February 2013 archive

I’ve Stopped

How many times have you heard someone say, “Oh. I dunno. She’s different now,” or, “Yeah. We don’t hang out anymore. He changed.”

And it’s a terrible thing, right? Someone we know well goes and changes. We no longer have things in common or our core values are no longer in alignment. Of course, we don’t actually consciously think all of those things. We just get angry. Or resentful. Or feel hurt. But really we’re scared, because our friend might slowly become less of a friend. And that sucks.

void[0]This idea has been plaguing me lately because I’m changing. And there’s a certain amount of self-centeredness that comes along with changing, if it’s for the right reasons. Most of my focus is on my own work, on the stuff I need to do to fulfill myself and make me happy and whole without anyone else lifting a finger. Waking up at 6:30am everyday to write is one way. Holding ridiculous yoga poses in the evening while slipping on my own sweaty mat is another. But the consciousness has to last the entire day between the writing and the yoga. That’s the hard part.

When the changes you’re making within yourself change the way you interact with the world around you, it feels alienating. I’m no longer going along with what “the group” and I was a part of creating. I’ve stopped participating in conversations that shame other people or bandwagon against someone not there to defend themselves. That includes gossip. I try not to complain as much. I’ve stopped trying to encourage people to do what I think they should do, or to do anything at all, really. I’ve stopped taking personally what people say to me, I’ve stopped expecting them to say the “right things.” I’ve stopped blaming people for the past. I’m no longer saying what I think people want me to say and I’m not acting in a way that makes them say, “That’s so Erin,” all the time just because I want them to recognize me, because being recognized feels good. I’m still snarky and sarcastic, but I’m careful to do it with a good spirit. And all of that…all of that means some people aren’t going to like hanging out with me.

Writing my book, and using so much of my old blog material to shape its outline, is a bright reminder of the stark contrast between the voice I use today and the voice I used three years ago. Some of it is almost embarrassing. So I’m working with my editor to weave together a book that includes both voices in a way that honors the old one but introduces the new one. My biggest fear is always that people who loved the old voice won’t like the new one, but I have to trust that someone else will come along who never knew the old one anyway and dive right in.

I now understand that the people around me who I’ve accused of “changing” were actually just growing, and I was kind of jealous that they were. And now that I’m the person doing the changing I’m terrified that paving this new path for myself will not include some of the people I love most because it’s different. I’m different. I mean, I’ll still say “shit” and stuff, but it’s just different. I can’t unknow the things I’ve learned about myself in the past year, and it would be a disservice not to apply them.

 

Is this too heavy for a Thursday?

My Work

Today, finally, the core team at RTC (my job) was able to announce that our own client, Carmen Blandin Tarleton, received the face transplant she’s been waiting for for 14 months. She’s been secretly calling and emailing us, as no one was allowed to know when the surgery happened so the folks who had first rights to photograph her face didn’t get beaten to the punch.
After being burned by her ex-husband in 2007, Carmen underwent too many surgeries to count in order to prepare her to even get on the face transplant list. She was number one on the list the entire time we worked with her to write her book. We never knew from day-to-day if we would simply stop hearing from her because she’d finally gotten the call. But we finished the book and prepared it for publishing, all before she disappeared into surgery and then post-surgery hiding. The universe works these things out so beautifully.

While my team can’t always be together because we’re spread from Portland to Jacksonville (and everywhere in between), today we

There are 6 of us watching on the right, the rest of us listening together on the conference line. Lots of looks of anticipation!

There are 6 of us watching on the left, the rest of us listening together on the conference line. Lots of looks of anticipation!

were all together watching a press briefing of Carmen’s surgery and progress in the last two weeks. We gathered around our computers, overwhelmed and nervous, listening to the doctors describe the surgery and, later, Carmen’s sister read a statement from her. We laugh and smiled and cheered that this day has finally come. This woman, whose story we took great care in telling, will now have the platform to spread her message of hope and love despite being through atrocities I can’t even fathom. And I had an itty bitty part in that. The joy I feel for having touched this project is magnificent. The pride I take in working with a staff of people so full of integrity and kindness leaves me without words. I am exhausted. Overwhelmed. Over loved. Over joyed. To have been chosen to serve and get paid to do it is something I can only say thank you for, though thank you will never be enough.

