Sunday, August 31, 2014

Riding in the Rain

We were already planning on going for a bike ride after mass.

The big kids wanted to have a Nerf gun war in the park and Claire was hell bent on riding her bike for miles.

As we walked into the door and started to change our church clothes and grab a quick sandwich, the sky turned dark, the thunder started to rumble and it was only a matter of time before rain and probably lots of it, was on its way.

I began to back track..."well, maybe we can make tea and read," to which, "BOOORRRIIINNGG," was their collective response.

"Come on, mom, it's not like it's acid rain.  It won't kill you.  Who cares if we all get soaked and muddy and struck by lightning.  It will be an adventure."

When did I become such an old fogy?  I mean really...the whole point of childhood is to splash in as many puddles as you can, to get as dirty as humanly possible and to soak up as much of the outdoors as you possibly can before you're forced to come inside when the street lights come on.

Okay, I relented.  Let's do this.

Moments after we left, it down poured.  And like a dip shit, I was wearing a white shirt and mascara, so I looked like a heroin addict, but no one cared.  That weren't looking at me.  They were being amateur snipers with their Nerf guns.

And then, going down a gravel patch by the park, Kate slid, fell off of her scooter and scraped the shit out of her knee, arm and hands.  And I thought...see, it's too slick. What were we thinking?

Assuming that we'd head home, I turned the corner to see Kate talking.

"What's up, Love?"

"Nothing.  I'm just talking to myself.  It's the best way for me to communicate what I need.  So, I'm saying, 'We should really go home now.  My knee is bleeding.' But the other part of me, the fun part, is saying...carry on, carry on.  Do you ever do that, mama?  Talk to yourself and decide what's best?"

"I do it all day long, Sweetheart."

And then we both looked up to the monsoon sky, stuck our tongues out and felt the rain.  We laughed.  I kissed her arm, her elbow, her knee and then said, "well, what are you waiting for?  Carry on, carry on."

So glad that for a few hours, I won the wet t-shirt mom concert at the school playground deciding that riding in the rain was the best decision for just a few hours on a Sunday afternoon.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

8 Miles of Freedom

God damn it...some days are just your day. 

Like...really...your day.

In anticipation of a busy morning, I woke up at 4:30am to get out the door and run 8 miles.  I wanted to get the majority of it done before the sun was in full swing and the world was awake.

I revised my play list and promised myself that through the music and my breath, I would push myself and work hard.

And, I did.

This was first up on my list...


And then, as I rounded the bend and scared myself by seeing my own shadow...I know, cliche' as shit...but has that happened to you at 5 in the morning in the dark at a public park?  You'd scream too which is why this song was perfect next...


And just as I was getting my stride and climbing hill after hill, I turned onto my path, crossed over the bridge and the sun started to peek and I felt the stress, the anxiety, the anticipation of a busy last week, and all of my worry dissipate and it was well...beautiful...


And then, the bitch hill came...the mother of all mother fuckers and instantly, I thought, bring it...

And she came on...


And then, no lie...I beamed smiles at everyone I saw along the path and thought...it's going to be a good day.  No, it's going to be a glorious day.

This is what it feels like to be free...free of all that weighs us down.

Here's to 8-miles of freedom.


Friday, August 29, 2014

Keep Me In Your Heart

The heart is such a big place.

Really, it is.

Stop and think about it.

The older you get, the more experiences you accumulate, the more people you know, the more history you amass...you begin to recognize that the heart has room for much more than you give it credit for.

I remember when I discovered that I was pregnant with my second child, I thought, "My God...will I love this child as much as I love my first?"  And then again, when I became pregnant with my third.

I've had similar kinds of feelings about jobs and career changes.  Evolutions in friendships.  Differing seasons in my marriage.  Times and places with organizations I've belonged to and positions I've been responsible for.

I've been told and for good reason that I'm an all in or all out sort of girl.  And this is probably true.  I often immerse myself completely in whatever season and with whichever people are closest to me at the time...but it doesn't mean that the experiences that were are gone or that the things to come don't have a chance.

It simply means that there is a vast amount of emotional space for all and for whom that we love in this life we've been given.

When my older two went off to Kindergarten, we read the book, "The Kissing Hand" about a young raccoon who goes off to school and leaves his family behind.  His mother kisses the inside of his paw and says, "I will always be with you and when you are afraid or unsure, you can look down at your hand and feel me inside of you."

I have always loved that tale.  We are all connected.  We are all present in each other's lives purposefully.  And there is room for so much love in our hearts.  It's not a limited entity.  It's more vast than we can imagine.  So, fear not...you can keep filling and it will only grow to accommodate and make you more compassionate, more engaging, a better friend, a sweeter partner, a more loving parent.  Let us not be afraid to keep each other in our hearts.  


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Stand in the Sun

Every night we go around the dinner table and ask the question,

"What was your rose...your stem...and your thorn today?"

It's an end cap ritual that we adopted from my best friend's family that helps all of us to process our daily experiences...the good parts, the hard parts and the in-betweens.

Your "rose" symbolizes the best thing that happened...your "thorn" is the worst and the "stem" is something memorable, but it doesn't have to be fabulous...just something worth mentioning.

Last night, Kate (7) was relaying her thorn experience about a little boy who had poor behavior in the lunch room and later on the playground.  "He's always making funny noises and won't leave us alone. I just want to kick him," she said.

"But you don't, "I said, "You need to take the high road.  Tell him that if he wants to play with you that he needs to be kind and to keep his hands to himself.  You need to stand in the sun."

This prompted a 10-minute dialogue about what in the hell it means to take the high road and why would you want to stand in the sun...when, well, that's too sunny and you're not allowed to wear sun glasses at school.

I explained that these are figures of speech, metaphors, visual tools to explain what it means to do the right thing.

