Friday, December 18, 2009

Mall Walkers

I love to walk outside. Since mid-August, I've been trying to pound the pavement and trails to get my heart a little healthier and my mind a lot calmer. It's also helped shed the pounds, too, I might add. I feel really good.

But now winter has arrived. Cold temperatures. Ice and snow. Walking outside has taken on a whole new dimension. It's not pretty. In the absence of a gym membership, I've taken to walking at the Capital Mall in the evenings. It's not real pretty either.

Here are some observations from my last mall walk:
1. I'm the youngest mall walker by about 40 years, yet some walkers are still kicking my butt. This might be embarrassing if I had any pride left. I'm a mall walker now. I've got really thick skin and a gigantic, get-out-of-my-way stride.

2. I made eye contact with an old boyfriend (and his wife, I assume) that I haven't seen in more than 15 years. He was impeccably dressed with the same beautiful, blue eyes. Though we ended on a harmonious chord, we don't nod, wave, or talk. We just pass by.

3. Pregnant ladies in their final trimester like to be at the mall. They don't look happy nor do their men-folk holding their hands, or their purses, or (in some instances) their bellies.

4. Nobody buys anything from those kiosks in the middle of the mall. Those workers must be the most patient people in the universe. I would hurt myself after that many hours of people just passing me by. I would also hate Christmas music.

5. Kids are crazy. Parents aren't much better.

6. Couples really like to demonstrate their love and affection for each other while shopping. Holding hands is never enough. It's important to kiss and rub all over each other, so people know you are definitely not on the market.

7. The make-up counter ladies at Dillard's aren't real busy. I've never seen them putting makeup on anyone but themselves, or each other.

8. I miss Orange Julius.

9. When I round the corner by the Sears wing and a Kelly Clarkson song comes on, you can bet I jump around like a crazy person. I just noticed the camera this week. Crap.

10. After one hour of mall walking, despite all my eye rolling and complaining, the scenery isn't half bad. It's exercise. It's free. It's not much different than my 7th grade year when I would stroll around with my friends, just too cool for school.

I will be glad when the milder temperatures come back around or I reach my goal weight, whichever comes first, and then I can treat myself to a well-deserved gym membership. Perhaps I'll actually use it this time around since I've seen the dark side of exercise now. But, in the meantime, if you happen to be at the mall, keep your eye out for me. Don't be shy either. Start waving.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

When It Rains, It Pours

Over the last few years, I've acquired a few pounds. Two kids. Busy lifestyle. A sugar habit and no exercise. The list could go on and on, as all good "this really isn't my fault" lists do, but I'll spare you the details. Bottom line? I'm a chunk. And it is my fault.

So, for a few months, I've been trying to make some lifestyle changes. This includes trying to walk outside for an hour every day. Why outside? Well, I hate the gym. It's depressing. Part of it's the spandex, but mainly it's the sweaty bodies and ringworm residue on all the equipment. It's also pricey. I know this because I paid the YMCA for more than two years and never actually went.

This is why, earlier this evening, I found myself walking in the rain at the Nature Center. It started out as a drizzle and then went into an all out pour, but I was determined to get my walk in. I mean, if I can't even walk in some fall rain, what will I be like when there is snow on the ground?

After the first 10 minutes of being wet, I started to enjoy the wilderness during a good rain. All the animals were enjoying the rain, too. I saw six turkeys and eight deer, but no people. The deer refused to get off the trail, so I was re-routed twice, which may seem cute until you actually see them walking toward you for a quick pet. Everything smells different in the forest when it rains. I never knew that before.

Exercise just doesn't seem so mundane around all this beauty. It's almost as if nature is urging me to keep moving, so I can see what is around the next bend. So I go and I see. Even in the rain, when I'm soaked all the way through, it feels good to be a part of all this beauty. I'm a lucky girl. Fat and all.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

School Pictures

Cooper has his first official school picture tomorrow. I'm so excited! I've already completed the order form. Check. I've prepped him for his school picture experience. Check, check. I should have known that things were going a little too smoothly.

Jeff, my dear sweet hubby, was supposed to "trim" his hair before school pictures. This didn't happen, of course. Cooper's hair is flying up on the sides and back and front, just like mine used to do. It's messier than messy. He also managed to split his top lip on his dinner plate (I'm not sure how), so it's slightly puffy. And, when we finally practiced his smile for school pictures tonight, he smiled so big that his eyes were at half mast in this weird squint. Keep your eyes wide open, I say. He tries, only it looks like he's a mad scientist.

I guess when he gets up tomorrow and wants to wear his brightest orange shirt, I should just go with the flow. A good mother would gently comb his hair down and hug him tight as he bounces off to school. After all, it's his first school picture, not mine. I'm not sure I'm there yet.

I guess when you get his school picture in the mail, all crazy and wild looking or perfectly quaffed and angelic, you'll know how it turned out. Keep it as a reminder. Not everything in life turns out perfect.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Life Can Really Suck

I haven't really felt like writing lately. It's nothing personal, you see. I've just sort of been in a funk. Work is stressful. There's no zen-like feeling at home. And all the other stuff in my life? Well, it just kind of feels like a whole lot of nothing. 

But a few days ago, I had a resurgence of my old self.  No explanation why. It's like the world came into focus and suddenly got its zing back. I felt happy, really happy. I started to notice again how beautiful the world was---flowers blooming, trees turning and people smiling---and it felt, if only for a moment, like I was right were I should be. 

