Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentine's Day, I Think I Love You

Twas the night before Valentine's Day and all through the one cared.

Wait, except they did. Two of my kids wanted to give their friends cards and gifts at the last minute. So we raced to Kroger to see what Valentine's Day cards were left. It turned out, not much. I refused to spend more than $4 on anything. I rolled my eyes at over priced hearts filled with chocolate. I made fun of people that "made a big deal about Valentine's Day" out loud.

"What has happened to me?," I asked Lucy who was with me. "When did I become such a Valentine's Day Scrooge? Don't I believe in love?"

It's the first time in over a decade that I haven't decorated the house or made cutesy hearts for the big day.

Can I blame this on post-election/inaugural fatigue and depression? Is Trump to blame for my lack of Valentine's Day excitement? Maybe. But it could also be a busy life and older kids that aren't that into my cutesy hearts. Maybe it's just a slump. Maybe it's because it's on a Tuesday. Maybe it's because I'm tired. Whatever it is, I'm just not that into it.

I was waiting for that moment when I get out of my slump. That moment when I throw open the shutters and tell everyone I love them and throw out a nickel for someone to go buy a goose, i.e. Scrooge's morning after the spririts' visit. Or the moment my heart grows three sizes, I mean if I were a Valentine's Day Grinch (which I think I am!).


Then it happened. It might not have been as dramatic as buying a goose, but I did remember how much I love love and how lucky I feel and how there's so many things to smile about. And how even after all these years of talking about not getting caught up in expectations and what things are supposed to look like, I did; and how Valentine's Day can be every day, and love is love is love and ahhhhhh.

The spirit of Valentine's Day hit me when I was playing DJ at the first grade party and I was dancing with a bunch of sweet kiddos not caring how silly we looked. Once again dancing and silliness for the win. It ALWAYS reminds me that there is goodness in the world.

Later that night, Tim and I tried to have a romantic candlelight dinner in the middle of our chaotic family, and it was kind of hilarious and perfect. Especially when Wade joined us and talked our ears off about his day. 

I'm not the worst or a Valentine's Day Scrooge because I was grumpy at Kroger (I mean who isn't grumpy at Kroger sometimes right?)or because it was the first time in a decade that I didn't decorate the house with paper hearts and make heart shaped-brownies like a "good mom." I was the worst for forgetting that love looks different all the time and it's in all the small and big moments in my family. 

Love is a family dinner ritual with candles and conversation and laughs. Monday night seems to be the night lately that everyone is home and we can eat together, so I jumped on it and I look forward to Monday nights all weekend long.

Love is embracing a different kind of romance. Having older kids means we don't have to hire a babysitter. We took advantage of this and snuck out to a happy hour last Friday night where I had three cheap glasses of wine! Annnnnd then went home and watched a movie with the little boys and went to bed before 10 p.m. Boosh!

Love is being happy about the simple things. Like PJ day at Preschool. One of the 5,764 things I love about working in a preschool is wearing my pajamas to work. The best!

Perfect Valentine's Day PJ shirt. 

Love is falling in love with your husband all over again because he is an incredible father. He's the kind of father in TV shows and movies that you think couldn't possibly be real because who is that kind and good? Tim is. The other day we were talking about how Wade is having trouble being the youngest of four busy kids, some who are being pretty teenager-y lately. Tim said, "He needs the tractors at Home Depot." Tim and I took Wade to sit on the tractors, and they pretended they were spaceships. Tim knew he needed time to be a little kid. And my heart exploded with love.

Love is watching your kids do what they love and become even more interesting people. 

Lucy in her happy place--a book store!!!!! Ahhhhh!!!!!!!

JT and sports = his true love. And I love that mural in the small town gym. Love is art and hope!

Gulp, love is letting go and letting your kids grow up. Holy woah, Peyton got his driver's permit. 

Love is taking a minute and remembering what you love about your kids and telling them. Filling out this heart was a "homework assignment" for parents sent by JT's teacher. And just like I did when I was in school, I forgot about it until the morning it was due. Lol. I turned it in on time and enjoyed thinking about all the things I love about JT and letting him know.

I'm not the worst or a Valentine's Day Scrooge because I was grumpy at Kroger (I mean who isn't grumpy at Kroger sometimes right?)or because it was the first time in a decade that I didn't decorate the house with paper hearts and make heart shaped-brownies like a "good mom."

I might be the worst because I forgot how lucky I am and how love is everywhere. Right now when things seem so wonky in the world, remembering the simple but huge moments I love feels good. This "Hallmark holiday" helped remind me of all the love. So geez, Valentine's Day, I think I love you!

