April 2016 archive

Tell the Truth

if-you-do-not-tell-the-truth-about-yourself-you-cannot-tell-it-about-other-peopleA few weeks ago my mom texted and asked me if I wanted to go see Iyanla Vanzant live in my home town with her. I whipped open my calendar to see if it was a weekend I had Abe. As a co-parent, that’s how I live my life now. There are certain weekends I can’t even consider doing something single-y. Sure, I could get a sitter, but it’s a weekend I have my son. I want to be with him!
But good news, it was a no-Abe weekend, so I immediately told her yes yes yes!!

If you don’t know Iyanla, she had her debut on the Oprah show 12 or 15 years ago as a hilarious, Brooklyn-attitude who wasn’t afraid to quote the Bible and tell you to get over yourself in the same sentence. She had a falling out with Oprah, and with life, and within a year lost her marriage, her TV show, her daughter, and all her money (she filed for bankruptcy). She slowly and gently gave herself time to just be, and after a “What ever happened to?” interview with Oprah a few years later, she’s back to doing what she loves: writing and speaking and helping people.

Going to see her speak left me with a MILLION things to blog. She was funny and entertaining and reminded me of so many things I know but forgot. I decided I need to share the main echoing theme that I wrote down so many times during her two-hour “conversation” with us. (That’s what she called it: a “conversation.”) When asked, “How do we begin to heal ourselves and be happy?”

Tell the truth.

Iyanla went on and on about telling truths. She looked at us, her audience, so many times begging, “Ladies! Gentlemen! TELL THE TRUTH!”  Sometimes I don’t even think we know how to tell the truth. And it’s impossible if you don’t know what the truth is. How do you figure out what the truth is!? I guess by stripping back what you slowly recognize as NOT being true. For example…just recently I realized that I don’t like breakfast. I’m a health and fitness coach for Beachbody, I work out daily, I read articles and magazines concerning health and general well-being, and EVERYTHING tells you that breakfast is incredibly important for metabolism. EVERYTHING. FROM EVERYWHERE. And I’m just not hungry in the morning. So I never. eat. breakfast. In fact, sometimes I don’t eat until lunch is almost over. I still get in all my calories…it’s just not before noon.
It might seem like a silly, almost DUMB truth. But it’s not the size of the truth that counts (and we’re only talking about truth here, ok?). It’s the slow and gentle reveal of who you truly are, and sometimes that starts with something as simple as breakfast.
How many things in your life have you done for YEARS, and you don’t have a good reason for it? I NEVER go to the grocery store in the evenings; it’s always during the late afternoon. There’s no good reason for that. It’s just a habit. And we can’t tell our own truths until we begin to deconstruct our habits and tease apart the things that serve us from the things we’ve just always done. In there, in between those two things, are our little truths.

Get a couple of little truths going, and you may notice some bigger ones. I’m not a very good navigator. I screw up reading the maps and I’m constantly missing my exit. If I only get lost twice on the way to a new place, it’s a huge success. Bigger truth? I try to control people and situations. I try to set up my life so that I don’t have to experience discomfort, and sometimes I do it at the expense of others. I’m not malicious, and I would never knowingly hurt someone, but I do prefer to know that the odds are (ever) stacked in my favor. It’s a human thing, it’s a shitty thing, but it’s a truth.

Tonight I was putting away the groceries from my EVENING grocery shopping trip (very liberating, by the way) and listening to Pastor Furtick. He said quite suddenly, “Until you face it, faith can’t fix it. Faith can’t fix what you won’t face.” He was saying exactly what Iyanla was saying last weekend. You cannot live in the dark and be happy. Living by faith alone is not enough. If you don’t face your truths, faith isn’t even going to work. Pray your debt away, go ahead. Do it. But FACE your debt, and you’ll make a plan to pay it back. Pray that your husband buys you flowers and pays more attention to you. But FACE your husband and tell him you feel lonely and begin to find ways to fill your day with things that eliminate that loneliness with your husband. It’s only when you tell your truth, FACE your truth, that you can begin to heal it.

