Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Holy Grail of Girl Friendships

I felt badly when she called.

I was really busy.

Right in the middle of the chaos that is my life.

But I told her that it wasn't a bad time and that of course, I could talk.

I waved my hands toward my 3-year old as if to kindly, silently, and with pseudo-American sign language say..."Mommy's on the phone..go away."

But she wouldn't go away.  She whined for chocolate milk, apples, cheetohs, a show on Netflix, me to play a game with her.

I locked myself in the bathroom and tried to decipher what my friend had been saying for the last minute and a half.

"Whoa...wait a minute, back up, he what?"  "Oh God."  "That's what I thought you said."

Let me begin by saying that there's nothing worse than having a good friend who is hurting and lives far away.  There was a time in my life when I could have hopped a plane, but today is not that day.  My money is counted for and my children and husband would be left high and dry.

So, in light of that, let me also say that Hell has no fury than a best friend who's hands are tied and wants desperately to help.  In a nutshell, her husband was being an asshole and I'd had enough.

"Listen, you tell that  good for nothing, shit for brains, mother fucker that I will get on a plane and annihilate him."  Which of course, we both know is not true, but we both feel better that we said it.

And then, for the next 30-minutes, we talked it all out.  She cried.  I screamed.  We walked through all of the scenarios.  And, at the end, we were both exhausted, and extremely grateful for one another.

Because if you're a guy reading this, let me tell you something about female friendships...they're really like the Holy Grail...once you find and cultivate them, it would take a nuclear war to disassemble them.  They're powerful.  They're beyond reliable.  They're different than the spousal partnership.  There are things you tell your girls.  There are bonds you forge.  There are ways that you show up in the darkest of days and in the brightest of moments that let's your girlfriend know that you will always be there for her...come Hell or high water.

And so, that afternoon, I got off the phone and felt good.  I showed up.  Albeit, in the bathroom...but I was there as I know she will be for me, sometime soon.

Monday, September 29, 2014

To Delight in e.e.cummings

This morning, my older children were home from school.

They had a teacher in-service day and their 3-year old baby sister had preschool.

It was rare and wonderful.

We headed to the bookstore and after researching the Golden Sower books that Sam wanted to read, I stumbled upon a book of poetry and shared one of my favorite poems by e.e.cummings.

anyone lived in a pretty how town

anyone lived in a pretty how town
(with up so floating many bells down)
spring summer autumn winter
he sang his didn’t he danced his did

Women and men(both little and small)
cared for anyone not at all
they sowed their isn’t they reaped their same
sun moon stars rain

children guessed(but only a few
and down they forgot as up they grew
autumn winter spring summer)
that noone loved him more by more

when by now and tree by leaf
she laughed his joy she cried his grief
bird by snow and stir by still
anyone’s any was all to her

someones married their everyones
laughed their cryings and did their dance
(sleep wake hope and then)they
said their nevers they slept their dream

stars rain sun moon
(and only the snow can begin to explain
how children are apt to forget to remember
with up so floating many bells down)

one day anyone died i guess
(and noone stooped to kiss his face)
busy folk buried them side by side
little by little and was by was

all by all and deep by deep
and more by more they dream their sleep
noone and anyone earth by april
wish by spirit and if by yes.

Women and men(both dong and ding)
summer autumn winter spring
reaped their sowing and went their came
sun moon stars rain
They were a bit confused.  My 7-year old, Kate said, "That doesn't make any sense. But it does rhyme."
And then, we talked about how poetry can rhyme, but it doesn't have to.  It can sound garbled or backwards or nonsensical, sometimes like song lyrics.  But it can also touch your heart, move your soul, and help you to see the world in a new way, especially if you're open to the way it's written.
To that end, they directed me to Shel Silverstein and said, "Try this one on. It's better."
Hug O'War
from the book "Where the Sidewalk Ends" (1974)

I will not play at tug o' war.
I'd rather play at hug o' war,
Where everyone hugs
Instead of tugs,
Where everyone giggles
And rolls on the rug,
Where everyone kisses,
And everyone grins,
And everyone cuddles,
And everyone wins.

 I agreed and said, I adore Shel Silverstein.

And then asked, how about Pablo Neruda?  Take for example,

"Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,'The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.'

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too..."

To which they said, "Naw...how about Dr. Seuss?"

The Cat in the Hat

Then our mother came in
And she said to us two,
“Did you have any fun?
Tell me. What did you do?”
And Sally and I did not
know what to say.
Should we tell her
The things that went on
there that day?
Well... what would YOU do
If your mother asked you?

It was a lot of fun and ultimately, all three of us realized that poems have different meanings at different stages, seasons, and times in our lives.  I encouraged the two of them to start writing their own poetry and to watch it change and transform as they change and get older.  To which Sam replied, "I think I have enough on my plate."

Alrighty then...it was worth a try.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's About the Intention

I'm such a creature of habit.

I tend to wake up at the same time, run through the same morning routine, buy similar grocery items, wear clothes I feel comfortable in, listen to the music that I know will put me in that mood, lean toward certain figures of speech, and in general, weave in and out of known circles of life.

So, it was frustrating when I woke up this Sunday morning and instead of grabbing a hot cup of coffee and my New York Times, I knew that I had to tackle 12 miles because I'd put it off the day before.

My next race is two weeks away and already I can feel butterflies.

The first six miles were phenomenal.  The music was pounding.  The breeze was blowing.  My running skirt was happily taking me along my route and I was that girl that smiled at every passer byer.

And then, the shade magically went away.  The sun started pelting down on my back and my legs felt heavy.

No, no, no.

Grabbing a quick sip of water, I remembered a quote from an interview with one of my, okay, probably my favorite artist, Sara Bareilles on the release of her latest album, "The Blessed Unrest."

The journalist was hammering her about contradictions in the break-up songs versus the up-lifting ones of optimism and hope asking if she was embarrassed about sharing such a personal, autobiographical composition that felt a bit schizophrenic.  To which she beautifully and brilliantly replied, "Aren't we all a little schizophrenic? Our lives are consumed in the ups and the downs the wants and the needs the knowing and the not-knowing.  It's not about the outcome.  It's really only about the intention."

God damn it.  That is it.

If I never run as fast as I think I'm capable.  If I never publish a piece of literature.  If I never graduate to a mini-van or a big girl car.  If I struggle with who I am and who I am not.  In the end, the only thing that matters...that I should care about as my head hits the pillow...is if I tried.

And today, I ran 12 miles.  Some of them were really good.  Others were not.  Some had me hopeful.  Some had me praying for a bench or my bed.  But all of them added up to 12.

