Make me a channel of your peace

Besides doing yoga and watching high school football drama on Netflix, I’ve been going to mass every week with Cate’s class at school. At first she pretended she didn’t notice me there, but today she actually sat with me and shared the songbook. As if I needed it. pshh. After 12 years of belting out “Gather us In” and “The Prayer of Saint Francis,” I have all those school mass songs down by heart.

Speaking of Francis. I wasn’t surprised when his trip to the United States was among the Prayers of the Faithful today. But I was surprised when I hesitated to join in being thankful. Even if it was only for a second.

I adore Pope Francis, and I’ve been overjoyed to witness his messages of inclusiveness and service; of taking care of our one earth; of eliminating judgement on others and instead focusing our hearts on helping those in need. But I have to admit, I felt hurt and disappointed yesterday when I saw on Twitter that Francis had met with Kim Davis, the county clerk who refuses to do her job in the name of discrimination and despite the law. (side note: my blog is not a forum for political or religious debate. It is simply my opinion. I won’t argue with you.)

Anyway, I was really struggling. If you’ve been reading my blog for awhile, or you know me well, then you know I already struggle with some of the other teachings of the Catholic church. But as Angie and I have discussed: we can’t just throw up our arms and walk away. We have to be the change we want to see. We have to be the channel of peace. And I want to see a Catholic church that embraces all people equally, and is driven by love and service to those in need. That’s what I’ve been seeing and hearing from Francis; and that’s why I’ve been so encouraged lately by the direction of our church.

And that’s why I was so disappointed to see the news about the meeting.

But then, during that split second I hesitated to join in the prayer during mass, I remembered the Facebook post I saw from a favorite priest this morning. He said that Pope Francis met with many sinners during his visit to the United States. For example, he met with prisoners who have comitted terrible crimes. And he offered them all words of encouragment and peace. That’s what Jesus would have done; that’s what we are taught to do. (Even if you don’t believe in Jesus–which is not a requirement in my book–if you are a decent person then you can get behind the idea of lifting others up, no matter what.)

I can’t sit here and judge Francis for meeting with anyone. After all, I have no idea what is in his heart. Meeting with someone is not condoning their actions. We are all called to offer love and understanding, even when we don’t understand.

I’m not going to let this diminish my excitement about the possibilities I see under the leadership of Pope Francis. I’m not going to let injury and doubt and sadness take even one moment of the peace I felt this morning standing next to my daughter, listening to her sing about hope and joy and love.

We have to be the change we want to see. Even when we can’t always understand the world around us.

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Namaste

I’m a middle-aged woman now and you all know what that means: yes, I’m into yoga now.

And no, this doesn’t mean I’m going to retire my roller skates (more on that later). But it probably does mean that you might see me coming out of Starbucks with my #PSL wearing yoga pants and you totally won’t be able to sigh and say, “she probably doesn’t even know what Warrior pose is.” Because I totally do and I can wear these yoga pants anywhere I want…just like I did before I knew about yoga.

Ok, to explain my newfound excitement about yoga: some background. I was feeling really stressed back in August. (sidenote: I have this superpower where I can turn stress into stomach ulcers and other fun disorders.) Meanwhile food trucks and food festivals and beer drinking opportunities were in abundance. So I called and ordered up some ‘old people’ prescription Nexium from my doctor.

But it wasn’t working. In fact, soon it felt like everything I ate was burning a hole through my stomach and out the back via my shoulder blade. I stopped eating (because duh, it hurt like hell whenever I ate) and lost over 10 pounds in 3 weeks. (sidenote: fuck everyone who says “it must be nice.” To you I say: it must be nice to EAT food!)

Yeah, I totally need(ed) to calm down.

Enter my new good friend Jackie Casal Mahrou. I’m kidding, she doesn’t even know I exist. But for only $10 per month, my yoga download subscription gives me unlimited access to Jackie’s soothing voice and her reassuring words that I can “clean out my stressful thoughts, exactly like cleaning out a junk drawer” in my house. No, it’s not porn; they charge way more on those sites (I have heard).

At first I thought Jackie from yoga download was crazy. This downward dog position is NOT a normal position for my body to be in for more than 2 seconds and asking me to lay still and ‘not think’ is highly laughable. But oddly, I excel at tree pose. Who knew I was so coordinated? I should probably call my high school basketball and softball coaches and let them know.