Start little. Tell the truth. Do you even like breakfast?!

Get to the Point

6a0133f49a611c970b01676676aae1970bAuthor Mary Karr gave an interview recently about raising her son after having a hellacious, salacious, fuck-all-acious childhood and young adulthood of her own. Her poignant and straight-forward parenting methods included remaining honest about her early years, before she got sober and started writing, and it plucked about 5 of my strings at once. She said to her son when he turned 13, “You’re gonna want to drink and have sex and do drugs. I want you NOT to drink and have sex and do drugs. You’re gonna continue to want to do those things and I’m gonna continue to try to prevent your doing them. That’s just what we’re engaged in. Let’s not make it personal. Let’s not make it, like, that I’m a bad person or you’re a bad person. Let’s just make it that’s what I’m doing and that’s what you’re doing.”

Stop. Right. There.

This is how I communicate. This is how I believe all people should communicate (because I’m a human with an ego and so everyone should be like me): with facts. Not with emotions and not with assumptions, but with facts.
Fact: You will want to drink.
Fact: I won’t want you to, so I will try to prevent you from drinking.
She outlined the battle that she and her son might or might not engage in throughout his teenage years and didn’t attach anything personal to it. It somehow takes the power out of it, the mystery out of it. Here’s what is going to happen!
She also decided that she would not take other people’s actions personally, specifically her own flesh and blood. She would not assume he would begin drinking because he didn’t like or respect her. She didn’t guess which nights he may or may not drink, nor did she tell him how much it “hurt” her when he did get busted with beers. There was no attachment to personal feelings of self-worth in her mother-son relationship. There was great love, there was ardent protection, and there was passionate grace. But no personalization. (She stayed in her own lane.)
Then she said something even better…
“He told me, ‘You don’t understand. You’re crazy, you think that because you had a problem I’m gonna have a problem…’ And I told him, ‘Look, it doesn’t matter. I busted you with beers, ergo, you no longer have a car. It’s just the rule.’ I didn’t get angry about it, I was just drawing a line.”
(BTW: We should all be using “ergo” in at least once sentence a day.)
What if all communication in life could be this simple?! No drama, no over-the-top sentiments…just…facts. This leads to that.
You don’t show up for me when I need you in our friendship? You don’t get to be my friend anymore.
You smart off to your superiors? You don’t get to have a job anymore.
You spend your money on shoes and coffee? You don’t get to have lights on inside your house.
Our life doesn’t require this much discussion or this many feelings if we choose to live simply. Our life doesn’t require this much OVERTHINKING! Stop thinking and list the facts, and you might be surprised how much clearer your next steps can be.

Ergo.

This blog.

Outside of our Comfort Zone

You’ve got your reasons. Everyone does. What part of “Prince has died” gut-checked you today? Even if you weren’t a fan of his music, you understood the massive influence he had in so many other musicians’ lives. He made it ok for an album to have rock, pop, R&B, and dance all strung together between 12 songs. He convinced you doves can cry. He was a short, effeminate (let’s be honest), black man who women absolutely THREW themselves at, and who he loved right back with intensity and fervor and oh those eyes! But none of that is why my bones ached after I saw that he had passed away…

It’s commonplace for artists to set themselves apart. They must continue to do that in more and more ridiculous ways in order to maintain an “image” or to be “original”. Anymore a woman can show up to a premiere naked and disparaging her own country and it’ll be on the 6 o’clock news as being groundbreaking or empowering. What I loved so well about Prince was that he simply had absolutely, unequivocally, zero fucks to give about what people thought…
I don’t think this zero-fuckedness came with a sense of superiority or an air of resentment towards anything in his life. It wasn’t rooted in an intention of being better or bigger or more. It was a man deciding that, with this one life, he was going to do exactly what he wanted to do. If it meant assless chaps, if it meant doing a cameo in a Dave Chappelle skit, if it meant ordering spaghetti and orange juice (which he often did), he just…well…did it.
He offended people. He bothered people. He was rude sometimes, occasionally so strung out on ecstasy that he couldn’t maintain a sense of reality for stretches of time (though it was the 70s). He would challenge you to a game of pickup basketball and he would probably beat you. He had houses full of unreleased music…a lot of unfinished ideas…
He was also a human being.
There was no hiding mistakes, no glorifying successes. There was just a whole big life lived entirely outside of the comfort zone we all know and love so well. He stayed there, outside the squishy circle, and maybe even trusted that it was all going to go down as it should so he may as well have a fun time while it’s happening…