It doesn't matter where we land...it just matters that we set out with the intention to get there.  A heart, a mind, a will that wants "it" trusting that the "it" will disclose itself in due time.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Perfect Fall Day...Kinda

There's really nothing better than waking up knowing that you have nothing you have to do on a Saturday.

I decided to sleep in and postpone my long run until tomorrow.

My husband offered to take our oldest to get his haircut and watch his flag football game, so that I could have some fun one-on-one time with the girls.

We made an instant beeline for the park.  Claire brought her American girl doll.  Kate grabbed her scooter.  I packed the granola bars and water bottles and before we knew it, we were on our way.

And it was glorious.

The leaves were falling in all of their yellows, oranges, reds and greens from the trees.  The girls were singing "A, B, C's." The breeze was blowing.  And every fiber of my being felt rejuvenated.  I love autumn.

Immediately, the girls ran for the slides.

And then the swings...

And then the exercise thing-a-muh-jigs...

And while we were being silly and having fun, there was another boy goofing around as well.  All was on the up and up, until his dad said to him, "Are you being a little flirt with those cutie pie girls? I don't blame you, buddy."  WTF....are you kidding me right now?  Put off, I turned the other direction, until the little boy threw sand at Kate and she whipped around and said, "Knock it off or I'll cut you!!"  WHAT?? Did my daughter just say that?  And then she turned back and said, "I'm just kidding."  The dad turned with his son and headed toward another part of the playground.  Sweet Jesus.

Back to the swings we go...I've got both girls going as high as they can with their tippie toes reaching for the tree tops when Kate shouts out, "Wow!  That makes my vagina tingle."  Holy Mary Mother of God.  To which Claire replies, "Mine too!  Vagina tickles...Vagina tickles."  And now, they're saying it in unison and I am mortified.  Why did I insist that the children learn the anatomically correct names of their body parts?  We should have just called it a Daisy.

As I convince them to leave the park and head for a nice long stroll through the golf course, we make a pit stop at the bleachers.

The girls climb up and down the stairs squealing and singing swishing water in their mouths and then spitting it into the dirt.  And then yes, they stumble upon a condom wrapper.  Thankfully, there was no actual condom inside or around the premises. Kill me now.

Deciding that we might just do better to start making the trek home, we decide to go on a treasure hunt for leaves, acorns, pine cones, and twigs to make a collage at home.

On my favorite bridge, the mail lady graciously agrees to snap a picture of us to remind me that it's always an adventure being a mama.

Happy Fall Day...Kinda.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Hail to the Shitty First Draft

It's freeing the first time you do something.

It doesn't have to be the first time ever.

It could be the first time for that day.

Like, the first run of the morning...the first report writing of the day at the office...the first thing you tell yourself as your feet travel from the bed to the floor....the first words out of your mouth to another.

It's freeing because there's no expectation.  It doesn't have to be perfect.  It doesn't have to be tidy.  It just has to be.

I write much like I live...scattered, chaotic, neurotic, a bit like a caged animal full of lots to share with the world but mired by the inability to find the perfect way out of my own prison walls.

And so the other day I told myself, you've got to get something down on paper.

This essay isn't going to write itself.

No one has to see it or ever read it.

Let it be awful.

In fact, will it, work hard to make it clicheish, cheese dicky, run-ony, ridiculously over the top, in short...absolutely horrible.

The gift of telling myself that the first draft would be abysmal made the writing process more alive, fluid, and fun than I could have ever imagined.

And now, I have the ultimate shitty first draft.  And, hands down, it's a beaut.  A real piece of shit.

But, it's more than I had yesterday.

And, it's a starting point...there's actual content to edit.  Hallelujah!  I get to be both an author and an editor!

I decided that the metaphor of the shitty first draft is a perfect one for the way I should be living my life.  Because the other way isn't working very well.  It's suffocating and exhausting to be worried about it always looking good.  It's stifling and really no fun at all to be consumed by getting it right.

It's exhilarating to presume that you'll most likely get it wrong but that simultaneously, the sun will come up tomorrow and you'll be better for trying.

So, I say, "Hail to the Shitty First Draft!"  Hail to running the slow and heavy mile.  Hail to letting the beds stay unmade and the dust bunnies collect.  Hail to knowing that you need to go to the store but choosing to take a walk while crunching the yellow leaves in your path.  Hail to letting yourself have the ugly cry when a disagreement with your child sent you into the depths of despair.  Hail to not mowing the lawn and being "that house" on the street.  Hail to Starbucks cups and Gatorade containers lining the bottom of your car. 

Hail to letting go of that that doesn't matter, so that you can make space for the pieces, places, and people who do.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Transformation Through the Eyes of a Caterpillar

I woke up and knew that we had to enjoy this day. 

A high of 82 degrees, full sunshine, a light breeze and well, the end of September.

We loaded up granola bars and water bottles into a backpack, grabbed your bike helmet and headed to the park.  It was a beautiful day and you were so happy to zoom up and down the streets and trails.

When we arrived, there was another little boy your age and the two of you had your run of the place.  It was perfect.  Swings, slides, sand, and lots of this song:

Down on the corner at the bakery shop
There were lots of little doughnuts with sugar on top
Along came Claire with a penny to pay
She took a pink doughnut
And she gave it away...

And then, out of nowhere, you and your new found friend discovered this:

 Honestly, I don't know if I've ever seen a caterpillar that big.

You were mesmerized.

The only one you've seen that large is in our Eric Carle "Very Hungry Caterpillar" book. You made mention of all of the pie, cheese, and fruit that this hefty guy must have consumed and wondered where his family was.

The mother of the little boy remarked that the caterpillar must be looking for the perfect spot to spin a cocoon.  And then, we talked about what it means to change into something different and why anyone would want to be something that they're not already.

It was hard to explain until later on our walk home, I showed you a Monarch.  Beautiful orange and black flying all around us.

I told you that the butterfly was once a caterpillar and that sometimes in life, in order to be different and most of the times, different in a better way, we have to change, so that we can try something new.

I'm not certain that you completely understood, but you said that you wanted to be a butterfly for Halloween because flying is really fun.

Our walk reminded me how amazing that nature is and that truly transformation happens all around us...and that maybe, instead of clinging to our current state, we can trust that we're destined for something loftier, lighter, newer, and ultimately, beautiful.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Ode to My Mother-In-Law

I have watched you my entire married life.

You are quiet, humble, patient, and the farthest thing from pretentious.

For all of your life, you have embodied what it means to be a survivor.

To rise up.