(Our Valentine's Night Dinner, for three, lol)

This classic from The Partridge Family seems appropriate:

One of my favorite romantic love/Valentine's Day scenes from a movie:

Monday, January 30, 2017

15 Steps That Help (a little) to Get Through This

Every day there is a new headline that scares the shit out of me. I'm a silver-lining/rainbow-loving/positive kind of person, but damn it is getting hard to find the light here. Last Friday afternoon, I was sitting with my in-laws having coffee talking politics and my father-in-law, who my kids call Bubba, hugged me and said "we are going to get through this." It helped. 

Not everyone has a kind fatherly man named Bubba to reassure them and tell them it will be okay. So I put together a list that might be helpful as we try to "get through this."

-Get involved and create some change
There are apps out there to find how to contact your senators and representatives. Call them. Tell your story!!!! And then call them again. Go to the coffee hours and the office hours and the town halls. Go to the protest. Never called before or protested before? Don't worry, you aren't alone. I've been so encouraged by all the first timers. Click here for more ways to get involved.

-Get a dog. (I guess a cat will do, but I don't like cats so I can't recommend them.)
I call my two dogs my therapy dogs now because I talk to them when I'm mad at the TV and snuggle with them and walk them; and god dammit I really rely on my dogs' unconditional love.

-Donate money
I don't have a lot of money, but I have a little so I donate a little. Even if it is only a couple dollars, it adds up. I just donated to Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.

Go help someone in your community. Go deliver meals or make a meal for an elderly neighbor. Become a mentor. Get outside yourself, and your fear about the world and politics, and help someone.

-Go to the movies or an art museum
Movies make me forget sometimes. And sometimes they educate me and grow my mind and heart and empathy and ahhhhh. Art museums do the same. Going to see a movie alone is one of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon.

-Go outside
Take a walk. I don't care if it's zero degrees, bundle up. Get fresh air. Notice the breeze and the trees and the sky and the clouds, and the true fucking wonder of it all. 

-Take some situational Xanax
I have battled a bit of anxiety and depression for years, but never taken any medication. I'm scared of drugs because well, my mother is a drug addict. Xanax was her gateway drug way back in the early 80s. I'm terrified of drugs. But long story short, my perimenopausal anxiety was making my life miserable and I needed help. So, my doctor game me a prescription for a low dose of Xanax. She told me I could take it to help me get through certain situations...a flight, a football game, all the executive orders by our new president (she didn't say that last one, but I added it).

Running clears my head. I'm not very fast anymore, but nothing makes me feel better than a good run. Not even Xanax.

-Rediscover the bad-assness of Hole
When life got scary and hard when I was younger I used to drive around in my car with the windows down scream-singing Courtney Love songs, trying to right wrongs and make the world better. The anger and the music helped back then and I'm trying it again now. Here's my "Live Through This" mix on Spotify--click here.

-Support a Woman-Owned Small Business
Supporting women is a good thing. Supporting women who step out on their own and start a business, that's a great thing. Watching women and friends succeed feels good.
I ran into my friend on Sunday morning and bought earrings she made that are supposed to ward off negativity. Yes please! Click here to check out her jewelry-

-Hang out with little kids
Not teenagers because they can crush your spirit sometimes. I am talking about the under 4 set. I am lucky because I work in a preschool and get to see the hope and joy in the little kids Monday through Friday. These kids are only about their right now and it usually involves toys and music and smiling. 

In preschool we talk about taking a Snake Breath when we get a little too hyper. We breathe in deeply, hold it and then exhale. While we exhale we hiss like a snake. So yeah, you should do that, take a Snake Breath every now and then. Take a minute and breathe and relax and let go.

-Take it out on a punching bag
Tim bought the family a punching bag because he thought it might be a good way for us to all get through the decade of menopausal and teenage hormones we are embarking on. Who knew it would also be helpful way to get through the Trump years?

-Listen to a Trump voter
Have a conversation in person with someone that doesn't believe the same things that you do.

If you can do it, get together for coffee with someone that voted for Trump. Listen. Really listen. Try to understand better. Then tell them what you think without trying to convince them to change their mind. Then talk about something unrelated that you both agree about. (This might be a situation where Xanax is required. Ha!)

-Dance it out
Dance crazy and hard and with wild abandon. Dance at a club, in the car, in your room, in the kitchen. Turn up the music, close your eyes and shake everything.

And then do it all over again.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Why I Marched

I accidentally hit approximately 122 people last Saturday with my cardboard sign as I marched down main street and stood listening to the speakers at the rally. No one got mad. "Sorry," I apologized to the 122 people. "No problem" and "no worries" and understanding smiles are how they responded. 

