Monday, June 4, 2018

A calmer, less scattered future....maybe

This past Saturday I took medicine for my ADHD for the first time. I was nervous and scared and hopeful all at the same time. Would it change me? Would I still want to dance? Would my superpower of hyper-focus be gone? Would I still be able to do 3000 things at once? I just don't know. But I do know that I hope it gives me more clarity and peace. I hope it makes me more reliable. Forgetting to pay bills isn't cute in your mid forties. Neither is being completely scattered so much of the time. Hormones have amplified my ADHD which has mega-amplified my anxiety and made me a complete mess...so, I took medicine and now I wait and hopefully still dance but worry less.


My post medicine selfie. I think I look calmer, maybe?
I know for sure that I really will only take selfies laying down from now on. The gravity pulling my worry wrinkles back definitely makes me look calmer and a tad younger.

                    
I've always been pretty fun. I like to laugh and dance and talk. Most of the time I'm pretty easy to talk to and be around. Most people like me or at least don't have a problem with me. Unless you are the people that I forget to call back. Or the people I let down because I commit to something and then don't do it. Or my kids when I am the last mom at pick up or totally forget (lose) the sign up sheet for everything.  Or my husband when I have a panic attack because I just can't calm my brain down and it scares me and I pick a fight or cry to him.

It wasn't until my brother and I took a quiz on vacation about eight years ago in a magazine that I thought I might have ADHD--attention deficit hyperactive disorder. He and I were laughing and checking boxes on the quiz until we weren't laughing. "Holy shit, this is us," I said to him. I threw the magazine across the room and we went to the beach. We didn't want to have a disorder. We didn't want to think about 'what if we had known this years ago and gotten help....maybe I could have...maybe I would have..." Um nope, we wanted denial and the beach.

Then a few years later my son, JT, was diagnosed in third grade. The similarities between the two of us are/were undeniable. It was like taking that magazine quiz. Do you get lost in daydreams, like really lost, like you don't hear or see what's happening around you? Check. Do you like routine but also want freedom to do what you want? Check. Do you have a lot of energy and feel happy when you are moving/running/jumping/being active? Oh yes, check that. Are you loveable but moody? Yup. Do you lose everything? Um, yes. Do you feel like you are always trying to play catch up? yeah. Do you lack follow through? Uh-oh.

The more I learned about ADHD, the more I was convinced I had it for sure. 

This past winter it all came to a head. I was tired of being "flaky" and forgetful. I was exhausted by losing things. Everyday I felt like a failure. Everyday I worried I was letting everyone down everywhere. Ahhhhhh.  Then I got an opportunity to go back to school and knew that if I was going to do that and work two jobs and keep up with four busy kids, I was going to need help. I decided to go to  a psychiatrist and get some help. Actually I had gotten a referral two years earlier, but you guessed it, I lost the paper with the name and number on it. 

The doctor suggested extensive testing to rule out mood disorders, personality disorders, and depression. The test involved IQ testing and a whole bunch of questions and pictures and it took hours. When I went to get the results I was nervous. My mother has been diagnosed with bipolar, depression and personality disorder...that could be me. It was all a bit overwhelming. The doctor walked into the room looking at a file. He said hello and then he said the most shocking thing I ever heard-- "You are an incredibly intelligent woman," he said. 

I laughed and blurted out, "No one, I mean no one, has ever said that to me, ever."

He went on to tell me I also had ADHD, but nothing else based on the testing. One word on the paper was highlighted under the personality-- "turbulent." Which was exactly how I'd been feeling the past few years in my head...turbulent. 

I explained to the doctor how I have tried everything to try to think clearly and feel less turbulent--running everyday, meditation, diet changes, oils, vitamins, running more. Those things helped but not all the time. 

He suggested medicine. "I'm nervous," I admitted to him. "I understand," he said.

