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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.

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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.

Flu-update. What’s been going on.

Sorry I’ve been MIA the past week. I haven’t posted and I know at least one person has been wondering where I’ve been. (the joys of being stalked). Well, the answer my friends, is that the flu took me down, and hard core. As I begun feeling ill, it suddenly occurred to me “oh NO, I didn’t get my flu shot, please don’t let this be the flu”. Welp, there it was. Dizzyness, body aches, headaches, respiratory problems, sore throat, cough, fever and the chills…all the nasty. Damned flu took me down for about a week! Never fear though, I’m back in the saddle again!

I’m surmising my hit with the flu might be chalked up to my multiple visits into the school to drop off coats, specifically many trips to the nurse’s office (for those not in the know, see my blog called https://themessyhousewife.com/2019/01/30/so-i-did-a-thing/). We all know schools are a petri dish of germs, and so it’s pretty likely that’s where it could have come from, but who knows? Anywho, those trips sure paid off because after collecting over 140 coats, over 80 (with more folks arranged to come in to collect) coats were picked up by families in need. Let that sink in for a moment. The need was far greater than I had ever imagined. Hats, Scarves, Gloves, LOADS of clothing, toiletries and feminine products were also collected as well. The whole project was such a positive one for me and it’s still going on. The flu put a hold on things but I’ll be back at it again soon. What I am doing is just the beginning of a long term project the school is setting up that will help the kids for years to come. I am excited to have been a part of it and will continue being a part for as long as possible. It’s definitely brought people together.

Coming off being ill also means my house looks messier than ever. Compiled with bags of donations, I also had to unload my desk at work of 7 years of accumulation, not to mention my computer, monitors and all the cabling for them. We’re renovating our offices, so everyone has been moved to work at home status for several weeks. It’s pretty eye opening how much one can accumulate in one’s home away from home over the course of 7 years. My husband went with me to help me load it all into the car (he’s the master car packer) and it’s now sitting in my living room. There is stuff EVERYWHERE. It’s overwhelming. How did we acquire so much STUFF? Thankfully many items are bagged for either the school or a local kids’ charity, but much of it has to be rearranged into different bags etc. Once done, it will all leave and free up space. My office stuff is a different matter. Much of it will head back in a couple of weeks, but not all. I wish I could snap my fingers and just have everything clean.

My birthday is around the corner and when people ask me what I want, I say “a tidy house”. They think I’m joking. I laugh along, until I stop because I’m not joking. Ah, what a girl wouldn’t do to walk in to a clean house without having to do it. I dream, I know, I dream. I can’t believe another birthday is coming up. As a kid, it felt like forever and ever between birthdays. Now they zip by in the blink of an eye. I see wrinkles coming, and I don’t like it. I feel like it’s a losing battle to fight them, but then I think of my losing my mom and I realize that wrinkles signify I am still here and enjoying myself. Maybe they aren’t too bad, I’m just not ready for them quite yet.

I treated myself to a few things this year for my birthday. I’m taking off a few days here and there to enjoy myself. I have an appointment with a medium. She came super recommended and frankly….I’m curious. I’ve met with some before and mostly they are cold readers. I think they see what people want them too, or people dig to find what they want to see out of it. I’m curious about this one, however, so I made an appointment. I second guessed it because of the money, but I won the perfect amount on a little scratch off, so I took that as a sign I should go. I have low expectations, so I won’t be disappointed. I also booked a trip to visit some friends and my dad for a few days. It’s a quick trip, but one I’m looking forward to. A girl needs a change of scenery you know. The night before my birthday the husband and I are hitting up a comedy show. It’ll be so fun to relax and have a date night that I’m giddy already. We don’t get to see each other a lot, and when we do, it’s all about the kids and getting the family looked after, so a night alone is a special treat.

Lots of good stuff coming up, more to follow. For now, I’m just glad to be relatively better.

So I Did a Thing….