This up and down side to my life, my personality, my womanhood, only affirms what I've always known---life can really suck. But if you stick around, it always gets better. Events unfold. People change. Time heals us. Most importantly, we are often given a chance to view the world from a different perspective. We can choose to see the distorted, negative image from inside the bell jar, or the crystal clear, fresh view looking out.

Hold your breath for awhile. Throw a fit. Lay down and have a good cry. But, whatever you do, don't give up for too many minutes, okay? There is so much goodness waiting for you, waiting for us all.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bad Bad Girl in a Sweet Sweet World

In between getting married, starting a family, furthering my career, and having another baby, I've let my body go. It's big. It's motherly. And it's really, really out of shape. I think about my body a lot, I really do, but I never actually DO anything about it. I don't exercise. I don't refrain from eating any item on the fast food menu. I would even boast I'm at the pinnacle of my baking career, simply because I practice all the time. I have a double-chocolate scone recipe that will bring tears to your eyes when it's warm from the oven.

Then, last week happened with a major health scare. I was having some tightening in my chest on Wednesday night and then several times on Thursday. I went to the ER and then things progressed from there. When you mention chest pain, be prepared, my friends, for some serious exploratory things from weird dyes in your veins to running on a treadmill in your hospital gown. The heart is serious business.

After a million tests, it turns out my ticker is just fine. What is not fine is that fact that I have let my body get grossly out of shape with no exercise and then put every sugary item I can find in my mouth. My bad cholesterol is way high when it should be low. My good cholesterol is way low when it should be high. These are bad signs for my heart on down the road. While some is genetics, I will admit, much is related to my excesses with food and my absolute absence of exercise. Cholesterol can tell you a lot about a girl.

It took some chastising from a cardiologist, pretty expensive tests and almost 23 hours in an open gown at the hospital, BUT....I think I'm finally awake now to the damage I've been doing to my body. My eyes are open. I left the hospital depressed about the whole situation, especially the fact that I'm responsible for this mess and changes need to happen immediately. No need being sad about what is or dwelling in what could have been, I guess. It's time to just make it happen. Here's to healthier living.....for me and for you.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Let It Shine

I always thought I was destined to do something really special. As a kid, I used to imagine flying to the moon, saving a life or inventing something really terrific, like the ever-lasting gobstopper. My life could slide this way or that way, but I just had this confidence that an extraordinary event or talent would happen to me eventually.

At 10, I did do some brief modeling for House of Bargains. While it was pro bono work, of course, it did give me a glimpse of how a life under the bright lights might turn out. I imagined traveling all around the world, thin and captivating, to give people this gift of beauty. So, when the modeling work dried up shortly after my debut, I just moved on. No hurt feelings really.

In high school, it dawned on me that maybe sports might be the way to go. I played softball, basketball and ran track. Go, go, go. I even made it to the state track meet my sophomore year. One week later, I tore the ligament in my knee. It was a hard break, but that's life. I packed away the gloves, and cleats, and batons. I didn't look back either.

I pushed my way through college as fast as I could because, well, let's get real, you are more likely to find extraordinary in the real world than in college. I started my first day at a national law firm in a very sharp suit, with a very bright smile, and walked into a very big building. Do you see the importance? I also sat at very small cubicle with not a very nice boss with not a lot of input into my work. I really was a good puppet. Nothing special about that.

Kids came. Here was my chance to give something Herculean. During birth, I asked for pain medicine and then cried like a baby during the c-section because I had failed to progress. I've spanked my kids in public, I've cried alone in the garage and I've gone to a big work meeting with some kind of goo on my shoulder from morning hugs. On the rare days I've got it all in a nice, neat package, I think if I could only sustain might be special.

But today, it came to me. There is a really good chance that I will never invent something, win the lottery, touch the moon, be a celebrity, or have people recite my poems in every classroom around the country. Perhaps I don't get a special event or that extraordinary big thing in this life, but instead I get a quirky personality and a light within that radiates to others. Special might be making people laugh. Being kind, or loyal, or loving. It might even be all those big mistakes I've made along the way that I thought made me really unlovable. It somehow also made me approachable.

So, I guess I feel good about that kind of special. No big headlines, you see, just a dogged determination to keep plugging away at those big, ugly, hot stage lights in my life. Those moments can be wonderful, too. Let it shine, let it shine.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Elvis Loved His Mama

I'm not much of a traveler. With two small kids, a husband that works weekends, and a budget so tight it squeaks, traveling is a luxury. But to my surprise, all the stars aligned and I arrived in Memphis on Monday with eight-women from my book club, varying in ages, all ready to experience some rock and roll. It was an adventure.

I didn't know much about Memphis. Well, I knew it was in Tennessee. I knew it was once home to Elvis. I also thought it might be kind of hot in July. All true. In some ways, Memphis is something extra special. In other ways, it scares me.

The best part about traveling is that you get to experience it all for yourself. I'm not sure if you've been or if you'll ever go, but here's a few trip highlights. Go ahead. Soak 'em in.

1. Beale Street, the place of all food, music and debauchery, is pronounced "Bill" street by locals. It's fantastic all lit up. Every stop had amazing musicians that dazzled me.

2. The bus tour was really needed, if you want a good history lesson about music in Memphis. Sun Records. Stax. Sam Phillips. Did you know that Elvis and his mama lived in government housing and only two blocks away was BB King's home? All on the same street, all at the same time.

3. Panhandling is an art form in Memphis. Kids, adults and crack heads all want your money, or your cigarettes, or your soul. They will steal it, if you let your guard down.