After the appointment I sat in my minivan and I cried. It all felt like a very big deal...the testing, medicine, the acceptance, the fact that I hadn't been dumb and flaky my whole life. My inner child was doing a happy dance and saying "I knew it, I told you I wasn't stupid." All those years of extra studying, losing papers, stressing, failing, apologizing over and over..."I'm smart," I whispered out loud to no one. I wiped away my tears, smiled at my wrinkled middle-aged face in the mirror and put the car in drive. I felt nervous, but ready to face the future.



Tuesday, March 20, 2018

I Will Never Fit In, And I Blame John Hughes

I will never fit in, and I blame John Hughes.

Growing up in the 1980s, John Hughes movies were my everything. I related to a lot of the movies--I grew up in a mostly white middle to upper middle class suburb, I had divorced parents, I desperately wanted to fit in but also wanted to be different, and I had a crush on the cute guy down the street that looked like Jake from "Sixteen Candles."

I wonder what happened to all the John Hughes characters as grown ups...what do their lives look like now in their 40s and, gulp, 50s.   Here's one version I recently read about Sam from Sixteen Candles (click here to read it) but what about all the non-Sam Bakers/Molly Ringwolds? 

The character I most related to isn't from the bigger hits like Sixteen Candles or Breakfast Club or even Pretty in Pink. Nope the movie I loved was Some Kind of Wonderful, and the character that I felt the most like was Watts. The misfit drummer who was best friends with guys, had a dysfunctional family, played the drums and wore kickass fringe gloves. 


And she said things like "It's 1987, a woman can be anything she wants to be." She was my angsty feminist icon before I knew what that was. She was weird, misunderstood and just wanted to be respected AND loved. And she didn't love rich people. She had a big chip on her shoulder. 

That was what I felt like. Except I was too scared to wear the gloves in high school and never played the drums.

In almost every other way she was me, I was her. 

In the end of the movie, Watts found some good in a few rich people and got a nice-ish guy. 



(The above pics: me during the actual John Hughes movie years and me in the post John Hughes movie years...less attitude, but still an are you kidding me kind of expression/disbelief/wonder at life/circumstances/luck...)

Fast forward 30 years and um, I still feel a lot like Watts. I still feel like a misfit--weird, misunderstood and I want to be respected AND loved. I got a nice guy (a very nice guy), live in a different but still mostly white middle-upper-class suburb, and also feel distrust of the rich (leftover from not just John Hughes movies, but all 1980s movies, think Karate Kid, Can't Buy Me Love...dude, all the rich white people were so over the top, the poor guys=the good guys...Right? Remember Daniel Son from Karate Kid who lived in an apartment with his mom who drove an old stationwagon and had to battle the awful rich guys from the fancy karate studio?).

Now I'm a mom driving the beat-up, rusty minivan (my version of Daniel Son's mom's station wagon) and trying to figure out life in my post John Hughes world...adulthood. This past fall my oldest was going to his high school homecoming dance with a group of friends. The friend's house where the parents were gathering to take pictures of everyone was owned by a dad who drives a Lamborghini, I felt my inner Watts starting to come out. I was judging that dad like he was the bad guy in an eighties movie. I said things to my kid like "money isn't everything" and felt like I needed to be in a drumming montage. It turned out that the dad seemed nice and my kid just rolled with it all and had a great/drama-free time at homecoming (so un-John Hughes movie-esque).

But I mean really, I still have all these 80s feelings. But now my role is an over-worried, underpaid mom of teens just trying to pay the bills, keep my kids healthy, happy and out of rehab, and stay married. It's a lot. I remember watching Sixteen Candles and being horrified that parents would forget their 16-year-old's birthday, but now I totally get it! 

I find myself channeling my inner Watts and other misfit characters from John Hughes movies. I drive around in my rusty minivan trying to hold it together and hold my head up and not be too judgey (of others or myself). Sometimes when I'm walking the dogs (because of course none of my kids will) I walk across a field and hold one fist up in the air like Judd Nelson in The Breakfast Club. When the nice guy that I married takes me on a date I say let's get drunk at Chili's because I know that is what Watts would do, while all the Molly Ringwolds and Lea Thompsons of the suburbs are going to the trendy restaurants that cost a gajillion dollars after shopping at LuluLemon (not that I'm judging, nope I'm rebelling like a sad middle age bad ass). And always wishing for a dance off in a dimly lit gymnasium or a kind loving parental figure to give me some good advice while synthesized music plays from somewhere in the background.
Me getting drunk at Chili's while my good guy looks at Twitter...modern romance. Would this be Watts' life?