I didn’t think about what it feels like to step outside my comfort zone, like REALLY step out of it, until yesterday. Even having Abe and getting divorced weren’t really “stepping outside my comfort zone”. Those were things that happened to me (and with me); not exactly things I chose to do altogether on my own.
It occurred to me earlier this week that my constant craving or concern for financial stability is an issue I have laid at Bear’s feet. I hitched my wagon to his star and then said, “Great. Thank you. Now pay the bills.” But, in honesty, I have a degree. Two of them, actually. I have experience and skills and talents and gifts…Why don’t I go out and find a job that will help this family relax a little bit? So I decided to start sending out cover letters and resumes. But not without intense trepidation.
Why?
Because what will people think?
I spent all day yesterday pouring over a cover letter, ensuring it was just right, just enough, full of information but stripped of too much detail that no one cared about. I literally agonized over sending this letter, pacing in front of my computer, reading it over and over and over again…
I finally pressed send and then had a damn near panic attack wondering if they were going to think I was an insane cray person for even suggesting I was worthy of a job?! I haven’t worked outside my home in 5 years! I don’t own work shoes! Why would they even consider me?!?!
Oh, and then wait. Other people.
Will they think Bear can’t provide for me? Will they wonder why I want to get out of the house?! Will they think I mismanage our money or that Bear is a closet gambling addict?!
Most of the day I thought about all the things that could externally affect the direction my life will go next.

Today, though…I understand a little piece of life in a different way. I can worry. I can wonder. I can analyze. I can OVER-analyze. I can even panic. But as we are all-too-often reminded, we don’t know when it’s going to be over and then what will the point of proofreading the cover letter 20 times have been? Today, I would rather send my music out into the world, slap on a pair of assless chaps, and know that this is all going to go down the way that it should anyway.

 

When_Doves_Cry_Packshot

Thank you, Prince, for the magic, the way my chest fills with what feels like glitter when I hear one of your songs, and for the hundreds of times my mom and I sang, “Little Red Corvette” together growing up. Thank you for truly sharing your gifts, your love, your talent with us all in an effort to make us better in your own special way. Thank you for following your own path so fervently. I am honored to have shared the planet with you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Basically Ready for Survivor

Bzzzzzzzzzz. Bzzzz. Bzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

I sat in my office this morning and I heard this buzzing sound, as if a bee was inside of a can. I couldn’t figure out where in our house there would be metal, let alone a bee. I followed the sound for about 15 minutes as it started and stopped, stepping once to the left, twice to the right, and closing my eyes so I could “hear better.” Finally, I found myself directly in front of the fire place.
Ooooh. Bees in the chimney.
When I stepped outside to take a look, I noticed I wasn’t quite right.
Wasps. Wasps in the chimney.

HOME OWNERSHIP RULES.

I texted Bear.

Me – There are wasps in the chimney.
Bear – Ummmm. Ooook.
Me – What do I do?
Bear – Smoke ’em out.

Huh. Smoke ’em out. Yeah. I can do that.

