I Let It Go…and Sold It!

In case you missed my hysteria on social media, I recently met a long-term goal of selling an article. I have syndicated a ton of my work, and have had more than one original piece published, but I had not yet actually had a publisher pay me for my words…UNTIL NOW!

The article was purchased and published by Parent.Co. If you don’t already follow them, you definitely should! It is truly an honor to be represented by them.

Finding the Gap Where Disappointment Exists, while I hope you find it funny and truthful; for me, it may be the one I am most proud of. (So far, anyway)

xoxo

The Other Side.

“I just want to know. I can handle it, whatever the outcome, I just want to know. The waiting is the hardest part.”

Over the past few weeks I must have said this a thousand times to various people. I was sure that no matter what the doctor said, I would be totally fine, knowing I finally had an answer. In truth, the wait was brutal. An epic exercise in peace and patience. From 1:09pm on June 9th – 11:43am on June 20th I was like a walking, talking version of Schrödinger’s cat. Might be, might not be. All I desperately wanted was to be on the other side of the phone call.

The call came and while I certainly didn’t like the answer, at least I had one. I knew. My life was now all encompassed by the 99% certainty of eight, pap-stained direct smears interpreted by a pathologist. So why don’t I feel better?

While technically my wait for results is over, I am now faced with an entirely new wait. Here I sit on the other side of the call and I feel less certain, less secure, and less at peace.

I’m waiting to not feel crazy, however, under the current circumstances I don’t think this will get better. I laid in bed Monday night wrestling with my new reality and it hit me like a thunderbolt.

What if he gave me the wrong results??

That’s it! It made sense and seemed perfectly within the range of possibility. What if he was really trying to call Marilyn Lamont but dialed my number by mistake; and in a state of panic I just went with it? That would mean that Marilyn received my results that the biopsy was benign and I received hers! I feel bad for Marilyn. It’s going to suck so bad when she finds out that this was all a big mistake.

I’m waiting to get off this crazy train.

I’m waiting to meet with the surgeon. What if he’s a total goober? What if he doesn’t think I’m a nice person? What if he accidentally damages the nerves in my voice box and I can no longer speak? How can I live not being able to tell my children that I love them? Sure I can write it and learn sign language but they need to hear the sound of my voice! See what I mean?

I’m waiting to no longer feel afraid.

I’m waiting to know if surgery will be enough. I’m waiting to know if I will need additional treatment. I’m waiting to know if it’s in my lymph nodes. I’m waiting to feel secure. I’m waiting to feel like there is solid ground under my feet and I’m no longer tethered to the clouds trying to function like a normal person while I’m dangling from the sky. I’m waiting for certain people to do the right thing. I’m waiting to no longer feel scared.

I’ve read and often heard it said that of all of the worst that cancer is, this is the one that you want. Well, no one wants it of course, but because it is highly curable this would be the lesser of two evils. I get it, I do. But being on the other side of the phone call, I can tell you it’s not the lesser of anything.

I’m finally sitting right where I had longed to be and truth is, it still sucks. The wait is still there; I’m now just waiting for different things. All of this is currently unchangeable so I have to focus on the things that do make me feel secure; the things that do tether me.

My family is amazing. My mom, dad, brother, and sister-in-law have been steadfast. I know that Brian cries a bit every time he hugs me lately and despite his fear and worry he is rock solid, compassionate, and always ready and willing to help slow the crazy train of my endless mind.

My friends have shown the greatest love and support and I am humbled.

My faith. I couldn’t get by without it. None of this makes a lick of sense but I’ll surely go even crazier trying to figure it out. All I can do is place this in God’s hands and pray that He will give me peace, cover my mistakes, and graciously forgive me when I yell, “Slow the fuck down!” to some lady while shopping at Wal Mart. Only He knows how human I am and eventually we all breakdown during a shit show. He also knows it’s OK because the bitch totally had it coming.

xoxo

When Our Pediatrician Treated Me.

My son is four. He is almost always happy and has the most infectious laugh. He loves to laugh, too. He’s affectionate and easily expresses his feelings; especially his love for me. For the past few nights he has not been himself. It’s like a switch right around bedtime – suddenly out of sorts, cranky, downright confrontational. To call bedtime a struggle would be an understatement. He doesn’t want to sleep because, “sleep is boring!” He won’t stay in his bed or room, engages in a standoff with me in the hallway, crying when I walk away. I know behavior, I know best practice and I applied all strategies. I offered hugs and love neither of which he wanted. I tried to ignore the behavior which only led to him attempting hand stands in the dark almost taking down my table lamp. He wanted mommy, then daddy, then mommy, then daddy, ad nauseam….

