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And I’m back.

And I’m back! Sorry for being MIA but I’ve been crazy busy and also running some tests in regards to the blog. It’s been a hot minute since I last wrote, so let me catch things up.

My daughter’s teeth have been a process. With two impacted canines sitting almost right below her nose, she stood the risk of losing her 4 front permanent teeth. It’s been pretty nerve wracking, uncomfortable, and at times distressing for her (and her parents and family as well!). It’s never easy to see a little one in pain, so it’s been a ride, to say the least. We started with two teeth being pulled, a palate expander, then braces, She then had to go for an “exposure”, which for those unfamiliar, means that an oral surgeon went in, cut open the gums to expose the impacted teeth, attach brackets, and gold chains which then connected to her braces. OUCH, right? She was scheduled for this almost a month ago, but came down with strep the weekend before, so we had to postpone it. The doctor is only there every other Thursday, and we had a”working vacation” planned the next available day, so we had to wait until this past Thursday.

Strangely, they don’t put you to sleep for this type of surgery. They give gas, or a sedative. We chose the sedative. She was flying high for quite a while there, and has no memory of the surgery. She came out sad, and I sat in the back seat cuddling with her all the way home. She handled it like a rock star. The day after surgery, she woke me up to take her to school. She was supposed to have the day off, but wanted to go in anyway. Since she made the call, I took her to school. Saturday she woke up scared, and it turns out the surgery caused major swelling in her face. Her little eyes were almost swollen shut. Ice packs later, the swelling dropped enough that she headed out to a hockey game with one of her besties.

I was so stinkin’ proud. She’s my warrior girl. When I started this blog, I referred to her as Tiny Diva. That no longer fits her at all. I’m not raising a princess, or a diva. I’m raising a warrior girl, who is fierce and loving and kind. She’s a tough cookie with a soft heart.

Speaking of kindness, our Kindness Closet at school has been going great. It’s turned into a second job for me, but it’s really a fulfilling one. There are kids getting items they need out of the closet every day. Today, I dropped off snacks for the kids who don’t have them, and saw kids coming in to get uniform items out of the closet. I’m putting together some game plans, and even got a pretty big donation to get us started. Using that donation, I was able to purchase a bunch of uniform items in bulk to help stock the closet. I’m a bit nervous on how it can be sustained long term. It’s hard to have to rely on the kindness of others, as I’m not good at asking for help. I’ll have to get better at it I suppose. I’m currently looking at companies who do donations of money or in kind items. If anyone has any ideas to help, please let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Outside of work, raising kids, the closet, and surgeries, I’m still busy. As much as this was going to be my year of learning to say “no” more often, I find it’s actually a year of jumping in where the need is.

A friend of mind ended up in a tough spot. This person is as tough as nails, never asks for help, but finally cracked and put it out there that they were struggling. Now, let me say, this is a person who people go to their house to party. People like to hang with this person when times are good. The response of offers to step and help when times were tough though? Almost non existent. I threw my hat in the ring, and jumped into the fray to help. I looked around and saw the people I knew would be there to help. It was a small group, but a group I felt happy to be around. These were real friends. These were the people you’d want in your tribe. While I’m not super close with those people, I have HUGE admiration for them, because these are people you know you can count on when the chips are down. Everyone needs those types of people.

It led me to begin thinking about folks in general. As I’ve gotten older, I have a much clearer view of who people are. I wish I had the same skills when I was younger, because it sure would have saved me a lot of time an energy. I tend to be a person who judges more on what I see than on other people’s opinions, but I have now learned whose opinions are legit, and whose mindset matches my own. I lean towards the eternally optimistic when it come to people. I always believe when I first meet people, that they are eternally good. I believe everyone has a story, and everyone means well. I’m learning that some people are just dicks. If I had listened to my husband years ago I would have saved myself a LOT of hassle. If I had listened to my best friend, I would have saved myself a TON of issues. It’s a learning curve.

It’s funny how we learn as we age. Suddenly, things just CLICK and you go…ah, I’ve got it now. Things I struggled with until somewhat recently somewhat fall into place and it feels like second nature. Oh, to be 17 again with the knowledge I have now. How interesting life would be.

Anywho, how to sum up the past few weeks?

My house is messy. I’m rarely home. My kiddo is doing great after surgery. I’m making leaps and bounds with the Kindness Closet, but I come home and cry after hearing what some of the kids are facing. I’ve learned to pick my tribe better. I have no time for false friends. I’m loving work. I’m loving putting myself out there to help people. I will no longer take shit. Like, for real. I have no time nor patience for it. I hate the calendar with all it’s endless appointments, but I am grateful for each day. Not everyone is granted that luxury. I need to do so many jobs around the house but I’m tired. I can’t do it all, and that’s ok. I just need to get my groove and things will fall into place.

I’m working on a blog post I’ve been talking about, but it’s gonna take me a while to assemble it all together and get the images I need. It’ll be forthcoming.

In the meantime, I have another one I’ll put up soon about what a flighty mess I am.

Good to be back!

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When you need an “adultier adult”

I’m a firm believer that life gives you darkness to balance out the light. Sometimes, you have to create some levity and lightness to balance out the dark. I love “silver linings” and often try hard to find the humor in tough situations. Sometimes that humor is self deprecating, sometimes it’s wildly inappropriate, but humor carries us thought the tough moments and brings us forward.

