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Archive for the ‘A Moment Changes Everything’ Category

My kids used to love Legos.

We would build farms and houses and castles and helicopters, there was a roller coaster once, some cars and some superheros. Sometimes, there were missing pieces, it didn’t stop us — a few creative adjustments and our house would come to life. We would step back and look at it, not worrying about the pieces we couldn’t find, our Lego house was perfect just the way it was. If we wanted to make a change, if we wanted our Lego house to now be a Lego spaceship…  we could knock it all down and build it back up again.  The stories we played out with our Legos one day, could be changed the next, and we had so many stories to tell, so many pieces to learn how to assemble.

I’m finding the final words to the “shitty first draft” of the book I’m writing. Reviewing the last five years of my life has been a terrifying/exhilarating/tiresome/worrisome/scary/courageous undertaking… holding a mirror up to your inner most thoughts and taking in the reflection that comes back to you is many things. The reflection I’ve seen hasn’t always made me smile. Sometimes I run as far away from the words that I’m typing out as possible. Sometimes I sit and read the words over and over and I am back in the moment that they occurred. Sometimes I wonder if the words are really from my life, they seem so foreign to me now.

There was a time when I was in the midst of reeling and swirling and flailing about, not moving… just standing still. I was scared that some pieces of me had disappeared, washed out to sea as I stood in the ocean and let the waves pound me relentlessly… too tired to fight. About that time, I had a conversation with someone who I’m not exactly friends with, we don’t really know each other, but our paths intersected — for me, it was perfect timing. His words adhered themselves to my inner most self and I’ve held them ever since. He said that I wasn’t missing any pieces, I had everything I needed already in me, I just needed to put them back together.

This book, this look back on the last five years of my life, is like gathering all the pieces to a Lego house. I put a piece here and one there. I build the foundation and a few walls. I step back and see a few cracks, perfectly placed. I have just enough pieces to make a beautiful home, I’ve always had enough pieces to make a beautiful home. And if things go wrong, I can knock it all down — I know how to build it back up again.

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Bonus!

So, obviously I didn’t think raising three (completely amazing) kids, having a full-time career (as an Autism Consultant for the public schools for almost 22 years!), writing a memoir (about the most gut-wrenching years of my life), managing this blog (that has allowed me to meet all of you amazing people as I’ve (at times) cut out pieces of myself and handed them to you and you’ve held them and nurtured them and continue to be a huge support system for me) — I thought I might as well add something else to the mix, so… I opened an Etsy store!

Now, the story behind the Etsy store is this, in the last year, I started opening up to other areas of creativity as a way to relax and calm my often trembling soul. In the process, I began painting and making creative art pieces specifically for people in my life to show them how much I love them — I wanted to give a little happy away. But, I was the one who was getting this amazing feeling of calm and love and my inner rumblings are a bit quieter. I realized that we do really get back from this world what we put out into it — so, an Etsy store. My hope is to create items for others so that they can throw a little love out into the world. Click my Etsy button ~~~> and lets spread a little love.

If someone thinks that love and peace is a cliché that must have been left behind in the Sixties, that’s his problem. Love and peace are eternal. ~~ John Lennon

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Each of us carry around a world of words inside us, those words form stories, some of those stories make sense… we can feel them and see them and touch them. Some of those stories are out-of-order, scrambled, strewn about in all the dark crevasses of our minds — we search for a beginning and an ending, something, anything that puts the words in order to form a story that we can accept.

Often, the stories inside us define us, not because they should. Some of those stories don’t deserve to be given any energy, those stories that keep pushing our heads under water every time we try to surface for a breath — the lies we tell ourselves.

Towards the end of October, I decided I wanted to let the words out, I had to let the words out — to give them life. We all have those stories in us, we can’t keep them inside… it hurts, and we can’t ignore the hurting — hurting requires us to pay attention to it. So we release them… to our friends over coffee, to our sisters over the phone — we release them and it feels so good, and the hurting stops.

I’ve been lucky enough to have formed connections with some amazing writers who can break me open with one well placed sentence, I took a breath and sent one of those friends a message one day and told her I was writing a book, a memoir. Even writing the word “memoir” made me cringe, still, I cringe. I think a piece of me wanted her to talk me out of it. Statistically speaking, the likelihood of writing a memoir and getting it published is, well, bleak. There are probably 1000 novels and memoirs and short story collections and poetry chap books that are written for every one that actually gets published and the one that actually gets published may not be the best, just the luckiest — so, I was almost hoping her response would be an emphatic “No!” I’ve never written anything longer than 4000 words (I’m sure my graduate papers don’t actually count although my professor told me my papers resembled an article in Us magazine more than they did a research paper — she was puzzled when I smiled and told her, “Thank you!”), this could be, not one of my wiser ideas. But my friends response was full of exclamation points and cheer and hope, so I became full of exclamation points and cheer and hope.