People were so nice and friendly and supportive and happy. And grateful. There was so much gratitude. For each other, for the freedom to march and speak and have signs, for understanding, for community, for hope.

Since election day, I've been slightly depressed and confused. After marching in Ann Arbor in a sister march to the massive one in Washington D.C., I still feel confused. I don't understand how people don't get it. When they ask why we marched or what was our point....

The point is some of us needed to stand up for what we are passionate about. We needed to take a stand against a president that we don't agree with. We needed to represent our beliefs. We needed to connect with other people that feel the same way. We needed to feel less alone and worried. We needed to encourage people to get involved and run for office. 

We stepped away from our computers and met with people that felt the same way. We stopped complaining online and met in person. Millions of us. And it felt fucking amazing.

Not all of us agreed about everything. But we all agreed that Donald Trump is not the president that we want. (Even if some of these men and women didn't vote, they feel this way now and they feel bolder and braver and hopefully stronger and more willing to engage and get involved and VOTE. And I am grateful for that.) 

You don't have to agree with us to understand why we marched and rallied. 

I will understand when you organize and march and rally for what you believe in. I get that it feels good to support other men and women that feel the same. I get that you make connections at these types of events, and you inspire people, and encourage people, and challenge people, and educate people, and learn so god damn much about people.

Some of us that were there last Saturday will continue marching and rallying and gathering. Some of us will take a closer look at our beliefs and how we got here. Some of us will open our minds. Some of us will have difficult conversations and revelations. Some people might run for office. Probably all of us that participated in last Saturday's Women's March across the world feel less alone.

For the record, I am, and have been for as long as I can remember, a liberal, progressive, pacifist, pro-choice, pro-love, pro-public education, pro-science, pro-protect the environment person who has always voted for a Democrat because I've pretty much always agreed with them. I am also a suburban mom who taught Sunday school for years and volunteers and drives a minivan. I am friends with Republicans and a couple Libertarians and even a few people so far left that they are a little too liberal for me (which is waaaaay left, lol). I am trying so hard to be a better human and listen to everyone and have more empathy and more love, and at the same time put my fear and anger and frustration into positive action that helps make life more fair and just and peaceful for everyone.

And I will always, always look for the people that dance....

I saw this Instagram and LOVED it:

"Emma Goldman insisted that no cause worth fighting for would deny joy. 'I want freedom, the right to self-expression,everybody's right to beautiful, radiant things.'" I vow to take part in no revolution that doesn't invite you to dance.

Here are some links to some good articles to keep the conversation going:

Monday, January 16, 2017

Buckle Up and Do Something

A million years ago, the summer before I started kindergarten my mom and I were on our way home from the grocery store when a car drove right through a stop sign and into us. I was sitting in the front seat. Neither one of us was had on seat belts (it was way before there were any kind of laws about wearing them). It was bad. My mom suffered from a punctured lung and a bad head injury. I broke my jaw. It was a long recovery, physically and mentally, for both of us. 

A year after the accident my mom was ready to do something. She started going into elementary school classrooms talking to kids about the importance of wearing seat belts. She made t-shirts with a seat belt superhero on it. She brought in seat belts for kids to use to practice "buckling up!." I helped her sometimes. Mostly I listened and watched and learned. I learned the importance of seat belts, and doing something.

My mom didn't lobby our state legislatures but I believe that she helped encourage children, their parents and a few teachers to buckle up. She used her stories for activism. She turned the bad and made it into something useful and good. 

It's more than positive thinking, it's positive action.

Over the years, I've tried to turn the bad into good and always find somewhere I could do something. Sometimes it was a lesson in my living room to my own children about compassion for a child at school or something we saw on the news. Other times it was taking my kids to DC to take part in an environmental protest on the steps of the Capitol. I wanted to show them, like my mom had over 30 years earlier, that we had a voice and a purpose and could do something.

And then Trump was elected and everything feels turned upside down and scary and weird.

I can't do nothing. I can't just watch and shake my head. I can't just panic. I can't. I have got to do something.

Last week, I went to DC with a group that I work with called Moms Clean Air Force, and my daughter Lucy, to meet with Senators and their staff to encourage them to vote no for Trump's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency. 
Heading up to the Hill with our signs, shirts and enthusiasm!

We went to a lot of offices. 

The buildings are marble-y and beautiful with huge doors and high ceilings and important meetings and guards and metal detectors and a lot of old white men in suits and a lot of young people answering phones. Fun fact: Senator Cory Booker's office was the sunniest and the most alive and busy--nice, friendly staffers and phones that would not stop ringing.

