Author Archives: twistingsuburbia

My Mother, My Hero

18581815_10210594503636521_5233969730884670004_n[1]I’ve been working on this piece for a while. I meant to post this yesterday, because it was  the 43rd anniversary of my mom’s 36th birthday*, but Life had other plans

A while ago  I talked about how I always wanted to be a superhero.

My aunt responded with this:

You are a superhero … Doing the right thing is not easy sometimes. You’re so like your mother. I wish Mom or Dad was here to tell me the specifics of this story because I was a kid and can’t remember the details.  Anyway It involved your Mom and race relations in the 50’s.  The local newspaper was interviewing students to get their opinions and they interviewed Karen.  I remember Mom and Dad being so proud of her, but concerned for her safety.  So you see…you’re a chip off the old block.  I’m enjoying your writing. Keep it up!

Love, Aunt Sally

I remember that story very well, but I’m not sure where I heard it. My mom was not one to brag. I probably heard it from my grandfather, who loved sharing family stories (I wish I’d been willing to listen). Or maybe mom told me the story when we had one of our many discussions about racism (I would say that I was raised to be colorblind, but evidently colorblindness is the new racism). I couldn’t understand why we were still struggling with racial inequality in the 70’s. It pissed me off, and I frequently came home, ranting and raving about something I’d seen/heard/read. My mother, who grew up in the Deep South in the 50’s and 60’s, would laugh.

This is the way she told the story –

I went to school at the height of the fight for integration. My father  (who was superintendent for the Oklahoma City school district) met with President Kennedy regarding the issue (I wish I had that picture/newspaper clipping, because it was REALLY cool), but I can’t say for certain that that’s why they chose to interview me. They asked me “What do you think of busing/integration?”. I told them “People should be allowed to attend whatever school they’d like to. They should be allowed to come here or stay at their old school, if that’s what they prefer.”

Needless to say, the newspaper quote did not go over well with some (most) of her neighbors in Tecumseh. My mom never knew about the backlash. My grandmother and grandfather handled the calls calmly, responding to suggestions that they “beat some sense into (her)” with “Thank you. We’re taking care of it.” I love this example of “creative truth telling”. They didn’t LIE, exactly. They just never said how they were “taking care of it”.

This, then, was the woman who raised me. My mother. My hero. Don’t get me wrong – my mother wasn’t perfect. She battled inner demons, she smoked and drank too much, she talked too loudly and snorted when she laughed. She didn’t fit in with the Perfect PTA Parents and Suburban Soccer Moms**.  She may not have been perfect, but she taught me many things. My mother taught me:

  • to be kind to everyone you meet.  (well, she tried to, at least. There are some days when the best I can manage is “not hateful”).
  • that there is no such thing as a stranger. She believed that strangers are just friends you haven’t yet met.
  • the importance of family, and showed me that “family” includes both family by blood and family of heart.
  • the value of shared grief (I used to mock her for crying when a friend suffered a loss because I was a lousy know-it-all teen, but I get it now).
  • and the value of shared joy.
  • the importance of keeping a secret
  • and the destructive power of gossip
  • when to speak up when necessary
  • and when to keep quiet
  • to respect others – that I didn’t have to agree with them, but that everyone is entitled to their own opinion (and that yes, opinions are like assholes)

Most importantly, she taught me that (almost) everything about anyone else is “Noneya”. Race, religious belief, sexual orientation – it really is “noneya business” – as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else (An it harm none. I never realized that my mom was a Wiccan).

In a world that’s becoming increasingly divisive, with hate crimes on the rise and people attacking each other for differing opinions, we need more people like her. She may have been “just” a housewife, but she was as much a superhero as any caped crusader.

*While most women remain 27, my mother was eternally 36. “I can’t be 37 yet, because I swore I would get my ears pierced when I turned 37.”

**Holy crap. I AM my mother’s daughter. <shrug> There are worse things I could be.

My other hero was my grandfather, who always reminded me of Atticus Finch

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I’m curious – who is YOUR hero?

She Blinded Me With Science

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“She” being Marie Curie.

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When I was young(er) I wrote a paper about the mother of modern physics. I was FASCINATED by her, and found her death both tragic and heroic. For a while I wanted to be Madame Curie. I pestered my parents until they bought me a chemistry set, but lost interest when I found that none of the compounds would explode or render my baby brother invisible (or mute).