This afternoon Brian suggested we bring him to the doctor to maybe check his ears. I’m usually not that quick to make an appointment especially when there is really no sign of anything being wrong with him. But, we have had a long history of ear issues and he is known to have ear infections without typical symptoms. So with no hesitation I opened the app on my phone and took the last available appointment. Who in the world makes and appointment for 4:50pm on a rainy Thursday for a reasonably healthy child? Me.

She looks in his ears. Fine. She checks his throat. Fine. Tummy is great, too. She asks him some questions about what’s been going on at night and if he’s possibly sad, angry maybe, scared, or even just really, really tired. Of course his answer to all of her questions is ‘no.’ He’s super! I shift uncomfortably in my chair because I’m starting to feel embarrassed for taking up our doctor’s time.

This makes zero sense for me being here.

My throat tightens.My eyes start to burn.

She looks directly at me and asks, “How are you?”

Tears begin to stream down my face. She casually, yet swiftly ushers my son out the door and has him join the nurses to look through stickers and have a sucker.

The truth is I’m not ok. On May 12th during my annual exam my gynecologist found a lump in my neck. On May 18th I had an ultra sound. On May 20th I found out I have a large, dominant, solid mass in my thyroid. On June 1st I had my first appointment with my endocrinologist. On June 9th I will have a biopsy.

My words and tears fell freely as she listened. She offered me tissues and asked good questions. She gave me advice, both as a doctor and a mother. I felt overwhelming guilt; realizing instantly that William was responding to my current state of stress and anxiety. Of course I try to hide it but either I’m a horrible liar or my kid is highly intuitive. I’m fairly sure it’s both. She reminded me not to take on unnecessary guilt. She reassured me that no matter the outcome, I will be ok. William will be ok. We all will be ok. It was like a good, honest conversation with a friend that I desperately needed, only with a $25 co-pay.

It’s no surprise he’s affected. My current state is fragile. Sometimes tense. Often preoccupied. Worry. Lots and lots of worry. I worry for them, though, not really for me. I am perfectly content with the idea of removing any body part that may be plotting harm. If my thyroid is trying to kill me, take the fucker out. Besides, you haven’t been doing a great job of keeping my hair smooth lately so you can suck it on the way out. But for them, for a million different reasons, my heart aches for them.

I’m working on it. I pray often. I try to keep busy. I adopt huge ass pianos. Which, by the way, turned out to be a terrific decision for our family. I stare obsessively at my kids which freaks them out and that make me laugh.

I’m human and far from perfect and admittedly I see that while my kids don’t know any of the specifics, this is all affecting them in unexpected ways. They are resilient and I pray that this time in our lives will soon be a distant memory that only I remember.

For now, I focus on gratitude. I’m thankful for my family, friends, and faith. I’m thankful for my husband. He is more than I could ever ask for or imagine in a partner. Today especially, I’m thankful for being 41 with a really great pediatrician.

xoxo

 

My Answer Will Always Be Yes.

I’m sure, not unlike many new mothers, I was totally unprepared for motherhood. I guess no one can really prepare you for what’s about to happen but I was particularly not at all prepared for the physical and mental exhaustion. There were many days that I was so sleep deprived I could have fallen asleep standing up. Sleep was so very important to me; I’d give up food before sleep. I was also very honest about my position on bed sharing. My position was simply that there would be no bed sharing. I adore my children but I adore them even more when we all can retreat to our own spaces, specially our own beds, at the end of the day.

I was particularly comfortable one night about two years ago, stretched out in my tempur-pedic dream bed with the down comforter covering just about everything except the very top of my head. I was mid-dream when I felt a poke. Startled, I looked up to find my son at my bed side. He leaned in and whispered, “Mommy, can I sleep with you?”

