Wednesday, December 7, 2016

My Ohio State Moment That Gets Me Through Tough Times

What's your "nope" moment? How do you cope with stuff?

Being new to stuff is hard. Being new to stuff as an older woman is harder. I'm the new "girl" at my jobs but I'm so old. When I get feedback or criticism, I want to tell my bosses that I used to be somebody pretty important. I mean if only they could talk to my clients, they would know how stellar I used to be in my former job. Only problem is my former job is a stay-at-home mom and society kind of slow claps at that one. And ever since my clients' hormones kicked in they kind of hate me and probably wouldn't give me a good review anyway (unless I bribed them with Frappuccinos and promising not to read their text messages or follow them on Instagram).

I wish I could be more confident and feel more important and smart. I mean oh great, I'm emotionally intelligent and self-aware, I'm empathetic. I'm spontaneous. Cue more slow clapping. I am also scattered and unorganized and late-ish and did I mention unorganized. And just a tad oversensitive. New jobs and new routines and bitchy teenagers who think I'm incredibly annoying are swirling together with newish perimenopause hormones and extreme exhaustion to create a perfect storm of chaos and self-doubt.

Over the last year and a half, I've struggled to find my footing, and figure out how to be a working mother and a mother to teenagers and a woman with perimenopause and possibly some pretty serious undiagnosed ADHD (duh right?) and ahhhhhh. Mostly what I have figured out is that I really struggle with too much on my plate, meditation doesn't solve everything for me, there aren't enough hours in the day, teenagers are frustrating and maybe most surprising is that I got a somewhat effective coping skill from an Ohio State football player.

A few years ago, I was watching the University of Michigan play football against Ohio State. An Ohio State player got ejected from the game for some reason. As he was walking out the stadium he held both arms straight up in the air, dropped his head, and boldly stuck both his middle fingers up to the crowd. At first I was horrified, but then not so much. In fact that player, whose name I don't even remember, has become my go-to coping skill.

Here's the thing, I don't stand up in the middle of a meeting or at my freelance job writing for a credit union flipping everyone off, but I secretly think about it sometimes. If I am at home and my teenagers are barely looking up from their phones and when they do they complain about something, I secretly think about it. Or when people are being mean to each other in a store, I think about it. Or when the news is on or when Tim and I bicker or when there's too much of anything, I think about it. And then I feel like laughing a little bit. Because seriously, can you imagine?

It's a big "nope, I'm out, this sucks, I'm not gonna take it anymore, take this job and shove it" kind of move and I love thinking about it every now and then.

That's all I've got right now. I mean sure there's all that very important self-care stuff, remembering not to take things too personally, scaling back on responsibilities and jobs, more meditation and dancing.

My sister took me to a nail salon and paid for me to have a pedicure.  It was my first pedicure in 12 years. It was ridiculously awesome. I apologized to Gina, the woman doing my pedicure, and she joked that she should charge more because my feet were so bad. Thanks Gina. Actually Gina was full of good self-care advice and reminded me that it's not about money, it's about taking care of myself. I reminded Gina that I was just visiting the area and she stopped plugging her salon.
But some of her advice stuck with me. I do need to take care of myself a little better, you know so I don't flip everyone off for real one day. 

But there's also the ultimate "nope" visual that reminds me when I need to take a step back and take a deep breath and try to remember that my skill-set is valuable to someone somewhere and that my clients will mellow out in a few years, along with my perimenopause. Maybe I'll get the hang of things at my jobs and parenting teenagers and life balance and maybe I won't. But I'll keep trying and keep holding a special place in my heart for that Ohio State player that inspired my very immature and inappropriate coping skill that is totally getting me through messy moments and parts of the holidays right now.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Apples in my Chicken Salad--

Traditions and stories make sense to me. They make everyone feel safe and loved and like it's going to be alright. Not to sound too Hamilton-y, but in a world that feels turned upside down to me, family traditions make me understand some things again. Like oh yeah, these simple little imperfect things we do are important, they ground us and connect us and remind us that it's good to tell stories and laugh.

Even though I think traditions are important, I really try to not put too much pressure on us. They don't have to be perfect. They don't always have to go according to plan.

Years ago, my dad's mom who we called Granny was making chicken salad for lunch. So the story goes, she had a lot on her mind, she was distracted and kind of going through the motions. At one point she looked down and realized she was cutting up apples in her chicken salad. She laughed and thought about throwing it out and starting over, but instead she served the chicken salad anyway and she and her family laughed at her mistake. (This was way before we knew that apples in chicken salad is kind of a gourmet/Pinterest-worthy recipe idea!) After eating the apple filled chicken salad, they decided they loved it and they made it that way forever. And told the story forever and laughed a lot.

