Thursday, July 30, 2015

Stop Time

This is a picture of me and my kiddos...

It was taken at a bike parade this Fourth of July.  I am 40.  Sam is 10.  Kate is 7...within inches of turning 8 and Claire is 4.5.

Today at the pool, I ran into an old friend from high school.  I was trying to corral my brood between the indoor and the outdoor water slide pools and she grabbed me..."Kelly...I don't know what's happened to Sam but he's grown.  He's so tall and such a handsome kid."

My heart sort of stopped because to me on any given day, he's just my kid.  But then, I look at pictures like the one above and realize...he's literally up to my shoulders.  How dear God did that happen?  He's only 10 years old.

Juxtapose this pic to the one below of me and my siblings.  It's not the best of us.  We'd all been pushing our kids on bikes at the Bike Parade in the midst of humid ass July weather and they were forced against their will to take the traditional pose against my mom's kitchen wall mural.

You know which one I am...Michael is my younger brother by 4 years.  Christina...the red head on the right is my younger sister by 12 years and my baby sister April on the left is younger by 13.

They all have kiddos of their own and really fantastic lives.  But not long ago, I was fighting like crazy with Mike.  I used to beat the shit out of him until he turned 12 and then he returned the favor by pinning me down and spitting on me just exactly when no parent was looking.  I practically helped raise my sisters...changed their diapers, helped them to brush their teeth, read to them and now, I look at them as grown women raising their own littles and I think...please, stop time.

It struck me at the pool that I often live my life in the following fashion...I look at all of the things I have going on and pace myself by saying...everything will be better after I get through this meeting or presentation or project or family event or fill in the blank.  I let myself celebrate for 2.5 seconds and then I'm off to the races on to the next item to check off the list.

Somewhere in the mix, life happens and people grow up and time keeps ticking and memories are either made and savored or, they're not pardoned by the busy hectic freneticness of life.

And so, when my friend said that Sam was so tall and handsome, I thought, I must enjoy this journey.  One day, he'll be like my brother with his own family and responsibilities.  For now, I'll plan to stop and look him in the eye when he's telling me about the latest chapter of a book or a movie that's coming out that he wants to see.  I'll engage him and ask questions...without trying to hurry through it because I'm constantly multi-tasking.

I'll remind myself that

swimming deeply in the waters of all of it is so much more rewarding than simply treading.  Because time goes on no matter...even when we're desperate for it to slow down and let us savor the moments.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Bad Guys Always Lose...Or

It was a stunning morning, so the kids and I trekked to the park.

Sam loaded a back pack with Nerf guns, swords, water bottles and pretzel bread while the girls slammed on bike helmets and sunscreen and we all headed on our way.

Rolling up to the swings, I started the process of pushing them as high as I could (until their toes reached the tippy tops of the trees) and that's when she came...the most animated, opinionated, hoot of an 8-year old girl that I've ever met.

With her chocolate brown hair and big eyes, she looked Sam (10) square in the face and said, "Hey...we need a bad guy.  I don't care who you wanna a horse or a wolf or whatever kind of villain...but you need to like sports and to chase us.  Got it."

Absolutely floored, I couldn't speak.  I just waited to see what he did.

"What game are you playing?" he asks.

"We're playing Fairies...I'm a horse fairy...but you don't have to be a bad fairy because I know that's not cool.  Just be bad and mean and quick and tell us that you're gonna kill us or something."

Sweet Jesus.

"Look...I've watched enough movies to know that bad guys never win, so why would I want to be the bad guy?  Plus, even though I'm fast, I don't really like sports...I play flag football, not horse fairies."

"Well, I'm not an average horse fairy.  Want me to punch you?" 

And before I could say, "Um, let's not do that..."

She went to clock him.  Luckily, he's older and taller and stronger and blocked it...but fuck...girl's got some moxie. 

As they ran off to figure it out, I couldn't stop smiling thinking about what just transpired...but also about my son's reasoning for not wanting to be the bad guy. 

He's heard the same narrative over and over again and clearly, so had she.  There's a princess, a knight, a villain, maybe a side kick, sometimes, the tender, innocent bystander who falls on the sword...but in general, everyone plays their part.