My kids have been historically great sleepers. Truthfully though, early on I had to intervene a bit to get them to become such great sleepers. I read a lot of books, took the parts that worked for us and helped them learn to sleep well. So, I know what the experts have to say about kids getting up in the middle of the night. They are all fairly consistent and give similar guidelines. If your child ever wakes in the middle of the night you should proceed with the following steps:

  1. Under no circumstances do you ever let a child in your bed during the night. If you allow it even once, you might as well hand over the keys to your child and get used to the fact you will now be held under the rule of a toddler. Cheerios and finger paint will dominate your life. (As if it doesn’t already.)
  2. Make no acknowledgement of your child. Do not communicate in any way and especially don’t let them know that you care. Showing concern will only show weakness and they will try to capitalize on that.
  3. Take the child by the hand and walk him or her back to their respective bed. Cover the child and walk quickly back to your own bed.
  4. When the crying child comes running back to you, again, do not communicate in any way with said child, simply carry or drag him or her back to their bed. You might have to throw them in. Now run back to your own bed and cover as quickly as possible in hopes that they will leave you alone and the nightmare has ended.
  5. Repeat steps 2-4 until dawn. Be aware that you will not be able to drive or operate heavy machinery for at least 4-6 weeks.

As soon as I heard his question, all of this ran through my mind. Is this when I need to walk him back to his bed? Am I opening myself up for trouble if I let him in? We’ve all been sleeping so well! Ordinarily, unless my bed is on fire, I see absolutely no reason to get out of it, especially in the middle of the night. I looked at the clock and it was 1:18am. “Yes,” and I pulled him into my bed where he settled in between my husband and me. After that, we all slept through the night.

It’s been about 600+ nights now and each and every night he comes to my bedside and asks, “Mommy can I sleep with you?” I think it’s so incredibly sweet that he continues to ask. I wonder sometimes if he’s just really polite or understands already that you should take nothing for granted and things can change at any moment. For now, my answer will always be yes. It’s actually sweeter than I could have ever imagined. He snuggles and I snuggle back. I often feel his small hand grab mine during the early morning hours when no one is really awake. Weekend mornings are a dream. Don’t even get me started on holidays. There is something very special about the time we can share like this. I am all too aware that it will end soon. There will eventually be one night where no one will be at my bedside asking if they can sleep with me. My answer will always be yes.

So, I say to my sweet prince, ask me, ask me every night if you need to. Come to my bedside when you are lonely, scared, or simply just miss your mommy. Come to me and ask your question, knowing that no matter what, my answer will always, undoubtedly, be yes.

We All Do. Except For This.

I recently had a written interview in which I was asked to describe motherhood in three words. This was my response:

We all do! I have come to realize that motherhood is the connection that bonds us all. Our circumstances may look different, and our experiences may not be exactly the same, but we all experience the joys and the pains that come with being a mother. I have gained a tremendous sense of peace and confidence reassured by the fact that I am not the only one. At one time or another we’ve all felt the same way.

Today, I am not so sure. While my words are mostly true, there is a group of mothers within motherhood that is bound by something much greater than anything I have encountered. I am 41 years young and have had the painful experience of watching 6 women bury a child. While motherhood is the ultimate sorority, the loss of a child puts these mothers in an exclusive group requiring excruciating dues that none of us want to pay. It’s the elite group where grief and inexplicable loss is the tie that bonds.

I grieve today for all of the mothers that had to lay her child to rest. I cannot fathom that sense of profound loss, but I grieve for her. I grieve for the family of four that is now a family of three. I grieve for the empty chair. The unoccupied room. The shoes at the back door. I grieve for my own sense of naiveté that life is permanent.  I grieve for my sense of certainty for tomorrow that I had 72 short hours ago.

I obsessively stared at my children today, totally creeping them out. In my grief I find myself searching for permanence. I want a litmus test, with certifiable accuracy, a cheek swab with reliable results to tell me for sure that they know how much they are loved. I need to know for sure that they are filled with the joy and love that I feel for them. I want to know that the time I lingered on my phone for too long when I should have been watching one more cartwheel won’t really count against me. I want to know that they will always remember that time I let them make the cookies completely on their own. Will they remember my meatloaf? Do they know that I religiously kiss them each and every night while they are sleeping and slightly jiggle them so I can hear their breath? I need to know all of this. I need to know all of this with certainty. I need permanence.

The Pastor today reminded us that life is like a vapor – there one minute and senselessly gone the next. How in the world can we live, loving and raising our children in such a preciously unstable existence? It’s a true paradox because on one hand it’s 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 have Faith in something greater and bigger than us. There is more, way more than we can even imagine. I have to take each step guided by the deepest Faith that I am on the right path. Faith that if and when I falter, I will find a way to right myself. Faith in that there is purpose in life and death. As difficult and unimaginable, there is still purpose. Faith that these mothers will find peace. Faith to love in huge ways and hope for things greater than I can imagine. Faith to be present and aware and in awe of how truly delicate the thin wisp of thread that connects us all to this life, and still love.