4. The lottery is not just for winning millions. Apparently, Memphis loves the Broadway production of "Wicked" enough to pull names each night for a $25 ticket in the front row. Sign up, wait 15 minutes and pay with cash if they call your name. Twenty lucky winners, including me. It was the best show I have ever seen. Thank you, Memphis!

5. Good food can be found at a place with a really pretty, ornate sign out front. GREAT food is in a dive so bad that you start questioning the legitimacy of health inspectors.

6. Priceline works. $160 a night hotel for only $80. Grab that deal.

7. Trolley systems are still transporting people down Main Street. For only $1, you can rest your feet and soak up some history.

8. Cotton was huge in Memphis because of the river. There are all different grades of cotton from pure white to gray. Cotton is so big, they still hold an annual parade with a cotton queen.

9. If you want to survive in the tourist industry in Memphis, you must be an entertainer. It doesn't matter if you're singing, waiting tables or cleaning the floor, people with personality are the only ones that make it. Find yours.

10. I love me some Elvis. I love me some Johnny Cash. I wish I had known them when they were young and hungry for music in Memphis. It must have been so exciting. Being rich and famous will kill you. It's too much pressure for one small soul.

And, my last lesson in Memphis.....when I was taking a photo of the historic First Baptist Church building, which is only a block away from the famous Beale street, a man stood up from the stairs and started unbuttoning his pants while I was snapping a photo of the sign.

"I got something free for you, girl. You want my picture," he says. "Girl, girl....where you goin'. I said I got something for you."

It felt good to visit, it really did, but I wasn't tempted to stay (even with all that free stuff that nice young man at the church was giving away). Amidst all that solicitation, and rocking and rolling, and great food, Memphis is really a happening place. It's alive. Enjoy at your own risk.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Live, Love, Learn

Life frazzles me. I often feel like the worst mother in the world and then, something happens to solidify my title as the baddest mama on the block. If you must know, I often hold this title for weeks at a time.

For instance, just last Friday, as I was running around the house like a mad woman, I gave Tuck (our two year old) my hormone pill instead of his daily allergy pill. It was so hectic around me that I didn't even realize it until I noticed something white on his tongue. His pills are pink. I put my whole finger in his mouth, poked around, trying to swipe it out. No luck.

I panicked. I started to hyperventilate. I had my brother-in-law count all my hormone pills, TWICE, just to make sure this wasn't all a dream. No dream and one pill missing. I frantically call the doctor to find out that, other than a regular period and possibly some sore breasts, Tuck is going to be fine. In fact, I can go ahead and pop the allergy pill in his mouth, too.

For the rest of the night, my hubby makes transvestite jokes about our son. It's funny (kind of). When I finally calm down though, I start to realize that the speed of my life is causing huge mistakes. I mess up all the time. I guess I'm okay with screwing up my own life, but my kids are something else. Small. Powerless. Eager for love. I want something better for them.

But I realized tonight, that I'm a kid of somebody, too. I may be small, powerless and eager for love when I'm down, but someone wants something better for me. I'm loved unconditionally, mistakes and all, whether I choose to accept it or not. It might just be better to let it in, don't you think?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

It's a World of Pure Imagination

I've always had an active imagination. Lately, however, it's turning out to be more of a problem than a fun, creative personality trait. Ever since my body started falling apart at the age of 30, my mind has been in overdrive.

A pain on the lower left side. Ovarian cyst. Three sneezes in a row. Swine flu. Dizziness right before a meal. Diabetes. Ugly mole on by butt. Skin cancer.

It would be comical, except it's absolutely true. I've started obsessing over minor aches and pains. It has to be something bigger, something worse. Instead of having a doctor confirm that I'm fine physically (a tad crazy mentally, of course), I starting researching all these symptoms online. I just Google it, forgoing any official medical site. You can imagine what pops up. You got it......I am one sick puppy!

I wish I had never read the article that said after the age of 28, your body and health start to decline. Before I had time to shut the magazine, I was older. I'm older just writing this and, honestly, it pains me. I'm young, but already fearful of growing older with all the ailments that come with it. I'm afraid of being sick. I'm afraid of pain. I'm afraid I might die young, or old, or without my consent. I'm afraid of the not knowing all there is to know.

I am absolutely frozen surrounded by all this fear. I'm stuck. Sadly, I know I'm not the only one.

How do we stop measuring our life by the number of years and start counting the worthwhile moments? When do we realize that a great tragedy (a chronic illness, divorce, loss of a loved one) can turn into a triumph when we come out stronger, more aware of the world? How do we turn off the screeching voice of worry?

If you find the answers, could you drop me a quick line? You're the best.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Big Brave Mama

Cooper, my almost five year old, is starting summer school tomorrow. We have to be there at 7:25 a.m., but may not arrive until after 7:10 a.m. No supplies needed. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. It ends at 2 p.m.

That's it. That's all I got. No other details were sent, but yet I'll be dropping Cooper off there tomorrow and wishing him well. I'm nervous, really nervous. I would never admit that to my five-year-old, but I'm saying it to you. I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing!

I don't know what door to go in. I'm not even sure what classroom. No activities have been outlined. How many recesses? It there one class of kindergarten or two? No teacher name given. No credentials.

Will the kids be kind or kind of mean? Will Cooper be overwhelmed by a new school, a new classroom, a new teacher and new friends? Will he suck on his fingers? Will he find the bathroom? Will he be happy? Will he learn well? Will he fit in? Will he know what to do in an emergency? Will he listen?