And then I did it, I pulled out (almost word for word) my mother's high school speech.  "Life is simply a series of choices.  At any given time, you can go left or right.  You always have free will.  The challenge is to sit with your options and make the decision to do in your heart what you feel is right and nine times out of 10, taking the high road is best."

To which, my 2nd-grade daughter said, "I don't have time for that.  Recess is really short and I just want to build fairy houses with my friends.  I don't want to tell him what he needs to do.  I just want to kick him."

Good point.  Back to our talk on Ethics.

"But if you kick him, what will he take from that?  That physical harm is acceptable and that you're not willing to do the work and use your words to describe what you need."

"What I need....is to be left alone and not in the sun," says an emphatic Kate.

"Okay, fine," I say, "But just remember that you can catch more flies with honey than with..."

"I don't even know what you're saying..."

Right.  Okay, stand in the dark...take the low road...hit below the belt...what do I know?  I just have the graduate degree in Conflict Resolution...but then again, I'm not trying to make nice with second grade boys on the playground.




Wednesday, August 27, 2014

For the Love of Sam


I've sort of been in love with you, your whole life.

That's to be expected, I suppose.

You are my first born child...the little one that I cuddled, coddled, learned, and trial and errored nearly everything I know about parenting upon.

And, I know that every mother says this, but truly, you are an amazing child.

At nearly 10-years old, you are almost as tall as I am (and I count myself as one of the taller mamas), you have the most beautiful honey colored, crazy thick hair, bright blue eyes, super cool specs and a boundless passion and energy that just won't quit.

You are insanely bright.  And while I also count myself as one of the more curious people walking the planet, you are ridiculously intelligent.  At any given time, you can be found with your nose in a book digesting novels on knights, dragons, sharks, sorcerers, heroes, and dinosaurs.  You're knocking it out of the park academically and you bring so much love to my heart knowing how seriously that you take it all.

But the real joy is watching you with your friends, your sisters, your grandparents and perfect strangers.  You are a kind soul.  You are generous.  And even though you are often quiet and more introspective, you are aware and conscientious of those who are in need.  And you always come through to help.

I have to be honest.  I'm a little sad watching you grow up.  It won't be long before being at home won't be so cool and your friends' opinions and time will be more important than your dad's and mine.  And that's okay, that's how it's supposed to be.

So, if from time to time, I grab ahold of you for a hug, just indulge me.  I promise not to embarrass you or to hug too long.

It's just that I love you.  I'm so insanely proud of you.  And well, you're just growing up too fast.

For the love of you, Sam...










Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Glittery, Feathery Mess

A dear friend called yesterday and I felt badly for her...mostly, because I know what it's like.

She just had one question, "Do I need better time management?"

She's a wife, a mother, a small business owner and a wonderful human being to lots and lots of people in her life.

And I wanted to scream, "Absolutely, not.  You're organized, self-sufficient, beyond capable, kind, and generous both with your time and resources to so many."  Instead, I just listened.  I know what it feels like to be barely hanging on.

Most of the night it rained and by 4:30am when the alarm went off, I thought, no...not today...even though, I knew that I was shooting myself in the foot.  I'm usually more exhausted when I don't do something physical first thing.

But I wanted to sleep.  I wanted to feel sorry for all of the places where I come up short.  And I just didn't want to have to "do" another thing.  And so, I didn't.  I turned the coffee pot on and drank a big, hot cup of java in the dark and it was delightful.

After the big kids got out the door, I started to think about my friends and how it makes sense that there's this whole world of life coaches, therapists, yoga, poetry circles,  Facebookland, retreat centers, positive affirmations and mantras...we're trying to do everything, all the time, really well.

How did that happen?

Have we always been that way?

Why?  What does it say about you if you say, "Sorry, not today," or "Can't help you out," or "No thanks, not interested."

Does it make us awful mothers, bad people, selfish, self-absorbed? As opposed to the exhausted, irritable, stretched too thinly, rigid, mean people who treat the ones we care about the most horribly because we're fed up and tired.

Today, I had every intention of taking my 3-year old to the Children's Museum.  Instead, she wanted to paint with lots of glitter, feathers, and puffy stickers.  I wanted to drink coffee and eat potato chips. It worked out well.  We didn't judge each other.  We let the other one be.  We engaged when we wanted to and gave each other space to do our thing in the process.  It was lovely.



I'm giving up the fight.  I can't be all things right now.  It's not only that it's not fair to others...it's primarily, not fair to me.

Instead, I think I'll just enjoy the glittery, feathery mess that so aptly describes where I'm at.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Happy First Day of School

We woke up this morning and all of the sudden, our family had a 4th grader, a 2nd grader a soon-to-be preschooler. 

Here you are...

As we ate our bowls of cereal, brushed our teeth, braided your hair, put the finishing touches on your lunches and gave you a blessing...I thought, please, please let this be a sacred, beautiful year for all three of you.

Let this be a time where you break through with something significant...where you learn another side of compassion, where your heart grows larger and your brain expands beyond all measure and your faith deepens and you feel both your roots and wings.

You're all getting bigger and well, I think I'm staying the same.  So, while I smooth back your hair, smell your breath, check for straggling toothpaste marks and do a double check of your backpacks...I thank you for letting me fuss over you and for being your over protective, hopeful mama for yet another school year.

Fourth grade, Second grade and Preschool are powerful times.  Here's to all of the smiles, the tears, the laughs, the let-downs, the dreams, the disappointments and the vast amount of effort and pain that will go into making this year exactly what it's meant to be.

I'm so glad that I get to share in it with all of you.  Happy First Day of School!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

I Love You Over and Over Again

It had already been a long morning.

We woke up to mowing the lawn, changing out the laundry, preparing for mass and in general, getting life ready for the first day of school tomorrow.