Just kidding. Maybe. I’d like to tell you that I am a huge science dork. I would like to, but I’ve recently learned that one definition of “dork” is  “whale’s penis” or just “penis” and I’m definitely not a science penis, whale or otherwise.

I did well in science, but only because my mutant superpower was the ability to know what would be on the test (and no, I didn’t cheat). My husband, on the other hand, is enamored of all things scientific (which is incredibly weird for a musician). He loves quantum physics and can spend hours watching programs about string theory. He’s my own Sheldon Cooper, without the creepy smile.

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TBH Science usually makes me yawn, but it’s caught my interest once again. Science has made the news a lot this week. I have to admit I squealed like a fangirl when I heard that The Doctor joined the worldwide march for science. I was equally impressed by the story of a strange light named Steve:

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image credit to dailynewsglobal.com

A new type of light discovered in the night sky has been named “Steve.” Eric Donovan of the University of Calgary initially discovered the light when he did not recognize it as a cataloged variety. The European Space Agency used its Swarm mission to further examine the light. The light is 25 kilometers wide and flows 600 times faster than air. Scientists named it Steve after the 2006 animated movie “Over the Hedge.” – YAHOO

 

and now I find out that the Death Star is REAL

I might have to dig out the old chemistry set and invite my brother to come help me with an experiment.

Last, but not least, because some of you are probably too young for the earworm my title triggered for the rest of us:

Mother, Wife, Demon-slayer

6df30ac8a387944ff5579c32f2641adb[1]“Life is filled with big questions – Fate or Destiny? Heaven or Hell? Love or Attraction? Reason or Impulse? Beatles or Rolling Stones?” – Stephen King, Bazaar of Bad Dreams

“To be, or not to be –that is the question” William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act III sc 1.

I LOVE Shakespeare. Love him. As in a total, squealy fangirl crush (and not just because he was played by Joseph Fiennes in Shakespeare in Love) I’ve seen pictures. He was…mmmm. What’s the word I’m looking for? Less than attractive (Yes, I know, that’s three  words). Hey, we’ve all seen the pictures of the old dude with the big balding head in the weird old lady collar.

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I took Shakespeare courses in college, tutored other students and read his works “just for fun”. Yeah. I was THAT kid.  My friends and I spent hours pouring over every play, interpreting and debating the meaning of every scene and  soliloquy – but none more so than the infamous passage from Hamlet, Act III Scene 1.

So why am I bringing this up today? Well, first of all, Heath Ledger would have turned 38 this week, and (ICYMI) Spike released a trailer for the new I am Heath Ledger biography.

Secondly, a friend decided “not to be” earlier this week, and it got me thinking (always a dangerous thing to do). I’ve spoken before about my battles with the EIC and depression, but I will continue to talk about it until the stigma surrounding mental illness is a thing of the past.

Robert, like Heath Ledger, was a brightly shining star – a beautiful-from-the-inside-out incredibly talented creative soul who seemed to move effortlessly amongst us mere mortals. I was in awe of his talent and imagination, his quick wit and genuine warmth. He was not only a talented artist and inventor, he was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. He appeared to be comfortable in his own skin, and I assumed that he was free of the destructive voices and demons that torment most artists.

Shows how little I know. What do they say? “Appearances are deceiving”? “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? “Don’t judge a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes”? (or, as Steve Martin puts it “Before you criticize a man, walk a mile in his shoes. That way, when you do criticize him, you’ll be a mile away and have his shoes.”)

They say that stars who burn the brightest burn the fastest. No, I do not know who “they” are, or why this appears to be true. I assume it has something to do with the limited amount of fuel and the speed at which it is burned, but I’m not a science guy (TBH I’m not a guy at all, although I could be. I met a bartender who spelled his name T-R-A-C-E-Y on St. Patrick’s day, but that’s neither here nor there).

I’m not a science guy, I’m a creative.

Creative brains are weird.

Greater minds than mine have debated whether the stereotype of the “tortured artist” is legitimate. It might be a cliché, but, judging by the Facebook comments from his friends and fellow performers (“I’ve battled depression for years” and “depression has been my constant companion” to quote a few), it’s legitimate. I know that all the artists I’ve met have struggled with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. I believe it is because we are encouraged, as artists and performers, to break down our walls and express our truest self. Shedding our protective layers leaves us open, raw and more vulnerable to “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.”

