August 2014 archive

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

10527512_10153067416794829_7954587275358122172_n

 

 

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.

A New Normal

photo (1)My son had his orientation for Junior Kindergarden last week. His dad and I both attended, filling his cubby basket with extra clothes and turning in the proper paperwork to the office to prove he’s not carrying rabies or measles. Of course, to him, this felt like a normal orientation day.

To me, it felt like death.

I walked the halls, watching other families of 3 and 4, some carrying their newborns in car seats while escorting their toddlers into their new classrooms to meet their new teachers. With every mom/dad combo and whiny cry attached to baby sockies, I felt a twinge of pain in my stomach. That should have been my family, I thought to myself more than once.

My son trounced his way through his new classroom, exploring a large tub of beans and a painting station for a few moments. All the colorful rugs, chairs, and charts on the walls still in tact and organized. Some mom-friends of mine passed through, giggling hellos at me and smiling about how big our kids are getting. I giggled back. Abe’s dad said hello, too. We both chatted like a mom and dad would normally chat, but we weren’t chatting together. We were chatting separately. Because we’re divorced.

I hate being a divorced parent. Hate it. I hate explaining to Abe’s new teacher that his parents didn’t make it. I’m very clear about the fact that we co-parent, we communicate, we will both be showing up for celebrations and assemblies. I drive home the fact that neither of us has abandoned our son or stopped wanting to be a part of his life. I still get the apologetic nods and the empathetic touches on the shoulder. “Yeah, you two are doing a good job.”

What they mean to say is, “Yeah, you two are doing a good job given your situation.”

A situation we created. A situation that is now marked in stone forever. Our son will never have full biological brothers or sisters (not that he necessarily would have had we stayed married), he will never know what it’s like to come home to both his mom and dad. It’s hard not to feel incredibly guilty, sad, and even angry about that. I do my damnedest to keep his days with me light and fun and full of joy, because he deserves that no matter how badly his parents screwed things up (or didn’t, that remains to be seen). I want Abe to have the normal family I never got to have. I have him to have a family he can rely on. And I suppose I could give him that eventually, somehow, just in a different form. But it doesn’t make this first orientation as divorced parents any easier.

 

An Effective Use of My Time

DISCLAIMER: This post is ONE person’s experience. Mine. It is not your experience. It is not even necessarily an EDUCATED experience. It’s not political and it doesn’t include opinions. This is about AN experience I had today.

There. Glad we got that out of the way.

I’ve been paying out of pocket for the last 2 months for my orthopedic surgeon, and it’s about $100/month for my visits and x-rays. This is because most of it was covered under the initial expense of the surgery with my old insurance plan. I was covered by my ex-husband (THANKFULLY!) when I broke my leg. This is a small miracle considering my medical bills were over $150,000.

Upon learning of another friend applying for Medicaid, I thought my income would probably qualify me for help. I won’t go into specifics about the amount of money I make, but let’s say I know how to budget myself VERY well and I’m incredibly lucky to have friends who look out for me a Bear who treats me…real nice.
I applied for Medicaid and somehow was not qualified. Or at least I don’t think I’m qualified. The Medicaid website shows my application is still processing but the HealthCare Marketplace shows I was denied.
So, I decided to try and apply for straight health insurance today.

It took me 20 minutes and a phone call to log into the damn HealthCare Marketplace system because they changed all the passwords due to a security breach. The link they were emailing me with my new password wasn’t working. It took the agent on the phone resetting my account, which she did and was very nice about it, in order to get me to my application. The lady on the phone explained that people can only apply for the new health care system during certain periods of time, and we are currently outside of the time frame. However, because I was recently divorced and lost my health insurance through marriage, I could apply for “special circumstances.” This would allow me to then apply for health insurance before the next time frame starting on Novemebr 1.
Once I got into the system, it took me in a fun little circle. First I started applying for special circumstances. Then I was prompted to log-in again (maybe for security, like eBay or Amazon). The log-in took me back to the home screen, where I then began trying to apply for special circumstances again…
This went on for about three go-rounds before I called back for more help.
A gentleman explained to me how to apply for special circumstances again. I began the process while on the phone with him and as soon as I thought that I had it, I let him go.

Then my computer went to a blank screen. Never to return. No matter how many times I re-opened the screen and tried to log back into the Marketplace, blank screen.

