Archive of ‘Erin’ category

The Field Trip or Bugs in Squares

I get my son about 50% of the time. That means one week I have him, the next week he’s with his father. So when there is a volunteering opportunity at school, I’m the first to sign up because it means more time with him.

A few weeks ago his first grade teacher emailed me and asked if I wanted to volunteer for the local University’s Nature Trail field trip. I immediately moved my schedule around and said YES!

YES YES YES! NATURE!

Would I prefer a field trip to Target so I can show them where they hide the pictures frames that are on sale? Yes. Yes, I would. But here we are.

This morning I helped Abe’s teacher wrangle 36 kids onto a big yellow school bus at 9am. Luckily the ride was only about 10 minutes and despite the fact that children inexplicably feel the need to scream words at each other on a bus, it was smooth sailing.

We arrived at the Nature Trail and immediately headed into a big, wooden yurt where some college students and a ranger gave the kids warnings like, “Don’t touch anything,” and “Don’t yell,” and, “Try not to be 7.”
All the children agreed to these rules and then immediately ran screaming into the woods to climb trees.

Our first stop was the picnic tables where we would explore different “nature stations.” With 8 tables and 36 kids, we could fit about 4-5 kids at each table and then rotate. The teacher assigned me a group of 4 students, and let me tell you…I lucked out. My students were quiet and studious and lovely. I think the teacher knew I would call kids out if they started acting like idiots, and she didn’t want to have to hold me back.
Our first station revealed 7 bugs frozen in some kind of resin square. Bugs in squares is what we were looking at. There were actual live bugs crawling on our table, but we were looking at bugs in squares. It took me the entirety of our time at the first station to realize there was a little script on the table I was supposed to be reading out loud to teach the kids about the bugs. So my group just looked at bugs in squares with no explanation for 10 minutes and then we moved on. Star performance.

Our second station required we write down the answer to some questions about the food chain. Eight pictures on the table showed us things like a bird, a bug, a fish, some grass, and the sun. The students quickly put the pictures in order and then began answering the questions on the mini-quizzes provided at the table. Until the last question… “What bug eats animals?”
Ummmmm.
“Ms. Salem? Can you help us with this? Which bug eats animals?”
“Oh, um…What?”
They all stared at me. I pulled out my phone and started to Google.
Google gave me results like “animals that eat bugs” and “how to cook bugs”, but nothing telling me which bug eats animals.
“Do you guys wanna know how to make marinara sauce? I can teach you that…”
Eventually a ranger came over and explained that the Giant Water Bug eats fish.
Because who doesn’t know that.
Our third station consisted of fake bugs that we had to measure with rulers. It was dumb. The fake ant was bigger than the fake scorpion, which left all the kids asking me if ants really grew bigger than scorpions. (I Googled that, too, just to be sure they didn’t…)
Station four had Giant Water Bugs in a bucket of water. Learning about the Giant Water Bugs at station four before going to station two would have been awesome for my personal level of self-esteem.Station five had leaves. We looked at leaves. We counted holes in them. We smelled them. We talked a lot more than I ever have about leaves.
I don’t even remember stations six through eight. It was a lot of looking at things I usually step on.

THEN we got to go on the NATURE TRAIL!!! YES NATURE! The Ranger handed out small clip boards with a piece of paper full of questions to each child. He told them they were to read the questions as we go because he was going to answer them during our walk. I considered raising my hand and telling him that was going to result in 10-15 children walking directly into trees and possibly the lake, but I decided it was a good chance for a show so I stayed quiet and let it happen. (And it did happen.)The Ranger guided us along the path and showed us wild blueberry plants and as the path neared the lake’s edge, he pointed at the turtles and the lilly pads. It was very pretty.
Then, the Ranger stopped. “Guys! Quiet! Look!”
And there he was. A long, black snake hanging out at the base of a tree. You guys, it was really exciting. He stuck his tongue out at us and nodded like, “Yep. Hey guyth. Yep I’m a sthnake. Jutht thitting under this tree here.” I liked him. He had pizzaz. He had style. He was waaaaay more interesting than bugs in squares.
The children, of course, all heeded the Ranger’s warning and ran screaming past the snake.

When the nature walk ended, we landed back at the picnic tables for bagged lunches. I sat next to Abe and his friends, which was cool because he talks to his friends now. It’s not like before when they just burped and laughed and showed each other the food in their mouths. They say stuff like, “My gummie fruit is similar to yours,” and, “One time my dad ate liver.”

The best, most amazing part of the entire field trip, though, came in the last 5 minutes. We boarded the bus, and Abe sat in our seat closest to the window. Slowly, he began to lean on me. Then, he slinked down a little. A little further. A little more. And then…boom.
My baby 7-year-old fell asleep in my lap.
The entire trip was totally worth those moments. Giant Water Bugs and food chains be damned.
My kid still wants to sleep in my lap after the field trip.