I want so much for my children. As babies and toddlers, I just grab it for them and we keep moving. This is finally something only Cooper owns. It's where his journey takes a slight curve from mine. Exciting as it all may be for him, I'm scared what the world will be like for him without me controlling it. I'm hoping better. I'm hoping just as bright. I'm hoping for a grand adventure.

One foot in front of the other tomorrow. Big smile. No tears. A brief hug, if I'm lucky. I am, after all, the mother of a kindergartner now. It's time I started acting like one.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Irene's Story

My great-aunt Irene turns 81 tomorrow. I'm not sure what I'm going to be like at 81, or if I'll still be on this earth, but I hope I'll have some fire left in me when I get there. I've always wondered how Irene has stayed so youthful, so energetic, while others have aged more or passed away sooner. This is her story (as I've come to know it).

Irene is the oldest of five children, born to German parents on a farm in Freeburg. Two of her siblings are dead, including my grandmother. Growing up on a farm, you had to work hard to survive. She worked the fields, she helped with the kids, she cleaned. When her mother finally died, she left all the farm land and it's contents to the oldest male. The daughters got nothing.

When she finally married in her 20's, she moved into town with her husband and worked at a factory. She drank. She smoked. She caroused. At 26, the doctor's removed a tumor in her womb, but for a few months they weren't certain if it was a fast-growing tumor or a baby. She mourned for a long-time that this choice was taken away from her.

When the drinking got bad enough that it also turned into fighting, she quite drinking all together. She went to mass on Saturday nights. She decorated her home with trinkets and things not found in a farmhouse. She became a widow, twice, because of cancer.

She only washes her face with Dove soap. Her garden is the nicest in town. She cleans like crazy, drinks coffee day and night, smokes, and is the first to help out when people are in need. When I was born, and my mother was still undecided about adoption, Irene volunteered to keep me and love me. She bought all new baby clothes for me even after she knew I would never be her daughter, or live in her home.

She used to give me Wrigley's Spearmint gum, my own five-piece pack, when I would come to visit. You could drink soda or coffee in her house, no matter what your age. At the parish picnic, she's worked the BINGO stand for the last sixty years. But she stopped going to mass when the misconduct was rampant and it hit too close to home. You don't hurt kids, she'd say, end of story.

No matter what our story, I guess the secret might be the fire within us, the passion that keeps us moving forward instead of looking back. It's what keeps us young. She knew that. Still does.

Friday, May 8, 2009


It's almost Mother's Day. I start drifting down memory lane about my own mother, and her mother, and, of course, the mother before her. I even ponder my own short stint in the motherhood arena, unseasoned as I may be.

On my desk, I have a bulletin board of photos -- all women in my family, all interesting photos that make me look at the world a little different. Here is what I see.

My Mother, 1965.
Black and white photo. She is standing in the front yard in her shorts, huge sombrero, ugly stuffed bear with a lei in her hands, and white loafers. She is entertaining the world. Her comical smile makes me laugh. Only six years old, she doesn't know yet how much hurt there is in the world. Happiness resides within her.

My Grandmother, 1972.
Wearing a flowered dress with pearls, she stands in the corner of a room. Body stiff, she is smiling. One light bulb hangs bare above her head. Her smile looks forced, her eyes look sad. I want to wrap my arms around her and hold her. Why is it so hard to let go of things that weigh us down, such as bitterness, hatred and regret?

My Mother and I, 2003.
We have our arms around each other, looking straight in the camera, on a sunny day. Our smiles are exactly the same. I'm squeezing her tight. It's hard to tell who is the mother and who is the daughter. For most of our lives, this identity crisis on traditional mother-daughter roles has been a barrier between us.

Me, 2005.
Only my head is above water. I am hanging on with one hand to a black inner-tube and the water is rippling around me. This was my first weekend away from our new baby. It was also my first dip back in the soothing water after motherhood. I have a ton more questions, but the photo is snapped in mid-sentence.

These are my inspiration photos -- the photos that remind me, I guess, that we're all human, including mothers. We make mistakes. We mess up our lives. We even mess up our kids' lives. Some of us put on sombreros and dance to survive, while others build walls that no one can penetrate. Some of us hold on tight with all our being and big ole' smiles, while others just barely have their head above water.

The only thing we have in common is God's unfailing love for us. Oh, and of course, the fact that we're all in this together....ready or not.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Love Languages

When Jeff and I got married, we had to read The Five Love Languages in order to "pass" pre-marital counseling. We passed (thanks for asking!) and, as it turns out, learned a lot about each other. Even 10 years later, I often stop and marvel at the power of a love language.

The premise behind the book is that there are five love languages, or ways that people express and receive love. Each of us has a primary love language. When people in our lives -- spouses, family, friends -- speak the right love language to us, we feel loved. On the other hand, when they are focusing on the wrong love language, all their efforts may be in vain. They love us, but we don't feel it. They care deeply for us, but we don't know it.

So, what are the five love languages?

1. Words of affirmation -- words are powerful. Words of affection or endearment, words of praise or encouragement, words that give positive guidance all say, "I care about you."

2. Quality time -- the most important part of quality time is not the event itself but that you are doing something together, being together. Quality time is focused attention.

3. Gift Giving -- the giving and receiving of gifts can be a powerful expression of love. Meaningful and thoughtful gifts need not be big or expensive. It's the act of giving that counts.

4. Acts of service -- helping others in a selfless manner shows we care. Small task or big request, it doesn't matter. We respond and love happens.

