The Field Trip or Bugs in Squares

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

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

YES YES YES! NATURE!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friend-Stuff

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

But the very worst of it is friend-stuff.

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

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

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

She hasn’t answered yet.

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

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

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

 

 

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

It is.

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

 

 

How to Make a Good First Impression

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

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

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

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

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

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

Side note: Reid Tracey is 400 feet tall.

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

He walked away. As he should have.

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

She walked away, too.

I was off to the BEST start.

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

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

Luckily it only got better from there…

Rude

I had 37 minutes to get to the post office, through Winn Dixie, and to carpool this afternoon. By the time I got out of the post office I realized there was a pretty good chance I was going to be late for carpool, but I still wanted to make it through the grocery store. So I went for it. (This is my version of “risky behavior.”)
I grabbed the four items (two of which were on sale, thank you!) I needed and rushed up to the front of the store. Three lines were open. One had two people. The next had two people with FULL carts. And the third had one woman, medium amount of stuff. Third line it is.
She had about 15 cans of cat food and 12 cans of tuna fish. The cashier made it 3/4 of the way through the cans when the woman, tall and blonde and kind of annoyed, suddenly said, “Oh! I forgot dry cat food!”
Now how are you going to remember 15 cans of cat food and 12 cans of tuna fish and forget the dry cat food? Whatever. It’s fine. I’ll probably still make it to carpool in time.
She ran back to the counter. “Remind me where the cat food is again?”
The cashier stared at her, probably thinking the same thing that you’re thinking.
“Nevermind! I think I know.” She ran off again.
Tick. Tick. Tick.
Finally she runs back up with her dry cat food bag and hands it to the cashier.
The cashier finishes ringing her up and the total pops up on the screen.
The tall blonde woman scowled at the cashier. “That’s not correct. Those are 2 for $5. I just bought them yesterday.”

HOW MANY CATS DOES THIS WOMAN HAVE?!?

“Ok, I’ll need to get a manager,” the cashier said. I began scanning the other two lines again. They were both full. I was hedging my bets by staying, but remaining aware in case a better opportunity opened up.
Then…she started…
The woman standing in front of me, waiting for the manager to determine just how much her cat food cost, started the blame game:
“You know, you’re holding up all these people because you don’t know how much your products cost. All these people are having to wait.”
The cashier looked at me. “I’m sorry you’re waiting.”
“Don’t apologize for a thing,” I said.
“You’re understaffed. I don’t see how you can only have three lines open making all these people wait. The management of this place is awful.” She was really on a roll. “It’s just ridiculous. We all have places to be. I don’t have time for this. None of us do.”
Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. And my mouth started talking. “Actually, I’ve got all the time in the world.”
No, I didn’t really. But in all honesty, I had enough time to be kind to the people who were serving me. And I didn’t want to participate in her blame game.
“Oh, you do?” She put her hand on her hip. “Well, I don’t. I don’t have time.”
Probably shouldn’t say what you’re thinking, probably shouldn’t say what you’re thinking, probably shouldn’t say what you’re thinking…
“You might have more time if you spent less of it complaining…”
Probably shouldn’t have said that. Probably shouldn’t have said that.
Probably shouldn’t have said that…
Yeah. That popped out of my mouth. It wasn’t my finest moment as I picked up my four items and walked to another line that happened to open up at that exact moment because God is good and knew He needed to move me immediately.

It seriously made me realize that yes, my time is important, but not as important as being kind to the people I come into contact with. I probably didn’t improve the life of the woman I snapped at, so there is obviously some room for growth on my end. But I couldn’t imagine blaming and complaining and bitching at people who are all doing their jobs and attempting to help. That was the only way I could think of to not participate in this woman’s attempt at blaming someone else for an experience that wasn’t REALLY that big of a deal.
I once heard Oprah say, “You’re either helping people or you’re hurting them.” Ever since I heard her say that nearly 10 years ago, I decided I always wanted to be helping. I’m not 100% successful, but I’d say about 85% of the time I am helping people more than I am hurting them. I let people in in traffic because I always imagine someone is in a rush to the hospital or to a job interview. I try to enjoy conversations the strangers in Walmart start with me. I like to look cashiers in the eye and make a special point to say thank you to the people who bag my groceries. I ENJOY being that kind of a person. (I know that my kindness and willingness to help annoys some people, but I guess that just proves you can’t make everybody happy.)
Who would you have been in the grocery store situation today? Would you have complained? Snapped a little at the complainer? Stood silent? Texted someone?
And who would you have wanted to be?

BTW I pulled out of the parking lot before that lady even left the store and I made it to carpool on time. <snap snap>

I Don’t Need Glasses

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

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

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

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

Bear documented.

Photorapdadon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Hey, mom? What was I gonna ask you?”

“Hey, mom? What was I gonna ask you?”