Friend-Stuff

When ya get divorced, you lose stuff.
It ain’t all stuff-stuff, either. A lot of it is people-stuff. Job stuff. Memory-stuff. Feeling-stuff.

But the very worst of it is friend-stuff.

I lost a LOT of friends throughout my divorce. Some of them were my decision. Some theirs. And a few just sort of drifted off into nothingness with no one really taking the oars to row in a certain direction.
This past weekend at my writers’ conference, I made a few commitments to myself.

  1. I will take this process seriously and invest in it.
  2. I will give myself a timeline that’s realistic but also pushes me.
  3. I will call an old friend who helped me tremendously in the writing of my first book and ask her if she will be my friend again because I realized I miss her.

Yesterday, Monday, I made a consultation appointment with a professional editor who costs big bucks. I started writing out a calendar timeline for myself, too.
Oh, and I sent my old friend an email and asked her if she would be my friend again. Just that way. I sent her a message that said, “I’d like to know if we could be friends again.”

She hasn’t answered yet.

Now, it doesn’t mean she won’t answer. She might. She might not. It was a risk. Love, even friendship love, is a risk. But I’m not dwelling the way I would have a few years ago…

I recognize who’s here now, and I’m grateful for them. I have really good friends. Friends who do life with me, not just take selfies. And I have a husband who literally forced me to attend a writers’ workshop and forced me to stand in the lines to speak directly to the authors and forced me to take full advantage of every minute because he loves me that much.

Friends who love you and force you to do the things that scare you are the best kind of friends.

 

 

After every speaker, at every bathroom break, lunch break, and headline lesson of the day,
the doors opened to the breezeway outside the convention center conference room, and there was my husband. It didn’t matter if it was a quick kiss. He was there, making the weekend all about me. So many people said to me, “Wow, it’s so amazing to have a partner who supports you that much.”

It is.

At the end of the day if she doesn’t want to be my friend, it’s not that I won’t be sad. I will. I’ll think about her and the cool friendship we could have had just like I think about all the other important friendships that have come and gone. I’ll be missing her and hoping someday she changes her mind. It just so happens I might also feel grateful that I have more friend-stuff now. I’m really lucky for that.

 

 

How to Make a Good First Impression

Four years ago, my life exploded. The fall weather gives me anxiety because it FEELS the way it did when my life exploded. The air was crisp and the grass was brown and the heat came on at night in the house.

When I found out that Hay House Publishing Company (the publishing company of my DREAMS) was hosting a writer’s workshop near my home, I was OVERYJOYED and dead-set on going.
When I found out it was in October, I immediately felt sick in my stomach.

Four years ago I lost my first marriage and my friends and my job (with a publishing company, for added irony) all in the course of 3 months. Perhaps worst of all, I lost my motivation to write. And every time I tried to pick it back up, I felt that sick feeling in my stomach like it was October all over again.
So, of course, the Universe offered me the opportunity of a lifetime during the hardest time of year for me.

I didn’t prepare the way I should have, I didn’t practice my elevator pitch or bring writing samples. I did nothing but panic that I would be at a writers’ workshop in October until the day came for me to actually go.
Obviously I felt super prepared.

I got up way too early on morning 1. I showered and put on a cute dress and brushed my hair and put on MAKE UP. Ok?! MAKE UP. My husband literally gave me a pep talk before I walked to the convention center meeting room.
The line was already 10-deep and I arrived an hour early. Within a minute, though, I realized there were two lines: 1 for people WITH their tickets, and 1 for people who still needed their tickets PRINTED.
I didn’t know I could print my ticket because I didn’t check for that option. I checked to make sure I had my laptop and a fresh notebook and a cute dress and comfortable but fancy shoes. Oh and a snack and gum and lip gloss.
I didn’t check about the whole ticket thing…
As soon as I realized the line for people who needed their tickets printed was twice as long as the people with tickets, I started sweating. I whipped out my phone and scrolled through my emails to find the one with my purchase information. I couldn’t scroll and hold my water bottle (Chugs) and my backpack and my coffee, so I set Chugs on the ground in front of me and gently nudge him with my foot as the line slowly inched forward. The email wasn’t there but I remembered my login for their website, so I switched to my browser screen to search there. Inching forward. Pushing Chugs.
Finally, I exhaled when I found my ticket on their website a snagged a screen shot of it just in time to check in. I was awarded my name badge for all my effort, leaned down to pick up Chugs, and proceeded to pour the contents of my coffee onto my left boob.
Sweating began again.
My back was glistening and my cheeks were flushed. I set everything down and ran towards the table near the water dispensers, hoping there would be napkins there.

And then I physically ran into the CEO of Hay House Publishing, Reid Tracey.

Side note: Reid Tracey is 400 feet tall.

