Holidays Got You Down?

Ho, ho, oh no they didn’t!

Don’t let the holidays stress you out. For starters, it’s temporary. The holidays don’t last forever…you can do this! Second, if you keep in mind a few simple things, I promise you it will be easier than you ever thought possible. To help you improve your holiday cheer, check out my latest contribution to MomCave TV! You can also read the full text below. Cheers, bitches!

5 Things to Remember When Trying to Survive the Holidays

The holidays can be hard for so many of us. It’s as though all of the dysfunction ever known to man emerges on one day. The pressures can be overwhelming, too. I remember the first time I had to bring a dozen hard-boiled eggs to a holiday event at my in-law’s and I swear (at the time) it was the most stress-inducing event I had ever engaged in. (So many eggs were lost that day. ) But today is a different story! Over the years I have gained enough wisdom to help me remember a few key things for the holiday season; making it all a much more bearable experience. A good sense of humor and strong cocktails help, too.

Everyone is Self-Absorbed

In the summer 2016 I was very abruptly diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Cancer is rarely funny except when I have it, as I strive to focus on the funny and absurd no matter what. The first time I saw my extended family after surgery and radiation treatment was at Thanksgiving and do you know that not one single person asked me how I was doing? I know what you’re thinking so I’ll clarify: The house was filled with aunts, uncles, cousins, and cousins’ children and not one single person asked me if I was going to live or die. Not one. The hard truth is, most people are far too absorbed in their own lives to really notice what’s happening to those around them.

Knowing this is very helpful for the holidays. Say, for example, if you are put in charge of the appetizers this year, fear not! The honest truth is, no one is going to notice if your crust is slightly under cooked. Relax and remember what happened to me on Thanksgiving. Don’t stress because no one is paying attention anyway!

Tip: Enjoy the fact that no one is really interested in your green bean casserole or what your kids are wearing. If you need a little help, pair it with a cranberry infused champagne sangria. Because nothing goes better with this realization than obnoxiously self-absorbed cranberries.

Lower Your Expectations

Expectations are always what get us in trouble during the holidays. In the south we hope for a white Christmas but ultimately end up with humidity and mosquitoes and we are generally let down. Remember when I expected people to notice my fresh surgery scars and ask me how I was feeling? Expectations are rarely met. The best way to handle the holidays is to lower your expectations. Don’t expect the proposal. Don’t expect the new car surprise. Don’t expect ongoing joy and laughter. Don’t expect your kids to be gleefully happy about their presents.

Before entering any holiday function, picture your ideal family experience. Now lower your expectations…a little lower…slightly less…down one more notch…there. You are set. With the bar set that low, you cannot be disappointed. In fact, anything good that happens above that bar is a true holiday miracle, and that, my friend is something to revel in.

Tip: Enjoy this new level of lowered holiday expectations with a glass of boxed wine. Because nothing says lowered expectations like wine in a cardboard box.

Smile and Nod

I’m not sure what it is about the holidays that make people engage in the worst kinds of small talk. I can only surmise that when people are crowded together in someone’s tiny kitchen they will do anything to avoid awkward silences. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather an awkward silence any day over having to listen to Uncle Joe go on about his experience at the deli counter. (No, I really can’t believe she gave you more ham then what you paid for.) Worse yet is the cousin who goes on and on about how fantastic life is in radio sales. Or the in-law who loves to brag about her perfect children and lists the things they would never, ever do.

Tip: Resist the urge to box that obnoxious braggart in the pie hole with a small shot of whisky. Hide it in a red solo cup and nurse it throughout the day.

Stop Apologizing

You are doing a damn good job. Even on our worst days, if we simply show up, that’s a success. Don’t let other peoples’ judgement get in the way of a happy holiday for you. Apologize for nothing. If Aunt Jackie thinks the kids are too loud, that’s her problem. Smile and be proud of your socially outgoing children. If your sister-in-law thinks your sweet potato soufflé is too dry, smile and remind her that’s how it’s served in France. (It’s totally okay to roll your eyes when she walks away.)

Tip: Resist the urge to apologize and instead smile and nod. If you need more than that,  sip on a Pinot Noir.