5. Physical touch -- people who are hugged, kissed and held feel loved. The author says, "Physical touch is one of love's strongest voices." Only if it's your love language, however.

My love language is acts of service. When Jeff fixes something around the house or carries in the groceries before I can ask, it shows me he cares. When he gets the boys up and dressed in the morning so I can sleep for a few more minutes, it's pure love. Most are small things, but they add up in a huge way for me.

For Jeff, his love language is words of affirmation. Although I feel like I show him how much I love him, he needs to be told. It needs to be verbalized all the time. I'm always amazed at how his expression will change instantly when I thank him for loving us so much. He grins and I can tell immediately that little bits of love are just pouring in.

Along the way, I have been shown over and over again the power of focusing on that primary love language. Do not waste your time perfecting any others. It's been a hard lesson, but I've learned. Because no matter how hard you work, no matter how much love you give, no matter how much you bend over backwards to make someone happy, they usually only funnel love inward in one way. That's the only way you need to know about, my friends. The rest? Well, it's just fluff. Let it float away.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Baby, I'm Moving On

I cleaned out the nursery tonight. Sold the crib. Packed away the baby clothes. Looked through the photos of when my boys were born. Swept up all the remnants of baby and brought in something new.

The truth is, I've been on the fence a long time about having another baby. Ever since we brought Tuck home from the hospital, I've wondered if we should do it all again. Jeff only wanted two. I always thought I wanted one, then I had two, and then I started thinking about number three. A girl would be lovely, no doubt, but even another boy sounded fine. I always felt like I had more love, but never enough time or energy.

I then questioned every mother I met. So, how did you know you were done? Did the baby fever ever go away? Do you wish you would have had more kids? No conclusive answers. Just confident women who seemed content with the number of kids they had.

Ironically, it was the pregnant women around me that finally provided the answer. An amazing friend at work is having baby number four. I actually woke up in a cold sweat one night thinking this was me, my life, and realizing I can't deal with that many kids. Another friend recently moved, took a new job and became pregnant. I was so thrilled for her, but not one bit envious at all these new adventures in her life. And then, when doling out advice to another friend about fertile times of the month, I almost had a heart attack when my period failed to show up on time. False alarm, thank goodness, but I fretted enough to know what side of the fence I had landed.

It was time to move on. Instead of a nursery, I now have a room of my own -- an office, a personal sanctuary to write, a rocker to read (instead of nurse a baby) and pictures of those I love all around me. I even dusted off my favorite poetry books and lined them up like proud, little soldiers in my new room. While I love the babies I've been blessed with, I feel confident tonight. Something new is about to begin. For the first time in a long time, I think I'm ready.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Dream On

Every spring, I go into a frenzy to get organized. I have this urge to get rid of clutter and re-arrange everything in my world. Give it away or sell, I don't care. I just need a new perspective.

In the midst of all this purging, I came across an old notebook from college and my early married years. The pages had random notes of inspiration, journal entries and even a few poems tucked in between pages. It was a time warp back to a girl I once knew. The poems were, at best, morose, somewhat psychotic and over-the-top dramatic.

The crazy part is that I fancied myself a poet. An undiscovered, eccentric, extremely talented creator of poems. That's me. Apparently, I even saved a bunch in case my poetry gift was discovered posthumous. But tonight, when I'm reading those poems, a moment of truth flickers in my mind. I only imagined myself a poet. These poems will never take flight, I can almost guarantee you.

It's hard to let go of what you've dreamed yourself to be. When I think of myself, it's not a vision of dirty laundry, screaming kids and soccer practice. It's sitting in a coffee shop, black coffee in hand, cigarette burning and poetic words laying themselves down in perfect form on the page. I wear my beret, reciting my poems with an accent and people love them. People love me. They want to take home these words I've written and place them somewhere important. I want that for them, too.

I then start to think of all the people I've sent these poems. I was so full of myself that I put them on Christmas cards, gave them as birthday gifts and made friends read each line while I stood there waiting for their accolades. I even mailed a poem to my sister-in-law in the midst of her long, lonely semester in the Philippines. I thought it would provide comfort. I realize now it may not have been comforting, but extremely funny. She said she lost the poem before she made it back home. Coincidence? I'm wondering.

When a dream is ash, I guess you just keep moving on. It also helps to be honest when you were just too proud, too confident, too full of yourself. We've all been there. I'm sure I'll even step through that door again like when I realize I might not be a professional blogger. It takes me awhile, but I'm learning.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

The Mother of Meltdowns

It's tough being a mother. It feels, most days, like I'm flying completely blind. I could be doing right. I could be doing wrong. You just don't know. Every day is a toss up.

What I do know is that I feel like I never truly have it under control. My two year old is having a melt down and trying to break down the door. My four year old is adamant, over and over again, that he washed his hands with soap, but I don't see it and I don't smell it. Even the dog, the youngest of my brood, can't seem to grasp the concept that pooping is an outside activity. It's utter chaos and I'm responsible for it all.

Because of my downward spiral weekend, I'm composing a list of crazy mommy things. It's things I don't understand, things that drive me crazy, things I wish I could change if I had any power at all over the universe.

1. Why melt downs happen over the smallest things, like being unable to take a teddy bear into Target. It's loud. It's disruptive. All I can thing about is being far away from the screaming.

2. Why I ever thought spanking was a bad thing. Let's not be judgmental, folks. Just get it done.

3. Why other mommies seem really put together and I can't even manage to find matching socks in the morning. It could be because there's a mountain of laundry in my basement that I have dreams of getting to one day. Laundry is the only thing in my life I'm really patient about.

