Roller Coasters.

I never let go on a roller coaster. Never. Letting go during a wild ride is far too scary. Instead, I hold on to the safety bar with an almighty grip and sink my feet down hard into the steel floor of the ride. I clench every muscle in my body; an effort to maintain control over my fate.  This firm and steady stance will certainly shield me from any unwanted outcomes if something horrible happened. Won’t it? If I just hold on tight enough, I cannot get hurt. If I dig my feet in deep enough, everything will work out exactly the way I want it to. Just hold on tighter.

Life is funny though, because often things don’t end up happening quite like we plan. Sure, if we dig in hard enough, and beat the obstacle with a steady string of punches, bits and bobs, and pieces of whatever will eventually give in and fall. We all have the ability to force things into happening but when we do, we usually end up with only a sketch outline or skeleton drawing of the beautiful painting we were meant to have in the first place; the picture we probably would have had if we hadn’t dug in so damn hard.

I used mentor a group of girls in my daughter’s class and we worked on a philanthropy project for Thanksgiving. Last year we made blessing bags filled with dry goods, small snacks, candies,  toiletries, and hair accessories. These bags were made for our local homeless shelter for women and children. Before organizing all of their donated items and sorting them for bagging, the girls decorated each of the bags while some of them wrote inspirational and uplifting messages. One, in particular stood out to me. It read, in part, “Just remember there is a plan for you, have faith!”

I understand the human need to feel in control. Feeling a sense of control over our surroundings feels good and I am acutely aware of the times when I feel the need to have it. It’s usually when my surroundings are completely out of my control, like in 2016 when I was very abruptly diagnosed with thyroid cancer. I understand far too well the need to feel in control. There is nothing more unsettling then to not have control over the experiences within your life.

Whenever I feel anxious, I feel the urge to micromanage my family. Whenever I feel a sense of uncertainty, I feel the need to force things. When I’m forced to wait and exercise patience, I can become easily frustrated and end up lashing out at a completely innocent store clerk. Whenever I am faced with a deep desire to control my surroundings, although painstakingly difficult, I remind myself that what I really need to do, is let go. Instead of grabbing on to the safety bar with both hands, I need to let go.

There is a plan for me, a plan for all of us but we have to let go and trust in ourselves. Trust in the plan set for you. Sure it’s scary and feels uncertain, but it’s really the only way to truly live. It’s quite a quandary to be in. On one hand you are faced with a deep human need to hold on to the safety bar with unflappable might and dig your heels down deep into the floor; do whatever it takes to control the universe in your favor. On the other, you need to let that shit go.

It all makes me wonder how in the world can we live in such a preciously unstable existence. It’s a true paradox because on one hand, letting go is an almost unfathomable concept and truly takes my breath away, and yet on the other hand, there is no alternative.

I can only surmise one theory and that is faith. We must trust in something greater and bigger than us.

There is more, way more than we can ever imagine. Instead of forcing life into the flimsy sketch of  things the way I think they should go, I would rather let go and get the full, beautiful, complete picture that I deserve. But it’s certainly not easy. I have to take each step guided by the deepest faith that I am on the right path. I have to trust in myself that if and when I falter, (and I will) I will find a way to right myself. I have to trust that everything happens for a reason and that within my life, there is purpose.

So I’m letting go. I’m not holding on, nor am I digging in. I’m not railing against the forces of change that affect my plans. I’m enjoying the ride no matter what direction it takes me or how long it lasts. Or how scary it is. I have faith in the plan that is set forth for me and I’m doing my best to enjoy the ride. As I throw my hands up in the air while thundering down from the highest drop, I have faith. I have found, that while letting go can make things a bit scarier, it can also makes things way more fun.

fullsizeoutput_1ec5

Peanuts.

I recently had an article published about my personal struggle between balancing the need to be assertive, with the unnecessary need to always be polite. I blame this on my southern roots. No matter the cause I want my children to have a different internal narrative – if it’s important to you, say what you need say. Period.