But why?  Why does the story have to go down that way?  Maybe, Sam could start as the villain and through a series of circumstances or situational drama could transform into the good guy.  Or maybe everyone turns into evil wolves or horses or whatever.

On my morning run as the sun was coming up and my music was blaring, it struck me.  Life is so much more about how you craft it then how it shapes you.  At any given moment, we decide which character we want to be and for how long and why.  The narrative is ours for the creating and the telling.  The power lies in our pencils and imagination and will.

Today, one little girl in the park needed a bad guy.  And she was willing to punch out the best contender to garner it...that's living your story.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Sound of Silence

I like to proclaim that my life is loud and busy and frenetic and stretched and beautiful and complicated and tiring and messy...but the truth is, sometimes, I pick it...even when I could be quiet.

There are moments when zoning into the tasks of sorting laundry, chopping vegetables, watering the lawn, picking weeds, organizing desk drawers and creating grocery lists feels safer than being absent of the "busy."

And so it was tonight as my husband was working late and I'd spent several hours at the zoo with my kiddos combined with a play date that I found it fitting that this song came on my playlist as I was making dinner.

I'm mindful that I like to be very active.  I enjoy crossing things off my list.  It makes me feel like I have a sense of control, even though most of the time, I'm the least controlled person I know.

And so the quiet, particularly, the still are next to impossible for me.  I've been invited several times to meditation sessions and encouraged to try out a meditation app and I just can't get myself to do it.  A Tai Chi class nearly made me lose my marbles and yet, yoga feels like bliss...the perfect blend of vigorous activity coupled with intense, deep breathing.

But the silence?  Eeh gads.  Most of the time, I'm going, going, going with very little time or opportunity to reflect and I chalk it up to the life stage of my children...but now that they're getting bigger, there are periods of extended time to be quiet...and I still find it hard to choose them...unless it involves deep sleep.

Are you good at it?  Do you crave it?  Do you carve out time in your daily commute or before the sun rises or in the late hours when the moon's up and your loved ones are in bed?  Does it feel rejuvenating?  Does it give you space to ruminate on your desires, your hopes, your fears?  Or sometimes, does it scare you and make you mindful of those things that you don't want to take up head space?  I'm sure it's a mixed bag.

I need to get better at simply being appreciative of the sound of silence.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Everything is Waiting for You

It was a typical Saturday morning.

Running through the morning rituals, I perused Facebook and read the following stanzas posted by a dear friend.

You must learn one thing.
The world was made to be free in.
Give up all the other worlds
except the one to which you belong.
Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet
confinement of your aloneness
to learn
anything or anyone
that does not bring you alive
is too small for you.
~David Whyte

And I started reflecting...but as is true to form in my loud life, that only lasted a few moments before the kids started fighting, breakfast had to be made, wet towels needed to transferred into the dryer, beds were beckoning and I had to hunt down running shorts and a yoga mat.

I couldn't get it out of my heart, "anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you..."

Pushing myself as hard as I could, four miles into the run, it hit me...stop placating, stop accommodating, stop trying to be that which you are not.  You were created to be you.

A fast shower and onto my yoga class, the instructor said, "We're going to spend the first 10 minutes laying on our stomach with our feet propped up on blocks and our eyes closed.  In fact, the only thing you have permission to pay attention to is your breathing.  I will cue you when someone enters the room, but you're not to look up.  There's nothing to see...only time to hear and grow deeper and deeper into you."

Post the class, I sat in the steam room and started processing the yin yang of the morning...and then drove back home to kids climbing the walls ready for bike/scooter rides to the park.  After sweating my arse off, I came back and read another brilliant David Whyte piece:

Everything is Waiting for You

Your great mistake is to act the drama
as if you were alone. As if life
were a progressive and cunning crime
with no witness to the tiny hidden
transgressions. To feel abandoned is to deny
the intimacy of your surroundings. Surely,
even you, at times, have felt the grand array;
the swelling presence, and the chorus, crowding
out your solo voice. You must note
the way the soap dish enables you,
or the window latch grants you freedom.
Alertness is the hidden discipline of familiarity.
The stairs are your mentor of things
to come, the doors have always been there
to frighten you and invite you,
and the tiny speaker in the phone
is your dream-ladder to divinity.
Put down the weight of your aloneness and ease into
the conversation. The kettle is singing
even as it pours you a drink, the cooking pots
have left their arrogant aloofness and
seen the good in you at last. All the birds
and creatures of the world are unutterably
themselves. Everything is waiting for you.