To not be mired in what is fair or unfair.

But to gracefully take life on it's terms and to make lemonade out of every hardship that has come your way.

You are not afraid to work.  To roll up your sleeves.  To get into the mud and the muck and to get the job the done.

And all of your hard work shows...in so many ways...but in two, in particular.

Your daughter and your son.

You have to be so proud.  For you have single-handedly raised two people who are changing the world, one smile, one kind act, one moment at a time.  And that is because of the foundation that you gave to them and the values that you imparted.

These past seven days have meant a great deal to me.  We shared coffee, meals, laughter, tears, my children, your grandchildren, memories, stories, hopes, disappointments, lessons, doubts, and ultimately, forged a deeper bond that says:  I know what you're going through.  I've been there.  I love you.  And you're not alone.

When the love of your life passed away this summer, I thought that the world would end.  But in true form, you quietly picked up the pieces, wiped away the tears and began to live life...because you knew deep in your heart that he would want you to.

And once again, I stood in admiration seeing a woman who is strong, who is brave, who chooses to embrace love instead of fear and who come what may, keeps putting one foot in front of the other with a smile on her face.

I love you.  I am grateful for you. And my children are extraordinarily blessed to have you as their Grandma Bonnie.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Not On My Watch

When my alarm went off this morning at 6:30am, it was 72 degrees and humid after a hard night's rain.

I absolutely did not want to go.

My body was worn out and I'm a shitty runner in the heat and humidity.  My ideal run temperature is 40 degrees in a tank and shorts.  I love feeling chilled when I start, so that as the sweat pours, I'm never really hot or drained.

Despite how I felt, I laced up my shoes and headed out.  A mile and a half into the ordeal, I found myself running by the park watching a girl's highschool track team do pyramid hill sprints.  They were phenomenal.

The fastest girls charged the hill like it was nothing but a thing making it look effortless and easy.  The bulk of the girls wove up the hill consistently gaining speed and eventually claiming victory at the top.

But it was the lone girl in the back with the bright pink shorts and the ponytail that caught my attention.  The gap was growing larger and larger between her and the pack and it was clear that she was struggling and probably thinking, "What's the point?  They're so much faster.  Why am I even doing this?"

And so, like the former cheerleader/middle-aged stay-at-home mama/runner/underdog rooter that I am, I started screaming, "GO GO GO GO GO!!!!" on Dodge street (which is a busy, main thoroughfare in my community) until she made it up.  I quickly ran away realizing that it's probably embarrassing as shit to be a high school girl with some random crazy lady cheering you on in front of your classmates.

But for a brief bit, as I was running away, I felt good....and I hope that she did too.  She didn't give up.  She triumphed.

6.8 miles into my own run, I was dying...the clouds parted, the sun was beaming down upon my head, back and shoulders and I was running into a wall of humidity.  Even with my music cranked, ice water on my back, and lots of mantras floating through my head, I slowed to a walk, which I never do on my long runs.

And then, all of a sudden, I just thought, "Not on my watch....not today...not because you're tired...not because you don't want to....not because of your excuses....You are doing this.  You are running 10 miles.  You can do this and you will."

And I did.  Truth be told, I wish I had a crazy lady like me cheering me on...but I became my own cheerleader and made my through.

It is because of runs like today that I love running.  It shows me who I am and what I'm willing to do when my will out-wills my fear.  Sometimes, no matter how you feel or what the circumstance, you just have to keep on running.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

She Was So Beautiful

I remember that I wanted to be her, in every way.

Her beauty was remarkable. 

She didn't wear make-up or thick black eyeliner like the other girls did.

I don't even think she shaved her legs.

She wasn't into Guess jeans or Esprit or Swatch watches.

She played the violin.

She was really, really good at Algebra.

And she was nice...which, when you're 13 and you stumble upon a nice girl, well, that's a rarity.

And still, to this day, I remember her.  Because she talked to the cool kids and the nerds and the cheerleaders and the band geeks and the kids who smoked and the ones who never dreamed of it and she didn't care who you were...she'd sit next to anyone at the lunch table.

So, I started paying attention at the dinner table while my middle child, my second-grader, Kate was talking about the girls in her class.  I was mindful that these are girls that she'll be in school with from now through the eighth grade...so, for another 7 years.

And I think, although, I'm not positive, I think she might be the "nice girl" that I remember from junior high.  She talks about sitting next to lots of different girls and boys at lunch.  She makes mention of those kids who are alone at recess and counts herself in the bunch from time to time.  She's aware of the kids who treat others poorly and she says that it hurts her heart.  I'm bias as every mama is, but I think she has a natural beauty that shines through from the instant that you meet her.  And I'm aware, that she's not aware of her beauty or her intelligence, which makes her even more loveable.

If there's anything that I want for my children, it's a heart that is kind, compassionate, and giving to the world.  And, I'm not sure that's something that can be taught.  I think it can be modeled, but there's no manual for really pouring the love of your being into the world. 

And when you've felt the authentic kindness of another person, you really never forget them.  For me it was a beautiful middle school girl...who knows who it will be for my little ones?  I just hope that they can be light and love along the way to others.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Do The Work

I've been pouring myself over and into this amazing book that my dear friend shared, "Bird by Bird...Some Instructions on Writing and Life," by the absolutely brilliant Anne Lamott.

I think she knew that I needed some self assurance, a kick in the pants, and some good old fashioned inspiration.

And so last night, in the wee hours, I read this and it clicked:

"Fantasy won't get you in. Almost every single thing you hope publication will do for you is a hologram.  What is real is that if you do your scales every day, if you slowly try harder and harder pieces, if you listen to great musicians play music you love, you'll get better.  But you will have countless, defeated hours of uninspired boredom.  And you will rock and sway and become paranoid, frenzied, angry, beyond unsure...why won't the words come?  But you will show up every day at the same time, in the same place, and you will do the work."

Brilliant.  Completely obvious.  Fucking brilliant.

This is the truth about everything that has ever worked in my life.  If I want it and I want to do well and to experience the greatest sweetness in it, I must show up, day after day, moment after moment and try.

It's insane to me how it's all connected...marriage, parenthood, friendships, careers, running, writing...everything. 

There are so few moments in life when everything you want aligns without you putting in substantial elbow grease to get there.  And the only way to get there is to practice day in and day out as if you are.

I remember when I started running, I felt like a fool...a bonafide idiot...I could barely make it around the block, huffing and puffing, cursing why I ever thought I could do this.  And then, one block turned into two, turned into a 5K, a 10K, a half marathon and then a full marathon.  And almost every Saturday morning when I head out for a long-run, I don't want to go.  I feel anxious.  I get scared.  What if I can't do the mileage?  Is today the day that I'll get injured again?  And with all of the doubt and fear, I still lace up my shoes and I'm always happy that I did.