A couple of days ago, the little was scheduled for surgery, but we had to cancel because she got strep. It just seemed like it was too close and I didn’t want her having to fight of the trails of a virus and a surgery. The surgery has been pushed out. Since she was cleared to go back to school, and I still had the day off, I spent much of the day doing nice things. Yes, I dropped off goodies to the school, but I also used some gift cards to get my nails done and grab a big, calorie indulgent Starbucks. I was in full “treat yo’self” mode, but had no funds to do so. I was however, armed with gift cards, so I was making my own fun. Being a mom, getting time to relax and have little luxuries are a big treat. As I sat in the parking lot, joyously luxuriating in the car with my Starbucks drink and protein box, perusing my phone while I munched happily away, something caught my eye. It was thin, and black, and it was sticking out of the gear shift. Upon a second glance, I saw more than one of these long, thin black things sticking out.

A spider, otherwise known by it’s fancy name, “ohshititsabigbastardofaspiderinmygearshiftandifitslegsarethatbighowbigisitsbodyohsweetbabyjesusgetmeoutofthecar”. A spider with the longest, thick black fluttery legs was hiding in my gear shift! Coffee, cucumbers, and other object launched as I screamed loudly and flailed about the car.

I’m not a big fan of spiders. I mean, they are ok, I suppose, but I don’t prefer they get up close and personal.

In my mid-flail and holler, I saw the shocked but bemused face of a woman in the car next to me. She was eyeing the chaos occurring in the car next to her, and honestly I can’t fault her. It must have been h.i.l.a.r.i.o.u.s.

So there I am, flailing frantically and squealing, because the legs on this spider are HUUUUGE. Suddenly, I peer closer, and I see many more legs. Is the spider upside down with just it’s legs out? What is happening? I fearfully look over, and realize there are more than 8 legs. Is it having relations upside down with another spider? Do I have spider kink in my car? Oh GOD what if it’s making babies in my car? I look closer. Now, as I’ve gotten older, my eyesight is less that stellar. I own it. I bend down, as close as I am comfortable with, and I realize exactly what it is I am witnessing.

It’s….it’s…..a fake eyelash. I sort of remember my husband driving us home after a party one night and me, after a few drinks, thinking how HEAVY those false eyelashes felt, so I peeled them off. I then forgot them in the car. It had moved it’s way over to the gear shift and stuck itself to it.

I looked at the woman in the car next to me, mouthed “it’s ok!! It’s ok!! It’s just an eyelash!” and waved the offending lash her way. She looked bemused, and I sheepishly drove off.

Yesterday, I picked up my little from school and passed the boy child walking home with his friend from the bus stop. After a while, he still wasn’t home, so I messaged him, and he responded asking me to come outside. Apparently, a bird had flown down, almost landing on him except he ducked a bit, and the bird landed on the ground next to him. The bird sat on the road, just looking around. My son was concerned a car might come, and was trying to sort of shoo the bird to the sidewalk. I walked over and my son explained the situation. “You ARE a handsome bird, aren’t you?” I bent down and said to the bird. The bird NODDED. In my own head, for just a moment, I felt like a character in Harry Potter. “Does this bird speak English?” I pondered for a moment, before realizing I was an idiot. I stood up in surprise at the bird’s seeming agreement to my question. I shuffled a tiny bit closer, and bent down again, thinking the bird would instinctively move over towards the sidewalk. It didn’t. It eventually moved a few inches, but appeared to limp a little bit. I send my daughter to grab my phone and a box so I could call a friend who does rescue to find out what to do. My son, his friend and I admired the bird, but you could tell we were all a bit worried. Suddenly, something changed. The bird started flailing, and the only way I can effectively describe it was it appeared to have a massive seizure. It might have had a stroke. I panicked, and wasn’t sure what to do. It then sort of tipped forward, it’s beak in a bit of snow. “Is it drinking?” my son asked. His friend and I looked at each other. My daughter appeared. Clearly, the bird had just passed away in front of us. We somehow all felt a connection to this bird, and nobody wanted to leave him in the road. I was concentrating on not crying.

Now, let me say that I am not great with death. For all the studying, the research, the talking about it…it still unsettles me. It’s even worse with animals for some reason. I didn’t really grow up around death, and my parents shielded me from it. I’ve always been bad with animals dying in particular. As a kid I would get overwhelmingly upset if an animal died. I also get very anxious touching dead things. I now had to find a way to pick up the dead bird and make some decisions. I immediately looked for an adult to help. I then realized…I was the adult.

Isn’t that THE WORST? The moment when you look frantically for an adult, and realize YOU are the adult, and you now have to man/woman up and handle something you have NO desire to be in charge of? I decided to look for a taller, adultier adult, who knew would to do with a poor little bird who had chosen a little boy to land right next to, seize and then die in front of. I was out of luck, until my son’s friend took the reigns. I was never so grateful for a 6 foot tall 12 year old to save the day. “I can see you look really sad. I can help pick the bird up if you get a shovel. I’ll get him in the box, and us kids can bury him”. And that’s what happened.

The kids proudly dug a grave and buried the little bird with love and dignity. They even gave him a name.

Albirdo.

When I heard that, I had to excuse myself and go to the bathroom…to laugh my ass off. I couldn’t have picked a better name. I was proud of them for looking after the little bird, and also for giving him such a great little name.