Most of my life, I've grown really good at being the woman that I think is best for the situation at large.  I know how to navigate the terrain and morph into what needs to be for the moment.  But as I've grown older and have experienced joy and sorrow, I'm deeply aware that we are here for a purpose and that we are given one voice...our voice to share in the world.  And like the bird or the kettle or the run or the yoga practice or the making of beds or the pouring of cereal...we are not alone...we do our lives in conjunction with all that surrounds us and our responsibility is to ensure that our voices are still singing as we sojourn...because if we all morph into one, well then, what kind of a world would that be?

Everyone is waiting for you and for me.  It's messy.  It's sometimes hard to negotiate your voice in a sea of responsibilities and parties of those who would dominate it or change it to fit the "greater good," but while they are singing their song and vying for their needs, you must continue to forge your matter how alone or tiring it feels.

Until one day, you look up and realize that the chorus including your solo contribution is the most beautiful and satisfying music you've ever heard.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Stroke After Stroke

Are you a swimmer?

Are your kids?

I can't even remember how young I was when I learned how to was back in the 70's when your dad threw you in the pool and gulping water you learned to tread water and eventually how to make it to the side.  Over time, you dared your friends to see how long you could hold your breath bobbing along the surface desperately hoping that you would hear them pop up first gasping for air.

Later, I learned basic strokes and spent some embarrassing time in middle school with my best friend in synchronized swimming lessons...the coolest part of that deal was the PA system in the water.

On the flip side, my husband has been a fish his whole life.  Swimming from the time he was little eventually competitively and then life guarding for five billion moons before becoming a dad.

So, when it came time for the kids to learn how to swim, he threw them in and then told them that they would all have a stint on the swim team.  Sam abhored it.  Much to his chagrin, the coaches not only make you swim until your arms fall off, but they also make you run prior and do push-ups after.  So after one season, his response was, to hell with that.

This year, Kate was old enough to give it a go.  And she fell in love with the water.

Definitively not the fastest or the strongest...but what she lacks in speed, she makes up for in heart.  She's like the little Rudy of the group resolute on taking the Elementary Backstroke as far as it and she can go.

Last night was their last practice and she was in Heaven.  They spent the whole time racing each other.  We watched her keep going and going and going, never giving up, seemingly tired, but continuing to kick her legs and pull her arms through the water.

And when she finished, I said, "Kate, you were amazing...I'm so proud of you.  I have no idea how you kept going and going even when you were wiped out."

To which she said, "It's just what we do, mama, we're the swim team."

While she was showering, I couldn't get it out of my head..."It's just what we do."  She's decided that she's a swimmer.  No bother how fast or how slow.  She has a responsibility to do her best for herself and the team and so she shows up and she does her thing.

I have this nasty habit of second guessing my legitimacy when I feel like I've fallen off the wagon...with, well, really any component of my life.  When I'm impatient and yelling at my kids too frequently, I fear that I'm not a good mother.  When I don't reach out or follow-up with friends in a meaningful way, I worry that my relationships may be in need of repair.  When I'm not running decent distances with consistency, I don't feel like I have the right to call myself a runner.  And when I'm writing spottily, well, you get where I'm going.

Not Kate.  She's a swimmer and a member of the team.  Period.

So many beautiful lessons learned watching a sweet little girl with Pippy Long Stocking braids, glitter goggles and a big heart go to town on the back stroke...

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Eavesdropping at the Coffee Shop

I hit a milestone this week...all three of my kiddos are participating in Vacation Bible School.

Which means that from 9am-12pm, I am a free woman.

It's sort of revolutionary to experience particularly, in the summertime.

So, each morning, I've scheduled coffee with a friend and then, powered through a run basking in the amazing weather that we're experiencing in late July.

Pulling up to my new favorite cafe, I snagged an outdoor table and an extra half an hour before my friend arrived.  Grabbing my journal, pen and steaming Americano, I started to write.  Feeling a cool breeze and savoring the strong smell of my java, I heard, "I hate him. I really do."  And I looked up.

