November 2015 archive

An Open Letter to the Women in my Zumba Class

zumba-superstarDear Women in my Zumba Class,

I see you.

You, the one in the front who has OBVIOUSLY been doing this for a while. You know all the moves. You even look pretty good with your dancing. You’re the one I follow because I know that even if you don’t look SUPER cool, you won’t steer me wrong between right and left…

You, the one next to me. You’re exhausted. I am, too. You know the moves, but you can’t even move your lead feet anymore to stomp out the rhythm. And everytime the song is over, you throw your hands at the front of the room and walk away like you’re going to leave but you settle on a sip of water and some curse words near the back of the room. I feel you.

You. You’re at least 70. You have no idea what “the crunk” is or what the bleeped words in all the songs are. You swing your hips and you shake it like a rumpshaker and you don’t apologize for a single second of it. I love you.

You. You’re 19. You think you’re in a club. You can do all the moves and you add your own flair. Look, we’re all very happy for you and your youngness. That’s just great. No belly-fat. Beautiful tight skin. Excellent control of your hips. Do us a favor. Stand near the back row so we don’t have to watch you do duck lips in the mirror while you twerk. Thanks.

You, the one with no idea what is going on. Right means left and left means right to you. You kick when we’re squatting and you punch when we’re all leaving because the class is over now. You’re darling and you’re trying and I support you 100%. Try to get near the corner of the room, though, because we’re tired enough doing the dance moves let alone trying to avoid your cyclone of a body.

You, the one who literally makes up her own dance for the entire hour of class, I salute you. The instructions are always: do what you can do and when you can’t keep up, just keep moving. You move every part of your body simultaneously while smiling and it’s AWESOME. I love watching you when I’m lost during a dance move because you give me permission to use all 8 of my spider legs to attempt to salsa.

I salute each and every one of you for being here, for moving your bodies, for taking care of yourselves. We are all in this together, ladies.
Except for you, 19-year-old. You’re making us feel bad about ourselves.



12305765_10154357150344829_1366275361_nLeaving the gym, a woman found an invisible stop sign but kindly allowed me the right of way. #thereisnostopsign
I witnessed a man standing on the side of the road, shouting at cars, and then trying to push tampons into his nose. He was unsuccessful but still trying when I drove away. #nevergiveup

I made pot roast. #goalz

My car screeched as I slammed on the brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of me in a parking lot; a car that stopped for no reason. As I began to drive around the car with the universal “what are you doing?” hands up, the woman in the driver’s seat was trimming her chin hair with scissors in the mirror. #icant

I cheered out loud when Zumba ended. Our instructor made us do another song. #bequiet

12278243_10154357149359829_1118146374_nWith 100% of the front yard mowed and 88% of the back yard lookin’ fly, the lawn mower ran out of gas; despite my having filled it when I started. I decided to leave the lawn mower there and go inside. #goodenoughs

The lenders moved our closing date to…I’m not really sure when. #ohok



Stillness, Motion, and Wrinkly Eggs

keep-calm-and-do-something-170I heard my pastor this weekend say, “You cannot find your calling in stillness. You can only find it in motion.”
I tend to spend way too much time worrying about what I’m going to be when I grow up. Will I continue writing? Will I adopt a million kids? Will I become a lawyer or a pastor or a nurse or a Zumba instructor?? I should KNOW this stuff by now. My latest calling-based anxiety-attack has been, “Should Bear and I have a baby?” Because you know I got that age 35 coming up next year and that means “advanced maternal age” and THAT means them eggs is gettin’ wrinkly in there…
Also I’m loving dancing in my new Zumba classes so much that I started looking up Zumba trainings. Should I take a Zumba training and become an instructor?!
Oh, and I want to finish my second book. Should I do that?