I looked up and said, “Excuse me,” refocused, and then realized who it was.
“OH HI,” I shouted with no natural tone at all, in a volume that far exceeded what the situation required.
Winning.
“Hello,” he smiled.
“I just spilled coffee onto my boob…” Stop talking, stop talking, stop talking.
“Are you writing a book?” he asked me.
“What? Oh yes! Yes! I am here for the book. For writing a book!” What are you even saying.
“Great! What’s your book about?”
“Oh it’s, well, there’s one that’s about the, um, so one is my story about pregnancy or, well, not pregnancy but about trying to get pregnant. Well, not TRYING to get pregnant like the actual trying, but then the other one is about being great.” What are you even saying.
“Ok sounds great.”

He walked away. As he should have.

I smashed some napkins I found on the water table into my boob and then realized how ridiculous that looked but I kept doing it. Then, I shit you not, a woman asked me, “Oh, are you lactating?”
“No, no. Just spilled coffee on my boob.”

She walked away, too.

I was off to the BEST start.

I walked back over to my backpack and Chugs and took a deep breath. Ok. So you spilled coffee on your boob and walked into Reid Tracey as if he were a telephone poll and you were blind and you’re for sure not lactating and everything is going to be fine. You’re going to put on your big girl panties and you’re going to make an impression. You’re going to go after what you want. You can do this. Go in there.
I picked up my stuff and walked into the convention center room. I walked straight to the second row and staked my claim. And then, I turned right around and marched back over to Reid Tracey.
“Can I please have a picture with you?” I asked.
“Sure!” he said.

And I did it. I started my weekend off at the Hay House Writers’ Workshop in Orlando by snagging a picture with Hay House CEO Reid Tracey with a coffee stain on my boob.

Luckily it only got better from there…

I Don’t Need Glasses

Last night, Bear held up his phone to my face to show me a funny text.
I slowly pushed his hand away from my face until my eyes could focus on the words.
“Can you not see that?” he asked.
“Yes, I can see it.”
“Why’d you push it back?”
“Because I can’t see it up close like that.”
“You need to get your eyes checked, babe.”
“I DO NOT.”
“I’m just saying, you’ve said you’ve been squinting and straining lately. Probably time.”
“I DON’T NEED GLASSES.”

I got home from carpool this morning and scheduled an appointment at a local eye clinic for an exam. Bear called me a few minutes later.
“Whatcha doing?”
“I just made an eye exam appointment.”
“You want me to come with you?”
“NO. I’m not SCARED because I DON’T NEED GLASSES.”
“Ok. What time’s your appointment?”
“11am.”
“You want me to pick you up or meet you there?”
“Pick me up if you can…”

We arrived at the eye clinic and the receptionist asked me about my eye health history.
“Astigmatism?”
“No.”
“Glaucoma?”
“No.”
“Glasses or contacts?”
“Neither. I don’t wear glasses.”
“Oh! Ok…”
“I just need an eye exam.”
“Ok, not a problem! Just fill out this paperwork and I’ll meet you in that little room.”

Bear and I went to the little room and I began filling out the paperwork. “Can you read that?” Bear asked me.
“Shut up, yes. I can read it.”
Bear held up two fingers. “How many fingers?”
“Shut up.”
“Ms. Salem? Hi there. I’m going to get you started.” A lovely, young eye technician with shiny green eyes and deep brown skin took her seat across from me. I liked her. She seemed nice.

Bear documented.

Photorapdadon.

We started with the regular eye chart. I could read all the letters, no problem. She then used a little machine to puff air into my eyeballs. I don’t know why. All of this seemed really silly. I don’t need glasses, so it was all sort of a waste of time.
She informed me I was to wait for the eye doctor to meet me in the room with the giant machine called a phoropter. I prefer to call it a photorapdadon. Because it looks like a metal dinosaur with lots of eyes.
I was going to miss her.
The doctor, a petite Asian man in a petite-sized suit, walked in and introduced briefly. Then he placed an eye chart in front of me and pulled the photorapdadon in front of my face. I looked through the photorapdadon’s different eye holes and read off the letters on the eye chart. Easily.
See? I don’t need glasses.
Then, the doctor started flipping these little lenses back and forth inside the photorapdadon eyes asking which looked clearer. He’d say, “Lens 1. Lens 2. Which is clearer?”
The trouble was that they were all really similar for me. 1 and 2 were such a close call that I couldn’t tell which one was clearer. And he kept prodding, “1 or 2. 1 or 2,” flipping the lenses back and forth.
“I…I don’t know…”
“1? 2. 1. 2.” <flip flip>
“I’m not sure.”
“1 or 2.” <flip flip>
“1, I guess?”
“1 or 2.” <flip flip>
“1. 1. I’ll go with 1…”
He flipped the photorapdadon around again and flipped more lenses, asking which looked blurry or clear, all while telling me not to squint or strain or try to hard to see…which was like, impossible. How are you supposed to take an eye test without trying to see? I felt so much pressure.
Then he told me to lean my head back for eye drops. “These will burn,” he said, which didn’t really feel like enough of a warning. They burned a lot. “That’ll take about 10 minutes. Go pick out a pair of frames, pay, and I’ll take one last look and we’ll be done.”
“Wait. Pick frames?”
“Yes. From the far wall.”
“For who?” The little doctor left. “Frames for WHO?”