Did you know there is a trolley underneath the Capitol that connects the offices? Um, I didn't. I rode it this time. It felt very Hogwart-y or like a fair. I would love a job that I got to go on a ride everyday. 

We met with young staffers and a few senators. We had talking points but mostly they all just wanted to hear stories about our lives. Stories used for activism, just like the seat belts all those years ago. In one office, I even discussed the Netflix show "The Crown" (if you watch then you know I brought up the London smog episode!) with a few men in Senator Stabenow's office. 
Right after we talked about The Crown, we took this picture.

I watched a woman in our group start crying while telling the story of her asthma and her fear for her child. When she stopped and apologized to her the senator from her state, the senator told her to keep going. "Keep telling your story, it's important," she warmly told her.

This is Senator Baldwin from Wisconsin. She and her staff were very welcoming and kind. After we talked they served everyone platters of Kringle (a very tasty Danish-like treat made in Wisconsin).

The press conference was fascinating. Some of my friends from Moms Clean Air Force spoke.

There was press everywhere in the halls of the buildings and outside. There were protests. There were so many old white men in suits. So many. 
This picture is hanging in Senator Debbie Stabenow's office. We need more women and women of color! 

This is my new friend from Michigan. We carried signs and delivered them to Senate offices. Trying to navigate the tunnels and halls of the Senate offices felt like an episode of The Amazing Race. It was fun.

I've been to DC a lot over the years when we had different Presidents--Clinton, Bush, Obama--and have never felt the vibe I felt last week. It's a weird mix of fear and hope; anxiety and electricity. Everywhere I went in my Moms Clean Air Force t-shirt people thanked me for the work I was doing. People asked me how they could get involved. As I walked down the street and through the halls of the Capitol office buildings, I got knowing glances, head nods and even a fist bump full of solidarity from a stranger in the elevator. 

Lucy was next to me the whole time, sometimes helping and hopefully watching and learning the importance of stories and activism and doing something.

We took a short break and took another tour of the Capitol. Here's Lucy in front of the statue of Lucretia Mott, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony.

I hopeful that is what a lot of people will do.....something. Because it matters. 

Walking around the Capitol and watching the podium being built where Donald Trump will be sworn in made me sad. My truth is that I wish he wasn't going to be our President. I do not support many, if any, of most of the Republicans in DC. I struggle with the hateful rhetoric tossed around online and on camera. I try to, but do not, understand the heated anger from some of Trump's supporters. I feel uncertain and worried and concerned.

BUT I also feel so hopeful. I am hopeful that more people will get involved and call their senators and tell their stories; go to Washington and their state capitols;get organized and vote. I am hopeful that more women will run for office at EVERY LEVEL of government. I am hopeful that there will be more peaceful protests and more living room lessons about compassion and tolerance. I am hopeful that some of the hateful rhetoric will be shut down with positivity. 

It won't work unless we do. Just like my mom told the first grade classroom all those years ago, "let's buckle up." Tell your story, do some good, find the light and turn the panic into positivity.

To learn more about Moms Clean Air Force click here.

Here's some musical, get moving inspiration:

Move by Saint Motel:

Milky Chance's Doing Good:

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

2017 A Different Kind of Hope

A couple years ago instead of make a list of resolutions I decided to make a list of hopes. It felt less intimidating. It felt like less of a set up for failure, if I didn't do something on the list I could just keep hoping and protect myself from that awful feeling of failing. I went back and checked my list from 2016 and well I'm still hoping to do more of all of the things on the list. I hope to meditate more, ski more, dance more, manage my ADHD more. 

But 2017 feels different. A passive, dreamy hope isn't where I am. Nope. I am feeling like I want to take charge, take ownership, be bold, be less afraid, be okay with being a little angry, be okay with being different and not being afraid to fail. I mean I will still be all dancey, rainbow-y, messy, happy...that's what I do, that's who I am. BUT 2017 feels different. A passionate, slightly aggressive, empowered, empathetic yet powerful kind of hope is where I am.

Inspired by the empowering kick ass movie.

In the spirit of empowered hope and giving the finger to failure, I am taking a step that will give organized people a panic attack. I am saying good-bye to the wall calendar. Let's be real, me creating this giant chalkboard calendar was ridiculous. It was trying to stick a square peg in a round hole. The only thing I loved about the calendar was the colors and finding the quote at the top. I only updated it once. Once! It has remained the same since June and the last day of school. Because I hate calendars and organizing. 