In the highest of joys have Faith. In the unsettling lack of permanence, have Faith. In the deepest, most profound sadness and loss, have Faith.

xoxo

#LTYM

It seems like a lifetime ago when I walked into an audition room, wearing hot pink leg warmers and began to read the absolutely wrong piece. As soon as I opened my mouth I knew everything about it was wrong. Wrong but not lost.

I must have made some sort of impression because while the piece was not right, apparently I was. My audition experience is documented in Listen To Your Other. After resubmitting another piece I was accepted to the 2016 cast of Listen To Your Mother.

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I was humbled, excited, and honestly the entire concept scared the life out of me! Needless to say my emotions were sent into overdrive when I found out that I was set to be the closing act of the show. At first, I reasonably assumed this was some sort of mistake, and for several days waited for the email from the director that, in fact, things were going to change and I was no longer the closing act. Of course.

That email never came. My piece, I No Want It was the closing piece for the show.

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The experience itself was life affirming. I did something that scared me and lived to tell about it. I now have a life long connection to these other women. Our stories came together to create an experience for all of us as well as all of those that came to the show.

Here is the closing piece for the 2016 Listen To Your Mother Baton Rouge Show:

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I No Want It.

My daughter was about two and a half when I first heard her utter the words, “I no want it.” I was getting her ready for Grandparent’s Day at school and pulled out a precious dress for her to wear. The conversation went something like this:

Audrey, grabbing the hem of the dress and shaking her head, “I no want it.”

Understandably shocked, I questioned, “What do you mean you don’t want it? Of course you want this! This is adorable!” In my defense, it was adorable. Fine wale corduroy animal print dress with a bishop collar and hot pink trim, what’s not to love?

“I no want it.”

I took a deep breath, a mental step back, and let her choose. She selected a drop waist stripped number with cap sleeves. For me, the dress fell into the ‘play clothes’ category and not really the ‘Grandparent’s Day’ category but she looked adorable and most importantly, she was satisfied with the opportunity to choose and was happy with her selection.

Audrey has taken me down a very different path when it comes to defining herself through her clothes. I was not at all prepared, considering, I really, really liked smocking. Instead of forcing my preferences, I have allowed her to make choices. Within a few limitations, I have given her a wide opportunity to exercise choice, thereby defining herself for who she is. We have long since abandoned the idea of smocking, monograms, or dresses. Our preferences now include leggings, pants that don’t get ‘wiggly,’ tunics, and layers. We love crazy socks too, especially when they are mismatched.

Whether we like it or not, at the earliest age, our children have a sense of self. They have preferences. These may not be our preferences, of course, but who am I to stifle my child?

I think as parents we can get caught up in the fear of what other people will think. Not only about what others will think of us as parents, but what other kids will think of our kids. As an adult, I know that what other people think of me is none of my business. For kids, however it may not always be that easy; there may be struggle. Like it or not, we are hardwired as humans to struggle. The important thing is to give our children the opportunity to cope with the struggle instead of rushing in to save them from ever having to struggle.

A family member shared an instance when her young son wanted to go to preschool wearing his sister’s pink barrette in his hair. She asked him if he might want to just carry the barrette with

him instead of wearing it. His choice was to wear it pinned into his beautiful blonde hair. She hugged him tight and wished him to have the best, most fun day. My son recently asked me to paint his fingernails yellow…and wear it to school. I offered the option of wearing the nail polish only for the weekend but he chose to try it out at school. I too, sent him on his way wishing him the happiest of days.

By supporting their choices, we instantly communicate how much they are loved no matter what. We are telling them that their choices matter and that they are good, valued, and loved even with pink barrettes, yellow nail polish, and mismatched socks.

So what is our message when we tell them no?

I can’t say with absolute certainty what this means for our children. I’m sure that the little boy who wore the barrette may have gotten some giggles or even a few high-fives. It’s possible that my daughter may have received a strange look or comment about her socks. I would bet at least one child asked my son why his nails were yellow.

I would argue, though, that whatever they experienced, they all learned something. He possibly learned what it means to be courageous. She may have learned what it’s like to feel different and whether or not that is okay with her. He may have learned how to deal with embarrassment or even how to handle loads of positive attention.

I know for sure they learned that within the space of life, they can make choices and no matter the outcome, they will always have a soft place to fall – into the loving and accepting arms of their mother.