Please note – I am not a trained professional, nor do I play one on TV.  I have, however, been battling inner demons for decades. Feel free to take my advice with a grain of salt (and a shot of tequila):

First – Depression is an evil, scum-sucking mother F-r. He travels with his BFFs Hopelessness and Despair. This terrible trio will cheat, lie and steal. They will tell you that nobody cares about you and that nobody wants to listen to you whine. They will take turns sitting in the middle of your chest whispering horrible lies into your ear until you’re nothing but a quivering, weepy mass of snot.

Knowing that Depression is a liar doesn’t fix things. Trust me when I say that knowing something intellectually doesn’t stop me from sliding all the way to the bottom of the pit of despair.

Every single time I find myself at the bottom of the pit, I think “What the hell am I doing here/I’ll never get out.”*  I have, however, recently learned to recognize the symptoms of the spiral before depression gains traction. I wish I could tell you what they are, but they’re different for everyone. Hopefully it won’t take you forty-something years to identify yours.

Secondly (or maybe this should be first) fighting the demons only makes them stronger, and is incredibly exhausting. Strangely enough, giving them a chance to voice their opinions renders them powerless. When the voices start whispering, I take pen to paper and write down everything they say (in cursive, so the words can flow). I write without rebuttal until they stop speaking. Believe me when I say that a person (or inner demon) who is allowed to vent without interruption will eventually run out of steam. What you do next depends on what works for you – you can respond to them, verbally or on paper, you can shred the papers, burn them, or use them to line a birdcage. Eventually you might find the strength to do the one thing that banishes them – laugh at them. Demons are like the boggarts in Harry Potter – hiding in the deepest, darkest corners of our mind, filling us with mind numbing fear, and disappearing with the first giggle.

Most importantly, if you (or a loved one) is struggling with depression or have run out of cope, ask for help. Yes, help is a four letter word, but it’s not a foul one. Don’t wait until you’re stuck at the bottom of a cold dark pit. Call a friend, call a family member, call a stranger. You can dial 911 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255. If you don’t want to call, you can even send a text.

I was going to end with the inspirational “Don’t You Quit” poem, but it’s a little pithy for me today. I’ll leave you with Dylan Thomas instead.

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* Well, that’s not exactly true. My first thought is “Wow, it’s dark and cold down here. Next time I should bring a space heater and a booklight”.

On Love, Loss, and Laughter

images71V16YFPI know what you’re thinking – “Where the hell has Tracey been and what kind of writer doesn’t write?” (or, as my EIC would say, “If a writer isn’t writing, doesn’t that mean they’re not a writer?”)

In Hell. Literally (Ok, maybe not literally). A stuck writer. That’s what kind.

Grief has eaten my brain, and stolen my creativity.

I lost someone a month ago who was incredibly important to me. Well, I didn’t’ “lose” him. It’s not like he was a set of car keys, or a sock that disappeared from the dryer, or my mind.

Sorry for that. I have a habit of trying to compensate for emotional issues with sarcasm and lame attempts at humor. Let me try again.

My friend died a month ago.

Wow. There it is, in black and white. The phrase I’ve avoided. I know it’s hard to read, but trust me, it’s harder to write and practically impossible to believe. Timothy Leary was right when he said “Death is the last taboo.”  Nobody dies. They “pass on” or “leave us”, “slip away” or “go to a better place”.

I call bullshit.

My friend died.

Three words. So simple and so misleading. Here’s how dictionary.com breaks down the sentence:

My – belonging to or associated with the speaker.

Friend – a person whom one knows and with whom one has a bond of mutual affection, typically exclusive of sexual of family relations

Died – to cease to live; undergo the complete and permanent cessation of all vital functions

The thing is, Mario wasn’t just “my” friend. He was EVERYONE’S friend. Yeah, he was THAT guy. He was charming and funny, smart and kind. No matter where he went, he always ended up surrounded by a group of people who were jostling for position and vying for his attention. Mario, like my mother, seemed to believe that there is no such thing as a stranger. Strangers are simply friends you haven’t yet met.

He was my friend, but he was more than that. There are friends, and then there are people who are so much more than simply friends – we call these people our “family of heart”. We might not be related by blood, but we are joined by a love that is even stronger than family ties. Mario was my friend, my mentor, my brother of heart.