This was a question my 7-year-old son walked into the kitchen and asked me today. He wanted me to tell him what his question was so that I could answer it.
Guys.
You guys.
WHY WOULD I KNOW WHAT HIS QUESTION WAS GONNA BE.

Or maybe a better question is: why would he think I would know?
I thought about this, literally gave conscious thought to why he would think I know what he was going to ask me. I zoomed out and a whole movie played in my mind:
“Mom, where are my shoes?”
“Mom, is it going to rain today?”
“Mom, where is the remote?”
“Mom, how many bites have I taken?
“Mom, where is my water bottle?”
“Mom, who is that person in the parking lot over there at that store?”
Our children come out knowing nothing. NO. THING. They don’t even know how to sleep right. They don’t know how to eat enough to not die. They look to us for everything. And where it gets tricky is when the get old enough to know a fair amount of stuff and, yet, they still ask the parents. Especially…the moms.
And it’s pretty much out of habit.
Why? Because we know where the shoes are. We know if it’s going to rain, where the remote (probably) is, and approximately how many bites are left before dessert. So why wouldn’t our children think we know who that stranger in the parking lot is or what question they were trying to ask us just now?

If you know me, you know I’m a little bit lazy. I don’t typically shower until around noon. I don’t make the bed. I don’t dust unless people are coming over. I wear a lot of yoga pants. I spray good smells onto bad smells. You know what I’m saying?
I’m also a little bit of a lazy parent. I will send my children back to their rooms three and four times before I will even consider standing up to help them find their shoes.
I thought for a long time that this style of parenting would create independent children; the kind of children who look for their shoes in REASONABLE places for a REASONABLE amount of time before they come asking where they are. For example: I would think that by now, my children would consider the fact that they went outside earlier in the day and that would result in a good place to start looking for their shoes. You know…outside.
I would think that forcing them to unload the dishwasher for me would mean that by the second or third time, they would recognize that cups ALL go in the cup cabinet and there’s never a reason to put ONE cup in the bowl cabinet.
But nay. Even doing the least amount possible as a parent, my kids still wander into the room I’m in to ask me what they came in to ask me.

So for all of those parents out there who receive the barrage of questioning on a daily basis from children who appear to have no brains, I want to tell you that whether you answer their questions or don’t answer their questions, they will still ask you where we keep the ice, how to open the peanut butter, and whether or not the dogs can eat jalepenos. I’ve done the research. It makes no difference. Parenting literally makes no difference.
My son is brilliant and does his own laundry and got a perfect score on his spelling test and he literally shouted, “SQUIRREL” and ran outside to chase a squirrel in the middle of a conversation today.
So have the glass of wine. Help them or don’t help them. Gluten or gluten-free.* All that matters is you love them and do the best you can to keep them from jumping off of cars in the driveway.

*Yes, I know. If your child is a celiac, gluten-free matters. If they’re physically disabled, they may need help. If you’re an alcoholic, don’t drink the wine. Because, duh.

 

Control

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, sort of.

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

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

I know, I know. Perfect world. <3

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

On Being Positive

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

Noel – 7

I know it’s been 7 years since Noel died because my son is 7 years old. I will never forget the morning I was nursing my newborn son when I saw on Facebook that he was gone. He’d been in hospice after battling a brain tumor. For a short time it appeared that he won the battle, but it wasn’t long before it became clear he would succumb. And my heart ached for his pregnant wife, for his HUNDREDS of best friends, and his unborn daughter who would never know how incredibly fun her father was; at least not in an up close and personal kind of way.

I write about him every year, not because he was MY best friend. I write about him because his life and death had a very profound impact on me. We attended undergrad together and mostly lost touch after that, except for maybe a like here and there on Facebook. And every year, his life and death teach me something new.
This past year has been one of the hardest and most rewarding of my life. You would think being married, having a child, getting divorced, getting into a major accident and breaking my femur, and getting married again…you’d think somewhere in THERE would be the hardest and best year.
Alas, last year my husband and I started a business. (If you’ve ever done this, you just laughed.) And it has, without question, caused my most honest of total breakdowns. Not knowing if we’d make the bills some months caused me to lose 30/40% of my hair, my husband’s perseverance making me feel so strong that I decide to open my own small business, paying off debts, incurring new ones, hiring people, firing people…it has had more ups and downs that any other era of my life so far.
Ups and downs that I took VERY seriously.
This year, though, I can look back over the past 7 years and say – hey. Wow. Some of these years were awful. Some were great. Some were funny. Some were really weird. But all of them I spent here, on Earth, with the people I love. This is by no means a guilt-blog; I’m not feeling badly about being alive when Noel isn’t. I know for a fact that Noel is feeling incredible, loving his experience in his new realm. No, this blog is more about me deciding that whether I lose it all or gain it all, the most important part of my day should be the zoom out and the zoom in.
Zoom out – is what’s happening with the property taxes or the sod or the water stains in the garage ceiling going to matter a year from now? Two years from now? Five? I can guarantee you that 95% of my day today won’t even matter in 6 months.
Zoom in – I have love. I have a loving husband, a loving mother, loving dogs… And I have love for my children, love for my close friends, love for my dogs. (Dogs are important.) If I can zoom in and find love? Everything else is going to be ok.
Of my 36 years, only about a total of 20 days contained major experiences that still matter now. And zero of them contained a day without love.
It doesn’t minimize my struggles. It doesn’t mean I don’t have issues that knock me down. It means that those things only matter as much as I let them. I can complain and freak out and bitch about the property taxes. Or. I can say, “Well, damnit.” And stroke the check. And move on. Because when and if I die, I won’t care about the property taxes.
Noel didn’t care about student loans and car payments when he was facing the end of his life. He cared that the people who loved him most were there, and that he had the chance to love them back.
I can’t live every day like my last. It’s not reasonable to ask myself to do that. I can just remind myself to zoom out, zoom in, take a breath, and keep laughing.
Laughing like he did.
All my love to his beautiful wife and incredible daughter. <3