I made Henry take this and he could not stop laughing at me. Can't imagine why ;-)

I made Henry take this and he could not stop laughing at me. Can’t imagine why 😉

Anyway, yoga–and Jackie–helped me hold it together while my GI doctor and my regular doctor traded notes trying to figure out what to do with me. (It turns out I have gallstones, which is just fancy talk for “You eat too much butter and bacon.”)

In addition to relieving anxiety, Yoga is also a powerful antidepressant. And it really helps focus your attention on gratitude…as opposed to shooting people with a vintage bow and arrow set. (sorry, that thought just keeps popping up). I even attended an in-person class taught by my friend and awesome yoga instructor, Krissie. I keep missing her class because of kid obligations, but I really liked the in-person experience better than online. Plus there is a Starbucks across the street so I can walk in and out wearing my yoga pants, which is key.

And John, having to live with me (I wonder how many times he regretted that “in sickness and in health” vow last month?), decided to give yoga a try as well. And yeah, he loves it, too, because it’s helping his back pain a lot. In fact, he hardly misses a chance to practice yoga now. But he’s like that about everything: dedicated. And I mean, thank God, because I’m pretty sure his dedication is the only reason I’m not lying in the fetal position somewhere alone, begging for a plain baked potato and a scalpel to perform my own gallbladder surgery.

So now, every time I’m in savasana with Jackie and a bad thought pops up (I have really good aim with the bow and arrow, no joke), I just let it go. It’s the yoga way.

Well, that concludes my non-paid yoga advertisement. I highly recommend a little Warrior II in your life. Peace out.

My drishti (focal point). Oh yeah

My drishti (focal point). Oh yeah

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News Flash

I wrote this to my kids last Spring at some point. Anyway, I just finished cleaning their bathroom as a favor (I don’t normally clean it for them, but it’s someone’s birthday weekend), and I’m pretty sure I caught a communicable disease while I was in there. So this seemed appropriate to share today. Please don’t message me with parenting tips; I’m obviously using extreme hyperbole in this letter in order to make my children laugh. They are really well-behaved and helpful children (normally). I’d hate to have to use extreme hyperbole on you. 

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News Flash:

Mom Might Be Going Crazy. Only YOU can help!

This headline might seem a bit extreme, but it’s no lie. The fact is, mothers all over the world, mainly in first world countries*, are going crazy. Your Mom is no exception.

This might be because:

  • She feels an enormous amount of pressure to make your life a constant garden of roses bathed in the glowing light of eternal sunshine.
  • She spends an inordinate amount of time sitting in traffic while driving you to and from school and other places you desire to travel.
  • She allocates vast amounts of brain space keeping track of three other people’s schedules and making sure that every aspect of your darling life is coordinated.
  • She feels obligated to send you out in public in clean clothes and to occasionally make it her personal problem to ensure that you also have clean hair and clean teeth.
  • She, along with Dad**, feels responsible for providing a somewhat clean house for you to spread your junk around and lay upon the floors and couches in your free time.
  • She finds more and more often that it would be easier to become a brain surgeon than make one more grocery list that adequately supplies dinners and lunches for children that were somehow raised to hate fast or convenient food of any kind.

In addition to all of these worries, Mom’s brain is also filled with her own life. I know—complete shock! She has a thriving business that is a full time amount of stress in itself just to keep it running. She also likes to have fun sometimes, because she’s a real person, and not a Mom-bot*** as you might have heard rumored.

At any rate: I’m sure by now you are asking: How can we keep our Mom from going crazy?

Well, since you asked. You can start by:

  • Keeping your stuff off the floors and counters and stairway in the main living area where near-crazy Mom may trip on them.
  • Cleaning up your bathroom when it begins to resemble a truck stop/gas station restroom because the smell nauseates your Mom and makes her feel more crazy.
  • Putting away your laundry instead of telling your poor Mom that you have a “system” and that is why your laundry is spread all over your bedroom floor.
  • Doing the household chores that you know you should do—like putting away the dishes, clearing the table, sweeping the floors, cleaning bathrooms, taking care of the cats, taking out the trash, etc. etc. so that Mom does not have to use up precious vocal power to remind you, or worse: do them herself.
  • Remembering to tell Mom about things you need to eat, wear or have for important events well before the morning of or night of the needed time. This ensures that your Mom’s brain will not melt from chronic stress.