Then there’s Bear. When he decides he’s going to, let’s just say, close his business, move across the city, buy a new truck, get a new TV, start a cornhole business…he just…he just freaking does it. He starts putting out his resume or looking for new places to live or searching truck ads or building cornhole boards. And then EVERYTHING HAPPENS. I, on the other hand, pray and then sit in the corner and wait for a giant sign that something is going to change and then when it shows up I wave at it and wait until something physically moves me towards the sign and then I might consider taking some action (after coffee and a shower and possibly a nap).
But the Pastor’s word Sunday gave me a friendly little Jesus-slap. How could I think that any of these options for next life-steps will make themselves known to me if I’m sitting around spending all my actionable time just wondering about them? I mean, I daydream about winning the lottery all the time and I don’t even BUY LOTTERY TICKETS. I cannot win the lottery nor find my calling by hanging out and asking God to tell me what I’m supposed to do.
This doesn’t mean I’ve taken any action. I’m just the messenger for you, I’m not ready to actually DO anything. I’m still mostly paralyzed by the fact that we close on our house in one week and then we have 4 days to get a million things fixed before we move in. I’m mostly waving at THAT sign right now and hoping the electric company calls ME and asks if I want to move my service to the new house. They keep track of new home sales, don’t they? If they don’t, they should.

By the way, did you one of you guys book movers for me?


img-thingSomething really weird happened to me last night. Abe was asleep and Bear/Cubbie weren’t home yet, so I turned on TV. I flipped around past my usual channels and landed on TLC. It was a show called Sister Wives. I’d heard of it, but it’s never been at the top of my must-watch list.
I started watching and teasing apart the family: Husband has 4 wives, which kids were whose, which house was the husband in, what were they all talking about… So Husband got with Wife #4 a few years ago and she had 3 kids from a previous marriage (with only one husband). Then Husband and Wife #4 had a child of their own. Husband wanted to adopt Wife #4’s kids legally so that he could have 18 children in total and because he loved them. BUT. He was LEGALLY married to Wife #1, and he couldn’t adopt Wife #4’s kids unless he divorced Wife #1 and legally married Wife #4. So he asked Wife #1 and he’s all, “We’d still be married, just not on paper…” and I’d be all, “Then since Taye Diggs is single…”
But Wife #1 agreed and they met with a lawyer and it took almost a year just to get a court date. It was incredibly tedious, all the paperwork and preliminary information gathered. In the mean time, OF COURSE, Wife #4 got pregnant again. So I’m following along and Wife #1 has some issues with Wife #2 but Wife #3 is a total trip who I would be best friends with.
Then Bear comes home. And he’s all, “Are you seriously watching this?”
I explained the entire storyline to Bear, INCLUDING the fact that something is DEFINITELY up with Wife #1 because she has been acting weird and distant since the “divorce”. And Bear is like, “Well, duh! She held that title for 20 years, the legally married wife! Now, she doesn’t know what her role is! She doesn’t know where she fits!”
And I’m like, “Right, but she’s also really REMOVING herself from the other sister wives. She hardly even participated in the family celebration dinner in the last episode. I mean this is the only life she’s ever known and now she’s backing away from it and now I’ve been watching this show for THREE HOURS.”
And so we continued watching the show for another two hours because we had to find out if the adoption was finalized and what the hell was going on with Wife #1! And as if Wife #1 dropping the bomb that she might want to leave the family wasn’t enough, she then admitted to the cameras that she’d be cat-fished by a WOMAN on the internet claiming to be a man! And we were like whaaaaaaaaat. And so now she has to tell her husband what she’s been up to and I’d imagine that even though he can have 4 wives she probably can’t have more than one boy-toy, even if the boy-toy turns out to be a cat-fish-woman!


Anyway, my point is tolerance.

I’ve seen so much intolerance on Facebook lately (because that’s my barometer of the world right now). Intolerance for opposing opinions, disrespect to people who express their feelings, college students cursing at their leadership (I believe I would have gotten my ass beat had I done THAT) and then demanding a “safe space”, Rhonda Rousey getting slammed both on and off the mat for losing a match, #blacklivesmatter students violently assaulting other students and then getting scrutinized in the media, Muslims pointing the finger at other Muslims, people mad that Caitlyn Jenner can go in the girls’ bathroom now…
And here Bear and I are on a Sunday night discussing the lives of one man and his four wives as if they were our neighbors.
Because we spent a few hours getting to understand that they didn’t hold the stereotype we expected. We invested a little bit of time into both sides of the issue and realized that while we don’t agree with them, they aren’t hurting themselves or each other and so it really isn’t any of our freaking business to be intolerant of them. The First Amendment doesn’t mean you have to like one someone is saying, just that they’re allowed to say it and then YOU get to decide how you’re going to respond. This is a really simple idea that takes a LOT to employ when it comes to some of the intense issues hitting our feeds right now, but tolerance is something we can ALL practice if we listen more than we talk. Maybe consider that tolerance is just personal responsibility in deciding whether or not you pop off at the mouth when someone’s meme offends you…