I thought about several interactions throughout my life and I easily saw a pattern. Clearly it resonated with other women, too because the article has reached thousands of readers, all with a resounding agreement that we often times put too much focus on being polite, instead of what we need to say. You can read the article here, published by Scary Mommy.

Hhhooowwweeevvveeerrrr, apparently when I’m traveling and tired my worry about politeness goes right out the plane window. Literally. On my completely full return flight home last week from Dallas, I was making my way to the very back of the plane, realizing quickly that there was no more overhead room for my carry-on bag. A flight attendant quickly intercepted me and started looking for space.

One thing about me: I’m a rule follower. People don’t typically make up rules for shits and giggles. There is usually a reason for rules and most likely a good one. Another thing about me: I listen. When people talk on a microphone or speaker-thing, something sort of important sounding, I listen. Most of the time they are not engaging in unimportant talky-talky. Especially when I’m about to board an aircraft, an object I still don’t fully comprehend how it remains in flight, I am going to listen.

The accommodating attendant popped open an overhead bin and found a soft, squishy, rather small backpack. I was one misplaced backpack away from getting my overhead bin space. I had her back; I knew exactly what she was thinking, “Who the ever loving hell put a backpack in the fucking overhead bin?!?” Instead she politely asked around for the owner of the backpack.

There he was. As soon as I laid eyes on grandpa I was ready to take care of business. Ain’t nobody screwing up our system! Not today, gramps, not today. As she was leaning in to talk with him, for some very impolitely assertive reason, I leaned over her shoulder and firmly informed him, “Bags like that are supposed to go under the seat in front of you, not the overhead bin!” I may have even pointed a finger for emphasis.

It was like an alien had taken over my body. I quickly pulled my lips inward as the attendant stared into the soul of my forefathers. She gently directed me to take a seat. Again, I knew exactly what she was thinking, “No peanuts for crazy in the back.”

xoxo

You can also read the complete article here:

As a southern woman, I have found that we are too often taught through our experiences that, above everything else, we should be polite. At some point throughout our life, in often compounding ways, we are shown that under most circumstances, we should always err on the side of politeness. No matter what we want to say, or what we are feeling, the appropriate response is to smile and nod.

Instead of telling the truth, we bless people’s hearts. Instead of saying what we want to say, we hug graciously. My experiences don’t necessarily need to be the same as my daughter’s, which is why I want to raise her to explicitly understand that being polite is not necessarily a requirement in this life.

I was recently at a lunch event with friends and relatives when two women started a conversation with me and then, rather stunningly, said disparaging things about a close family member of mine. Instead of responding the way my inner voice wanted me to, engaging in a verbal street fight, I was polite.

Later that same year my family and I were having lunch at a local restaurant and were seated across from a chatty, elderly couple. I’m certainly accustomed to people interacting with us as a family when we are out with our children, as nothing gets grandpa up and chatting like cute kids. The problem wasn’t anything he said, it was merely his insertion into our family lunch. I was more uncomfortable with his level of comfort, his assumptions that he could barge right into our meal. I didn’t put an end to the conversation or ask for the privacy I wanted. Instead, I was polite.

Having sat there, silent, I hated the way I felt and wanted to share those feelings with my daughter. I wanted her to know that if she was ever in a situation like that, in which someone was making her uncomfortable, she didn’t have to put up with it. I pulled her aside, got eye-to-eye with her, and told her my lie. “I want you to know that it’s always okay for you to not interact in situations like that. If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, it would be totally fine for you to say that you are not interested in engaging with him.”

She stared blankly at me, and asked, “Well, why didn’t you?”

Her question has stuck with me for months. Time after time, I have allowed things to be said or done and instead of standing up for myself, I’ve opted to be polite. I have sacrificed my own feelings for someone else’s comfort. The old man’s feelings shouldn’t have been put ahead of my desire for privacy. Those women didn’t deserve to be protected for being hurtful. My feelings within the space of these events matter, and I want my children to feel the same way.

I want my daughter to find the balance that I didn’t necessarily grow up having. I want her to understand the importance of being respectful and polite, but also understand the importance of being brave and saying what she needs to say — even if it’s scary. I don’t want her to sacrifice her own feelings for the comfort of those around her.