The only thing that calendar did was serve as a giant, menacing reminder that I suck at time management and I was probably late for something somewhere.  So today, the second day of 2017 I am erasing the fuck out of the calendar. This is the year I reject everyone trying to give me calendars and tips to organize, I'm talking to you Pinterest. I am done. I will go back to my old system--notes scribbled on pieces of paper or receipts, sometimes the calendar in my phone and  relying on my very organized, responsible husband. 

It feels so god damn good to erase the calendar and stand fist raised in front of my mediocre chalkboard art inspired by that know-it-all Pinterest. 
New year, new chalkboard, new attitude.

So yeah, I hope I meditate more, ski more, dance more, run more, read more books, learn French, eat healthier. Yada, yada, yada. I also hope that I stare down failure, work hard to create positive change politically, not care if people unfriend me on social media, walk the walk, talk the talk and live out loud (and hope I don't miss my kids' games because of the no calendar thing). 

2017 let's fucking do this.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016- The Year of Acceptance, GIFs and More

I'd love to say that 2016 was the year that I figured everything out--the whole work life balance, parenthood, marriage, getting everyone everywhere they need to be, streaming and watching all the shows on my "want to watch" list, money, what I want to be when I grow up, how to let my kids grow up,  accepting my aging skin and body, my anxiety, my mother, and how to afford Hamilton tickets. But that's not what happened in 2016. Nope. My anxiety was worse than ever, my candidate lost and I never caught up on Gilmore Girls OR Homeland in time for the new seasons.

BUT I did figure out a little bit this year. I figured out that I will never figure some of this shit out and I think I feel more okay with that than ever before. This year I started accepting the realness of ups and downs and highs and lows and holding onto the joy of the good moments and trying to learn something, anything, from the low moments. 

This year I accepted and kind of embraced the fact that JT's ADHD is directly passed down from me and that mine is getting worse with perimenopausal hormones. Some days that felt paralyzing and other days I felt inspired to embrace new ways of thinking and coping and helping JT, and me.  

This year I accepted football is a part of my life. My boys love football. I want to support them and I did. It felt good.

This year I said yes to opportunities to use my voice. It led me to Washington D.C. and Chicago to speak to Senators and protest near the Capitol and testify in front of the EPA. It was empowering to use my voice and show my kids that we can all be a part of THE process and work to help create change in the world. I got to be a part of a storytellling podcast hosted by my creative mentor/mother-angel and use my voice to hopefully help people suffering or loving someone with mental illness. 

This year I watched my son start high school and become this man-child going to the homecoming dance and being captain of his football team. I also watched him rehab and fight to get stronger from two surgeries on his leg over the last year. He made good choices and stupid ones, he bounced back, he regained trust, he inspired us and challenged us. We talked politics and religion this year more than ever before. We talk about college a lot because um, it's only three years away. Yup, man-child. 

This year I watched Lucy become more teenage girl than tween. I never knew/know where I stand with her. From what I have read, this is normal-ish. We have found a fun way to communicate however...texting each other GIFS. I am not kidding, there is nothing like a Tina Fey 30 Rock eye roll GIF to express how the both of us are feeling. It's been such a breakthrough for us. Thank you technology!

This year Wade, our sweet homebody, became a pretty confident reader and played tackle football. This year, like other years, Tim and I vowed to make more time for each other and go on more dates. We weren't wildly successful but we did try and that's good right?

This year I accepted we would never grow grass in our backyard (where we killed it with a homemade ice rink during the Polar Vortex of 2013). Instead we built a fire pit area with pea gravel. It has provided us with so much joy in all the seasons.

This year we listened and became obsessed with Hamilton. And while I accepted that I may never be able to afford tickets to see the show, it doesn't stop us from LOVING the music and the message.

This year I messed up so many times. I stressed about deadlines. I had a panic attack in public for the first time ever. I was pretty devastated by the election and I worry about what the future will look like. I was one of those people that cried when I found out Prince, David Bowie AND Carrie Fisher died this year. 

BUT this year all the moments full of love and time spent with my family and at back yard bonfires and volunteering and using my voice and meeting new people and memorizing and singing the songs of Hamilton give me so much god damn hope and gratitude. 

2016 was a year full of saying yes, accepting hard truths, embracing new ways of thinking, finding and feeling compassion, GIFs, a shit ton of my kids' games and races and tournaments, all the Hamilton songs on repeat, a couple dates with my husband, renewed interest in politics and running, a new found love of boxing and bonfires.  

Here are a few memories/pictures from our year:

Here's a video recap of our year to a song from Hamilton, of course:

Year in Review 2016 from Jumping With My Fingers Crossed on Vimeo.