 

THEN I went to the Blue Cross and Blue Shield website in hopes that I could get private insurance, which promptly took me BACK into the HealthCare Marketplace I was trying to access moments earlier. I found a single, solitary plan I could “afford.” (I budget myself incredibly well, but I really have very little leftover each month for “fun extras” like mandatory health insurance.) So I clicked on it only to learn that the plan would not cover my orthopedic surgeon, who I have to continue seeing once a month through the rest of the year to ensure my bone heals. This means I will be paying out of pocket for my surgeon (and that out-of-pocket money goes towards the mere $6,000 deductible associated with the plan) plus $250/month for health insurance coverage. The coverage literally “covers” nothing before I pay off the deductible. So I pay $250/month to be given the HONOR of paying $6,000 before anything else is covered. That’s $9,000 a year for those math junkies out there.
Can’t swing that.
Then I saw a teeny, tiny button on the Blue Cross and Blue Shield website offering a government subsidy for health care. I clicked it and was taken to a “find out if you qualify” screen. I entered my income, child support, age, and sex. I QUALIFIED! HUZZAH! Nearly 70% of my healthcare costs would be COVERED!!! All I have to do is click here…click…click here…click…where do I click?
Oh I don’t click anywhere because the only thing this particular nifty little webpage does is tell you whether or not you qualify for government subsidy not how to apply for it and as it turns out there’s no fucking way to apply for it.
Let me back up. I literally make my living on the internet. I am well-versed in navigating difficult websites and when I don’t understand something, I know how to google it until I figure it out. Have you ever read a book with a dictionary sitting next to you because you have to stop every 10 lines to look something up? It was like that. Except the dictionary didn’t have any of the words from the book.
Then my phone started ringing. I currently have 15 missed calls from agents across the country trying to “help me” with my health insurance. I also have 4 emails from “Peter” who is excited to help me get health insurance. Maybe they’re all really nice people who just want to help me? I don’t know. Mama always taught me if an unknown number calls during dinner time, they’re selling something.
Finally, I decided I simply can’t afford health insurance. I will just pay for my medical needs out of pocket as I need to. EXCEPT THAT THEN!!! Then I learned that I am actually going to be PENALIZED for not having health insurance. My taxes will reflect a penalty charge for every month that I’m not covered. And what’s the penalty charge amount?
Your guess is as good as mine.
The figures I found ranged from $0 based on income, to $95/person per month, to a flat $3000. I still have no idea how to figure out which one was right.
In the end, Bear quite unceremoniously proposed to me in the kitchen with a piece of pizza just so I could get healthcare coverage. This may literally be my only option.
In the end, a great old friend who happens to work in healthcare in DC gave me some pertinent phone numbers and websites to begin again tomorrow, and also some helpful details that will make dealing with this all over again tomorrow a little bit easier. Here are the phone numbers and websites he gave to me in case you can use them:
Special Enrollment Period Info
HealthCare Marketplace: 1-800-318-2596
Local Groups Who Can Answer Questions Face to Face: https://localhelp.healthcare.gov/

 

Broken Leg – Four Months Later

 

What does a broken leg look like four months later? It’s a little bit maddening. And a little bit miraculous.

This past month, month four of healing since breaking my femur and tearing most of the ligaments in my knee, has given me tremendous hope. Months two and three felt like they would never end. I couldn’t make progress. I tried physical therapy, I tried working out, I tried resting…nothing seemed to make a difference. But month four has been awesome:

I’m now able to walk in a nearly straight line. My hip doesn’t jut out the way that it has, and when it does it’s not nearly as far. My wobble is still there (recently described to me as, “Now it just looks like you’re a liiiiiiittle bit drunk all the time…”) but I am far more in control of my gait.

I can bend my knee all the way, heel to butt. THAT is awesome.

I can lie on my side. This may sound simple, but the pain in my hip when trying to lie on either side was tremendous, and I LOVE lying on my side. And on top on this, I can lie on my stomach! I cannot move comfortably from stomach to side (it’s awkward) but I can do it. Just the simple act of being able to get into whatever position I want while falling asleep is like Christmas, Hannukah, and the Fourth of July all rolled into one.

I’m able to walk through most public places without crutches. I still falter now and again but I don’t have to keep the crutches on me all the time. That’s super freeing.

I’m also starting to regain the feeling in my skin on my knee and shin. This wasn’t really hindering anything, but it is cool to feel my leg again!

I cannot yet open my hip up the way that I’d like to in order to squat down or do a lot of different exercises in yoga. If I turn in certain directions while I’m walking I’ll still get sharp, shooting pains (but they don’t last anywhere near as long as they did). I can’t jump or run or anything like that, but I don’t suppose I was expecting to at this point, either.

I will eventually have to have the screws from the titanium rod removed because they are aggravating. But at this point it doesn’t look like I will need any other surgeries so long as the bone continues to grow. My scars aren’t exactly fading, but considering I broke an ENTIRE FEMUR BONE, it’s pretty remarkable they aren’t longer or wider.

This is the biggest scar from surgery, the one they slid the titanium rod through.

This is the biggest scar from surgery, the one they slid the titanium rod through. It’s only about 2 inches long. I have 2 other smaller ones.

The scars on the inside of my knee where I got sliced and diced in the accident.

The scars on the inside of my knee where I got sliced and diced in the accident. I’ve still got some burns and some permanent scar tissue on different parts of my leg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So that’s the update for those of you who have been asking! Thank you, as always, for all the love and support and daily reminders that it gets better. Just because it’s 4 months out doesn’t mean the encouragement isn’t incredibly awesome!!!!