4. Why one child can be an angel, but give birth to two or more, and things just get downright wild. This is why three children will probably never happen for us. I'm maxed out.

5. Why getting a cute puppy always seems like a grand idea right before Christmas.

6. Why everyone wants to fly in and help when daddy is all by himself with the kids. No one calls me when I'm stuck for days alone in the house with them. I could be dead or tied up, but no one would really know.

7. Why those plastic toys hurt so darn much when you step on them in your bare feet. Bad words form on your lips, but you know big ears and little lips are ready to start repeating anything you say while in pain.

8. Why, when you finally make the decision to stop checking on them every 15 minutes when they've gone to bed EVEN when you hear feet on the floor, the youngest decides to put diaper creme all over himself, the diapers, the clothes, the furniture and his bed. Never will you buy another tube of Desitin without feeling sick to your stomach.

9. Why I decided two years was plenty of time between kids.

10. Why I complain about the little things when the Lord has blessed us with so much, such as two healthy, somewhat happy boys, sleeping softly tonight all snug in their beds.

It's all about perspective, I guess. When it boils down to it, I never expected being a mother to be so hard. It takes everything I got, and then wants more. Deep breaths, deep breaths.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Empty Tanks

When I hit 13 years old, I turned into this hormonal, awkward wreck that walked around thinking I knew it all. I had big hair, bright lips and a bad attitude. In a very heated moment, I remember sitting across from my mom at our kitchen table and yelling with all my might about how much I hated her. Her face was broken. I took a little something from her that day that I can never give back.

Ironically, I wasn't even mad at her. My anger seethed at my father, but since he'd been gone most of my natural born life, it was hard to heap that on him. She was closer and she loved me unconditionally. I needed desperately to get that hurt out, to settle it elsewhere, and even at a young age, I needed someone to blame for my circumstance. Looking inward was just too tough.

On our most frazzled, most hurt, most challenging, most "I'm so dried up there is nothing left for anyone else" day, where do you heap those worries? Where do you send the hurt? Instead of inward or outward, I think I'm going to start trying upward. There's some good love up there, I hear.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Growing on Trees

When I was a kid, my mom used to always say the phrase, "Hey, what do you think money grows on trees?" This was her cute way of letting me know that she was tired of me asking for money.

Stop being a pest. Get out of my hair. Go play. Hopefully, somewhere free.

What my mom never did was teach me about money. I can't even say we lived paycheck to paycheck. We were always less a few dollars and our ends never seemed to meet. While she worked hard, it was a small income and just us. No credit card debt, but we borrowed often from family or friends. We even dipped in a few times to my kid savings account.

Zero was good in our house. It was better than negative, you see.

That's why, at the ripe old age of 31, I'm taking Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. It's time to learn about money. I know a few things. I can balance the check book. I sort of grasp the idea of savings. And, a few years ago, I plowed through our credit card debt and cut up all sorts of bad plastic. Still, we've struggled despite our best efforts.

Finally, last week, a light went on when Dave was talking about getting rid of debt. Why are people so afraid of getting out of debt? Because they don't think they can do it. They've lost hope. The debt snowball consumes us. I felt like he was whispering right in my ear. This was me. This was us. We were afraid.

I'm still a little afraid, I think. But each week, I get a little stronger and a little more sure of myself. I don't want any more debt, including car payments or school loans or vet bills or more stuff I don't need. Won't use. Don't really care about it.

I can do this. The amazing thing is, if I can, I know you can, too.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Patsy Cline, Patsy Cline

When I was a kid, I used to love to listen to Patsy Cline albums. There was something about her voice that would draw me in, keep me waiting there for the next sad story she was about to tell. Crazy was my favorite. I'm sure I drove my own mama crazy singing that song over and over again in the shower. But I had to get the angst and sadness just right and that takes practice, I tell you. Real practice.

It's funny. I've had a lot of practice over the years letting worry soak right in. And she's not a bad person, this worry wort I carry around with me. She's just kind of heavy on the soul. Kind of bitter, kind of crazy. Every time I let her keep me awake, or let her voice get louder, or let her guide me in decision making just because I'm scared.....she becomes a little stronger, while a little piece of me flakes away. It's so gradual that sometimes I don't even notice it's gone.

My biggest worry, if the truth be known, is becoming a single parent. I'm scared Jeff is going to die is some freaky accident or by some weird illness and it will be totally up to me to carry on. The thought of raising two kids alone freaks me out in a big, bad way. I can barely handle it some days with two adults in the house. Imagining only me running the show squeezes by chest something fierce.

I know a psychologist would take this angst and point it right back to my childhood. Growing up with a single mother makes you fear being a single mom. Growing up without a father makes you worry about men leaving, by choice or by fate. It's natural. Still, I'm sure they give drugs if your fear wells up too big. No prescriptions for me....just yet.

What do you worry about most? More importantly, how do you personally put a lid on worry so it's manageable, livable, breathable? Do you even try? I'm listening. I really am.

Worry. Why do I let myself worry? Wondering, what in the world did I do? Ooh, ooh, ooh. Oh, crazy...

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Cabo Wabo

It's official, folks. I'm a celebrity.

I traveled to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for an extended weekend and was greeted at the resort with margaritas and a gift basket. When I turned for my first look at the ocean, it was the bluest water I had ever seen. Whales even floated by all weekend. I took long bubble baths in my room, which also overlooked the ocean. Quietness began to surround me. Sun settled on my skin. My life slowed down to the sweet cadence of Mexico time. It was amazing.

