can learn.

Your ears to be a good listener.

Your mouth to speak kind words.

And your heart to feel love.

Kisses and a squealing from the drive as I feverishly listen to NPR for as long as I can before it's back home to kiss my husband goodbye and grab my insane, biting, fearless 2-year old toddler.

Bed making, grocery shopping, laundry doing, ballet, soccer, piano, after school pick up, nap times, jewelry show preparation, school/church volunteering, homework supervision, dinner making, bath and bed carrying out and by 9pm, when it's all said and done, I look at my husband and say thank you for doing this with me.

This is what it feels like to be 38.  I'm not young.  But I'm not old.  I'm somewhere in the middle.  I suppose one more time reinventing me.  The me that runs, jumps, climbs, hopes, dreams, falls, fails, hurts, forgives, needs, believes and prays in gratitude for it all.

Happy Birthday to a 38-year old me...it's a blessed life, for certain.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

Ah...Spring

I've been waiting for this moment for what has felt like an eternity.

Finally, today, I found myself laying on my back outside while the little girls ran around singing, dancing, playing fairies and giggling.

I kicked off my shoes, rolled up my shirt baring my white as a ghost mid section, slid off my sunglasses and closed my eyes.  It was Heaven.  I could feel the Vitamin D restoring my spirit and rejuvenating my soul. 

You think I'm being melodramatic, but the truth is that it's been a long, cold winter with a less than climactic start to spring.  Rain mixed with snow complimented by on-again off-again temperatures in the thirties, magnified by the lack of sun, has done a number on my being.

While the little ones were talking about the finer points of Silver Mist's winter wonderland powers and Tinker Bell's Pixie Hollow, I heard my daughter's friend say, "Kate...look at your mom.  I think she's taking a nap." 

With a big smile on my eyes-closed face, I kept listening.

"Look at her hands, they've got lots of veins in them, " Kate observed.  "That's because she's old."

And then, I started laughing on the inside.  My birthday is in a week and a half.  I'll turn 38.  I've got veiny hands and wrinkles around my eyes.  Stretch marks adorn parts of my belly.  And I've got more gray hair than anyone will every know. 

But on a day like today when the temperature is 67 degrees, the sun is bright, the sky is blue, and the air is ripe with life...I say, thank God for spring.  Thank God for me...all soon-to-be 38 years of me who just ran a half marathon last weekend and wasn't too worse for the wear.

I've been waiting for you spring, birth season of mine...thank you for making your grand entrance today.  I really needed it.


Monday, March 25, 2013

The Power of Sacrifice

Sometimes, I'm good at it and sometimes, I'm not.

Right now, I'm shoveling peanut butter M&M's into my mouth like a crack fiend...so, you could say that my will power is limited.  Thank God, I didn't give up chocolate for Lent.

But other times, and particularly when I'm quiet with myself, I feel the power of sacrificial choices I've made in my life.  Decisions to take the harder path or the road less traveled.

And what I've learned, even when it's painful, is that ultimately, it's good to do without. 

It's important to let go of those things that move me away from that which is most important....my faith, my family, my health, my inner most passions.

And yet, it's not easy.

I like to eat.  I like to spend money.  I like to long for days past.  I like to be lazy.  I like to procrastinate.  I like to talk...alot...and many times, waste time not taking action.

And so it really is with bated breath, that I weigh the concept of whether true happiness emerges with the recognition that you have only one life and it is meant to be lived fully by diving in, throwing caution to the wind, doing what your heart screams...or whether, it's best to feel the desire, spend time with it, assess it, and then act or not depending upon your evaluation.

My hunch is that it's a combination of both.

The challenging part is to know when to say no and to simply do without.

Sacrificial teachings are powerful.  They tend to stay with us longer than the impulsive gulping of what we want, when we want.

Which is why, I have to physically remove these M&M's from my hand...sometimes, I know I'm just not strong enough to say no.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Portrait of a Mother

We had been trying to get together for weeks to have coffee.

But you know how life goes.  The busyness of it all seems to get in the way.

So, after a coveted long run for me and crazy errand running for her, we finally connected. 

Me holding a cup of java and she holding a steaming cup of chamomile, we looked each other in the eyes.