Following lunch, I hauled my 3-year old daughter, Claire to do the week's grocery shopping.  We were listening to Vacation Bible School songs on the trek belting out all of the words.

And I was tired.

Viscerally tired. 

I just finished week three of training.  The weather is five bajillion degrees of Hell outside.  There's always something to do for the house and/or the kids.  And well, sometimes, I'm simply going through the motions.

Grabbing the fun kid-cart, I bought an iced coffee for me and a chocolate milk for her and we made our way down the list.

Until we got to the bread aisle which is bizarrely across the way from the pharmacy and she spotted "Doc McStuffins" band-aids that she had to have to which I replied, "Not today."

And for what seemed like an eternity, she whined, "PLLLLLEEEEEAAAAASSSSSEEE....(repeat ad nauseam).

Until by the frozen fruit, I broke down in my own whiny, please kill me now, I can not take this anymore voice, "Claire...I am NOT buying band-aids that we don't need.  You need a new tooth brush,,,maybe you'll find something you like there.  If not, it's not my concern today.  Mommy is exhausted.  I have next to no patience and I'm just trying to stay on task.  So, PPPPPLLLLLEEEEAAAASSSSEEEE stop asking me for something that I cannot give to you."

To which she said, "I love you," over and over again and again.  She's really good at this.  She has a smile that can melt your heart and eyes that bear into your soul and then when she uses her sweet voice to tell you that she loves you, you're done for.

But in that moment I realized, I've been tired for a long time.  I'm probably going to be tired for a lot longer.  Raising kids makes your bones ache and your head pound and your heart fill with more love that you could possibly imagine.

Here's to telling our people how much we love them...over and over again...ad nauseam.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

The Only Way Out...Is Through

I woke up late knowing that I had to do a 7-mile run.

I didn't get out the door until 10am...which was epic fail number one.

Greeted by a wall of humidity the likes of which only happens when the temperatures are climbing fiercely towards 90+ degrees, it's been raining the previous evening and a monsoon arrived the day before, the weather was out to get me...epic fail number two.

Equipped with a Camelbak full of ice and cold water as well as a decent play list, I thought, it can't be so bad...it's only 7 miles..epic fail number three.

Forgetting that it was Dundee Days (a neighborhood celebration of parades, pancakes, candy, community pride and lots of people), I rounded a bend and headed up a steep hill only to see hundreds of my closest friends while I was nearing cardiac arrest.  Thankfully, dear family friends chatted with me while I caught my breath, pet their dog and wished their sweet kiddos well.

But as the run progressed, I was withering.  Drenched, sweating profusely and light headed, I knew it was stupid...but I couldn't stop myself. 

And this is why I love long-distance running...not because it's a suicide mission in the making, but because it pushes the boundaries of your will farther than you can imagine and leaves you with a feeling of accomplishment, endorphins, and adrenaline that I've never found in anything else.

And then, I added this sweet song to my playlist..which is absolutely not classified as running material at all...but it took my mind off the pain and reminded me why we're here.  You must take a listen and a watch.


And then, I pulled my ass through the park and I was home free...seven miles, rounding out my third week of training.  And I realized that much like anything in life...the only way out is through.

Friday, August 22, 2014

If Your Nerve Deny You...

I want to see this flick...


It's entitled, "Wild," and based on the 2012 New York Times best selling memoir by Cheryl Straydon.  At the age of 26, after having lost her mother, her marriage and most of her will to live, she made a decision to hike thousands of miles on the Pacific Crest Trail from the Mojave Desert through California and Oregon to Washington state, alone.  Through her sojourn, she found a way to heal and to ultimately, be the woman she was destined to be.

The movie trailer begins with Reese Witherspoon, the actress playing Cheryl Straydon writing the beginning of a poem by Emily Dickinson in her journal...

"If your nerve deny you

go above your nerve."

I am in love with that message for so very many reasons.  All too often, I don't write what I want to write or say what I want to say or do what I want to do because of what the "right" thing is to do or God forbid, what others will think and how "that" will reflect upon me or my family.

Yet, the other day, I read a passage from one of my favorite authors who said that when she writes, she is simply a vessel...it's as if a freight train is exploding through her being and she must dispel it into the world.  Some of my best writing has come in that fashion...when I feel pressure welling and almost a mandate to get it out of me and into the world.

And most times, my nerves are telling me no and my gut is telling me to ignore them and to birth whatever it is that I've been temporarily inspired to share with the world.

I don't think that we all have to go on an amateur, untrained, risky, soul-searching trek through the vast wilderness to speak our voices more clearly and honestly in the world...but I do think, we have to release those parts of us that hold back and try, even if it's incrementally to share more of the raw, bold, hidden parts of ourselves with each other.

There's nothing better than feeling connected, knowing that you're not alone, recognizing that your voice helped to give voice to another.  What do we really have to lose?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Ready for the End of Summer

Maybe it's because this week the temperature is in the 90's and the humidity is off the charts.

Maybe it's because I've secured all of the school supplies, the uniforms, and the lunch boxes.

Maybe it's because my 7 and 9-year olds have been fighting with each other like it's their job.

Maybe it's because we've gone to the children's museum, the zoo, the art museum, the library, the park, the pool...ridden our bikes, made sand castles, gone on treasure hunts, played at the splash pad, drank smoothies, hosted play dates, crafted popsicles, caught fireflies, harvested our garden, lit fireworks, made memories with friends and family, slept in, watched movies, and in general, done just about everything that summer has to offer. 

And maybe it's because I think we are indeed the last Catholic school to go back to school in our town.

So, today after running to Target for the umpteenth time, locating their favorite goodies for lunches to be made next week, getting the car gassed and washed...I lost it on the drive home.