We came in the house, and I sent the little upstairs to go get ready for her gymnastics class and overnight with her aunties. I sat down to handle the flood of work I had to do after a day spent in meetings, when I suddenly heard a panicked scream. I raced upstairs and saw my little covered in blood. Blood on her naked torso, blood on her hands, and I almost passed out. While clearly there aren’t many things I am good with, spiders, death etc, I’m also not good with blood. After doing a quick scan to find the source, I saw it was her nose. She gets monsterous nosebleeds, so I set about starting to help her stop the bleeding and calm her down. Something about lots of blood makes my blood pressure go wonky, which often makes me get dizzy or lightheaded. I’m trying to stop the blood so I can hold myself together and do the mom thing I’m supposed to do. My daughter is upset, because it seems like it’s always her who has the maladies….teeth issues, tonsil issues, nosebleeds, strabismus, and a host of other things. I get it. I’m giving her a pep talk that I’m pretty proud of and suddenly realize she’s handing me wads of blood soaked tissues. I almost over. I finally get her nosebleed under control and pep talk her to a smile. I clean up all the blood and go lay in my room to do a silent scream of freaked outness. I also feel like this adulting business kind of sucks. Before I know it, I’m giggling at my own ridiculousness. I guess no matter how old I get, there are moments when I search for an adult, even though I myself am an adult. Maybe an adultier-adult who is in a better position to navigate things. I mentally pat myself on the back for not passing out, and not bursting into a flood of tears over the poor little bird with my kids standing in front of me. I also realize that I’m the same woman who thought my fake eyelash was a monster spider, and it’s clear, perhaps someone should assign an adultier adult to help me on the regular.

She’s Got Another Project

Every now and again, something touches my cold, dark little heart and warms it. Or, sometimes it digs in my eyes and makes them leak a little. When this happens, I am often pulled into one of my “projects” as they have come to be known in our house. As cynical, grumpy, and sarcastic as I am, I am almost an eternal optimist. After all, I am a mom. When you’re a parent, if you worth the honor of being called that, since so many deserving people aren’t, you have to have an optimistic view to a certain extent. We have to raise strong, kind, independent children to live in a world that frankly, is pretty messed up. Part of that optimism is living in one’s own bubble probably more than we should. After all, everyone has their own problems, their own responsibilities, and it’s easy to wrap oneself up in that little bubble because let’s be honest, you can only focus on so much at a time. Most of my projects and stepping out of my bubble happen when I probably don’t need it to.

Some of my attempts to help others have backfired horribly. So horribly, in fact, that it became a source of amusement for my family, sort of a shaking one’s head and chuckling at how bad things went. There was the time I stopped to help a blind person navigate a busy parking lot. I almost got hit by a car and ended up in a loud argument with the driver. I tried to feed a homeless woman, and then went to give her my gloves and hat out of my car since she didn’t have any and it was brutally cold. Stupid me locked myself out of my car and had to use the last moment of my cell battery to call someone to come get me. In the meantime, I was stuck in the snow with a homeless woman who turned out to be mentally ill, telling me stories about people getting cut up with an ax. Not my most comforting moment, for sure. Of course, she had my hat and gloves at this point, and I was super cold. That being said, we had a nice chat, despite the ax murder conversation, and I still think of her to this day (I didn’t see her around much after that afternoon). There was the time I helped the woman hospitalized with what turned out to be cancer by feeding her cats and looking after them. She had neglected to tell me she hadn’t changed their litter box in months, and I had to navigate and clean an entire floor of a turd minefield. I came home and wanted to light myself on fire. After getting everything cleaned, I looked after her cats and home, making sure to turn lights on and off, shoveling the snow, and a team of people helped get her furnace fixed and oil put in. When I headed in for surgery last year, the woman who took over was positively mental, and started harassing me. She ended up moving away after the state was called in and she was accused of elder abuse.

Last month, I found out kids at our school didn’t have coats, right before a polar vortex that slammed the country. I dove right in, collected over 150 coats in 4 days, as well as hats, gloves, scarves etc. This spiraled into a bigger project, where our kids in need can get items they need for free from our “kindness closet” which is currently being set up in the school. I am overjoyed by this and am so proud I got to help.

The other day, I got a call from my neighbor, who said her coworker had dropped off some supplies for the kindness closet. I went over and there were bags all over her porch filled with brand new huge boxes of ziplock bags (great for toiletries, and singling out new underwear or pairs of socks for if little kids have an accident), feminine products (some of the kids don’t have these at home, sadly, and the nurse has been buying them out of her own pocket). There were also some coats. Lastly, there were bags and bags of books. It appears the doner has kids and cleared out all their bookshelves, and by the looks of it, the family loves books. I wasn’t sure what to do with those, as they were out of the realm of my project. That being said, I was grateful to have them, as I was sure I could find a home for them.

I loaded up the car with stuff for the closet, including my cart. I have a little collapsible wagon that has been a godsend to me in my endeavors with the coats and closet. I load it up to the brim and head in the school easily (although navigating the multitude of security doors is no joke dragging a heavily filled wagon sometimes). After I dropped the items off, I wandered down to the library and met with the librarian. I asked if she would be at all willing to take used books as a donation. Her face lit up and she said she ABSOLUTELY WOULD. She asked why I was donating them and I explained I was “the coat lady” as a lot of the staff knew about the coats but didn’t know who I was, and that someone had generously donated books that I wanted to find a good home for. She and I had a chat about how exciting the closet was going to be for the students, and I headed home to get the books.