Not that it matters much, but we look quite similar.  I was born when she was 23-years old and so, to me and I suppose to the world, she's always been a "young mother."  She also sounds like me...or maybe I should say that my voice mirrors hers, except she's more sugary than I am...if that's possible.

She and my father divorced when I was four years old and my brother was two-weeks old and so, for most of my growing up, she was a single mother.  Dropping out of college to marry my dad meant that when she was doing it on her own, she held down factory jobs doing assembly line work, usually working the "second shift," from 3-11pm...so, we didn't see a lot of her.

I remember that her hands were usually cracked and she was constantly tired.  It was tough to juggle putting food on the table and keeping reliable babysitters for me and my brother, but she did it.  Not perfectly by any stretch, but she did it.

Sitting across from her now, me at the age of 37 and she at the age of 60, I was enamored.

My mother is an incredible woman. 

And as I looked, really looked at her it became more clear why.  Throughout all of the suffering, the failed loves, the disappointments, and the doubts....she is a survivor and not just a shadow walking the earth waiting for something better.

When you look into her eyes, she greets you with joy.  Her eyes shine and her heart says, "I'm here for you."  And she is beautiful and loving not just to me, but to all who have the opportunity to cross her path.

And so, when she pulled out her will and testiment papers and said, "I'm just doing this so that someday, you and your brother and sisters won't have to be burdened," I started to tear up inside.  And I wanted to say, "Now, that I'm old enough to finally appreciate you....please live for a very long time, so that we can have many, many more of these coffee chats.  I love seeing you, finally, maybe for the first time."

But I didn't.  Instead, I assured her that she'd be here for many moons to come and that I wanted her wedding ring.  We both laughed.  Smiled.  Paused.  And knew somewhere deep in our hearts that the relationship between a mother and a daughter is like none other....it just sometimes takes years to embrace it.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fly the Coop

I was making his bed.

My son, Sam is 8-years old and by all accounts old enough to be making his own bed...but I do it, every morning.

Mostly, because I'm a control freak and like the way the bed looks when I do it and also because the little bit of time we have before getting out the door for school doesn't seem to merit it.

But the other day, I was up on his bunk bed (he inhabits the top) and he was laying on the floor lamenting getting out of his pj's and into clothes for the day.

"You know when you go to college, you'll have to make your own bed.  You want to keep a clean space for your roommate.  And who knows?  Maybe your best friend will end up going off to college with you."

"I'm not going away to college," he says matter-of-factly.

"Going away is a blast.  Both papa and I did and had so much fun.  You get to meet new people, see new things, and have really cool experiences."

"Nope. I'm staying right here."

While biting my tongue, I let it go.  All of it.  My desire to scream at the top of my lungs that going away to college is so important.  That traveling abroad, studying another culture, language, and religion changes you in a way that is almost indescribable.  Getting outside of your comfort zone and having to clean up your own messes literally and figuratively is transformational.

But in that moment, my 8-year old just wanted the creature comforts of home and I get that.  But sooner, rather than later, I pray that he sees the power and benefit of leaving the nest.  Not simply to inhabit one that is a short car ride away, but one that is many moons away that requires time, effort  and money to get to.

After sharing this dialogue with my husband, he retorted with..."You know, he might just want different things out of life. And that's okay."

To which I thought, want different things out of life?  How can you know what you want out of life until you go and explore what the world has to offer?  How can you know who you are in your own skin until you're stretched farther and thinner than you thought possible?

Nope.  I think I'll draw a line in the sand with my three kiddos.  They'll be required to go away and do something for at least a year.  And then, if they miss Omaha and the comforts of our home, well, then, we'll talk. 

Maybe I'm being a hard ass or maybe I'll be singing a different tune when they're in high school and want nothing to do with me...but I feel that I'd be remiss if I didn't encourage them to fly the coop.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

A Chance Shit Encounter at Target

Admittedly, I was tired.

And spent and probably stretched a little thin.

And well, having it out with a random person in the check out line at Target is maybe not the most productive way to spend a morning,

But damn it.  When did people think that it was okay to get in your business?

"She's really cute.  She looks just like you."

"Aw, thank you.  She's our third and definitely the feistiest one of the bunch." Cue in Claire throwing shit from the cart onto the conveyor belt, including a dozen eggs.

"You stay home with them?"  She says dressed to the nines holding a box of tampons and a pack of gum.