So, is it ever okay to ruin the lunch?

As a mother raising a daughter, I have found that in order to combat this pressure to be polite, it’s my responsibility to teach my daughter explicitly and directly that politeness is not a requirement in this life. My words sometimes will not be enough. I have to show her that I am strong enough to do the things I am telling her to do.

So, to all the women out there struggling with this idea that in order to have a happy life, we must be polite; to my dear daughter and all the girls who are growing up with her, I say an emphatic, Yes! It is completely and totally okay to ruin the lunch. Say what you have to say. Even if your voice shakes and it’s really scary, say the words and express your feelings. Take up space in this world without apology, and remember that being polite is not a requirement.

Cry Me a River…

I’m not a crier…but that doesn’t mean I’m not an emotional person. I’m not overly sentimental, but that doesn’t mean I’m shallow. Someone recently called me ‘cold,’ and I had the need to write about it…it’s a good thing I did because so far it’s been published by BLUNTMoms and most recently picked up by Sammiches & Psych Meds.

I’m really proud of this piece because I think it speaks to many women; as if there is some unspoken rule that as women and mothers were are supposed to cry all the time or worse, smile more. (Insert major eye roll, here) Well, I for one, am not having any part of that kind of bullshit and neither will my daughter.

xoxo

 

Journeys & Destinations

I have been thinking quite a bit lately about journeys and destinations. If we focus too much on the end result, where or what we think we should be, we could easily lose sight of the beauty around us. The opportunity around us. The connections around us.

I was recently asked to give a commencement address to the graduating class of 2018! It was a real honor because it was the school where my son attended and graduated from…his preschool. When I told people about it, the reaction was always excitement, followed by the sentiment of, “Who knows where it will lead!”

Truthfully, I’m not thinking about where it will lead, because this event alone was a huge milestone for me; for everyone involved. This event was scary, fun, and exciting for me. I took a tremendous amount of pride in this event. This event is part of my journey. I’m not looking too far ahead because what’s right here in front of me is pretty spectacular.

In an effort to connect both the graduates (4 and 5 year-olds) and their families, I spoke about the top 3 three things that kids this age generally do, and what, as adults, we can learn from them. The top three things are:

  1. Do Something Scary
  2. Ask a Lot of Questions
  3. Be YOU

Thankfully, due to a minor technical difficulty, the video starts when I am telling the story of when I did something really scary – when I auditioned for Listen To Your Mother. It’s a good thing because for the first 2 minutes I was nervous and fumbled over my words. Just take my word for it…you’re seeing the better half!

I am reminding myself each day to enjoy every step for what it is and not worry so much about the final destination. I’ll get there – wherever and whatever I’m supposed to be – I have faith in that. So, until then, I will continue to challenge myself by doing something scary, I’ll keep asking a ton of questions, and I’ll stand firm in being my best self, and enjoy each step in this beautiful journey of life.

XOXO

Resiliency.

IMG_0031

This journey as a writer has been nothing short of fascinating. I have learned so much about the business, the process, and what it takes to be successful. I’ve learned even more about myself and what I am I made of.  Sure, submitting a piece and never hearing a response can be depressing; knowing that it either wasn’t good enough, wasn’t a good fit, the list goes on. But getting a piece accepted and then having it torn apart by the public is a totally different story.

Last week I had a piece published by Scary Mommy that I was pretty proud of. To even get accepted by Scary Mommy is a huge deal – their Facebook page alone garners over 3 million followers. Exposure like that is a new writer’s dream come true! I’ve published several things for them and I am honestly humbled every time they email me saying “book it.” It truly never gets old!

But that’s just it – exposure. You have to be willing to take on that level of exposure – your words in front of an audience of over 3 million people. In the past, the exposure was validating, as comment after comment people connected to my words and thanked me for having the courage to say them. In some cases, people contacted me personally to discuss the topic further or ask for advice. (PSA: I don’t make any habit of giving strangers advice! I’m happy to listen, though) Not this time. This time was different; probably the first time I’ve been filleted so publicly.