It was a drop-dead beautiful girl talking on the phone to someone who she was clearly confiding in.  Fuck, fuck, fuck.  I hate these situations.  I never want someone to feel like they're being listened to, but what am supposed to do...I'm not going inside...the weather is too stunning.  Okay, keep writing.

"What is he thinking?  Why does he always find a way to humiliate me?  I'm done...done."

Oh my God...this is getting good.  Who is he?  What did he do?  What has he been doing?  What was the last straw?  Does he know what a beautiful woman he has?  Why am I wrapped up in this?

"No, no, no.  I'm not talking to him.  We've said all there is to say.  He can fuck himself."

Oh shit...not good.  Not good at all.

"I know.  I'll talk to you later."

And that was it.  She walked in and clearly must have met someone because her 5-minute phone dialogue was over and I never saw her again.

Instantly, what I was previously scribbling about in my journal shifted and I started to write feverishly about her.  At first, I assumed the culprit was her shit-for-brains, non-committal, hot but worthless boyfriend and that she was tired of playing the fool.  And then, I thought it was her father that left her mother when she was young and was unreliable when it came to celebrating her successes like a photo exhibition that launched the evening before.  And then I thought it was her boss...the man who promised big career opportunities and after long nights and ridiculous numbers of hours never quite came through, always with an excuse.

On my bedside is Stephen King's "On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft."  It's his homage to the writers/story tellers of the world who want to get their voices out but are afraid that without a Master of Fine Arts that they're dead in the water.  One of the first pieces of commentary is on the power of the imagination and the ability to take a basic human observation and catapult it into a living, breathing creature that someone cares about.

For me today, it was her.  The girl at the coffee shop.

After an hour or so, I went back in to use the restroom hoping that I would see who she met.  To no avail, she must have exited through the back door.

All around me there are stories dying to be told.  I just have to be willing to eavesdrop a little.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Allow, Allow, Allow

I have been practicing my breathing.

Deep inhales from the belly with ginormous exhales that go on forever.

That's because I'm on a stretch of single parenting and well, my kiddos were assholes at the art museum this afternoon. 

I'm not sure why, but they know when to push my buttons and each other's particularly, when we're in public and I can't go full-on bat shit crazy for fear that Child Protective Services will swoop down and take them away for good.

Knowing that I cannot lose my shit with them, does not in anyway prevent them from losing their shit witn me and producing tantrums of a "Cybl" caliber. 

And so, it was with lots of breathing and kind words and semi-gritting of my teeth that I said to my beautiful, sweet, Kate (8), "This behavior is absolutely unacceptable.  You pushed a three-year old little boy.  We are at an art museum, not your bedroom.  You need to take turns and allow someone to experience what you are."  To which she replied, "I can't help it.  He ruined my painting. What would you have done?"

Her heartfelt words reminded me of my yoga class yesterday as I was struggling to find my way into "Crow" position.  It wasn't working.  I was getting frustrated and my instructor said, "This is a safe space to play and grow into the postures. Try not to force it.  One day, you'll arrive.  Allow, allow, allow it to be what it's going to be."  Ugh...I'm tired of allowing it to be what it's going to be.  I want it to work, even for half a second.

And to that end, I see me in Kate.  She had a creation in mind and someone fucked it up.  The natural response is to push back and protect what's yours instead of allowing it to become what it will.

Much like parenting, I struggle to let the afternoon emerge as it will.  I have an idea of what I think it can be and when it's not working, rarely do I take a step back and trust that it will work itself out.  Instead, I shove it, push it, morph it, bang it until well....we're all exhausted and spent.

But damn it, it's hard and frustrating and well, the last thing you want to feel when you're experiencing beautiful art at a museum.

That said, upon getting into the car, Kate said, "I'm sorry. I could have been nicer."  To which I said, "Me too."  Which took every fiber of my being to own. 

I guess my children weren't the only assholes at the museum.  Here's to more deep breathing and wine...yes, wine.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Time Travel

I saw this movie last night...

It's called "About Time," a British flick about a young man who learns from his father that all of the men in their family have the gift of traveling back in time.  No one can go forward.  But if you want to recreate a single moment in the past, you simply find a dark space, clench your fists, think of the memory and instantly you're transported.  Suspicious of whether it's possible and if indeed, he can keep recreating moments until they are exactly as he would hope them to be with the benefit of retrospection, he keeps going backward...until he realizes that not everything can be fixed and ultimately, the goal is to live every day as if it's the last day of your perfectly extraordinary, ordinary life.