"I do. Do you see any syrup or chocolate milk on me?  I usually can't escape the house without wearing some part of their meal."  I say laughing as the cashier greets me.

"No, you look like you just came back from the gym.  That must be nice to do that during the day."

Feeling a little put off, "Nope.  I head out at 5am for a run and get back before the cows come home. Just rarely get a chance to change."

"Yeah...my friend stays at home with hers.  I always tell her that it must be a sweet deal to not have to get out of your sweat pants and have permission to eat the kids' macaroni and cheese."  She retorts chuckling.

Yeah...it's fucking Disneyland.  Every. Minute.  God damn roller coaster ride of joy....I think and then blurt out, "That's funny.  I was just gonna compliment you on your shoes.  I was thinking of getting a pair similar to them, but then we sliced our income in half."

I have no idea why certain comments send me into a tail spin.  Whether you work outside of the home, inside, both, or not at all....the whole life deal with kids is a crazy ass roller coaster ride. 

When you're wearing a suit, you just want to wear yoga pants. And when you're wearing sweats, you yearn to dress up.  When you see your kids at the end of the day, you wish you could watch movies in your pjs and hang out all the time.  When you spend hour after hour with them, you just want a break.

The times I feel most put off are when I'm tired.  When I'm wiped.  And I should just know better.  Plus, if she's holding a box of tampons and expecting a visit...she probably should have known better too.


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Any Road'll Take You There

Recently, I read a quote by lead guitarist of the Beatles, George Harrison and it just clicked.

"If you don't know where you're going, any road'll take you there."

This is a mantra that we could all stand to heed.

Why?  Because if we're honest, we recognize that most days, we're just trying to do the best with what we've been given and where we find ourselves.

The challenge comes when we feel the itch to shift the trajectory of the future and we want something more, something different or something far less complicated than the station we're living in.

All of these realizations are a good thing.  Honing, refining, choosing actively to engage in life is what it's about.  The problem seems to be when we don't know where to leap next or how to make the shift....and we're left feeling stagnant, exhausted, withdrawn, depleted.

And so as George Harrison so aptly says, wherever you find yourself now is the right road and wherever you move next will get you to where you need to go.  The only clause should be...

If...

You open your eyes.  Speak the truth.  Be honest with your desires.  Hold true to your principles.  And include the ones you love in your choices.

Life is for the living.  Nothing is permanent.  Everything is fixable.  There really are few mistakes. 

Just trust that in this moment, your feet are planted firmly on this part of the path, until your heart and your truth tells you that it's time to turn.

You'll know when.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

'House of Cards' Addict

Are you a Netflix subscriber?

A Kevin Spacey lover?

A political drama junkie?

A voyeur of human behavior?

An appreciator of the side monologue?

If you've answered in the affirmative to the above aforementioned questions, your ass needs to grab a beer or a glass of wine, a good friend, your remote and 40 minutes of time....time, well spent.

"House of Cards" is an American political drama series adapted from a previous BBC miniseries of the same name.  Kevin Spacey serves as Frank Underwood, a democratic congressman from South Carolina and the House Majority Whip.  After being passed up as the next Secretary of State in the new administration, he is determined to exact out his revenge on all of the political players in his sphere of influence.

Spacey is married to Robin Wright who plays the lovely and brilliant Claire Underwood, an executive director for a not for profit organization focused on clean water rights.  And Kate Mara plays an incredibly ambitious and seductive reporter, Zoe Barnes who brokers a deal with Spacey to get inside information to write cutting edge stories for print.

Netflix won the bid to distribute the series and signed on to produce two seasons or 26 episodes.  On February 1, 2013, they released the first season and in the first two weeks, the series has been the most watched on Netflix to date.

And why is that?  Because the acting is brilliant.  David Fincher, a fucking rockstar genius of a director grabbed the number one picks for each of the characters and made them come to life.

AND...because all of the first season is available at once in multiple episode form.

The formatting is what makes the series perfect.  People can watch it when they want to without interruptions and feel like they're getting a substantial experience.

They're now in the process of filming season two which makes me giddy as I type this.  I've been spoon feeding myself with an episode a night.  Much like chocolate, wine, a good orgasm....it's so worth it.

Do yourself a favor and take a peak...