Letting them be who they are. Enjoying them through every questionable ensemble, mismatched socks, yellow nail polish, and pink barrettes…reminding them of their awesomeness each and every step of the way. That my friends, that is mothering.

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For more information about the Baton Rouge and other LTYM national shows, visit Listen To Your Mother.

Maybe He’s Born With It.

I just read an article by Harmony Hobbs on Scary Mommy about self confidence, and I wasn’t at all surprised at the complexity of body confidence in women. There is a ton of shame, we have to be careful not to shame, confidence is good but it can also be tricky, God help you if you are not fat and attractive then you have zero space within the conversation to have any doubt or insecurities. It’s tricky and truthfully it sucks.

As pointed out in the article, men, in general, don’t seem to be having the same conversation. Hmmm…..

I speak to both my son and my daughter, when asked, about their bodies and my body in the same way. The conversation often goes something like this:

“Mommy, why does your _(insert your favorite ridiculously inappropriate question here)?”

My answer to either child is basically the same: “Well, that’s because…and hey, Mommy looks great! I’m 41 years old and my body housed and fed two beautiful babies!”

Both kids see me half dressed regularly, I express no body shame, and I tell them both the same body messages:

  • Our bodies are beautiful things
  • Not all bodies look the same and that’s okay
  • The important thing is that we are healthy and strong
  • Yes, it’s okay to touch your own body
  • Yes, some parts tickle and that’s totally fine, too

Despite my best efforts, a huge disparity exists. Boys and girls don’t see their bodies in the same way.

This weekend after I bathed my son I left him in his room to get dressed. He’s 4, well old enough to dress himself but I can’t leave him to the task for too long. If I don’t follow-up he will ultimately remain naked for longer than humanly necessary. I checked in on him to find that he had dug out a plastic baton from his toy chest. It’s a clear baton, filled with sparkly green streamers and had long, multi-colored streamers dangling from each end. Either he or his sister had caught it from a parade and I should have thrown it out weeks ago. He was slamming the baton down on his bed as if he was chopping wood. Naked chopping, of course.

I gently reminded him, “Come on, Boogie, it’s time to get dressed.”

I could hear more chopping. Then it stopped. Then he yelled for me, “Mommy! Mooom-may! Come see!”

I walked into his room to find him on the floor with the baton across his naked lap. Streamers draped all across his nether region. I’ve never seen him look quite so proud.

Holy shit. My son just decorated his penis.

Yep. That’s exactly what he did and he was very happy about. How, in that moment I wondered, how is it that he is expressing such pelvic pride, yet I have a hard time getting my daughter to utter the word v-a-g-i-n-a? Where does this male genital entitlement come from?

It’s never crossed to my mind to decorate my vagina. I doubt most women I know consider it either. Sure, several years ago there was that weirdo fad where women were bedazzling it with gems and glitter but let’s be honest, no one really was happy about that. There was zero empowerment, it was just plain stupid.

I have realized, raising both a son and daughter, that it’s probably genetic. I think men, in general are born with a sense of body confidence that is embedded in their DNA. I’m sure there is an anthropologist out there who can tell me the historical significance of why men have been decorating their dicks since the dawn of time.

Frankly, I don’t care.

So men may be born with it, but ladies, it doesn’t mean that we can’t claim it. Just because they have it, doesn’t mean that we can’t. The two aren’t mutually exclusive. The truth is, when I tell my children that their mommy looks great, I actually mean it. Look, nothing is perfect, no body is perfect, and I have zero expectation to be perfect but, I wake up every day, healthy and strong. I have two legs that are strong enough to walk to the ends of the earth if my children needed me to. I have two arms that can wrap around my family and show love and strength like nobody’s business. I have a brain that (usually) works and I’m smart enough to know when I should apologize to my children.

So, would it be nice if my breasts looked at 41 like they did when I was 21? Sure. Would it be nice if I didn’t have weird stretch marks on my upper inner thighs? Frankly, it would be nice just have an understanding as to why I have them there in the first place. Whatever! It doesn’t matter because this is the body I have. Nothing is changing. So instead of staring at the problem I claim my confidence.

Claim it ladies! Confidence is yours to claim. Remember, what other people think of you is none of your business, anyway. And look, if you feel like you need a few sparkly streamers to give your confidence a boost, I have a baton you can borrow. Apparently it works wonders.

Happy Mothering!

Melanie

Don’t forget about Listen To Your Mother! The show is filled with a terrific cast of amazing women. Hope to see you there!