Stop Comparing

Comparison is the thief of joy. Repeat after me: Comparison is the thief of joy. Our joy is a precious resource and should not be given away because of someone else. My Christmas tree will never look amazing. I may never be able to make sugar cookies that don’t spread out into unrecognizable globs of dough. My hard boiled eggs may never be evenly peeled. As long as we are making memories as a family, memories that my children enjoy, how I stack up against other people no longer matters. AT ALL.  I refuse to give up my joy because someone else had the time and talent to create perfect little snowmen out of unmatched socks.

Tip: Stay joyful about what you create, because no matter what, it’s pretty damn amazing. If you need some help, nothing bring out pure joy like boozy eggnog.

Lastly, remember that the holidays aren’t forever. This too shall pass. Don’t end up looking and feeling like my son’s panicked turkey. Cheers! xoxoIMG_8896

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

 

Santa? Oh, Baby it Happened.

I have strong feelings about Santa. Thankfully, Parent.Co supported these feelings and published my article on Santa, his magic, and how that shit will be alive and well in my home for as long as I’m alive and well. You can read the full article below or via the link here.

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Santa and His Magic – In Full Effect for as Long as Possible.

The magic of Christmas is always alive for those who believe. While this may be my life’s eternal motto, I’m certainly not a crazy Christmas lady.

I do know that, for every Christmas light lit before Thanksgiving, one of Santa’s baby reindeer die, so I would never take that risk. But once the official Christmas season begins, I am all in, and dragging my entire family along with me. Santa and all of his magic is in full effect.

Before you roll your eyes right out of your head, hear me out.

I heard an interview recently in which someone described Christmas as a dream – the one time in our lives when we suspend reality in exchange for fantasy. It’s the one day of the year when dreams come true, the one time when magic is real. Really real, not just sleight of hand.

It’s also the one time of year when I have the opportunity to make this magic happen for my family.

I’m 43, and while I acknowledge how beautiful and wonderful life can be, I also know that it can be cold, hard, and relentless. There are times when people don’t care. There are times when your dreams truly don’t matter at all. There are times when you are alone, or worse, lonely. The realization that life isn’t always fair or pleasant comes quickly – far too quickly, in my opinion.

We spend the vast majority of our adult lives, well…being adults, which is exactly why I choose to give my children the chance to experience pure, dream-making magic. While they’re children, I feel that they deserve it.

I get it. Maintaining the Santa illusion hard. But for me, hard isn’t a reason to abandon ship. Last year, we pulled off a live animal Christmas, and it required more logistical arrangements than when I gave birth to my second child. It was also, hands down, the most stressful Christmas Eve on record.

My husband and I fought and bickered while trying to establish the best plan for Santa’s gifts to spend the night. I forgot to remove several labels and tags – clearly, a rookie mistake induced by an adrenaline-fueled combination of stress and excitement.

Boy, was I excited. I was so incredibly excited. I knew how much they wanted this. It never crossed my mind that Santa couldn’t make their Christmas dreams come true. No matter how many favors I had to call in or arrangements I had to make with neighbors, their dreams were coming true.

On that moderately cool, rather balmy southern morning, when my kids saw their dreams materialized at the foot of the Christmas tree, adorned with a freezing cold letter from the North Pole, every minute, every argument, every request, every switch, every exchange was totally and completely worth it. I watched magic happen right before my eyes, and it was worth it.

I admit I’m selfish. I love every minute of watching the holidays through the eyes of my children. In some ways, it’s even better now than when I was a kid. I wish this time of our life would last forever. The magic of Christmas experienced by my children directly improves my holidays, too. Their excitement, joy, and awe make it exponentially better.

While I may be selfish, I’m also a realist. I remember vividly when I found out that my reality wasn’t exactly reality. It was a pretty difficult blow. I remember feeling a palpable sense of loss. Over time, however, I was able to channel the energy and excitement of receiving into the joy of giving.

I’m prepared for my children to experience this loss. I am aware of the sadness that will likely affect them – hopefully, not any time soon. (Truthfully, I’m more prepared for the sex talk than the Santa talk.) But I believe that my kids’ excitement and energy will grow from the magic and joy of receiving into the magic and joy of giving.

When it’s all said and done, if my children have joyful memories – feelings they can return to when the world is not such a friendly place – then I have given them a great gift. So, for now, the magic remains real, and I am forever joyful and grateful for it.