I met Mario when we were young and foolish, hopeful and fearless. He was dating the woman who ran the booth I worked for – the woman who would become one of my very best friends. In a blink of an eye, they were married, and raising 3 kids.

Mario and Virginia were playing house and being Responsible Adults while I was still trying to decide how to style my hair. It took me longer to grow up, but eventually I got married and had a kid of my own. I am incredibly lucky to have had their help in raising my daughter. Mario was a perfect example of a father for my spouse to emulate, and Virginia was the same for me. Their three kids are amazing people, despite the fact that their parents have a twisted sense of humor (It gave me hope that our daughter wouldn’t be Permanently Damaged). The fact that they were still wildly in love with each other even after 35 years together was inspiring – a testimony to the power of True Love.

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Mario’s kids asked us to write down things that we learned from him, to list our favorite sayings or quotes. I couldn’t think of anything at the time. I’m sure people remember a lot of “Mario-isms”, but I can’t remember anything other than him saying “OUTSTANDING!” when things would go less than perfectly, or when someone would do something that was extraordinarily stupid. But here are things that I learned from him:

Be kind. Mario was nice to everyone – no matter what they believed, what they looked like, how they dressed, how much money they made (or didn’t make). He was one of the popular kids, but he wasn’t one of the mean girls (which is not to say that he didn’t enjoy a little CCC* when warranted). He went out of his way to be kind to people who were often overlooked or ignored. He was even nice to the weird kid in the corner (What? No, that wasn’t me, why would you think that?).

Be polite We disagreed about many things (politics, religion, and whether the Three Stooges were funny). As strong minded (or, in my case, hard headed) individuals, we agreed to disagree. Having friends with opinions which differ from one’s own makes life more interesting.

but don’t be a pushover. (does this one really need explaining?)

Keep learning. Mario was always reading, always trying to better himself. As Albert Einstein said “Once you stop learning, you start dying.”

Make people smile Mario would do almost anything to get a laugh (that’s not exactly true. There was no “almost” about it).

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by embracing your inner weirdo – In a world where everyone worries about what others think/we struggle to fit in, to be normal (please note, “normal” is just a setting on the washing machine), Mario stood out as someone who just didn’t give a flying f…

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Don’t whine. (Aka “Suck it up, Buttercup”) The past few years were incredibly hard physically and psychologically, and yet, Mario was always smiling (or maybe it was a grimace). His outlook could best be described this way:

Be strong… Mario was in a lot of pain, but he never let it stop him from doing the things that he needed or wanted to do. Long days at work which required hours of driving? Every day. Trips to Yosemite, to hockey games, to shows and soccer games and even a longa** Christmas parade? NP. The thing that stands out most is the fact that, whenever I came to visit, no matter how much pain he was in, Mario always stood up to say hello.

but don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it (TBH I never heard Mario ask for help for himself. He was always asking for help for someone else).

and always offer help to those who need it. In a world where people rise above the masses by putting others down, Mario lifted people up.

Those are the things I’ve learned from Mario’s life. What did I learn from his death?

That “Only the good die young” is not a meaningless phrase. Neither is “Life’s a Bitch, and then you die.” That we need to find make time for those we love. When I was a kid, I thought nothing of knocking on my friend’s door, and asking if they could come out and play. We lose that ability when we grow up – we get busy with life – with school, with work. We worry that our houses are too messy for guests, or that our friends are too busy for us. We SCHEDULE our lives and our visits, instead of just “popping in to say hello”. We text and skype and send messages via snapchat or twitter. We brag about the fact that Facebook has allowed us to “reconnect” with old friends and family members, but we don’t take make the time to see each other “IRL”. WE NEED TO STOP THAT, RIGHT NOW.

What did I learn from my friend’s death? Life is short, and none of us is guaranteed tomorrow. Mario’s younger daughter got married in November. At the reception, he asked me told me to stop by after work for a “beer and bitch” session, but I assumed it was the whisky talking, and that we would have a chance to catch up “soon”. Please believe me when I say that “SOON” DOESN’T COME SOON ENOUGH.

I know this was a long post, so, in the immortal words of Inygo Montoya “let me sum up”. What did I learn from Mario?

Live fearlessly, love fiercely and laugh at all that life throws your way.

And, oh yeah, always pet the puppies.