This was the quite unceremonious way I found out I need glasses today.

What the doctor didn’t explain was that he’d just dilated my pupils. Having never had my pupils dilated before, I didn’t realize that “that’ll take 10 minutes” meant I would basically be blind within 10 minutes. Which makes it seem like a very silly time to be choosing eyeglass frames…

I literally couldn’t see Bear while he took this picture of me.

Bear helped me choose two pair we both liked and then led me back to a chair because I COULDN’T SEE ANYTHING. Another employee wrote up my order and billed me for the exam. I tried to pay but I literally couldn’t see the credit card machine. “I can’t see ANYTHING.”
“That’ll go away in an hour or so,” the employee said.
“Is this how people who can’t see feel? I mean, this must be terrible. I can’t see anything.”
“Yeah. It’ll get better in a while.”
“I can’t see ANYTHING on my phone.”
“Yeah.”
“I’m a little dramatic.”
“I hadn’t noticed…”

Finally, the little doctor called me back in for my final round of torture. If you thought the pressure of the photorapdadon was bad, wait until you sit in a chair with your pupils the size of your whole eyeball while a tiny doctor shines light DIRECTLY INTO THEM.
“OW!” I said.
“Yes, I know.”
Like…that doesn’t help me. The fact that you know actually makes it worse. You should have said something if you KNEW this was going to be an OW.
He used a sideways microscope-looking machine along with his flashlight from hell to examine the INSIDE of my eyeball for THREE HOURS. (Yes, it was about 4 minutes, Bear, I know.) Then, he whisked all the eyeball equipment away and I tried to focus on him while he read me the results:
“You have a very slight need for prescription. You probably wouldn’t notice it if you didn’t use computers all day. This prescription will get worse in the coming years and by the time you’re about 42 or 43, you’ll need bifocals. For now, just wear glasses while you’re in front of the computer or reading. Here is your prescription. Have a great day.”

So there ya have it folks. I walked into the eye clinic able to see without a need for glasses and walked out completely blind holding my new glasses prescription. It feels a liiiiiitle like a conspiracy to me.
I guess….yay new accessories?
(I still don’t think I need glasses.”

Control

“It is easy to understand how you would come to the conclusion that your path to feeling good is through influencing or controlling the behavior of others. But as you attempt to control them (through influence or coercion), you discover that not only can you not contain them – but your attention to them brings more like them into your experience. You simply cannot get to where you want to be by controlling or eliminating the unwanted.”
-Esther Hicks

I’m realizing more and more that the vast majority of people’s actions are an attempt to control their environment. Control feels like real, tangible stuff. Say you want a thing, walk into a store with money, find the thing, bring it to the front of the store to exchange said thing for money, and leave with the thing you wanted. Control.
Of course, you can probably remember the last time you wanted a thing and they were out of the thing or the store was closed or the thing is different from the last time you wanted it…

We try to control for everything, and yet even the best controllers land smack dab in the middle of the uncontrollable situation.

We try to control our government by voting and by telling other people who to vote for or by refusing to speak to people who don’t vote for who we vote for, but really we have no control over how the government is run at all in the first place. If you’ve ever watched House of Cards or listened to the podcast Serial as they discussed the ins and outs of bringing Bowe Bergdahl back to the United States (think “a bottle of Johnny Walker Black will get you a place on the Secretary of Defense’s schedule), you’d know that pretty much everyone holding a position of power is going to figure out how to do what they want to do.
We try to control our partners by setting up rules (which sometimes we call “vows” and sometimes we call “boundaries” but really they’re mostly fancy words for rules). We tell them not to cheat on us, but more than a third of spouses do. We tell them to be loving towards us, but anyone who’s been in a relationship for more than 5 minutes knows that goes out of the window some days. We tell them not to smoke, so they sneak the cigarettes on business trips. We tell them not to spend too much money, and so they get a secret bank account.
We try to control our society by telling them they can’t drink too much, steal, hurt each other, drive on the wrong side of the road…and yet people do these things. Regularly. Like, a lot.

People do what they want. And as much emphasis as we put on character and dignity and integrity, we’ve all done something that someone else asked us not to do because we liked our way better, even if it’s as small as using regular steaks instead of organic ones for the cookout (why would I spend $15/ribeye when I could spend $9 and they taste the same?).

So what’s a human to do?! Control nothing and just hope for the best?