Within my joy, though, a slight sadness tugs at my heart because I know this time is fleeting. Only for a very short time can we capture this excitement. Letters to Santa and personalized cards for our elf, Cookie, will make way for doubt and questions.

I am ready, though. I am ready to block doubt and reassure fears by holding on to my life motto. I am ready to remind my children that, as long as you hold on to the spirit in your heart, the magic will always follow.

xoxo

Growth is Necessary, But Growth Can Suck.

During the time when we should have all been celebrating the joyous event of back-to-school, I noticed that several of us moms were all crying. Me included.

WHY THE HELL ARE WE ALL CRYING??

My latest for Parent.Co !

It’s been three weeks since my kids went back to school and I’ve cried twice. I talked with a teacher-mom-friend the other day and she cried. I’ve read several articles by fellow writers who are also crying.

Why the hell are we all crying so much?

Because sometimes growth can suck.

I believe in growth. I teach from a growth mindset. I have publicly declared how much I love that my kids are getting older. The physical growing and getting bigger is a great thing! Personal growth for me is essential in life. I need to grow in order to live. It may be hard but I know I can handle it.

I was recently faced with the terrifying experience of sitting in a courtroom to settle a case involving an accident. I was hit from behind by an 18-wheeler while driving over 60 miles per hour. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s not a typo. I was hit from behind while moving. Despite this fact, the ruling landed in the defendant’s favor. No, not another typo – I was found to be at fault. This was an excruciating experience that left me floundering and questioning everything I knew about life. My initial reaction was to curl up and wallow in a lifeless ball of fear, pity, and sadness.

Then I realized that I had to find a way to grow from this experience.

With the help of two glorious women and an emergency road-side stop at a local sports bar for a drink and solid conversation, I was able to piece back parts of my life that were beginning to crumble. With their push and my intentional movement forward, my faith in humanity has been restored intact and made stronger. Growth resulting from an internal struggle is a very good, positive thing. Except when I have to watch my children do it.

I cried this week when my five-year-old told me he was sad because his new friends didn’t laugh at his jokes. It was soul crushing, thinking how he may be feeling lonely throughout the school day. Another mom cried when her daughter was having a hard time getting her new high school schedule straight. The uncertainty for her, being placed in the wrong classes, learning to navigate self-advocacy, and the feeling of helplessness as a mom unable to solve these newfound challenges. I shudder at the thought of my daughter dealing with rejection. Another mom cried about her son playing alone at recess.

The thing is, I don’t mind this kind of growth because I have the life experiences to know I can handle it. I’m 42 years old and fully aware of what I’m made of and capable of. My kids know how to record 57 episodes of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Of course, they are more capable than that, but the thought of it scares me. I continually share with them the honest reality of the challenges in life but these experiences are mine, things I’ve gone through. Of course it helps to assure them that they are not alone, but truly, they need to experience all of these things themselves.

As a mother, it’s goes against everything within me to let that happen and I want to keep them protected and safe from hurt. As a logical adult, I realize that I cannot. The mother in me wants to stand in the middle of the den, eyes closed and arms waiving in the air, asking the universe to give all struggle, pain, and uncertainty to me. I will gladly shoulder all of the growth for my entire family. The logical adult, thankfully realizes that I, instead, should stand and beg the universe to give me the strength to let my children grow.

Letting them grow means letting them go.

I have a sneaking suspicion this is why we are all are crying. I want my children to grow, but I don’t want them to hurt in the process. I want my kids to grow, but I’m having a hard time letting them go. I want my kids to grow and become strong and resilient people of good character, but I still want them to need me. Currently, I would rather have someone hammer bamboo shoots under my finger nails, one-by-one. Slowly.

It’s the sinister paradox of motherhood. We are intensely there for them from the moment they are born and then suddenly our roles change. We once shielded them from every bump and bruise and now we have to allow them to fall. While I may be screaming for mercy on the inside, asking the universe “to give,” I will continually pack them up and see them off into their lives. I will wave from afar and wish them the best of luck and the happiest of days. I will be their everlasting champion. I will be there to wipe away tears, take in their hurt, build them back up, and send them back out into the wild, wild world of Kindergarten and fourth grade. I know we will all be better people for it, and who knows, maybe I’ll grow a bit, too.