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*Catty Corner Commentary

Fork, yeah!

thvtmdn5vdI swear. A lot. I didn’t always have a filthy mouth, but, once I started, I swore loudly and often (my parents were so proud). My favorite word started with an f and ended in a k. It wasn’t “fork”, but that’s the word I will use in this post, because I am trying to beat my addiction. I’ve even started a 12 step program. Hello, my name is Tracey, and I’m addicted to four letter words. Like most 12 step programs, the first step is admitting you have a problem and that you’re powerless to stop. The second step is to believe that a power greater than yourself can help you stop (Yeah, right. Even the power of parenthood couldn’t stop me. My daughter’s first sentence was “Bite me jackass”). The third step is…ummm..fuck if I know. Dammit. Back to day one. Hello, my name is Tracey, and I’m addicted to four letter words….

My husband hoped that becoming an accidental mother would change me. After all, mothers are sweet and kind, loving and gentle. Evidently I didn’t get the memo, because the only thing that changed was that I went from being a wife that swore to a mother with a dirty mouth. The good news is that, when people would “slip” and swear in front of my tweenager, she would just shrug and roll her eyes when they apologized (“I’ve heard worse”).

I know, I know, women shouldn’t swear/it’s not ladylike. TBH I don’t know what the big deal is. Studies have shown that swearing is good for you and reduces pain. Just recently I posted a popular FB meme as my status. I’ll share it here, ICYMI

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image courtesy of imgarcade.com

There are issues when you’re a woman who loves to swear. Nineteen of them have been identified by the awesome Erin La Rosa from Buzzfeed. Being far from “normal” (FYI normal is just a setting on the dryer), my issue wasn’t one of them. Using the “f-word” was cathartic at first, but, like most gateway drugs, one day it stopped giving me the rush I craved. I tried using other words, but they didn’t have the punch I needed. The logical next step in my progression (regression?) was to link them together in strange and unusual ways, but”I’ll see you next Tuesday you cat-faced mother forking son of a female dog” took too damn long. In searching for a new/better four letter word (one that will express my frustration with my current situation and the increasingly dark and dismaying world climate) I found the perfect word.

HOPE

(hōp)

v. hoped, hop·ing, hopes
v.intr.

1. To wish for a particular event that one considers possible: We are hoping for more financial support.
2. Archaic To have confidence; trust.
v.tr.

To desire and consider possible: I hope that you will join us for dinner. We hope to buy a house in the spring. See Synonyms at expect.

I’ve spoken about hope before. One of my first posts talked about losing and finding hope. the other one talked about fear and the power of Hope. When I picture Hope, I see a rare and delicate flower. It’s a fragile thing, easily lost and hard to find when life gets rough. The good news is that Hope is bioluminescent, allowing you to find it even on the darkest of nights. With a little love and a lot of TLC it will blossom, bloom and grow. I believe the best way to feed Hope is by sharing and spreading love, which is how I came up with an acronym –

Help

One

Person

Every

Day**

Look, it’s getting scary out there. It’s too much. Too much anger. Too much hate. Let’s see if there’s such a thing as too much love**. Hold the door for someone, share a smile, compliment a stranger. Be kind to each other. Play nicely in the sandbox.

And on those days where life beats you down and everyone is being an asshat, swear like a sailor like a woman who loves to curse. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt.

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image courtesy of gurl.com

 

I have a couple of questions (take out your #2 pencils):

  1. Do you swear, and (if so) what’s your favorite four letter word?
  2. What is your favorite story of hope?
  3. How do you “pay it forward“?

*Oops, that’s “HOPED” not “HOPE”. Dammit, I was hoping that this post would be perfect 😉

**there is, and it causes chafing, but that’s a topic for a different post

On the Pleasures of Self Love

dayOMG, not like THAT. Put that away, this is a family blog*.

I’ve spoken about the importance of self love before.  It’s February 13th, which means that you only have 1/2 a shopping day left to go buy buy buy the one you love enough chocolate, flowers and sparkles to prove you’ll love them from here to eternity (1/2 a shopping day? What are you doing here! You don’t have time to read – go shop!. No, wait. Finish reading my post first). It also means that today is Self Love Day

I want to ask you a question:

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I mean, really, really love yourself? If your answer is “I did, until my batteries died”, you are a sick and twisted puppy.  If your answer is “Hell if I know”, join the club. You can take the quiz and find out now (don’t forget to bring your #2 pencil).

