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Hello. My name is Erin. And I Like Peperocinis.

I’ve been battling The Sickness for a few days now. It seems any little bug that floats through our house takes up residence in my sinuses.

But my blog isn’t about complaining about my lack of hearty immune system.

No. My blog is about something I realized about my mom-side today.

When a mom gets sick, the world generally assumes she will continue on with her usual duties. Very few people, even other moms, stop to think that sick moms can’t even be sick without trying to plan for the care and nourishment of their children. I am especially bad about just letting myself be SICK. Letting it be a time for me to just rest and heal and take care of myself. (It’s probably why I get sick so much. The universe is trying to tell me that the world does in fact continue revolving without me.)

photoSo it seems unrelated that I opened our refrigerator and noticed my roommate bought a jar of peperocinis. But it’s very, very related. Because I love peperocinis. But my son doesn’t eat them. And I love them. (Did I mention I love them?) When I go grocery shopping, I usually have Abe with me. Or I am shopping quickly before I pick him up from school. In short, grocery shopping isn’t really about me. Grocery shopping is about caring for my son. It’s about nourishing his body: breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And that means when a roommate comes home with peperocinis, it’s like a special treat for me.
Tonight, of course, I stopped and wondered, “What don’t I ever buy these? What aisle are they even on? What other things are at the grocery store that I wish I could buy?!”
I haven’t been grocery shopping for myself in a long time. I haven’t taken a sick day FOR MYSELF in a long time. I’m also bad about doing ANYTHING for myself. It’s not a martyr thing. I’m not a saint for it. It’s a very sad trait of mine. I will take care of others before I take care of myself. And then I empty myself out so fully that I end up getting sick. I don’t even THINK about buying groceries I want at the grocery store. When I do buy things for myself, I tend to feel guilty about it. When I do anything for myself I feel guilty about it. That is so. Stupid. I certainly don’t want to swing all the way over to entitled. I don’t want that “The World Does and Should Revolve Around Me” mentality anywhere close to my sphere of consciousness. I really do want to love myself enough to fill myself up first, though.

I’m giving myself a task. I’m going to the grocery store after I take a shower and get dressed (and am not dying of a head cold) one MORNING this week. I’m going to spend an hour walking up and down every aisle, and I am going to examine all sorts of food items that make me happy. Not the ones that make Abe happy or that I can use when I cook dinner for Bear. The ones I like.

This is a blog I feel like I’ve written a thousand times before because I am always needing the reminder to take care of myself first. So, I suppose I’ll just keep reminding myself.

Stupid Laughing

So I was walking Bear to his truck after an evening of Breaking Bad bingeing and before we made it to the end of my house, I heard the neighbors fighting.

To fill you in, my neighbors are what you’d call…Southern. Real southern. Like, hit your kid with a wooden spoon, carry hand guns in your sweatpants waist band, leave a toilet in your front yard Southern.

So this was bound to be good.