And now, I'm practicing this concept with writing.  And it's hard.  And I feel like a fraud.  And most days, it's a joke and I can't come up with anything decent and I wonder why is this important to me?  Why do I feel compelled to share any of it with the world? 

But despite my own fear, I keep showing up with my keyboard, my hope, my cup of coffee and my ideas.

When the going gets tough and it always, always does...the only sure fire thing I know, is that you have to be willing, even when it hurts, doesn't make sense or feels futile...to show up and to do the work.  The world needs everyone of us.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

My Favorite Child


Out of your brood, do you have a favorite kid?

You know, one that's a little easier, a little more well-behaved, more manageable?  One that you don't worry about dropping off at a friend's house, because you know the feedback will be good.  One that you love just a little more than the others...

Before you get all up in arms, gasp and proclaim, "I love all of my children for their differing gifts and talents.  Each one of them brings something unique to the family.  God gave them to us for a reason, even if they're a handful right now.  I could never have a favorite."

Let's just stop right there.  We all know that those PC remarks are true, but at the end of the day, you know that deep inside your heart, you retort, "Thank the Lord for my sweet, little, fill in the blank."

When I found out that I was pregnant with my first child and expecting a boy, I was elated.  They say that there's a special bond between a mother and her son.  And so, I looked forward to lots of snuggles and special mommy and Sam time and ways that we would connect that no one else could possibly understand.

That didn't happen.  Instead, my husband ended up forming this unbreakable, unbelievably beautiful bond with his son that to this day is magical to watch in action.  They are two peas and have a connection that only the two of them get.

To be fair, Sam and I have a pretty fantastic relationship.  We love and respect each other, but it comes at a price...it's not effortless like that of he and his dad.

We push each other's buttons.  We ruffle tail feathers.  We piss each other off.  We give each other the silent treatment and every now and again, we exchange words.

And so it was this morning, that we got into another disagreement about what is acceptable to do before leaving the house for school.  He always wants to watch a show and I am opposed to screen time before the day really begins.

Back and forth we haggled until I laid down the, "I'm the mom," card and it ended with him being sad on the way to school.

He is incredibly bright, very driven, off-the-charts stubborn, determined, and well, a first born to the tee.  And, so am I.  And so, there's no question that we're more alike than we are different and we're both vying at any given time to be the Alpha in the house.

Where as, my middle child, Kate and my youngest daughter, Claire could give a rats ass.  Kate lives to please and Claire lives to party.  They both know to get out of the way when shit is going down in the house.

So, do I have a favorite child?  I suppose, not really...but damn, it's hard, especially when you're dealing with a little one who knows how to get under your skin like none other.

I have told him that if it gets really bad, I'm not afraid to sell him.  I could make a mint on Craig's List and mama needs a new pair of shoes.

Oh happy parenting.

Monday, September 15, 2014

What It Means to be Happy

Do you know those people who greet the world positively all the time?

And really no matter the circumstance, they find themselves defaulting into a natural state of joy believing that everything, in the end, will all be okay.

I envy the shit out of those folks.

My mom and husband epitomize this genetic mystery to a tee.

The house could be burning down around my mother and she would trust that there was a way out and a reason why it was happening as the fire fighters were pulling her out of the wreckage.  And then, she would bake them goodies and send them Christmas cards for the rest of her life.

My husband does not worry.  He really doesn't know how to do it.  He's extraordinarily laid back and spends more time in the moment than in the past or the future.  And seems to trust that given enough time, it will all work out, because it always has.

And I have to tell you, they're both seemingly very happy people.

I would not categorize myself as a laid back, collected anything.

I am an impulsive, compulsive, neurotic, OCD person who is constantly straddling the past, present and future...and subsequently, I can find myself exhausted, and not particularly joy-filled.

Oh don't get me wrong.  It's not all bad.  My neurotic nature allows me to accomplish a lot.  I've been able to thrive academically, professionally, and physically at the goals I put forward...but that's because once I decide that it will happen, it will.

But most happy people that I know aren't consumed by their achievements or their fancy schmancy resumes.  They are engaged fully and holistically in their experiences and the people they share them with.

And that's the place that I want to get to.

The problem is you can't strive to be happy.  It's not a 5-year strategic plan.  It just is.  You either are or you're not.  And I suppose the key is to try to figure it out without alienating the people around who are living their happy lives.

I recently asked my mom when she stopped caring about what the world thought of her and if she thought my 40's would be a break out time for owning me in all of the good, non-clingy ways. 

She told me that the times she's been the most joy filled in her life are when she's allowed herself to truly be herself and that she had more time to start doing that in her 40's, but that each decade has just gotten sweeter.

And ultimately, that the other key to happiness is to remember that it's always there for the taking...most of the time, unknowingly, we strong arm it with our own complicated stuff instead of simply embracing it even if it doesn't resemble what we thought it would.

Those moms, they always seem to know.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Broken Light Fixture and Heart

Beat up from the feet up.

It has been a day.

A good one in so many respects, but as I've crawled into bed with a cup of tea and my computer, I'm mindful of the exhaustion.

One of the few benefits of living in an older home is that the architecture lends itself to an extraordinary amount of character and a unique living experience.  It also lends itself to plumbing problems, one car garages, minimal closet spaces, and lack of storage...but the crown molding, hard wood floors, arch ways, vintage light fixtures, and stained glass windows make up for it.

And so it was after mass today, my three wild and crazy kiddos were running like beasts in and out of bedrooms having Nerf gun wars, tag team ambushes and a fantastic time getting their yayas out.  I was making grilled cheese preparing to take the girls to a birthday party and out of the blue, my husband and I heard a huge crash and then a quick scampering of feet and then a deafening silence.

And then, my husband yelled out, "Oh my god."

To which I went into the girls' room and saw my favorite vintage green light fixture in shards shattered all over their room...in their desks, their pillows, their windowsills, their dolls, their shoes, everywhere.


I didn't scream, stomp my feet, throw a fit or ground anyone.

Instead, I turned to my children and said, "You broke my heart."

I know, I'm a heartless bitch.

They all converged on my son, Sam's room, closed the door and started talking in hushed tones while I finished chopping vegetables.  Instantly, I knew my response was wrong.  A light fixture is a thing and given how high it fell and how much glass dispersed, we're insanely lucky that no one was really hurt.  It could have been a bad deal.