The books were in multiple bags on my neighbor’s porch. I now had to be a porch pirate and go grab them. I got really nervous someone would call the police because there has been so much package theft recently. I half expected to have the cops show up and knew it would be awkward explaining what I was doing. I shuffled back and forth with bags and bags of books, loading up my car. I then went upstairs and emptied my daughter’s bookshelves of all the books she had outgrown. There were a ridiculous amount of books. I’m a huge fan of reading and have always told my kids, “you may not always get a toy, but you may get a book”. I really try to encourage reading. I ended up making two trips to the school to drop off books.

When I showed up, the librarian had me go into a room with a counter. There were kids in the library and they came to help unload the books. They were chatting excitedly. “I can’t WAIT to read this!” “Look how beautiful this one is! Look at the pictures!” “I want to read this one FIRST! One girl was mesmerized by a pop-up book, opening and closing, her lips moving slightly as she read the words. She looked up and told me she loved that book. I was overjoyed. Seriously. These kids were just so happy and grateful. These books made them excited about reading. It was awesome!

The excitement on their faces must have warmed my cold heart again, because now that I’m not the “coat lady” I’m turning into the “book lady” for a while. I was out last night picking up and messaging people about donating books.

Now here’s the thing. Where is the bad part of such a project you ask?

The bad part is getting my bubble burst. When I was in the school, unloading books, the librarian and I got to chatting. She is clearly, like me, a lover of books. She also loves the kids. She confided how super excited she was to get the books, and kept picking up various ones to admire them all. She commented “I can’t believe this! This is so awesome! This book alone is $16 new!”. The reason for her excitement? Her annual budget to buy books with is VERY low. over 500 kids in the school and her budget is about $3k. Now, three grand sounds like a lot of money, but when you think of it, it really doesn’t stretch when you need to buy supplies and books for over 500 kids. She also lost some funds this year despite the BOE moving tons more kids into our school (I’ve talked about our redistricting in prior posts). She has to be so selective, so careful, to get as much as she can for those kids, but while staying in a tight budget. This issue was made more complex by the district moving a whole lower grade into our school, so much of the budget had to go to buying age appropriate books for those kids. I also learned, sadly, that some of the kids in the school, don’t even know their letters. This hurt my heart. Most of the kids came in from other schools, and I can’t fathom how the kids were pushed ahead from Kindergarten and first onward not knowing these basic skills. It’s as if they are being set up to fail.

I am a firm believer in the power of books. I can often tell a frequent reader from a non-reader by looking at how they express themselves. Frequent readers often pick up really good vocabulary skills, spelling and grammar. Now, don’t get me wrong, this isn’t foolproof, as you can see by my blog. I make mistakes all the time! That being said, reading opens up new worlds and opportunities. You can learn to do just about anything by reading and researching it. Reading is a game changer. Seeing kids being passed from grade to grade without those basic skills is heartbreaking. It only gets harder for them, and frankly, the system is failing them. School will become a hardship, and those kids are more likely to struggle and dislike school. This may cause more to drop out early, or not go on to next level.

This has been bothering me to no end. I hope the kids being in our school will get the help they need that they may not have gotten before. I am hoping that some of the books taken in will be helpful to those that need them.

My son and I discussed this later in the evening, when I explained my sadness over the situation, and my frustration that our schools are struggling to get the supplies and books they need. He mulled it over and said he’s going to talk to his guidance counselor about setting up a school to school tutoring program between the middle and elementary school. They do this with another school in town (my son has been a part of the tutors) but he wants to extend it to his sister’s elementary school as well. Both children sorted their bookshelves and packed up bags and bags of books to donate.

I couldn’t be prouder.

At the end of the day, they are learning a valuable lesson here. They are learning they can make a difference. Even kids can make a difference. Small steps make huge changes. I think they are also seeing that while we don’t always have money for everything they want, they have what they need, and they are growing more aware that needs are what is important. They are seeing that others don’t always have what they need, and they are trying to find ways to help those people and make a difference in what ways they can. Sometimes, we don’t have the money or items to help, but others do, and they are willing to donate those items if you are willing to do the work. If you’re willing to coordinate, collect, and drop off, people will HELP you. If you ask the right questions, you will get the answers you need.

As for me, I learned a harsh lesson myself in all of this. Folks often hide that they are struggling. Sometimes you have to ask the right questions to find that out. I didn’t know our school was struggling because frankly, they are doing what they can and didn’t advertise that fact. They are so focused on doing what they can and I don’t think they normally ask parents for help in that way.

Our schools need help. I don’t think it’s just my school. I think MANY schools have needs that most of us don’t even consider. Unless you personally are deeply struggling, it may not even occur to you how deep the need is. I admit, I was blissfully unaware that some of the things I am now learning about were issues. I assumed things were fine. I assumed wrong.

Another Birthday, and A Year in Review

This time last year, it was a hell of a rough week. My birthday popped up as they tend to do, but both kids were sick. We all felt a bit off our game and kind of run down. My husband sent me off for some alone time, to, you know, get my nails done or do some birthday shopping. With one of our cars broken, and a slow month work wise, I ended up having to use that time to myself to sell something with great sentimental value to cover some of our needs. It was also tough because I had two sick kids who I was worried about. I came home a ball of stress, the antithesis of my husband’s best laid plans, and chalked it up to just a no good, very bad day. Then, because some people are often inherently pieces of shit, the family member who stalks me as her second job decided to get mouthy and start up the usual nonsense. (She’ll be reading this in no time, trust. Stalker is as stalker does.) It was an exhausting couple of days, to say the least.