“Don’t listen to them. Just go back inside after I leave,” Bear suggested, which was adorable.
I got back inside and my roommate Marybeth was standing in the kitchen. “Do you not hear the neighbors fighting outside?!”
“What?! No!”
We both immediately tip-toed out front because we’re stupid. We were being careful not to pass the edge of the brick facade of our house. We stepped carefully, trying not to crunch the grass. We settled in to a spot and Marybeth quietly lit a cigarette as if we were settling in for a drive-in movie. She took one more step forward and realized our shadows were plainly visible across the driveway from the front door light. She reached her hand back, signaling for me to stay still, but instead punched me directly in the boob. We both squatted down to keep from laughing too loud and then, in our infinite wisdom, decided to keep walking to the corner of the house. Bent over. Like old women.
We were hidden JUST on the other side of the wall from our neighbors trying to listen when one of them took a step into our yard. We froze.
“Just start making out if they come around the corner,” Marybeth whispered with all seriousness.
“What?!” I whisper-yelled. “That makes no sense!”
“Lust knows no logic,” she whispered back. For a split second it made sense.
“Why don’t we just duck down into the shadow if they come around the corner?” I asked.
“Oh, yeah. Good idea.” Yeah, stupid.
A few seconds later, footsteps again into our yard. Marybeth ducked and I leaned just far enough forward to goose myself on the shed door knob. Before I could think, I was running like a 15-year-old for the front door being chased by a boy with a water balloon and Marybeth was behind me. We got all the way back inside before Marybeth realized she still had a lit cigarette in her hand.
“GO OUT BACK!” I yelled.
She continued running through the house and out the back sliding glass door and I followed.
“Let’s go around back to the side of the house. It’s dark. And we might actually be closer,” I suggested because that wasn’t enough of an adrenaline rush for me. And I’m a little stupid.
“Yeah, perfect,” she whispered. As if it was perfect.
We crept slowly through overgrown tree roots and 5,000 newly sprouting oak trees to the side of the house. From there, we could see into the neighbors’ back yard but not the front. We could hear better though, so we stood like deer for about 5 minutes listening.
Suddenly, one of them walked into the back yard right past us. Marybeth, like an ostrich, folded her body in half and got her head as close to the ground as possible. I, like a stealth crime fighter, flattened my body against the back of the house. We stayed that way, frozen, for a billion minutes. Because stupid.
Finally, Marybeth peaked upwards.
“He’s gone,” she whispered.
“We are so stupid,” I whispered back.
“Yeah,” she agreed.
We continued standing there, listening to our neighbors fight, and finally we were starting to hear enough to get a handle on the story. We breathed slowly and deeply, like two detectives who NEEDED this part of the scoop to crack the case.
“Her daughter?” Marybeth whisper-asked.
“I think so, and he’s the step-dad?” I whisper-responded.
“And how did his mom post it on Facebook?” she whisper-puzzled.
“I don’t know, I think…”
And just then, like a rocket taking off into space…the air conditioning unit kicked on.
And we left 30 feet into the air.
We ran like Kenyans.
I have not galloped so fast since I broke my leg.
We collapsed into a pile of laughter on the kitchen counter and then completely re-lived the entire experience by recalling and explaining every detail to each other as if it hadn’t just happened.

I guess my point is, I’m stupid. But I have a whole lot of fun. When’s the last time you had stupid-fun?!

Laugh like a horse every once in a while.

Laugh like a horse every once in a while.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

By the way, my girl Marybeth got a clean booby scan today. One year. No cancer. Raise a glass!!!!

4

Dear Abraham,

Today, you are four years old. Actually, right now as I hit publish on this blog it will be nearly the exact moment I gave birth to you.
Four. Somehow two and three matched your age at the time, but four…four seems very old.

You learned how to talk when you were about two and you haven’t stopped since. Lately, I love watching you see something that you wish to describe but you don’t have the words yet, and so you piece together the words you do know. “That tree has curly branches on it.” It always makes sense, but it’s never the right word. And I love that. I love, love, love to see what you will come up with. I don’t correct you so much as suggest the correct words (so that you aren’t in 5th grade still referring to carbonated water as “spicy water”).

You’re a ham. Abe-brah-HAM. Your eyes get really big and brown when you’re about to do something you think is funny. You get great pleasure in making your friends laugh, or laughing with them. Currently, you think “poop” and “bottom”are the two funniest words on the planet. We talk about a lot about how “poop” isn’t an appropriate word at the dinner table.

Recently, you used the word “hate”. I told you that wasn’t a word we used in our family, and you agreed not to use it. I’m not even sure you knew what it meant. Soon after, you got in the car after school and told me that someone at school said the word “hate” to you and you corrected him, explaining that’s not a nice word. I was so incredibly proud of you in that moment because I know you corrected him with kindness while standing up for what you believe in. That will get harder as you get older, but I never want you to stop doing it.

Also, I’d like to address this non-stop questioning of my having another baby. I’m not sure if it was the little jerk Daniel Tiger or something from the all-knowing Doc McStuffins that suggested to you all mommies should have babies in their bellies, but I’m writing letters to both shows. Mommy doesn’t have a baby in her belly. Her belly isn’t bigger. A baby is not about to pop out of mommy’s belly. And you’re not allowed to watch TV anymore.

You still don’t snuggle, Abe. It’s the one thing I always wanted you to do. Snuggle up with your mama. But you don’t do it. You do however high-five and fist bump. You give AWESOME little kisses on your way out of the car to school, and you whisper little I love yous right into my ear when I least expect it. But if you would JUST SNUGGLE me. For 10 minutes. Tops. Just get in my lap and snuggle with me. I grew you in my body…can you not just give me this one thing?!