"I said STOOOOPPPPP fighting with each other.  Don't you realize that you only have a few days left before you're going to be apart from each other in separate classrooms all day long and you won't get to play whenever you want?!!  And that our evenings will be consumed with homework, flag football, scouts, ballet and brownies?  Why do I always have to yell to get you to listen to me?  I am done.  Knock it off."

Just as the car went silent, my phone beeped.  I had a text from a friend who was nominating me to take part in the ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis-a terminal neuro degenerative disease ) Ice Bucket Challenge...a viral challenge where people dump a bucket of ice over their heads and donate money in support of finding a cure for the devestatingly horrible disease of ALS.  Please check out their website...www.alsa.org to raise your awareness and learn how you can help.

And so, I told my children, "Hey...would you like a free opportunity to dump a bucket of ice water over my head?"  to which they flew into the kitchen, grabbed all the ice they could get and filled the bucket.  The problem was teaching my 7-year old how to video and to make sure that my 9-year old could lift the bucket.  They filled it to the brim. On our way out the door, the handle broke and sent a quarter of the water all over the floor, but there was still enough left to do the job.

Here's the footage...
video



In the end, they got their aggression out and I cooled off.  It was a win, win for all of us.  That said, I'm still ready for smores, sweaters, red, orange and yellow leaves and a little God blessed time to myself.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

To Use the F-Bomb or Not

I have a love/hate relationship with the F-bomb.

Let me begin by saying that the proper parts of me have selected to raise my children in a home where it is not acceptable to use language like "shut up," "fart," "hate," or "My God." 

I prefer that you say, "be quiet," "toot," "strongly dislike" or "My goodness."

My grandmother once told me that those who use expletives are crass and have a less sophisticated vocabulary upon which to draw from to adequately describe their current state.  Don't be one of those, people, Kelly.  We didn't raise you in a barn.

Consequently, I am diligent about not cursing in front of my kiddos and you'd have to kill me before I did it in front of someone else's child.  It's just not appropriate.

But there is another very big part of me that loves the shit out of calling people ass hats, mother fuckers, deusch bags, bee-yatches and twats.  Yep, my blood pressure elevated even as I typed that.

It just feels good.  Most of the time, it's the only language that does adequately and sometimes, perfectly nail the situation or the person's character.

And so, it was with disdain and humor that I found myself in my daughters' bedroom last night in a precarious spot.  Kate (7) and Claire (3) were busy making bead bracelets to share with friends and as I was putting away laundry, I slipped on some of the straggling beads and landed on my back.

"Jesus Fucking Christ!!!" I yelped.

Oh dear God...Hail Mary Full of Grace, the Lord is With Thee...Bless me Father for I have sinned.

I stood in utter shock and what I had done...only to hear my 7-year old say, "Mama, you should never take Jesus' name in vain.  That's a really bad thing." Insert the dialogue window of my thoughts, "I knew I should have never sent those kids to Catholic schools.  Damn it."

"Mama, words matter.  You need to spend some time thinking about what you say."

And just like that, I was fucked.

Kate was and is right.  Words do matter.  They carry gravity and power.  We must be diligent about what we choose to utter to the universe.  But, fuck, that hurt. 

And so, I'm stuck.  Do I teach my kids that sometimes, a good, "Fuck you" is appropriate?  Or, do I do what my parents have done which is to teach me that you should poke yourself in the eye before you ever curse around your elders.  And that cursing is for those who don't know better.

There's got to be some happy medium, right.

Aw fuck it.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Summer to Remember

We had a fantastic summer.

Really, one for the record books in so many ways.

We began with a whirlwind, fairytale trip to Disneyland, Legoland and the beaches of southern California...

Mixed in a super fun Fourth of July weekend and Seventh birthday for Kate...
Threw in time at the Joslyn Art Museum, the Children's Museum, the Library, the Zoo, and the pool...
And the fire station...
Got our first big girl hair cut...
Taught the kids how to play Scrabble...
Hosted our friends while their parents took a much deserved trip to Jamaica...
Had a blast berry picking, having water wars, swimming and eating bomb pops with our Oklahoma cousins..

Watched as Sam braved his first solo plane ride to Dallas to cheer the Rangers on as they beat the Yankees,,,

Sent all three kids off on their first collective Dad's and Kids Camping trip while mom took the weekend to eat, drink and be merry by herself.

And sadly, said goodbye to my father-in-law, "Grandpa Mike,"



And now I sit in awe, the uniforms, backpacks, lunch boxes, school supplies, tennis shoes, and hair ribbons have all been bought.  The kids know who their teachers are and which kids will be in their classes.

I'm days away from approaching my break-out year as my youngest, Claire, 3 will start preschool three mornings a week and Sam will enter fourth grade and Kate will enter second.

Where did 12 weeks go?  I think I'm ready for them to go and to get back to a weekly schedule and a morning routine.  But, man, we did have fun...even if there was some screaming and threatening involved.

Here's to the last 5 days of summer...
 


Monday, August 18, 2014

The Three Most Important Questions

Almost always during breakfast and lunchtime, I read to my children.

They each grab a book from the library bag or one off their bedroom shelves and gnosh while I tell the story.

One of my favorite author/illustrators is Jon J. Muth and one of his most profound pieces of children's literature landed in my hands today while the kids devoured pasta and plums.

The tale is called, "The Three Questions," and is based on a book with the same title by Leo Tolstoy...the famous Russian novelist who wrote "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina."

Muth's version is about a young boy named Nikolai who is on a quest to find the answers to the following:
  • When is the best time to do things?
  • Who is the most important one?
  • What is the right thing to do?
Along the way, he meets a heron, a monkey, a dog, a tortoise and a panda who help to teach him that ultimately, there is only one important time and that is now......the most important one is always the one that you are with....and the most important thing is to do good for the one who is standing at your side.  For in the end, this is the reason why we are here.