Maybe I'm thinking about my teen angst and how John Hughes movies wrecked my perspective because having teenagers is intense (and trigger-y AF). It's nerve-wracking and anxiety inducing and interesting and exciting and  overwhelming and fucking exhausting. Phones and sexting and vaping and driving and bullying on social media and the list of worries and things that could go wrong goes on and on. All while I'm trying to manage my own hormones and mid-life bullshit and not repeat my parents' mistakes and try and finally grow up. 

A lot of the times, I find myself wondering what would Watts do? I mean really, WWWD (What WOULD Watts Do?)?!?!?!?!

I need to see THAT movie. I'm a mess. Thanks a lot John Hughes.

Maybe it's actually not such a horrible thing that I'm so in tune with my inner angsty teen. I mean, maybe John Hughes wasn't only making movies so I could relate to teens when I WAS one, but also for when I had them of my own. I mean the only thing weirder than parenting a teenager is being one. 

Life is hard and weird and so many of us feel like we don't fit in when we are young and old and in between. I personally think it's kind of a cruel joke that teenage hormones and midlife hormones happen at the same time in the same house for a lot of us. 

I know for sure that I would totally want to see the movie about a middle age bad ass Watts figuring shit out while drumming in her garage to get away from her own teenagers and maybe getting high in the library after a heated booster club meeting with a bunch of middle age parents from different cliques who also need to remember what it was like to be angsty and how hard it is to parent kids who are mad at them but still need them and how rejection sucks no matter how old you are and how it doesn't matter who we all voted for in any election because us parents have to stick together if we are going to get through this whole midlife raising teenager business, and then they'd all do a dance, and the nice guy would take Watts to Chili's and get drunk and she would put her fringed gloved fist in the air saying hell yeah it's still a John Hughes movie kind of world...cue synthesized music...end scene...roll credits.


Me on a good day feeling like I got this,
 in an Uncle Buck kind of hat. Don't even get me started about how much  I love John Candy John Hughes movies like Uncle Buck and Planes,Trains & Automobiles because I LOVE them.


I will never fit in and I guess John Hughes, you were right, that's not such a bad thing.



Oh my god, I love this.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Making Rainbows, Remembering Wonder and Feeling It All

"Look what I can do with my eyes," the little girl said. She had a giant red and green bow in her hair. Her voice was husky for a tiny little human who is only three. Her dress was covered with Christmas trees and ruffles, lots of ruffles. "I look into the light [she paused and looked out the window] and then blink and guess what, I can make rainbows with my eyes. I see so many colors everywhere," she said excitedly stretching her hands out wide. "Did you hear me? I can make rainbows with my eyes!," she said almost losing her breath she was so excited. She couldn't believe her newly discovered superpower.

That happened last week at work. I work in a preschool full of three-year-olds who teach me things like rainbow powers every day. They also teach me about finding joy in well, almost everything. It's raining? That means puddles to jump in! It's snowing? Well come on, that is just ridiculously exciting and magical and gosh, isn't the world amazing? These kids will make even the hardest of hearts melt and truly see and feel the wonder of being alive. Not just at Christmas, but every single day.

I'm so grateful to know these kids. Especially this past year because man, it's been a weird one. The political upheaval and mean-spirited compassionless agendas in our government are coinciding with my ever-changing perimenopausal hormones, my middle forties (maybe a midlife crisis?), my children becoming mini adults who drive and get jobs and have independence, and more financial stress than I anticipated.  It's a lot. Especially for someone with mediocre coping skills at best. 