You love: riding your tractor, going to the beach, going on airplanes, the Octonauts, “getting ready” with mommy at her make-up table, watching cartoons in bed in the morning, your blue blanket, floor puzzles, swimming (you just learned how!), popsicles, buckling your own carseat, and trying to determine what letter a word starts with (except you say it backwards: “M starts with Mommy”).

This past year, you got sick a lot of times. We finally decided it was time to take your tonsils out. It was a very successful surgery, but the recovery was terrible. You were miserable, so sick, and incredibly frustrated. There were moments I thought we made the wrong choice, but now you seem to be doing so much better. Huge mommy sigh of relief.

You traveled a lot of places this year. You went to San Francisco, Monterey, Los Angeles, Disney World, and Chicago! Wow! I adore the fact that you love to travel.

I do hope you know that with every lunch box note I write and ever bedtime song I sing, I am giving you my whole heart. We may argue, we may disagree, and we may even not speak to each other for a few minutes when we’re at our worst, but there will never be a day I don’t love you with everything that I am. You make me want to be better so that I can show you how to serve the world and make IT better. You have such amazing opportunities in front of you, sweet boy. What a beautiful life this is.

I love you more than all the words in all the books in all the world. Thank you for choosing me to be your mama.

Love,
Mommy

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Dating in your 30s (and some metaphors)

Dating in your 30s.

Yep. That’s what we’ll be talking about here today. Hold on to your hats.

As humans, we learn our partner’s style. We get into a rhythm and we figure out what we think makes a relationship tick. Sometimes we do this for a long time, like say, 10 years.
Suddenly, that stuff ain’t fittin’ the bill anymore, and so we start to search for other stuff to try.
We sort of shoot off in all directions, aimless terrified little fireworks, wondering what in the world is going to fix this. We kind of try everything, half-heartedly, almost in a race to try it all before the finish line appears on the horizon. And maybe we crossed the finish line half a mile back, but damnit we’re still trying.

And then. Divorce. Boom.

And that was your 20s.

4010-2Now switch your brain to an entirely new human being who is cute and funny and smart and has (I assume) nearly the same amount of years’ worth of baggage you have, both good and bad, clanking around behind them. Don’t forget, you’re also dragging all of your baggage, too (but to you it’s not baggage! It’s just your life! Hehe!). You start a new relationship. You open up all of your tool boxes and put on your work gloves and you begin creating this new union between two people: hammers, nails, screws (sorry, mom), deciding whether or not you’d like to keep building at periodic lunch break points along the way. It’s going pretty freaking well.
Then suddenly…wait. Why isn’t this tool working? This has ALWAYS worked for me in the past. “Why can’t I use a 5/8″ ratchet wrench on this part? It worked in my marriage! IT SHOULD WORK IN ALL RELATIONSHIPS!”
Oh.
Because all relationships aren’t going to be your marriage.
Relationships in your 30s are going to be things you start building from the ground up on top of an old, now sort of slanty foundation. You step back and stare hazily at each other on a lunch break, both thinking It’s so weird that that didn’t work. Nobody’s mad. Nobody’s crying. Just sort of…surprised. But, it’s not a big enough problem to stop building. So you get back to work.
Again and again, you find that your old tools don’t work.
It’s not really important to him that I make the bed every morning. I always make the bed in the morning. But he’d be happier with a good morning kiss and a smile. Weird.
She doesn’t want me to take her to fancy restaurants. That’s always worked for me in the past. She’d rather go to the burger shack and then talk. Weird.

So you start swapping out tools. You trade with other people, you buy some new ones, you even craft a few of your own design in order to continue building this new relationship. Because the old tools you used to build our marriage can’t be the tools you use to build your new relationship. It just doesn’t work that way.

(Now, if you’re lucky and you’re like me, he’s going to be ok with the fact that you cry every time one of your tools doesn’t work. That’s because he just happened to know which tool to pull out for the “weeping girlfriend problem.”)

But it’s maddening. You spend 10 years (at least I did) fine tuning a whole set of beautiful, hand-crafted tools with which to forge a marriage and those tools don’t really mean crap in a new relationship. It will feel like you are too old, too skilled to be learning how to do this all over again. And learn it you must if you want to benefit from the joy of sharing time, love, space, and experiences with another human being.

