Proud Mama

In the midst of all the chaos, us mamas often question our choices. Kids don’t come with an instruction manual, and it’s often tough to determine if we’ve got this whole parent thing down. For all the work my husband and I do, it’s often tough to see if the lessons we are trying to teach are landing.

Yesterday I took the girl child to the orthodontist. The whole process has been incredibly stressful on all of us. While I know kids get braces all the time, she had to have surgery where they cut her gums open to create little “windows”, applied brackets, and gold chains. Those chains then get attached to her braces, and slowly the links are taken off to tighten the chain, thereby pulling down her impacted teeth. It’s scary for an 8 year old, and frankly, it’s scary for me. One side didn’t heal as well as the other, and it’s been a tough process for her. Yesterday I took her in and they did the first tightening. Tears ensued and I had to hold her hand and talk her through the discomfort. She cried, but in all honesty, she handled it pretty well.

Outside, we headed to the car, and she still had big fat tears that were slowly dropping down her cheeks. She didn’t say much other than “mama, that really hurt”. I promised her ice cream and we went to get into the car. A man passed me with a walker. I sensed something was off…maybe a stroke had happened, maybe an impairment, but it was slight. He asked me for bus fare, and I told him honestly I had just given my last $5 away to the school. I felt bad. Suddenly, my daughter pipes up that she has some money in her bag from her change for buying me a mother’s day gift at school, and she offered it to him. He immediately felt bad, and apologized, shuffling away saying “I can’t take her money”. She would hear nothing of it, and handed me her $2.50. I asked how much bus fare was, and he replied “$3.00”. So I scrounged in my car for the remaining fifty cents. I came up with it and handed it to him. He didn’t make eye contact, but thanked me. We hopped in the car and left.

Now, here was my dilemma…I was so proud of her for helping. After all, I have spent many hours trying hard to instill kindness and the spirit of helping into my kids. I’ve often blogged about my successes, but especially my fails, where I tried real hard but it bit me in the ass so to speak. I was so stinking happy to see it stuck, that she saw a way to help, felt able to, and made the effort. That being said, I also had to impart a little bit of realism and explain that bad people don’t look bad, and that she had to be careful of strangers. We discussed stranger danger. An incident this week that my daughter was witness to about a stranger had frightened her, and I had to tread lightly. After all, how do you teach a child to love and trust, when reality is that bad people DO exist, and some strangers ARE bad? I had to explain that when it comes to this type of situation, it’s probably best to let her dad and I make those decisions and do the talking. I did repeat, however, that I was so impressed and proud of her kindness.

She responded that she could tell the guy just wanted to the bus to get home, and he wasn’t walking so well, so the bus was a better choice. She then told me she saw he REALLY needed the bus, so she knew she had done the right thing. I paused, and asked for clarification. It turns out that when I looked away and went to hunt for change, my daughter saw the man pee his pants. A huge puddle had appeared at his feet. She said he probably needed the bus to get home to the bathroom and to clean himself up.

I looked at the sidewalk. Indeed, there was a big puddle, and a set of wet footprints walking away from it. “eh, it happens to the best of us, kiddo” I responded, and she agreed.

Not so long ago, she had wet her pants at school after a substitute wouldn’t let her leave class to use the bathroom. She had been really embarrassed. When I put the pieces of the story together, I was even more proud of her. I have always told her that even kids can make a difference, once step at a time. She saw an adult who was struggling, saw them REALLY struggle, and said not a word about the issue in public, but instead extended her heart, her hand, and her last $2.50 to make his day a bit easier.

If only more people were like her, what a better place this world would be.

I’m so incredibly lucky to be her mama.

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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!

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.

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.

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.

Mommin’ ain’t easy

Some days, mommin’ ain’t easy. We’ve had a few of those this week. Yesterday was a prime example. I awoke to the sound of a wounded animal outside my bedroom door. It was a primal call of fear. I immediately ripped my earplugs out (key to a happy marriage), and quickly searched for the strange yet familiar noise. It was the boy child doing his sound of panic as he realized he had missed the bus. I told him to get ready, and I would drive him. I raced him to school, raced home, and picked up the girl child. As we pulled into her school’s driveway, she announced “mama? My ear hurts.” and headed off to class.

45 minutes later, I get a call from the nurse. Little one is in her office, sobbing with ear pain. I ask if she has Tylenol, which she does (but isn’t really supposed to give her) but I beg her to dole some out to get the pain under control, call the dr, and ask the husband if he can get her and run her to the doctor. Thankfully, he agrees, and I jump on my conference call appointment. Soon after, they arrive home, announcing an ear infection, and let me know I will need to go get her antibiotics. I work, take a quick lunch break, and try to frantically wrap a few gifts in private. The gorgeous gold glittery paper I purchased is stunning….and tape won’t stick to it, rendering it UTTERLY USELESS. I try different tape, I try patience. I consider glue and realize that’s far more effort than I am willing to exert. I punt kick it across the room in frustration.

As soon as work is done, little one and I run to grab her medicine. She also reminds me it’s dress down day at school (they normally wear uniforms) and she needs a holiday themed shirt. I sigh. I COULD run her home and drop her to her brother, making my shopping trip faster, easier, and without hearing “ooh, I want to add this and this to my Christmas list!” just a few days before Christmas arrives. I mull over my options. It’s getting late, I still need to cook, so I bite the bullet and we race to the mall. The store I planned on going to has no holiday stuff left aside from Pj’s, so I hit the holy grail, Target, where my daughter finds a Santa dress. I bump into my sister in law, who joins in the coercive effort of trying to convince my daughter to abandon the Santa dress and go with something she can wear more than once. She leaves, and I fail to do the job. We leave with the damned Santa dress while I question my choices and lack of will power.