I never meant to work for a publishing company. I never meant to work from home. But somehow I got lucky enough to end up here. Never saw it coming.

It Works (if you boil it)

A gal who reads my blog worried that the “boil your pants” advice might be too good to be true, so she decided she needed to test it. Being a typical mom with fat jeans and skinny jeans, she chose a pair that had stretched out as her body once did, but now needed to shrink back up since she’s lost the baby weight.
She sent me a play-by-play…nay, it was almost enough information to submit to a peer-reviewed journal for pants. It was so detailed and fascinating, each step chronicled and photographed.

You guys. It works.

These even had some beading on the pockets...She dumped them in the sink when she was finished and allowed to dry.

These even had some beading on the pockets…She dumped them in the sink when she was finished and allowed to dry.

She put a pair of her own jeans and her 2 year old daughter's jeans in a pot. A big one.

She put a pair of her own jeans and her 2 year old daughter’s jeans in a pot. A big one.

This is her side-by-side comparison of how the waist and butt fit after boiling.
This is her side-by-side comparison of how the waist and butt fit after boiling.

The black is an outline of her daughter's pants, and red an outline of the pants after being boiled!
The black is an outline of her daughter’s pants, and red an outline of the pants after being boiled!

 

 

 

Don’t Worry About It. It’s Just Joy.

This is not me. Nor do I look like this when I do it.

This is not me. Nor do I look like this when I do it.

Sitting in the half pigeon pose (see the picture in case you don’t frequent yoga classes) and breathing as deeply and as slowly as possible, I begged my right hip to chill out. A train passed by the building, its whistle blowing louder and louder as it got closer to the city. And just about the time I heard the yogi offer up only 5 more breaths before relief, he “suggested” we stay for another 10 breaths.
Ordinarily I would give a person the finger who “suggested” I experience that much discomfort for that long, but I decided to stick with it. Why? Because I was recently reminded that stress happens when you resist life. It’s that simple. And it translates very easily into physical pain. When you resist it, it’s worse. When you give in and let it be what it is, you’ve eliminated half the struggle.

The same is true, of course, in day to day life. When we resist what is in our lives, we not only have to deal with the issue, we have to expend extra energy on resisting it as well. Amazing things happen when you just let go and let whatever form of life feels like passing through enjoy its ride.

All of this mumbo jumbo worked for me for a long time as I sifted through the drama in my life. But a funny thing happened recently. I work with an incredible group of people, all of whom love their jobs. And it’s essentially my job to ensure they love their jobs. So somehow, after making it up as I got along for almost four years, it seems I’ve been effective. This has created a group of employees who love what they do, where they do it, and with whom they work. The joy that abides within my job overflows on a daily basis. On top of it all, our jobs are ever-expansive; they have no end. There is no glass ceiling and there is no limit to how we can all create the company we want to create. To the average person, this is nirvana. To a perfectionist, however, this is torture.
I realized it about 3 months ago. I’m uncomfortable with the amount of happiness that comfortably resides in my work. It is ridiculous. I look around and I say, “Come on. No one can be this happy. When is the other shoe going to drop?” Alas, everyone just continued on being happy. So as they did, I turned my attention outward, saying, “No one is going to believe this. They’re going to think we’re a commune. They’re going to think we’re a bunch of quacks who just futz around all day and don’t actually do any work.” I found one thing after another wrong with the joy my company feels and creates. Until tonight in yoga, sitting in half pigeon, I realized that I am still resisting what is.
It’s just that now I’m resisting joy.
It made me think of all the other areas in life where I resist joy. If something is really awesome, really amazing, I still think about all the things that might screw it up. What if it rains that day? What if the flight is delayed? What if Abe gets sick? What if we have a power outage? What if Monsters bound around my head until I’ve chiseled the joy down to a manageable, bite-sized piece, and then I can pop it in my mouth. Which is sad. I deserve to experience great joy (as do you) in all the forms it presents. Resisting it, denying it, even twisting it robs me of the opportunity to bask in the light. Keeping things middle of the road leaves me, well…

As my eyes were about to cross and I could hardly control my breathing for the fire in my right hip, the yogi, very seriously, said, “If you can hear a train whistle right now, then you’re doing this right.” It took all of us several seconds to chuckle at his yogi humor. And when I did chuckle, I forgot to fight the pain in my hip. It relaxed, just a little bit. “Don’t worry about it, you guys. It’s just a yoga pose,” he said. I stopped resisting. I stopped worrying. It’s just a stupid yoga pose.
And I suppose I’ll have to do the same thing eventually for the joy that keep rearing its happy old head into my life. Don’t worry about it. It’s just joy.