Spoiler Alert: Husband DID get to adopt Wife #4’s kids and Wife #1 is still unsure as to whether or not she will stay with the family.
Afterthought: Having 3 other women around here to help me cook and clean doesn’t sound like THAT bad of an idea…

Certified Mail and Beer

After spending weeks on the phone with our lender on a day-to-day basis, I decided to give up on the house and just move in with them. I bought a cot and a small bucket and I now live in an office with them. It’s the least they could do.
Just kidding.
Our loan was sent to the underwriters who felt that we would have no trouble closing on the house. Which was a HUGE relief and also a wonderful exercise in skepticism. “Oh, but you’ll think of something else you’ll need from us at the last minute that will cause me to have heart palpitations and probably waste more of our money.”
No, I didn’t say it out loud.
It’s incredible to think that we did this ourselves. Not to say that I didn’t think we could, but, well…I didn’t think we could. I didn’t think we could save enough money. I didn’t think we’d qualify. I didn’t think we’d EVER finish the underwriting process. And here we are, nearing the end, and it looks like we will freaking walk into OUR house in December. Pretty amazing, right?!
Of course, that means we have to move. We held off on giving our 60-day notice (Batty requires 60 days) because we wanted to get a thumbs up from the underwriter. We also wanted to pay the least amount in rent and mortgage at the same time, so it was a wing and a prayer when I sent the email to our landlord and her assistant that they wouldn’t argue about the timeline we proposed, moving out by January 1, even though that would only be 50 days…
Then things got so fun.
I got a response from the assistant letting us know that she no longer worked for Batty.
Then I got a response from Batty, except it wasn’t Batty. It was a response letting me know that she no longer worked for the organization that owned the email address I was using for her.
I now had officially no way to give her written notice except send a letter.
It was a Friday.
It wouldn’t get there until Monday.
Now we were giving 46 days notice.
AND I had to re-write my letter.
I found Batty’s phone number in the lease and left her a message (after listening to it ring and repeating aloud, “Please don’t let her pick up, please don’t let her pick up…) letting her know of our intentions. She called back…but she didn’t call me. She called Bear.
This was a mistake on her part because calling Bear at 5pm on a Friday after a long week does not a happy Bear make. In fact, you might say it’s poking the Bear.
I can’t be sure what Bear said, and all he told me was that she snapped at him that if we were moving out, we needed to send a certified letter because “that’s the law”.
Forgive me, but I also thought the law included NOT walking into the house of your tenants uninvited, but who knows? Laws change all the time.
I send a certified letter and decided to drink a beer.
On Sunday, my phone rang. “NO CALLER ID” This is not a phone call I would ordinarily answer, but I did.
“Hi, Alex?”
“No, you have the wrong number…”
“Yes. No. No I don’t. You are…Oh. Is it…Erin?”
“Who is this?”
“This is Batty.” She called herself by her real name because she doesn’t know she’s Batty. “I put a sign in your front yard this morning for rent and I’ve already had 11 people call me.”
“Oh. Ok. How nice for you.”
“Yes. So, could you move out early?”
“I…like when?”
“Yeah. I mean, I think so.”
“I just want to be clear I’m not TELLING you that you have to be out sooner.”
“I get that.”
“But if you CAN, it would really help me.”
You know what I thought of when I woke up Sunday morning? How could I REALLY help Batty today?
So, in short, God found a way to save us half a month’s rent. Batty even suggested that we would get our security deposit back in full for our trouble, though I don’t know if I believe that entirely.
So while I’ve had several very MILD panic attacks over closing, completing a few household repairs, and then moving, all in one week, I think God knows what he’s doing on this one.
Who wants to help me move?