I had to ask what a WIP was and what it meant when someone wanted to be a reader for you and how long is a memoir and what’s a manuscript and what is a query and how do you revise and when do you revise… I think me going into this with no knowledge might be the best way, for me.

I am writing this memoir for me, to try to organize the stories from the last five years that have been floating around haphazardly in my brain. As with all the pieces of myself I’ve left here on this blog, I hope to cut myself open and bleed all over the pages of this memoir and maybe we’ll gather up the pieces of ourselves, together.

So… I began…

And those words… they just started spilling out.

I went from zero words to 65,000 words in about 30 days… and then, the words became harder to set free. That’s where I am now, trying to set the last 15,000 words free so I can officially have a “shitty first draft“. The trouble with memoir is, it’s difficult to pinpoint the end of the story because I am the end of the story. The words I’m trying to put into order form the story of me. But, here I am… cutting myself open and divulging all the broken pieces and the dark crevasses and the bottomless rabbit holes with the hope that our stories connect us — we all have a story that needs to be told and needs to be heard and somewhere in the midst of all of those words, the breaking becomes the healing.

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i’ve had my television off since it happened. my brain could not then and will not now comprehend the tragedy, and i don’t want it to.

i’ve stayed away from social media. i see you arguing about guns and which country is more violent and the second amendment and hunting and what type of guns were used and mental illness and the lack of availability of proper care and all those simpleton reasons you’re offering up because you don’t want to hear about gun control and health care.

i saw you say you were his mother and you went viral within hours and everyone had read it and it made me pause because i think it was the exact opposite of what you wanted it to be.

i saw you say if teachers had guns in their classrooms this would never have happened.

i saw the inconceivability of you shoving cameras and microphones in the faces of those babies and saying how impressed you were with how articulate they were.

and i was motionless.

and i was speechless.

and i was numb because anything other than numb would have been too much.

and you…

you said you would have killed him yourself if you had been there,

and i was angry.

i could see myself hiding with the children and wishing my face was not the last thing they would see and my voice was not the last one they would hear and i would search my thoughts and try to analyze if i was worthy of being in that spot of being their last thing and i would stand there because standing there is as much bravery as anyone could imagine.

i am a teacher

i will remember that my words could be the last they hear and my face could be the last they see and i will look at them with patience and kindness.

i will look at you as i walk past you in the market and i will smile and i will say hello and i will be kind and i will pause before my words escape my mouth and i will withhold my sigh and you can mock me all you want.

i am a teacher

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Why can’t I tell my daughter she’s pretty?

Will that make her believe her sole worth is tied up in the beauty I see in her face? Will it ensure that she develops an eating disorder or a personality complex or make her vain or narcissistic? Will my name come up all too often in future therapy sessions because I told her she was pretty and that somehow manifested itself into me being a mother who put too much importance on her physical looks?

I was shopping for clothes at the local second-hand store with my kids and had two simultaneous realizations that… I suppose, are very much related.

My oldest daughter (who will be 16 in a few weeks), was drawn immediately to the rows of shorts — micro-mini-shorts. I said, “no”, without so much as a look in her direction. Then, her logic hit me… with overwhelming force, as most teenage logic does.

She stared deep into my eyes and asked, “do you think I’m a slut if I wear short shorts?”

 “No!”, I vehemently denied, without hesitation.

Of course I don’t think my daughter is a slut… what I was thinking about was if others would think she was a slut. The visions of Rush Limbaugh that floated through my mind at that very moment sickened me.  

Her words stopped me from traveling down a path that too many use as an excuse to defile girls… it made me remember this post I read a while ago about the amazing Eve Ensler. Our clothes and our looks should not define how we are treated by others… but often, it does.

This realization hit me like an elephant kicking me in the gut… how easy it was for me, a strong-willed-out-spoken-independent woman to fall into the trap of blame and shame.

My other realization was with my youngest daughter (8). She is, in childhood terms, chubby. I’ve been watching her gain weight the last couple of years… I changed her diet, began telling her the importance of eating fruits and vegetables, cut back on the high calorie meals, and cut out visits to fast food restaurants. Still, she steadily has gained weight. Her clothes are too long in length in order to get them to fit the waist. I worry and plan and worry some more.