This year started off pretty hairy with each kid getting either the flu or the nasty stomach virus going around. Being the primary caretaker and hug giver, I contracted BOTH so far this year. Have you ever had to barf and have the runs violently at the EXACT SAME TIME? Because I have, and it feels like your soul is getting vacuumed out of your body at that very moment. We started off the year with that horror show, and transitioned into the little getting her braces, while the older child is gearing up to become a teenager. There is ANGST in the house, y’all. Hormones and sore teeth, means I have kids that ultimately want mom to hug them or get away quickly depending on the second. With school, my massive coat drive, kid friends, gymnastics, events, feeding everyone, looking after pets, the worst medium experience ever, the odd excursion to visit my dad or somewhere interesting, I have been BUSY. Plus it’s been cold and dreary so many days that I have a love affair going….with my bed. Ah, bed. I love it. I love it even more so this time of year. A choice between going out to anywhere that needs real clothes, or curling up in bed with netflix, a book, or even just my phone is an uneven choice, because bed will WIN. Pj’s, a snack, and bed? Perfection.

Well, the other day, the ol’ birthday rolled around. I got the little up for school, and then crawled back into bed while my husband took her to school. He arrived home with breakfast sandwiches and hot coffee, which was DELIGHTFUL because I got to enjoy them in bed. I headed off to get my nails done and get a pedicure, and enjoyed a nice shoulder massage. Heavenly. We then hopped a train into NYC. (If you call it “THE NYC” you’re a simpleton and a douche, just saying). We went in with almost no plans except to eat ALL THE CALORIES. Heading to New York City with no real plans is kind of odd feeling, but also very freeing. We walked everywhere, and only took a cab the very last few minutes to try to make a train that we ended up missing anyway.

First stop, Tea and Sympathy. It’s a tiny tea shop that has all British food. Every time I go to the city, I stop there now, just for rhubarb crumble with hot custard on it. It reminds me of all things childhood and feels like a hug from my mama. SO good. We then wandered, popping into a few stores, checking out window displays, and watching the people. NY is an amazing place to people watch. Millions of people, all living in close quarters, all getting on with life. Celebrities walk by seemingly unnoticed and unbothered (we saw John Turturro pass by). Every type of person….gay, straight, bi, black, white, hispanic, asian, homeless and mega rich, old, young, every viewpoint, every experience, and every single description in between, all living in close quarters without much issue. New York is a melting pot where everyone seems to fit right in. We people watched, pointed out cool buildings or displays, and chatted about the old NY vs the new modernized trend. You have older stores filled with wares, and new, modern stores that seem to have not much to sell, but a lot of space. It seems extremely odd in a place known for rents that will make your eyes water. As someone who doesn’t like crowds, I had to leave a few stores because they were just so busy. New Yorkers seem perfectly comfortable in crowds and navigate quickly and efficiently through them.

I watched my step count on my watch and saw the miles add up. At this rate, I thought, I’d probably drop 3 sizes by the time I got home! Sadly, not the case, but I racked up nearly 10 miles of walking there. Sadly, after a sandwich, rhubarb crumble, a latte, and some tea, we had not finished with ALL THE CALORIES, and proceeded to finish out our day with dinner. Dinner consisted of King Crab legs at The Boil. King crab with garlic butter? Yes please! Dinner was awesome, despite a large table behind us that was ridiculously loud. They were so loud, we couldn’t hear each other. Aside from that, it was awesome.

We stepped back out into the cool air, and began walking again. I had wanted to go to Barnes and Noble before we left. I don’t read nearly as many books as I used to, which is a shame. That being said, I have a deep love for book stores. Sometimes, on a bad day, I will head over to one of the few book stores still around near me, grab a coffee, and stroll the aisles. Billions of words, knowledge, stories, and perspectives all at one’s fingertips. Book stores are calming places, and there is typically something for everyone contained within those walls.

The weekend rolled around and my daughter approached me Friday night to see if I could take her to a horseback riding lesson. The farm we go to is very laid back, which fits me perfectly. I simply call the morning of, and if they have a slot, she puts us in. I’m pretty sure she would reserve a time if we so requested on a regular basis, but with the weather being iffy and January/February being months where every illness spreads like wildfire, I’m content to call day of. I was a bit sad my morning to sleep in clearly wasn’t meant to be, but I told her I would try to get up early and call the farm. Saturday morning appeared and I decided on a whim to schedule a trail ride….for both of us. Now here’s the thing. I come from a horsey family. Many of my relatives ride, and some even do it on a professional level. Me? Not so much. I haven’t ridden a horse in YEARS. One time I did on vacation, and the beautiful ride on the beach took a scary turn when the horse decided to try and drown itself by charging at full gallop into the ocean. I love horses, I’m just not confident on them. I’m also afraid of heights. That would make riding a double no.

Except my daughter had asked me to do it with her. Begged in fact. And, she took it really well when I explained my fear and hesitation. There’s also the fact that she’s really nervous about an upcoming surgery, and I wanted to show again that facing fear head on is an important lesson. Lastly, she has been doing well in school, I got reports of her doing really kind acts for others, so I figured it would be good to hoist my big ass on a horse if it made her happy. The kid had earned it. Off we headed, and yes, I got on the horse.