(And I promise, when we close I’ll share pictures…)

Brain Stories and SFD

For those of you who don’t already know, Brene Brown and I became best friends (in my head) almost 3 years ago. When I first saw her Ted Talk, I purchased all of her books. I obsessed over how brilliant it was to have a scientific mind break down for us the data points of vulnerability and shame.
She wrote a book called Rising Strong.
I admittedly have not read all of it. (I’ve been a little busy obsessing over our first home purchase.) However, the parts I have read explain a phenomenon I have experienced forEVER.
Telling stories.
brain-readingIt’s this awesome little thing we do when we aren’t really sure what’s going on: we tell a story. We fill in the blanks, we write the ending, we suggest how it all started…based on patterns already existing in our brains from past CRAP. Crap we KNOW.
For example, during the move from this house to our new on in December, everything will go wrong and we will be displaced and nothing will be OK and someone will die.
Because I don’t KNOW that part of the story yet, and so my brain naturally fills it in with a story it DOES know the ending to (the most TRAUMATIC example of an ending my brain has stored) in order to fulfill our ever-growing need TO KNOW. Since the devil you know beats the devil you don’t, my brain tells me that my boss doesn’t like anything I do and I’m a terrible writer and she’s probably going to fire me because tonight she told me today she was too tired to talk.
At least I know, right?

Brene says, “We are neuro-biologically hard-wired to make sense of our hurt and fear as fast as we can, and come up with a story that makes sense of it, and our brain chemically rewards us for that story whether its accurate or not.”
We are in survival mode, all of the time. It’s normal. It’s called being human.
So what’s a human to do?
Notice it.
We notice when we’re filling in blanks with information we don’t actually have. For example: Your bestie hasn’t called you back for 3 days. You decide it’s because you said something negative about bestie’s ex-boyfriend to another friend who then told bestie that you were talking smack about her and now she’s ignoring you. Brene calls these “shitty first drafts” or “SFD” because the initial story you’ve written is not good, hardly believable, and nothing you’d ever be able to turn in for credit. You decide to approach the bestie you’re positive is crazy-mad at you and say, “I’ve got to clear something up. I haven’t heard from you lately and I’ve written this story in my head about how you’re upset with me, and I’m not even sure if that’s true. Could you tell me?”
You’ll get one of two answers.
1. Yes. I’m upset. Here’s why…
2. No. I’ve just been busy.

Who would you rather be friends with? The friend who makes up stories or the one that comes to you and tells you they’re HUMAN and they let their brains fill in the blanks and now they’d like you to do real life with them instead?
I pick human friend.
That means you have to do the human thing. And it’s really. freaking. hard. Noticing it is HARD. Doing something about the SFD is damn-near impossible. It’s uncomfortable to admit you’re obsessing about something. It’s terrifying to be vulnerable enough to admit MAYBE everything isn’t about US all the time even though that’s the way we’ve been thinking. But it’s how we stop the never-ending cycle of displacing responsibilities for our own emotions, reactions, and lives. Grow up. It’s just an SFD.




I was an IDIOT!!

My personal growth over the past two years has been so exponential that I see my former self in pictures and videos and I think, my LORD! What an IDIOT!
I felt pretty self-righteous when my marriage ended, like I was going into this next phase of life with a LOT of information. Somewhere between therapy, self-help books, and all the religions, I guess I just assumed that I had things covered. I knew what I was doing. There was NO better way of looking at the world then the way I was looking at it then.
Now, not only do I think I was an idiot back then…I think I may have been an idiot as recently as last week! I am CONSTANTLY growing and changing. And I’m starting to see what all those old people were talking about when they said that wisdom can really only come with age.
Most recently, I realized that most of my adopted methods of parenting have fallen away and opened up a path to my GUT. I now have full access to my gut, my gut’s feelings, and all the things my gut has to say. Do I love parenting websites with alternatives to spanking and non-stop time outs? I do. I think there’s some great stuff in there. But I’ve also realized that I know my kid better than anyone else, and I know what he needs more than any parenting blog, family member, or pediatrician does.

Like…choices, for example.

"You have to try the edamame. It's not a choice." (He liked it. Suckaaaah!)