Let me not fail to mention my son (13) — he went through a couple of years of chubby and now is thin… maybe too thin. I read an article on the growing number of boys affected by eating disorders. So, now I have my girls and my boy to consider with each word and glance and misplaced sigh of disapproval that escapes my body. I have to make a conscious effort to not fall into that trap of societal pressure — am I complimenting their brains enough, am I telling them how nice they are enough, am I encouraging their creative talents… enough?

So, here I am, in the middle of the consignment shop being questioned by my oldest as to if I think she is a slut for wearing certain types of clothes, ruminating about the food that I should and shouldn’t allow my youngest to eat, and wondering if I should be concerned about my son’s weight loss.

My horror at myself came when I grasped the uncomfortable fact that I was concerned about the perception of others… in some cases people I didn’t even know and probably wouldn’t want to know. I was concerned about how all of this would look reflected on me as a mother.

Later that day, when the stress was far behind and we had all retreated to our corners of the house, I googled “the best way to help your child eat healthy”. The first thing that popped up, surprisingly, was a direct answer to that question — “the best way to ensure your children make healthy choices in life is to let them see you make healthy choices”.

Okay.

Great.

Somehow it always rolls back around to being the mothers fault.

Now I realized I needed to focus attention away from my worries about the kids and look at myself… never a fun task. I had been eating healthy for over a year, my kids don’t even ask to go to fast food restaurants anymore, we have salads and fruits and lean meats. My oldest and I are currently practicing pescetarianism… the other two aren’t far behind. But, admittedly, I’ve been lacking on a steady exercise routine — this is where I needed to focus my change.

Last week I read an article about an article… I haven’t read the original article that seems to have pissed so many off. It’s in the April issue of Vogue and purchasing Vogue isn’t on my budgeted list. The original article by Dara-Lynn Weiss, talks about how she put her 7-year-old daughter on a diet. My dismay (along with others, I’m sure) is the way she went about it. In her own account, she talks about berating her daughter in public and focusing most of their private conversations around her daughters need to lose weight… I did mention she was 7, right?

I’m thinking Mrs. Weiss’ name will come up in future therapy sessions way more often then mine.

But… here’s the thing.

I think my youngest daughter is pretty and I do tell her this, often… physically attractive. I tell her I see her beauty in her mouth and her nose and her eyes that always pierce straight through to my soul. I see her beauty in the way she laughs and cries and screams and flashes those looks of contentment. I also think I need to show her how to be healthy by being consistently healthy myself — not by putting her on a diet or ridiculing her in public.

I think my oldest daughter is amazingly gorgeous — long and lean and silky hair and eyes that are a color that hasn’t been named yet. I tell her this often. She is also a brilliant reader and writer, an amazingly focused student, kind, and funny, and just the perfect amount of smartass to round her out. And I don’t think she dresses like a slut, I’m not even sure what a slut dresses like… a suit and tie, micro shorts, dread locks? I don’t know. And, I’m glad she stopped me as I ventured down a path that pisses me off when I hear others venturing down it — what we wear does not define who we are nor does it invite unwanted advances or unwanted criticism.

And my son… he’s absolutely adorable — long hair, long eyelashes, a smile that makes girls faint. I tell him how cute he is all the time. I tell him how kind he is all the time, almost saint like really. He’s smart and funny and laughs loud enough to catch a whole room on fire with his charm.

So, will they need therapy when they’re older — possibly.

Will they blame a mother who focused all her attention on their outward appearance — hell no.

Back to the article… I’m not necessarily counted in the “backlash” group. I’m not sure there’s an “I concur” group related to this but I’m sure I wouldn’t belong to it either. I’m just a mother who learned from the mistakes of my past and my mothers past and her mothers past. I’m a mother who thinks my kids are attractive and smart and kind and funny — the order of those changes, as it should.

My children, like your’s, are beautiful and have great hair and gorgeous smiles and enough intelligence to take-over the solar system and enough kindness in their souls to warm the Grinch’s icy heart.

I may think I’m shaping them into the adults they will become… but, really, they’re shaping me into the mother I will become.

Why can’t I tell my daughter she’s pretty?

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I want to hike the Appalachian Trail and sleep outside for weeks… alone.

I want to join the Peace Corps and end up in some far off land for a couple of years… alone.