So, when they headed to the dining room table, I gave them the speech that I swear to God my mom gave me and my siblings many moons ago.  "I'm really sorry for my reaction.  I know it was just an accident.  But mommy has such few nice things that it's really painful to see it go with something we've talked about before.  Rough housing belongs outside."

Long after the glass had been cleaned and we started to prepare for the new week, I was still beating myself up.

If you tell someone, particularly, the people you love the most that they've broken your heart, you better mean it and for good reason.

This was not one of those times.  Lesson learned.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Wishes of the Dead

I don't know about you, but I love my extended family.

At the heart of gatherings with my parents, siblings, their spouses and kids, my aunt and uncle is a shit ton of laughter.

Since the time I was little and vying for a spot at the head table with the big people, I have learned the art of humor from the masters in my family.  Their stories and punch line deliveries will make you pee yourself to the point that you won't even care because you can't remember when you've laughed that hard for that long.

So, after an amazing 10-mile gorgeous run this morning, I took a fast shower and jetted to spend time with my peeps.  We were gathering to celebrate my baby sister's 26th birthday and everyone seemed to be in rare form.

For reasons that still allude me, we started talking about our dying wishes...like, do you want to be buried or cremated?  In a cemetery or a mausoleum?  Do you want an open casket or your ashes scattered?  Is a funeral for the living or for the dead?

And in true to form style, before the dialogue could get too serious, my uncle throws out there:

"Well, I'm telling you what.  I'm gonna be cremated with my ashes scattered at the God damn Hy-Vee store down the street...that way, I have a fighting chance of seeing my wife at least once a week."

To which my aunt retorts, "You know...every state has rules about whether it's legal to scatter your ashes.  So, for example, in Nebraska...you can't just throw your soot out there."

And then, my mom says, "Well, ya know, when your grandparents passed away, we spent a small fortune on their funerals.  Making sure that they had a nice ceremony, beautiful caskets, a family meal following.  I feel badly for my friend, Michelle.  When her mom up and bit it from cancer, she didn't have a lot of money and didn't know what to do.  The funeral home told her that her only option was to donate her body to science.  Good Lord, isn't that a pisser.  I mean.  I'm still half and half on the open casket deal...can you imagine being a cadaver in a classroom...naked in front of all of those people you don't know?"

At that point, I peed myself.

I told her to shape up and increase my portion of the will, or she'd find herself at Creighton in front of those medical student schmoes.

To which my uncle chimed in with, "Well, I get why they've got rules and regulations on where you can scatter yourself.  Remember Auntie Mac?  Yah, you know the one who explosively shit all over herself and the bathroom the Thanksgiving before she passed?  Well, she came back from the grave to fuck those people who scattered her ashes.  Literally.  A nice head wind rolled up right when they opened up the urn and then and there Auntie Mac blinded those fuckers in the face with her ashes.  Crazy shit.  That's why Hy-Vee's a safe bet...you know by the salad bar.  It's all contained."

And at that point, I had to hobble my way to the bathroom and ask to borrow a pull-up from one of the parents of the little kids...because someone else belted out a story they heard about a waitress who couldn't remember where the napkins were because she'd had her brains fucked out the night before.

The only way the conversation eventually ends is when the host kicks us out.  My stomach still hurts and my mascara has officially slid down my face.  The beauty of family laughter.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Opening Lines

"They say in every lifetime, you take at least one secret to the grave." 

"And in that moment, it all made sense.  She had been there all along."

"It started out exactly as I had expected and ended poorly, really poorly."

"I'm not impressed by much...but this time, my God."

These are samples of the opening lines that I'm trying on for my first short story throw-down with my really good friend from undergrad.

He's a fantastic writer.  Always has been.  He was the trained one.  I was just the struggling Philosophy major who dabbled in the written word.  He read all of the classics.  Understood method, technique, theory, and spent the time to get into the hearts of the really good pieces of literature.

And so, last week, he challenged me...well, to be fair, I told him that I would be the first of the two of us to write the great American novel...and he said, bring it.

We're under the gun to write a piece of fiction or non-fiction in a short story essay format by the end of next month...which seems like a shit ton of time, but it's really not.  We're both parents with varying degrees of craziness in our lives and so, the fact that we're taking it on seriously, gives me hope that writing may be a permanent part of me and more than just a passing fancy.

The one and only rule is that we're doing this to get better.  And so, when it comes time to critique, we have to be brutally honest and real with the other writer.

To which I think...great.  I'm more like "The Fault in Our Stars" and he's more like Ray Bradbury or Stephen King and well, the genres and styles will definitely be interesting.

Here's to getting better and putting ourselves out there even when there's no guarantee for anything other than showing up to the gauntlet.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

911 & YLO

I was 26 years old.

Working at the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce directing a high school leadership development program and working hard on my master's degree in Conflict Resolution.

I organized a selection committee meeting at 7am that morning to determine who would be admitted into the current class and traveled from the board room to the break room to refresh our pot of coffee.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the television.

It was shortly after 9am and Matt Lauer and Katie Couric were broadcasting the first plane crashing into the World Trade Center Tower.

I remember vividly that I dropped my coffee mug in the sink.

I'd never seen anything like that in my life, not in the United States, not in New York City.

Immediately, I thought about my friends on the east coast, and then my parents, my brothers and sisters.  My God, what's happening?

And then, not long after that, a second plane hit and rumors of yet more planes at the Pentagon and a field...people screaming and jumping from burning buildings, rescue, emergency personnel rushing to the scene, losing their lives, hundreds fleeing the streets with ash, dust, soot, blood, tears and horror emblazoned on their faces, family members desperately trying to contact one another, and then later, posters of the missing wrapped around the city, vigils held to honor those who's lives were lost, lines and lines of people desperate to help waiting to donate their blood or provide their healthcare expertise, memorial concerts, everyone glued to their screens, pacing, waiting for more news, greater details, who did this?  How could this happen?

And in the end, a country of people united with a resolve to not let this horrifying tragedy diminish the spirit, the connection, the strength of what it means to be an American.

Since that time, I thought it apropos that my job was to direct a program called, "Youth Leadership Omaha," that brought together 40 high school students of diverse faiths, socio-economic backgrounds, sexual orientations, leadership skill sets, family origins, and to engage them in sharing their talents, hopes, dreams and skills with the community and each other.

Thirteen years later, I am Facebook friends with many graduates of that program and I stand humbled.  They are educators, social workers, doctoral candidates, actors, doctors, research scientists, attorneys, writers, ministers, parents, activists, and peace makers...and they are thriving. 