I went outside and collected some dry leaves and sticks. You know. Kindling. Because I’m like a camper or a farmer or a survivalist or whatever. I brought it all inside and then walked back outside looking for wood.
Wood. Wood. Hmmmm…wood. I didn’t see any wood. But I DID see the remnants of the pallet coffee table that Bear made for me. I started trying to break apart a wooden plank with my foot and when I nearly broke a finger, I decided I was just going to have to put the whole piece into the fireplace. I carried those inside and then decided I should check to be sure the flue was open.
Do you know how to check if a flue is open?
Me neither, which is why I looked like a miner by the time I climbed out of the fireplace with the big thumbs up – flue’s open!
Then I googled “smoking out wasps”. This was funny because it’s 4/20 and none of the websites helped me. I got more specific with my search and learned that it’s important to burn a good fire for about 30 minutes to fully “relocate” a wasps nest.
No problem.
I started with a lighter and some dry leaves. I figured I’d get those going, add the sticks, then the planks, and we’d be in business. What I learned is that even when you have a lighter, it’s really hard to just get stuff to light on fire. I lit those leaves no less than 9 times before one of them caught fire.
I could never be on Naked and Afraid.
Then I learned that leaves burn REALLY FAST. I started throwing the sticks on but by the time I got them in there, the leaves were burnt out.
Time to go gather more leaves.
I was sweating my face off because I was searching for dry leaves in 80 degree weather because I needed to BUILD A FIRE.
My fresh batch of leaves made a nice little bed inside the fire place and, thinking ahead, I stacked my sticks in one of those little pyramids everyone thinks you should make to start a fire. Another few rounds of trying to get them to light and sure enough, they started blazing. My sticks kinda did, too, but I didn’t have enough so I ran back and forth outside trying to bring in more sticks before everything burned out again. Finally, it seemed like I had a fairly decent blaze going, so I added a plank.
A plank of wood.
It stuck halfway out the fireplace. There was no jamming it in there. I laid another one on top of that one and if you saw it, you would literally think this was my first day on Earth.
Luckily, the wood was very dry and a little bit brittle so it caught fire nicely. As soon as it started to burn through the middle, I shimmied the pieces sticking out of the fireplace back in and stacked them. Without burning myself. VIOLA! Exactly one hour later I’d built a fire!
I set a timer for 30 minutes, turned the AC on full blast, and sat back down at my desk. Mission accomplished.
Then my phone dinged.
“Hair appointment in 30 minutes.”
SHIT.
Shit shit shit shit.
I JUST GOT THE FIRE GOING and now I had to leave.
Could I leave a fire burning behind the metal curtains and the metal gate and safely go to get my hair did?
I got dressed and grabbed my purse, staring at the fire.
It’s fine. It’s completely contained. It couldn’t even jump to anything. It needs 30 minutes.
Right. I decided it would be fine. I ran and got into my car. I had 25 minutes to get to my appointment. I made it out of my driveway before I turned around. I forgot my water bottle.
Water. Water bottle. Is this a sign from God that I should put the fire out?!
I grabbed my water and stared at the fire again. It was burning, but it was completely contained and in no way suggesting it would burn my house down.
Fine. It’s fine. Gotta go. 
I jumped back into the car and made it halfway down the street this time before I turned back around. Why? Because I ran the Dateline Test…and if my house burned down, I would DEFINITELY end up on an episode of Dateline; at the very least the local news.
Fine. I’m just going to have to start another fire another day and let it burn for 30 minutes.
I ran back inside, filled the Vitamix pitcher with water, and doused the flames. I still had 20 minutes to get to my appointment. Plenty of time.
53349376I jumped back in the car, fully confident that I would not return to a pile of charred wood, and made it all the way to the end of my street, when…
Funeral procession.
If you’ve ever been stuck behind a funeral procession for nearly 20 minutes, you know that it produces a myriad of opposing feelings. On the one hand, you pray for the people IN the procession who are mourning the loss of someone they love. On another hand, you cannot BELIEVE the person who died knew THIS many people. And on the third hand (just go with it), you are cursing the day they decided to put a cemetery on a main road where there ARE NO OUTLETS FOR RELIEF.
I was 20 minutes late but my lovely stylist was very understanding about the funeral procession. My hair looks lovely.
So far, I haven’t heard any buzzing tonight, so before you do any burning: 10 minutes is all it takes to smoke wasps out of a chimney.