Planning ahead has never really been my strong suit. I don't know what I envisioned this stage of my life to look like. I do know that it looks better than what my mother's life was like at this age and for that I am grateful. (And really, who could have ever predicted Trump? I don't know how to write a blog anymore without mentioning how affected I feel by the president and his supporters and how it all feels strange and unsettling and frankly I am still shaking my head with dismay...)

I am also grateful to be married to a pretty amazing person who encourages me to remember the good stuff about life and know that how I react to it just is what it is. He reminds me what he said to me when we first started dating almost 20 years ago. "You bring so much color to my life," he told me then and reminds me now. "You feel more than I have ever or will ever feel in my life," he said/says. "You make me see things differently. I love you. You make life interesting," he said/says.

Feeling a lot is my super power I guess. It's so good when it's good. But when there is a lot worry about, well, it can be exhausting. It can also get a little out of hand. 

The other day I sent my very patient and saint-like husband this text:

"We can't afford the extra car insurance, I forgot to take out the trash, I missed the sign-up sheet to volunteer in Wade's class, Roy Moore will win that election and the polar bears are starving to death. I can't take it Tim! [insert crying emoji/exhausted emoji, broken heart emoji]"

That night I turned off the news and tried to watch a movie with him. I randomly checked my phone and saw the social media posts that Roy Moore hadn't won. The other guy in the Alabama election won. I cheered and cried a little. It felt like maybe things were going to start making more sense, at least politically. 

Since that night, the news went back to being up and down, just like my hormones. Bills get paid but still the car insurance for a teenage son driver does seem a bit impossible to add. Hopefully we'll figure it out. We take steps forward and back and back and then forward. Doing the dance. Riding the ride. There are moments of pride and joy, and moments of stress and exhaustion. Through it all I am trying to let go and feel it all but not get carried away with worry. 

The other night I was sitting in my living room trying to keep my eyes open, trying to stay awake waiting for Peyton to come home. He's had his license for a few weeks and my god is it nerve wracking (even for a non-feeling/non-worrier). I was squinting at the tracking app I have loaded on my phone following the little bright blinking green dot that represented my son driving. The light from my phone made me squint even more than usual. Then I looked up at my Christmas tree and the lights all blurred together, and I saw a bunch of rainbows. I smiled remembering my little friend's super power at preschool. I exhaled with relief when Peyton pulled in the driveway and the blinking green light said "Peyton has arrived at home."

These next few days over the Christmas break I will be looking for rainbows and remembering the lessons of my preschoolers--finding joy in anything and everything, dancing the dance, riding the ride and truly feeling the wonder of being alive.



Here are a few reasons/moments/people from the last couple months that make me love being alive...





















































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Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ch-ch-changes--Thanksgiving, Hope, Life

Over the years I've spent Thanksgiving in a lot of different places with a lot of different people. 

There were the Thanksgivings as a kid where I would excitedly watch the clock and wait for my grandparents to arrive from Alabama. We would eat and eat and watch football and play and talk. I remember falling asleep in sleeping bags on the floor with my sister and brother and cousins listening to the grown ups talk. There were a few Thanksgivings after my parents' divorce spent meeting and eating with new people that would be my step-relatives, and then eventually my ex-step-relatives. Thanksgivings spent in O'Hare Airport Gate B 22 with my brother and sister missing our connecting flight  going home to Michigan from my dad's house in Nebraska. There was that one Thanksgiving when I was 20 I spent in Amsterdam with friends, that was a good one. I also spent several Thanksgivings serving turkey at soup kitchens in Pittsburgh. A couple Thanksgivings I spent with friends who had no place to go like me. Years later my first child was born a few weeks before Thanksgiving and I remember being overwhelmed with joy and hormones and swollen breasts at my in-laws for turkey dinner with my newborn in my arms. There was the Thanksgiving night I spent with my sister in the ER waiting room after my mom broke her neck falling down the stairs. There was the Thanksgiving we forgot to defrost the Turkey like characters on a predictable sitcom. 

Thanksgiving 1980-something. 