 

 

Grow Up, Kid

The sweet, chilly night air lulled me to sleep around 10:30pm and each time I awoke during the night to roll over, I said thank you for a good night of sleep that was still happening. Like I could wake up and be grateful for the fact that I was still in the process of sleep. I love sleep. Needless to say, last night was a good night.
Until about 5am.

url-1Abe hasn’t woken up in the middle of the night for about 6 months. He sometimes has trouble falling sleep, but he rarely gets up before 7:15am, and he never wakes up in the middle of the night. But at 5am, I heard a little whimper. I woke with a start and immediately started calming myself down. He is probably just rolling over. It’s fine. Just relax. My year and a half of being terrified to fall asleep for fear of how quickly someone would cry me awake rushed back. It took everything I had to fight it all back when, another whimper. This time followed with a howl. Is he sick? Does he hurt? Is he cold? Nightmares?! WHAT IS IT JESUS?! 

Then, more crying. Continued crying. Listless, unreasonable crying at 5am. This is unlike my boy, so I sat up. About that time my husband finally picked up the video monitor, which sits on his side of the bed. “Is he standing up?” I asked.
“I don’t know. I can’t tell.”
Frustrated, I stood up and began walking for the door. “What do you mean you can’t tell? It’s a video monitor.”
“It’s all…I can’t…it’s broken.”
“What’s broken?” I asked.
“He’s crying.”
“David, I know he’s crying. What’s broken?” I was standing in the doorway to our bedroom ready to march upstairs and see what all the fuss was about, arguing with a sleeping grown up.
“The monitor. It’s broken.”
“What? It’s a new monitor, how could it be broken?!”
“I think I can see his face but it’s fuzzy,” he mumbled.
“I’ll go upstairs and restart the camera. I’m sure it’s fine.”
“Yeah, it’s all fuzzy,” sort of fell out of his mouth as he went back to sleep.

I climbed the stairs and prayed that he didn’t have a fever or that he was cold because if he was cold then God knows how long he’d been cold and that would just make me feel terrible thinking of my poor, sweet baby, freezing his tukhus off while I was all grateful for snuggly sleep all night. I quietly opened the door and his crying immediately stopped. Oh no, I thought. Did he just want some attention and he got it and now I’m going to have to sleep train him all over again?!?!?!
I slowly approached his crib and reset the camera without saying anything. When he didn’t move, I stood next to the crib so I knew he could see me and waited.
Nothing.
I turned to walk out of the room when finally, the little creature spoke.
“Mommy?”
I whipped around back to his cribside. “Yes, Abe? What’s wrong, baby?”
Then, with no stutter, no whine or heavy breathing leftover from the crying, he matter-of-factly asked, “Mommy, where did my pacifier go?”
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?! YOU DRAGGED ME ALL THE WAY UP HERE TO FIND YOUR PACIFIER!?!? You are 2 and a freaking half years old. If you can ASK me in plain English where your pacifier is, then you can find it your self. Or better yet, you don’t even NEED it anymore because you can TALK about it like a human being would. Grow up, kid.
But I didn’t say any of that. I reached my hand in his crib, felt around, found it, and handed it to him. And without ANY exaggeration, the kid was asleep before I made it to the bedroom to check the video monitor. Passed. Out.

By this time it was 5:15am. And you know the game I played with myself then. I had just over an hour left before my cell phone alarm would ring with a little sign that said, “Good morning!!” on it. I am still getting up every morning at 6:30am to write, and I’ll be damned if I was going to stop today. I tried so hard to convince my brain to turn off so that I could sleep that last hour, but it never happened. I laid there, waiting until 6:30am, willing sleep but knowing that now I’d psyched myself out and it would never happen.
Abe slept until 8.

Can someone remind me what I’m thinking adding a second kid to this brood?