Apples in my chicken salad reminds me of my Granny and her kitchen and her laugh (she died when I was 6 years old). And how sometimes things just come together, and how stories are good and laughter is good.

Apples in my chicken salad is how I approach traditions around the holidays and really always with my family. From trimming the tree to Elf Night to the Advent Calendar to special holiday plates we use at dinner, I want the traditions not to feel too forced and kind of come together imperfectly, make a good story/memory and provide opportunities for lots of laughter.

Our Elf Night--a dinner full of waffles and marshmallows and candy; candles and paper snowflakes; an elf naming ceremony; and then watching the movie Elf. It's my fav night of the year.

We have added some holiday traditions (like cutting our tree down and Elf Night) and we've had to change some or let some go (when JT was diagnosed with Celiac disease when he was 3, some baking traditions stopped, Gluten Free gingerbread houses are expensive!). And woah, traditions with teenagers are interesting (not necessarily the lovefest they were when they were preschoolers), so we've updated some like watching Elf and not getting mad if they are a little moody or melancholy during the Advent sharing circle at dinner.

Someday my kids may tell the stories of the traditions they loved doing as kids and how annoyed they were with other parts, but they will have stories to tell and memories to laugh about. And maybe when their worlds get a little upside down, the traditions and stories and memories of love and laughter will help them know that it's going to be alright.

We got the perfect tree. We named him Peppers (the last name of a University of Michigan football player, lol).

Our elf Keith Babu, a former WWE wrestling action figure, is pretty buff. We sometimes forget to move him. And sometimes we forget to be the tooth fairy and Keith comes to the rescue. I love magic.

Monday, November 28, 2016

I'm Not Accepting This

A few weeks ago, pre-election (I assume we will all start talking about life before the election and after because everything feels so different!), I sat in my living room scrolling through all of my Hillary shimmying to a win articles when something made me stop in my tracks. I was so shocked I almost threw my phone across the room. I got a friend request from my mother. I should have seen it as a sign of the strange, new, darker post-election world to come.

My mother is on Facebook. What the hell? Over the years, I thought my mother was going to die on more than several occasions...the times she overdosed, the car accidents, the psychotic breaks, the Thanksgiving she fell and broke her neck. I used to prepare myself for THE call. I tried to prepare myself for helping her through various recoveries. I did help a few times, I think, I hope. But I was never prepared for social media with my mother.

I'm happy she is alive. I'm happy she is doing well-ish right now. I'm happy she is discovering the Internet and Google and Facebook for the first time ever. I mean I guess I'm happy for her about that last stuff, I'm just not very prepared for it. Our relationship is complicated. Loving someone with mental illness and addiction issues is complicated, especially when it is your mother. 

My mother is prone to insults when she gets mad. What's she going to do, tell my siblings and me to go to hell online and tag us in the post? How does this work? It's a new world. A world where I feel uncertain about what's next and how it's going to work. A world where I hold firm to boundaries that I worked hard to set. A world where I protect myself from negativity and hold onto the positive parts of myself for my kids and my family. A world where I continue to work to find coping strategies and cures and help people and try to create positive change. A world where I don't accept my mom's friend request.


Found this quote at the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville, Kentucky over the holiday weekend. It's from the past but it's so today. It's surreal and strange that a history exhibit is so current. (The center is amazing
and I encourage everyone to go, now.)

Everything has felt weird since the election. It took me days to wake up and realize Trump winning was real and not just a bad dream. I was one of those people who felt shocked and like someone punched me in the stomach. Sadly I wasn't surprised by rampant racism or people that wanted to live in their wealthy bubble and not have to pay higher taxes ever. But I was completely gobsmacked by the amount of men and women that simply didn't want a woman to be president. 

I am not even sure what to say next. Or do next. 

Except only to react how I am to my mother joining social media. Yes, I am comparing my mother friending me on Facebook to Trump becoming president.* Because seriously if you would have told me either of these things five years ago, I would have laughed and said NO WAY IN HELL! I would have confidently bet my last dollar against those things ever happening. But here we are. So, I repeat, in this new world I will hold firm to boundaries that I worked hard to set; I will protect myself from negativity and hold onto the positive parts of myself for my kids and my family; I will work to find coping strategies and cures and help people and try to create positive change. And I won't accept my mom's friend request or Trump as president.