Finally, the number one way you can help make sure your Mom does not become one of the “crazy” Moms is to give your Mom a hug, tell her a joke, share a book, bring her a snack or in general find a way each day to show her that you appreciate that she is not crazy yet.

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footnotes:

*mothers in non first-world countries have more important things to worry about, obviously

**We all know Dad does way more than Mom, but for purposes of this letter, we’ll assume he only cleans the house

***Perhaps if you save up, you could afford a Mom-bot and all your troubles would be resolved.

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Wound Up and Well Adjusted

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When I was little, my cousin Brian and I spent hours playing in my grandparent’s basement. There was a 1950s metal dollhouse I loved, a trike bike that we’d ride a little too fast around the center staircase, and a few other old toys that had been our mothers and our aunts when they were children. Among them, two metal tops that would spin for an impressively long time after you pumped the handle on the top to wind it up. I remember that one of them, which featured rather benign circus artwork when it was still, would blossom into a rainbow when I would set it to spinning, letting it unwind.

So there’s your metaphor. Here’s how it applies to last week:

I knew it would be an adjustment. Back to school, but not back to our school. And ah, summertime. I get used to writing with all the background noise, and having little people deliver my lunch to my desk and talk me into taking a break at the pool. I get comfortable.

Anyway: three different schools; two of them new. I was excited, but decidedly uncomfortable.

Day one saw me confidently driving Cate to her new school, navigating the car line and arriving back home just in time to take Thomas to his bus stop. I had this. After I dropped Thomas off, I came back home and walked Henry down to his bus stop. There I am, following along behind him, taking photos as if he was heading off to his first day of school ever. Of course, being Henry, he didn’t mind; he probably wished I could come along and photograph his entire day.

Henry’s bus was late, but I waited anyway. By the time I got back to my desk it was well past time to start working. But who could focus on work anyway? My stomach hurt, I had horrific pains shooting through my head and the vein in my neck felt like it might explode at any second; I was surely dying. It couldn’t possibly be tension or worry. nah.

Later that day….I left my house approximately 100 hours before I needed to in order to get to Cate’s school. I was that freaking excited to see how her day went. Sigh of relief, she looked exactly the same when she got back in my car. She was, however, stressed out that she still didn’t have the right uniform shirt and gave me the side-eye because, yeah, I totally waited until the last minute to order them.

One down, two to go. I walked to Henry’s bus stop where I watched him get off the bus, because: first day of kindergarten. Wait, I mean middle school.

If there was any kid I figured would ace the first day of middle school, it was kid president. I forgot that this kid is just like me; lockers and schedules and large project assignments had him talking a nervous 100 miles per hour, both excited and stressed.

I spent the ten minutes waiting for Thomas’ bus and scraping all the polish off my nails–my go-to solution for both large and small levels of stress. So I was all geared up for Thomas to walk off that bus and let me have it. It wouldn’t be the first time he vented all his worries to me after keeping them bottled up all day.

“How was your day?” I asked, trying not to visibly flinch in the process.

“It was awesome!” he replied. Say what? I hurried home to write that in his baby book under “first words.”

————-

….I’m doing better today. Probably because John rightly pointed out that I’d have a lot less personal stress (and more time to work) if I let the boys walk to and from the bus and didn’t spend an extra 5 hours sitting in Cate’s car line.

This morning, after Henry left to catch the bus alone, I waited an entire five minutes before I decided to take a walk (what?! sometimes I exercise). I didn’t go all the way to his bus stop–just far enough so I could see that he was, indeed, perfectly fine.

New school year is a go. It seems that my kids are pretty well-adjusted, after-all. Even I’m not as wound up as I was a few days ago….and I’m pretty confident there’s a spinning rainbow up ahead.

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Smokey Eyes

“You can’t cry–it will ruin your mascara,” we told my friend Erin last night, as she opened up our hand-written notes attached to the Kentucky care package we had created.

This statement elicited even more laughter, as we all gazed appreciatively at Erin’s right eye, and only her right eye, which had been made up to look almost exactly like the ‘Smokey Eyes’ tutorial on the website. Almost exactly. Except for maybe a little bit of purple and blue under her eye that might have looked a little bit like the results of a boxing match. We decided that maybe we should all have only our right eyes made up Smokey style, and then take a photo together. It seemed important; But then we got distracted by a good story, which is usually the case.