Yoga and Cigarettes

urlWhile traveling through Milwaukee, waiting for Airtran (worst airline ever, if you hadn’t heard) to find me a new flight since they wouldn’t let me on the flight I’d originally booked and arrived at to enter the plane and was denied access, I dragged my relatively heavy carry-on bag behind me at an awkward angle while carrying a large purse containing my laptop and a winter jacket. I hadn’t planned on doing a lot of walking with my luggage, so I didn’t check a bag. My mistake.
Once I made it to Atlanta, I stopped in the restroom and re-packed my giant winter jacket and, in the process, something in my wrist popped. Searing pain shot from my thumb to my elbow. It was like an explosion. I took a deep breath and tried to move it. More searing pain. Squint your eyes, hold your breath, clench your butt pain. What is going on?!
When I finally got home I went and saw my friend, who also happens to be a chiropractor, and asked for her opinion. She assured me it was a tendon or soft-tissue injury and that weak wrists tend to give out as we get older. You know, like 31. She also added some sprinkles on top by letting me know I would probably always have weak, sad, sickly little wrists. Except she used doctor words.
It had been a week since I’d been to yoga, and she told me no yoga for at least another week. Crushing. Especially when I have to be in a bathing suit in March.

Monday night was my first night back to yoga and I let the instructor know I would have to hold back on the mighty wrist-using poses. In true yoga fashion, he told me to be compassionate with myself and my wrist. I smiled and agreed, which he completely saw through and said, “Don’t push it. You don’t get to push your body just because you want to be the best.”
Damnit, yogi.

The class started and I used all the modifications he showed me in the lobby. I left a knee down in some poses, I used a fist instead of a flat hand. And each time I tried to take my practice a step further, the yogi snuck little messages into the class like, “As you breathe, be sure you’re being compassionate with yourself,” and, “Maybe today isn’t the day to take it to your limits. Maybe today is the day you breathe and love the place you are in in this moment.” When he saw that I refused to heed those delicious little warnings, he got more direct. “And move into a head stand, unless you tore something in your wrist, then just stay where you are…”

By the end of class I’d used my wrist about 50% of the time. I felt good about it, like I’d pushed myself and not allowed my body to kowtow to the restrictions of my wrist. And then my girlfriend sent me this:

“Self-care is not selfish or indulgent. Self-care is essential for healthy relationships with the people we care about most – we cannot nurture others from a place of exhaustion or one of resentment. When we nurture others from a place of fullness, we feel renewed instead of taken advantage of, and our loved ones also feel renewed instead of feeling guilty. We are able to offer gifts to others when we empower and care for ourselves.”

Damnit, universe.

Not only did it remind me that I have to take care of myself, but it reminded me that I can’t even do a good job of being selfless if I don’t take care of myself first. It’s a co-dependent’s worst nightmare.

So I had yoga again tonight, and the yogi, of course, asked how my wrist was feeling. I told him it hadn’t talked back yet and that I think I’m ok. He told me to take it easy, find compassion, and allow my body to heal, blah blah blah. But the good news is, he only had to subtly call me out once to tell me not to do something while continuing to lead the class. And my wrist still feels good.

The moral of the story is, I’m drinking wine and thinking about having a cigarette after yoga. Not all things in life have to align the way you think they should, but you do have to take care of yourself first before you can love and care for anyone else. No competition. No comparing. Just take care of you.

Mangos

Abe has been trying to grow molars all day today, the two-year kind, and it’s been less than a stellar good time. He’s incredibly moody and his cheeks hurt and he wants to eat nothing but frozen berries and cheddar bunnies (with the intermittent “cookie”, but I don’t keep cookies in the house so that request just ends up pissing him off even more). He can’t sleep. He doesn’t really care for me. Or anyone else he knows. He hates our dogs. All the toys suck. And he’s also tantruming over whether or not he gets to leave the doors open or closed in the house. Great day.

photo-3He’s currently hopped up on ibuprofen and teething tablets, looking at books and trying to focus on a rousing episode of The Wheels on the Bus (of which there are only 3 because the powers that be immediately recognized that it was the most horribly produced children’s show ever, so I’m not totally sure why Abe is obsessed with it). Suddenly, he looks up at me with a huge smile and points to a penguin. “Mommy! Mangos!”