A while back, I posted about my frustration with out Board of Education and the fact they redistricted our schools. One of the schools that took the biggest hits was the school my children attend. Without the desire or request of our parents, the board demagnetized our school, switched to neighborhood schools, and ripped almost all the existing students out save for a small percentage. They did all of this, upended all of our students, for a few bucks. The rage felt by many in the community was palpable. Our town is very diverse, but individual neighborhoods are not. In order to keep our schools diverse and racially balanced, kids from all different neighborhoods attended all the various schools. The redistricting, however, put us out of racial balance, and effectively segregated kids by socio- economics. Now I know when I was a kid, we all attended neighborhood schools, but the town I lived in wasn’t diverse at all, racially, or socioeconomically, which always bothered me. I always loved how diverse our current town was, and that families in our school helped each other out.

One of the problems of socioeconomic segregation is that the poorer side of town schools are struggling to fundraise and keep up with the other schools. This wasn’t a problem until this year. While we’d probably be referred to as middle class, our home falls in the school district where a lot of lower income families live. This means that we have a lot of full time working, single working parents who are struggling to make ends meet, or families REALLY struggling just to get by. There aren’t the same amount of stay at home parents around to do all the PTA projects and fundraising as we had before. We also have kids who are going without basics because their parents are struggling to get by. The government shutdown likely didn’t help folks either.

I knew it was difficult. I just didn’t know HOW bad some of these kids have it.

I was planning to go through my closets because one of the grades was doing a clothing drive to raise funds. I happened to be on the phone with someone at the school and said “I’m going through my coat closet, does any child, by chance, need a coat? I’ll see what I have.” Her response left me FLOORED.

“We have a LIST of children here at the school that need coats”.

“Like, a couple of kids?”

“No, we have a LOT of kids who do not have coats. We are trying to find a solution. We need to find coats in all sizes, both genders”.

It’s dipping down below -20 here this week, and there are little kids without COATS. I hung up the phone and cried.

After a quick cry, determination set in. Y’all, this is the one time my lack of organization when it comes to my house was the BEST. You see, my coat closet was filled with coats, some were my son’s from about 6 years ago that I never got rid of. I pulled out about 10 coats from both kids. I then put the word out to family and friends. My dad donated some money for me to go buy some items. I used some of my own as well, and purchased up about 10-15 hats and then got gloves to match. I used the money from my dad to buy coats in sizes I didn’t have. I was able to get full school uniforms in multiple sizes. Things started to fall into place! I took my lunch break to race to a friend’s house and picked up a bag of coats. Friends drove by and left coats in bags by my front door. In the middle of the night I was contacted by a woman who works at an organization locally that collects items for children and lets families “shop” for free for what the need. She had coats, she promised, as well as some other items we need for our students, and would drop them to me. The generosity of people was overwhelming. With 24 hours of that call, I had amassed about 40 coats and multiple hats, gloves, and school uniforms. 48 hours later, we have about 100 coats for the families of this town to select from.

The person I spoke to broke down when I showed up with my items in tow. Before long we were both welling up, discussing the needs of our community and how to meet them. She, as well as myself, another mom, and others, are going to work on creating a room where our students can get items they need for free, so that they can focus more on learning. This has been the highlight of 2019 for me. Creating happiness for others and working towards a goal that will help the kids of the community is exciting and one I am looking forward to.

Now I know there are those that will see this and say I shouldn’t have posted about it. But here’s the thing….

I didn’t know.

I live in an average house, in an average neighborhood. Money is tight sometimes, and some months, a bill gets skipped so I can cover something else. That being said, we have our necessities met, and we can afford a vacation or trip sometimes with some planning and hard work. I know there are families in my area struggling, but honestly I didn’t realize how deep that struggle is so close to home. The idea that there are families so close to me that are struggling to provide a coat for their children is one that left me broken and wondering just how much I don’t know. Call me naive, but it just didn’t click for some reason. If there are kids in my town in this situation, there may be kids in your town too. Sometimes folks who are struggling to make it work hide their troubles very, very well. It doesn’t mean that their burden shouldn’t be lifted. I didn’t know the need was there, but now I do, and I want to help. Even better, I am meeting and working with other folks who want to help as well. Strangers are reaching out asking “How can I help? What is the need?” and it’s AMAZING.