So this is how I’ve decided to gauge whether or not dating in my 30s is working (since I’ve never been very handy with tools): I ask myself some questions.

1. Can I laugh with him?
Yes. I stayed up until midnight watching the Emmys in its entirety last night, giggling and cracking jokes and didn’t even realize we’d watched the entire thing by the time it was over.
2. Does he make me feel special?
Yes. He goes out of his way to do things he knows would make me happy, even if said things are absolutely ridiculous to any normal human being (like pressure washing the driveway of my RENTAL house).
3. Does he listen to me/communicate with me?
Yes. Just yes. He does.

Dating in my 30s.

I’m still collecting some new/better tools, but so far so darn good.

 

6 Months Later

A little over 6 months ago I went to a yoga and life-coaching retreat in Hawaii. It was a strange, twisting, coincidental series of events that led me there. When I applied to go, I lived in my dream house, was married, had a decent job, and a lot of energy to grow and move forward. When I arrived there in February, I lived in a old, small house with two roommates, was divorced, unemployed, and had no desire to keep going.

While I was there, I did some pretty deep work. I practiced Kundalini Yoga twice a day, which includes a lot of moving meditation, chanting, singing, and awareness. I sat in two coaching sessions each day. I ate organic foods and drank green juice everyday. I came to some realizations and had some big ideas, a few of which I actually followed through with.

At the end of the trip, we were asked to write a letter to ourselves. I remember sitting on the floor of the Yoga Shala writing this letter to myself, but I didn’t remember anything I wrote until I received it in the mail recently. Those who hosted the retreat sent us the letters we wrote to ourselves 6 months later.

And. Wow.

Uuuuuugh this is so cliche.

Uuuuuugh this is so cliche.

I was blown away by what I wrote. It took me a few days to actually read the letter in full, and when I finally finished reading it I realized…it was a love letter from me to me. It was a gorgeous moment in time when I loved myself so much, I was so gentle and kind with myself, so safe with myself. It felt like I was reading something that a different person wrote to someone that I don’t know. I didn’t even recognize it as me.

It is so easy to be in a kind space when you’re on a yoga retreat in Hawaii, but oh how quickly we lose it when we are back out in the real world. I never talk to myself that way.

But it felt so, so good reading that letter to myself. I almost wished someone actually felt that way about me for a few minutes until I realized, “HELLO?! YOU FEEL THIS WAY ABOUT YOU!”

How am I supposed to encourage someone love me, allow people help me, let people praise me if I can’t even accept it from myself? So, I’m going to try doing something that is crazy embarrassing and uncomfortable for me. And I’m going to admit to you that I’m doing it and maybe even share it with you. I’m going to write myself a love letter at least once a week. I’m going to tell myself what a great job I’m doing, how beautiful I look, how kind I am, whatever it is that I would want to hear from someone else…I’m going to tell myself.

Ugh, this makes me so uncomfortable. If you asked me to write this letter to ANYONE ELSE, I could do it without a second thought. This is going to be a tough challenge. Anyone care to join me? Even just once? (I know. I hate it, too.)

 

 

Little Bites

Sometimes Bear has to make quick trips out of town for work. Often time the work only lasts about an hour, and so we usually make a weekend out of it if we are baby-free. This past weekend we went to Tampa for a little getaway so Bear could finish up a job. It’s about a three-hour drive, and because he travels so much, he knows an juicy secret: if you book your hotel on the WAY to your hotel, you’re bound to get a crazy awesome deal ‘cuz the hotels are looking to fill up those last few rooms.

Driving down I opened up Hotels.com and searched for hotels in the downtown Tampa area. I found a beautiful Hilton for only $89 and immediately booked. I’m NOT a hotel snob, but I am a deal snob. And let me tell you what…we walked into this hotel a few hours later and I about cried. The valets treated us like we were very special, and the concierge helped us choose a place for dinner (calling us “sir” and “ma’am”). We walked into the room and…COME ON! It was beautiful. Crisp, clean, cold (why are hotel rooms always so much colder than my house?!). The bathroom was stocked with some kind of fancy soaps and shampoos I’d never heard of and the towels were actually big enough to fit all the way around my body.