Personally, after receiving my master's degree in Conflict Resolution and mediating lots and lots of cases of difference, I find that the key to peace is choosing to be on the side that says, I'll never stop the dialogue until we find common ground.  We're more alike than we think.  Our purpose is to love.  And as long as there is breath, as long as there is a new generation, there is hope. 

And a resolve, to never forget.  To always be grateful for those who perished.  And to do our part to be peace makers in a world that needs it more than ever.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Showing Up is Half...

Lately, during my not-so grace filled moments, I find myself saying things like...

"I didn't sign up for this," or

"How did we find ourselves in this spot?," or some version of

"I'm done,"

"I've had it,"

"Enough is enough," or my children's personal favorite:

"Peace out,"  (with a modified bitches at the end of that phrase if I'm sans the kiddos).

And then, I feel deflated, frustrated, apathetic, angry, and almost always sad.  That's when I find my way back to hope and the belief that it can and it will be better...no matter what the situation whether it revolves around my children, my marriage, my finances, my jewelry business, my running, my writing, my constant mess of an abode, my incessant monotonous washing of the laundry, cleaning of the toilets, monitoring of the homework, or chauffeuring of the littles, you name it...it always gets better, or it doesn't, but I adjust my attitude and miraculously, it's okay.

When I was in college and my 20's, I remember thinking that when stress emerged, I could just curl into a ball, feel sorry for myself, withdraw and not engage.  It usually alleviated the pain temporarily, but invariably put me in a worse position as I had to apologize for my absence, make up my portion of the work, and figure out how to creatively begin again.

It's only been post having kids that I've realized that showing up is really more than half the battle.  And I mean showing up as you are...not perfectly, not prepared, not grateful, not motivated, and maybe only temporarily...but making a conscious choice to put the towels into the washing machine yet again or the dishes into the dishwasher or to meet a friend for a drink when you're beat up from the feet up or your husband in the bedroom when all you really want to do is sleep or winging at best your remarks in an office meeting.  Whatever it is, it's always better to show than to not.

At least that's what life's taught me...good things, in general, happen to those who leave the house.  Life happens when you make the decision to venture away from the sanctity of your comfort zone. You never know who else will choose to put on their big girl or big boy pants and meet you half way.  You never know what cool ideas may be cultivated or plans may emerge or who else you'll encounter that may look a little worse for the wear as well, but is choosing to make the effort too.

And so, when I stumbled upon this, I thought...even in my shittiest moments, it's always better to choose to try than to not.  Because really, at the end of the day, the world is begging you to come out and play...not the polished version of you, the real one.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Claire, The Ballerina

One of the benefits of having an older sister who is a bonafide ballerina is that when you're the little sister, you know exactly what you want to be when you grow up...

Or when you turn three...

Whichever comes first.

And thank goodness that this morning finally came, because you have literally been waiting your whole life for this day to arrive.

You laid out your skirt leotard two days prior and asked yesterday if it was tomorrow, because you just wanted 9:15am on Tuesday morning to be right now.

You insisted that we descend on the studio a solid 20 minutes early, so that we had enough time to prepare (essentially, take your shoes off and go potty) because this whole ballet business is very serious and really important.

And then, as the beautiful instructor approached, you and six other ballerinas entered the coveted room complete with a real live pianist, a ballet bar, scarves, and lots of mirrors.

You beamed so brightly, I thought you would burst...but the real joy came in watching as you lept across the room, arabesqued, pointed your toes, and courtsied in gratitude for your lesson.

Thirty minutes later, you came bounding into my arms and said, "That was just great, mama...I mean, really great."

And a little piece of my heart melted.  You're growing up.  Parts of your dreams are coming true.

And I suppose, as we both gain a little more freedom in our lives, we're both growing and learning to let go, so that new parts of our souls can emerge.

So thankful to be with you while you gained your twinkle toes.  There's nothing more sweet in the world.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A Walking Contradiction

I've always known that I'm a bit strange.  A hard nut to crack.

At the heart of my personality lies a people pleaser and an eminent rule-follower.  I like knowing what is expected and strive to exceed what people want or ask of me.

I'm a stickler for good behavior and impeccable manners.  To be flippant, dismissive, or down right rude to others is beyond unacceptable in pretty much any situation.  Just ask my children, they've experienced my wrath when they choose not to be kind.

Physically, I've been told that my mother and I have a sugary voice and eyes that listen.  And, I think on most occasions, people would say that I'm a nice person.

But when we start to get to know one another and we go out for wine or coffee or take a random yoga class and then grab margaritas, you'll realize that there's more than meets those kind eyes.

I like rebellion.  I'm a fan of people being comfortable in their own skin and expressing their truth. 

I like to cuss a lot.

I like to talk about sex and religion and politics and all of the cans of worms that you're not supposed to speak of in polite company.

I like telling irreverent jokes and comparing notes on douche bags and folks that are intolerable...and many times at Bunco, Book Club, or my jewelry parties, girls will tell me that they never guessed 'those' things would come from my mouth.

So, it was hard yesterday after I left mass.

We heard a homily that our priest said was more than challenging for him to deliver.  It was essentially, a listing of sins, some of them mortal, that keep us from the closest possible relationship with God and fully experiencing Holy Communion.

It was tough.

Because I don't agree with all of them.  And yes, I send my children to Catholic school.

I literally felt like a walking contradiction as I walked out the door.

Do I pray for my perspectives or opinions to change and to be more aligned with the church?

Or, do I recognize that much like the person I am, not everything is black and white and that people are complex and that's okay?  Or is it not?

Am I an a la carte Catholic and is that like being a fraud?

At the end of it, I liken it a bit to parenting.  Two parents can raise kind, giving, curious, loving children who contribute their talents to the world...and those parents do not have to align politically, philosophically or even spiritually.  Their home can serve as a safe haven where their children are free to dialogue about all of the circumstances, life situations, fears, hopes that come their way free of judgement.  And in the end, the children are empowered to choose the path that makes the most sense for their lives.

I know that as a person and most certainly as a parent that I'm evolving...so, maybe my stances on certain social issues will change, but until then, I'll walk the world a walking contradiction, trying to find some harmony and peace in the gray praying to be in communion with a loving God.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

What is Real?

I'm really good with names and faces.

If we've met, I'll most likely remember who you are, smile, reintroduce myself and tell you that it's nice to see you again.

If we've engaged in a professional or volunteer capacity, I'll ask you how your kids are doing and if you're still working with such and such agency.

I don't know why, but peoples' faces and details of their lives stick with me.