Maybe there are others like me, who didn’t know out there. I asked for help to make life a little easier for some kids in need, and people stepped up.In 48 hours, I feel like we made a difference to a lot of kids, just by asking, offering, giving, collecting and being kind. I believe there are others out there who may read this and say “hey, I can do that too” and they CAN and WILL.

We live in a world where we are often told poor people are the enemy. It’s ironic, really, because the rich hold the power but blame the poor for the problems. If you listen to the narrative out there, there is a common thread of everyone judging those they feel are “beneath them” in some way. Whether they look down on poor people, people of different colors or backgrounds than themselves, different genders….it’s as if people judge their self worth by trying to find someone, anyone that they are above. The rich folks love to point the finger at the poor and blame them for problems. No matter where you fall in the grand scheme of things, there is someone out there finding something about you to put you beneath them. It’s really sad.

Yet what if we all tried to raise each other up, with a helping hand, some compassion? What it we looked around and sought out those who might need a little help? What if we looked at the children in our community or those communities around us and set out with the goal to lift those children up and help them succeed? When we raise children up, we lift up our future and make it better.

I have always tried to teach my kids about helping others. I explain that making someone else smile, or making their day better makes everyone happier. It’s a ripple effect. Within 48 hours, I had collected over 100 coats, along with gloves, hats, scarves and uniforms! I delivered the last of them this morning. Hopefully those coats ease the worry just a little of some of the staff and teachers at the school. Kids will be warmer as they walk to school and go about their days. They will hopefully feel a bit happier and have a chance to focus more on school and less on being cold. The families of those kids will have one less thing to worry about. The community at large becomes a better place, because those who donated, and even those that saw others donate, often become inspired to help someone in whatever way they are able to. The children of the families who donate learn that their friends and classmates may be going through things at home and may need some kindness. Kindness circles back.

So I did a thing, to teach kindness to my kids, and to help the kids in my community. I’m writing about it to see if I can inspire someone else to do a little something kind for someone in their community. Even if it’s kind words, some gloves for a homeless person, or even a coat to a school for a child who might need one. Do a thing, and join me in a little kindness.

Creating Happiness

This year I started off super antsy. After coming out of a year where the family and I took an amazing trip back to England, I came eager to travel some more. I always come back from England, where I was born, feeling nostalgic, yearning for a simpler, more country based life, and feeling a strong pull to go back. January has felt like it’s been 85 days long already, and I found myself starting the month off NEEDING change in whatever form I can get. I need some change, and I need things to look forward to. It brings me happiness.

I’ve always been a firm believer that one CHOOSES to be happy. As someone who grew up struggling with depression and anxiety, I had to make some solid life changes. It had become so bad I was in a very dark, sad place. I woke up one day and realized just how bad it had gotten, and knew something had to change. Depression is much deeper than a simple attitude shift, trust me, I know. That being said, the first step for me in learning to manage and come out the other side of depression was to find ways of changing my mindset. The first thing I needed to realize was that I can’t always change a situation, but I can change my mindset about how to deal with it. I can choose how I look at things, or research things to learn to see things a different way. Once I started choosing and really trying to look at things from different perspectives, I noticed a break in the doom and gloom. It helped me to start the process of managing things much better.