Well, sort of.

You can only control how you treat the world around you, and how you react to it. You can leave this country for another one whose government you like better. You can choose a partner who is more in alignment with the rules you set for yourself (btw, do you follow all those rules you set for yourself all the time?). You can choose which situations you stay in and which you don’t. (Just remember that you’ll be brining yourself with you wherever you go, so unhappy-here doesn’t necessarily mean happy-there.) But standing still and resisting what IS is kind of the definition of insanity…
It’s all a game of resistance, and as much as I’d love for resistance to result is LESS of a thing I don’t like, it will always result in the same amount or more, because we get and become what we think about, even if what we’re thinking about it what we don’t want. (Remember Prohibition?)

What if instead of trying so fervently to control what others think, believe, and do, you spent all that energy focused on making yourself happy? What if the whole world was filled with people who took responsibility for themselves and left you alone unless you both agreed it would be fun to be around each other? Is it possible that you could find your own personal happiness without worry about what someone else is doing? What if you had the same grace for others as you have for yourself?

I know, I know. Perfect world. <3

*Note because someone will say it: NO, I’m not talking about minding your own business if you know someone is being physically abused or has a disability and needs help or someone got the flu and wants some soup. Because duh.

On Being Positive

I spent most of my 20s complaining. I didn’t really believe most of the complaints I made, but it gave me something to do and someone to be. I liked being the cynical jester, always cracking a hearty little quip about the state of things, always harping on what’s true and what’s real.

The people who loved me loved the fact that I always had a snarky comment.

Trouble was…it wasn’t actually me. And there were other things that weren’t actually me. I wasn’t the fast driver I purported myself to be. I didn’t actually care if I ingested gluten. I didn’t want to be a school psychologist. I really, really, really like(d) Dr. Phil.
There were so many “mes” I tried to be in order to maintain the illusion of what everyone thought that I was. And I built the person everyone thought I was in an effort to feel at home with people. Isn’t it ironic that I left the home that was me to try to join the home of a bunch of other people?

 

 

 

 

When I got divorced in 2013, I didn’t have much veil left to hold up in front of the mes, and what was left was filled with holes and kind of a pathetic attempt at the peek-a-boo game. It’s tough to be the witty-complainer or the gluten-protester when you can’t get out of bed.
That experience revealed some things about me that, at first, I thought needed to be fixed (after all, I’d spent thousands of dollars in the years prior trying to fix myself…):
1. I have strong and fast boundaries. I don’t let people in too quickly and I don’t allow people who aren’t in my best interest to stay. This meant letting some very important people go. I spent a long time feeling guilty about that.
2. I am irretrievably positive. I can see the best in any person, any situation. This led me to believe I was naive.
3. I am an over-sharer. I will tell the gal at grocery check-out about my birth control pills.

I tried changing all three of these things. I tried to let more people into my inner circle and keep the ones who were already there. I tried to tone down the “bright side” and be a little more realistic. I even stopped blogging consistently in an attempt to tone down my oversharing.

Pretty neat how life stripped back all the costumes I’d put on in my 20s, only to have me start putting new ones on…

The good news is, I noticed. I felt the difference between being who I am and being who I think I need to be. I removed some people from my life. I started blogging/posting to social media again with conscious attention paid to how much of my life people need to know about. And, of course, my positivity came back full force. So strongly, in fact, that sometimes it’s physically painful to listen to people talk about the negative or the “reality” of any situation when I know there is so much to be grateful for and believe in. When I don’t feel happy, I know it’s because I’m probably not being true to one of those three rules of me.
Caveat: I break my own rules all the time. This is what makes me human. And it’s only when I break my own rules that I remember how I feel when I’m being anything other than me. It’s actually a really good reminder to be even more me.
The strangest lesson, though, is that my positivity bothers people. Like…a lot. When someone is focused on what’s real, on the current state of affairs, and it’s all negative…they think I’m a dreamer for believing something better and different is brewing.
Turns out no matter what you do, someone is going to complain.

 

 

Hurricane Irma – Part 1

Saturday –
Hurricane Parties are real things, people. Gather up the snacks, the alcohol, all the perishables, and gorge. With so many of the refrigerators and freezers almost undoubtedly a total loss, it’s better to eat and drink everything all at once then watch it go to waste.
We got up Saturday morning and began cleaning, food-prepping, and my husband even went to Lowe’s and bought wood to build more shelves in the living room. Shelves that might blow away in 36 hours. I’ve been asking him to build those shelves for months and it took a hurricane…
Our friends came over with their kids and we ate and drank and played games and ordered pizza. My husband concocted a signature cocktail for the event: The Irma.
I drank a lot of them. Enough that by about 11:30 I thought it would be smart to single-arm dumbbell snatch 25 pounds in the foyer. And you know what? I’m fine with that.
Sunday –
I woke up with an impending sense of doom.
It’s hurricane day.
Today is probably the last day we’ll have power. The last day we can order food. The last day we’re guaranteed the roof on this house.
It’s a really weird feeling to know that it’s possible your whole life is about to change and there’s nothing you can do, while at the same time also knowing that tomorrow might be the same as today.