I was in HEAVEN.

It took Bear some convincing to get me off of the bed and downstairs to catch our cab for dinner (the bed was like clouds and soap bubbles and marshmallows, all having a party with some feathers). He had chosen a lovely place just up the road on the water for a light dinner and some adult beverages. I wobbled to our table feeling so special.

10544389_10153107879709829_4693963870416984455_nAn acoustic musician warmed up his guitar on the other side of some tables outside of view. He began to play covers of popular songs, and man was he killing it. He gave everything this edge, this funky beat that was just fun enough to eat dinner to but not SO fun that you wanted to ask him if he knew any Aaron Neville just to quiet him down.
“This guy is awesome. He sounds so much like Chris McCarty,” Bear said.
“Who is that?” I asked.
“That’s the guy who sings the first song I played for you. Remember? ‘You’re so beautiful, do-do-do-do-do!'”
“Oh yeah! He does sound like him. I love it.”
“Me, too. I’ve seen that guy so many times back in Atlanta. I wish he would tour again. I’d take you to see him.”
Our waiter, who mildly reminded me of the blonde server in Office Space who wears too flair-guy-office-space-suesmuch flair, brought us another round of drinks.
“Who is this guy?” Bear asked him.
“I’m not sure!” he responded. “This is his first night playing here and people are already requesting him back.”
“He’s awesome,” I smiled.

We ate our meals (Bear had the scallops and I had some monstrosity of a sushi roll) and drank our drinks (Bear had a Cigar City Jai Alai and I had a dirty martini) and enjoyed a gorgeous view of the water, not to mention our normal witty conversation (because we’re witty). And we bobbed our heads to the end of one of the songs until we heard the musician say, “Thanks, guys. I’m Chris McCarty and I’m taking your requests tonight, so let me know if…”

He's married. I know...I know...

He’s married. I know…I know…

I thought Bear was going to fly. Literally sprout wings and fly. His eyes grew like sunflowers in a time-lapse video and he grabbed the arms of his chair.
“That’s Chris effing McCarty,” he murmured. “That’s actually him.”
“Holy. Crap,” I looked at him. “Why is he in TAMPA? At a RESTAURANT?!”
“I have no idea,” Bear continued, stunned.
“WHAT ARE THE ODDS?” I asked.
It was one of those moments so shocking that it took 3 or 4 minutes to start laughing at how crazy it was to be sitting and listening to a little-known singer who happens to be Bear’s favorite, and who happens to sing the first song Bear ever played for me. But laugh we did, eventually. We giggled between gasping, again and again. Until Bear stood up and walked over to him, said a few words, and within minutes, Chris McCarty began to sing “So Beautiful.”

I don’t even remember the last time I smiled that hard.

We got up and danced together in front of Chris and occasionally Bear sang along (mostly the do-do-do part). Another couple also stood up and danced along side us. I wanted to poke them and say, “Hey. Guys. Our moment. OUR moment.” But I didn’t. They were terrible dancers so I figured no one was looking at them anyway.

It’s been a minute since I’ve felt like the universe lined up specifically for my personal joy. An easy drive, a gorgeous and cheap hotel room, a wonderful dinner, a huge surprise romantic moment, an amazing man who makes me feel like a queen, and did I mention Tropical Smoothie was directly across the street from our hotel? Hello, breakfast!!! It’s these moments that remind me what true happiness feels like, and that I have a shot at a few more of those as more time passes. The pain in my gut from the past year is still very real, very BIG. But this past weekend took a teeny, tiny bite out of the side of the pain.

It’s small. But it’s a start.

Erin Salem, PRNT.

Warning: My ONLY credential for writing this blog and offering unsolicited advice is that I’m a parent. Which is kind of weak.

My teeny, tiny, just-born, infant of a son is turning 4-years-old in 2 weeks.

Four. Years. Old.

I’ve spent the past 4 months rehabbing a broken femur. Every time someone sees me after a few weeks they comment, “Wow! You’re walking a lot better!” Of course, I’m the one feeling the pain and the challenges everyday, but someone else sees me and they are impressed. They can’t believe the improvement. I don’t see it the way they do unless I look back at a video of myself from a month ago can I recognize, Hey! I actually can walk in a more straight line!