We were gathered because Erin is moving away; and although our growing children and busy schedules on opposite sides of town mean I rarely see her in person these days, I still cherish and will miss the time we do share. Of course with social media, and our ongoing group texts, we will remain just as close, I believe. (I’m going to hold you all to these extended group texts that make me laugh out loud during meetings.)

An eternity ago…or back when our children were itty bitty, our group saw each other in person on a regular basis, as we struggled to navigate our newly formed lives as mothers. We gravitated toward one another, with shared goals and values and the secret hope that our sidelined careers and all those trips to the park and picnic lunches on each other’s kitchen tables (ten or more kids needing apples sliced and juice poured) would be the right choice in the end.

Now we know it was; and not just because of the memories and time with our children. We gained even more during those years: each other.

Admittedly, there have been times when I have questioned whether or not I fit in; that’s my own insecurity left over from a few mean middle school girls. But time and time again, these girls prove that we don’t have to be the same to love each other. We all have our childhood friends, our work friends, our neighbor friends…but these are my ‘Playgroup’ friends. We just, uh…play a little differently now that the kids aren’t around.

Last night, early 90s rap playing in the background, bottles of wine and ice cream flavored bourbon (seriously!) getting emptied, we shared funny stories, secrets and worries, like we have for the last decade. At one point we were talking about our upcoming middle schoolers, and how kids cycle through these phases. All of the sudden I was transported back to hundreds of identical conversations about our kids; all of them full of support and ideas and shared experience of what works and what decidedly does not.

It is not just our kids who cycle through phases.  We’ve come a long way girls: from rotating friday lunches and preschool car-lines….to bunco and bookclub and any other excuse to escape our houses together on a weeknight…to back to work and drinks out to celebrate (how many Saul Goods have we closed down?)…to knowing that sometimes all we need are our pajamas and some alone time together.

And Smokey Eyes…we need those too. But just the one eye. It wouldn’t make sense to do both.

So Erin, I know you’re moving away, but I can pretty much guarantee we’ll be right there with you as you take on this new adventure; One ridiculous group text message loop after another. XOXO

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Way to hide that smokey eye, Erin. ;-)

Way to hide that smokey eye, Erin. 😉

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Shark Bait

I realize how insensitive the title of this blog is. Especially if you, or someone you love, has recently had one of your limbs ripped off by a shark. It’s not entirely unlikely, given how many times a day I hear about it on the news lately.

In fact, it was pretty much all I heard about in the week leading up to our annual beach vacation. Reports of 5 1/2 feet long sharks eating unsuspecting tourists; Heroic Dads who punched out sharks to save toddlers; and of course the well-meaning (but obviously jealous) friends who only said, “watch out for sharks!”

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The trick is to put your kids out in front. Sharks prefer bite size snacks.

Despite the hype, and despite the fact that my children basically lived out in the middle of the ocean most of the week, we did not see any sharks. We did see a flying squirrel, though. And a giant, Jurassic Park-style lizard that I swear to you would have eaten our entire family if not for Thomas’ calm, cool corralling of the reptile to get it OUT of our condo.

But back to the flying squirrel. Let’s start at the end of this story, when Cate came downstairs about 8am Tuesday morning and asked, “Mom, why were you screaming so loud this morning?”

“That was me,” John admitted.

Earlier, after a nice stroll on the beach at about 6am, John and I had come back to the condo to have some coffee/tea. We sat out on the back patio so we wouldn’t wake up all the lazy people (our kids, my parents). Please note: so we would not wake up the sleeping family. As we sat there discussing the meaning of life and other deep topics (or maybe it was whether or not we needed to buy more beer. I forget), we noticed several squirrels, way up in a tree, chasing each other.

“Are they fighting?” one of us asked the other.

Suddenly there were six squirrels, all dashing around and obviously fighting. I had a brief moment where I recalled the scene in Monty Python & the Holy Grail where the tiny bunny leaps onto people and attacks. And then suddenly…a squirrel was free-falling, from about 100 feet above us, directly over us.

There was screaming. And then we did that thing that people do when they are scared and in shock and we sort of just grabbed each other and hopped around for a second. Then we ran back into the condo. Screaming the entire time. The bright side was that then everyone was up and ready to start the day.