The beautiful part of the story which my children know all too well and through their actions teach me...is that Tolstoy's lesson is that of the obvious.  Something happens when we grow older and suddenly, our experience has a tendency to turn into baggage and we make the simple complicated. 

We're all on a path.  The people that we engage along the way are purposeful.  The circumstances we encounter are the right ones at the right time, even if they are painful.  The most important players in our story vary as does the timing.  The greatest challenge is being open to doing the right thing in that moment knowing that it may change tomorrow.

For now, I was comforted by the fact that my children seem to get it, even if I'm a bit thick headed.  They understand that it's not that hard and that you don't have to decide about tomorrow today.  You just have to be here in this moment, now, and the rest will unfold exactly as it's supposed to.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Look at Me, Mama

I was resolute that we were going to mass this morning.

So after french toast, eggs and chocolate milk...I wiped syrup off of faces, braided hair, pleaded with my son not to wear a striped shirt with plaid shorts (which was a stupid battle on my part), gathered up used markers and construction paper, along with granola bars and cheese sticks and made the trek.

Somewhere between the "Glory Be To God," and the "Alleluia," my 3-year old couldn't take it anymore and requested a granola bar.  I gave it to her under the condition that mama was going to  close her eyes, fold her hands and pray and that she needed to quietly eat her snack.

Seconds into the negotiation, as I'm just getting into my own negotiation with God, she starts poking me in the shoulder, I ignore her.  Then she grabs my shoulder and rocks me back and forth.  I remain stoic believing that she'll realize that it's not worth it.  Then, she leans into my ear and whispers and then speaks and then with a throaty yelp says, "M-A-M-A!"  Getting ready to open my eyes surrendering that she's the winner in this deal, she takes the sides of my face with her ooey, gooey, sweet and salty nutbar hands and says, "I love you just the way you are, mama.  That's all."

And now, I have tears in my eyes.

Why do they have to do that?

Drive you to the point of utter exhaustion and complete frustration only to melt your heart with a completely unexpected surprise.

And well, look at her....you'd probably be willing to have sticky crud on your face at church if she gave her unconditional love to you too....



Here's to the littles.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Fight For Your Shitty Life

We all lament.

We all have longings.

We're all guilty of living in the past and fantasizing about the future.

I'm at a pro at it and really should give lessons.

On a long run this morning, I found myself playing the pity party/hypothetical "what  if?" game.  It's a fun one...really.  You start by thinking about all of the "things" that you don't have and begin dreaming about how much better life would be if you did.  Insert anything into the equation...bigger house, different address, better job, more money, smaller number on the scale, shinier car, grateful children, consistent sleep, a clean house, a villa in the south of France...

And then, just to make it more delightful...you make yourself feel badly for all of the ways you contributed in the past toward not being "there" in the present.  It's a freaking blast.  And before you know it, you're on the couch in your underwear with a pint of Ben & Jerry's or Jack Daniels rocking back and forth staring at the wall.  For the record, I've not actually done this...but it's mostly because I have kids around me all the time.

And so, at mile 5 this morning, I burst out laughing.

For some reason, I thought of my favorite scene from "Bridesmaids."  You know, the 2011 flick where Kristen Wiig "Annie" (who I swear to God I want to be in another lifetime) where she finds herself playing the Maid of Honor of her best friend Maya Rudolph "Lillian."  And let's just say that lots of things don't go her way. 

Exhausted, depressed, at the end of her rope and literally on her couch...she gets paid a visit from the brilliant, hysterical, heroic, Melissa McCarthy "Megan."  And the following scene unfolds...


It is fucking brilliant, poignant and perfect.

Whatever our ailment, at any given time, about our life...we can all attest that it feels very real and extremely personal.  There's no doubt that it's intensely relative and that anyone else might think you're an asshole who's unappreciative regarding what she's been given.

But the truth of it is...sometimes, for no good fucking reason, life is a bitch...an unexplainable, can't seem to rise up and suck it up bitch.  You know you're blessed and on most days you wouldn't trade much, but in this moment, you just want to feel sorry for yourself.

And I think a good snotty, heaving, ugly cry is healthy...or a big bottle of something to soothe your pain, as long as you're settled in for the night.

But you can only do it for so long.

And then, as Melissa McCarthy so aptly says, you've got to fight for your shitty life.

Because it was given to you.  No one else can live it.  99% of the circumstances you find yourself in are all temporary.  Tomorrow is always a new day. 

And even though we are all assholes in one form or another.  Most of us are hopeful assholes...so, get the monkey off your back and embrace you in all of the shitty spots you find yourself in.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mind Your Bees Wax

I count myself as one of the friendlier people in the world.

I believe in the good in others and the general rule that as a collective, we should look out for each other.

If you pass me on the street, I'll smile at you.

If I know you, even remotely, odds are that I'll hug you when we meet.

If you need an egg or a cup of sugar, come on over.

If you have unsolicited parenting advice to dole out, go sell your bill of goods to another mama and leave me the fuck alone.

And so it was that I was at the pool swimming with my kiddos.  As the hour turned witchy and our bodies had soaked up enough Vitamin D, I sent my son into the boys locker room to get showered up and I took my 7 and 3-year old daughters into the girls locker room to get cleaned up as well.

One of the fun luxuries of our pool/gym is that it has a hot tub right next to the showers and the girls love sitting in the bubbles right before it's time to wash up.

Claire, my 3-year old complained getting in and said, "I'm too hot," to which I promptly replied, "It's okay, just sit on the side and dangle your piggies in."

And then, out of the fucking blue, I hear talking and turn my head to the left to see a woman in probably her late 70's in the buck with the shower curtain open saying, "She can sit on the side if it's too warm."

Thanks...I think I just said that....trying to avert my eyes while singing the A, B, C's so that my girls don't notice.