 

No-Drinking Experiment Over

light_bulb_experimentIt has been over a month since I had a sip of alcohol. I’ve smelled a few, but never tasted. Not once. I was VERY tempted in the beginning. A margarita, a whiskey sour, a Corona with a lime in it…
As the days ticked on, it honestly did get easier. I felt far more comfortable letting it pass me by because I’d already said no a few times before AND because people got used to the idea that I wasn’t going to be their Fun Time Sally. I also got used to the idea that I didn’t need the drink to be Fun Time Sally, which was a nice change of pace for me.

I anticipated that I was going to get a big surprise by not drinking. I anticipated realizations galore and friendships highlighted and my own weaknesses strengthened. Instead…
Not drinking has not changed my personality, though it’s amplified others’ personalities and I noticed I didn’t like some people as much as I thought I did. (Don’t worry, I’m not talking about you.) It has not diminished my anxiety, though on a few days I felt a little more capable of WORKING on my anxiety. Abstaining has demonstrated to me that alcohol never really played that big of a role in my life (except during my divorce) and it’s a sort of take-it-or-leave-it thing.
SO.
I concluded the drinking experiment was over this past weekend. I decided I could, in fact, drink again. And you know what I did?
Nothing.
I didn’t drink.
I forgot about my own party. I anticipated a big to-do when I started drinking again and instead, I didn’t even remember to do it.

It occurred to me today that the actual lesson in all this had nothing to do with drinking. It had to do with anticipation. How much time do I spend focusing on what I think will happen? SO MUCH. How many changes have I made externally hoping they’d change something internally? I made assumptions about the drinking experiment. I thought something fantastic would happen to fix one or many of my problems. Sometimes I assume that I worst, in an effort to quell the pain when the worst happens. The time I spend anticipating, or in laymen’s terms guessing, is time I could have spent just being where I was. And how often does the worst actually happen?!

(I anticipate we will barely have enough money to cover all the unexpected bills coning due at the end of this month. But as of today, we’re fine. Today, we have enough to eat lunch and dinner and to buy a cheap bottle of scotch, which I don’t feel like drinking. Today is all that matters.)

Experiment over. Information gleaned. No major or amazing realizations, but a few small ones. It’s a few small steps at a time that gets you from start to finish. No one gets one big step and then BOOM, journey over. You win. You have to take the baby steps.
I hate baby steps. I like things changing overnight.
Nothing ever does.

And so I will continue taking these damn baby steps and drinking or not drinking and learning and growing and being a Fun Time Sally (sometimes).
What a boring experiment.

BYYYYYE MONEEEEEY!!!!

money-flying-awayA month ago I discovered a big pile of water in my garage. We determined it was coming from the wall in the corner that contains the hot water, AC unit, and washer/dryer just on the other side of the wall. It took three contractors, one leak inspector, and a water mitigation company to determine that it was the air conditioning unit backing up.
A week ago, when everything was “fixed”, my mother and I turned on my washing machine and, as soon as the water began to empty out of it, water began pouring out of the exposed pipe in the wall.
“Oh. The drain pipe in the wall has a leak in it…”
All these people appear to have completely overlooked the BIGGEST PIPE IN THE WALL NEAREST TO THE PILE OF WATER.
I had to call a plumber to fix the pipe and now we have to pay to have the wall put back together. Bear’s truck went into the shop for routine maintenance last week and it came out with a nearly $1,000 bill. My dog ate my $500 bite guard. My car insurance is due. Quarterly taxes are due. Oh, and I’m trying to plan a wedding…
Sometimes I feel like the only person in the world who has a job, whose partner has a (GOOD!) job, and who still looks at the bank account and thinks, Will I ever be able to retire to the Caribbean at this rate?! We are so, so, so, so blessed! We have a house! We have cars! We have health insurance! And yet, I get so incredibly frustrated that we’re not finding a surplus at the end of each month because LIFE KEEPS HAPPENING!!!
Then, I watched Cheryl Strayed on Super Soul Sunday.
Did you know that on the way to her first appearance on Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday, Cheryl Strayed purchased a new outfit at the thrift shop nearby? Why did she do that? Because her and her husband’s rent check bounced that month.
Her book, Wild, was already on the New York Time’s Best Seller list. It took her two years to write it. Her husband was a documentary filmmaker. They’d been married a solid amount of time with two kids and they often had to sell books to the used book store to buy groceries.