I want to camp underneath the redwoods in California and not take a bath and not wash my hair and walk around in dirty clothes and eat cold beans out of a can… alone.

I want to sit on a blanket in the middle of nowhere until a light bulb of recognition turns on in my head and I jump to my feet and howl with the wolves and right then, in that moment, I know… it becomes clear.

I want to do all those things so I can discover who I should be, what I believe, who I can be… who I am.

But I can’t.

I can’t because I have kids and a career and a mortgage and a car payment and I have people who would think I was crazy. But, I’m not — I’m just 43 and finding myself.

So… what are my options?

How do we, as mothers and business leaders and teachers and people with our sanity, ensure that we keep our sanity in the quest to sort it all out?

A weekend excursion without the kids?

A five-mile run everyday while you listen to your favorite audio book?

A blog?

The options for those of us who have passed the point of doing all of our soul-searching before we “settle down and have kids” aren’t as limited as they seem.  We just have to be more creative with our time, more willing to parcel out our existential outings into shortened day trips or weekends away — or even a few hours locked away in our room to sweat it out with yoga.

To be stuck in a reality where you believe you are out of options is the most important battle you need to fight — stop believing, “this is it”.

A gray hair pops up and we panic, the pair of shorts that seemed loose last summer seems a bit snug now — I drive a Kia instead of a Land Rover. One glass of wine works like sodium pentathol. The waiter calls me ma’am. I can barely stay awake for the 10 o’clock news. Life has happened. But, I’m searching.

Searching for the me that I know I am. The me that tries to hide behind all the bullshit of life. The me that we all are, the business leaders and teachers and bus drivers and hair stylists and doctors and lawyers — the mothers. My searching is constant… my trying to be a better person is constant… my looking at myself is constant. Those times when I need to find myself somewhere at the edge of the ocean in California take a bit more planning these days — but, they still take place.

I can go on life-altering soul-searching journeys and still have my kids to school on Monday morning… as long as I set my alarm. I can sleep in the middle of the woods eating nothing but granola under the stars at night… I just have to stop at the vegan deli on my way out of town.

Possibly, my soul-searching might need to take place in Vegas… a different kind of wild lives there.

I can even post pictures on Facebook to prove it’s possible to find yourself… one weekend at a time. I can tweet my run-ins with wolves and coyotes and snakes and poison ivy. I can blog about all the possibilities and where I know they will take me — take us all who are still searching, still unraveling the mystery.

My life is just beginning to unfold. My self-actualizing-soul-searching is at its height. I am poised and ready to live among the creatures of the night… for a weekend at least.

My life is just beginning… this is going to be fun.

I’m 43 and finding myself.

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I sit and look out,

hearing the ocean rolling in front of me…

head back,

eyes closed,

… and I’m gone.

Counting on my daydreams to carry me away,

and they do, quickly…

I can taste the salt on my lips,

the uncomfortableness of the sand scratching my skin,

the breeze — the breeze is welcoming across my burning skin.

The sun is high in the sky but my daydreams don’t care,

they grab hold of my thoughts… filling my head with a world of forgotten promises.

Our truths are so varied but we end up at the same place,

a ship bringing us close to shore,

safely.

If I could fly… I’d spring out of this dream and jump in the waves,

I’d relax as the water churns around me,

I’d forget to remember that the world can be messy.

I’d forget to remember that bruising is a lesson I needed to learn.

I’d forget to remember my way back isn’t through you…

and it’s not here.

Not on these pages.

Not in empty words that bring me to my knees.

Not in a half truth.

Then I know…

the way back is in this wave,

carrying me steadily along,

building and building until it’s out of control,

a tidal wave spilling onto a beach because it got in its way.

The pain surges through my mind as I crash without warning,

left to sort it all out,

separate it into neat organized piles of chaos.

Here…

in the debris left behind,

is my beautiful star.

Here…

in the debris,

is my necessary truth.

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It’s been one of those weeks… you know what I mean. A week when you can’t bear to watch the news anymore but you must — you must. A week when you want to talk to every person you’ve ever befriended and tell them how great they are. A week when you want to assume the fetal position in the depths of your new bed and pull the sheets tight around your head. You know what I mean… one of those weeks. The sorrow of tragedy that has us reaching out to each other in a desperate attempt to plead, “I’m here. I care. Let’s be friends.”