The rest of the week was actually quite nice (see super-fun photo collage below). We took a family bike ride every morning; I spent hours at the beach re-reading my favorite novel from college (Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises), which took on new meaning now that I can actually relate to mid-life angst; we had ice cream, climbed to the top of lighthouse, sent Henry and Cate on their first solo sojourn around Sea Pines on the trolley, and generally had a typically wonderful, traditional Hilton Head vacation. A highlight was definitely the beer tasting at the Fisters/Elsers house, where we caught up with favorite friends and enjoyed rating Bryan’s carefully arranged selection of fine beverages.

Then one day we came back from the beach, or somewhere, and there was a visitor.

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There was more screaming. But we had a plan: John would prompt him to run toward the door and I would lift the rug in order to block him from going anywhere but outside. It wasn’t that big of a lizard. But in the heat of the moment, when it was running toward me….well, you know the scene in Jurassic Park where the T-Rex is running toward them? That’s how it felt. So I dropped the rug and off went the lizard to choose a room in our condo for the rest of his stay.

Luckily Thomas was able to channel his inner Steve Irwin. He calmly told us all to move out of the way (which was not a problem since Cate was crying hysterically at the top of the stairs, and the other three of us had scattered as fast as we could. Then he spoke to the lizard, systematically moving him toward the door while explaining that we were not taking any more roommates. Afterward, he made fun of the rest of us.

And I mean, what is there to make fun of?

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Perhaps my 1980s inspired high-humidy hair? nah.

So yeah, our week was filled with wild animal encounters. But hey, at least we weren’t shark bait.

Snapshot of our trip:

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Try not to be impressed by my ability to be camera ready in any situation.

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Daily bike ride to adventure. This particular moment, with baby girl in front of me, is forever etched on my memory.

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Year 10 of Thomas attempting to dig to the center of the earth

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Sharing a beach chair was not a problem for Ma and Pa.

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easy living

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Post beer-tasting man photo.

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Aud and Cate with a temporary take-over of the boat. I’m sure the boys are under it about to tip them.

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And my favorite photo all week. This photo makes me want to shout “Look what I made: A bunch of adorable dorks on bikes!”And they are all mine, I tell ya.

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Stuck on You

I used to be a big Lionel Richie fan when I was young. I can still see my second grade self belting out the lyrics to “Hello,” complete with fake telephone gestures. None of this has any bearing on this blog post, other than the fact that I chose a title that is also the title of a Lionel Ritchie song.

No, this blog post is actually about literally getting stuck to things. And the fact that I should have left the hair removal to Nadine.

I’m gonna pause right there and give you the chance to exit out of this post right now if you are:

a) male

or

b) naturally blond

Because if you are either of these things, you will not be able to fully understand the ritual of hair removal.

If you’ve ever seen me in person, then you know I possess a head full of very dark hair. Really, I have three headfuls. Somewhere out there two bald people wonder where their hair went and I can tell you: I have it right here. My hair has its own zip code and it even inspires my children to write Mother’s Day poetry that includes brilliant similes such as, “Your hair is large and black, like a scary witch.”

So obviously I am blessed with this same dark hair on my legs, too. Normally, about a week before the pool opens each year, I go see my good friend Nadine at the salon. (Nadine is not actually my friend; she is an older Russian woman who secretly hates me, or so she leads me to believe based on the lack of sympathy she generally exhibits as she rips all the hair off my body while muttering something about “American women and their silly desire for smooth skin!”)

Anyway this year I decided “screw Nadine and her rude criticism of my love/hate relationship with my hair — I can wax my own legs!”  Somewhere in a salon across town, Nadine is shaking with laughter.

Just to be clear, this wasn’t supposed to be a major undertaking. I had laser hair removal a few years ago, so it’s really just a few places on my legs we’re talking about. (Side note: laser hair removal is basically paying someone to set you on fire and electrocute you at the same time. Just my opinion. Your skin is literally just too scared to grow hair in that spot again after such torture.)

Anyway, back to the wax. I bought the most expensive wax removal kit at Target–the one marked with the words, “For tough, hard to remove, coarse hair,” because even though I’m mostly Irish, my hair has the texture of a horse’s mane. Then I followed the easy steps marked on the instructions, which I did not feel I needed to read all the way through.

Step 1: Heat the wax in your microwave. Thank my lucky stars we actually have a microwave! Aside from that little light on the bottom, I have now found another use for it.