The instructor was really pleased with both of us, saying we were doing things right. My horse, however, got pretty hungry from hauling me around and decided to head for a snack. It stopped, bowed it’s head and wasn’t moving. I was laughing and while the instructor told me to pull up, the horse was adamant it needed a few moments. I told the instructor I wasn’t surprised the poor horse had an appetite hauling me around. Finally we got going again, and a short while later, the horse tripped and I almost fell off. That being said, I held on tight, and despite an initial moment of panic when I felt the horse trip, I was pleased to see that I didn’t fall off. The little one was beaming from ear to ear afterwards and said she really enjoyed it. We headed to Starbucks to caffeinate me and get her a snack. Mother/daughter day success!

This past year was a doozy. It started off rough, but there were so many happy moments. Our family trip to England was a highlight. Both kids announced they want to live there someday. It made me so happy they got to spend time there at an age when they will remember it, and I’m going to start working to take them back again soon. We had a sad end of school year last year, I was on the PTA for a hot minute, but I used that time productively to raise money for kids that needed it. In some ways, I softened. In others, I hardened up a bit, and not in a bad way. It felt like my eyes were opened in new ways. Starting off a new age year, I feel content but antsy. Antsy for new adventures, but also quite content to skip a night out and curl up in my bed with a book. I’m trying to learn balance more. Getting older is an interesting experience. Everything shifts, including your mindset. I feel a bit like a pair of favorite jeans. They show signs of wear and tear, but they fit just as they should and are comfortable.

I’ve had people ask me how I feel to be getting older. It’s something we all complain about sometimes. While I look in the mirror and see some of the fine lines and “wisdom glitter” in my hair, I also see someone who is so very fortunate to see another day, to get another hug from my family, and to create a new experience. Some folks won’t have that today, so I try to always be mindful of that. My friend who died doesn’t have those opportunities, and that is something that never quite leaves me. Getting older can be a pain, but it sure is better than the alternative.

Getting Old While Staying Young

I saw a meme on facebook the other day that said “One of the weirder things about being an adult is having a favorite stovetop burner, yet nobody talks about it.” I laughed way too hard at this, because I too have one (back left, because with kids back is safer and left has the bigger burner). I notice other little changes about getting older, many which are stereotypical. I go to bed earlier, I wake up easier in the morning. A night curled up in bed sometimes beats the idea of a night at the bar. I also realized this weekend that driving long distances has become a lot more difficult. When I was younger, we moved to Virginia, and I often drove up and down the I95 corridor on the weekends in the blink of an eye. Drove down Friday afternoon, back Sunday. I did this often consecutive weeks, for consecutive months. This past weekend, the kids and I drove down to visit my dad. Good Lord O’mighty, 7 hours in the car felt like time eternal! We arrived at 10PM and I couldn’t WAIT to go crawl into a nice comfy bed and relax!

The moment my little old ladyhood jump started into full effect was Sunday night. First, some backstory. I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this before on here but when I was a kid, my mom had her wedding china. It was a beautiful set with roses on it, very British. I loved it. I loved the print, even as a kid, but I also loved the fact it symbolized the three of us were having a special meal (usually Christmas or Thanksgiving. I unfortunately grew up 3000 miles away from all of my extended family. My dad traveled a LOT for work. My poor mom never really got enough credit from me for all she did, because she handled EVERYTHING. On holidays though, the special dishes came out, and I remember looking down at them and just feeling….happy. Well, my mom said I could have them after she died, only there was some confusion, and they accidentally got sold in the estate sale. I mourned those dishes, and was CRUSHED. Fast forward 12 years, and my husband got me a set of 4 settings for Christmas. I was thrilled to pieces, and he said he would over time help me get some more so I had at least settings for 8. Well, last week, I had just downloaded the Nextdoor app, and saw something pop up about THOSE VERY DISHES. Unused, settings for 4, for a steal. I messaged immediately, but someone had beat me to it. The seller told me someone was picking them up, but would let me know if they were a no show. I checked that damned phone every 15 minutes for the rest of the day, hoping by some miracle the original poster might not show. I never heard back, and consoled myself by saying perhaps those dishes just weren’t meant to be mine (I was full of shit. I wanted those dishes like I want to snarf down a box of girl scout frozen thin mints after a hard day). Still, I tried to keep positive, and said I’d get a set one day. Then I laughed at the fact I am still relatively young, but such a mental old lady that china dishes were such a big topic with me.

Well, a week went by, and suddenly during dinner Sunday, I see a message. It’s from the seller, saying she had waited a whole week, but the buyer never showed. Would I still want the dishes?

Would I like perky books and a rounder butt? YES GIRL, AND I WANT THOSE DISHES TOO!

I told the seller I absolutely did, and I would be home Tuesday, could I come then? So today, I am picking up my coveted dishes, in all my little old lady glory!!!

My dad was chuckling at my old lady dish desires. I explained the significance, and he understood then. The simple fact is that I am highly sentimental about things, where as he has almost no attachment to stuff or items at all. This explains my house, cluttered and chaotic, and his immaculate environment. I tried to explain why I am sentimental about such things, and told him about another Christmas gift this year from my husband. When I was a kid, I had rain shiny wellies (rainboots for the Americans in the audience). I LOVED those boots. They were probably my first pair of shoes I truly adored. I loved how red they were, how shiny, and how I could run in mud and simply rinse them off to their shiny glory. They were perfect and versatile. After I grew out of them, I don’t think it ever occurred to me to ask for another pair. It’s silly really, because I never asked for some but holy shit, I wanted some. This past Christmas, my husband got me a pair of red shiny wellies. I am joyous. My dad was so perplexed why A. I loved them so, B. why I never just simply asked for another pair once I outgrew mine if I loved them so much, and C why I have such a sentimental attachment to stuff. I explained he should be happy, really….because I had such a great childhood that things that remind me of that childhood make me extremely happy. Those dishes? I was beaming on Christmas eating off them. The boots? Joy when I slide them on. I may be a little old lady mentally, but those things bring me back in time to a carefree moment of running in fields, or eating my favorite foods with my two favorite people. They are tradition.