“You have to try the edamame. It’s not a choice.” (He liked it. Suckaaaah!)

Around the time Abe was born, there was this huge push to give children choices. “If they don’t have any choices, they will feel powerless.” Well, I bought into this idea hook, line, and sinker. I decided right up front that my child needed choices. All the time. Choices, choices, choices. He was a HUMAN, after all, and he deserved the right to have a say-so in his own life! Come on!
Trouble was, it never really felt like it worked.
If I offered three-year-old Abe the option of taking a bath or no dessert, he’d choose no dessert. Why? Because he was three-years-old. He didn’t want to take a bath. And with no ability to predict the consequences of his actions, he wasn’t capable of considering how unhappy he would be when we were all eating cake and he couldn’t have any. This led to three things:
1. A tantrum.
2. Sad parents.
3. A dirty child.
Guess what? If children feel powerless, it’s because THEY ARE!! I’m powerless most of the time, too, y’all! I don’t have a choice but to work and make food and mow the lawn and pay bills. I don’t get to decide between cake and a shower. I was in no way preparing my child for real life because I was acting like real life actually gave a crap about which CHOICE you want to make!
And, if I may, MOST ADULTS DON’T EVEN LIKE MAKING CHOICES ANYWAY! If I ask Bear what he would like for dinner, do you know what he does? He gets annoyed. Why? Because he doesn’t want to make choices. He wants to eat dinner.
The same happens when he whisks me away to a romantic date night: we get in the car and at the last minute he asks, “Do you want to go to Orsay instead?” I DON’T KNOW. WHAT? I WANT ROMANCE AND WINE.
Literally the only choice I have in life on a consistent basis is how I decide to deal with the crap I have no choice about. I can put in my ear buds and sing without regard while I mow the lawn. I can feel grateful I’ve got money to pay bills and even MORE grateful that I can even take a shower. But choices? I’m not given very many choices in life. Only in my attitude.

So, my most recent parenting strategy has been basically to say, “Yeah. It sucks. And it’s real life, buddy.” And then I show my son how to sing in the shower or where to find the lego booklet for the lego tower the dogs just knocked over so we can rebuild. He likes knowing what’s expected, he likes knowing he can rely on me to call him on his BS, and he LOVES knowing that through it all, we’ll figure out a way to laugh.

In the Middle of the Minute

shallow-poolMy thinking has not been very deep lately, if you can believe that. I’ve actually been learning that deep-thinking, over-thinking, analytical thinking, whatever you want to call it, can tend to get into the destructive range of the helpfulness spectrum for me. I really do enjoy knowing the how and the why of experiences and behavior, but sometimes I just plum don’t need to know why. (Nothing teaches you that better than trying to qualify for a home mortgage, amiright?)
I used to analyze my partner’s bad mood because maybe he’s thinking about leaving me. I panicked when my son had an awkward movement because now he has Tourette’s. I flipped out if one of my dogs was limping because now Charlie is going to die by sunset…
Turns out, my partner just had a bad day at work and was fine after a beer, my son was just trying something new with his eyeballs and he stopped the next day, and Charlie spontaneously stopped limping because he’s a freaking dog.

My point? Sometimes I just need to wait a minute and things will level out.

The question is…what do I do during that minute while things are leveling out without my help? (Did you know the Universe thrives everyday without my help?!) This is what I’m learning now. I spent all these years practicing meditation and yoga and journaling. What I now see is that it’s in those moments that I’m not trying to save the planet, I want to eat a bowl of pasta, or count the money in my wallet, or clean the entire kitchen and give away half our pots and pans. I have these little quirks that quell my anxiety when I feel like I SHOULD be doing something. But as it turns out, all the hippy-dippy crap I’d been immersing myself in for all those years…THAT’S what I’m supposed to do when I’m “in the middle of the minute”.
Notice my body.
Get quiet.
I spent quite a bit of time this past week STOPPING in the middle of the minute. I’m not trying to get to the root of my anxiety or choose a different feeling. I’m just kinda hanging out with the crap that’s floating around. Because I can’t change it and I can’t change LIFE. It’s not a huge difference in my life; it’s just giving God the opportunity to solve the problems without my help.
Hey. Look! That’s kinda deep!