We mostly ate and cleaned up from the party and checked and rechecked our hurricane supplies. Unfortunately, on top of a hurricane, there was also a Noreaster storm coming in from the west. It rained all day, which meant that the ground would already be saturated by the time Irma arrived. Any roots that were loose were far more likely to let go of the ground and allow whatever they were growing to fall down with gravity.
This is not a problem for Bear and me. We cut down every tree in our yard when we bought this house. Why? Because we weren’t about to lose any part of it to a tree. Most of our neighbors take very good care of their trees so there wasn’t too much concern about trees falling.
Except for one.

Those Neighbors
We live next door to questionable people. I think about 6 of them live inside this house. A beautiful street of gorgeous, well-kept homes and right next to ours are the people who keep their plastic Tupperware shelves on the front lawn. You know. Just in case they’re NOT mowing their lawn again and suddenly realize they need a shelf to put something on. They also store their old cars, new cars, bicycles, garbage cans, and extra pieces of wood on and near their front yard. Their dogs run around the neighborhood, unkempt, barking and biting at cars and humans.
Oh, and they have a big-ass oak tree in their front yard about 10 years past it’s prime, waiting to fall over in a hurricane directly onto the power lines that power our entire neighborhood.

On Sunday, they decided they would pull one of their 7 vehicles, a truck, onto their front yard. It was then that some of them opted to load a desk onto the bed of the truck as opposed to loading up all the debris and potential hurricane-missiles already on the ground. After about an hour, the desk was safely removed from the home in its entirety and escorted off the property via the one working truck.
I stood at the window live-streaming the event because I couldn’t understand why anyone would stack garbage and old chairs on the curb the day before a hurricane and yet remove a desk from INSIDE the property…

At about 6pm Sunday, we settled in with comedy shows on Netflix and tons more snacks. Somehow, during a hurricane, we feel the need to eat. A lot.
Around 7pm, the winds shifted. You could feel the rain coming from the other direction. “It’s starting,” I thought.
Around 9:30pm, we lost power. First it flickered. Then it turned off. And we forgot how dark it was outside because it was really dark inside now. We grabbed flashlights. My mom retreated to the guest room and Bear and me went to our room. We sat in the dark with our phones, watching weather models of the storm, watching destruction it already left in Miami. We sat in the dark listening to wind gust past the house and rattle our windows. Little gusts. Beginning gusts.

I’ve sat through a lot of hurricanes. None of them started at night. None of them started like this.

Hurricane Irma – Part 1

I think it was Labor Day when most of us became aware that a storm was organizing, but like most storms, no one panicked. If you don’t live in Florida it might seem a little insane not to panic about a hurricane. But the trouble with hurricanes is that we have days and days of warning for a storm that all the well-dressed meteorologists in the world can’t honestly track with any certainty. We’ve had SO many Hurricanes Who Cried Wolf that we’re cynical about Mother Nature.

We Floridians know how to follow the models. There’s the Hurricane Weather Research model, the Euro model, the UK model, The Global Forecast System, and about 12 more. Most Floridians have a favorite (mine’s the Euro) and we compare it to the other models all. day. long. We know when to listen to the newscasters and when not to. For example, when a journalist is standing in a light breeze announcing that he can BARELY stay standing as a plastic bag floats by, we know there’s not much to report yet. And we know if Storm Tracker Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel shows up in our town, it’s time to run for our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday – 7 full days before the hurricane hit.
“Are you going to evacuate?” people ask me.
“I have no idea.”
I really didn’t. Without any clear indication of how strong this storm would be, where it would be, and when it would be…we just didn’t know.

Tuesday –
“YOU NEED TO EVACUATE RIGHT NOW THERE’S A HURRICANE COMING,” shouted concerned people across the rest of the south.
We Floridians have been doing this for a really, really long time. In fact, almost every birthday party I ever had got evacuated because my birthday falls at the peak of hurricane season. We just aren’t used to the entire country having an opinion about when we stay or leave, and calling us idiots if we make a choice others don’t agree with. The last MAJOR set of hurricanes to hit Florida were in 2004 (the last El Nino). Social media was not in our hands 24-7 back then. We listened to the forecasters and the state officials and made the decisions that were best for us. All of a sudden, this year, the entire country became meteorological forecasters and told us to get out or we were fools. “IT’S JUST STUFF! GET OUT!” If one more person said that to me, I was going to change my profile picture to a naked photo of Bea Arthur and throw my phone into the Florida muck.