Step 2: Awkwardly explain to your teenage son that you are just going to take this heated wax up to the bathroom and he should just ignore you and stop asking questions. Or maybe he should follow you because: unibrow.

Step 3: Spread the wax over a small section of your leg. But that seemed like it would take too long, so I decided that I would just spread it all over my legs to speed up the process. Probably should have read the full instructions.

Step 4: Apply canvas strips to wax so you can rip out your hair. Usually while Nadine is doing this, I have my iPod playing some Duke Ellington and I’m mentally debating which nail polish color will go best with my bikini. Unfortunately, this time I was too busy trying to un-stick my fingers from the pieces of canvas to mentally debate anything other than my sanity.

Step 5:  Rip out hair and repeat. Oddly, thanks to experiencing the hell that was laser hair removal, I barely flinched.

While waiting for the canvas to set on each part (the box said 2 minutes), I got bored. Big surprise there. So I started spreading the wax all over other parts of my body, like the top of my feet and my stomach. It seemed like a good idea at the time.

I did this until my fingers were so covered in wax that I could barely spread them apart. Then I looked down and discovered that I had been dripping thin lines of wax down my legs and onto the bathroom rug each time I dipped the little spreading stick into the wax pot. I was basically glued to the bathroom rug.

Not a problem.

I reached behind me for the instructions and sure enough there was a bottle included in the package that would supposedly help remove leftover wax. All I had to do was retrieve the bottle and spread it on my feet and I’d be free. “I should use a cotton ball to spread it,” I thought, in a moment of complete and utter idiocy. A few minutes later I was still glued to the rug; my fingers on my right hand were covered in cotton, while my left hand was stuck to the bottle of wax remover. The instructions, which were partially stuck to one of my legs, stressed in Ariel bold font that I should not, under any circumstances, sweat during the waxing process.

“Just stay cool,” I told my perspiring, panicked reflection in the mirror. Then I shed a small tear because normally at this point Nadine would be rubbing me down with some calming coconut oil while I shuffled the songs on my iPod and thought about the beach.

In the end I just dumped the bottle of wax remover all over my feet and then somehow got myself into the tub and rinsed most of it off. “Just getting ready for swimsuit season,” I cheerfully told John when he arrived on the scene. I still have a little carpet fuzz stuck to the bottom of my feet.

I should probably call Nadine tomorrow….she books up fast. I can’t wait to hear her lecture about drug store brand wax kits.

Even when I'm a hot mess, I can work the camera phone. Pause for a moment to shake your head in disgust at my current nail polish color. That was yesterday's disaster.

Even when I’m a hot mess, I can work the camera phone. Pause for a moment to shake your head in disgust at my current nail polish color. That was yesterday’s disaster.

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Learning Curve

You all know I volunteer a lot in my kids’ school. But this week I’ve changed it up a bit. I’ve been volunteering at John’s school.

At first I was completely intimidated by the idea of approaching a large group of teenagers and saying…pretty much anything. I’ve been to John’s school to have lunch, and a few times I’ve stood outside with him and held the doors when the kids are arriving for the afternoon classes. This seems like a truly fun idea until you are sandwiched between a door and a hundred teenagers thundering toward you. The first thing I noticed is that they are all much taller than I am. It’s profoundly different from elementary school, and that is only one of many tangible ways.

This week I spent Monday and Tuesday helping to judge freshmen Media Arts presentations. Most were films, some had created video games, and a few had designed websites to promote photography or other businesses. I was VERY impressed with the work I saw, and truly enjoyed giving feedback and grading the projects on a rubric.

Today, I had agreed to take a small group from each of the upper classes to teach them about “Social Media for Business.” I was so nervous about “teaching” a group of young adults that I spent last weekend creating a Prezi online to outline my major points. I wanted these kids to take me seriously. In my dreams they all mocked me openly or pulled out their iPhone 6 (extra large size, of course) to show me exactly what I DO NOT know about social media. So I came prepared.

On the drive up to school I practiced how I would introduce myself. I’d say my name, explain my career path, and then end with a note of authority by announcing that I have 19 years of experience in the business. Maybe I’d make a joke: “How could that be possible when I’m only 25?”  ha ha ha ha. They’d all laugh and we’d be best friends.