Me with new friends and wearing a beret in Amsterdam.

My picture of Amsterdam that looks 150 years old. Ha!
Two weeks as a mom not having a clue what I was doing. 


What a turkey. Oh my god, what a cute little turkey JT was.

One constant has been change. I haven't always gone to the same place with the same people and had the same meal or the same happy or sad experience. I should be better at change than I am.

The world feels crazier than normal right now and changing so fast. I've never really been someone who has been that affected by, or to be really honest that compassionate about, those "trigger alerts." But Jesus, I get it so much more now. I feel like the entire year has been a trigger. This administration. Social media. Things I thought I believed but now question and vice-versa. My kids growing up. Losing control. Setting boundaries. Being firm. Being understanding. Balancing compassion and fear and strength and vulnerability. Getting enough sleep. Wishing I could do more. Wishing I didn't feel so much. Wishing everything didn't feel like it was constantly changing all the time so fast. But also grateful for some of the changes. Holy shit. Ahhhhh.

I wish I had someplace to go that I 've always gone this Thanksgiving. I want a constant that feels comforting and safe.  

As usual in times of turmoil I turn to my beloved pop culture. I watch movies like Planes, Trains & Automobiles. I love that movie. I watch Young & the Restless and General Hospital. I delight in the fact that Victor and Nicki are still fighting and loving and trying to get the family together on Y & R.  And that the Quartermaines are still trying to figure out what the hell is going on with Jason on GH. The same things I was watching in 1987!  My comfort zone.

But as I look back on the years and think about this year and Thanksgiving, I am reminded of other constants. There was always laughter. Even in the emergency room that crazy Thanksgiving my mom broke her neck, my sister and I found things to laugh about. Like how the first person my mother asked for when she woke up in the hospital was Justin Timberlake. 

Another constant...there has always been somebody. Whether it was friends or family, my babies or strangers in the airport, there have been people to connect with and talk to and be with. For that I am grateful.

Every Thanksgiving I can remember has been filled with some kind of hope. Hope that the turkey will defrost. Hope that everyone comes to visit. Hope that everyone will get along. Hope that everyone recovers. The thing about getting older is that you've been through enough to know there's another side to things. Even though the world is making me uncomfortable and tense and confused, as I look back I see that we've been here before historically and it's led to great change. I feel hopeful that we can figure this shit out--our government, our communities, our families, parenting teenagers, disagreeing with love, respecting each other, finances, my grandma's dressing recipe, global warming and all the rest of it.

I'm grateful for laughter and hope and perspective. And that there are soap operas that are still on TV. 

Happy Thanksgiving.




Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Acceptance--Confessions of a Middle Age Sports Mom

"I take Xanax during the first quarter of every game."

"I eat like a Labrador Retriever...my stomach would explode if someone didn't stop me."

"Pass the chips."

"I did the least amount of volunteering this season because I was intimidated by all of you."

Insert nervous laughter after each one of these phrases and picture a middle-age woman with bad roots and tired eyes. Now imagine a group of very put together women staring at her not exactly sure what to say. The scene has been set. Not for a bad dream or a joke. Nope, this was the scene of my first Football Mom Lunch a few weeks ago with the high school varsity football moms.*
(*All the varsity football moms were incredibly nice to me.)

I don't know what made me act like I was sitting on my therapist's couch. It's pretty true to form though for me to over talk and say stupid shit when I'm nervous. Even though I am in my 40s and have reached a level of acceptance that can only be had once hormone levels have spiked and bottomed out multiple times (yeah, I'm one big perimenopausal punchline)--I still got nervous and did the whole over talk/over reveal thing. 

Maybe I did/do it because it lowers all expectations of me and there's only going up from there. Maybe it's because I really believe in keeping it real. Maybe I did/do it because it's just who I am, and I guess I can accept that.

I have to accept that I am a nervous, worried, overtalking, always keeping it real kind of mom who doesn't care what people think but totally cares what people think at the same time. I have to accept that not everyone is going to think that's charming, or want to talk about hormones, or like my kid, or like me. 