Sunny Side Up.

I originally sat down to write this post with the opening line, ‘2016 can suck it.’ My plan was to sit and bitch about the ups and downs we faced in 2016. I was going to find humor and delight in skewering the year that was a royal pain in the ass for all who were so fortunate to experience it. That was my plan.

I ran into an acquaintance at church this morning, someone I had not seen in quite some time. Her hair was shorter than mine but not for the same reasons. I hugged her and immediately saw her as a mother, a friend, a wife, a complete person facing uncertainty and I immediately felt a sense of gratitude for the year that was 2016.

As much as 2016 sucked, and by all means it did, the truth is, I had the year. It was mine to bitch about, which in so many ways is something to truly be grateful for. Every minute, every day, every year is truly a blessing. Both the good and bad.

Over the course of this year we have watched our children overcome struggles and blossom into strong, courageous people. I have watched them turn an obstacle into an opportunity. Together, Brian and I have faced the fears and did it anyway. We worried and stressed, hoped and prayed. We watched things work out really well and others, not so much. I was often drained emotionally and physically. We have been doused with the uncertainty and fear that tag along when you face cancer. We have watched our people gather around us and support us in ways we never thought possible. We have seen the greatest of humanity and sadly, the less-than-great as well. We have persisted and prevailed in the face of both. We have laughed. A lot.

So, 2016 can suck it, but I am eternally grateful for having had the opportunity to live, love, and laugh through it. I sit with great anticipation for 2017. Not necessarily for any grand gestures from the universe but maybe to be just a tad lighter on the crappy stuff.

So, 2016, in a few short days I will usher you out the door and happily close that chapter of our lives. I will look back fondly at the good times and memories, and stand in awe at all we overcame. I will welcome 2017 with anticipation and deepest gratitude, in hope that once again I am granted the precious gift of life for each and every day of it.

Happiest of New Year’s to all. xoxo

 

 

 

Mel-A-Phone

“Mom!”                                  “Mommy?!”

                       “Mom?”

“Mommy?”             “Mooooooooom!” 

Don’t judge me, but last Friday night I looked at Brian and confessed, “I’m ignoring them.” I can’t help it, it’s the end of the week for me, too and I just need a break from the countless, seemingly endless string of questions and requests. I truly feel like we are raising good, smart, solidly kind children but I worry about their need for me to intervene in their lives. Brian and I recently heard John Rosemond speak at our school and he assured us that children today or not in any way genetically different from children 50 years ago. If this is true, my 8-year-old daughter is the same, typical third grader that I was in 1982. Thinking back, I was insanely resourceful, especially when it came to bird-dogging my mother.

Here’s the scenario:

“Bon soir, La Cuisine, may I help you?”

“Yes, hello sir. I need to find one of your customers. There’s an issue at home and I need to speak with her.”

“Oui, Madame. Who can I find for you?”

“Her name is Elaine Forstall. She’s tall and thin with straight shoulder-length blonde hair. Tonight she has on a gold and turquoise peacock print dress, it has a jewel neck and drop waist, three-quarter length ruched sleeves. She’s with her husband, Rick. He has salt-and-pepper hair. He has on a white button down shirt, no tie, and a grey suede sport coat. I think they are dinning with two other couples.”

“Oui Madame. I think I see her. I will get her for you.”

**wait**wait**wait**

“Hello?”

“Mom?”

“Melanie, what’s wrong?”

“When are you coming home?”

I had mad skills. With a phone and white pages in hand, I could make just about anything happen. I had the communication skills at 8 to be a CIA operative and yet sometimes my kids get stumped opening a single serving pack of Sweet Tarts. How is this possible? No one taught me how to do this. My mother never sat me down to discuss the finer points of stalking people. I was driven enough and I just did it.

My parents fondly named my skill the ‘Mel-A-Phone’ knowing that they could never go too far without me finding them. They really were never safe. While I don’t condone the idea of constant invasion of parental privacy, I give my 8-year-old self kudos for having the drive to get shit done.