If your answer is “Some days I do, and some days I don’t”, you might need a reminder.  You’re lucky, because you can Share & Wear the Love with this awesome socks (get a pair for yourself & one for a friend, plus they will donate a pair to a child who needs some TLC).

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If your answer is “How could I love me?” well, you need to be surrounded by surrounded by women who will lift you in a FREE virtual circle of  love and strength. Come join us tonight (5:30 pm PT/8:30 ET)

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If you answer is “Of COURSE I love me, I am an awesome being filled with love and light and my destiny is to remind everyone that they deserve to be lifted in love”, then you should be a Love Ambassador too. Come walk the path.

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*a twisted, cynical, sarcastic, slightly dysfunctional family, that is

p.s. If you have any questions, reach out to Stacey at Stacey@Arylo.com.

 

What are you afraid of?

fear2When I was little, I was afraid of the dark. No, not the creatures that lived in the dark closet or the monsters who hid in the darkness under the bed – I was afraid of the lack of light itself. It hung in the corners at bedtime, waiting for my parents to kiss me goodnight and leave my room. As they crossed the threshold, it slid down the walls and crept across the floor until slowly, oh so slowly,  it reached the foot of my bed. I would huddle in a ball by the head of the bed, eyes opened so widely I feared they would fall out, lips pinched tight against screams and tears, until finally the darkness reached out to touch a toe, and I’d let loose with a shriek that “it’s coming to get me!”

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image credit to waxycamera.wordpress.com

I’m not quite sure why it scared me so. Maybe it was because I thought the darkness was a monster – a dark, oily blanket that swallowed everything it touched. Maybe it was because my overactive imagine could hear it whispering (it was just my imagination, wasn’t it?). Whatever the reason, I slept with the hall light on until I left for college (Just kidding. Maybe).

As an adult* I’m proud to say that I’ve outgrown my fear of the dark. What? No, that’s not a nightlight in my room. I mean, it IS a nightlight, but it’s not because I’m afraid – it’s because I’m clumsy. I need a light to help me avoid corners and legos and other little bits of clutter that reach to trip me on my way to the bathroom.

As a mother, I’m no longer afraid of the dark – there are scarier things than monsters that live in the closet or under the bed. Things like dangerous playgrounds filled with too tall ladders, slippery slides and swings without seatbelts and germ-laden ball pits and suburban soccer moms and snack duty and PTA meetings and awards ceremonies and school plays (as the mother to a child who was in a continuous growth spurt, school plays were always accompanied by a muttered prayer please don’t let her fall off the stage, please don’t let her fall of the stage…).

But there’s nothing, in all my years of phobias and fears (rational and irrational), that has scared me more than two little words. Two words that can bring me to my knees, eyes shut and heart pounding. You laugh, but trust me, these two words can send a grown man screaming from the room. I don’t like to speak for other people (I can hear you laughing – stop it!), but I’m pretty sure I can speak for parents everywhere, when I say there’s nothing scarier than these two little words:

“I’m bored”.

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image courtesy of pictures88.com

Every parent responds differently to “I’m bored”. I’ve heard everything from “You have a whole room of toys, how can you be bored?” to “When I was your age, I didn’t have time to be bored”. Evidently some adults have forgotten their childhood – how the days stretched on for hours, and summer seemed endless. On the first day of vacation, my friends and I would race outside after breakfast,  to play tag or ball or hopscotch or ride bikes until the streetlights turned on– and eventually, the newness of summer would morph into endless repetition and we’d be…bored. Please note, I’m referring  to the definition of bored as “To make weary by being dull, repetitive, or tedious“– I don’t want to suggest that, in an attempt to relieve our boredom, we’d bore holes into each other (if only because our dads locked their tools in the garage).

I know what you’re thinking. We’re a month past winter break and summer is a lifetime away – so why was I reminded of the chill of these two little words?

Because

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As a kid, I was too busy to be bored. As a college student, there weren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, so boredom was out of the question. As “someone’s wife” I was a hyphenated woman (wife/masseuse/biller/coder/actor/comedian/cook/housekeeper) and much too busy following Cosmo magazine’s challenge to “do it all and do it all well” to be bored. As a pregnant woman (and then new mother), I was too sleep deprived to be anything but tired (which rapidly evolved into being too busy to be bored). Now that I’m the parent of a not-quite 17 year old, my life is becoming my own once again, and I’m bored, bored. B-o-r-e-d.