To which she then continues, "Is She 5???  Because you know...they have to be 5-years old to legally go into the hot tub.  Those little kids can't regulate their body temperatures on their own and they can die."

Are you fucking kidding me?  The odds of my girls dying or at the very least being scarred for life are greater from watching you reprimand us while you vigorously scrub your twat in public.  What in the Hell is this?

Ignoring her and attempting to get us up and out of this twilight zone episode, she continues..."You really got to watch those signs...they're there for a reason."

And then my blood boils...I'm sorry, but somehow, someway, I have three children...9, 7, and 3 who are still alive after the countless ways that I'm sure I put their lives in danger on a regular basis...and so, short of openly flogging them in public...call CPS on my ass, or someone who cares.  I don't have time for this shit.

Post our showers, the girls start putting lotion on their legs while I'm drying my hair and she turns to them yet again, "Careful, you don't want to get that in your hair."

Moments away from bitch slapping her, I see my 7-year old reaching for a plastic bag to put our swim suits in and just as I see the woman attempt to caution her again, I give her the worst stink eye you've ever seen coupled with a "gather your shit and leave or I'll cut you...I'm that close to the edge."

I'm a reasonable woman....but when it comes to my kids, kindly leave your suggestions to yourself....this mama bear's got it covered, thank you very much.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Stories We Tell Ourselves

Stories are powerful.

We know that.

Particularly, when they hit us in the gut and make us feel something real, something memorable.

Which is why the narratives that we spin in our heads about the world and more importantly, our place in it are that much more indelible and life transforming.

It's the constant reel that goes through our mind as we're going about our day doing our thing.

"I can't do it.  I've never been able to do it."

"Oh my God, why is she always such a bitch?"

"Why can I never get it together?"

"I don't deserve it anyway."

You name it.  We make judgements all day long and determine who's good, bad, worthy, doing it right, funny, lame, incompetent, Messiah like.  And 99.9% of the time, all of the assumptions, the labels, the stories never leave our heads.  They're never fact checked.  They're never shared with the source.  They're just residing there, waiting to be pulled off the shelf when we want validation that that's how the world works.

And so it was over margaritas last night, that the girls and I were solving the problems of the universe.  First up on the list, why as little girls do we believe what others tell us about ourselves?  Why do we make their story our story?  If someone in high school calls you a fat ass, a bitch, or a slut, why does it carry any validity?  Why does it matter?  And why, God forbid, 20 + years later are you still believing it?  How did their story become your reality?

Likewise, when we're trying on "change" in our lives wanting to do something that we've never done before...why do we automatically believe the age-old story that we can't, we shouldn't or we never will?

Is it possible to believe that you're a winner before you've won?  Is it worth the effort to start crafting who you are and who you want to be instead of accepting the world's labels for yourself?

In one of my favorite books, "Love in the Time of Cholera" written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, he encapsulates it with, “He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.”


And if you want to begin reinventing or solidifying parts of you, it must begin with the story you tell yourself about who you are and what you are to the world....the action emanates from the beliefs.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Path

From the time my children were babies, I've been taking them on long walks.

First, in the baby carrier.

Then, in the single stroller.

Eventually, in the double jogging stroller.

And now, all three on bikes.

They complain a shit ton when I tell them where we're going.  It's about a mile and a half from start to finish and for some reason that's just SOOOO long and TOOOO tiring.  Suck it up I telepathically tell them...and then, I try to make it fun.

The beauty of our location is that we're surrounded by older, established parks with huge trees, a beautiful golf course, lots of trails and places to hide...if you want to.

And so, each time, I let them in on a new part of the path...a hidden passage where you can go and dream.  Everyone needs a place to call their own and often, it's not found in the place where you dwell or call your home.

It's far away, under a tree, on a bridge, by a mountain or a stream...it calms you, it makes you present, it helps you get back to you.

On part of my favorite sojourn is a bridge where two houses reside.  One is a log cabin with a huge hammock embedded in what looks like Shel Silverstein's the "Giving Tree" and the other abode's entire front facade is windows and as the light hits, the entire kitchen is flooded with kaleidoscope reflections.

Every time I go for a long run, I incorporate "the path" into it.  I turn my music off and listen to my heart and my feet as they shuffle by and I dream.  Because really, I don't do it enough.  I don't let myself.  It's not practical to think about my hopes or desires.  There's just much to do.  But when I let myself pretend that I live in the log cabin with the fire in the winter and the tulips in the springtime and that I'm drinking a glass of wine as the sun is going down in the sunporched kitchen...a little bit of me is rejuvenated, feels alive again...and well, feels like me.

If you don't have a spot, find one....announce to the world that it's yours.  Dream, laugh, cry, reflect, hope...but mostly go there regularly to get away from the noise and to remember who you are when the world's not demanding that you be otherwise.

Here's a picture of me on my bridge with my kiddos and a song by Sara Bareilles called, "Once Upon a Time," that reminds me of what it means to be free remembering those childhood spots you could call your own.




Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Making Facebook Come Alive

It's funny how the beauty and the creepy part of social media is that you can be "friends" with people on Facebook or follow others on Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram or Tumblr and potentially never see them in real life or see them very rarely in the flesh.

And so it is that I find myself "friends" with many people (900 or so) who are mutual friends of my childhood, highschool, undergrad, graduate school, professional working days, volunteer organizations, parish extensions, social justice missions or political interest groups. 

I don't find it particularly odd that we've never met or may never meet.  Most of us are in similar life stations...married/committed to partners, parents, middle-aged, runners, writers, crazies just trying to make it through life. 

I like looking at pictures of their family, following their adventures and I'm thankful when they support me through mine.