Then I got there. I introduced myself to the five seniors in my first group by saying, “I couldn’t teach my kids how to tie their shoes, so….we’ll see how this goes.” Then I looked around frantically for a camera because SURELY someone was filming this catastrophe to be used in a college course entitled, “How Not to Teach.”

In the end, it turned out that I knew a lot more than they did about social media and was able to teach them a few things after all. Not only that, they wanted to hear what I had to say! Mainly the need for scheduling and analytics was something they found interesting and useful.

However, I DID learn a few things, too, such as:

  • Teenagers are not really scary, except perhaps in giant groups trying to fit through a singular tiny door. Individually, they are actually quite lovely and interesting.
  • If someone sends you a text message that says “I. K. R.”, and you have absolutely zero idea what that could possibly mean, a room full of teenagers will happily and quickly fill you in. (In case you are over 40, like me, it means, “I know, right?”)
  • If you think SnapChat is really not a valid channel for promoting a special event, a group of exceptional teenagers might inform you otherwise, and then show you how much time you can waste following linked group Snapchats on the Comedy Channel. Hello Amy Schumer. I adore you!
  • For those of us who recently had to delete their Tumblr accounts and start over (ahem), fangirl teenagers will make you feel better about this fact, and then proceed to make you feel like the hours you wasted collecting set photos from that movie in 2012 were not only worth it, but apparently may have indeed been the highlight of their young life.
  • If, for some unknown reason, you drink caffeine before you present a Prezi to a group of teenagers for the first time in your entire life, that same group of teenagers will pretend to forget every incriminating thing you said and will not, under any circumstances, repeat it to the love of your life, who just happens to be their Dean of Students.
  • Sometimes, these same creatures that you feared merely hours earlier, will say things that melt your heart and change your viewpoint entirely, such as, “I wish you could be here with us every single day,” and “You are officially my favorite person ever.”

To which I could only reply, “I. K. R.?”

I can’t wait to go back on Friday to help out with their “Day of Service” and be around while they “live tweet” and use other social media to promote the event.

But tomorrow….tomorrow I can’t wait to get back to my regular routine, which does not involve teaching anyone anything, but instead involves a whole lot of sitting by myself, on my front porch, writing in blissful silence…..until I have three teenagers of my own.

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I Choose Happy

This morning, I spent some time hanging out with a kindred spirit. Her name is Dorothy, she’s 90, and John has been mowing her lawn every summer since around 1995. Once in a while I go along and sit with Dorothy and we talk about music, her love of art (she used to be an amazing painter), and our mutual love of books. She’s more into philosophy, whereas I lean toward historical fiction. We both agree biographies are best.

I only just decided to call her a kindred spirit. I knew right away, of course, but it took re-reading a childhood favorite–Anne of Green Gables (which I gave to Cate for Christmas)–to find the right term for the feeling that comes from finding someone with whom you can converse easily and fluidly for hours and never grow tired or run out of things to share. Just like Anne, I have found kindred spirits throughout life, sometimes in unusual people.

One thing Dorothy and I discussed this morning was the extensive traveling she and her late husband did once their children had grown and left the house. She impressed upon me the importance of investing my time and money in experiences, rather than material objects. I could not agree more and I told her about this article, which says just about the exact same thing.

Dorothy is full of the wisdom that you would expect from living 90 years. I told her of my recent conversation with an acquaintance, and then a friend, who both left me feeling as if they were annoyed with me because of my happiness, rather than glad for me. I told her how, although I didn’t care to have their approval (my life is not better or worse for what other people think it may be), I was sorry for them. I wished there was a tactful way to share how much better life can be when you focus on the positive, rather than the negative. We agreed on the point that life, and what we make of every situation, is a choice. 

I’m not saying I never get discouraged, or that I’m never upset or angry or sad. Only that I make it a point to try very hard to turn those feelings into something productive. I try to see the best in everyone and every situation. I shared with a friend recently something that a favorite boss once told me, “Try to picture every difficult person you meet as either a very small helpless baby, or frail and helpless elderly person. That will help you to be more compassionate.”

This same boss, Annette, was another kindred spirit. When she was frustrated with co-workers, she would summons me to the “cone of silence,” based on a Saturday Night Live skit I’m apparently too young to remember. All this meant is that we would meet in the storage room, away from prying ears and eyes, so we could vent a little about the situation. We’d always end up laughing until we cried–Annette is a vibrant, hilarious, red-headed Irish lady with a mouth on her–and then come out of the “cone of silence” fully refreshed and ready to deal with whomever’s ridiculousness we faced with abundant compassion.