SHE ADMITTED ALL THIS OUT LOUD.

Like everything else, I look around and figured everyone else has it figured out. We bought a modest house, we only have one car payment, we don’t have debt (aside from my student loans, which can suck it). I just assume that we are the only ones who SHOULD be able to go on vacation once a month and can’t. But Cheryl Strayed bounced her rent check. She wrote a best selling book and still had to wait almost a year to see anything from that big win. And it took YEARS and YEARS before THAT of her writing consistently and trying to get published and being broke and doing things for free. And here I’m getting impatient…

So we’ll rebuild the damn laundry room and get the truck fixed. I had new impressions of my teeth done last week for my bite guard (yes, I tried the little plastic ones from Walgreens, they didn’t work). I paid my car insurance and my taxes and my cell phone bill, Bear paid the rest of our bills and our surprise bills and made sure our kids were taken care of with food and new shoes because WHY DO THEIR FEET KEEP GROWING, and I sold some stuff in our house so I didn’t have to worry about taking myself to dinner on Friday. And I’ll just keep trusting that eventually life will slow down for a month or two and we will be able to set money aside, treat ourselves, treat our kids, and relax.

At least I’m saving money on all that alcohol…

Hey! You Look Great!

weight-loss-cartoonSo, I’m listening to Cheryl Strayed on her podcast, Dear Sugar, address a letter from a man who suggested to his girlfriend that she hit the gym a little harder because he wanted her to be healthy.
Yeah.
His questions was basically, “Did I just totally eff this up?” And Cheryl’s response was a resounding HELL YES. Girl got mad. She chastised him on the air, suggesting that he find someone thinner to love if he was so interested in the poundage on his girlfriend. I was ironically exercising when I was listening to Cheryl attempt to keep her head from popping off, and I wondered, Does Bear ever think about my needing to drop 5 when I am in one of my “heavy eating” phases?
So I asked him.
His response? “I really don’t care.” I think that’s as far as it goes for him. He loves me and he would love me if I weighed a little more. He also threw in a caveat. “If you get really unhealthy, I’ll probably say something, though…” Fair enough.
For women, our weight is just such a huge piece of our value, our worth. I’m sure this is true for men, too, but I’ve never been a man so I don’t know. But how can any woman attract a loving man, a good job, lasting friendships, if her worth hinges on how much she weighs?

I dunno. But mine does. At least sometimes.

I know that people look at me, 5 feet tall and just over 100 pounds, and they scoff. They resent me when I mention my need or desire to lose weight, tone up, or eat less. They get mad when I eat a salad! The truth is, that just adds to my issues!! There are days that I actually order the burger or the mashed potatoes as a side so that people won’t question my not eating enough for their comfort level. Not only do I feel a little fluffy sometimes, but I feel badly for feeling fluffy because I’m not fluffy enough for fluffy people to consider me fluffy!
WHO DIED AND MADE YOU THE FLUFFY PATROL?
It doesn’t matter if you’re overweight or not, you’re going to face issues with your body that cause you to struggle with your own worth. Go listen to the podcast if you want to analyze the “why”, but for this blog, it’s just the truth:
Body = Worth
I don’t suggest that you congratulate the woman who chose the salad, or the woman who appears to have lost weight, or the woman who announces she’d begun exercising again. I actually suggest you take Cheryl’s advice at the end of her podcast: tell her she looks great. Whether she looks great, she doesn’t look great, she’s working on looking great…tell her she looks great! Who doesn’t love to hear they look great?! I’m talking to you, women. Share that with each other. And men? I kinda think the same message applies. Tell her she looks great. Because if you love her, then it’s not a lie. It’s a kindness. It’s a simple gift, and we don’t always get gifts when we most deserve them.