Hurricane Irma – Part 3

I tried to fall asleep around 11pm. The wind was picking up and the rain was sloshing around outside. I envisioned the pretty little tree on the front yard that I’d grown from a sapling someone gave me. It was almost 11 feet tall now. I was so sad about the abuse that tree was getting.

I fell asleep at about 12am and woke up again around 1am. The once cool room was starting to get hot. “Should we plug in the generator for the refrigerator now?” I asked Bear. Bear was awake.
He stood up and looked out the window. “Maybe.”
Bear got back in bed and we sat there, listening. It’s a helpless feeling, hearing the winds whip through your neighborhood, wondering if one of the gusts will be big enough to do damage…

I learned something new about hurricanes during this one. The northeast side of a hurricane is the stronger, most devastating side. The worst wind, the worst rain, it all resides in that corner, which was the exact corner hitting us. Having sat through Category 2 and 3 storms before, they all came at us from the east. This storm swung north from the southern-most tip of Florida, carrying it northeast. Hence. We got the strongest side of the storm. No wonder Category 2s never seemed that bad to me in the past.

And then. It happened.
Bear and I tried to go back to sleep after making no concrete decision on the generator. The winds began to die down and the next sound we heard was like nails on a chalkboard.

Those Neighbors
You remember Those Neighbors? Well, not only do they have an ominous 55ft oak tree waiting to fall over in a hurricane, they also have a completely abandoned back yard and pool. If you peak over the fence, the pool is black. The once beautifully manicured palms are now covered in vines and moss and weeds. And in that pool, in that black, shadowy pool, live about 500 frogs.

As Bear and I lay in bed around 2:30am, contemplating an attempt at more sleep, we realized that the frogs once taking up residence in the black pit next door had been swept up and out of the pool onto the side of OUR HOUSE. And as the winds died down, we stared into the darkness of our room, half chuckling, half crying, listening to the frogs plastered to our windows…

Starting a generator isn’t all that hard. Starting a generator in a hurricane in the dark is a challenge. As soon as Bear fired it up, though, we realized we would have to run the extension cord through the living room sliding glass door, which meant the entire house would soon smell like a car engine. That teeny, tiny crack in the sliding glass door we rang the extension cord through was enough to fill the house with fumes within a few minutes. My ingenious husband duct-taped the opening of the sliding glass door to minimize the carbon dioxide so we could all live to see another day. The refrigerator was on and running. It was 3:45am and we opened a few roof-covered windows to air out the smell.

We sat listening to the rain, the quick whisps of howling, angry wind. In the pitch black of a hurricane, there’s not much else to do but sit and listen. Occasionally we would stand up together and walk around the house with a flashlight to check on my mom and the dogs. It’s a very strange feeling.

I finally decided I would try to sleep again around 4:30am. Bear laid next to me as I finally drifted off to the sweet sounds of 80mph gusts when a boom that sounded like God tripping on a lego shook the entire house.
I startled awake.
Bear leapt from the bed, which is a story unto itself. My bones were shaking. He plastered his face against the almost opaque window.
“It’s down,” he said with an authoritative voice.
“THE TREE?” I screamed as I raced to meet him at the window.
“Hoooolyyy shit. It came feet from our other neighbors’ house!”
Through the power lines, across the street, and onto our neighbors’ front yard landed the old oak; the oak that Those Neighbors have been asked to remove for 2 years. And just like that…we were trapped. Electrical lines down in our front yard, a giant oak tree blocking the driveway…no matter how the storm played out, we weren’t going anywhere anytime soon.

The sun started coming up about an hour later, and when I peered out the other window at the still-raging storm, I saw it.
My sweet little tree I grew from a baby sap, snapped at the base, flipping around the front yard.
I was more upset about that little tree than the big one…

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