This morning, after a 6 hour drive last night, I feel old as hell. That drive I did so carefree and without much thought at 18 is a lot harder now. My back aches, my brain is tired from concentrating on the road for so long. I am content to be home though. This is a busy week, filled with the little getting braces, training a new coworker, a comedy show and date night, a trip to NY, my birthday (little old lady getting OLDER, y’all. I’ll be in a housecoat and yelling for people to get off my lawn in NO time!) and all the other business that family is. It’s a week of excitement.

My son and I were talking in the car on our long drive home. We have some of our best chats in the car. He is excited for our birthdays, he says. He means he is excited for HIS birthday, because he is turning 13 in a couple of weeks. I can’t even. How have 13 years gone by so fast? He asked me if I am sad I am getting older. I said I am not sad I am getting older. While getting older is a little scary, as you start to see more time behind you and less in front of you, and time seems to go by much faster now, I am grateful for a birthday. Some of my friends and loved ones no longer have that luxury. They don’t get another birthday, another year, like I do. So I am grateful for that birthday. I am grateful for my little life, filled with good people. I am grateful to be a little old lady at heart, with her favorite stove burner, a joy of a quiet night in, pretty dishes, and rain boots that shine bright and red. I enjoy it all (minus the back aches and pains) but I find joy in reminding myself of all the happy moments of being a kid.

The Collector

Old Friends. They really can be the very best, can’t they? Friendship is something that really morphs and flexes over time, and I am a firm believer that the most cherished of friends should often be the ones that stayed in it to win it for the long haul.

As a kid, we focus on how many friends we have. We collect them like pebbles at the beach or pennies, and it often feels like the more we have, the better. As we aged through to high school, some friends faded away, and a few stuck around. College brings new friends to add to the mix, and new experiences to share with those friends. Post college life, when marriage and kids often happen, is when we see who remains when life gets so darned BUSY. After a while, we look around and see a hodgepodge of friends from various times in our lives, and then we start to pay even closer attention. Slowly we start to weed through those friends, seeing who is a true friend, and who is there to witness our failures without lifting us back up.

When I look at my friends now, I have folks who are somewhat newer friends, but most are those I have known for very large chunks of my life. My deepest gratitude goes to the long haulers, who have been by my side through the best of times, the very worst of times, and the times when I didn’t know I could make it through. My first best friend and I are still facebook friends. We’ve known each other since second grade, and stayed good friends all the way through high school. I moved away, she left for school, and we lost touch for a long time, but have since reconnected and stay in touch. While it’s been a while, I still feel to this day I could call her and say “I NEED you” and she would come, just as I would for her. She holds such a special place in my heart, because she knew the youngest me, the dreamer, the girl who wanted to be a dolphin trainer. She knew the fun me, before the world handed me hardship and responsibility. She’s known me as a wife, a mother, and a grown up with a career. She’s seen the progression of where I came from, as the girl who would wail the “fish heads” song while watching Elvira play music videos late into the night, and the girl who had a search party called out for her when she went missing (I really should document some of our escapades), to a fairly responsible mom of two. She knew my parents, WELL, and I knew hers. We spent endless nights at each other’s houses, went to camp together, and caused general mayhem. A lot of the reason my childhood was so memorable was because of her.

Another one of my closest friends I met in high school. We both liked the same boy, and it so happened he asked me out. We hadn’t know each other before that, but soon a silly argument happened. We ended up becoming fast friends, and soon figured out the boy was a jerk not worthy of a moment of our time. We’ve been besties ever since. She taught me to drive (like a maniac, as she did), she took me to her college classes with her (she’s a couple of years older than I). We cried over boys who broke our hearts and cheered when we each met “the one”. I actually introduced her to her husband. We have laughed a lifetime of laughter together, and the very best part is that I still see many more laughs in our future as we grow old. She was my roomate for years, which created some hysterical stories of chaos and mayhem as we navigated our 20’s as two single women. The week I had the stomach ebola she had gone up to the Yankee Candle flagship store and knocked on my door with a huge tray full of full size candles in various fall scents. She knows I love the fall, and she sent an email the next day saying she appreciates all I do for her and wanted to treat me to something. When I have to put up with crazy people, I call her and we collapse with laughter at the situation. I wouldn’t trade her for anything.

Some of my other friends live down south. I have a small group I know from the 10 years I spent down there. We are a small group of 4 who have stayed connected over the years. There have been some rough times. One of us became and addict, one had her fiance take off with someone else, one’s wife cheated and abandoned the family. One of us ended up on life support and almost died. That was a tough one….I remember getting that call and driving 5 hours each way to spend the day in hospital by her bedside, and then driving to John’s Hopkins a few weeks later and commuting 3 hours each way from there to visit her. At the end of the day, none of us speak often, but when I am down that way, we reconvene for a night out and catching up. All of us have kids around the same age, with three of the group being single parents. We appreciate the luxury of a night out, and often sit up until late in the night chatting and playing catchup with each other. We are a family of sorts, and when the need is there, we show up to support each other.