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Boredom is dangerous, because she usually brings along her friends apathy and despair.  The three friends like to grab you by the hair and drag you down the grey-bricked road to depression.

Because I’m a Virgo, I immediately researched the symptoms to and remedies for boredom. The internet provided a whole slew of images and ideas.

 

This one made me laugh:

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but only because I would follow Boredom all the way down the grey-bricked road to  limbo before doing chores to break her.

And then I got an email from DailyOm.com** telling me that The sense of feeling bored in life can be an indicator that we need to be proactive in creating change” (I love it when the universe/God/the Goddess/the force dumps an answer in my lap). So it looks as though I am looking to change, which is not as easy as looking FOR change. I hate change. It’s hard, but I suppose it’s not as hard as being dragged down a brick road by your hair.

The bad news is that I’m not sure I know who I am, now that I’m not just “someone’s wife” or “someone’s mother”. The good news is that I’m returning to the things I did BM (Before Motherhood) and I still love them. The best news is that I may be bored, but at least nobody’s drilling holes into my abdomen – or my brain.

So tell me – what do you do to combat boredom? And how do you being to change, when your inner child is kicking, screaming and going limp at the very idea?

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*I’ve said it before and I’ve said it again – what is a dult and why would anyone want to be one?

**The DailyOM is amazing. Really and truly. If you’re not following them, you should be.

Hormones and Whore Moans

_20170131_080930I’m in hell (not literally, although that might explain my absence). They don’t have Wi-Fi in hell. They also don’t have ice water or chocolate. I don’t want to be here, but I’ve wound up here, despite my good intentions. It’s not that I’m evil, it’s just that lately I’ve had an overwhelming urge to reach out and touch someone – with a baseball bat.

It’s possible that my agitation is a reflection of all the hatred and anger that’s out there right now –but I don’t think that’s it. I think my violent urges can be blamed on the fact that I am a “woman of a certain age” and that I’m going through the dreaded M word. The word that-must-not-be-named (with apologies to J.K. Rowling and Harry Potter). No, not marriage, although the thought of marriage can cause dread among a select (mostly masculine) portion of the populace. And not Maternity, although that can cause dread, anxiety and flat out fear (and rightfully so – children are assholes! I would know, I used to be one).

I’m talking about Menopause. My friends and I prefer the phrase “mental pause” (for good reason. Ever since it started my brain has been permanently paused). TBH, I’ve been very lucky. I’ve only had a few “personal summers” (during the summer, which seems incredibly cruel) and zero night sweats. I gained 10 pounds, but that could be due to my newfound love of Modelo Negra.

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One of my biggest issues has been hair loss*. Then there’s the newfound sleeplessness associated with shifting hormonal levels (granted, mid-life insomnia is not unique to menopausal women, but I’m including it here because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want, so there ;-P). According to an article on WebMD, a study published in the journal Menopause in 2001 observed that “insomnia is a frequently reported complaint in menopausal women.” The reason: You may be sleeping – or wanting to sleep — but your estrogen levels are still up dancing all night long. And that continual action can interrupt healthy sleep. I’d really like to know why, when I’m too tired to stay up to watch CSI, my estrogen levels have the energy to stay up dancing all night long. Ah well, I’m using the extra free time to power through my reading list.

I consider myself fortunate in that I have friends who have battled the M word. Women with whom I’ve been able compare notes and commiserate over a glass of wine (or three). I want to take this opportunity to let them know that I’m unfriending them. They failed to properly prepare me for Menopause Mood Swings. In their defense, NOTHING can prepare you for MMP. Severe PMS? Nope, not even close. Pregnancy hormones? Close, but no cigar. As my sister-in-law Jasmine put it “These hormones are no joke – I can want to kill someone and then sob uncontrollably at my own crazy in under five seconds.” I have her beat. I can go from upbeat to homicidal in 2.3 seconds, and I’m buying Kleenex by the buttload (damn those people in advertising anyway).