And so, it wasn't odd, but a bit surreal, when upon arriving at the park with my kiddos this morning, I saw in person for the first time, a Facebook friend I've never met other than online.  I've long been a fan of his.  He and his beautiful wife are parenting I think it's 7 kiddos...oh no, I can't remember now, I just know that they took up the entire row of swings at the park and he was single-handedly pushing them all through the air.

He posts hysterical antics that happen around their home and different than me, seems to roll with it all like it's nothin but a thang.  In fact, while we were chatting it up, one of his little guys took a tumble off the swing, only to get up and have another swing clock him in the face.  Instead of yelling, screaming, and freaking out (my modus operandi), he simply reached down, picked up his hysterical little one and made him feel better. Such a cool dad.

Often, people lament about all of the bad things about Facebook...the ways in which it's taking our identity and using it to rule the world...why it reformatted its functions to make our lives miserable yet again...why it seemingly works fine on our laptops, but sucks on our mobile devices...

For me, a stay-at-home mama of three little crazies, it makes me feel connected.  It lets me know that other people are just trying to do the best that they can do too.  It gives me notice when someone has something to celebrate or needs a note because something tragic has come across their path.

Because of our busy schedules, it's unlikely that this Facebook friend and I will cross paths again...but it was good to see the virtual world of Facebook meet the physical world of my community park and to know that we're all just livin the dream...giving one kids' boo boo a hug at a time.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

The Reality of My Mortality

Maybe it's because we've had a string of rainy days.

Maybe it's because these are my last months of being 39 and then, I'll be, well, over-the-hill.

Maybe it's because a month ago, my father-in-law passed away.

Maybe it's because this movie is coming out.



Maybe it's because for the first time, in a long time, my mortality is present in a way it hasn't been.

I suppose your teens and 20's are a time for being invincible.  The world isn't a place to be feared...it's a place to be lived and quite frankly, to live with reckless abandon.  Even though things aren't perfect, your parents and grandparents are probably alive.  If you get sick, you bounce back.  The only health "test" I had administered was a yearly pap and mostly, that was just awkward.  There was no thought of whether there would be a result to be concerned about.

Into my 30's, I'd hear of freak scenarios.  A group of teenagers that drank too much and were thrown from a car.  A child with a rare form of cancer.  A parent who died too soon.  But thankfully, none of these situations came close to home.

Every once in a while, I'd enter into some philosophical dialogue with my young professional comrades about what happens when you die.  Does it hurt?  Where do you go?  How do you want to go out?  If you go to Heaven, do you look the same as when you passed away on earth or can you pick your age?  Are you married to the same person?  What happens if you were married multiple times?  Are your pets waiting for you?  Do you have to enter into a waiting period before you enter the pearly gates?  Do you come back as a frog or a tree? 

The challenge, I suppose...is that no one knows.  Anyone who tells you what happens post this life doesn't really know because they've never died.  And so, many of us, cling to our faith.  We create images, ideas, stories, concepts that soothe us and help us to feel better.  But the truth is, we don't know.  And we simply have to trust.

And so last night, I started to cry thinking about the gravity of the concept of my own mortality.  I mean really...you don't walk around thinking that at any moment you can die...you walk around, for the most part, taking your life for granted...that's how you get through the day.

You go to sleep, certain that you'll wake up.  You put your head under water at a swimming pool, trusting that when you come up for air, it will be there.  You start your car and drive at high speeds not worried that the brakes will fail or someone who's intoxicated will hit you.  You live your life.

But the truth is...it's all temporary....it's all extremely fragile...and it's all going away....and we don't know when.  That's a tough concept to wrap my heart and mind around.

And then, I came up on this quote by one of my favorite authors, Ray Bradbury from "Fareinheit 451."

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you're there.

It doesn't matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that's like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn-cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime.”
 
So, I guess the real question is...what have I touched?  


Friday, August 8, 2014

Releasing My Inner Orgasmic Yogi

I have long been a lover of yoga.

For lots of reasons.

It forces a crazy, neurotic, OCD girl like me to pause, breathe, take in the moment, recalibrate, and come back to my busy life ready to take it on again.

And so it was last night, after an exhausting day of refereeing arguments between the kiddos (it is definitely the end of summer), that I found myself straddling two choices:  lay on the couch with the remote watching mindless television or head to the studio and get my Zen on.

The challenge was that the only class left for the night was an advanced one...you know, where the instructor calls out the poses and the students, presumably know what they're doing and fall in line.

Who gives a shit, I thought?  What's the worst that can happen?  They boot me out because I suck?  My new mantra was, "Fuck it!" At the very least, I know that there's a guaranteed Savasana (laying on your back and relaxing with your eyes closed and the lights off) at the end.

I walk in.  It's dark.  There are maybe 6 people in the room and Andi McDowell (see visual below) at the front...the hot, middle-aged, semi-southern accented instructor.



I take my place alongside a hot man, probably in his 20's...they were all probably in their 20's...young, fit, not a dark circle of sleep deprivation in the lot of them.

Andi McDowell begins by having us walk our legs up the wall and tells us to get comfortable because we're going to be spending a lot of time here and then she cues this oddly charming Yanni yoga music.  I find myself wanting to fall asleep and meditate at the same time except that my ass is in the air and I fear that a fart may fight it's way out at anytime.  Focus, damn it.  Focus.

Feeling in an otherworldly, twilighty sort of state, I hear her say, "There's going to be a full moon on Sunday, did you know that Nicholas?"

To which, hot guy on the wall next to me, exhales deeply and says, "Beautiful, Lynn...just beautiful."

OOOAAAKKKYYY....

What was that?  Do the middle aged hot yoga teacher and college boy have a thing going on? 

Moving vigorously (hence the advanced part) in and out of Down Dog to Up Dog then to Cobra, Cat/Cow....I see her out of the corner of my eye come over to Nicholas with her phone.  What the fuck?  She begins taking pictures of his feet and says slowly and southernly...