The trouble with evacuating was two-fold:
1. We’d potentially help clog the only 2 interstates out of Florida, which at the time the people south of us needed far more than we did. They were guaranteed a hit.
2. We’d potentially get stuck in the location we evacuated TO (maybe somewhere near Atlanta) after the storm because all of South Florida would be heading back around the same time. My husband has a local business. He couldn’t afford to be stuck in Atlanta for a week.
Bonus problem 3. We’d potentially evacuate and get stuck on an interstate with no gas and be left to weather the hurricane in a Cadillac SRX.

Of course, if we were under mandatory evacuation, we would be OUT of here. But without the city making that call, it was up to us to make the smartest decision for everyone involved.

We decided the best thing to do would be to stay and invite my mom to come be with us since she lives in South Florida.

Wednesday –
With no real idea as to whether or not the hurricane would make it to North Florida or not, Wednesday is better-safe-than-sorry day. Stock up on water, canned goods, gas, non-perishable foods, batteries, propane, and buckets. Also grab important documents, lift important things up off the ground (in case of flooding), buy extra dog food, and prescriptions. My husband was out of town for work so I was left to do most of this prep by myself. It’s a stressful thing, trying to ensure you’ve got everything you need in case you have to run, stay in one place for days, or die.

I decided to go shopping for hurricane supplies after I dropped my son off at school that morning. When I arrived at the grocery store, I started walking up and down the aisles. I passed the same people three or four times because they, too, were sort of walking around just looking at things.
Should I get diapers? I don’t need them, but what if someone does?
Can I buy eggs right now? How long to hard-boiled eggs last unrefrigerated.
Do I buy paper towels or toilet paper? Do I need both?
Ooo chocolate Teddy Grahams, it’s been so long…
It’s a bizarre feeling knowing you’re mulling over these questions when you could potentially lose everything within a few days or be called to a mandatory evacuation and leave it all behind. So you buy everything you could potentially need and then hope you don’t need any of it but also kinda hope you do so you didn’t just spend $50 on canned goods you’d never eat on a non-hurricane day.

Thursday –
My husband came home from his work trip and brought the generator his business bought earlier in the year for a big job. We were SO lucky to have a generator that would keep our refrigerator running so we wouldn’t have to replace every single condiment.
I filled every container we own with water and put half of them in the freezer and half of them in the fridge.
I washed everything we own. There’s nothing worse than being stuck without power AND no clean underwear.
I charged everything that’s chargeable in our home. Flashlights, backup batteries, portable DVD players, iPads…there’s no telling if we’d need any of it.
I watched a LOT of weather reports. It looked like my city (Jacksonville) would take a hard hit. The other issue is that this storm was the SIZE of the entire STATE. That’s never happened before. Not even CLOSE. So no matter what, we were going to experience some kind of weather, but the reports were suggesting anything from a tropical storm to a Category 2, which on the hurricane scale of 1-5 is a nasty, nasty storm. I’ve survived 2s before, but anything higher and I evacuate.
I also bought more food. I don’t know why.
My mom arrived from South Florida.

Friday –
We moved the vehicles into the warehouse.
I filled the bathtub so we could flush the toilets and wash the dishes with the big buckets my husband bought.
I bought more food. I don’t know why.
I brought in all of our potted plants and outdoor furniture.
I let the dogs run around the neighborhood knowing they’d be stuck inside for a while once the storm was upon on.
I checked the weather reports again. There was still a good chance the storm could pass directly over us and that it could gain strength. It had already begun to devastate the small Virgin Islands and islands near the Bahamas. And I mean it flattened them. Those people had nowhere to go.
After learning that we had until at least Sunday night before the weather made it to us, we decided the best thing to do would be to invite all of our friends over for a Hurricane Party.

Tomorrow, we start with Saturday…

But did I ask…

I have a lot of really strong, legit girlfriends. They all serve different “friend” purposes in my life. I have the one who strengthens my relationship with God. I have the one who listens every time I need to cry. I have the one who calls me on my BS. I have the one who makes me feel better about eating massive amounts of carbs by eating massive amounts of carbs with me…
One day in particular I was feeling really frustrated when my husband didn’t seem appreciative of anything I was doing. And I was doing EVERYTHING. I knew that I could go to my “I need to cry” friend, but that I wasn’t actually going to solve the problem by crying. I also knew that carbs would feel good but…
I called my “no BS” friend and explained the situation to her. And she asked me something that changed my life.
“But did he ask you, though?”
“Did he ask me what?”
“Did he ask you to do all of that stuff you’re doing and not being appreciated for?”
“NO! But if I didn’t do it, no one else would have!”
“Right, but you’re the one who wanted it done. Did he want it done?”
“Well, I mean I assume he wants clean clothes.”
“But does he know how to work the washer and dryer?”
“Yes.”
“Then if you DON’T do those things, he can. He knows how. And I don’t get the sense that he would resent you if you didn’t do them. So you’re actually upset that he’s not appreciating the things that you chose and wanted to do.”