And it’s the same with my almost-four-year-old.

6687Abe has taken to negotiating. He is positive that if he just negotiates enough and in the right way that he will get what he wants. If he whines enough, asks enough times, throws a big enough tantrum, he will prevail. And because I am with him so much, I forget/can’t-see that he has had four years to develop a brain big enough, strong enough to use manipulation and other techniques to get what he wants. I still look at him as though he is a baby who needs his mama to do things for him.

In short? I’ve noticed I’m starting to become what I hate most in the world: a pushover.
I’ve been had.

Add to this the fact that his dad and I got divorced and the guilt is tremendous. He has had so little control over his own little circumstances that I feel like any and every time I have the chance to give him some choice in his own life, I should do it. Even though it passes ZERO Dateline tests and Dr. Phil would be shaking his head at me, I still use this outdated logic without even realizing I’m doing it.

It’s time to stop the madness.

So I’ve come up with some new rules for myself and I’m sharing them with you:

1. Ask yourself if you would negotiate this with another adult. If your spouse or significant other laid down on the floor at the grocery store over a missed opportunity at applesauce, would you stop and negotiate, ultimately offering the same applesauce he or she wants if he or she will just get up off the floor?!
No. You would walk away and possibly call a therapist.
I’m not saying all children should act like adults, but they won’t know how to eventually act like adults if we don’t hold them to the same standard.

2. Never give in. Not the first time, not the second time, not the third time… The second you give in, it connects a little synapse in the brain of an almost-four-year-old that later indicates to him or her that there is a distinct possibility that moaning as if near death will result in a chocolate cereal bar. (This is a scientifically proven FACT.) Give in once and you will spend weeks disconnecting and reconnecting that synapse.

3. Show no emotion. By creating an emotionally charged situation with your child, you then shift the focus from, “No, you cannot eat a penny you found on the ground,” to, “I am angry and we are going to talk about how angry I am because I had a difficult childhood…” By reacting without the feeling-words, you teach your child the topic really is just the topic, and then we’re all going to move on.

4. You don’t HAVE to give your kid choices all the time. It’s fine to ask every once in a while what your child wants for dinner or if he/she’d prefer blue socks or white socks. But offering choices all the time gives your kid waaaaaay to much power. Why do we want our children to be powerless? Because that’s the real world. I don’t get to choose whether or not I get a new pair of jeans versus pay my electric bill. I don’t get to choose the kind of carpeting in my rental house. I don’t even get to choose whether or not I take a shower (well, I guess I could choose not to, but then there’s the whole societal-shunning thing and losing friends…). Making the right choices for my child is what will help him make his own right choices as he grows up and is given more responsibility.

5. Know what you’re going to do when you get to “3.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve counted all the way to “3” with a stern face and then watched as my son challenged me, almost with a hand on his hip and a smirk on his face, waiting for me to melt into a puddle of sobs and admit, “I have no idea what to do now that I’ve counted to 3”!
Have a plan.
Time out, losing a privilege (that you’ve predetermined), being sent to bed..if you can consistently follow your own plan once you get to 3, your kid will start taking the whole counting thing seriously. (I don’t think my mom ever got past 2, and in hindsight I seriously think she was terrified of what would happen if she did…)

It’s weird how I can be SO ready for the bedtime hour in my house and yet when my son wakes up, I am completely in love with him all over again and missed him so much. Parenting is a schizophrenic job, isn’t it? (BTW: If you have any parenting advice for me, PLEASE feel free to leave it in the comments because I have absolutely no idea if any of this will actually work. If you don’t hear anything from you then you can assume Abe won.)

Suppose It’s Just That Simple

I sat on the back porch with a red solo cup of vodka on ice and a half an American Spirit cigarette. And I stared. I stared into a bush I can’t name because I’m in Antioch, Illinois on a lake full of trees and bushes and flowers that wouldn’t dare grow in Florida. I stared at a single, long-legged spider on a leaf. He was dancing.
Let’s clarify. I wasn’t high. I don’t do drugs.
I just happened to catch a spider standing on all 8 skinny legs bouncing up and down like a white man at a wedding. Dancing a semi-rhythmic, silly dance.
I smiled while a tear rolled down my cheek. We’re all meant to appreciate life. We’re all meant to feel joy. We’re all meant to dance.