My mom once told me…”no matter how bad things get, someone is always worse off than you”, which helps to keep things in perspective sometimes. I remember my dad recounting a story of when my parents when to a huge business dinner in NYC. The dinner was a big deal, and mother, despite being in terrible pain from a degenerating disc in her spine, was determined to go. She needed a cane, and was struggling to walk. My father looked at her, struggling, and said “maybe we should just go back to the room and forget the dinner….you don’t have to put yourself through this”. My mother turned and said “I’ve been looking forward to this dinner for ages, and remember, no matter how bad things get, there is always someone who has it harder, or worse off than me. I can do this!”. Just then the elevator door opened, and inside was a man who only had one leg. My mother glanced at my father and proceeded to head to dinner. She knew that happiness is realizing what you have, that things could always be worse, and being grateful that your struggles are your own. Someone once said if everyone threw their stuggles in a bowl, most of us would all grab our own back. Frankly, we don’t know what others are dealing with, and at the end of the day, struggles are often minimal when you see what others are struggling with. I am an oft repeater of “silver linings!” Even when things are bad, one can usually find a silver lining if they look harder enough. Even if it’s a small one.

But I digress.

Winter is a tough time for many, especially those with depression or Seasonal Affective Disorder. While I don’t struggle like I used to, I do make a conscious choice to plan things to look forward to. Why? Because on a bad day, I can look at my calendar and despite the busy chaos, I can see a vacation, a trip, or a school event I am happy about. This reminds me that happy days are ahead. I am excited to go visit my dad soon. This usually also entails not only a happy time with him and my step mom, but also a dinner out with my close friends I don’t get to see very often. Always fun. I am excited about a family vacation I have planned. While it won’t be cheap, it gives me a goal, something to work towards, and something exciting to share with the husband and kids. I have a few day trips planned, one just by myself, to spend a day wandering and sight seeing. There is a school field trip I am chaperoning, which made my daughter beam ear to ear when I told her.

These trips and events keep me looking forward in a positive manner. I LOVE my job and what I do, but I have stressful days like everyone else. On those stressful days, I remind myself those extra hours or that hard work is earning me money towards a vacation. When I am cleaning the house (which admittedly I’m not great at….have you seen the title of my blog?) and I find change people have left everywhere, I am at least excited to put it in the vacation fund. When January hit and stomach bugs and flu arrived at our house, I console myself that we’re getting it out of the way now and will be healthy again hopefully for the happy events planned. Having something to look forward to brings happiness.

Not only do I plan the event, I plan little, simple things about it that bring me joy. Some of these revolve around food. That probably explains why I am working on losing some weight….10 pounds down so far! For example, the trip to NYC I have in mind. I am already planning and excited to go to Tea and Sympathy for dessert. Why? Because they have one of my favorites there. It’s a British tea shop, and their rhubarb and custard reminds me of being a kid in England. When visiting my dad I always go for fajitas at my favorite place. It was a place I used to go to with my mom. While the food is delicious, the memories it conjures up are happy ones spent with my parents and friends. Happiness is a feeling, and being as sentimental as I am, I always lean towards it.

Looks like it’s going to be an exciting (and yummy!) year!

Chop Chop!

So last night, I did a thing. I did a thing that scared me, made me super uncomfortable, and something that changed something that played a big part in how I identified myself.

I cut about a foot of my hair off.

I come from a long line of strong, brave, hardworking, and classy women. My grandparents were farmers, and my grandmother served in the land army. In fact, one of my most favorite pictures is of her in her uniform. My mom and aunt worked the land for a while, as well as the markets. Most of the women in the family have a love of horses, the outdoors, and aren’t afraid to get their hands dirty. That being said, when I was growing up, the women also had a soft, pretty and dainty side. At parties, everyone was always super well dressed, the faint smell of Chanel perfume in the air, and almost everyone shared one trait….long, flowing hair.