I’ve been spending the last several days building bookcases and hanging curtains and assessing the needs of my yard and positioning and re-positioning pictures and artwork and knick knacks. I’ve been having a great time, getting things just so, making it all mine — this home that I bought. I’m down to the last few decorating needs — a runner for the hallway, an area rug for my wine drinking/book reading/thinking/conversing area, something to put on the wall in the dining room although what that is I have no idea — it will come to me eventually. I’ve been feeling rather at peace. The weather finally changed with the time. The sun has been warming the ground and my heart, geese have been frolicking in the pond across the street, birds are singing and children are playing… and then there’s this:

I needed to go to <insert large retail store name here that many people are boycotting but I can’t bring myself to boycott because I love all their stuff too much> to purchase a couple of bookcases that I’ve had my eye on for weeks and just needed to convince myself to spend the money. The morning started out great. I took all my kids to get their hair cut — they’re so freaking adorable. The day was warm and sunny and filled with fun things to come (mainly because I was returning them to their father’s house so I had the WHOLE day to myself — really, they’re freaking adorable). After the hair cuts I drove through a fast food chain to load them up on sugary drinks before I said my goodbye’s for the day — then I dropped them off and I was free.

My first though was, of course, “I need coffee”. But, I need to confess, when I say I drink coffee, what I really mean is I drink soy mocha hazelnut coffee — no whip. The soy part fools my mind into thinking it’s a healthier option (please, no spoilers). I pulled through my favorite local coffee-house and ordered the biggest size “coffee” they had. The nice girl making it and I shared laughs through the window as she stirred and mixed my concoction. She passed my super size coffee to me as we giggled some more and, then, during the hand-off, one of us erred (I think you can all guess who), the lid popped off and the entire super sized gooey mess of coffee heaven was on me, my steering wheel, my console, my phone, my GPS, my ass… everywhere. My hands immediately stuck to the steering wheel and I was overcome with the aroma of the coffee that my lips would never know. I drove off slowly, my mouth fixed in an awkward open position.

I drove home, in shock, to change clothes. I convinced myself that it was merely a minor setback to the day — I will overcome. I wiped enough off the steering wheel to avoid my hands being plastered there indefinitely and figured I would clean the rest later… I wanted my bookcases. Before I left my house, my neighbor called me over for a chat about grass and shrubs and all those things neighbors talk about. I ended the conversation and got in my car, heading to the unnamed store once again. I was still overcome with the smell of the soy mocha hazelnut coffee… no whip, but now it had clearly turned to a smell rather than a pleasant aroma. I had the sunroof open and the windows to breathe in the fresh air. I remarked to myself how similar the coffee smell was to dog doo — then I realized, yes, I had at some point in my pleasant conversation with the neighbor planted my foot an inch deep in a sticky gooey mess of another kind. And now I was driving down the road, making feeble attempts at not putting my foot down on the gas pedal or the brake pedal or the carpet — I drove all the way to said retail store using nothing but the tip of my shoe. I found a patch of grass in the parking lot and proceeded to, nonchalantly of course, scrape my shoe all around — I wanted my bookcases.

The purchase was made and I only saw a few noses raise in perplexed silence as I walked by… homeward bound — I had my bookcases. I began my drive home, with my head hanging out the window, feeling like I had almost conquered the day, I had almost won. I looked up at the four-way stop to the car directly across from me and saw a pleasant-looking older man — with a parrot on his shoulder. A live parrot. I could actually see the man and the parrot talking to one another — driving down the road. I waited for the music to Twilight Zone to start playing — I might have felt better if it had. When I got home I realized that my bookcases were really big… and heavy. The young man who loaded them in the car assured me they weren’t that heavy. I’m assuming he couldn’t foresee the steps I needed to climb.

Once I had wrangled the boxes up the steps and placed them carefully on the floor to be built, I decided I needed that cup of coffee now. I did my best to re-create the mocha hazelnut masterpiece and sat down to enjoy — I carefully brought the piping hot liquid to my lips and proceeded, somehow, to spill the entire cup all over me… and the chair and the carpet and the laptop. I let out a little scream and a few perfectly placed curse words and walked away as my dogs licked up my gooey mess.

I had escaped the news of the world’s tragedy briefly and my life continued to revolve and evolve. I imagine that’s the way this is all suppose to work. Tragic events unfold a world away, we reach out to those we need, we scream to be heard. The day was only half complete — two spilled cups of coffee, one accurate placement of my foot in the dog doo, a strained back, a talking parrot riding in a car… on a mans shoulder, and two bookcases that needed to be assembled… and oh yeah — my dogs need therapy.

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