photo (6)In the past hour, I’d just conquered one of the biggest fears I’ve ever housed within my chest. As Bear and my bestie Mo got onto a pontoon boat on the Channel Lake in Antioch, Illinoi, I watched them carefully help the little life-vested ones find their seats.
“Should I go?” I asked.
“Yes. You should,” Bear answered without emotion as he prepared the boat for take-off.
Silently, I wandered inside and made the boys a grilled cheese sandwich for the ride. I filled up their water bottles and considered if I should just take a shot of vodka. Mo got her drink ready.
“Do you want the good vodka?” she asked, in a hurry because the boat was ready.
“I don’t need any particular vodka,” I answered. I added some vodka and ice to my red solo cup, a small splash of olive juice on top with a pink straw for good measure.
“Oooooh, boy. It wasn’t closed,” she chuckled as she picked up the bottle I’d laid on it’s side and tightened it’s cap. “It’s fine, hardly any dripped out.”
“Could have been a disaster,” I half-joked.
“Right!??” she laughed. I made my way towards the dock to the boat.
“Should I go?” I asked again.
“Yes. You should,” Bear nodded, reaching for my hand.
“This part isn’t steady,” I said, looking at the blue boat hoisting wheel on the dock.
“Take my hand,” he said, almost not looking at me.
The boys and Mo were already on the boat. The boys were starting to get whiney, wondering whether or not we were EVER going to go anywhere in the boat or if these damn life vests were totally for show.
“We’re almost ready!” I chimed, talking past my guttural fear.

The boat took off. With every wake, every turn, every increase or decrease of speed further concretely aiding my son in memorizing the phrase, “Oh my God.”
“Oh my God, mom, this boat is SO fast!” he said at one point.
The boat wasn’t really all that fast. But we weren’t going that fast when we hit a tree in a narrow creek in Florida, so the speed seemed irrelevant to me.
“We’re ok,” I reassured him and me.

Within about 20 minutes, my grip on the rail loosened. My enjoyment of the ride began to creep in. The 75-degree Chicago summer sun tickled my skin and reminded me to enjoy these moments. I gave myself a few deep breaths before then giving myself permission to try enjoying this.

We docked within an hour, just a short ride around the Chain-O-Lakes. I carefully and sure-footedly stepped back onto the solid dock and began the long, slow wobble back to the house.
“You ok?” Mo’s mom asked, wondering if I was going to be able to get up the hill (not noticing the tears streaming down my face).
“I’m comin’, I’m comin’,” I snarked.
I made it halfway down the path of circle stones to the front door when Bear caught up to me. And there was no one else to convince. I buried my head in his chest, as I had every time I needed to stand up or rest for the 6 weeks following the accident. I gave myself permission. It was ok to let it all go.
He held me. “I am so proud of you,” he whispered. “And I am so sorry,” he whispered again. My tears gave his tears permission. And so we were.

Ten minutes later, I was granted a few moments alone, along with a half a cigarette to accompany my vodka on the rocks in the back yard. It was the third full cigarette I’ve smoked in 13 weeks, and I’m not sure I even liked it. I only knew I deserved whatever I wanted in that very moment. So I stared at that spider, that skinny little spider with seemingly no other practical purpose for bouncing up and down other than dancing. I smiled, thinking that if a spider can dance for no good reason, then maybe the whole purpose of life could be as simple as enjoying ourselves. Maybe a divorce, a surprise love, a plain-old boat ride might all be trying to push me in the direction of unadulterated, un-judged, pure joy. What if dancing on a leaf for no good reason is simply “the point”? No need to fear boats or a broken leg or life’s general upheaval. Just dance when you can, and the best you can. Cry when it’s warranted and dance the rest of the time.

Suppose it’s just that simple?