I saw there were over 70 comments after the article was published so I wanted to see what people were saying. “Stop reading the comments.” My husband would say from over my shoulder. But I couldn’t stop. Once I saw how bad they were, it was like I couldn’t walk away – I was watching a train wreck happen before my eyes and I was dead center.

I think most people missed the point of the article. I think some throw around mean comments because they think they can. Hiding behind a keyboard escalate people’s bravado. Most don’t realize the process of writing and submitting. Either way, the personal attacks hurt. I would be a big fat liar if I said they didn’t. But, (there’s always a but) they won’t stop me; in some ways it’s a motivator. I also find this experience to be a great lesson in life for my kids.

They are both still pretty young so some of this (social media shaming) will be over their heads. They aren’t, however, too young to understand what it feels like for someone to say mean things about them. They know how it feels when someone doesn’t like them or something about them.

So the lesson for them is that it happens to Mommy, too. I had a lot (the comment count continues to rise) of bad things said about me and my work AND I LIVED THROUGH IT. I took the hits and survived. I realized that not everyone is going to like me – I may be too much or not enough for some people – and that’s ok. The world will not always think our work is terrific. When we put ourselves out there, not all responses will be what we hope for, but that doesn’t mean we stop doing it. Not all feedback will be positive. They need to know that people can and will say all sorts of things about me but it’s my own feelings that matter. 

Lastly, it’s also a great lesson to learn that sometimes, people are just simply assholes.

Resilience matters…take the hits and keep on moving along.

xoxo

 

 

 

 

Lessons in Humility.

Audrey recently had a sleepover leaving us temporarily a family a three. I enjoy the few times when we have just one child with us, giving them extra special one-on-one time. We decided to drop Audrey off, then take William out to dinner and dessert. After saying our goodbyes to Audrey and visiting with the family, we decided on a French cafe that was nearby.

We got to our table which was tucked way in the back and right away ordered drinks. Both kids always order for themselves, something Brian and I have encouraged from when they were really little. William placed his order, “May I please have a Dr. Pepper?” At home we have milk, water, or juice but it’s really anything goes when we are out. We were so excited to be out, even had the server take our picture!

William’s food arrived, and Brian and I chatted away while he ate. We had the day’s news to catch up on and just tried to enjoy a few moments of adult talk while William was eating. Things took a weird turn when we looked at William and he was no longer eating. His eyes looked glassy and he was white as a ghost. He kept blinking. “William are you ok?” I implored and he shook his head yes. I could tell something was not right and I started to slightly panic. I was honestly worried he was about to throw up and this chic bistro was not the place for that to happen. We were so far in the back I had no idea how to make an exit. He kept blinking and I could tell he was scared. He was still drained of all color.

My first instinct was to check his drink. We always check the kids’ drinks but this time I didn’t. I can’t say for certain why, I just know this time I did not check his drink. It was basically empty so there was not much to check; whatever was left was watered down with melted ice. If there happened to be a mistake, and there was booze in his drink, certainly that would explain his quick demise.

“I feel dizzy.” His quiet voice whispered, “My heart is beating really fast.”

Brian scooped him up and walked him outside. I asked to see the manager and for our bill. My mind was racing: do I take him to an after hours clinic for a blood test? Do I run him by our friend’s house to examine him? Do I need to go to the ER? Should I be physically panicking now?

The manager runs over and offers to call an ambulance if I need one. I know he was trying to be reassuring but it only made me feel more sure that my son was accidentally given alcohol. He then went on to explain that those who bus the tables and take drink orders do not have access to the bar at all; there is zero chance that he was accidentally given the wrong drink. I still wasn’t sure.

In the meantime, Brian had gotten some crackers and William ate a few bites of them. For the first time in, what seemed like an eternity, I was no longer sure my son was about to either vomit or die. He was improving.

The manager returned to my table with our food wrapped up to go. He leaned over and politely said, “Ma’am, I hope you don’t mind me asking, but, when was the last time he ate anything? You know, all that soda on an empty stomach can be problematic.”