Yep. He called penguins mangos. I corrected him, but then he corrected me. “No, mommy. Das mangos.” I can’t explain why he refers to penguins as mangos. But really, does anyone need an explanation for something like that? No. We just want it to keep happening because it’s redeeming enough to consider letting our children to continue living with us for at least one day more. I love this child, but if he walks into the kitchen in a complete, hyperventilating panic, breathing, “Mommymommymommymommymommy,” all over my legs in order to express to me how important it is that I find his water cup that is sitting directly in front of him on his table one more time, somebody better hand-deliver me some penguin mangos.

Send wine.

I’m Gonna Buy Pants

photo-2Determined to find a pair of jeans after my alterations lady refused to alter my jeans, snarking at me, “No, you need new pants,” I took a coupon I got in the mail to Kohl’s and dropped Abe off with a friend.
I started with the more expensive jeans and worked my way through to the juniors’ section. I tried on 20, maybe 30 pairs of jeans? I know that any pair I buy will require hemming because, let’s face it, my legs are about as long as butter knives, so I just wanted something that fit in the waist and didn’t appear to be some sort of MC Hammer throwback concept in the leg area. I started “yes” and “no” piles, which quickly turned in to, “Woudn’t be caught dead” and “Might be caught dead if the rise was just a little shorter so I’ll consider buying them” piles.
I found one pair of Levi’s that fit for the most part. I grabbed a few other pairs because they were semi-acceptable, knowing I could return anything later because Kohl’s has no dignity. I used my 30% off coupon and went on my way.
“Why don’t we go to the outlet mall, the nice side?” I asked my friend when I arrive to pick up Abe.
“Yeah! Let’s go tomorrow!”

Tomorrow came and the last thing I ever wanted to do again was shop for jeans. Having company helped. My friend and I got Starbucks and immediately started looking at dresses at a Saks 5th Ave Outlet as a distraction. Of course, I chose 7 dresses to try on. Incredibly focused on finding the perfect pair of jeans, I bought a cocktail dress 1 size to big, but it was on sale. So far so good.

Finally, I started collecting jeans, guessing at my size. Am I a 25? 26? 24? Did you even know that fancy jeans don’t come in small, medium, and large? They come in weird sizes so I guessed 26. I tried on pair after pair, my friend hurriedly delivering more styles and sizes to my little dressing room. “What about these? Maybe in a 24? Do you like the pockets? How’s the rise?” My legs were turning blue from the dye.
Side note: Why would anyone wear bedazzled jeans in 2013? The technology is no longer novel.
A lovely woman working in the fitting rooms offered to help me. In a beautiful, Spanish accent (the real Spain, like Javier Bardem, so you know I took her seriously), she asked for my size, which is when I guessed and shouted a number that probably did not correspond to my size, and then she asked me my body type. “Small, but kind of straight, I guess?”
“Let me see,” she said (make sure you read her voice in that thick, Spanish accent. Don’t you love her?). She ran her hands down my sides and stopped near my belly to do this weird, pushing and squeezing thing, then down my hips and thighs. Ok, reading that back sounds like this blog could be going somewhere else entirely. But something about her accent made it not weird.
“Ok, I’m MaryCarmen. I’ll be helping you.” MaryCarmen rushed off, on a mission, and swept back into my dressing room with 4 pairs of jeans. And guess what? They all fit.
“How did you do that?” I asked. MaryCarmen didn’t answer. MaryCarmen did not need to answer. MaryCarmen’s job was done.
I paraded around the fitting area in my favorite pair, my friend telling me she approved. I said that the only thing I was concerned with was the waist. It seems a little bit too tight. MaryCarmen appeared like magic from another fitting room and said, “No! They will stretch. Half an inch they will stretch and in three months you will be coming here to tell me they are too big!”
“Oh, really? Well, what do I do then?”
“You cook them.”
This seemed like a language barrier issue, so I asked, “I…cook….them?”
“Yes, like soup. You ever make soup?”
“Yes, I’ve made soup.”
“Put them in the pot and cover them in water and boil them. Cook them. They will shrink up.”
“Oh. Ok. Cook them. Cool. Got it….

….wait…You cook your pants?”
“Yes. Cook them.”
“Cook the pants…”
“Right. Like soup.”
“Have you ever cooked your pants?”
“Hundred of times. I always cook the pants, oh yes.”
“Ok, MaryCarmen. If you cook your pants, I’ll cook my pants.”