I suppose I have always associated long hair with my family. It has always stood for femininity. In a family of women who have battled through the best and worst of times, long hair has always symbolized the softness behind the strength. While I personally love loads of short hair styles, I’be never really found one I could wear comfortably, likely because of the shape of my face but also my love of long hair. I’ve had long hair almost my entire life. It has, like me, morphed and evolved over the years. As a child, it was bone straight, thick, and had a mind of its own. It didn’t like to be curled, refused to do anything more than lay the way it wanted to, but it did have a few cowlicks to keep things interesting. As I grew up, I wanted big hair like almost all women aspired to in the 80’s. Mine was still straight, so I attempted to combat its straightness with a perm. I was left with poodle hair, and it never got the volume I wanted. At some point, I was talked into a short, asymmetrical look. My son looked at a picture of this haircut and laughed heartily. The day of the cut, I LOVED it. A few days later, I hated it with a passion.

When I went to hair school, my long hair was coveted…by people who wanted to chop it off. I did hair modeling quite a bit, until I was talking into chopping it off by one of the stylists at a show. In front of tons of people, she lopped off all my long, flowing hair into a tight a line bob. It felt freeing to have the breeze on my neck, but I felt naked. I started growing it again, only to ask a fellow stylist at a salon I worked at to “clean it up”. I was busy doing the end of night bookwork when I suddenly felt a pair of clippers go straight up the back of my head. I screamed and lunged at him, unsure of just how bad it was. He had shaved the back of my hair way far up the back of my head. When I asked him what in the holy hell he was thinking, he said “I think you’re a fierce chick, and I thought you should have a fierce haircut.” I had no choice but to let him finish cutting it, but I cried the whole time, and wore hats for months.

I grew my hair out and never looked back. I tweaked it over the years, layers, no layers, razor cuts, scissor cuts, and an unfortunate crooked haircut (last time that person touched my hair). Babies were born, and my bone straight hair began a soft wave that has stuck with me, however it’s not the beachy wave one would hope for, so I typically blow dry it straight. It changed colors, from dark brown to lighter with caramel highlights, various shades of red and copper, and even blond for a short while (God, I look horrible as a blond, but hey, lessons learned, right?)
Good hair days brought confidence, bad days left me feeling off my game.

However, it’s January.

January makes me antsy for change. Change in location, change in surroundings, personal change, and growth. It also makes me antsy for a change with my hair. It seems to silly that a haircut can be such a big deal, but I’m nervous. I spent years trying unsuccessfully to do a messy bun. Silly, right? Yet I never could do it just so. Yesterday, I did a messy bun, and I’m gonna brag a little…I aced it. I got compliments at work and on the street on this bun. Of COURSE I pull it off the day I want to chop my hair off. I spent the day feeling anxious. It’s hard letting go of something that I have always associated myself with. Would I immediately regret the choice?

A haircut isn’t permanent. In fact, I have spent less time worrying over getting one of my tattoos. In the case of my tattoos, they all mean something sentimental, so I never question my choice to get them. The hair thing feels like a breaking of tradition. As someone who is so distant physically from her family, to cut it seems almost like another type of distancing, one I am not sure I wanted. That being said, sometimes you need to step away to value what you have.

So after getting my hair color freshened up, I had a few balayage highlights thrown in. I then sat in the chair and froze while I tried to make the decision. I decided to go for it. That’s when I saw in the mirror about a foot of hair waft silently to the ground behind me. My eyes teared up and I laughed nervously. Piles of hair dropped to the ground.

I left the salon feeling happy. Nervous…would my husband like it? Did I like it? I think I did! Do I miss my hair? Yes, a bit. Yet as I run my fingers though it, there are no tangles, just soft, silky hair. My ends are neat, not frizzy. There is no dryness. It feels….great. I walked in the door and got rave reviews from my husband, kids, and some friends. Today at the office, folks stopped me to tell me they liked it. A few clearly weren’t fans, but I realized, I simply don’t care. I am enjoying it, and that’s all that matters.

It’s interesting to take something I so defined as being a part of who I was and change it so much. It’s a good chance to expand my horizons.

I am gonna miss that perfect messy bun though.