You know, folks, there are times in our lives when we need to take life’s lessons of humility and learn from them. Listen to what the universe is telling you! When he first asked the question, my initial (internal) response was to roll my eyes right out of my head and get all parent-y and righteous, declaring how I am a 43-year-old mother of two with a PhD and need not get child rearing lessons from the concerned manager of this restaurant. I had already cocked my head, ready to momsplain to Mr. Manager the err of his ways, then…it hit me.

Good thing my internal response wasn’t my external response, because the ugly truth is, he was right. My kid hadn’t eaten since noon. It was an oddly busy day…Brian was in and out…I had a meeting…then we went to soccer…I was preoccupied and never offered anyone snacks…oddly, no one was asking for snacks! We were also eating later than normal because of the sleep over drop off. We normally eat around 5:00 and it was after 7pm! My kids rarely drink soda…my son hadn’t eaten in, oh, say close to 6 hours and filled his stomach with Dr. Pepper.

I GUESS HE DID FEEL DIZZY.

File this under ‘mamma needs to check herself.’ If there is one thing I want to teach my children, it is to be humble. I still have a lot to learn – we all do. We can all learn from each other. Mr. Manager was right and for that I am thankful. Can you imagine the humble pie I’d have to eat if my kid was diagnosed in the ER with nothing more than a sugar and caffine high? I’ll take my lessons in small bites and be sure to learn from them.

xoxo

Either – Or.

“What, exactly were you doing when you found them?”

Well, Edna, I understand we are about to get very comfortable with each other during this ultra sound, but I don’t think it’s necessary that I answer your probing questions. Besides, if I told you the truth, it may fog up your tiny, round, wire frame glasses leaving you a fumbling mess. We don’t really want that to happen, now do we?

******

I found two enlarged lymph nodes in my groin and all anyone wants to know is how the hell I found them. It’s been so incredibly funny to me the interest in how these lumps were identified. The truth is, for the first two weeks of doctor appointments, I honestly didn’t remember. It’s no secret that my brain no longer works like it used to so it’s no surprise that I had no earthly idea how, when, or why these things showed up. But they did.

So here we go again…I can feel the pressure begin to build, although I’m feeling positive about it all. Things are a bit different this time, though. It’s kind of like being pregnant for the second time, except without the happiness and excitement. I already know my surgeon so there’s no anxiety about meeting with him next week. I’ve been through the process of a biopsy, so I know what to expect. My prescription for Xanax has been pre-filled in the event that I need it. I know the process of insurance claims and already know exactly who I’ll need to call and yell at. I feel really on top of things this time which is giving me a sense of power and control. Albeit a totally false sense of power and control, but who’s counting. There is a reason people live a lifetime in denial – it’s a beautiful place.

The other day a friend asked me how I was feeling. One of those questions in which she really wanted the answer; not a fleeting pleasantry.  She really wanted to know and would have stood there for 12 days if I needed to talk that long. The truth is, I’m in a constant state of “either-or.” Sort of like a fun children’s book, just without the fun.

I’ve lost weight recently. Now, the months of August through November were incredibly stressful for me and when I’m stressed my metabolism goes into hyper drive. So, the cause for the weight loss? It’s either stress, or lymphoma.

I’ve noticed my eyelashes are unusually thin lately. The cause? Well, that’s easy. It could either be the natural molting process of my body, or lymphoma. My dog lost some hair recently, and I can only assume he has lymphoma, too. (Pray for us both.)

I really do feel positive about it all and honestly, as my doctor and I collaboratively agreed, if I were a single woman living alone with my ill dog, I probably wouldn’t give any of this a second thought. But I’m not that woman and that’s not my life. I have two amazing and beautiful little humans who look to me every single day to be their mother. They are relying on me to be there for them and I will do everything within my power to do just that. I have a funny and kind husband who I absolutely love spending my life with and I’d like to spend a lot more of my life with him. In other words, I’m not fucking around. Yes, the thought of going through this again scares the life out of me, but honestly, doing nothing scares me even more. Yes, the process alone is enough to make you crazy, and I know I may just be slightly nuts for the next few weeks. But for me, for them, for us, it’s worth it.

xoxo