We race home, I cook, and we do the orthodontic key turning. There are tears. I clean the guinea pig cage. I give kisses and hugs. I plan to do more gifts. Instead, I collapse on the couch to watch A Million Things (A Million Little Things?). I head up to bed, puffy faced and red from sniffling at a sad story line that come a bit too close to home. Sleep is welcome.

Today involved shuttling kids (we had flash flooding so I ended up driving all the neighborhood kids home from school, which required some deep coordination). I had to call to sort out a gift for the kids from my dad. One involved getting a GC, but the woman told me I had to use it within 4 weeks. It seemed really strange, and it wasn’t until I chatted with someone who told me the place was sold and closing that I realized why. Luckily it’s a cash only place so I was supposed to drive there tomorrow to pay for it and pick up the certificate. Instead I found another place (that plans on staying in business!) and can get one from there instead. Why would you not tell someone you are going out of business? Incredibly shady to say the least. I worked, almost got mowed down by a gymnastics mom who wasn’t paying attention in the parking lot, and got the boy a haircut on my break. My treat to myself for Christmas arrived from England, and it’s too big, meaning a return is in order, which will likely be a complicated nightmare. Soon, I will be racing to get the little one and dropping both kids off for a sleepover with the Aunt and Uncle. Then I need to do wrapping of presents and cleaning for Christmas.

You know what though? It’s crazy. It’s chaotic, and it’s not easy, but it’s my life, which is a hell of a good one.

Parents, at least a good chunk of them…they bust their asses on the regular. They do what they can to raise the best kids they can. It’s REALLY hard some days. Some days, it’s the best feeling in the world to see things fall into place and see your kids succeeding at being happy people. At the end of the day, we all want our kids to be HAPPY. Happy kids, in my mind, are successful kids. I don’t much care where they work, who they love, as long as they are happy. When you have kids, the older folks will tell you “cherish every moment, it goes by so fast!” They aren’t lying. As the kids grow up, it goes by even faster. You start to find yourself wishing you could slow things down, keep them littler longer, and keep all the memories locked in a safe place. The days whiz by, with the mom or dad taxi running place to place. Activities, school, work, cooking, cleaning, hugging, loving, managing, planning, keeping all the balls in the air while you juggle life at full speed.

It ain’t easy.

I wouldn’t change a thing though.

Living the “Yes” life.

I know it’s been a while since I posted.  I’ve been pretty busy.  Yes, yes, I know that is what everyone says, but in this case, it’s true!  Aside from the usual working mother of 2, wife, and the normal day to day chaos, I have been trying very hard to live the “yes” life.  I thought perhaps it’s time to do an update on how it’s going.

I started this after lamenting about the extra weight that has cropped up on my the past 10 years or so.  After mulling it over and feeling a bit sorry for myself, a memory of a conversation I had with my mother popped in my head.  She once told me how proud she was of me for my determination and independence.  I remember her telling me how I seemed to just set my mind to things and DO them.  It seemed logical that I could apply this mentality to losing some weight.  I talked myself into it.  I COULD do it.  I just needed to set my mind to it, and to make a plan.  I realized I am not a big fan of the gym, but I like being active.  The first thing I did was start going to an Aqua Zumba class on Mondays.  You know what?  I LOVE it.  LOOOVVVVEEEE it.  It makes me feel great and I have a good time.  I actually look forward to Mondays…how is that even possible?  The AZ class led me to take a deep water fit class.  I started losing a bit of weight.  I realized, now that I was a bit more active, that much of my problem thus far was that I wasn’t doing much at all before I started the classes.  I had gotten up, dropped the kids off, and gone to work all day.  Then I would come home, get the kids fed and ready for bed, and then watched TV.  I wasn’t doing much for me.

I needed to make some changes, and it started with the mindset that I would say “yes” more.  Because I was saying yes more, I felt less guilty when I had to say no.  When my son’s soccer coach couldn’t coach this season, and nobody else volunteered.  I said yes.  I have help, and I had some learning to do, but I am doing it!  I will tell you…it’s the best damned thing ever.  I love it.  It’s not always easy, and 10 year old boys will give you a run for your money, but on the whole, it’s been fantastic.  I feel ike I have done something positive, I get some excercise, and it’s been so much fun.  My son said he was proud of me.  That was worth the price of admission right there!

I am saying yes to plans, and finding ways to do things for me, as well as the kids.  I took a trip to NYC 3 days ago to go see one of my favorite authors do a reading.  Before, I likely would have made excuses, but this time I was determined to go.  One night to myself to do something I enjoyed was a complete recharge.  I notice that since I have been saying yes more, I am finding time to not only do more things with the kids, but for myself as well.

The end result?  I am happier.  I guess what they say is true, a happy wife is a happy life, because our household seems happier.  It also seems healthier.  The kids are supportive of me going to excercise classes 2x a week (the Y has a childcare room they go to for an hour where they draw, play or hang out).  My husband is supportive as well.  We’re all eating better.  We exercise more.  My son, who never learned how to ride a bike, learned (in the rain) because he asked me to teach him, and I said yes.  I had always thought it would have to be something my husband taught him, but nope!  I set my mind to teach him and it worked!  I am trying to silence the negative inner voice in my head and replace it with a positive, happy one.  It’s a work in progress, but it’s getting better all the time.

Have I lost weight?  Yup, so far it’s 16 lbs.  I gained 3 back, then lost them again.  It’s a process.  Hopefully it will keep disappearing with a bit of work, and staying active.

Ok, so I haven’t quite gotten the hang of saying yes more to the housework.

Can’t win em all.

Live the Yes life.  You won’t be sorry.