So what’s my plan? I’ve decided that I am no longer helping. Nope. No more…everyone can tie their own shoes, so please by all means tie them. Everyone can get dressed on their own, I’m not needed. Look for it. No one in my house has a weight lift restriction which means everyone can pick up their own shit and put it where it belongs. I am not needed for this task. If you can’t open an item on your own, the likelihood is that you don’t really need it. I bet you big bucks that if you were dying of hunger you would figure out a way to get that wrapper open. Look again, look harder, and look one more time. You do not need me.

But you do need me.

Come to me for hugs. Come to me for snuggles. Come to me and ask questions about life and tell me about your day. Come to me when you are scared, happy, lonely, or sad. (Not bored, don’t come to me when you are bored. I cannot help bored.) Come to me with excitement or worry. Lay your fears at my feet and I will always wipe your tears. Come to me to laugh. Ask me to play with you. I will love you ultimately forever. Come to me for encouragement. Come to me for a reminder of the beautiful soul you are and how much you are truly loved.

xoxo

Raising Diamonds.

Almost daily I stop and ask myself the same question, “Is it just me?” and I promptly reassure myself and answer, “Of course not, dear. But it doesn’t matter even if so.” Recently, though I can’t help but question why I don’t feel the same way as seemingly so many others. Picture after picture is captioned, “I miss my babies!” or “Time please stop!” or “I wish I could go back!” I see these pictures, and while I love a quick dose of nostalgia, my first response is usually, “Like, how far back are we talking?”

Sure, I have wonderful memories of when my children were babies but I have no interest in going back there. You want to go back to the endless nights of staring at your newborn daughter for hours on end watching the rise and fall of her chest just to know with certainty that she’s still breathing? No thank you, I actually like to spend my nights sleeping. Back to the time when my son would cry in spits and spurts for no apparent reason and nothing I could do seemed to soothe him? Oh yes, please, sign me up for more of that.

I remember in particular one very long day when my son was about four months old and I just could not get him to settle down. We had enjoyed roughly four hours of an eat, sleep, cry cycle and I had just about had it. I decided to take him to the pediatric after hours clinic and with my three-year-old in tow, I had a plan. My mom had recently come for a visit and she left a crisp hundred-dollar bill on my nightstand. (That’s who she is and what she does.) I was frazzled from the day and was not interested in waiting endlessly to see a doctor. I arrived at the clinic with the cash in hand ready and willing to hand it to whoever was in line ahead of me. I was willing to give money to a stranger just so I could quickly get this baby to stop crying. So do I want to be go back to this place and time? Hardly.

I love that my kids are growing up; is that so wrong? I love the people they are becoming. I love to see them navigate through life and ask me thoughtful questions. I love that they are developing opinions and tastes that may or may not align with mine.

I love the fact that my son can tell me that the medicine burns, or that he feels like he might throw up. I love the fact that when she does throw up, my daughter can aim perfectly into the toilet. I love that they can easily explain to the doctor what ails them. Karaoke is a lot more fun now, too.

I am genuinely excited for my daughter’s third grade year. I honestly wasn’t sad when my son started pre k. His excitement was so infectious, how could I possibly be sad? I see how excited they are about the journey before them and I can’t see any other option but going along for the ride. I don’t find it sad to see my kids grow, blossom, and step into their life’s milestones.

That’s just it. Their life. It’s their life, not mine. I guess I can’t hold too tightly to something that’s not mine to begin with. I read a quote recently:

“To raise a child who is comfortable enough to leave you, means you’ve done your job. They are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own.”

This was a perfectly fine quote and in many ways it spoke to me. But so does Elizabeth Taylor and I’ve never met a diamond I didn’t like:

“I’ve never thought of my jewelry as trophies. I’m here to take care of them and love them, for we are only temporary custodians of beauty.”

Don’t get me wrong, the thought of my kids leaving and going to college in Idaho makes me very sad; but I still wouldn’t discourage their wanderlust. And full disclosure, each night when I kiss them goodnight, I jiggle them gently to hear them breathe. Old habits die hard.

As much as the thought truly sends shivers up my spine, I am their temporary custodian; my job is to prepare them to soar. They are two of the brightest jewels of my life. Brilliant and dazzling, precious and rare. Expensive. Temporarily mine to protect and nurture until they are ready to shine on their own.

#raisingdiamonds

xoxo