What was more amazing was the time I got to spend with Jamie, my very best friend in the world. She's the reason I was in this paradise. She got hitched. And, she invited me, bless her heart, to stand up next to her for her sunset wedding. It felt like old times to be with Jamie and her family. It's like we were 16 again and giddy with what life had to offer.

Finally relaxed, it was time to go home and get back to my life. While I missed by boys and hubby something crazy, I didn't miss the hectic pace that forever marches forward. Life is nuts here. I plan it, organize it and make it happen. I clean it, cook it and pack it. I write it, seal it and send it. Always more, always more. No rest for the weary, especially if you wear the name tag "mommy," "wife," or "woman."

I never realized how much I didn't like the pace of my life until I escaped it for awhile. I'm having a really hard time jumping back in. I don't like how it is, as sad as that may sound. Change, however, takes more work and I'm not sure I have enough energy. What do you put on hold? What do you cut out? What do you leave behind?

If I were a true celebrity, I'd get boozed up and make my life hazy. I'd travel to exotic locations further away from reality. I'd leave behind what is real and maybe pick it back up 20 years later in rehab. I'd get weirder, too. I'd also hate all those people with a normal life, who get the opportunity to know their kids and own a really messed up dog (p.s., I pulled one of my hair ties out of the dog's butt this's such a pleasure owning Zeke).

As it turns out, I'm just me. So, I guess I just have to take it one day at a time and try to see the beauty in what's around me, whether I'm by the ocean or exhausted, snuggled up with my kids. I can do this. I know I can.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Burnin' Ring of Fire

On Monday, Zeke (our sweet and non-listening dog) refused to get out of Jeff's truck. With Tuck in one arm and his hand around Zeke's leash, anger inspired him to pull Zeke out of the truck with all his might. Zeke landed, not on his feet as cats always seem to do, but on his hip. One shattered femur later, one pin in the leg, three medications, $500, and a scar that makes me want to throw up when I look at it....Zeke is home sweet home.

Anger is a funny thing. Many people have trouble controlling it and it can divide a home, a family, a life. People forget many things, but rarely do they forget anger at its ugliest. Jeff got angry at our dog and it fizzled out after the accident. Unfortunately, my anger still burns -- at Jeff, at the situation, at the expense, at Zeke in pain, at just one more thing added to my already overwhelming day. It burns me.

While I may not use physical force when I'm angry, as men tend to do, I let a few well-executed words fall from lips and pierce Jeff. It felt good in some sad way to have him hurt for the hurt he had caused. But what I've realized from this whole situation is that anger is just a vicious cycle that always swings around to hurt us. We give it or we get it. It only gets better, however, when we let it go.

Here's to hoping I can lay the anger down. Let it go. Pick myself up and carry on. This is life, my friends. Another day will be here soon.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Old Ghosts

I'm a firm believer that people pass through your life for a distinct reason. Some stay awhile and many just keeping on moving. Loving relationships exist. Destructive ones do, too. I guess it's important to have a balance in all things, relationships included.

I came across an old friend this weekend. A first love, if I'm really honest with myself. While we parted ways years ago on the kindest of terms and wished the best for each other, it's always an odd feeling to come face-to-face with your past.

What I feel like saying is....
Well, hello. It's going to take me a few minutes to catch my breath.....I'm always astounded when our paths cross. We're complete strangers now though at one time you consumed my world. I loved you completely before I even really knew what love was. You look wonderful, by the way, though certainly not the boy I knew. Only your smile seems vaguely familiar. You loved me, too, right? I thought so. Thank you for that.

What I say is.....
Hey, how are you? How is the family? I'm great. Family's good, too. Yeah, it has been awhile. Take care of yourself.

I want relationships to stay the same, sad as that may be. If we meet having coffee, I would like to keep having coffee with you forever. If we became friends at book club, let's keep reading books to eternity. I don't care to change it. If I loved you once, I feel sad that love has slipped away, even when a grander love has arrived to take it's place. It applies to all that have crossed my path, friends and lovers alike.

How do I change this about myself? Well, I guess for one, I stop dwelling on the past. I take off the rose-colored glasses. Put away the daydreams about "what if" and "what could have been." And I stop being surprised when the past is standing in front of me. Because the truth is, people cannot love you forever. We just have to keep going, keep reaching, keep loving.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Heavy Cake

What do you get when you add 31 candles to a delicious, homemade birthday cake? A very heavy cake, my friends, because you have officially tipped over the hill.

Yes, I turned 31 on Monday. Birthdays don't make me sad. They do, however, make me reflective. What am I doing with my life? What have I done with my life? What can I do differently? It's as if the turning another number on my internal clock makes me realize how truly fast time flies. I feel 22. I act 24. And I look, well, old enough to never get carded. My Wii age is 48. Numbers are scary, huh?

So, to commemorate my birthday, I thought it might be nice to make a list of things I know now that I would have NEVER have known at 21.

1. Women need to stick together. Friends are what makes the journey worthwhile.

2. Why movie stars, especially those that do nude scenes, do NOT breastfeed. Sagging is not sexy, although it is the milk of life for our sweet babies.

3. Men will never come around to our way of thinking. They do not change nor should we.

4. Gym memberships are never worth it. Sweating with a bunch of other people, all running in circles, doesn't make you happy. It makes you depressed.

5. People you love do break your heart. You may break some, too. Hating people for things that are out of our control is a waste of time and energy. Move on.