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.)

Alright. What the heck is Faith?

Every day, every obstacle, every seemingly impossible life-challenge is a test of faith.

And I hate that word.

“Faith.”

leap-of-faithI hate it because it always comes with some kind of ominous ribbons affixed to the bottoms of the letters. Each black ribbon has a word of expectation floating along like “God” or “Spirituality” or “Religion.” As if having faith is only possible if you attach one of these things to it. “You can’t really have faith if you don’t believe in God.”

Well, I’m not sure which God I believe in, if there is a “right” one, or if I’ll ever figure it out. But what I do know is that I am not in control. (And I have no idea what the thing that IS in control even is, but I think that’s the thing everyone else calls “God.”) Zoom out, stand back, and take a look at your life’s events. Some of them, like for example having the perfect wedding day, you can sort of control. But you can’t control the outcome of your marriage.
(And you and I both know that the amount of things that can potentially go wrong on your wedding day make a stack forty buildings high, but you get my point.)

You can leave for work on time and get caught behind accident traffic. Late.
You can save up $50,000 and lose all of it in a day when someone you love needs it for a life-saving surgery. Broke.
You can pray and surrender and practice gratitude and meditate and do yoga and chant. And you still won’t have control of your life.

So maybe faith is just the belief (or the understanding) that you don’t have control. Maybe faith is the belief that even though you have no control, things can still turn out OK. It is being kind, honest, and dutiful in order to better your own situation while simultaneously accepting that you cannot entirely control the outcome.

MAYBE faith is just going with the damn flow. Maybe it’s doing what you know is the VERY best you know how to do and then floating on.

It’s this horrible, elaborate, beautiful, aggravating, perfect balance of control and not-control.

 

Inside/Outside Depression

Robin Williams committed suicide. And so, there’s a message for all of us to hear. Let’s listen.

Late last year, in the midst of moving out of my beloved home and leaving the dream of a happy, complete family, I became unbearably depressed. And here’s what it looked like from the outside:

1. I didn’t get out of bed.
2. I missed work, deadlines, and shirked responsibilities. I was generally sort of “off.”
3. I drank a lot and lost weight.
4. I spoke a few times with those close to me about my feelings of hopelessness.
5. I put on a show when I had to, acted like I was fine, and then came home and collapsed.

Here’s what it looked like from the inside of me:

1. I wanted to cry all of the time.
2. Lying in bed and staring at the ceiling fan was preferable to almost everything else.
3. I didn’t eat.
4. I wanted something, anything to make me feel numb. (I’m very lucky I never got as far as pills or drugs, or worse…) I didn’t necessarily focus on how I would get the numb feeling. Just that I desperately wanted to be numb.
5. I unloaded all my pain and sadness onto a few people a few times, but none of them saw the signs (or did anything about it) and my hopelessness got worse. Instead of taking my depression seriously, most people just called me on my mistakes or “turned me in” to other people. (You’ll never guess how much she’s drinking…)

I’m a lot like Robin Williams in that I love to laugh, make others laugh, and spend my days in joy. It can be very, very difficult to see a Jester’s internal struggle. We mask it well with jokes. I was in a play during my most recent depression, and that is the only thing (literally the ONLY thing) that kept me from giving up. If it hadn’t of been for that play (which I’d auditioned for and been cast in months before my depression), I cannot tell you exactly where I would be today. Honestly, I cannot straight-forwardly tell you that I would not have found much of a reason to stay on this Earth. Even looking at my son, I felt like he would be better off without me.

Very few people stepped in and took control, demanding I get help. People like Robin Williams and I lead people to believe that we are fine, and so even those witnessing the signs can easily talk themselves out of doing anything about it because “she laughed on the phone the other day” or “she said she’s going to be fine.” People don’t want to feel like they’re being invasive, and that’s admirable. (With me they probably didn’t want to hear me bitch about being left alone because, “I can handle it.”) So hear this: if you see someone beginning to flounder, let’s say falling behind in their work, dig deep and find compassion within your heart. Ask yourself if you know this person to be someone who is generally irresponsible or if this is out of character. If you see them drinking more often, ask if there’s a reason they might have to escape reality. If you hear them say, “hopeless” or “depressed”, consider that those words often accompany pain (physical and mental) so great that someone could be near the edge of reason. And if for any reason you suspect someone you know or love is suffering from a mental illness such as depression, do SOMETHING. Don’t just hope they get better or tell the person you’re sorry things are so rough. Step in. Take responsibility for the people around you. At one point or another, someone has taken responsibility for you when you couldn’t.

And if you are someone who is suffering with mental illness, reach out. Reach out to me. Reach out to everyone until someone helps you.

We all get sad or defeated from time to time. Depression and mental illness are different from “sad”. And while you can’t be responsible for every other human being on the planet, you cannot save or change the whole world, you can accept responsibility for loving those who are closest to you.

You are, in fact, your brother’s keeper.

Rest in peace, Robin.

11-04

1 2