There are definitely things you can do to offset “power surges”. With two hormonal females under one roof, my husband learned fairly quickly that the best thing to do when someone you love starts riding the hormonal rollercoaster is throw chocolate and hide the pointy objects.  I’ve found that a glass of wine takes the edge off (added bonus – red wine has health benefits!), and that the aforementioned chocolate releases endorphins. I’ve heard rumors that endorphins are released during exercise, but that seems like a drastic measure. Experts recommend offsetting hormone surges with visualization and breathing exercises. I’ve found that this one works well for me:

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When all is said and done, I am forced to admit that menopause can be fun (trust me – menopause puts the f-u in “fun”). If nothing else, I’ve learned brand new games I can play by myself, including “Where did I put my___?” and “Why the hell did I come in here?” It’s because hormones create something known as “brain fog”. Evidently hormones, like zombies, eat your brain. Unlike zombies, hormones do not eat other peoples’ brains and cannot be killed by an arrow to the eye or a knife through the head (well, they CAN be, but it seems like a permanent solution to a temporary situation).

I’ve been told that, as I move further “post” my “post-menopausal” stage, things will get easier. In the meantime, I’m keeping Nathanial Parizek’s quote in mind:

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*Well, that’s not exactly true. I’m losing hair from my head, but I’m growing it in fun new places. My sideburns are particularly lovely.

So, tell me – how do YOU handle your hormonal shifts? Chocolate and wine? Meditation and yoga?

P.S. for those of you who have waited patiently to know the difference between hormones and whore moans – Both can be fake, but one responds well to chocolate, and one will cost you a little extra.

Dear Kids, When I fail…

I didn’t write this, but I wish I did – does that count?

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Dear kids,

Sometimes I wake up in the morning and I see that you’ve grown over night. Your face is more defined, your eyes look older. A part of me is excited and in awe; I know you have so much ahead of you. Another part is scared because time is racing and I can’t slow it down. I’m afraid that I haven’t always been awake and noticing, and that somehow I have slept through the magic of your growing. I wonder, have I enjoyed you enough? Have I given you what you needed? Is your heart still whole? Is your spirit unbroken?

I’m not always good at this. I’m not always as good as I want to be at being your mom. I want to be great; and sometimes I am, but sometimes I’m not.

Sometimes I get it, and sometimes I don’t.

Sometimes I do it right, and sometimes I completely miss it.

Everyday…

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Hippo Gnu Deer

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Image courtesy of Sandra Boynton

Happy New year and welcome to a brand new me!

I know what you’re thinking – really I do. Not because I’m psychic, or because (thanks to Miss Sally’s magic mirror) I can see you*. It’s not even because I’m a mom and moms know EVERYTHING.

I know what you’re thinking, because every year, when people would say “Whooooo hooo! New year – it’s a fresh start!” I would roll my eyes so hard that I was afraid they’d fall out.

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And then 2016 happened. It was an extreme rollercoaster of a year,  filled with highs, lows, marriages, births and near death experiences.

To be honest, 2016 wasn’t terrible for me. It wasn’t fun, but it wasn’t horrible. We (“we” meaning my family – I haven’t started using the royal “we” – yet)  made it through with sanity and sense of humor mostly intact, which is more than can be said of some. Again, it wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t great. We survived.

After five years riding Life’s rollercoaster, I’ve decided that survival is not enough. Surely I can do something more than just survive another year. Yesterday I started listening to “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes. She opened with one of my favorite quotes:

If you want crappy tings to stop happening to you, then stop accepting crap and demand something more.” – Christina Yang, Grey’s Anatomy

It occurred to me that in order to make some changes in my life, I might need to actually make some changes in my life. No, you didn’t read that wrong. For the past few years I’ve tried to make changes in my life by wishing and hoping, praying and swearing. Some things worked better than others (swearing always makes me feel better, especially when I’ve cracked my toe on the corner of the sofa), but they’ve only brought me so far.

Maya Angelou says it better:

“The need for change bulldozed a road down the center of my mind.”

I’ve decided that this year, instead of setting myself up for failure by making impossible resolutions (“I will cut out sugar, alcohol and caffeine, walk every day at lunch and have more patience for stupidity.”)I will try making small changes**.

I’m not quite sure what changes I’m going to make yet. The fact that I’ve recognized that I need to make changes feels like a big enough step for today. I’m with Bob. Baby steps to a new me.

*Romper Room was one of my favorite shows. For some reason, no matter how close I saw to the TV, or how loudly I screamed, Miss Sally couldn’t see me.

**I hate change. Change is hard. But I’m willing to try.

So tell me – are you making any new year’s resolutions? Have you broken them already?