Like most, I find myself reeling between the past and the future with little time for the present.  Which is wholly ironic in every way because the only "real time" that we have is now.  Nevertheless, I find myself analyzing what I could have done differently yesterday while simultaneously, making plans for my tomorrows.

But what if?

What if you could go back and "fix" a single moment or memory?  Would you?  Would it create a ripple effect that would render the remainder of your experiences tarnished because of your choice to change history?

Not long ago, I delivered a presentation to a large lecture hall of graduate students.  I was nervous as hell and so thankful that I had on a sleeveless dress as I'm certain that sweat was rolling like a river down my body.  Somewhere in the midst of my gusto for talking about conflict resolution, I belted out that a character in one of the case studies was a real "ass wipe."  The room went silent.  My face went white.  And then all of the sudden, the guy in the back shouted, "kinda like my roommate," to which everyone started laughing.  Saved.

We second guess ourselves constantly.

Did we do the right thing?  Say the right thing?  Are we making the right choices?  Investing our time and energy where we should be?

I think the beauty of not knowing how you'll behave or perform in any given scenario coupled with the inability to "take it back," is a beautiful and painful and present way to live.  It requires you to try without any guarantee for the preferred result or outcome.  And when you fail or it doesn't look like what you'd hoped for, there's lessons and learning in that part of the journey as well.

So, to be honest, when I think back over vivid memories, are there some old deusche bag bosses or meany dates that I'd love to banish from my past...maybe....but in the end, I suppose I became who I am because of them.  I'm more inclined to banish the negative or less than thoughts that I've burdened myself with over the years...the collateral damage of those seems far more grueling.

But what I would love to do is to go back to that 16, 19, 25, 35 year old girl and somehow show her in those crazy moments of vulnerability and doubt that really, it's going to be okay.  Actually, it's going to be more than okay.  It's going to be a beautiful hot mess.

Saturday, July 11, 2015


For the first time in about 10 days, I woke up and breathed without thinking about my immediate next action steps.

My husband was gracious enough to take the kiddos to the grocery store and they were kind enough to help him mow the lawn.

That left me finding my way to a yoga class.  A bit trepidatious, I walked in afraid that I'd forgotten.

Filling in the circle with my purple mat, my lower back was on fire, my legs were stiff, my arms felt like jello and when the instructor required us to close our eyes and to start paying attention to our breath, I almost started crying.

Breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth, reinhabiting the space between the sacrum and the soul, it hit me, I've been so out of touch with my physical being.

After what felt like hundreds of breath cycles, we placed our hands to heart center and together chanted "om" three times to intone the practice.  It was then that I melted into the poses and like riding a bike, picked up immediately where I'd left off, albeit a little rusty.

This is what happens to me.  I'm a pretty phenomenal task master.  If there is a goal in sight, I can strategize how to get there and activate immediately.  I like checking things off the list.  I live in the future like it's my job.  And most of the time, my frenzied take charge mindset serves me well.

Until my body and my heart say, enough.  We've been abandoned for far too long.  And that was the deal this morning.  Exempt of a regular running regimen or a daily routine with the kids combined with executing big projects and exhaustion, I've been a ball of bueno on the body.

I once had a reading done and the woman told me before she even turned a card that I live far too much in my head and that my body was longing to dance.  At the time, I was drinking coffee and spit a portion of it out on her cards.  Embarrassed, I said, I think my body longs to sleep.  To which she replied, your body is tired of being tired and your mind is on overload.

So, when I starting chanting "om" and listened to the intonations of the men and women in unison, it was a vivid reminder that we all long to dance.  We all want to move freely and to connect to others in the process.

My challenge is feeling a strong type A responsibility that keeps me analyzing and over analyzing all the things I should be doing instead of surrendering in the moment.  To that end, I hate that my spotty yoga practice is confined to an external studio that I have to drive to and transport myself metaphysically outside of my thoughts.  Instead, I wish that I could capture the feeling of breathing in and breathing out, chanting "om" and letting my being dance.  Here's to finding myself more connected to my body.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ode to Kate on Your Golden Eighth Birthday

Dear Kate,

I don't know how it happened, but this morning, we woke up and you were a full fledged, bonafide, beautiful, full of life 8-year old not so-little girl.