*I in no way want to minimize the real fear that people are feeling because of Trump's win. Sure, I am gobsmacked. Others are scared. I stand in solidarity with people that feel fearful. I will volunteer, march for and work to find peaceful, inclusive, social and civil justice for men and women and children in our country that feel scared and unsupported by this new administration.*

Another eerie quote from the past that could be on Humans of New York today. Scary.

All I know to do is to keep talking, keep listening, keep writing, keep educating and informing my kids; and finding voices and stories and teachers and people to expand our compassion and understanding.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Football--The Season Is Over

Football. I hate it. I love it. My husband never hates it. Neither do my three sons. Football is happening every fall for us for the next 11 or so years. 

This past fall was about acceptance for me. And I did what moms do, I didn't just accept it, I kind of embraced it. I drove them to practice. I cheered for them. I made them eat better and sleep more and work hard. I worried (SO DAMN MUCH). I got into it. I hated some refs and bad calls. I loved most of the coaches and supportive teams and families. I used the game to teach tough life lessons. I used the game to learn some tough life lessons. I made a football birthday cake for Wade. I made shakers for JT's team. I didn't miss one of Peyton's games. I even wore freakin t-shirts and hats with their team name/logo on it sometimes. And well, I actually enjoyed parts of it. Seeing them happy makes me happy. I love that we can be there for each other. I think I still have a way to go with this whole embracing thing, but it's better than hiding in my car praying aloud for one of them to get involved in theater. Football is happening and I am going to be a part of it, because they love it. 

Here are a few shots from the last couple weeks of football and my total acceptance:

Whose kid is this? How can this be Peyton?

Baby Wade had his own team this year too.
Because of course he did.

Something good happened and Wade and his buddy were so excited.
All my boys.

Tim is JT's coach.

All the boys watched film together and talked about designing plays and it was pretty sweet.

JT's team made it to the little kid Super Bowl last Saturday. They lost but it was a big deal for them.

Wade got a water boy trophy.

I feel like I deserve a piece of this trophy for my acceptance/support/mothering of my three sons this past season. And I only cried a little bit and had one mild-ish panic attack. Boosh!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

First I Will Vote, Then...

Last Monday I spent several hours in the waiting room of a very busy hospital while Peyton had surgery on his leg. I sat with other moms and dads and friends waiting for word from the doctors about our loved ones in surgery. We all had pagers like we were waiting for a table at Outback. When someone's pager started buzzing it meant there was information at the front desk about your loved one. We all sat and waited and watched and worried. Some people sat quietly while others talked, a lot. There was a feeling of quiet camaraderie and support in that waiting room. Even though none of us wanted to be there, the scene of everyone rooting for each other and giving one another supportive head nods and understanding smiles felt nice, and even a little hopeful. And that felt great. I mean the world hasn't felt very supportive or understanding lately. It's felt angry and divisive and full of fear and anxiety and who are you voting for and which scandal and what and more and more anger and holy shit, the election is killing my hope

I've been walking around with a feeling of dread and physically feel ill when I drive past a Trump sign (which is a lot because there are a TON of Trump signs around my area).

These are the signs of my people, but I imagine someone somewhere is driving by feeling annoyed or angry by these signs. And I vow to honor them and listen and be patient and put out positive vibes into the universe.

After bringing Peyton home from the hospital, picking up Lucy from practice and getting the other boys off the bus and making dinner, I went to a middle school choir concert to hear Lucy sing. Once again I found myself in a room full of supportive, loving people. They were taking pictures and videos of their kids and smiling at each other. It felt sort of hopeful again. I thought maybe it was time to turn off the news and just start embracing all the hope around me in real life. I sat up a little straighter and took a deep breath, maybe everything would be okay I thought. But just then, I noticed the man in front of me looking at guns on his phone. He sat and looked at Instagram pages with names like ConcealandCarry. It bothered me. It annoyed me that he was on his phone throughout the concert AND that he was into guns. But whatever. Then he went on his Facebook page and while he was scrolling picture after picture of women in lingerie and underwear kept popping up on his feed. Then there were a few posts about the evils of ISIS with disturbing pictures. I was disgusted, but mostly completely upset that Wade, who is in first grade, was seeing the images too. 

"Sir, will you please put your phone away, my son is looking at everything you are looking at because you are holding your phone up," I said to him. He rolled his eyes and made a breath noise like my teenagers, then put his phone in his pocket. That hopeful feeling was obliterated. 

This is Trump's America I thought--guns, unabashed objectification of women and men acting like pouty teenagers. There is no hope, we are screwed. 