Back in 2001 or so, I met a coworker I clicked with. She ended up leaving the company shortly after I started, but I always liked her blunt honesty and no bullshit attitude. Imagine my surprise when it turned out we’re neighbors. She lives around the corner from me, and we have become tight friends. We house sit for each other, and each one is the other’s go-to for emergency help. We often sit around the table and laugh at what life throws us. When crazy happens, I tell her all the chaos and the two of us end up in stitches with laughter. I now count her as one of my closest friends.

Another former coworker and I clicked immediately and have been fast friends ever since. People always said we looked a little similar (my husband admitted one day he came to the office and went to playfully spank my butt, only to realize it was her and not me right before the hand connected. Luckily he was able to pull back!) She and I share so many of the same viewpoints, both suffered the loss of a parent, and we shared similar childhoods. She GETS me. While our career paths went in totally opposite directions, our lives are quite different, she is still someone I consider one of my closest friends because I know I can call her for an opinion and it will always be right and well thought out. She knows I am there if she needs me.

There are others, too, who are close to my heart. The common thread with all my friends is brutal honesty and laughter. I know I can call on any of these friends I mentioned above and I will get the cold hard truth. I know each and every one of these folks will call me out on my own bullshit, will tell me if I am out of line or if I am in the right. There is no sugar coating. There is no fluff. There is no guessing where I stand. It’s BEAUTIFUL and AMAZING. Having the freedom to be yourself and have people love you for it, with no pretense and no BS is the very best feeling. These friends have known me before I took on a role as a wife and mother. They knew me from various stages of my life…when I was a dreamer, when I was angsty and messy, when I was anxious and stressed, when I was a little crazy, a lot crazy, and when I settled down into my current life. They support me. They cheer me on, they have my back if I need them. I never question their loyalties to me. Oh, and the laughter. If I you asked me to list some of the things I have done right in my life, on the top of my list would be that I have surrounded myself with laughter. Prime example: When I worked with one of my friends, a coworker, who was in her 60’s, showed up to work in clear, light up stripper shoes, y’all. CLEAR, LIGHT UP STRIPPER HEELS….TO A BANK JOB, BY A 60+ YEAR OLD WOMAN. Now look, a big part of me now is like…go ahead girl, you do you, boo. At the same time though, this was a bank we were working at, and I had to question her thought process on how these shoes were appropriate. I mentioned this to my friend and the two of us had a great time giggling about some of the choices that were made that day. Now, 365 days later, my mother died. I was in the darkest, saddest place of my whole life, stuck in a car in traffic trying to make it down to say goodbye to her, before getting a call she had died. I was in shock. But then, a text came in. The text from my friend…letting me know she loved me, knew I was in a dark place…and that perhaps she could shed some light on my darkness by letting me know that 365 days later, those light up shoes had reappeared on the coworker’s feet that day in the office. I HOWLED with laughter. I had tears pouring down my face, for a moment not in sadness, but in glee that my friend had seen those shoes, on those toes, and had KNOWN I would want to know because it would make my day, at least for a moment, less painful. That’s friendship.

My daughter bemoaned the fact that many of her friends moved out of the school when they redistricted us. She went from loads of school friends to just one or two. I had a conversation with her the other day about quality vs quantity. I explained that having just a couple of true, honest and solid friends is so much more important than having lots of fair weather friends. We discussed how friends should be, and how sometimes, you need to clean your friendship closet, because not everyone is a good friend. I hope when she grows up, she will see that while I may not see all of my friends as often as I would like (lives get so busy at this age with work, relationships, kids, pets, commitments, etc) that true friends will always be there when you need them.

True friends we collect through our lifetime are those we can count on, and who trust in us enough to count on us. They may be old friends, newer friends, or family who became friends (or vice versa!). They are the ones who tell us how it really is. There is no fear of offense. There is no fear of being taken the wrong way. There is honesty, loyalty, trust, and most of all, lots and lots of laughter.

The Itch

It doesn’t take long for that itch to appear. You know the one, the travel bug bites and you get such an itch you just can’t wait to head somewhere different. Our trip to England in November was amazing. While I loved visiting family and being in the place that was my original home, I also got joy out of sharing that experience with my husband and kids. Seeing them have new experiences was probably one of my favorite parts of the trip.

Aside from our visit to Chatsworth, the trip itself didn’t have any “outstanding” locations to visit. Instead, our trip was spent primarily with family members, visiting simple yet inspiring locations, and taking long treks through fields and trails. We spent more time in nature than usual, and the experience was relaxing and cathartic.

Coming home, heading back to the daily grind, has left me happy for the comfort of routine, yet desiring to recreate that feeling of more time in nature, less nonsense, and the urge to see new things.

I’m also itching to travel again.

I’ve always felt there is no better learning experience than to travel and be around folks different from yourself. Diversity, new viewpoints, new experiences make for a very different education, one you can’t learn in schools. I want my children to see new places, meet new people, and learn about viewpoints outside of what they see in their day to day. It will serve them well in the future.

While I always want to head back to England, as my family is there and I love the tightrope walk between the familiar and the different, I also want to see some new places. We’re kicking the idea around of spending time on a ranch this summer (new experience), seeing a football game (not new, but always fun) and maybe taking some local road trips for the occasional weekend away. Even a few towns over can be a new experience.

One of my goals this year was to keep moving. Not only in the exercise sense, mind you, but in the physical sense of traveling and soaking up whatever experiences I can. Time to keep that goal moving forward! The excitement is planning the new places we shall go.