I have to accept that I might always eat too many chips and need Xanax at Friday night football games. But I also am accepting that I am learning to be a better "sports mom." I'm learning to be more supportive of my kids and what they are passionate about even though I worry about them (a lot). I'm also learning to lean on other moms and families and support their kids and their teams. And I'm learning that I kind of like watching my kids play football.



















Thursday, September 21, 2017

The Bracelet

After Wade was born I was a bit overwhelmed. Having four kids and a husband that worked all the time was a lot. I felt like I needed to walk around the world saying I'm sorry for [insert any topic like being late, my kid throwing a fit, my bad parking job at Kroger, my baby crying, not brushing my little girl's hair, basically failing at everything]. So my girlfriend made me a bracelet (pictured below) to inspire me to own it and stop apologizing to the world.


Some of the letters have fallen off, but you get it...


She got me to admit to myself and everyone my truth at that moment, being a mom of four little beings was consuming my life and even though I got a little overwhelmed and showed up a little late and lost the PTA paperwork, I loved my kids and my life and I was doing the best that I could at that moment to be the mother/person I wanted to be. I quit apologizing..."I'm a mother of 4. Fuck off."

Here's the thing, I never wore the bracelet and certainly never said it to anyone (okay, maybe to Tim once or twice). I hid it in a drawer in my kitchen and pulled it out when I felt like apologizing to the world for my shortcomings. It helped. 

I found this bracelet the other day. I hadn't seen it in almost  seven years. But you know the universe/God/whatever force you believe in has a way of showing signs to you just when you need to see them.  

When I started this blog Wade, the fourth baby that inspired the bracelet, was a toddler. Life was intense and busy. Looking back, it was mostly wild and colorful and loud and chaotic and silly and exhausting. It was also sweet and more simple than I really appreciated. That's how it goes though right? I mean just like I didn't appreciate my thinner thighs or wrinkle-free forehead in my early 20s...hindsight can be a bitch. But it also can remind you that time is the bigger bitch.

It has all gone so fast and seemingly goes faster and faster every year. 

When my kids were little I worried that I would get lost in all the beautiful chaos and have no identity but "mom." I worked hard to get involved in politics and advocacy, wrote a blog, landed a few fun freelance gigs, met amazing artists, traveled to conferences around the country and co-produced a live-stage storytelling show. I hustled to create a balance of sweet young children and a creative, political life that fulfilled me.

It worked for a while. But then my kids' schedules started making my projects harder to do. The freelance hustle became harder to commit to and I needed jobs that had a concrete pay structure. I started working two part-time jobs. I had to say no to a lot. And sometimes I said yes when I should have said no and I let people down. I volunteered but had to cancel. I started resenting my yes's and my no's and my kids' busy lives and started apologizing to everyone about my shortcomings.

Then I found the bracelet. And just like all those years ago, I had to get real with myself again. I had to say some tough no's to some amazing creative opportunities. Because to be the mother/person to the four children I love more than anything, I have to be fully present as possible. That bitch Time taught me it goes fast and I don't get a redo.

When I was a teenager my parents weren't around, mentally or physically.  They were going through their own heavy shit and boy do I have so much more compassion for what they had to figure out back then. I'm not mad. I'm just going to do it differently. My past is probably motivating my present. I don't know what I'm doing really, except worrying a lot and loving a lot and setting boundaries and really trying to not take things personally and trying to do the right things and say the right things and just be here. And my four children are pretty wonderful and smart and funny and challenging and well, I'm a big fan of theirs.

I will start saying more yes's again someday. And for real, wait until they grow up and I write the book or a storytelling show about their teenage years. Here's my working title- "Mom of 4, Fuck Off.--How To Be An Imperfect, Mindful yet Forgetful, Mostly Successful, Always Loving, Unapologetic, BadAss Mother."


Right now nothing makes me happier than all my kids around my dinner table telling stories and laughing. NOTHING.


Here's some of the stuff we've been busy doing the past month....