So, you would think that I'd have an iron clad memory when it came to recalling 'me' in my own memories.  But I don't.

Often, my recollections are significantly more positive than how they actually went down.  I know this because when I'm sitting around the dining room table over the holidays reflecting with my siblings, they'll laugh at me when I tell a story of the past and claim, "That's not at all how that happened.  So and so was an asshole or you had no idea what you were getting yourself into."

For some reason, I wear rose-colored glasses when remembering people, places, times, and experiences.  Most often, I look fondly back at the past and think that all was well and good, when maybe, well, most certainly, all of it was not.

This morning at the breakfast table, my children were recalling their dreams.  Whenever they wake up, I ask them how their snooze was and if they remember their dreams.  Most often, they don't.  But this morning, they did.  Kate (7) gave a roaring rendition of something that happened in music class with a few of her friends.  And then she said, "What's so weird is that it feels like the dream actually happened even though when I woke up, I knew that it really happened in real life a different way."  And then Sam (9) said, "How can our dreams be different than our life and how do we know what's real?  And is a dream make believe especially when it feels so real?"

All of their pondering about dreams, reality, reflections, memories, recollection and recantation of one single truth sent me into a philosophical diatribe about my belief that there is no one real truth...that ultimately, we all create what is truth for us moment by moment.  Which of course, made no sense to my children.

We talked about how weird it was to go to bed not afraid to fall asleep and live a life through your dreams that may be completely different than what you just experienced while you were conscious.  And how we all just trusted that eventually, we would wake up and come back to reality.

But then, will we remember 'reality' the way that it really happened?  Will it be happier or sadder when it's burned into our memories?  Will we need someone to remind us of what really transpired?

The mind and the memory are powerful entities.  And this morning's breakfast banter has me convinced that the kid questions are only going to get harder particularly as we all try to distinguish what exactly happened in real life versus in a dream state or in our recollection of the past.

Either way, I'm glad that the majority of it for me still remains beautifully rose colored.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Enough is Enough

I feel like I've been having this dialogue with myself for the better part of 20 years.

You know, the one that goes, I'm not enough.

Fill in every noun that you see fit....I'm not a good enough... ____________ (wife, mother, daughter, friend, runner, writer, small business owner, home owner, homework helper, story book reader, "Go Fish" player)...you see where this is going.

Sometimes, the self-talk is more prevalent when I'm expecting a visit from Aunt Flo and my hormones are all across the board, but most days, the yucky words are tucked deep into my being, only to be pulled out when I'm feeling less than, a little under the weather, or lonely.

And so, I headed out this morning for a 9-mile run.  The weather was stunning.  55 degrees and sunshiny.  Really, a to-die for September day.

Almost exactly one mile into the shebang, I knew that this was going to be a battle and that I needed to pull my big girl pants up because shit was going down.

And sure enough, it did.  Huffing, puffing, unable to efficiently use my breath or to get a grip on my pace, I vowed to quit about every other minute.

Just when I was certain that I was grinding to a halt, I would be flagged down by a friend or a neighbor running through the park or on the trail and think, God damn it...I guess I better keep going.

Literally, with a mile and a half left in the war, I was staring up at the biggest hill of my training course on the busiest street with a million cars coming and going and I thought, I can't.  I just don't have what it takes today....in fact, I'm not sure if I have what it takes most days.

And then, in the middle of the hustle and bustle, a cardinal flew onto a bus stop bench and looked at me as I was struggling to put one foot in front of another.

My grandmother Roberts was a fanatic about these beautiful creatures.  She adored them.  And just as I see him perched waiting for me to greet him, sweat pours into my eyes and they start to burn probably because I'm hallucinating and going into cardiac arrest, and I immediately I think...enough is enough.

If I don't do this at this moment, on this street, with this bird, who will?

If I don't care for these crazy beautiful children even when I want to scream, Uncle, I give...who will go the extra mile?  They only have one mother.

And If I don't take ownership of all the blessings that have been bestowed upon me and my life, who will?

And so, I will show up, every day...not perfectly, maybe not always happily and certainly with more questions than answers, but I will come knowing that whatever I have to give in this moment, at this time will be, and always has been enough.

It was enough today.  I ran 9-miles.  Nine grueling, hard fought miles that I get to claim.  And tomorrow, when I have more or different tricks or tools in this bag, I'll pull them out, but for today...I'm happy to know that enough was enough.

Friday, September 5, 2014

The Sound of Me

Do you hear that?

That's the sound of all three kids in school...if only for another hour...and I have to admit that the silence brings tears to my eyes.

And what about that?

Oh yes, it's the oh-so-welcomed, nasally voice of Ira Glass and "This American Life," and now, an excerpt from "The Moth" radio program that I've listened to from start to finish without a single interruption.  Heaven.

And that...oh, that's me actually typing this post at my kitchen table instead of on the toilet, the only place where while holding the door closed with my foot, I can get a moment's peace to collect my thoughts.

Oh wait, now it's me singing at the top of my lungs in my underwear in the kitchen...okay, it's really more like a guttural "Braveheart" cry of freedom while drinking my first non-reheated cup of coffee contemplating whether I could down a martini before 11am.

Geez Louise...why didn't anyone tell me that this could be so good?

A part of me feels badly that I'm so happy to be away from my children, while another part feels justified after all of the years of care taking and yet another is exhilarated at the thought of reclaiming this time for me.  The question is...what is the sound of me?

As I ponder that, I realize that the most challenging component is figuring out what in the Hell you can do for 2.5 hours 3 mornings a week.  Do I do the obligatory grocery shopping, laundry sorting, toilet cleaning?  Or indulge myself in writing, reading, sleeping or running?  Or do I just throw caution to the wind and eat massive quantities of Ben & Jerry's while watching repeat episodes of "Scandal" on the couch?

I have no idea where to begin...so, for now, I'll just sit in silence and take in the moment.  It's a sweet one and I have a feeling that it's only going to get sweeter.

God bless Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings.  I think it's going to be a great school year!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Offer Your Flawed Self Deeply to the World

I came across this today...one of my favorites by the brilliant, Mary Oliver.

Wild Geese

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.

And it reminded me that I spend far too much time caring about what others and in general, the world thinks of me.

As I get older and what I'd like to think is a bit wiser, I'm mindful of the connections and relationships I have that matter.

I can easily tell you the ones that are the most nutritive and fill me with a sense of love and gratitude and certainly, those that are surface and not nearly as transparent.

As a person who loves walking into a room and connecting with as many people as I can, I find that I'm shifting, gravitating toward fewer, deeper, more satisfying relationships.