Well. Damn.

While I don’t think that conversation in any way exonerates us or our partners from showing appreciation for each other (I think that’s the foundation of any partnership and means the most to some of us), it did get me thinking about how many times I make moves based on what I think other people need.

Then it made me think about the people who make moves based on what THEY think that I need. Oh my GOD is that annoying.
Like when you tell someone about a situation you’re in and they offer advice without you ever asking. If you’re me, then you’re taking the advice thinking that you did ask for it and trying to apply it when you never actually did ask for it, nor did you want it, but still you’re new focus becomes applying someone else’s opinion.
AN OPINION THAT YOU NEVER ASKED FOR?

(Do you do this? Do you give advice even when no one asks for it?! STOP IT!)

I guess the point is to mind your own business, and that really means mind your own feelings. If you’re getting opinions you didn’t ask for, consider them to be worth what you paid for them. Also re-consider going to that part particular opinion-giving person the next time you have a problem.
If you’re feeling unappreciated, first check to see if you’re seeking appreciation for things that no one asked you to do. Then, if you are, tell the people around you that you’d like appreciation for those things so they know! It’s their choice whether or not they show you appreciation after that and, if they don’t, you get to decide if they stay or go, if you continue doing what you’re not being appreciated for, and if YOU stay or go.

If you don’t want to do those things you’re not getting appreciated for, then do what I did: teach your kids how to do their own laundry.

I’m not unlimited.

I just made a huge realization.

HUGE.

Are you ready for this?

I am not unlimited.

Now I shall explain.

When I was 7, my dad died and I felt an immense amount of pressure to be brave (mainly due to all the adults telling me I needed to be brave). My mom and family never asked me to be anything but a 7-year-old but I still felt the need to be the best, or at least way better, to account for the fact that everyone now had to live without my dad.
I grew up with the understanding that I would get good grades, go to college, and have a career. Not unlike most people.
I was an actress and so everyone told me they’d “see me on Broadway.”
I didn’t make it to Broadway so I went back to school, grad school in fact, to get a degree in something I didn’t really care about so I could say I had a masters.
I got married and everyone asked when I’d have a child. I couldn’t get pregnant without the help of fertility treatments and that made me feel like a total loser…until I shared my story on my blog and became a hero again. Hero with a graduate degree.
My marriage didn’t survive, as so many don’t, and I no longer had either of my hands or feet on the ladder to greatness. Then I was in an accident that broke my leg and everyone told me what I hero I was for not giving up or giving in. BACK TO HERO!
(This was weird to me because what was there to give up on? I had a son and people who loved me who were constantly helping me and I had stuff I liked to do. Why would I give up?
Do people often break their legs and give up?
It’s way easier to come near death than to deal with most other life-issues because when you’re injured and incapacitated, everyone shows up to help you and proclaim your greatness.)
Finally, I started amping up my work life and became a Beachbody coach and surrounded myself with what was familiar: people telling me to continue being brave, being a hero with a masters degree, being great. I quickly became a reputable source of health and wellness information and reached the higher levels of Beachbody Coachdom and everyone cheered: “Look at her go! She can do anything!”

Until, one day, it hit me.
I opened up one of my familiar podcasts (you know the ones…full of people telling you that you can be bold, that you can be fearless, that you can have the life of your DREAMS!) and within the first 15 seconds…I stopped it.
Holy shit.
“You have the potential to be UNLIMITED!”
Holy shit.
I don’t want to be unlimited.

I’ll be 36 in a month and…wow.
I don’t want to be unlimited.
I don’t want to be brave or a hero with a masters degree or geared up for greatness.
I don’t want to be scalable or tax exempt or even altogether special.
I just figured out that I want to be…Erin.

I want to work and make money. I want to be a mom and a wife. I want to garden. I want to do things that are fun, like theatre. I want to share my feelings through my blog and social networks and help people to see and love each other a little bit better.
But Lord have mercy, I am tired of trying to figure out the next way that I’m going to be GREAT. No one has ever looked at me and said, “Hey. You’re good, just being you. And you don’t have to do any of this to be good.” Not that this is a very intuitive or natural thing to say, but maybe it should be?
Maybe we all need to look at ourselves every morning and say, “What you’ve done so far today in the past 30 minutes…that’s enough. That’s enough to make you great.” You won’t believe it at first, but you might eventually begin to internalize the fact that not being the best and the greatest and the most important or the most recognized…would be ok?

The process of transformation is not about becoming something that we weren’t. It’s about unveiling what we were the whole time.
– Author William Paul Young

I’m a helper. An employee. A friend. A laugher of laughs.
I’m not unlimited. I don’t need to be.
Just me is enough.

 

1 2 3 4 40