But that can't be right. Can it? I mean we aren't screwed. Yet. Part of the curriculum at my preschool where I work is the First/Then transition rule. The teachers are supposed to say "First we ___________, Then we ___________" to help the children with expectations and responsibility and routines. For example, "First we wash our hands, then we have snack." It helps the children know what's next.

Maybe we grown ups need to use a First/Then rule right now. First we VOTE. Then we _____________. Fill in the blank with either celebrate or grieve. Then we move onto the next step. And I think we need to think about what those next steps are going to be.  I mean are we going to fill in the blank with "stay angry" or "hate my neighbor" or "leave the country." I'm not.

Even if I celebrate my candidate winning, there will be another First/Then with all the people that live near me with the Trump signs. With less than a week to go until the election here's what my "Top 10 Then List" looks like (no matter who wins):

First: VOTE

1. Limit my time on social media. Sometimes it's a good thing and sometimes it's stressful. If I feel stressed or anxious, I will go offline.

2. Continue to speak up respectfully. I will share my opinion. I will tell obnoxious men to stop looking at half-naked women on their phones and to do gun shopping at home and not at the middle school choir concert. 

3. Educate myself about and get more involved with local politics. Yes, Presidential elections are important but my god, creating change on a local level is HUGE.

4. Embrace compassion and be more patient. I swear to god I will work on this. I will see the other side. I will genuinely try to understand more and judge less. Even people that spent a ton of money on those giant Trump signs for their yard.

5. Remember that it will be okay. It will. "The rancor ushered in a golden age of literary assasination in American politics. No etiquette had yet evolved to define the legitimate boundaries of dissent. Poisonous pen artists on both sides wrote vitriolic essays that were overtly partisan, often paid scant heed to accuracy, and sought a visceral impact." This is a quote from the Hamilton biography Ron Chernow that I'm every so slowly reading. Guys, we've been here before and we made it through, we'll do it again.

6. Spend more time outside. Because it makes me happier.

7. Let shit go. I will embrace my inner Elsa and let go of what I can't control.

8. Dance more in my kitchen because quite frankly it's fun and I haven't been doing it enough lately.

9. Say thank you more. And just appreciate people doing nice things and stop taking it for granted.

10. Find the good in people, search for and provide camaraderie in waiting rooms whether it's in the hospital or at Outback or in line to vote for the next election. I will remember those good people moments, find hope in them and pay it forward.

But first, I will VOTE.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Beautiful and Goofy--Traditions

It's Fall.
It's time for pumpkins and leaves and traditions and ahhhh!!!!
I love it all.

But there is less and less time for it all.

I refuse to let traditions die.

Sure they may change or be rushed and most definitely be messy and ridiculous, but they will be done (or at least most of them will be anyway). Rushed and messy and ridiculous is my whole life anyway right now. Life is also surprising and sweet and full of love and laughter. And I want my kids to remember all the messy, sweet, good stuff. I want to remember it. Years from now, and even a week from now when I (and maybe all of us) feel overwhelmed with something or other and want to be reminded of the surprising and the sweet and the love and the laughter.

Traditions like the pumpkin patch are the kick-off to our most tradition-filled season--Fall, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and dun-du-du-daaaaa (my trumpet-y sound)....Christmas. The pumpkin patch sets the tone for all of it. And all of it is important, to me. So last week we had 30 minutes in between games and birthday parties and homework and church and work, and we went to the patch for our pumpkins.

This year we added a corn maze to our tradition. Everyone loved it. Except me, I didn't love the corn maze. Maybe it was too much like my mind, all twists and turns and no certainty. Waaaa. Or maybe it was the fact that my whole family made it out and I didn't for a long time. They picked their pumpkins and were ready to go by the time I got out, and I was like "wait, what? I didn't take pictures or give an opinion and what?" They laughed. And again I was like "wait what?" Then we all laughed.

Last weekend, Tim and I got in a fight about something stupid and I left without him to take our annual "Fall Kid Picture." The kids were oblivious to our bickering. They posed and played together. An impromptu game of football broke out because of course. 

When I got back to the house, Tim and I laughed at how dumb we were being and sat together and looked at the pictures on my camera. 

"Look at how grown up they are!," Tim said kind of shocked. 

"And beautiful," I added. "And goofy."

We needed a reminder. That's what traditions and rituals and pictures do sometimes.They remind us that our life is surprising and sweet and full of love and laughter.

The tone of our traditions this year? Beautiful and goofy. Here we go....