 

Jillie and the Tonsils

I ran (hobbled awkwardly) to pick up the angriest child on the planet before I remembered I have a broken leg and the risk of dropping him on my way to the chair next to his post-op bed was too high. It did not pass The Dateline Test. (In case you never read The Dateline Test, it’s a post from my first blog site.) Luckily, the nurse noticed I wasn’t “all there” (I MEAN THE LEG, SMART ASS) and offered to pick him up and put him in my lap.
I immediately began apologizing to him. “Honey, I’m so sorry. Mommy is here. Mommy is not going to leave you and she is so, so very sorry…”
Sensing that my apologies were an admission of guilt, he immediately began to squirm from my arms and repeat the words every mother resents with her entire soul: “I want Daaaaaddy. I want Daaaaaaaaaddy.”
I looked at Abe’s dad. “He wants you. Take him.”
He gently took him from my arms and sat down in the chair. Just then, the post-op nurse approached us.
“Hi there! I’m Jillie and I’ve got some paperwork to go over with you!”
“Ok,” I think I said out loud but might not have because I was just staring at my child while my heart melted from the nuclear heat of guilt.
“So, first things first is it’s very important for him to drink. He needs to drink lots of fluids, as much as you can get into him…”
“Yes,” I answered, as if she’d asked a question.
“Now, does he want some juice or something now?” She asked me this and I looked around to see if there was some reason she would think I had any idea what my high three-year-old wanted in that moment.
“I don’t know. Abe, do you want to try some apple juice?”
“Mmmmmmmm,” he angrily growled at me.
“He doesn’t seem to want any.”
“Well, it’s really important that he drink fluids,” she said as she wandered away as though someone had called her name…except no one did.
Regardless, she returned a few moments later with a small can of apple juice. I did not have the energy to address this.
“I need to go ahead and take his IV out of his hand there…”she said, handing me the apple juice.
Yeah. That’s right. They put the IV in his hand. This, to me, was the work of a person who has never encountered a child before. The FIRST thing he’s going to do when he stops being so very, very high and angry is try and rip it out. Jillie the Nurse began removing the tape around Abe’s IV and Abe (pardon my french) LOST. HIS. SHIT. He all but ripped it out himself, causing blood to rapidly run down his hand which freaked him out to hell, breathing heavy and trying to yell causing him to exhale blood out his nose, which stained his shirt and caused him to freak out even harder.
Jillie had zero back-up plan for this situation. It was her first encounter with a three-year-old, too. She just kind of stared at Abe while Abe’s dad tried to calm him down.
“Do you have a bandaid?!” I asked in a panic.
“Ummm….yes.” She looked around and handed Abe’s dad a piece of gauze to hold on his bleeding hand and then wandered away.
I started rummaging through boxes and drawers near the little post-op station, searching for a bandaid or even some medical tape while Jillie did…whatever it was she did when she disappeared.
True to form, she returned several moments later with something that didn’t really appear to be a bandaid; rather a square sticker with Spongebob on it, which she then attempted to stick onto the gauze to keep it on his bleeding hand…while he flailed and tried to cry but couldn’t make sound either because it hurt too much or because he was too high to find his own voice box.

This all seemed to happen in slow motion because I had enough time to think in my head, “How am I witnessing a grown medical professional make less sense in a surgery center than I do, a concerned mother with zero medical experience…”

Jillie eventually finished doing the thing she was doing that wasn’t helping and began handing me papers to sign. “I don’t know if you keep the yellow copy or the white copy…hang on…” and she wandered off again.
This is when I wanted to scream: ARE YOU NEW HERE? TO THIS PLACE? AND TO MEDICINE? AND TO LIFE?
She returned several moments later and proudly announced, “White. You keep white.”
Can I just mention to you that Jillie wasn’t young. She was a middle-aged woman who should have had enough life experience to know that if she didn’t know what she was doing in the situation, she still should have been faking it.

photo (3)Within about 30 minutes we were given the green light to take Abraham home (the perks of having the surgery done at a surgery center vs. a hospital). His daddy carried him outside while I ran (hobbled awkwardly) to get the car. After a short drive, we got him back to my house and onto the couch and within seconds, he was asleep.

And that is when the hell that was my life for a week began.

Isn’t this a fun blog series?

What I Did Today

A lot of people have skirted around the idea of becoming a Beachbody Coach while chatting with me. Hey, I don’t like salsey-talk either. So, if you have questions about becoming a coach but don’t want to get caught in a sales-convo, watch this video. (It doesn’t talk back.)
Then, if you want to get in touch with me you can.

It took me all day to get this thing ready so if you don’t watch it, you’ve just wasted my whole day. No pressure.

If the embedded video doesn’t work, please click here! It’s 4 minutes. Relax. 

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