So, in the end, I bought a pair of jeans. They were expensive, but I have been assured they will last a very long time. And if and when they do stretch out, I’m just going to cook them. Like MaryCarmen does.
I wonder if I could just cook the other jeans from Old Navy that the alterations lady refused to alter? I think they’re still in that Goodwill bag…

 

Trouble

photo-1I’m sitting at the dinner table next to Abraham as he pushes his food around.

Me: Abraham, please finish your dinner.
Abe: NO!
Me: Well, it’s not a choice. Please finish.
Abe: I WANNA PLAY TRAINS.
Me: I’m sorry. It’s time to finish your dinner.
Abe: NO!
Me: It’s not a choice.
Abe: I WANNA PLAY TRAINS.
Me: Yes, I understand that. It’s time to finish your dinner.
Abe: NO!
Me: Not a choice.
Abe: NO!
Me: It’s not a choice. You have to finish dinner before you play trains.
(Abe pauses, puts his hands on my cheeks, pulls me in and gives me a huge smooch, right on the mouth. Then, he smiles.)
Abe: Ok, mommy. Dinner. Yeah.

I think I might be in big trouble with this kid.

Love Is What I Got (Remember That)

Gary Zukov says, “If it’s not love, it’s fear.”
Jvalentines day hearts HD wallpapers pictures (1)ust think of all the things that aren’t love. Anger. Anxiety. Depression. Revenge. Judgement. All of that, all of it, is based in fear. So on a day based on love, I watched and listened to people around me who resent this day. They called it the Hallmark Holiday and they made choices to do the opposite of what mainstream society does on these days, like deliver flowers and chocolate and cards. They talked crap about love.
Is Valentine’s Day a Hallmark Holiday? Well, not exactly. It is based on a saint. Saint Valentine, or perhaps Valentinius, was a roman Catholic martyr. The stories are murky at best, but it goes that Emperor Claudius II found single men fought more strongly and with less reserve than those who were married, so he banned young men from marrying. Saint Valentine, seeing the importance of love to the human spirit, defied the emperor and continued to marry people who loved each other.
Another story goes that Saint Valentine, an imprisoned man, fell in love with his jailer’s daughter. He wrote her a love letter and signed it, “From Your Valentine.” The saying continued on after he died (in February) and to commemorate him, the day of his death was dedicated to love.
Years later, around the 1700s, a woman began to make handmade “scraps” (cards made of leftover lace and paper) in honor of St. Valentine. Instead of hand-writing letters, she passed them out and shared them with all who would accept these little gifts of love. She called them, “Valentines.”
Whichever of these stories is true,  you’ll note that the theme is a heroic, flag-flying attempt at lifting up love. It’s about showing love and giving love. People continued to write love letters and make scraps for years until the printing press became popular and made those love letters easier to come by and deliver. So if Valentine’s Day is a Hallmark Holiday, it is only because we made it so by buying cards with generic sayings instead of writing the letters ourselves and putting together a scrap to show our true gratitude for the love in our lives.
I have always loved Valentine’s Day, even the week after I got dumped by my boyfriend in college. I loved the day of sharing love. So, if you are one of those people who poo-poos Valentine’s Day and finds excuses not to celebrate it, what are you afraid of? Because if it’s not love, it’s fear.
This isn’t to say that I just LOOOOVE everything there is to love. I don’t love exercise. I don’t love dishes. I don’t love road trips. Wanna replace those with the truth? I fear exercise. I fear the dishes. I fear road trips. I fear not being thin enough and not being clean and neat when people enter my home and I fear wasting precious time of accomplishing what’s “important” while driving somewhere when I could be flying there. They’re all fears I actively work to combat, but I can’t do anything about any of the fear until I acknowledge it.
Gary also says, “If you resist your life, you resist what you can learn from it.”
I hope that you accept my love for you today with an open heart, as I accept all the awesome love I’m getting today. It doesn’t mean we should give love and generosity every other day, but isn’t it awesome that we live in a country with a whole day dedicated to loving one another? A reminder that giving love is awesome. So, the next time you experience something that isn’t love, ask yourself what you’re afraid of.
And chocolate. Chocolate helps.

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