In every way, I love you.

You exemplify what it means to be a sweet, sassy fairy princess who lives to read books about dragons and to paint colorful Hummingbirds all while you battle Nerf guns with your older brother and teach your younger sister how to write her name.

You are spunky and everyday and twice on Tuesday can hold your own.  You're not afraid to speak your mind particularly, when you're defending the under dog or advocating on someone's behalf.

Absolutely different from me, you live smack dab in the moment taking in the color of the grass and the sadness of the world and the joy in your heart and you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that everything will be okay.

You abhor red meat and adore virtually every fruit and vegetable especially, edamame and cucumbers.  Lover of granola and grapenuts and glitter and tempura paint and canvases and diaries with locks on them and saying Hail Mary's when ambulances drive are more amazing than you know.

Days ago, you selected a super cool pair of sparkly purple spectacles to serve as your inaugural pair  and when I see you in them, well, it takes my breath away.  You're so grown up...

In a few weeks, you'll begin third grade and inevitably, the world will open even more...your interests will vary, your ideas will develop, your heart will swell and break and the things you knew to be true may shift as is bound to happen when you add another birthday to your beautiful life.

So just for a little bit longer, I say thank you....thank you for letting me make Pippy Longstocking braids in your mane, indulging my love of mismatched dresses and tights, calling you pet names like "Cat-uh-lone-ay" and "Kate-girl," reading to you the same stories over and over again because the main character is a super hero girl who saves the world and for accepting my OCD, crazy mama ways all in the name of love.

It's hard to capture in words all of the things that I want for you.  And so I've decided to encourage you to keep on keepin on...because really, you're doing such a great job of living a life on purpose.  Keep loving those who seem unloveable.  Keep painting a world of color and dreaming of places where magic, princesses, dragons and sorcerers create the unexpected.  Keep using your gifts to make others smile, laugh and feel connected to one another.

On this day, your Golden 8th birthday, may you be reminded of what a gift you are to our family, how much we adore every part of you and how excited we are to see what the new year brings.  Fasten your seat belt...I think you're going to love every minute.

xoxo, Mama

Sunday, July 5, 2015


Holy Mary Mother of God...this has been one Hell of a week....

I don't know what possessed us, but here's what we decided to do...paint the exterior of our home, refinance at some insanely low interest rate, say yes to facilitating a 2-hour conflict resolution presentation to graduate students, welcome my mother-in-law for an 8-day stay and usher in Kate's 8th golden birthday complete with a paint/build your own sundae birthday party...oh and also celebrate Independence Day in the mix.

So here's what happened, I assumed that in a refinance, the appraiser assesses the outside of your home like a tax no.  Silly me.  They assess every fucking nook and cranny.  And so, all of those little things that have been put off...well, we had to attend to them with lightening speed. And have I mentioned that I don't handle stress well?

Simultaneously, I was trying to prepare an interactive lecture on having difficult conversations to 60 physical therapy graduate students and realized that I am the least qualified to do, what the fuck is Power Point?  I promptly forgot this shit after I left the corporate world and now, condensing my thoughts to slides, well, we'll see how it goes, I deliver it in a few days....secondly, I have been yelling at my husband and my children like it's my job, so maybe teaching conflict resolution is a bit hypocritical at this juncture in the game.

My sweet soon-to-be 8-year old daughter has decided that she wants her girlfriends to paint humming birds on canvases which require adults to trace at least a pseudo outline first and then, pray that everyone loves to be as crazy creative as she does.

And, then there's the gift of my mother-in-law...truly every day and twice on Tuesday, God bless her.  She's schlepped to the zoo, the park, Lowe's, the Fourth of July bike parade, Target, you name it...she's done it...all with a smile on her face.

So for tonight, I say, kaput.  No more.  Game over.  I've left it all on the field.  No more to give.  Praying the appraiser dude is nice and that he likes coffee and that the presentation goes well and that they don't start throwing tomatoes.  And that Kate's birthday party is a hoot with lots of laughs.  And that in the end, I look back at this week and say that the elbow grease was worth it...because it sure has been a shit storm of craziness along the way.