"Do you remember, Nicholas, when I said that yoga is all about the feet?"

Sweet Jesus...they're going to do it right here while everyone is catatonically moving through their flow.

And then, she starts to breathe and everyone else starts to breathe and alternately moan and then, I do and then, I'm sweating and then, I'm closing my eyes and then, I'm mesmerized by her voice and then, I'm drinking the Kool-Aid.

Short of the no "Happy Ending" part, the Savasana talk was amazing.  And upon rolling up my yoga mat, I thought...best class ever and the only reason this deal is classified as "Advanced" is because people are having mind sex with each other.

Holy Cat Cow!

I know what I'm doing next Thursday night.

Namaste.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Getting Back Up Again

I spent most of the summer reveling in the fact that I ran a marathon at the beginning of May.

I also spent it drinking iced coffees...not black ones...more like Venti ones (which translates into ginormously fat sized ones) with caramel and vanilla syrup and cream (um, okay, extra cream).

And I spent it taking a long break from consistently running. 

It was probably a good thing. 

My body and my mind were exhausted from the training....but Holy Fuck...let me tell you what happens when you pound sugar like it's your job and stop all significant bodily movement...

Your flesh retaliates and pushes a big middle finger in your face and says, "Your free pass has expired and if you wanna keep playing this game, I'll give you something to cry about."  As if the reality of my swim suit wasn't enough.

And so, I put together my fall race plan...half marathons scheduled for September, October and November and devised my training program.  Six days of pain...including lifting, cross-training and of course, lots of miles.

And then, I started seriously getting back into it.  I revised my play list, bought new running shoes, set my alarm for o'dark thirty and made the commitment.  Allow me to begin by saying, "Why in the HELL is it so hard to achieve meaningful fitness goals and so fucking easy to have everything turn to shit in just a few short weeks?"  The universe is a cruel place.

I have a million running skirts, tanks, short shorts and they are all staring me in the face, begging to be worn again...feeling neglected in the corner of my closet.

And so, how do I get back up again?  Especially when it feels insurmountable and I know just how much work is required to get back to where I was.

This morning...I checked Facebook and found a status update from a friend who simply wrote, "Burpees...done."  And I wrote, "Burpees are my nemesis.  But when I do them well, I know I'm in a good spot."  And he wrote, "Most of the time, I splatter to the ground and pray to get back up.  But I suppose the getting back up is the point."

And there it is.

In everything in life, all that matters is that we get back up and make a choice to try again.  It doesn't have to be pretty.  It certainly won't look the way it has when we've done it in the past. It won't be perfect.  It will probably be painful.  Every fiber of our being will rebel.  But we have to choose to recommit to us. 

And so my mantras this week have been:

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.” Confucious

"It always seems impossible until it's done."  Nelson Mandela

Here's to getting it done...getting back up...affording myself some grace along the way and a stiff kick in the ass regularly.  I'm worth it.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Recommitting to Me

This has been one hell of a summer.

In so many good and bad ways.

We've spent more time traveling or hosting friends and family than I can remember in ages. To connect with the people we love has been glorious.

But sprinkled in the mix has also been the loss of my father-in-law which has been harder than any of us imagined.

Subsequently, my better half has been gone more than he's been home and I've been with the children alone a lot.

This weekend, he took the littles on a Dad's and Kids Camping trip and for the first time in what feels like a lifetime, I had three full days completely to myself.

I had no idea what to do first...finish up the laundry, tidy up the bedrooms, grocery shop, water the flowers, write thank you notes, catch up with friends, stare mindlessly at the wall...

In the end, I found myself lying on the couch in my underwear scooping out handfuls of homemade whipped cream while watching a flick I haven't seen in ages..."Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," with Jim Carrey (Joel) and Kate Winslet (Clementine).  The premise is that after a beautiful, passionate, and tumultuous relationship...Joelie and Clem call it quits.  The problem is that they have all of these memories of each other and their times together.  And so, they both seek out a make-shift outfit that through some interesting methods can erase one's memories of another...thereby, eliminating pain when drudging up something from the past.

The acting is fantastic.  The music is amazing.  And the concept had me laughing, crying and wondering.

At this point in my life, my world is wholly committed to my family.  There's little time, money or energy for dreaming about me or wondering about the should of, could of, would of's in life.  It's largely about who needs which school supplies, oil changes in the cars, story books at the library and maintaining sanity while the kids tear each other apart one minute and then play happily the next.

But what about the memories, the moments of life reflection, the wonderings, the cravings, the hopes?

Not long ago, I was at a dinner party and one of the women who I'm friends with on Facebook said, "What happened to your blog?  Where did your writing go?  Are you still running?  I haven't seen many morning posts?"  And then later, someone started talking about creativity and I retorted with, "I'm the least creative person I know unless you count the kids' initials in the peanut butter and jelly sandwiches." To which she responded, "I think your writing is great.  I wish you'd do it more."

And I thought, how can I?  I'm just saying the same things over and over again.  What's the point?  And then she said, "I like it because it's real.  I can see me in you." And I was blown away.

This fall has me sending all three of my children to school in one form or another.  After seven years of being at home, I can hardly believe it.  I've decided that I need to write...regardless of whether it's good, it's relatable, noteworthy, inspiring, intriguing, or useful..I need it...like I need running...to smooth out the rough edges, to help me to breath, to teach me to let go and to remind me that I'm alive.

And so, feel free to ignore my ramblings.  They'll most likely just be a hodge podge of crazy talk.  But they'll be mine and that's what matters.

I can't imagine erasing any of my memories, as painful as some of them are.  They happened purposefully.  They shaped me.  And the one that I have of me writing in a villa in Tuscany and alongside a cafe in Paris haven't happened yet...but they will, one day, hopefully, with a tub of homemade whipped cream at my disposal.