I'm much more interested in knowing you...really knowing you, than just making you up in my head because we don't talk about the things that matter.

And, if we can't find our way toward the things that matter, than well, we probably don't have much in the way of sustenance.

I am refreshed and grateful when people are willing to share their war wounds, their fears, their pipe dreams.  It gives me license to launch into my own and somewhere in that crazy mix, we blend and find ourselves in the 'other.'  And that is extraordinarily powerful.

After school today, I told my children that it's not your responsibility to be the 'deepest' of friends with all of the people in your class.  You should strive to be kind and compassionate.  But those few that you know in your heart are your 'people'...well, they should be taken care of...you share parts of yourself and they in turn do the same and before you know it...they're a part of your family...an extension of you.  And, that's a beautiful thing.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Oh Happy Day

Here you are...

And here we are...

It finally came...Your big day. 

You woke up earlier than usual and came running into the living room and announced, "I can't start my first day of school.  I have the hiccups."

To which I responded with, "Okay, some chocolate milk is in order.  We're going to get a handle on this.  Have no fear."

And that's all it took.  You climbed into your pretty pink dress.  Gathered up your Tinker Bell backpack, requested piggy tails for your hair, scarfed down banana bread and screamed, "We must take pictures!"

I thought I would cry.  But I didn't.  And neither did you.  You barely stopped for a hug and kiss.  You were off to play with Cooper, Zoey, Sara, Levi and well, all of the rest of the cute 3-year olds that from this point forward, I'll be hearing lots of stories about.

And so, I leave you, my third-child, my final preschool experience with this...

May this new milestone bring you opportunities to grow new wings...

May you be inquisitive..

May you be kind...

May you be generous...

May you try, even when you don't want to...

To connect with someone who is different or with something that you haven't explored before...

May you know that I'm always with you...

Always proud of you...

And always wildly loving you...

Here's to new beginnings...

Love, Mama

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Face of Love

I was thankful that you let me take this picture of you, because our outing this morning is one that I want to remember for a long time to come.

After Sam and Kate left for school this morning, we decided to hit the road for a bike ride, just you and me, to the park.

Equipped with water bottles, snacks, sand toys and a stunning morning, we were on our way.

Until we weren't.

You biffed it in Elmwood Park on our way to Memorial Park and coated your legs, feet, toes, elbows and palms of your hands in mud.  And of course, I had nothing to clean you up with, except for your socks.

After sopping the mud up with your favorite mismatched Hello Kitty socks, you begged to turn around and head back.  To which, I responded, "Hell no, sister.  We're headed on this death march if its the last thing that I do. The weather is too beautiful and well, you're a kid.  If I can handle it, so can you."

Upon arriving, a little worse for the wear, we met sweet little toddlers and their adorable mommies sitting on lovely outdoor blankets eating morning bananas and sipping Starbucks.

You screamed that you wanted a snack and while I thought it was a bit early, I acquiesced, kind of feeling that I owed it to you since you braved the elements.

Walking around like you owned the place, you flaunted a bag of processed Cheetos and Oreo cookies and let the combination ooze out of your mouth as you horrified the moms that were delicately wiping their children's faces with organic wet wipes and dutifully handing them purified water in their BPA-free water bottles.

After you got your fill, you grabbed the sand toys and headed for your favorite castle-making spot.  When all of a sudden, an 18-month old little boy closed in on your tools and started putting them in his mouth and making guttural noises, to which you promptly turned to him and said, "Use your words for crying out loud."

I was horrified.

To top it off, you beckoned me to the swings by pulling your dress up and over by your ears simultaneously yelling, "BEST. DAY. EVER. MAMA!!!"

And when I stopped giving a shit about what the world thought and started really paying attention to how amazing you are, I realized...

It is the best day ever and you, my child are the face of love.

Love you, Claire Bear.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Fearing 40

If you knew me before I became a mother, you'd remember that I lived for my birthday.

I'm not kidding.

Especially, if we were co-workers, you'd recall that I'd dub 'May' the month of Kelly and celebrate in every possible way.  I'd conduct count downs leading up to the big day...May 6th to be exact.  I'd unabashedly give gift ideas for my friends and family to consider that typically included anything related to chocolate, coffee, wine, poetry, The New York Times, good books, and letters....I LOVE receiving letters and cards.  And I was never humble about it.  And, shockingly, as I look back, I'm kind of surprised at how much I fawned over my birthday.

Once I got married and quickly became a mama, everything changed.

When we moved into our home, we found out a bit of the back story on the sellers.  They were newly remarried and each had a child of their own as well as a baby on the way.  They were 40 and getting ready to buy their parents' much larger home.

Makes absolute sense, I thought.  Because, when you're 40, that's when you've got your shit together.  You've established yourself in your career.  Your kiddos are maybe not so new.  You've had time to focus on your retirement investments and you know what you want out of life. You drive grown up cars and eat grown up foods, own grown up furniture, go on grown up vacations and well, you get the picture.

And so, it is that in approximately 8 months, I'll be turning 40.

I still live in my "starter home."  I do not have my retirement portfolio where I'd like it to be.  I've been a stay-at-home mama for 7 years, so my kiddos are what I have to show for my career path and on some days, I'm not sure how glowing my performance review would be when you observe their behavior.  I do not know how to change a tire on my car and my car is an old Honda.  I still cringe when things go wrong in our house assuming that I'm going to have to prostitute myself on the street corner to pay for them.  I make more macaroni and cheese and PB&J than should be legal to be consumed.  Our furniture has some form of puke, pee or other assorted stickyness attached to it.  And the last time I left the country was on my honeymoon a decade ago. So, hopefully, you can see that I don't feel like a grown-up.

To be fair, as with every major "age" milestone, I have been blessed...a decent run at the high school deal, a great undergrad experience, fun times studying abroad, a grueling but rewarding graduate school program, an amazing husband, three beautiful kiddos, a body that has taken me through several running races and a community of friends and family that have saved my life countless times.

So, you would think that turning 40, should be fun...as in...what's next?  What's this new decade going to bring?  Especially now that I'm embarking upon more "me" time and opportunities to jump start my mediation skills again, my physical fitness, my writing and of course, my family.

But instead, it fills me with more dread than excitement.

And subsequently, I am reminded that life is disappointing when you fill it with expectations of what it should look like instead of being grateful and wide-eyed to what it is.

If you've turned 40 and not only survived, but are thriving, I'd love to hear your take on the whole deal.

Why are some ages just more challenging than others?

I suppose I have 8 months to get excited and grab another goal to throw into the 30's before I climb over the hill.