(BTW, if you, as a man or a woman, can’t give someone else that gift of “You look great”, then it’s probably time to begin doing some self-examination. Are you lacking some self-worth somewhere that you can’t affirm someone else?)

(Second BTW, how awkward is it when you compliment someone and they DENOUNCE your compliment?!
“You look great!”
“NO I don’t!”
Practice saying, “Thank you.” Just thank you! And then shut your mouth.)

I’m in a constant battle with my stomach. Sometimes I can see abs. Sometimes it literally looks like I swallowed a cantaloupe. I try everything. Tons of cardio, weight lifting, eating right, not eating at all…there’s no winning. Some days I wake up and think, “Who cares? It’s a stomach!” Others I agonize over the extra layers that could make someone ask, “When are you due?” There’s no consistency with the way my stomach looks, which correlates to the lack of consistent feelings I carry about the way I look: it’s different everyday.
I think that’s OK, to an extent. It’s kinda just part of my journey. So as important as it is to tell other women they look great, do me a favor…Tell YOURSELF you look great. Even if you don’t mean that either! Give it to YOURSELF as a little gift. When you’re getting ready in the morning, wink at yourself and say, “Hey! You look great!”
I’m not kidding. You should do it.

Cheryl never came to a resolution with the podcast, rather continued expressing the opinion that it’s simply not OK to tell your partner to lose weight. There were plenty of nuances in the way she presented her case, but that’s about what it boiled down to. I don’t disagree with her for the most part. It’s a dumb idea to tell anyone to lose weight, even if it’s because you love them and you want them to be healthy. It’s a better idea to tell them they look great and then drive your own happy ass to the gym.

 

 

Real Talk: How do I stepmom?!

Some real talk in here, peeps.

Backstory:
I’ve become obsessed with a new podcast. The Dear Sugar podcast is a spin off of the Dear Sugar column from TheRumpus.com. It’s a modern-day Dear Abby, complete with cuss words and dirty stories. Cheryl Strayed (author of Wild which is one of my favorite books in the world) and Steve Almond (another awesome author) discuss topics in letters in a funny, compassionate, and incredibly thoughtful way that really levels the playing field.
I love real life.
647890_1298423361119_fullA few weeks ago, a letter came in from a stepmom. Nay. A Step Momster. She expressed her distress in being a stepmother and ab. so. lute. ly. HATING it. She was incredibly candid with the fact that she didn’t feel a bond with her stepdaughters and since having a child of her own with her husband, she pulled even further away from her stepdaughters. She didn’t want to dislike them, she didn’t want to pull away, but she just didn’t know how to be a stepmom. And I have to tell you…I felt for her. And I get it. Being a stepmom is weird…
I don’t dislike my almost-stepson, Cub, at all. I actually really like him quite a bit. He’s funny and kind and he’s darling when it comes to ordering the most expensive thing on the menu and DESPERATELY needing to sleep with the dogs.
But he’s not mine.
And I struggle every time he’s home with us to know how to best be a stepmom. How do I stepmom?! Do I hug him or let him hug me? Do I tell him I love him or will that freak him out? Does he like butter on his pancakes? Is it embarrassing for me to fold his underwear? Where does he want to sit at the dinner table?
I spent a big chunk of Bear and I’s relationship trying to blend the four of us together into one, happy, blended family. Abe’s dad and I used to eat dinner every night together and share bedtime routines. We used to go to the park together and go to the zoo together, because the three of us had things in common. We were all three family. But this new family…it’s not family. Cub had a whole 9 years of life before he even met me. Bear had thirty…something years before me. How could I expect that we would just blend in the same way a primary family can?
We can’t.
After I listened to the podcast, I called Bear. I admitted that I kinda felt like a failure when he and Cub ate dinner together on the couch with a movie and I ate at the table with Abe. But I also explained that, during the podcast, the Sugars said that trying to get everyone at the dinner table together will always leave one member of step family feeling left out or like a third week. Is this someone else’s seat? Who talks first when I’m not here? And so maybe, just maybe, it’s ok that we spread from one end of the house to the other during dinner. Maybe the family we have looks different from what I’m used to because it IS different, and I can’t expect it to look any which way at all; certainly not within the first two years. Bear had a routine with his Cub for 6 years. There’s no reason to change it except to create the perfect family montage for…for who? Other people? For my happiness?
I also can’t expect to be Cub’s second mom. Dr. Wednesday Martin said the problem with the word stepmom isn’t the “step” part…it’s the “mom” part. I’m not his mom. I never will be. I will always be someone who adores him and fights for him and keeps him safe and fed and clothed when I get to be with him. Because I really love him. But I wasn’t there the day he was born. I haven’t watched him grow up. I’m not his stepmother. I’m more his ally.