I admit I had to draw on this compassion several times this week, which I dubbed “the eternal week.” I was already drawing on extra resources, trying to remain positive and functioning with John being gone most of every day and night, plus too many kid activities, volunteer obligations, and three enormous writing deadlines. But then, it seemed like every time I logged onto social media (which I have to do frequently for work purposes, but yes, I totally check my own account way too much while I’m there), I would see someone complaining about how busy they are right now.

Admittedly I have done this many times myself. Not usually, or maybe ever, on Facebook, but I know I’ve written blog posts here about feeling overwhelmed. The month of May is hard on mothers. The fact that they throw Mother’s Day into the middle of it almost seems like a joke.

BUT: we have a choice. We choose to sign up for the activities we are running to every week; we choose our career path; we choose (for the most part) to create a family that has needs we must attend. And we can choose to either enjoy it and go with it, or we can choose to resist and be unhappy about it.

This is what I was thinking when I went on Facebook and saw several friends whining about the number of items on their “to-do” lists. “I have a crazy ‘to-do’ list, too!” I thought, indignantly. “Some of these people have way less to do than I do, so why are they complaining?!” I was really feeling quite negative toward these people and I admit, I needed to draw on the compassion I mentioned earlier.

Right after that, I logged onto Twitter and saw that a friend had posted this:

Perhaps the hardest and yet most essential thing we can do is choose to choose. We are in control of and in charge of more than we realize.

It was sort of like that friend had posted it just for me. I can choose how I react to how others express themselves, just as I can choose how I handle a busy week. The lesson applies in more than one way.

And that took me back to my conversation with Dorothy this morning. She asked me how the kids were doing and I was telling her about the many things they are enjoying right now and all the running around that entails. “Oh you’re right in the fun of it!” she exclaimed.

Not busy. Not overwhelmed. Not one more thing I cross off my list in some race to get….where exactly? Rather, I’m “right in the fun of it!”

It really is all in how we look at it. It’s a choice. I choose happy.

These flowers make me happy. So does a clean house on Mother's Day. hint, hint to any of my offspring reading this.

These flowers make me happy. So does a clean house on Mother’s Day. hint, hint to any of my offspring reading this.

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Mystery Science Theatre

puppets

I’m just going to jump right into this one….

You know how I excel at making awkward and unnecessary comments? If you don’t, then you’ve never had an actual conversation with me.

So remember that time in December when I couldn’t swallow? And then the nice doctor did an endoscopy and I went back to my steady diet of butter, cheese and bourbon (not necessarily in that order). I was fairly impressed with the effect of the drugs they used to sedate me during the procedure. I told John about the amazing “puppet show” that I watched, seemingly in my imagination, while the doctor worked. I mean, this was a very intense and entertaining puppet show. I wondered if it was common to have so much fun under sedation. Or am I just weird? And why a puppet show of all things?

Well, today was my check up with the throat doctor (technically a gastroenterologist, but who wants to say that?). And after I assured him that I was eating normally and he assured me that all is well, I could not resist the urge to ask him about the mystery puppet show.

I suppose I could have hedged into it casually, but that’s not really my style. Instead I blurted out: “I watched the most amazing puppet show during the endoscopy. Where can I get those meds illegally? Just kidding. ha ha ha”

And I suppose he could have answered any number of things, including, “Get out of my office crazy person,” but I was not at all prepared for his actual answer which was, “You remember that?! We did watch a puppet show!”

Because apparently just about the time they started dosing my IV with the sedation meds, I had already made best friends forever with the doctor and nurse and we were casually sharing YouTube videos of funny things we had found on the internet. And apparently one of those things was a puppet show.

“I thought I imagined the entire thing!” I told my doctor this morning.

“You probably just dreamed about it while you were sedated, since that was the last thing on your mind,” he explained.

Well that makes perfect sense. Mystery solved. Oh but wait, if I was busy yucking it up with the doctor and nurse over YouTube videos, what other crazy things did I say or do in the surgery room? I had to ask…

“Don’t worry,” he said, “It’s like Vegas. What you say in there, stays in there.”

No worries indeed. I know all too well my limited brain to mouth filter. It was a little harder to look him in the eye after that….

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