6. Being a mother is the greatest and hardest job in the world. I am in charge of shaping another life and I can't even get myself put together some days.

7. You are what you eat. Big bellies don't lie.

8. I'm becoming my mother. All the things I thought I would never say or do because my mother did them and it got on my last nerve. I'm there. I'm her.

9. I need God in my life. I need the comfort and the unconditional love.

10. Age is a silly thing. If it defines your outlook, you're silly, too.

Thanks for all those birthday wishes, friends. You're the best. I hope you know it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Woe is Me

I'm feeling sorry for myself this weekend. Tuck has been sick with a viral infection. Temperature, fussiness and, of course, breathing problems. We've been giving breathing treatments around the clock, which is exhausting, and then we canceled our birthday dinner for this evening. I just couldn't thrust my sick kid on grandparents, kind as they may be.

On top of all of that, I feel way behind at work. When does a girl catch up? I love a fast pace, but it would be nice to feel like all projects are moving forward. I hope I don't drop any of the balls I'm juggling.

Then, I start to worry. I begin to panic. Fear sets in. I let myself sink into this rut of self-loathing and, against my better judgment, I break out my best china for a pity party. No one is invited, of course. Just me. Exhausted. Mean spirited. Ugly.

It's only when I look outside of my own life that my thoughts start to gain perspective. I see others that are struggling with things I cannot imagine -- extreme poverty, death of a child, cancer, losing a job. It's eye opening. It makes me understand that we all have fears, something that scares us terribly, that makes us want to hide from under the covers.

This poem by Dannye Romine Powell says it all.

Everyone is Afraid of Something
Once I was afraid of ghosts, of the dark,
of climbing down from the highest
limb of the backyard oak. Now I'm afraid

my son will die alone in his apartment.
I'm afraid when I break down the door,
I'll find him among the empties---bloated,
discolored, his face a stranger's face.

My granddaughter is afraid of blood
and spider webs and of messing up.
Also bees. Especially bees. Everyone,
she says, is afraid of something.

Another fear of mine: that it will fall to me
to tell this child her father is dead.

Perhaps I should begin today stringing
her a necklace of bees. When they sting
and welts quilt her face, when her lips
whiten and swell, I'll take her
by the shoulders. Child, listen to me.
One day, you'll see. These stings
Are nothing. Nothing at all.

Feeling sorry for yourself is worth nothing, I've discovered. I still do it, unfortunately. Tonight is a perfect example. I'm feeling better though. I really am. Perhaps getting these feelings out is all I needed. And some sleep. Sleep would be nice, too.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Must Love Dogs

People are funny about dogs. Dogs are funny about people, too.

After almost a year of not having a dog, we decided to take the plunge again and get a puppy. I'm crazy, I know. I just love dogs, I really do, but they are work....a lot of work. Zeke is an American Bulldog. He looks exactly like the dog on the Little Rascals movie. He's got a white face with one eye patch, which always makes him look sad. At 14 weeks, he was 35 pounds.

Zeke is a lot sweeter than our last dog. The boys can do almost anything to him and he just wags his tale. He's full of love, but as stubborn as they come. For instance, he likes to poop inside. I'm not sure why, but he has a gift for holding it when we take him around the neighborhood. The minute he comes inside, he circles our table, and let's loose. Maybe he's shy about outdoor pooping.

When I picked him up from the vet after snipping off the family jewels, the vet chuckled that I was his owner. He had thrown up two matching kid socks and one, plastic snake. She bagged them up, while giggling, and out the door we went. Two days later, he stuck his head through the top of his kennel and almost choked himself to death. I continue to find plastic animals littered in doggy leftovers on our kitchen floor.

He snores. He farts. He scratches under the bed until I want to kill him.

He's kind. He's gentle. He loves almost everyone (well, except for Jeff) and the kids adore him.

As I write this, he's managed to get the sheets off the bed and is chewing loudly on the mattress tag that just won't come loose. He doesn't even respond when I yell his name. I have to wonder how this dog, of all the dogs in the universe, made it to our house to live. I do believe it's a love/hate relationship that's going to last a lifetime.**

** No animals were hurt in the writing of this blog post.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

And So It Begins

Technology hates me. Okay, not true. I'm the one that loathes technology. I guess I'm never sure if it's worth learning because, quite frankly, it will be gone tomorrow. I don't text. I don't Facebook. I don't even Twitter. I hear about all these wonderful tools from friends who have learned to stay e-connected. I still write them letters because I feel bad.

If I'm missed on the world wide web, no one has mentioned it. I have kind friends, I know. After all this time, I've decided to start a mini blog and a friend even sent me a link on how to get started. I'm not even sure what will happen when I hit "publish post." And I guess if blogs are out by the time I figure it all out, I'll just move on. It's the writing that matters most.

I asked my four-year-old what I should title my blog. I was at a loss on how to put an umbrella on all these ideas I might be generating on my 10-year-old computer. He said, "battery brains." What?!? "Well, I got no ideas right now because my brains are out of batteries."

Oh, well, that makes sense.

Moms are the same way, I think. We organize the entire world and we are often scattered. When we finally use the last minute of our day to do something for ourselves, we're often at a loss. Words fail us. Thoughts fall away. Our brains are simply out of batteries.

I can't speak for every mother, but I miss that spark. I miss it so much that I feel sadness when I think of its going. So, I'm recharging, folks. I'm re-emerging. I'm sending something out that may have no return except the satisfaction of knowing it's mine. I own it. I keep it safe. I strike the match.