I really feel for the woman who wrote the letter and for all the other women in the world who are trying to figure out what this role entails. As (most) women we want to provide sustenance and be nurturers, and that naturally falls on our shoulders in any relationship. But also like any relationship, stepmoms and their stepkids have to grow together in order to feel like family members. And until enough time has passed for that to even begin to happen, we’ve all got to cut each other some slack and just do the best we can. And if that means dinners on paper plates in different rooms? So be it.

At least they’re eating…

 

Don’t It Always Seem to Go…

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That’s my dryer, Doyle. In the living room. Waiting to go back to his home…

It’s been three weeks since I’ve used my washer and dryer. In our old house, my washer was in the garage. This meant I had to scale sharp tools, random rusty nails, and piles of cornhole bags in order wash our underwear. It’s was a perilous event 2-3 times a week. I have a scar, an actual scar, from tripping over an open cooler and stabbing my ankle with a pointy piece of wood…just trying to do a load of towels.

But in December, when we bought our dream home, it came with…a laundry room. A real-life, inside my house, laundry room. We put up shelves, hooks, places to hang things. All of it inside, no OSHA certification required. We bought a BRAND NEW washer and dryer on Black Friday and after a few mild plumbing issues, I began to wash everything anytime I wanted to without fear or physical injury or mental breakdown.

Until. The leak of 2016.

First, it was a plumbing leak. Then the plumber said there was mold in the wall so he couldn’t fix the leak until the mold was treated. A company has had fans and air scrubbers and dehumidifies on our property for a week and a half. They covered my beautiful laundry room in plastic. Like Dexter. That company said it was the AC unit leaking. The AC guy came and said no, the AC line is fine. Another plumber came back and reconfirmed it was the AC, but only after tearing my walls in my precious laundry room apart and removing all the insulation. The fans are still here. Some mold guy came and tested the air today. Oh, and the homeowners insurance still doesn’t really seem to return my calls anymore.

During this mess, there is a light at the end of the tunnel…a little place called Fluff and Fold. Have you heard of this miracle business? All you do is bring your dirty laundry in a big basket and then…they wash it. They wash it for you. And when I trusted Bear after he assured me it was safe and cleanly and worth the money ($.65/pound), I did it. I dropped off our clothes. It cost about $20, and I had to pay up front. I got a little nervous when they told me it would take 2 days. A lot can happen in 2 days. But I left my favorite tank top, Abe’s favorite tshirt, and all of Bear’s socks at the Fluff and Fold.
Two days later…
All of my clothes. All of them. Clean. Smell-good. Folded by category. And placed in CLEAR PLASTIC BAGS. My underwear was in perfect squares. My life…changed.
Fluff and Fold.
It’s everything.
I called Bear and suggested we consider selling the washer and dryer altogether and just using the Fluff and Fold once a week. Forever. He has suggested this is not a great idea…

So here I sit, my second load of laundry at the Fluff and Fold, holes in my walls, a perfectly functioning AC unit, no leaking pipes, fans running. When does this end? I can’t say.
Also, I ate most of a chocolate cake tonight.